From controversial Calvin Klein ad campaigns and Versace dresses fastened together with safety pins, to a little show called Sex and the City that shone a spotlight on a designer called Manolo Blahnik, the ’90s may go down in history as one of the final great fashion decades.
However, parts of it are living on in 2019.
With nostalgia running high for the ’90s, fashion is rolling out and reinventing some of the decade’s boldest trends for a new audience. Here’s a look at 19 trends from the ’90s that are cool again in 2019.
The 2018 film “Mid90s” struck up nostalgic feelings for skate brands like Alien Workshop, Chocolate and Menace, not to mention reminded aging millennials of the relaxed, low-key cool skate style of their youth. Today, brands like Vans, Carhartt and Dickie’s are offering grown-up options with the same comfort and practicality. Think oversized tops, canvas bottoms, Old Skools and wallet chains. And they’re packaging these looks in a format that today’s consumers understand: hyped-up collaborations and limited drops.
The so-called “death of the skinny” jean is taking on fable status, but we expect to see more consumers retrain their sartorial eye in 2019 and begin embracing wider fits. Slouchy, loose jeans satisfy consumers’ demand for comfort, while balancing the growing trend for chunky sneakers and platform shoes. However, these jeans are not Kris Kross. The contemporary version of the baggy jean is modified with slightly slimmer cuts, sustainable vintage washes and a softer touch.
Neon colors percolated in 2018 in accessories and streetwear, and they are set to explode in 2019 as luxury players like Prabal Gurung, Brandon Maxwell and Off-White give the intense hues red carpet approval. The colors—mostly neon yellow and green—play up the nostalgic feeling of other ’90s items like mini backpacks, cropped jean jackets and bike shorts, while adding an instant cool factor to contemporary sportswear. The throwback color scheme also lends itself well to the growing category of Instagram-worthy travel wear. Expect to see fast fashion retailers go wild for neon this spring/summer.
DIY’ers are in luck. Tie-dye, that youth-driven trend that remerges every 20 years or so, is spiraling back into fashion in 2019 but with a designer touch. A symbol of slacker style, disenchanted youth and activism, the trend sums up the independent spirit of Gen Z and millennial consumers. And with designers like Louis Vuitton and MSGM offering the psychedelic print, we expect tie-dye to further fuel the market’s obsession for highbrow versions of street, surf, skate (and every other recreational activity in between) style.
The mini backpack—the accessory made famous by Cher Horowitz and her squad in the ’90s teen film Clueless—proves good things come in small packages. Consider the mini backpack as the offspring of two major accessories trends from 2018: the backpack and the fanny pack. Both bags filled the gap in demand for more traditional fashion styles like totes and satchels. Plus, functional as it is fashionable, mini backpacks offer brands a petite canvas to play with other ’90s trends like neon colors, logos and leopard print.
Lingerie as daywear
Silky camisole tops, spaghetti strap slips and baby doll dresses were de rigueur of teen girl idols of the ’90s. The “Lolita” look was worn by everyone from Drew Barrymore and Courtney Love, to most of the Spice Girls. However, the lingerie-inspired trend is updated for 2019 through a more mature lens. The silhouettes remain the same, but designers are ditching cutesy frills and ditzy prints in favor of sophisticated transparent layering and silk for daytime.
With athleisure being a bona fide fashion category, it’s not surprising that ’90s-style track suits are the next sport-inspired trend to infiltrate street style. The suits—be it the classic three stripes, color blocked windbreakers or logo emblazoned sets—were the de facto comfort uniform in the ’90s for teens, boybands, suburban moms and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. And the design hasn’t changed much over the years. Comfort remains a top priority, as well as oversized silhouettes, unisex design and statement color. Expect to see designers elevate the leisure look for night with satins and silks.
The styling of ’90s goth rocker Marilyn Manson is tame compared to today’s standards of shock fashion, but back then the verdict was still out on black latex, ripped hosiery and cross-dressing. In 2019, however, goth fashion returns in the form of dominatrix-like black leather jackets, black lace and combat boots with platform soles. The trend is already trickling into denim through superfluous hardware and chains. And expect to see vintage concert and band tees featuring the likes of Manson, Korn and Nine Inch Nails gain popularity (and value) in 2019.
The platform shoe belongs to several decades and subcultures. However, the iteration from the ’90s, a black chunky sole black boot, oxford or Mary Jane (often with a curved heel) is the one to keep an eye on in 2019. The shoe is part of the goth uniform and a coquettish accoutrement for the lingerie as outerwear trend. And after several seasons of sensible block heels and comfortable flats, Junior’s and women’s fashion shoes are eager for a lift.
Leopard print still has bite. The animal print left its mark on ’90s fashion through trends like goth, furry coats and even zoot suits, which regrettably swung into style toward the end of the decade. And despite being a top-selling trend in 2018, leopard print secures its place in 2019 as both a neutral and fashion statement redone in untraditional colors like neon yellow and red.
The polo shirt is an antidote to this year’s flurry of brash trends. In 2019, the polo can swing one of two ways: as a fitted basic with a tongue-in-cheek nod to classic, preppy Ralph Lauren, or as an oversized, logo-adorned shirt that harkens back to urban fashion in the ’90s. And there’s a polo for everyone, from the classic pique, to trendier updates like a knit mesh and chiffon.
Flare jeans, which were basically reincarnated bell bottoms from the ’70s, were a staple with young Hollywood in the ’90s. And it’s the same group that is bringing the trend back to life in 2019, but with fewer bells and whistles. Look for clean washes, minimal distressing and a higher rise to give the jeans a modern look.
Black and white
If you were a pre-teen or teenage girl in the ’90s, you’ll likely remember the black and white dress that both Brenda Walsh and gasp Kelly Taylor wore to the spring dance on 90210. The “who wore it better” moment is ingrained in ’90s fashion history and exemplifies one of the more refined ways ’90s kids wore black and white together. From Vans’ checkerboard prints to the wide leg striped pants sold by ’90s-era retailers like Delia’s and Contempo Casuals, the color combo served several unforgettable sartorial moments that are being recreated in 2019 by fast fashion retailers like Zara and Asos.
The decadent world of Versace is a playground for fearless fashionistas in 2019. In recent seasons, the Italian fashion house has revisited archival pieces from its iconic ’90s collections, inspiring ladies and gents to embrace their inner Donatella or Gianni. It’s a simple formula to follow: vivid colors, opulent prints, gold and sex appeal. Expect to find this trend in women’s dress, men’s shirting and swimwear, where the flavor of South Beach is always in style.
The bike short has come a long way. The second-skin short was an outrageous style in the ’90s, yet it has somehow found itself on the cusp of being acceptable fashion in 2019. Social media is likely to thank, or blame, for its comeback. With celebrities like Gigi and Bella Hadid adopting the trend in its early stages, consumers have become acclimated with swiping and liking the sporty garb. And with styles as colorful and shiny as ever, the bike short is may be the single ’90s trend that has come back less refined as its predecessor.
Depending on which end of the decade you want to examine, embellished denim in the ’90s skewed either chintzy with homemade embroideries and fabric paint, or glitzy with rhinestones and crystals glued to seams, pockets, shoulders and collars. In 2019, denim brands borrow a little from both worlds, offering jeans with subtle splashes of sparkle and details that feel handmade and personal. The goal, however, remains the same: to stand out in a sea of blue.
Marc Jacobs sealed grunge’s fate when he announced in November that he would reissue his iconic Spring ’93 collection for Perry Ellis. Grunge was back, bringing along with it a new spotlight on baby doll dresses, beanies, combat boots and the hallmark of all grunge looks—flannel. Expect to see oversized plaid flannel shirts serve as a protective layer during festival season and carry into the fall season for both men and women.
When Herve Leger designed the bandage dress in 1989, he created the template for form-fitting dresses that designers to this day still follow. Fortunately for Leger, the birth of the dress coincided with the rise of the supermodel, who would become natural muses for the figure-hugging silhouette during the decade. In 2019, the Kardashians and retailers like Fashion Nova are putting bodycon dresses back on the radar, updating the shapely silhouette with liquid-like fabrics, shimmering metallics and intense colors.
It’s back to basics for designer handbags. The trend for functional bag shapes (i.e. fanny packs, backpacks, cross-body bags and sling bags) is opening the door for practical fabrications like nylon to sit side by side with their pricier leather counterparts. And brands with nylon roots like Prada and Kate Spade have the most to gain. Both brands struck handbag gold in the ’90s with their nylon offering—many of which are ranking high on retailers’ best-selling lists once again.