’90s Fashion: A Brief History

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Recapping the ‘90s is not easy. Bikini Kill and the Backstreet Boys graced the scene. Gangsta rap and grunge both boomed. And like the music that defined the era, fashion was wide-ranging. Tons of trends emerged—from cone bras to “The Rachel” cut. We revisit 10 of the decade’s most iconic looks here.

1. CrazySexyCool

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TLC. Who remembers the #allthat theme song? #nickleodeon #lefteye #tboz #chilli

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Why go bright when you can go neon? From the Fresh Prince's matchy-matchy short sets and one-strap overalls to TLC's coordinated girl-gang garb, the looks were bold and heavily styled.

2. Spice Up Your Life

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Spice Girl fashion let us play with our identities. Were you Sporty or Posh? Or maybe a wee bit Scary? Their wardrobes reminded us that whatever we were bringing, to bring it in full force (in a crop top with maxed-out platform shoes, no less).

3. Unzipped

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Supermodels were household (one-name) names in the '90s. Starring in glossy magazine ads, runway shows and unforgettable music videos, Kate, Cindy, Naomi, Linda, Claudia and Christy ruled the scene.

4. Clueless

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WE'RE THE KIDS IN AMERICA???? #dionne #cher #tai #clueless #cluelessthemovie

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As the antithesis of grunge, Alicia Silverstone's Cher character in Clueless became an instant fashion icon. Fans couldn't get enough of her sartorial style of blazers, plaid pleated schoolgirl minis and sweater vests.

5. Angela's Angst

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With so many '90s TV style icons to choose from, it's hard to pick just one to focus on. (Kelly Bundy's bodycon dresses gave us life!) But the too real portrayal of teenage angst on My So-Called Life left a permanent imprint on our hearts. Long live Angela Chase's combat boots, crimson dye job, denim overalls and flannels.

6. Blond Ambition

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Blond Ambition Tour (1990) #madonna #madonnafans #madonnaciccone #madonnafamily #blondambitiontour

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Costume and couture collided in 1990 when Jean Paul Gaultier designed the garb for Madonna's Blond Ambition tour. Her cone bra corsets made headlines, becoming one of the most highly recognizable pieces to ever grace the concert stage.

7. Teen Spirit

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Its hard for me to say goodbye cause I know babe that you're not mine. #kurtcobain #omernetzer #goodbyesong #nirvana

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Say what you will about the '90s, but dressing sure was easier. We have grunge god Kurt Cobain to thank for that. He made looking androgynous and slouchy cool. With a small amount of cash and a little imagination, creating an ensemble was easy. Thrift store finds never looked so chic.

8. Maximalism

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Super proud of my hairstyle tonight #butterflyclips #90sfashion #90shair

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In the '90s, people either cut their hair to look like Friends' character Rachel Green or like Victoria Beckham of the Spice Girls. Hair jewelry was an actual thing that existed. Bandanas were fashionable. And if you didn't know what to do with your hair, you put a butterfly clip on it. Or three. Or ten. Why simply adorn your fingers when you could also bejewel your toes? Guys wore snapback caps and Oakleys with pride. Tattoo choker necklaces were practically a requirement.

9. Put A Snap On It

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Blouses that wouldn’t tuck in were deemed unbearable in the ’90s—so we solved that shit with bodysuits. When we paired them with A-line skirts or stonewashed denim shorts and platform flip flops, we were unstoppable.

10. Walk On

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Guys and girls alike loved their chunky Skechers. Every platform variant ruled, be it sneakers, flip flops or loafers. From cotton Mary Jane flats to alternative-in-an-instant Dr. Martens, ’90s shoes were all that.

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