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Davis, California

Friday, May 17, 2024

Column: Smells Like the Nineties

Ideas on what to wear to a ‘90s themed party

Recently my friend told me she had been invited to a 1990s-themed party. She was wondering what to wear. After much consideration, she settled on trousers and a T-shirt. “Don’t forget shoes,” I replied. “People wore shoes in the ‘90s.”

Was ‘90s fashion really so dull and nondescript? Granted it had a hard act to follow coming after the ‘80s bombarding us with, among other offerings, shoulder pads, leg warmers and lots and lots of neon.

But was ‘90s fashion really so boring that you could boil it down to this joke and only be half joking? Just what was in the average wardrobe in the 1990s?

It’s a fair bet that if you were a slave to trends at some point you’d have owned an item of clothing by Benetton. As well as the rugby-style polo shirts, bright colors and checks, there was the controversial ad campaign. You remember the ones featuring AIDS patients and bloody newborn babies that was aimed at selling the message that all people of all races were equal.

Gap was another ‘90s mega-brand, the only place to go if you wanted to pretend you were American by shelling out for chinos available in every color under the sun. Gap made ‘basics’ cool again, from anoraks to pocket tees. Gap reached Hanley in 1999 when its store at the Potteries Shopping Centre opened. The store was on the ‘wish list’ of the then city centre manager who also wanted to see Jigsaw, Karen Millen Ted Baker and Paul Smith bring their wares to Hanley. Sadly, they didn’t, but Gap still did.

One nostalgic trend item that you might struggle to find up ‘Anley today is a ‘90s-style neon (it had to be neon) windbreaker. You could never again walk around low-key wearing what essentially looked like a bright, magical cape. The more colors the better…

If sweaters were more your thing then in the ‘90s you probably wore it mainly tied around your waist. And if you were into the grunge scene, then it’s a fair bet your jumper would have been striped.

One might argue that Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, with his ripped denim and dishevelled hair, led the way for ‘90s grunge fashion.

Whether it was in the 1991 video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” with his striped T-shirt and jeans, to walking the red carpet at MTV’s 1993 VMAs dressed yet again in a striped T-shirt and jeans with wife Courtney and daughter Frances Bean, Kurt Cobain made an impact on fashion.

The impact included a huge helping of flannel, layers and canvas plimsolls.

Cobain’s look was copied across the board from actor Matt Dillon in Cameron Crowe’s movie Singles to Jared Leto playing ‘90s sloucher pin-up Jordan Catalano in the TV series “My So-Called Life.”

Stepping away from grunge and onto another trend: Air Jordans. Basketball star Michael Jordan claimed six championships in the ‘90s. While donning a pair of his Nike-endorsed footwear didn’t give you magic powers, they did give you a certain amount of street cred.

Similarly, everyone from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” (or to you and me in the 2000s, Will Smith) to members of boyband ‘N Sync were rocking the denim overalls. Perhaps one of the most heinous ‘90s fashion trends, there was no escape from the demin.

If you wanted to be particularly ‘with it’ the overalls were worn with the straps down. If you were a bloke and weren’t a stranger to exercise equipment, they were worn shirtless.

I’ll admit to rocking the overalls look in the ‘90s… as a child. But then again maybe children can pull off outfits of those sort more than adults.

Over on this side of the pond, track jackets were in, and particularly ones in Adidas three stripes. Adidas was a central part of the ‘90s look for Noel and Liam Gallagher along with the Beatles-eque mop. Flick through Oasis’ ‘90s photo album and you’ll find the Adidas jackets, trainers, bags and those blatantly-branded jumpers.

Noel was apparently so enamored with retro Adidas trainers that he collected hundreds of pairs and kept them in mint condition. One ‘90s trend you wouldn’t find Noel and Liam sporting is the bandana. If you were a rap fan, your bandana was a statement of which rapper you liked. Remember all those Tupac pictures with the red, white or black bandanas?

So, my dear friend, you see… there are plenty of options for your ‘90s-themed party.

ESTEFANY SALAS can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.



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