The Season of the 90s
Why are we so nostalgic for a decade that really wasn’t too long ago?
You may recall that the last time the 90s happened it was, in fact, the 90s. Three major things were happening: grunge, Bill Clinton’s presidency, and supermodels.
Grunge was born out of punk-fed, Seattle-raised kids who grew up and started their own bands. Perhaps you’ve heard of Kurt Cobain? But like anything originally intended for a community rebelling against mainstream society, the idea of “grunge” caught wind and soon it became a fashion statement.
Then there were The Supermodels. The originals. Think Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer and the like. Where grunge lifted a middle finger to the world by way of ripped jeans and dirty hair, The Supermodels opened up the other four digits and high-fived one another down decidedly far-less morose runways than today, all while wearing plaid shirts tied around their waists per Cobain’s non-intentional mandate. But they also (by way of designers like Jil Sander, Helmut Lang, and Prada) sported another trend: minimalism.
What Christy Turlington was to fashion at the time, Bill Clinton was to the economy. You didn’t ask for a history lesson and I’m not drunk enough to give one, so the short version is that the stock market was up and the country had money to spend. Designer names became a thing among regular households — Calvin Klein and Fendi were no longer just for America’s elite. Remember the Fendi Baguette? Looking back on ’97, it seemed like absolutely everyone had one.
And now, albeit reworked and updated for the modern silhouette, anything anyone had in ’97 is back in fashion once again. We saw crop tops pop up two seasons ago, then last fall Slimane’s Saint Laurent didn’t so much nod to the 90s as it did full on thrash to it. Calvin Klein and Narciso Rodriguez can always be counted on for Kate Moss heroin-chic nostalgia (you were worried I wasn’t going to mention her, weren’t you?) and most notably-90s this season were Theyskens’ Theory, Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone and Thakoon. In fact, I’d argue that nearly every show had at least one item that could have made a case for the decade in discussion.
Listing designers who colored-in the trend will hardly help answer a question, however, that’s been lingering in my head since the first tell-tale sign of spaghetti straps and plaid: what is it about the the 90s that fashion so vehemently intends on making stick? Weren’t we into the 80s for a while? And 60s Mod? There was, more recently, a brief flirtation with the 1920s, though some may argue that the Fitzgerald-era shifted dresses and plum lips were just a mere foreshadowing to our 90s obsession.
Perhaps it all harkens back to the three definers I mentioned earlier: grunge, Bill C, supermodels. We’re clearly still nostalgic for a sense of controlled rebellion (a punk-themed Met Ball, anyone?), and though not all of us had checkbooks during the Clinton administration, it’s hard not to reflect on those years as fiscally golden. Moss’s heroin chic couldn’t have felt chic had it not been a luxury to look three-steps beyond disheveled. On the other hand, Naomi and Co. were so other-worldly that one didn’t even try to compare to their leggy and voluptuous Amazonian stature. Women viewed models as icons, not reality, and the separation — whether you disagree there should be one or not — allowed for a celebration of 6’3″ legs rather than 5’3″ self-loathing.
It was a simpler time.
Or maybe, as all current generations tend to do of the previous ones, we’ve waxed nostalgic on the 90s to the point of romance.
I recall sitting at the Jen Kao show now almost an entire month ago, watching as denim-clad daughters of the revolution marched in groovy-heeled platforms with their long, hippie hair, when just like that — the models switched into black and those very heels suddenly went from 1970 to 90210, reminding me just how old everything new actually is.
Leave your thoughts on the redux below.
Images courtesy of Vogue.com and Style.com
Feeling nostalgic? Read about the ten things you need to know post-graduation and the evolution of fashion journalism. Not sure what to call our generation in fashion? Neither do we, so let’s discuss here.