With the increase in availability of fashions during the 1990s and the increase in the population, it becomes hard to identify a predominating silhouette or shape during the decade. With the emergence of style tribes, people were dressing according to what their group deems stylish which results in many different apparel shapes.
Some style remained left over from the 1980’s including, neon colors and large shoulder pads, but it wasn’t until about 1992 that styles became to develop distinctively. Throughout the 1990’s shoulder lines became smaller and more natural and skirt lengths varied from very short in length to those that reached below the calf. Dresses were generally made with spandex stretch fiber blends allowing the garment to tightly fit the body and pant legs grew wider in comparison to the tight fitted pants of the 1980s. Jackets were long and usually worn with short, slim shirts or pants. Popular styles in evening wear included full-skirted, short, strapless dresses, lace or embroidery bustiers, long fitted dresses that were either strapless, sleeveless, one shouldered, or with peek-a-boo cutouts. Shirt styles ranged from tightly fitted to bare midriff. One of the most popular styles of the 90s was a frilly, blouse with large sleeves. Throughout the 1990’s the wrap coat and trench coat were popular as well as the ‘between season” coat.
Popular men’s styles of the 1990’s were just as diverse as the women’s. With the increase in businesses adopting casual clothing policies, the demand for suits decreased. Suits became more structured and were paired with broad variety of colored dress shirts. Striped shirts with patterned neckties were popular. The Casual Friday trend led to an increase in men pairing informal shirts with business suits which increased the popularity of denim suits. Sport jackets were a popular alternative to the suit jacket and were available in checks, tweed, and plaids. Pant styles of the 1990s include slim, narrow at ankle, wide all the way to the hem, cargo style with large patch pockets on the side, high-waisted and tapered to the ankle, and casual with suspender buttons and no cuffs. Shirt styles for men were basic and among the most popular were t-shirts, polo shirts, and woven short-sleeved styles.
Much like the apparel shapes of the early 1990s, the primarily neon colors lingered on until about 1990. As the economy began to fall, consumers began to retreat to more muted colors. With price being the factor in many purchases, consumers were more likely to buy clothing in basic colors to the simple fact that they would get more use out of the garment. Taupes, pastel pinks, olives, grays, browns, subdued rusts, grayed navy, sand and camel were some of the popular colors during the first half of the decade. Around 1997, brighter colors began to make a comeback as the stock market was once again thriving and people were comfortable in terms of finances. Pink became the dominating color for women and green became popular primarily due to the green movement that had been gaining popularity. As the decade grew to a close and the new millennium began to set in, people panicked and Cerulean Blue, the color of sea and sky, was pronounced the “Color of the Millennium” by Pantone.
Survey of Historic Costume by Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eubank
Fashion Since 1900 by Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye
Icons of Fashion: The 20th Century by Gerda Buxbaum
Very Vintage: A Guide to Vintage Patterns and Clothing by Iain Bromley and Dorota Wojchiechowska
Who’s Who in Fashion by Holly Price Alford and Anne Stegemeyer