From plaid to Prada backpacks, see the ’90s fashion that’s making its

Nineties fashion is back in a big way. Last year, Harry Styles wore a In the dark– Grammy inspired dress. Y2K looks are all the rage among Gen Z fashionistas. And iconic 90s bags like the nylon Prada backpack and Dior saddle bag are selling like hot cakes on resale sites like Rebag.

Why are we so fascinated by these trends now, three decades later? And given how eclectic the ’90s style was, ranging from Nirvana-inspired flannel to Calvin Klein-style minimalism, how do we define the aesthetics of the era? A new exhibition at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, “Reinvention and Restlessness: Fashion in the Nineties,”Explores these questions.

On one level, the 1990s revival is easy to explain, says curator Colleen Hill. Fashion tends to revisit trends in cycles of 20 to 30 years, as stylists and fashion editors retrace the styles of their youth. Hill argues, however, that there are deeper reasons why the ’90s style is resonating: many are nostalgic for that era’s optimism, and thrift is easier than ever.

[Photo: ©2022 The Museum at FIT]

When the future was bright

In contrast to years of pandemics, political polarization and racial showdown, the 1990s are optimistic. “The spirit of the 90s was one of possibility, and that’s something the show highlights,” says Hill. “We were entering a new century and even a millennium. People still look back on that time as a really exciting time. “

[Photo: ©2022 The Museum at FIT]

These days, our love of technology has faded. But in the 1990s the internet was still in its infancy and there was energy and curiosity about the future. The fashion of the year 2000, which emerged towards the end of the decade, was deliberately futuristic, defined by shiny fabrics, shiny leather, metallic tops, rhinestone and mesh embellishments.

Generation Z is particularly intrigued by these Y2K looks, with the hashtag # Y2KFashion generating hundreds of thousands of posts on TikTok and Depop, the hugely popular teen resale site. These looks could evoke hope that we can still remodel the internet into the exciting and inspiring place we once imagined it could be.

Meanwhile, thrift is back with a vengeance, thanks in part to companies like ThredUp and Depop who have digitized thrift shopping. It makes sense that we get inspired by the 90s as we put together thrifty looks, especially since these websites are full of vintage pieces from that era.

Pop culture revolution

I was a teenager in the 90s and, even so, I struggle to understand what defines the aesthetics of the time. According to Hill, it was the wide range of options that made 90s fashion so fun and accessible. “There was so much pluralism in fashion in the 90s,” Hill says. “I would say more than any previous decade. There was this idea that fashion was for everyone in a way we had never seen before. “

Prada, backpack: black nylon and leather, around 1993. [Photo: ©2022 The Museum at FIT]

Movie of the time, like In the dark And Ten things I hate about you, offer a generous look at the teen fashion of the era. There are designer looks and “it” bags, like the nylon Prada collection. There are minimalist and slender looks, from jeans and cropped T-shirts to slender silk dresses, inspired by Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang.

Helmut Lang, dress: black and olive wool sweater, 1996. [Photo: ©2022 The Museum at FIT]

And then there is grunge. Both films feature the flannel shirts and plaid mini skirts popularized by bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. “These bands were from the Pacific Northwest, so it made sense that they wore a lot of layers,” says Hill. “They often shopped in thrift stores out of necessity, but this is a look that was perceived as cool.” Grunge has made it easier for everyone, regardless of budget, to get involved in fashion during a global recession.

XULY. Bët (Lamine Kouyaté), ensemble: sweater dress, coat and blouse, recycled multicolored sweaters, brown printed wool and red nylon, autumn / winter 1994. [Photo: ©2022 The Museum at FIT]

The exhibition shows how the emergence of the Internet has enabled film, TV, music and other aspects of pop culture to influence fashion like never before; for the first time, people could gather online to discuss fashion and find clothes.

Pop culture in the 1990s sometimes shaped fashion as much as it reflected it. Hill says when the In the dark the costume directors visited Los Angeles high schools to explore trends, they were dismayed by all the grunge. “They designed the In the dark wardrobe as a kind of dream wardrobe, ”says Hill. “It wasn’t supposed to represent what students of this age wore, but then of course it became a style that students wanted to emulate.”

Show how Sex and city they were also very influential. Today, it’s rare for a single show to kickstart a trend, as social media and streaming services are overflowing with so much content. Young people are nostalgic for the moment when an iconic show or film could set the tone, Hill says. And thanks to streaming services, many teens and twenties are able to explore the now classic shows and movies of that era.

“The students of the Fashion Institute of Technology know very well In the dark”Says Hill. “They absolutely watched it and some recreated the looks straight from the movie.”

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