Ask Jeanne

ASK JEANNE ’90s Trends

The 1990s are back in a big way  – and I love it! How can I incorporate this trend into my wardrobe without looking like I just walked off the set of Blossom?




Dear Amelia—

Smart question. So many of us are victimized each season by certain retro trends that we’ve embraced before, but not clear on how to keep the spirit of the trend without actually looking like we’ve just stepped out of the past. This ‘90s vibe that’s running though fashion at the moment has to do with a kind of anti-fashion sentiment: It grew out of the grunge movement, when garments with a casual street-feel were mixed together in uncontrived ways. This whole ‘90s mode of dressing speaks of a personal freedom, and actually, when Marc Jacobs first send grunge down the runway for the Perry Ellis spring 1993 collection, the iconic American label he once designed for, it was quite the shocker. Layering and flannel shirts and Doc Martins and crocheted skull caps were considered a bit of a slap in the face of uptight fashionistas who felt that Jacobs had gone too far in his homage to the Seattle alternative rock scene. But the designer had sparked an interesting and novel notion about ‘laissez-faire’ dressing and the vitality of youth, and once grunge was eventually embraced by fashion’s serious arbiters, style sensibilities would never be the same.


Now that we’ve got a penchant for the “grungy” good old days (and remember that fashion is definitely cyclical, with things repeating themselves every 20 years), we’ve ought to be able to reflect all the sophistication that’s come with current times while still giving this old/new ‘90s feel a concerted nod. My suggestion is to try and dress with a polished feel, even though you may be into stressed denim, Converse sneakers, studs, leather pants, and motorcycle jackets. There are chic ways of mixing it all up without looking like you just stepped out of a Nirvana video. Accessories are key, too. Just don’t load them on. Chokers are back big time, and always a sexy way to punch up a neckline. The plaid that came on so strong in ‘90s is back, but this go ‘round, it’s here in the form of well-tailored shirts and sweet little dresses. And of course, the spirit of those big, hot “Baby G” plastic watches lives on in all the cool over-sized watches we’ve been seeing for a while now. Reptile belt buckles made a big splash in the ‘90s, with NY accessories designer Barry Kieselstein-Cord, and I still wear the one I got back then religiously. That’s an ultra cool item you might be able to go vintage shopping for that’s really timeless, yet a great acknowledgement of the era. Other timeless pieces that I’ve held onto from the ‘90s that I still incorporate into my wardrobe today include body suits, which are great for wearing with jeans, a lizard print leather coat, and a little black leather jacket with an elegant “motorcycle feel” made by Toronto’s Izzy Camilleri. Again, I encourage you to shop vintage for some of these accent pieces. Just keep in mind that by the end of the ‘90s, minimalism had taken over, and we’re already seeing that trend creeping in for fall. That’s the joy of fashion—where the only constant is change! In the meantime, be careful when wearing overalls. They’re still pretty hard to carry off. And I still haven’t figured out a chic way to wear Doc Marten’s. Do let me know if you’ve got any ideas!