It all started very subtly. Nobody seemed surprised when three years ago the denim shirt began to turn up again in the shops after a lengthy absence. What had been the sin of this apparently innocent and stylish garment that had granted it such a long exile from our wardrobes? I will tell you, it was too 90s. It used to be worn in unholy total denim looks back in that decade. It was not until it detached from that group that it was reprieved and allowed to rejoin fashion. The denim shirt sins have expired because the 90s were twenty years ago, therefore any clothing from that decade has surpassed the threshold of time and turned from shameful trend into vintage.
The recent H&M collaboration with Italian luxury label Versace is also a sign of this redemption. The capsule collection -filled with studded minidresses, bright colours and overwhelming mirror prints with palm trees, flowers and animals – was homage to the Gianni years. Suddenly, the Versace’s 90s extravaganza became something very up-to-date, something fitting for pop stars like Nicki Minaj and Jessie J. The prices of Versace – and other Italian fashion houses – vintage pieces soared and they became coveted cult clothing.
If you take a walk around all the high street fashion stores this season, you will not only find Versace inspired clothes, but also many other usual 90s suspects. Crop tops, overalls, long skirts and a sea of prints flood the hangers and shelves. Even sportswear and Union Jack prints, whose reappearance people attribute to the upcoming Olympics, are really to blame on rediscovered 90s’ references like the Adidas, Nike and Reebok fever and the British motifs inspired by the Cool Britannia scene.
But high street clothing normally just follows what high end fashion has dictated. And established fashion houses had retaken their romance with the many styles that coexisted in this decade before mainstream stores realised. Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren have hoisted again with pride the preppy style which had been abandoned, accused of being too neat and uptight. Givenchy has embraced a chic goth look recalling the style that reached its peak during the early 90s. More and more brands try to incorporate the general minimalistic aesthetic Calvin Klein has always mastered, renouncing the look that overloads layers and accessories in favour of a focus more on shapes and silhouettes. Even Chanel, the high fashion house par excellence, has fallen for those years with their 2013 Resort Collection which could be defined as a Marie Antoinette meets Saved By The Bell.
It is when you watch those TV shows, subconsciously considered quite recent, when you realise the fashion and style is neither recent nor modern at all. It especially happens with iconic TV shows which are still being broadcasted, like the timeless Friends. You look at Jennifer Aniston’s hair and make up in the earlier seasons and you suddenly catch yourself thinking “That is very 90s”. It becomes increasingly evident in the more fashion-conscious Sex and the City, where some of the outfits the girls wear are outrageously vintage. In fact, Fendi’s Baguette, the bag that got Carrie Bradshaw mugged and Samantha Jones kicked out of the playboy mansion, celebrates its 15 years. That is why the Italian label has created a book celebrating its anniversary hoping to relaunch the emblematic but forgotten piece.
Not only fashion is experimenting with a 90s revival. Music is also feeding from this phenomenon. It is quite an impossible mission to name one big festival that does not count on a 90s band in its lineup. From Madchester sensations to Britpop idols, they are all taking advantage of this recent fever about their decade and set up comeback tours. Even the Rave scene, unloaded from its marginal and nonconformist traits, has been incorporated into our days by way of acid neon clothes and elaborated electronic music. Even hipsters, the cultural sensitive subculture of our time, have adopted the grunge aesthetic making bleached denim, ironic T shirts, Dr Martens and Creepers their uniform.
But how far will this 90s explosion reach? Fashion is a periodic industry. Before the 90s caught our attention, there were the 80s. We admired the reckless immoderation of the decade where everything was acceptable. We admitted the comeback of excessive jewellery but refused to wear shoulder pads again. Now the 90s are in the spotlight, the 80s have fallen into shame again. But why if they are already vintage? Every season witnesses how designers borrow inspiration from the 50s, 60s or 70s, consecrated decades of fashion that will never be disclaimed again. Maybe 20 years are not enough then, maybe more time needs to pass to create an appreciated fashion identity rather than a one season hit. There is the question. Will we accept the wide leg trousers and sport shoes again just because they are vintage-esque cool this season? Or will the 90s prove the recent longing for the last decade of the 20th century is a fashion style nostalgia with foundation?
By Marta F. Diaz-Alejo