90’s fashion fads (that should stay in the 90’s)

So, apparently the 90’s are having a revival. Lately, it seems that everywhere I look, there’s something that harks back to pre-teen years. Yet another version of the Tamagotchi has been released, Scream 4 has just hit the cinemas, and CDs filled with 90’s nostalgia songs grace the shelves in so many music stores. Fashion also seems to be cashing in on the retro craze, with cropped tops, floral leggings and bindis all the rage once more. Seeing so many 90’s inspired pieces hitting the shelves has really got me thinking.


Technically, I’m a child of the 80’s being that I was born in 1986. However, I spent most of my formative years in the 90’s. Between the ages of 10 and 13 was when I seemed to be most susceptible to fashion trends, and so I dabbled quite heavily in some of the fads of that time. If I look back at photos of myself during those years, I see that they’re peppered with fashion mistakes and style faux pas. I think that this is partially because I was a very young girl, with very little pocket money and a passion for experimentation. However, I don’t think that my poor judgment and penchant for inexpensive garments is entirely to blame. When one looks back over the fashion trends of the 1990’s, it’s a minefield of horrific trends and mistakes waiting to happen.


There are some trends from the 90’s that aren’t all bad, and many of them still show up in my wardrobe from time to time. I’m still rocking my Dr Martens, my slip dresses and over-the-knee socks, but there are some trends that I will never touch again. Here’s a list of the 90’s fashion trends that I pray will never make a comeback.


Hair mascara

Hair mascara is one of those products that was perfectly mainstream in its heyday, but when you look back and really think about it, makes no sense whatsoever. Hair mascara was basically a temporary hair colouring that you applied to your hair with a wand in streaks. If you did it right, it could occasionally look passable. However, if you didn’t have a steady hand, or if your tube of hair mascara was running low, you would wind up with streaky, patchy blotches of colour throughout your hair. It also gave your hair an interesting crunchy texture, which was intensified if you had also applied glitter gel to the mascara-streaked sections. I don’t know who the moron was who devised this product, but it’s one of the oddest and most awful cosmetic products I’ve ever come across.



I’m not talking about cute playsuits or 70’s style jumpsuits, I mean those awful, heavy denim overalls. I had two pairs, one full-length pair and a short pair. I would wear them over baggy tee shirts, and oversized jumpers. They were hotter than hell and very unflattering, and yet I continued to wear them until I outgrew them. There’s also something very off-putting about any garment that requires you to get completely undressed before you can use the toilet.



The 90’s were all about denim. I’m not opposed to denim in general. I own quite a number of denim garments. However, in the 90’s you couldn’t just wear denim jeans or shorts. No, you had to wear denim jeans with a denim jacket, with a floppy denim hat and a denim backpack. Your shoes probably had denim panels on the sides and your wardrobe would have contained at least one denim dress for more formal occasions. I hope that the fashion world never sees denim in such epic quantities again.


Tattoo jewellery.

I had a big collection of tattoo jewellery when I was about 12. They were basically chokers or bracelets that were made out of dark, woven twine like fishing wire. They were very stretchy and sat flush against your skin, so that it looked like you had a hideous, swirling tattoo circling your neck and wrists. The tattoo effect was not that strong though, certainly not effective enough to actually convince anyone that you’d disfigured your throat for life with a real tattoo.


Platform sneakers.

I never actually owned a pair of these myself, although I desperately wanted some. I am thankful that my parents recognized that their inherent hideousness combined with my intense lack of coordination would have combined to create a potentially dangerous fashion mistake. I think it was Baby Spice who set the trend for girls walking around on massive slabs of foam rubber, and for that she deserves to be slapped. Platform sneakers were so incredibly ugly. Although platform shoes in general were huge during the 90’s platform sneakers are the only breed of platform shoe that I really have a problem with. Perhaps because I associate sneakers with either comfort or athleticism, and platform sneakers shit all over both of those things.


Hair springs.

In the 90’s, hair jewels were a huge craze. If you were a young girl during this time, it was practically taboo to step out of the house without festooning your hair with piles of jewels, combs and glittery butterflies. Most of these items have made a comeback without any drama, but one hair ornament that I hope never resurfaces is the hair spring. Hair springs were tiny, jewel studded springs that you wore in your hair. After you’d styled your hair (probably in a series of top-knots or a high ponytail), you’d pull the spring apart, place it on your hair and then release the ends of the spring. The spring would coil around your hair and sit securely in place. They looked ridiculous, and as an added bonus it was impossible to remove them from your mop without pulling a huge chunk of hair out with them.


Matte lipstick.

Matte lipstick isn’t attractive on any level. It looks dry and cakey, and when you wear a dark shade like brown or apricot, it makes you look like a corpse. Even so, before the lip-gloss revolution of the noughties, matte, flat lipstick in neutral tones was surprisingly popular. I blame Courtney Cox and the cast of Party of Five for this. I had a matte lippy in a chestnut-brown shade that I wore every day, thinking that I looked like Jennifer Aniston. I didn’t.


Sunglasses with coloured lenses.

Sunglasses with black or brown lenses?! Pfft, how dull and functional. In the 90’s you didn’t want sunglasses that actually kept the sun out of your eyes, you wanted a pair in a ridiculous hue that made you look like a bad John Lennon copycat. I had three pairs, one with yellow lenses, one with blue and one with pink lenses. They all had wire-thin frames and made me look like an insect from another planet. I thought they were really edgy and cool though. They also distorted your vision and made it difficult to walk through crowded areas without getting disorientated and nauseous.


Slip dresses over tee shirts.

I still have a couple of slip dresses from the 90’s that I love to wear. I also still have a few baby tees that were super-popular when I was a teenager. These two things don’t pose any problems when they’re kept separate. But put one under the other and they become a fashion nightmare. I think I started rocking this look after watching Clueless for the four billionth time. The end result was lumpy and weird.


The 90’s certainly were a minefield of bad fashion choices. I doubt whether anyone who grew up in this decade managed to make it through without a few fashion skeletons in their closet. While there are some fun trends that I’m happy to rehash, there are some that are best left firmly buried in the past, never to be worn again.


What fashion faux pas did you make in the 90’s? Are there any trends that you’re glad to see the end of? Are there any fashion items from the 90’s that you wish would make a comeback?


  1. Hair springs – I could never work out how to use them.

    What I want to come back is those bundle o’ accessories that they used to sell at Coles with various coloured flower clips in them. They were so cool. And Nirvana “the sun has gone but I have a light” teeshirts. I’ve wanted one for a while but all I can find are the smiley face ones!

    • I’m not sure that I remember the shirt you’re referring to. I’ve seen about a million of the smiley ones though.
      I totally loved those accessory bundles from Coles. My mother would buy me a set every now and then, and I’d spend hours trying to devise hairstyles that allowed me to cram as many clips as possibly onto my head at once.

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