Classy 90s Fashion for Women
Classy 90s Fashion for Women
Written by Hannah Mae Webster
To many, the 90s was a unique decade of trends and experimentation, however there was also an abundance of classic fashion influences. 90s style icons popularized classy and minimalistic outfits, a welcome change from the wild maximalism of the 80s.
Timeless 90s Style Icons
Princess Diana’s style defined the 90s, from her casual outfits untypical of the royal family, to her 1994 “revenge dress,” Diana forged her status as an enduring fashion icon.
Some of Princess Diana’s 90s fashion moments:
Gym wear, 1997
Diana’s approach to gym wear in the 90s became iconic as she made public appearances in extremely casual sweatshirts and cycling shorts, something that was previously unheard of in the royal family. In this 1997 workout ensemble, Diana paired an all-white outfit with a classy black handbag and sunglasses. This effortless look, favored by celebrities such as Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner, made a modern return in 2022, proving to be a trend that withstood time.
“Revenge Dress,” 1994
Referred to as the “revenge dress,” this revealing black Christina Stambolian creation featured an off the shoulder sweetheart neckline. The gown was styled with sheer black tights, black stilettos, and a multi-row pearl choker necklace. According to designer Christina Stambolian, the dress was designed three years prior to the evening at the Serpentine Gallery but Diana had felt it was previously “too daring.”
This is another example of Diana embracing a slightly more androgynous style on her Bosnia trip, wearing a pink shirt with black straight cut jeans and loafers.
A classy outfit worn by Diana during a shopping day in 1994. The green blazer featured gold buttons and was paired with a plain white turtleneck and pair of trousers.
Interested in Diana’s style in the 80s as well as the 90s? Check out our Diana Polka Dot Dress dress inspired by her feminine collared dresses of the 1980s.
Naomi Campbell’s iconic 90s style consisted of sexy yet classy outfits including both eye-catching and understated looks.
Here is an example of Naomi Campbell’s daring 90s style as she wore this black sheer dress, a trend that is hugely popular today. This dress is reminiscent of the sheer black catsuit worn by Campbell on the Azzedine Alaïa AW 1991/1992 runway.
Naomi Campbell wearing a gingham mini dress in 1991. Gingham surged in popularity in the 50s and 60s and experienced a modern return in the 90s.
Naomi Campbell is seen here in 1997 in a look that wouldn’t be at all out of place today. The 70s inspired shearling coat paired with a deep purple satin slip dress is the ultimate 90s outfit inspiration.
“It's a new challenge to see how people can change your look. I like words like transformation, reinvention, and chameleon. Because one word I don't like is predictable.”
Love Naomi Campbell’s 90s style? Want to embody the 90s supermodel aesthetic? Check out our Naomi Lace Up Little Black Dress.
Kate Moss’s 90s style embodied a rock chick-inspired, understated glamor. Some of her greatest style moments included effortlessly chic off-duty looks, featuring basics such as white shirts, maxi skirts, and biker jackets.
Some of her iconic 90s looks included:
Biker jacket and maxi skirt, 1994.
This monochromatic look featured a distressed leather biker jacket, a white ribbed scoop neck t-shirt, and semi-sheer maxi skirt. Typical of Kate Moss’s style, this ensemble was chic with an injection of edginess. Moss styled the outfit with white trainers, tousled hair, and chunky rings.
The maxi skirt, as seen on Kate Moss, has made a major comeback in the last year with celebrities such as Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber styling the trending wardrobe staple.
“Naked dress,” 1993
Pictured in 1993 with Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss wears a shimmery sheer slip dress.
The “naked dress” trend has been present for years, with Marilyn Monroe, Cher, Naomi Campbell, and of course Kate Moss popularizing the daring look. The visible underwear trend, as seen on Kate Moss here, is very popular at the moment and slip dresses like this wouldn’t be unusual red carpet attire.
Kate Moss effortlessly channeled Jane Birkin with this very minimalistic airport outfit. Although very plain, this look is highly elegant and classy when styled like Kate Moss with black block heeled boots. She carried a leopard print bag, a print that was hugely popular in the 90s.
“I've always found that beauty and confidence are synonymous. If you feel confident, that's what people see.”
Cindy Crawford’s 90s fashion moments can only be described as iconic. Her off-duty style was impeccable as she leant into androgynous styles such as oversized blazers, trousers, and loafers.
She favored classy black polo necks and flattering straight cut jeans, always accessorizing with a chunky belt. The masculine elements in her off-duty style contrasted with her runway image and built her the reputation as a classic style icon.
Like Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford loved a distressed biker jacket and timeless basics, the reason why both models are still looked at for modern outfit inspiration. Although an off-duty style inspiration, Cindy Crawford had flawless red carpet looks, from lace gowns to black backless dresses, and embellished pieces, she was able to embrace countless styles whilst remaining classy.
Other 90s style icons included:
- Jennifer Aniston
- Courteney Cox
- Winona Ryder
- Gwyneth Paltrow
- Jennifer Lopez
- Liv Tyler
- Halle Berry
- Drew Barrymore
- Pamela Anderson
- Brooke Shields
“Don't be into trends. Don't make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live. It is nice to have valid competition; it pushes you to do better.”
Thierry Mugler’s Hyper Femininity
The 90s was a period of experimentation for Thierry Mugler, introducing avant-garde haute-couture collections that are still admired as pieces of art. However, amongst these bizarre, theatrical designs, Mugler introduced some strikingly feminine styles.
His focus on hyper-femininity and the beauty of the female body led to sensational curve accentuating designs and highly flattering and striking silhouettes.
“As for me, I have constantly worked to ensure that women are more respected, that they feel powerful. Linda Nochlin, the great art historian and figure of feminism, said that my models went from ‘woman as object’ to ‘woman as subjects’! It was a nice formula.”
Mugler encapsulated dramatic elegance and inspired a sense of powerful femininity in clothing.
Chanel is the epitome of chic 90s style, with runway looks paving the way, the 90s was arguably one of Chanel’s most iconic decades. Karl Lagerfeld, creative director at the time, created some legendary runway looks including classic skirt suits, chain belts, crop tops, mini dresses, pearls, and daring sheer pieces.
"Never use the word 'cheap.' Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too). There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans — it’s up to you.”
Some jaw dropping 90s Chanel runway looks included:
Claudia Schiffer wearing a quilted mini dress, 1990.
This stunning mini dress was paired with a multi-row pearl choker, and jeweled, low-sitting waist belt.
Linda Evangelista in this sensational pearl creation, 1991
Naomi Campbell in a tweed jacket with heavy accessorizing, 1992
Christy Turlington wearing the iconic chain draped dress, 1992
This look has since been recreated by Lily-Rose Depp at the 2019 Met Gala and has since become an even more desirable gown.
Naomi Campbell in a tweed mini dress, 1993
Swimwear accessorized with pearls, 1996
Known for her rebellious designs and influence on punk subculture fashion, Vivienne Westwood’s 90s collections had strong historical influences. Her autumn/winter 1990 collection was a masterpiece, featuring François Boucher prints. Vivienne Westwood’s reinterpretation of 18th Century paintings and corset styles made her 1990 “Portrait Collection” unforgettable due to the unique merging of eras.
“Art should never be sociological; it has got to be timeless. It’s got to be your vision and how you can represent the world you see.”
Other noteworthy 90s designers
- Gianni Versace & Donatella Versace
- Miuccia Prada
- John Galliano
- Alexander McQueen
- Jean Paul Gaultier
- Olivier Theyskens
What defined 90s Fashion?
The 90s experienced a return to minimalism with a greater appreciation for classic and chic styles. In comparison to the 80s, and even the 70s, ostentatious trends were losing momentum and were being replaced by plain, elegant pieces.
Although the 1990s did host an array of short-lived trends, the predominant and enduring styles were those classic outfits that remain popular in modern fashion.
“The early '90s were an especially marvelous period for fashion, because it was the peak of glamour and there were no limits as to what you could do.”
Enduring 90s Fashion Trends
- Slip dresses
- Distressed denim
- Checked skirts and jackets
- Leather jackets
- Maxi skirts
- Mini dresses
- Plaid shirts
- Sheer fabrics
- Corset tops
- Leopard print
- Bucket hats
- High waisted jeans
- Oversized tees
- Dark sunglasses
- Oversized sweatshirts
- Ripped tights
- Crop tops
- Straight leg jeans
Slip Dresses: A brief history
The slip dress was previously an undergarment to be worn underneath a dress, however in France in the 1700s, Marie Antoinette and others close to her began to wear these slip dresses to informal gatherings between women. Also referred to as a chemise, this was considered scandalous by many when it was revealed. In the early 1900s, the slip dress replaced uncomfortable undergarments and in the 20s, the flapper dress was introduced, a slip dress style design. Into the 1930s, new styles of slip dresses were introduced with a little more shape and embellishment.
The revival of slip dresses in the 90s was highly successful, with a love for both long and short styles. Celebrities such as Kate Moss, Jennifer Aniston, Naomi Campbell, and Winona Ryder popularized the style that remains extremely popular today.
Accessories were a huge element of 90s fashion with countless trends developing. Some trends that were introduced were short-lived and considered “fads,” but there were also many long-lasting trends that quickly became closet staples.
Popular 90s accessories included:
- Fanny packs
- Small colored sunglasses
- Mood rings and jewelry
- Hair gems
- Claw clips
- Butterfly clips
- Toe rings
- Bucket hats
- Saddle bags
The influence of film and television
Casual denim worn by Monica played by Courteney Cox, 1997
One of the greatest television influences was “Friends,” as it featured many iconic looks worn by female characters Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe. Many 90s trends were popularized following the airing of episodes and the outfits are still looked at for inspiration. Memorable outfits included slip dresses, athleisure, tennis skirts, and androgynous styles.
Plaid mini skirt worn by Rachel played by Jennifer Aniston, 1995
Black maxi dress worn by Phoebe played by Lisa Kudrow, 1996
For the younger generation, the 1995 film “Clueless” was a great inspiration for classy outfits that still embraced popular trends. The lead character, Cher, played by Alicia Silverstone, sported feminine and elegant styles including Mary-Janes, mini dresses, miniskirts, and matching sets.
Other cinematic influences included:
- The Matrix
- Pulp Fiction
- Pretty Woman
- Thelma & Louise
- Basic Instinct
- Cruel Intentions
- Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
The Baguette Bag: Sex and The City
In 1997, Fendi released a bag developed by Silvia Venturini and Karl Lagerfeld known as the “baguette” bag. It was inspired by the action of French young women clutching a baguette under their arms. The Fendi Baguette was popularized through its appearance in the television show “Sex and the City” as a purple sequined version was worn by Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. The Baguette bag was discontinued not long after but was reintroduced in 2019 in many new types of fabric including leather, sequin, and shearling. The bag, now holding an iconic status, has been favored by celebrities such as Gigi Hadid.
“it’s not a bag—it’s a baguette.”
Popular 90s footwear included:
- Knee high boots
- Stiletto sandals
- Square toe sandals
- Platform shoes
Influences from previous decades
Although the excessive styles of the 80s had been lost into the 90s, there were still some major influences from previous decades.
There appeared to be a great influence taken from 70s fashion as trends such as flared trousers and 70s inspired long coats were present in 90s style.
There were also subtle influences from the 20s as Mary-Jane shoes became a popular footwear choice.
90s slip dresses were inspired by the early 1900s and 1930s when slips were starting to be used in a more modern way instead of functional undergarments.
Of course, miniskirts were highly popular in the 90s, giving a nod to their introduction in the 60s.
Grunge - defined by styles such as ripped jeans, flannel shirts, combat boots, and Doc Martens.
Punk - styles included spikey hair, ripped jeans, choker necklaces, and leather jackets.
Preppy - styles included plaid miniskirts often with a matching blazer jacket, high waisted jeans, shirts, and tank tops.
Classy 90s outfit ideas
Interested in creating a classy 90s inspired outfit?
Here are some ideas:
Off-duty chic — try pairing some straight leg blue jeans, a black turtleneck, a black oversized blazer (maybe even a leather one), with a chunky black belt, boots, and dark sunglasses for the ultimate off-duty model look. For more inspiration look at Cindy Crawford’s casual 90s outfits.
Little black dress — take our black Naomi Lace Up Little Black Dress and style it with eye-catching jewelry, square-toe strappy sandals, sleek hair, and perhaps dark 90s inspired makeup. If you desire a more daring, attention-grabbing black dress, you could always opt for a sheer mini or maxi dress inspired by Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss.
Matching check skirt suit – inspired by preppy personal style of the 90s, try a matching check mini skirt and blazer styled with a vest top and some Mary-Jane heels. You could even add some small dark sunglasses, a chain belt, and some lip gloss.
Maxi skirt — why not try a 90s Kate Moss inspired outfit by styling a semi-sheer maxi skirt with a white tank top, distressed black leather jacket, white tennis shoes, and chunky silver rings. If sheer is not your thing, try a dark floral maxi skirt.
Button up shirt – try styling a button up shirt with some straight leg jeans and loafers for a Princess Di inspired outfit. Accessorize with a leather belt, dark sunglasses, or even a baseball hat for the perfect casually androgynous look.
What was the biggest fashion trend in the 90s?
Despite an abundance of iconic fashion trends during the 90s, the slip dress was arguably the biggest trend, purely due to its classic style and highly versatile nature. The slip dress is an enduring 90s trend that has the ability to be dressed up to red carpet status and dressed down into a casual everyday outfit. Slip dresses have been very present in many forms of pop culture since the 90s and are still the perfect wardrobe staple.
What is 90s fashion today?
Lately, there has been a great 90s influence on modern styles and trends. Simple, classy 90s outfits have subtly infiltrated today’s fashion scene with public figures further popularizing and triggering past trends. Celebrities that have embraced and popularized 90s styles include Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, and Zoë Kravitz.
90s trends that are still popular today:
- Straight leg vintage jeans
- High waisted jeans
- Dark sunglasses
- Bucket hats
- Oversized sweatshirts/oversized tees
- Crop tops
- Distressed denim
- Flannel shirts
- Doc Martens
- Masculine styles
“The '90s were extremely diverse, almost like a laboratory of the new century. There was much experimenting around, in politics, economics, gender and family structures, and also in fashion. There was a cloud of possibilities which kept us all dizzy.”
What should I wear to a 90s party?
What should I wear to a 90s party?
When attending a 90s party, you could either lean into the bold trends that defined the decade or embrace high 90s glamour.
“Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” 1997
For perfect party inspiration, take a look at the iconic mini dresses worn by Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino in the 1997 movie “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.” Both paired the metallic A-line mini dresses with silver chokers and slide on red heels. Why not try a volumized half-up half-down hairstyle, drop earrings, and pink lip gloss.
Kate Moss inspired sheer maxi dress
If you are daring enough, why not try out the “naked dress” trend. Take a look at Kate Moss’s metallic maxi slip dress paired with flip-flops. If that is too simple, you could opt for a patterned semi sheer look or even a mini dress version.
Matching checked set
Why not channel your inner Cher Horowitz with an instantly recognizable matching check skirt set. Style with knee high socks, white Mary-Jane shoes, and a yellow vest. If yellow is not your color, try a black and white version just like other “Clueless” character Dionne.
“Friends” inspired casual outfit
For an instantly recognizable party look, take influence from one of the “Friends” characters and recreate an outfit.
Princess Diana inspired athleisure
For a very comfortable yet undeniably 90s inspired party outfit, wear cycling short and an oversized sweatshirt Princess Di style. Style with calf length white sports socks, white trainers, dark sunglasses, and a handbag.