We continue our look down memory lane (you read our TV Fashion of the 80s post already, right?) with this look at the 1990s. Oh, the 1990s. How has a time period many of the YKYLF staffers lived through become retro? If you’re into the “new” trends of crop tops, fluorescents, leggings, scrunchies, baggy sundresses and army boots… we’re here to school you with our take on the cracktastic highs and lows of 90s TV fashion.
1. Clarissa Explains It All
I’m going to make a bold statement: to this day, there has never been a cooler character on TV than Clarissa Darling. The girl had an awesome room, a cute best friend that climbed into her room long before Joey Potter, a pet alligator named Elvis, a computer (in 1991!), tickets to Pearl Jam, and an epic closet. Oh, and she broke the fourth wall regularly, which was basically like proto-blogging. Pinning down Clarissa’s style is close to impossible.
Her outfits were a mix of early 90s grunge, Annie Hall menswear, and Claudia Kishi-level quirkiness (an 80s/90s fashion goddess in her own right). Replicating her outfits were impossible at the time, and the looks are pretty dated now, but it doesn’t matter. We learned a lot from Clarissa, but the most important lesson was how to express yourself through fashion.
Apparently the creator is going to write a young adult series about her life as a modern adult. I’d like to think that Clarissa’s living in Brooklyn, writing a totally awesome fashion blog, and her really hot neighbor climbs into her apartment using the fire escape.
2. MTV’s House of Style
Yes, yes, technically this starts in the 80s, but let’s be real here: the age of the Supermodel began in 1990. Even Wikipedia agrees with me, and Wikipedia’s never wrong.
Hosted by a ridiculously young Cindy Crawford, MTV’s House of Style took audiences beyond the glittering world of fashion. It wasn’t just about glossy magazine spreads and walking the runway. House of Style covered the merging of music, fashion, and TV that was happening in the 90s (partly because of MTV’s existence). It’s like a time capsule, but way better, because time capsules generally don’t have Tracy Ullman playing dress-up with Cindy Crawford like they’re at the best sleepover ever.
3. Melrose Place
Step aside, Gossip Girl. Let Amanda Woodward show you how it’s done. And by “how it’s done,” I mean “how to have a cast of gorgeous 20-somethings play bedroom checkers for seven years.” This show had it all: sex, drugs, secrets, revenge (!!!). Just so we’re clear, here’s how some of the characters were written out over the show’s seven seasons:, death due to aneurysm, death in a police shootout, death by boat explosion, and runs away after attempting to murder another character.
But what really made the show were the 90s fashions worn by the likes of Heather Locklear, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Laura Leighton, and Marcia Cross. As with most 90s wardrobes, it was a healthy mix of sexy bodycon dresses and dowdy floral maxi dresses, all topped with inexplicably boxy blazers. If the internet had existed back then, I have a hunch we’d have our hands full with this show alone.
4. Sex and the City
You had to know this one was going to make the list, right? The only reason it’s #4 is because of course it’s going to make the list.
Four different women with four very different closets. It didn’t matter if you were a Carrie, a Charlotte, a Samantha, or even a Miranda – the most over the top, the most cutting edge, the most funhouse mirror-y, the most Patricia Fields version of your style was on screen, for better or for worse.
In an era when HBO was full of schlubby men doing very bad things, Carrie and company were waging a sartorial war. Trails were blazed, giant flower pins were worn, trends were set, feet were deformed. If you can’t help but wonder…just how questionable were some of Carrie’s outfits?, check out our recaps.
5. My So-Called Life
“So when Rayanne Graff told me my hair was holding me back, I had to listen. ‘Cause she wasn’t just talking about my hair. She was talking about my life.”
And with those words, Angela Chase verbalized what every girl ever has known, deep down inside: your hair can, like, totally hold you back, you know? My So-Called Life was a teen drama about normal teens. No omniscient bloggers, no murdered best friends, no secret twins. I know, the 90s were a different time.
Made during the height of the grunge era, Angela transformed from preppy wallflower to grungy outsider. But it wasn’t just Angela who broke fashion ground. Rayanne Graff, the bad girl with the heart of gold, was pure trailer trash-chic. And Ricky … oh, Ricky. His makeup skills were unparalleled and his immaculate outfits could give Kurt Hummel a run for his money. The show only lasted a year, but Jared Leto’s long hair and straight middle part live on forever.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do some hardcore crumple-faced crying for my lost youth.