Reclaiming 1990s fashion: 13 Style Panel tips for adapting the It decade’s styles for today

1990s Fashion Style Panel
1990s Fashion Style Panel

For style-minded Gen X and Yers, the resurgence of 1990s fashion on the Spring 2013 runways is cause for celebration. Our minds are full of fond memories—Blossom hats, grunge plaids and 90210-branded T-shirts are just a few that come to mind—what could be better than so many modern re-iterations from the likes of Dries Van Noten, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Rochas to sartorially relive with? And while this season’s fresh crop of wears offers many takes on classic 1990s style (ahem, DKNY and Opening Ceremony have an especially awesome offering), adapting 1990s fashion for today can be challenging if you don’t want to look like you’ve just stepped out of the thrift bin.

We set our Style Panel members on this mission, asking them to share tips for wearing 1990s fashion today. Some ripped references right out of their TV memories (Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Saved by the Bell were popular touch points), whereas others riffed on ‘90s icons like Kurt Cobain, Shannon Doherty and Courtney Love.

The Style Mogul’s Christina Cravero kept her look modern but added ‘90s elements-mirrored sunglasses and a graphic T-shirt. A Fashion Love Affair’s Cara McLeay re-purposed her envy-inducing vintage DKNY varsity jacket into a dressy look, pairing the jacket with heels and a chic party dress. 1990s fashion inspiration works with just a few elements, or going head-to-toe, as Barbara Ann Solomon did, with her crop top, gingham shirt/skirt, chunky gold jewellery and buckled sandals. New panellist, Canadian Fashionista’s Amber Desilets added a toughness with her studded lace up boots and chunky gold jewellery.

1990s Fashion Amber Desilets

Amber Desilets, 30
London | Canadian Fashionista

The 1990s were my time, and although I did tend to rock the occasional grunge look with oversized flannel shirts and Doc Martens thinking that maybe Kurt Cobain would notice me, my all-time favourite style was Cher Horowitz’s preppy rich girl look in Clueless. I loved everything about her style from those patterned mini-skirts, to the knee high socks, too those faux fur handbags, to unique hats and those to die for platform Mary Janes. The ‘90s is back and bigger than ever, although I’m not sure I could pull off knee highs in my 30s, I’m in love with the return of floral. This time around I’ll turn in my floral baby-doll dress for a cute peplum style one, I’ll turn in my Doc Martens for this season must have studded boot but keep it classic with an always in style denim jacket.

Amber’s wearing: Dress, Forever 21. Jacket, Gap. Necklace and bracelet, Peppermint Lollipop. Watch, Guess. Boots, Steps.

1990s Fashion Christina Cravero

Christina Cravero, 27
Toronto | The Style Mogul

I love the ’90s, maybe it’s because I grew up in the ’90s, but nonetheless the ’90s is a great decade from the crazy fashion trends, to 90210 & Saved by the Bell, to the hottest boy bands and of course THE SPICE GIRLS, and now this decade is coming back with a vengeance. I’ve recently become obsessed with graphic tees and mirrored sunnies, and that doesn’t mean I’m having to dress grungy! You can dress up a graphic tee, ripped jeans and mirrored glasses with a pair of pumps, jeweled necklaces, a great handbag and a cute blazer or bomber! You can take the ’90s fashion spirit and twist it to make it more fashion forward!

Christina’s wearing: Tee, H&M. Jeans, Vintage. Jacket, Danier. Purse, c/o Mimi Boutique. Sunglasses, Von Zipper. Pumps, Marc Fisher. Ring, c/o Jewelmint.

1990s Fashion Alexandra Nikolajev

Alexandra Nikolajev, 27
Toronto | I’m a Little

My apologies to the 2000s but I love 1990s fashion more than I can say. There is something oddly empowering about making grunge look good and the fact that it’s making a comeback is as thrilling as seeing Donna Martin graduate. While I’d kill to go back to the days of overalls and crop tops (expect it this summer), to modernize my take on 90s fashion, I like to blend trends from then and now.

Baggy boyfriend jeans and an oversize t-shirt were ’90s staples and here I’ve taken that simple silhouette and added a few pops of colour. Neon is huge right now and what better way to show some ’90s love than with a stand-out beanie? The sequin jacket and black pumps add a polished element to the look and give it a sleek style fit for today. Together this look captures the dishevelled essence of the 1990s with a few modern day elements to make it feel done up.

Alexandra’s wearing: Beanie, Jacflash. Sequin Jacket, Zara. T-Shirt, Wildfox. Boyfriend Jeans, Levi’s 501. Pumps, Zara. Clutch, Ela Handbags.

1990s Fashion Vickie Laliotis

Vickie Laliotis, 28
Edmonton | Adventures in Fashion

I love all things ’90s, from flannel and Doc Martens to poof pens and Pop-up Video. Growing up during this time, I experimented with everything from overalls and dark lip liner, to argyle mini skirts and baby doll tees that had Cher Horowitz written all over them. Fast forward a few years, and I still find traces of the decade creeping into my life via fashion, music and film. Take this dress for instance; the vibrant tribal print conjures up images of Saved By The Bell or Fresh Prince of Bel Air characters, while the booties, leather jacket and slouchy hat pay homage to the grungier side of the spectrum (of which I’m sure Angela Chase would approve). Whether you realize it or not, elements from this — oh let’s go ahead and call it magical — decade are probably creeping into your wardrobes as well, so you may as well embrace the resurgence and work it. Anything from lace up booties and oversized plaid shirts is fair game, with jeweled hair clips (omg, remember those?!) and dark, neutral lips all vying for your attention. I guess what they say is true: You can take the girl out of the ’90s, but you can’t take the ’90s out of the girl.

Vickie’s wearing: dress, Forever 21. Leather jacket and beanie, Zara. Bag, H&M. Booties, Shoemint. Tights, Joe Fresh.

1990s Fashion Barbara Ann Solomon
Photography by Trevor Negin

Barbara Ann Solomon, 25
Toronto | Barbara Ann’s Style Blog

An entire generation is squealing with joy and anticipation for this spring’s ’90s revolution, sightings of combat boots and flannel shirts tied-around-the-waist are everywhere to prove it. So many amazing and horrifying trends happened during this decade, that I would style it with caution and an open mind. Things have changed since the 1990s and we can’t forget how far we’ve come in so many areas. Rail-thin supermodels aren’t all the rage anymore, giving us confidence to bare it all in some of the revealing trends this season has in store. This decade is all about looking effortless, “I couldn’t have tried less to look this cool,” but there is also a glam element, that is a little flirty.

In this look I’m wearing a cropped sweater; we are going to see a lot of navels this summer; and a skirt that is made from two Joe Fresh shirts tied. Accessories are supposed to be bold and sexy, with ankle straps and chokers all over fashion week photos.

Barbara Ann’s wearing: Sweater, H&M. Skirt, 2 Joe Fresh shirts. Shoes, Jeffrey Campbell. Choker, Vintage.

1990s Fashion Alyssa Lau

Alyssa Lau, 20
Edmonton | The Ordinary Peoples

The ’90s was an era of unprecedented change in the world because, let’s face it, Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys were game changers. Regardless of how good the music was back then, I can’t help but be drawn towards ’90s fashion myself. I’ve been tying plaid shirts around my waist and wearing denim overalls non-stop. Also, platform shoes and Doc Marten boots? Yes please. I don’t think there’s any way you can go wrong with ’90s-inspired outfits, even if you do look like Will Smith of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

1990s Fashion Cara McLeay

Cara McLeay, 28
Vancouver | A Fashion Love Affair

The ’90s are having a huge resurgence, from the grunge look to the printed leggings to overalls to acid wash to studs, we are seeing all from the runways to the streets. My favourite revival? The Varsity Jacket! It is such a cool piece you can add to any outfit…I decided to layer this vintage 1990s Donna Karan Varsity Jacket over a super girly pink and red outfit for a flirty, fun look.

Cara’s wearing: Sweater, Equipment. Skirt, J.Crew. Vintage Jacket, DKNY. Clutch, Clare Vivier. Heels, Shoemint.

1990s Fashion Krystin Lee

Krystin Lee, 26
Toronto | Suburban Faux-Pas

With the recent resurgence of ’90s fashion including neon, pastel colours and the undeniable grunge-chic, it can often be difficult trying to modernize a seemingly dated look. Here’s my prep-grunge take on the decade with shredded boyfriend jeans, a casual plaid shirt and a form-fitting leather jacket. Topped off with polka dot loafers and I’d say this outfit just brought itself back to the future.

Krystin’s wearing: Jacket, Danier. Gingham Shirt, Joe Fresh. T-shirt, Marc by Marc Jacobs. Jeans, F21. Shoes, Gap. Necklace, c/o Luxe Craving. Watch, Michael Kors. Bracelets, J.Crew and c/o Luxe Craving.

1990s Fashion Mo Handahu

Mo Handahu, 29
Halifax | Curvy Geekery

I seriously did a little dance when I read this week’s challenge. I am beyond obsessed with the ’90s. I already dress like I’m still in that decade with all my wildly printed blazers and, well, pretty much everything else in my closet.

I took this challenge as a chance to bust out my high waisted mom jeans, chunky gold jewellery and a varsity jacket to come up with this look which is officially my favourite style panel challenge to date!

Mo’s wearing: Jeans, necklaces, jacket and earrings, Value Village. Top, Jules + James. Shoes, ShoeDazzle.

1990s Fashion Sandy Joe Karpetz

Sandy Jo Karpetz, 25
Edmonton | The Pretty Secrets

In my books there are few things about the ’90s that I deem too hideous to revisit and judging by the blogosphere lately, the sentiment is shared in abundance. There are so many movie gems to reference for this trend: Empire Records, Jawbreaker, and my all-time favourite Party Girl starring Parker Posey the queen of Nineties-ness. Though it may feel extreme, starting with a hint can still create the desired effect so go pop in your Clueless soundtrack, turn it to ‘Supermodel’ by Jill Sobule, grab your mini backpack and the rest will follow.

Sandy’s wearing: Dress, jacket and sunglasses, Vintage. Purse, Liz Claiborne. Knee highs, Club Monaco. Heels, Aerosoles.

1990s Fashion Stephanie Koch

Stephanie Koch, 27
Kelowna | Inherited Jeans

The ’90s are back, and apparently I’m alright with it. I have actually really embraced the semi-grunge look in the past few months, and if the most recent NYFW was any indication, it is totally acceptable with everyone and their assistant wearing a beanie. I went with a graphic tee, beanie, a great pant that reminded me of my once coveted Adidas tearaways, and a chunky boot. You could also add more layers like an open plaid shirt. This trend can get messy fast so make sure other details are more feminine and polished like your hair, makeup, nails and jewellery, and keep your layers thin to avoid looking bulky. Anyone want to meet me at recess to play Pogs for keeps?

Stephanie’s wearing: Beanie, Aritzia. Jacket, Joe Fresh. Baseball tee, H&M. Necklace, Ell and Emm. Boots, H&M.

1990s Fashion Kristin MacDonald

Kristin MacDonald, 27
Fredericton, NB | Doll Parade

I recently thrifted this collared poly-blend dress that is, hilariously enough, from Le Chateau circa the 1990s – i.e. I probably tried it on/owned it (or something similar) in Grade 9. Who woulda thunk that something from my Jr. High times would ever find its way back to my wardrobe, but here we are. When we were asked to channel the ’90s for this week’s challenge, I knew exactly what to put on, pairing this black number with some combat boots & a slightly oversized blazer. Ironically enough, I also wore this out to a party recently where some ’90s hits were played & danced to, where I had just as much fun as you are maybe supposed to have when wearing a little black dress… in the ’90s. Full circle.

1990s Fashion Kayla Short

Kayla Short, 26
Halifax | Short Presents

It wasn’t until I caught a re-run of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that I fully realized how much we have been pulling from the ’90s recently. With the all the floral patterns, preppy varsity sweaters, and knee high socks, it’s almost like we’ve time travelled back to my childhood and into Will Smith’s closet.

With the popularity of grunge and alternative rock, the 1990s has been said to be both “the beginning and rejection of fashion”. The 1990s brought a new wave of popularity in tattoos, and body piercings that was only really prevalent in underground punk cultures rather than “mainstream” fashion.

Usually I tend to favor ’90s trends like that of Cher Horowitz, but lately I am leaning more towards the unkempt grunge look we’ve come to associate with that of Kurt Cobain. I like to think of this trend as a nod to the 1990s not a full on teleportation to the 1990s, so I like the idea of mixing in different ’90s pieces with my current more structured clothing. I like the rebel motorcycle look, in the sense that I might wear a leather jacket with my light skinny jeans, but I’m not about skip washing my hair to get the look.

Kayla’s wearing: Leather Jacket, Forever 21. Jeans, Joe Fresh. T-Shirt, H&M. Shoes, Marc Fisher. Watch, Fossil. Sunglasses, Ray Bans.

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