90s Fashion Trends: ‘Less Is More’

As we reflect on fashion history, there is not always a distinctive shift from one decade to the next. When transitioning from the 80s to the 90s, this was not the case, as there was an evident changeover from conspicuous consumers to ‘less is more. ’ When hearing this phrase and applying it to fashion, I think it can be viewed in two ways. The more literal interpretation can be restated as it is preferred to have either a more minimalistic and simple outfit or that it is en vogue to wear skimpier clothing.
Both of these descriptions can be seen in the 90s fashion. Minimalism was a widely accepted trend of the 90s, like shoulder pads and off-the-shoulder sweaters became outdated and were replaced with cleaner lines and sleeker silhouettes. The excessive glamour of the 80s faded away and jewelry became either non-existent or chic in its fineness and barely-there quality. The only attribution to the 1980s excess glamour was the bedazzling and embellishments to clothing or iridescent glitter shimmer on sheer and tulle fabrics and added to skin makeup and hair spray.
Designers such as Helmut Lang popularized this minimalistic trend by incorporating Japanese avant-garde aesthetics. Lang’s designs conveyed his view on how modern men and women want to dress. His clothes were without affectation and embodied an understanding that perfect cut, comfort, and ease of movement constitute great fashion luxuries. Common examples of his key pieces slim mannish-shaped trousers for women, and sharply cut suiting that has a more androgynous shape. The minimalistic trend of the 90s was evident from head to toe and was even embraced by celebrities of the decade.

Pop stars that had once worn frilly miniskirts adorned with suspenders, full faces of makeup, and plentiful accessories were now embracing new, more simplistic styles. Calvin Klein’s infamous ‘Clueless’ mini dress, worn by Alicia Silverstone in the legendary film is a perfect example of the slinky, body-con trend that became ubiquitous in the 90s. Hairstyles also reflected a ‘less is more’ vibe, and women styled their hair in a sleek manner like Jennifer Aniston or short and funkier no-fuss style as channeled by Meg Ryan.
I also think that ‘less is more’ can be applied to 90s fashion with respect to an attitude Americans felt at the time. During the 90s, people wanted easy clothing that was matched to their everyday lives and reflected an increasingly aggressive urban society. Business rules for dressing relaxed and many people lost interest in fashion as necessary. This was a major change from 80s fashion where it what commonplace for yuppies to broadcast their wealth inexpensive clothing.

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