Fashion fans might have their own opinions on which decades produced the best or most influential collections, but for beauty lovers, it’s always been about the 1990s. Even if you weren’t actually around to witness them firsthand, the era is still synonymous with envelope-pushing themes, the discovery of now-legendary names, and the undisputed reign of the supermodel. There were famous catwalkers in the years before and after, of course, but a large part of the reason ‘90s runway beauty still feels so fresh is because of the faces wearing it.
You probably already know some of the more defining trends of the decade — think grunge influences on hair and makeup, thin brows, and mauve-toned everything — but the runway is where so many of the biggest crazes reached critical mass. The goth-glam motifs seemingly everywhere so far in the early 2020s, for example, might not even exist if not for its fashion show forefathers, like the Mugler Ready-To-Wear show from Spring/Summer 1991 that featured vampiric makeup and voluminous, witchy hairstyles.
Ahead, get familiar (or perhaps reacquainted) with the most exciting hair and makeup looks from the ‘90s runways, as demonstrated on the iconic supermodels who originally showed them off to the world.
Iman, Mugler Spring/Summer 1991
The ‘90s kicked off in style, using the aesthetic drama of the ‘80s to springboard into all sorts of exciting trends. On the runway at the Mugler ready-to-wear show, Iman showed off shadow-blue eye makeup, intensely blended into the lower lash line for added intrigue.
Linda Evangelista, Jil Sander Spring/Summer 1992
Evangelista’s flaming rust-red hair was already her signature, but it became one of the most sought-after shades of the ‘90s. At Jil Sander, her brick-red lipstick both plays off her hair color and creates a 3D effect thanks to the lighter tones at the center of the model’s lips.
Naomi Campbell, Chanel Couture Spring/Summer 1993
It’s nearly impossible to choose one single-most iconic ‘90s runway look on Campbell. Not only was she in impossibly high demand (still is, too), but she can make even the most avant-garde themes seem everyday casual. At the Chanel Haute Couture show for spring/summer 1993, she wore a gradient purple wig with a literal bag over her face — and absolutely served.
Claudia Schiffer, Chloe Fall/Winter 1994
Light under-eyes and flashy face decals are all the rage now, but they were also spotted on Schiffer at Chloe back in the fall/winter 1994 season. Schiffer was often put in stereotypically “pretty” looks on the runway, but her coolest moments were always the more experimental ones.
Kimora Lee, Moschino Fall/Winter 1995
It makes sense that the most quintessentially ‘90s look of the bunch happened smack-dab in the middle of the decade — it also makes sense that Lee would be the one to best encapsulate it all on the runway. Her elegant, paper-thin eyebrows and smoky eyeshadow at Moschino would still bring the house down today.
Kate Moss, Gucci Spring/Summer 1996
Moss is another standout superstar who helped make more than a few specific runway shows become legendary. Tom Ford’s second show for Gucci probably would have been iconic anyway, but the grungey blue eyeshadow smudged all around the model’s eyes definitely helped.
Cindy Crawford, Dior Fall/Winter 1997
Bold blush was big through the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it never looked better than on Crawford at the Dior Ready-To-Wear show in 1997. The garments and beauty choices were intentionally extreme, meant to feel like a meta commentary.
Tyra Banks, Victoria’s Secret 1998
The best looks of the decade don’t just belong to the high fashion runways. At one of Victoria Secret’s first-ever shows, a young Banks shows off her smize and her very chic side-part. It was around this point that you can start to notice the themes that would carry over into the 2000s.
Laeticia Casta, Yves Saint Laurent Couture Spring/Summer 1999
Before there were “strawberry girls” and “tomato girls”, Casta was making “rosy girl” glam a thing with the sweet pink blush, eyeshadow, and lipstick she wore to close YSL’s haute couture collection. It’s ethereal and earthy, and still so relevant that Hailey Bieber had to recreate it for Halloween in 2023.