Anyone who knew me in the ‘90s knew that I was not fashionable. This was partly because I was dressed by my mother for the better half of the decade, and she had a penchant for outfitting me in shapeless jeans and sweaters embroidered with various animal faces. She also cut my hair short into a bowl cut. This, coupled with extreme nearsightedness that forced me to wear thick glasses starting in the second grade, only further added to the confusing aesthetic of my appearance. The overall effect was a far cry from the rest of the glossed-up, ‘90s trend-wearing, butterfly clip-laden girls in my grade, who modeled their outfit choices after the Spice Girls and Britney Spears. Meanwhile, I was still figuring out what “flares” meant and why I’d want the bottom of my pants to fan out in a V-shape.
In middle school, I decided enough was enough. I purchased my first pair of platform sandals, and suddenly, I was transformed. I loved their audible slap against my heel everywhere I walked, building in a crescendo, screaming my incoming arrival. My friends and I would slap, slap, slap in unison down the hallways together — arms linked, a cloud of Bath & Body Works Sweet Pea in our wake — and the boys in our grade would scatter in every direction like roaches in the light, fearful of our power (or so we thought — looking back, we were probably just annoying and loud). In high school, I oscillated between dressing like a wannabe skater, a confused prep, and a reluctant girly-girl (though there was literally no other aspect of Paris Hilton’s personality I related to in the slightest, even I could not resist the allure of the velour Juicy sweatsuit).
Maybe it’s because I never quite figured out my style back then, or maybe it’s because I hit my thirties recently and am having a delayed quarter-life crisis, but lately, I’ve been solely wearing clothes and accessories that are modern iterations of the ‘90s trends of my youth. My most-worn pair of jeans are a pair of wide-leg Agolde jeans that wouldn’t have looked out of place on my fifth-grade self. I bought a pair of black platform sandals I haven’t been able to stop clomping around in. My summer wardrobe solely consists of neon tube tops.
Ahead, the evidence of said fashion impulses, along with some product picks in case you, too, are stuck in a ‘90s state of mind.
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Though I was certainly not one of the people tie-dyeing my own clothes in quarantine, I have developed a newfound appreciation — dare I say, obsession? — with the funky print. And the great thing about tie-dye is that there are so many different versions of it. Blue tie-dye not your thing? Not to worry — what about green, or pink? What about green and pink, tie-dyed together?! It’s like the clothes version of a shot of espresso: it instantly revives any boring old outfit, there are a million combinations you can customize to your liking, and putting it on first thing in the morning will set you up for a happier day ahead.
Oh, bucket hats, I can’t quit you. I can picture the bucket hat of my childhood like it was yesterday — medium-wash denim with pink flowers stitched on the front. I’ve graduated to slightly more grown-up iterations, but the shape stays the same. The noggin-hugging crown, the circular brim, the attitude. If you’re new to the bucket hat game, ease in with a solid color like black or tan. If you’re a bucket hat devotee like me, go all out and try a pattern (the one I’m wearing above is from Chinatown Market). Do bucket hats even look good on my larger-than-average head? Honestly, I’m not sure the answer is yes — but also, I don’t even care.
Platform sandals are back, and no ‘90s trend makes me happier. As a New Yorker, comfort is my main priority when it comes to selecting footwear. I learned this the hard way, when I tried to wear my L.A. heels to work the first week I moved to New York. Five minutes in, after stepping in three grates and two puddles, I realized I had made a huge mistake — and thus, my teetering heels went into hiding (save for the occasional special event). A platform — a flatform — gives me all of the perks of added height with none of the pain or inconvenience. These Zara flatforms seemed to yell look at me as I perused the website in one late-night haze. Were they cute? Were they ugly? Were they somewhere in between? I clicked “buy” immediately, and when they arrived, I stared at them in the same amount of confusion. After much debating, I finally decided to just give them a chance — and I’m happy to announce that I haven’t looked back since.
Honestly, I completely forgot bandanas were even a ‘90s trend until I attempted to secure one to my head for the first time as an adult. It was like riding a bicycle — my fingers seemed to know exactly how to pull my hair through, then flip the bandana over my forehead, pulling a few face-framing strands out in the front. I was suddenly hit with a flashback: my favorite blue bandana, so loved and worn it had softened and faded over the years. It’s hard to credit who was the most influential bandana queen of the ‘90s and early aughts, but I’m leaning towards Aaliyah or Dionne from Clueless (her white bandana — iconic). These days, you can wear a bandana — or silky scarf — on your head, or, if you’re feeling flirty, even as a top. I’ve tried both and still think I prefer it secured on my head. But that’s the beauty of a bandana — you don’t have to choose. Honestly, what other hair accessory can double as a top?! Not your claw clip, that’s for sure.
Remember when I said my mom dressed me for much longer than she should have? Well, one of her favorite things to buy for me were extremely wide-legged jeans. (Two words: Lee Pipes. If you know, you know.) As my female classmates donned comfy-looking leggings and then graduated to denim flares, I continued to arrive at school each day in my stiff, wide-legged baggy denim. Honestly, my mom was ahead of her time. Nowadays, you won’t be able to scroll Instagram for more than 10 seconds without seeing an influencer in low-slung, perfectly-slouchy jeans, often paired with a teeny-tiny top. I mean, how ‘90s is that?! I’m fully obsessed, mostly because, post-pandemic, I actually cannot imagine trying to squeeze into a pair of skin-tight jeans ever again. The thought actually fills me with fear, even as I have 10+ pairs waiting for me in my closet. I’ve found that the best baggy jeans are ones that are slightly high-waisted, and have a wider leg opening so you can wear them a little slouchy with sneakers, or in a leg-lengthening way with heels. I like to pair mine with, yes, a cropped, form-fitting top, but also with a form-fitting blazer. My takeaway? I actually owe my mom a huge thank you.