Anyone who remembers fashion of the late 1980s and early 1990s instantly thinks of loud colors, crazy shapes and a slew of short-lived fads. While some of the excessively indulgent clothing styles of the late 1980s made the transition into the next decade, the early 1990s was mostly about getting rid of specifically 1980s trends such as shoulder pads and leg warmers. With the rise of hip-hop culture came baggy pants and crazy patterns, which dominated urban street fashion during the early 1990s.
Bright Colors and Neon
Super bright and neon colors such as green, pink, yellow and orange were a quintessential element of late 1980s and early 1990s fashion. T-shirts, sweatpants, dresses, shorts, hoodies and even accessories were available in neon colors. Neon spandex was a particularly popular trend in the fitness fashion world, along with thong unitards, extremely high bikini cuts and matching sweatbands. Fashion “fads” in the neon color trend of the late 1980s and early 1990s included Hypercolor t-shirts and slap bracelets.
Funky Patterns and Loud Prints
The late 1980s and early 1990s were all about getting yourself noticed. The louder and brighter the print, the better. Funky prints and patterns were available in every color on the spectrum and could be found on t-shirts, dresses, pants, shorts, jackets, sweatshirts, ties, dress shirts, socks and even shoes. One popular print trend of the early 90s was large, colorful shapes outlined in black on a solid background.
Oversized and Exaggerated Shapes
The solid structure of the early and mid-1980s was left behind for huge, puffy clothing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The more voluminous your outfit could be, the better. Hammer pants, puffy sweatshirts, baggy pants and oversized t-shirts were everywhere. For guys, outfits were baggy from top to bottom and even the shoes were large, chunky high-tops.
Skin-Tight Women’s Clothing
Paradoxically, at the same time the baggy and oversized look became extremely popular, so did the skin-tight spandex look for women. Dresses got shorter and tighter and were often made out of stretchy fabric. Skin-tight pants, tank tops, long-sleeved tops and bodysuits were also very popular. Many items in the skin-tight fad also came in bright colors or loud patterns, keeping with the overall colorful theme of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
References and ResourcesBBC: Cult: I Love 1991: Fashion
BBC: Cult: I Love 1989: Fashion
"The New York Times": Dress Codes: Dressing Up Returns to the New York Party Scene
Ace Fitness: Top 25 Fitness Fashion Fads: 1985-2009
Fashion Era: The 1990s Fashion History Part 1