Teen Fashions From the '90s

Updated March 23, 2017

Fashion trends vary from location to location, often with the larger, metropolitan areas defining the image of an era, but can be generally segmented by decade. While every decade also has its retro trends ('60s bell bottom jeans and '70s disco-style shirts always have their supports), each period also adds its own styles. American teen fashion in the 1990s was strongly influenced by popular culture, especially movies and music, particularly through entertainment strongly centred in regions such as southern California, New York and the Pacific Northwest.


Beginning in the early '90s, especially around 1992, grunge became a popular style of dress. Rising from the Seattle music scene and popularised by bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and, most particularly, Nirvana, grunge fashion focused on a dishevelled look. Jeans, often ripped, faded or patched were paired with rock T-shirts. Particularly emblematic of the style were plaid flannel jackets worn baggy, and long, unkempt hair, often left greasy.

Valley Girl

While grunge style became popular among teen boys, girls' fashion, particularly with the movie "Clueless" released in 1995, often revolved around the California valley girl style. As worn by Alicia Silverstone (labelled an "it" girl at the time) in the movie, the style emphasised colourful, girlie-girl styles such as baby doll dresses, along with thigh-high stockings, puffy shoulders and large hats.

Hip Hop

Breaking out of its almost exclusively urban existence in '80s, hip hop music lead to a much larger fashion trend in the '90s. The style for teen boys was characterised by very baggy clothes, large jackets (including grunge-like flannels) that hang wide and heavy as well as sagging trousers, worn both with and without a belt, hanging well below the waist often exposing boxer shorts. Girls also sported this look although at times adding a more feminine look of tight tank tops or midriff shirts with the same baggy outerwear (and even the boxers). Hats, either baseball or stocking caps, were also an essential part of the look. One particularly '90s element is to close only the top button of the jacket, a style derived from the idea that an open jacket makes it easier to pull out a gun.


Short for gothic, the '90s gave rise to the goth look. Emphasising stark contrast goth consists almost entire of black clothes, although at times dark red and purple. Long, black coats or long, black dresses, black jeans, black shirts, dyed black hair (sometimes styled out and asymmetric and sometimes styled down and straight) and even black lipstick and nail polish. Boots and large shoes, also black, were included. Other elements such as corsets, wallet chains and even black eyeliner with white face paint were also common to the fashion.


Especially popular with the rise of musical groups such as Boyz II Men, the preppy teen look focused on a clean, collegiate style. Collared shirts were tucked into trousers (jeans or slacks), which were belted and worn on the waist (not sagging). Sweater vests or suit jackets completed the outfit. For girls, there was the schoolgirl style of short skirts, at times with long leggings, a collared shirt and jacket. Baseball caps and Kangols as well as ties or bow ties were worn as well.

Other Fashions

Although not immediately identifiable with any particular entertainment phenomenon, many other teen fashions arose in the '90s. These include fashions, especially for girls, that endured well into the next decade, such as capri pants and low-rise jeans. The '90s also saw a rise in midriff shirts and pairing tank tops or light, sleeveless tops with straight leg jeans and short skirts with clunky boots. Leather, or more exactly faux leather, was also added to many fashions. Modern-retro elements drew from '60s bell bottoms and peace signs, '70s punk and open-collared disco shirts and even throwback sports jerseys. Of course, '90s fashion included many bright colours and denim everything as well.

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About the Author

Jess Kroll has been writing since 2005. He has contributed to "Hawaii Independent," "Honolulu Weekly" and "News Drops," as well as numerous websites. His prose, poetry and essays have been published in numerous journals and literary magazines. Kroll holds a Master of Fine Arts in writing from the University of San Francisco.