Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Period dress

A grad-school friend posted these images from a 1996 Delia*s catalogue to Facebook, and oh my goodness. I remember not merely the styles but the catalogue itself. I must have really pored over it, and at an especially formative age. I remember the models. I remember not ordering anything from it, but not whether I wasn't allowed to, or whether it never occurred to me to ask. Whatever the case, the Summer '96 Delia*s catalogue is - pardon the cliché - my madeleine.

But what might be of more general interest is the difference between 1990s fashions as experienced and the 1990s revival we're currently experiencing. Having lived through it, I can well remember what was just this catalogue (the hairstyles) and what was true to the era (the clothes, makeup, and accessories - mood rings! dog-tag necklaces!). What's odd, looking at the catalogue, is how much might be sold in some very on-trend stores today: floral-print Elaine Benes dresses, neon nail polish, clunky boots or oxfords... The shoes especially seem very Acne or Oak or something, likely because these were the formative years of today's fashion folk as well. But then a couple details that are a bit too 1990s tell us that this is the genuine article.

So here are the 1990s looks that are not being revived:

-Pastel eye shadow. I still well remember wearing this. Some girls were pretty despite this. I wasn't one of them.
-Flared jeans/pants. Parts of the 1960s-channeled-through-1990s look has resurfaced (peasant shirts, floral prints), but this, not to be.
-Skater jeans/Jncos-style jeans. Now that whichever material has been invented that makes jeans form-fitting, this isn't coming back.
-White t-shirts with some graphic in the middle. Baby tees? Perhaps, but not midriff-bearing. Just faux-vintage. I remember adoring one such shirt, but have no recollection what the design or logo might have been.
-Those hair clips with flowers or glitter or similar. I'm sure young children still wear these, and that's fine. (Unless, choking hazard?) But 14-year-old girls wearing them to pull back bangs they're trying to grow out? That plus the pastel-blue eye shadow and we're starting to have a better picture of why, despite never being overweight, never having an acne problem, the boys were not lining up at my door.
-Chain wallets.

Beyond that, there are just certain ostensibly basic styles where a detail about the cut - one I don't have the fashion lingo to describe - gives it away. The red/pink tank top in Item 13 is 1996, but would be tough to track down now.


Catcat said...

I had an outfit exactly like #19, down to the pastel sunglasses and the exact place the jeans sat on my hipbone. I also had the vest in #21 but mine was blue. You're right--I can't describe it precisely but there are certain little details about the cuts (and the specific pairings of tops to bottoms, the proportion of the shoes, etc.) that nail these to 1996. Kind of feeling nostalgic about those jeans now.

(Longtime lurker, first time poster. Hi!)

Miss Self-Important said...

I'm sometimes surprised at what returns, despite changes in textiles that would seem to make them obsolete. Like high-waisted jeans, which I think made sense before stretch, but once you have stretchy jeans, they can sit a lot lower on your torso without, you know, sliding off. Still, high rise returns. So perhaps will JNCO baggy jeans, which btw, served an important function for fat girls or girls who thought they were fat, one which I'm sure you can see how the jegging doesn't quite serve.

Due to parent-enforced expenditure restrictions that made buying from Delias impossible, I made my own graphic tees (boys' white undershirts with iron-on inkjet printer "graphics") and chain wallet (made out of duct tape, and a chain I found in my garage). Epitome of cool, let me just say.

Phoebe said...


Welcome! The friend who posted this to Facebook also apparently had that shirt. Small world!

And yes, it's about proportion. This is generally discussed in terms of jeans - flared vs. narrow, etc., or shoes (rounded or pointed toe, chunky or narrow heel) but is surprisingly relevant for tops as well. There's something kind of boxy about the t-shirts - boxy and short. It's different, thicker material, what men's t-shirts might still be made out of.

Which brings us to...


Yes, this is in part about textiles coming and going. There's a certain shiny-shirt, acrylic, button-down-shirt material that's more 1990s and juniors-wear than 1970s and for adult men. (That would be #1 in the lineup.) These live on in European menswear, I think, but that's about it.

The return of high-waisted jeans, though, is easy enough to explain. Stretch makes it possible to go a bit lower, but not that much, and many 'normal' jeans are problematic on not-even-that-curvy builds (she says from experience). That, and once jeans with stretch have been through the wash enough times, one is almost guaranteed an accidental underwear-is-showing (or worse) incident.

Re: baggy jeans and fatness real or imagined... I see how this would happen, and indeed remember it happening (esp., at my high school, with the semi-goth look). but jeggings stretch, which makes them a not unreasonable choice for teen girls concerned about weight fluctuations, real or imagined. That, and my sense is that girls of all sizes are wearing these pants.

But you're right that this does leave open the question of what to wear if you don't want to show your form. Maybe Jncos will come back after all.

And let it be known that I'm very impressed with your DIYing.