The Most Underrated '90s Fashion Trends

It wasn't all chokers, overalls, and jelly sandals (not that we'd ever knock them).

underrated 90s drew barrymore
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The '90s were an unforgettable decade in fashion (and I'm not just saying that because it's my favorite). We were beginning to cluster our sartorial preferences around celebrities, from the '90s supermodels that dominated the era to our new interest in casual celebrity style, from airports to red carpets. It was a step away from the over-the-top-ness of '80s fashion, and a step towards the accessible, often streetwear-inspired everyday fashion we see today.

If you know anything about '90s fashion, you'll know the big players: chokers, wide-leg cargo jeans, and chunky Doc Martens, just to name a few. But take a peek under the surface, and you'll find plenty of underrated '90s trends that deserve their moment in the sun, too.

Jackets as Shirts

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There was a lot to like from Madonna's "Ray of Light" video (largely seen as her comeback and a new iteration of her pop persona). But may I also direct your attention to the dark cropped denim jacket, worn as a shirt without a top underneath. (Should this be a bridge too far, may I suggest a chambray shirt?)

Bright Auburn Hair

underrated 90s linda evangelista

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Auburn hair isn't a '90s invention, but boy oh boy did we love a bright red hair color that was very obviously not made in nature. (The more popular hair choice was a rich plum, but I actually think this cherry red is more daring and surprising.) This is probably a wig on Linda Evangelista, but it's still just as striking.


underrated 90s sarah jessica parker

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Little-known fact: Sarah Jessica Parker has been giving us fashion-forward moments long before Sex and the City. This jumpsuit actually has high slits on the side, meaning that when she moves, it looks more like a dress—and it's only when she stands still that we see the innovation at work.

Neck Accessories

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Why not wear one necklace when you can wear five, with a neckerchief for good measure? I always support the thoughtful layering of accessories, and it's okay if there's just a touch of messiness: that's kind of the fun of a '90s throwback, after all. Lean in!

Socks With Sandals

underrated 90s socks with heels

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While future decades would latch onto it, we began the socks and shoes trend right here. I'll be honest that this one is a tricky trend to pull off: you need the right hue of shoe and the right kind of romantic sock. To make it not skew too "granny," it helps to have the sock be sheer and the shoe be statement.

Rainbow Metallics

underrated 90s rainbow dress and top

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In the '90s, we decided that we liked the disco ball vibes of the '70s, the hair of the '80s, and the "party central" vibe that was all ours. This graphic rainbow pattern is both a new twist on an old favorite and a sleek homage to the trends that came before. (Also, we loved rainbows in the '90s.)

Lots of Leather

underrated 90s posh spice david beckham

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...perhaps not THIS much leather. (The much-maligned matching fashion between Posh Spice and David Beckham is now just a fun throwback, in my opinion.) But leather pants or a leather jacket—including ones that match with your spouse—remains fun and functional.

Fun Tweed

underrated 90s cindy crawford elle macpherson

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Chanel has been doing fun things with tweed for a while, but they really brought us a lot of candy-colored goodness in the '90s. Tweed can come off as stuffy, so it helps to pair it with more casual pieces and really messy hair (more on that in a little bit.)

Big Jewelry

underrated 90s drew barrymore

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While the choker is the more expected pick from this particular decade, I myself love the long, chunky statement piece. (Bonus points if it's a daisy, which is very '90s.) I feel less enthused about the rope chain, but it would look amazing in thick matching silver.

Big Accessories

underrated 90s salt n pepa

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We might have needed to set down the bedazzlers in the '90s (I put sequins and studs on every-darn-thing), but bedazzling our belts remains a fun decision that I still appreciate. Salt-N-Pepa levels up here by matching their big silver-studded belts to their big silver jewelry.

Distressed Denim

underrated 90s halle berry

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Baby Halle Berry is showing off all her modeling chops with this simple, but effective outfit. Distressed denim wasn't novel, but it's all about elevating it to something beyond a pair of jeans that you do chores in, primarily by adding polished leather accessories and a simple tank.

Subtle Animal Print

underrated 90s leopard

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We loved a leopard print in the '80s, but in the following decade we wanted to switch things up a bit. So, we added color (as with the sheer red here) and broke up the pattern with splotchy designs. I maintain that it's a great evolution that plays on a classic.

Patterned Jackets

underrated 90s fiona apple

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A collar-less formal jacket on women during this decade was a red carpet staple—and even better if it had an abstract pattern on it. Fiona Apple pairs hers beautifully with her blue eyes, letting the jacket do the hard work and keeping the rest of her styling simple.

Oversized Denim

underrated 90s tyra banks

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Tyra Banks in travel mode is a classic everyday outfit, but the most fun part has to be her tee-and-denim combo. An oversized Levi's jacket instantly adds structure to what is essentially athleisure, and it's a layering option we've (rightly) brought with us to the modern day.

Warm Brown

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Before she was Queen Bey, she was one third of Destiny's Child (in a lot of matching outfits). Beyoncé is showing us how rich chocolate suede is a perfectly acceptable alternative to plain black, and how making it a tonal outfit can be fun and surprising. In this decade, we loved brown and weren't afraid to show it.

Bomber Jackets

underrated 90s cindy crawford

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Throwing a bomber or varsity jacket over our outfits (and making it look like we stole it from our boyfriends, which we probably did) was a fun '90s trend that I still appreciate. The key to make it look casual is—as Cindy does here—to push up the sleeves.

Fashion Sneakers

underrated 90s elle macpherson

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While they have entered the cultural lexicon as a casual style staple, back in the '90s it was still a novel idea to show up to an sneakers. (Elle Macpherson smartly matches the shoes to her cute Superman graphic tee and opts for darker, non-ripped denim so she doesn't look too casual.)

Mom Jeans

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Semi-baggy straight jeans with a tiny bit of shape to them were an underrated '90s gem. We gave so much love to the flare, bootcut, and wide-leg, but this classic shape was just as flattering and a lot less "look at me." It's no wonder they've stood the test of time.


underrated 90s angela bassett

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Angela Bassett, icon, is showing off a subtler version of the "bedazzle everything" trend we so often associate with the '90s. Putting some serious hardware on your leather clothes gives it a toughness and a edginess that you wouldn't get if, say, this were classic black.

Matching Sparkles

underrated 90s naomi campbell kate moss

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I mean...if Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss did it, it must be right! It's a surprising choice to step out in similar glittery dresses, but that's the fun of it. Truly, the only way we could ever top ourselves in terms of sparkles during the '90s was to replicate the whole look on someone else.


underrated 90s naomi campbell

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Pearls have been with us for a long time, but designers got a bit playful with the classic stone. The upscale '90s vibe was full of this type of jewelry: classic shape but taken to 11. The modern iteration of this look might take away a few of the choker strands, but lean in and keep the earrings.

Hair Clips

underrated 90s hair clips

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Don't let TikTok fool you: modern beauty influencers didn't invent the big spangly hair clip that strategically pulls your bangs away from your face. Cameron Diaz takes it over the top here by matching her light eyeshadow to her hair pin in a fun matchy moment.

Bold Lips

underrated 90s melanie griffith

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While most of us in the '90s were searching for the perfect matte brown-pink lipstick, Melanie Griffith is taking it a few shades darker. The dark matte reds of the '90s were a thing of beauty, and could take center stage while we kept the rest of the look neutral.

Messy Hair

underrated 90s cindy crawford

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I will admit that this OTT hairdo on Cindy Crawford is perhaps a bit much for us mere mortals (no surprise, but this is a runway look, so it makes sense that it's so big). But our messy updos in the '90s don't get enough credit for being both beautifully face-framing and a fun level of chaos.

Graphic Dressing

underrated 90s courteney cox

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I deeply cherish a casual Courteney Cox look from the '90s. High-contrast looks like these helped pave the way for our modern street style (think: layering, dimension without having to add a ton of color, mixing high and low elements like a cardigan and sneakers).

Tonal Chaos

underrated 90s christy turlington

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Proving, once again, that you can achieve exciting looks even when you're working with one color, this runway outfit on Christy Turlington has so much going for it. Sheers! Layers! Matching accessories! Matching dark makeup! It's goth meets romance (very '90s!).

Mismatched Dressing

underrated 90s brooke shields

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Think of this as "color blocking but chaotic." Brooke Shields, goddess, takes two colors that objectively should not work together—how do green and red not look Christmassy??—then adds navy, black, and gold. It should not work, and yet the amalgamation is surprisingly pleasant.

Relaxed Workwear

underrated 90s christy turlington

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Obviously, this is a photoshoot (I'm not expecting us to somehow magically channel Christy Turlington suit energy as we're out walking our dogs). But the fact remains that the more relaxed workwear of the '90s was a nice break from the heavy shoulder-padded '80s.

Bold Red

underrated 90s kate moss

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If you had to define this decade in a single color, it'd probably be red. We used the simplicity of the color to great effect (see also: Cindy Crawford's red Versace that she wore to the Oscars, or the simple brilliance of a red Calvin Klein dress), letting it stand in place of busier motifs.

Chic, But Liberated

underrated 90s diana

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It's probably not a surprise that Princess Diana is on this list; everything she did, fashion-wise, made waves. But she hit new fashion highs in the period of separation and divorce from then-Prince Charles. She could lean in on her natural fashion instincts, not to mention show a little more skin.

Surprising Layers

underrated 90s jennifer aniston

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The '90s-era cami was a staple in all of our wardrobes—but when we layered our tanks on top of each other, as Jennifer Aniston does here, we were really doing something special. Also, I'm pretty sure that's a sweater tied around her waist. Our layering queen!

Mixing Textures

underrated 90s gwyneth paltrow

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If you're like me, and simple '90s style is your favorite aesthetic, then Gwyneth Paltrow is probably your north star. Here, we see the seeds of greatness that would be emulated in future decades—the softness of the shirt and scarf contrasting with the "toughness" of the leather pants. Chef's kiss.

Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.