1990s Runway Fashion
For girls who grew up watching the BFFs from Bayside High, slinky spandex dresses were de rigueur. Boys wore flannels over turtlenecks and sportswear jackets with team logos.
**Azzedine Alaia** straddled maximal grunge and minimal futurism with his butterfly and leopard-print slip dresses. He was also known for sending models Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, and Tyra Banks arm-in-arm down the runway, lip-syncing to George Michael’s “Too Funky” music video.
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1998
McQueen specialized in fashions that transformed the body into an object of art. A sequinned cotton top in this collection reveals a haunting black and white photographic print of the Romanov children murdered by the Bolsheviks.
McQueen embraced primitivism, employing wood carvers, leather workers and even prosthetists to create fetishistic paraphernalia for his couture shows. The finale of this show, titled ‘Joan’ after the fifteenth-century martyr who was burned at the stake, featured a ring of fire surrounding a masked model wearing red lace.
Thierry Mugler Fall/Winter 1995
Mugler tapped into mid-90s trends with his Fall 1995 couture extravaganza, an hour-long theatrical show that debuted 300 looks. Supermodels Moss, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Elle Macpherson walked alongside legends Julie Newmar and Tippi Hedren.
From a silver metal and plexiglass catsuit to a gold robotic corset bodysuit that resembled a bionic fembot, these futuristic designs were in a league of their own.
Oversized hats, neon wigs, aerodynamic busts, and tight-fitting dresses all reinforced femininity with power.
Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 1993
Vivienne Westwood shook up the Establishment with collections that celebrated female sexuality. From the clan tartans and sashaying ‘Marie Antoinette’ dresses of Anglomania (Autumn/Winter 1985) to the cushion bustles of Les Femmes Ne Connaissent pas Toute leur Coquetterie (Spring/Summer 1996), she reworked establishment shapes – like the Norfolk suit, corsets as outerwear, and fitted Harris Tweed jackets – and gave them new life.
After Buffalo Girls came Punkature, launched in autumn 1982 during the period when Westwood and Malcolm McLaren split up. This showcased distressed, recycled-looking ‘hillbilly’ garments in pre-washed and over-printed fabrics.
Versace Fall/Winter 1991
In the ’90s, when it comes to high drama, few designers can match the hysteria of Gianni Versace’s shows. Often sitting celebrities in the front row and using supermodels in his advertising campaigns, Versace was an early pioneer of bridging fashion and pop culture.
To the uplifting beat of George Michael’s Freedom, a group of lip-synching supermodels walked Versace’s Fall/Winter 1991 show arm-in-arm. It was a clever twist on the usual formula of one model sauntering down the runway.
Kate Moss Fall/Winter 1992
One of the biggest shows of the decade, Yohji Yamamoto’s enchanting wedding-themed Fall 1992 collection had Moss, Elle MacPherson and Claudia Schiffer spliced together into bionic fembots. The hour-long show also featured a sexy, spliced bride dress with a runway-spanning bridal veil.
Grunge may have gotten then-budding designer Marc Jacobs fired from Perry Ellis, but the cult label’s inaugural N.Y. fashion show cemented the look’s cultural dominance with a lineup of Carla Bruni, Naomi Campbell and pals Christy Turlington and Evangelista dressed in vintage-print dresses and raglan tees.
Perry Ellis Spring/Summer 1993
During the late 1990s, fetish-inspired minimalism and maximalism battled it out on the runway. Alexander McQueen drew inspiration from Joan of Arc and the Romanovs for a macabre show that featured chainmail dresses, while Gianni Versace made waves with his boundary-pushing Miss S&M collection.
Marc Jacobs’ infamous SS93 Perry Ellis show shaped the decade’s grunge style and ultimately led to his firing from the label. Cathy Horyn famously slammed the collection, declaring “Grunge is anathema to fashion.”
Chanel Spring/Summer 1994
A self-professed fashion opportunist, Karl Lagerfeld tapped into 90s pop culture and made it his own. He referenced 90s hip-hop with oversized chain belts and gold necklaces, 90s grunge with dyed hair and septum piercings, and then brought that all together with Chanel’s quintessential elements.
For his Spring 1994 haute couture show, he sent models Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Claudia Schiffer arm-in-arm down the runway lip-syncing George Michael’s “Too Funky.” The collection also debuted the Harley Davidson bustier that became an iconic piece for the singer.
Tom Ford Spring/Summer 1995
After Gucci fired designer Marc Jacobs for embracing grunge, the house hired Tom Ford to revive its women’s ready-to-wear. He delivered slinky velvet hiphuggers and louche satin shirts that paired with Dr. Martens and wool caps.
He outfitted models Moss, Campbell, and Elle Macpherson in tartan frocks and hunting gear—as well as a motorcycle bustier that later appeared on George Michael in his “Too Funky” music video. This book features photographs by Richard Avedon and Mario Testino.