Whether you were into kinderwhore or hypercolors, the 90’s were an exciting time in personal fashion. Not everything always made sense (ultra low rise jeans, anyone?) but it was certainly always interesting.
Naturally, the films produced during that time reflect this smorgasbord-aesthetic. Every girl remembers the first time they saw “Titanic” or “Clueless”. We remember sobbing with our friends at the end of “Cruel Intentions,” cheering on the protagonists of “Pretty Women” and “A League of Their Own,” and having our jaws drop during the adrenaline needle scene of “Pulp Fiction.” While these films are not exactly all Oscar-winners, they have stood the test of time in a different way. The reason it was so easy for us to jump right into the worlds of the characters was due to the flawless work of their costume designers.
In the movie “Clueless,” young girls in middle America were exposed for the first time to “Beverly Hills chic.” Cher Horowitz, with her endless credit limit and heart of gold, bopped across the screen in a flurry of bright colors and thigh-high stockings and Mary-Janes. She was (and for many young women, still is) the Ultimate Teenager: awkward and materialistic with fleeting glimpses of compassion and depth. Her wardrobe reflected this by mixing high-end, adult pieces with cutesy shoes, too-short hemlines and childlike colors.
Love stories with a heartbreaking end, like “Titanic” and “Cruel Intentions” remain cornerstones of girls’ movie nights everywhere. Heroines like Rose, while buttoned up and stiff at the beginning of the movie, transitions to soft colors and fabrics by the end, when she races through the ships corridors in her nightgown and a borrowed jacket. Alternately, vixens like Katherine in “Cruel Intentions” were portrayed in dark colors, shiny fabrics, and body conscious silhouettes.
A major fad of the 90’s was “girl power”. From the Spice Girls to angry female power pop music, it seemed like the slogan was everywhere. Including the theme of our favorite movies. “Pretty Woman” is a about a hooker, yes, but it’s also about a girl getting herself out of a bad situation through true love. When Julia Roberts strutted across screens in a hodge podge of looks, from patent leather thigh high boots to a dainty tea dress and white gloves we were rooting for her to come out of the story alright (although I personally still prefer those thigh high boots). The “girl power” message was also seen in ensemble form in “A League of Their Own,” when the characters made sports history in pleated skirts and baseball caps.