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Why The ’90s Fashion Revival Makes Me Feel Weird

Look, I'm not going to pretend that I had amazing style in the '90s. I turned 10 in 1991 and spent the decade exploring the rites of teenagehood, drifting from the pages of J.Crew to the highly polished floors of Contempo Casuals to the perfumed plushness of Nordstrom BP.


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Remember when you actually had to call someone and give them an item number from a catalog to buy something without stepping foot in a store? I do, and I genuinely miss it. I miss marking the pages of cardigans or cargo pants in Delia*s that I needed my dad's approval (and credit card) to buy. I miss looking at shiny pictures of happy models wearing rainbow-laced Doc Martens and carrying Astroturf backpacks.

None of this means that I dressed particularly well. I spent most of 1990-1994 in oversized turtlenecks and silk vests before moving into my "indie" phase — mostly thrift shop T-shirts and corduroy pants with suede Vans, and finally ending the decade in flared Seven For All Mankind jeans, platform Steve Madden boots, and turtleneck J.Crew sweaters (although I'm particularly proud of my powder blue prom dress, which I bought at Tocca in SoHo).

jennifer-astin-3 Me in 1995, doing the slip dress-over-shirt thing way before Kylie. (Like, she wasn't even born yet.)

When I look back through the sea of actual photographs that comprise my looks throughout the '90s, I certainly wouldn't repeat most of my outfits and I'm not particularly proud of how I dressed. What I miss is that because I came of age and fashion awareness during this decade, the '90s feels like mine; it's the last time I remember a style feeling like home, like a real reflection of me.

While I'm happy with the way I've evolved and changed over the many moons since the ball dropped into the year 2000, and I think fondly (and sometimes lustily) about all the awesome pieces I've bought since the '90s ended, I don't have the same gut-level relationship with any other period-associated style. So, there's a particularly strange thing that happens in my tummy (wait, is that my intuition?) when I see evidence of the '90s fashion revival, which, in case you haven't noticed, is everywhere.

Some aspects of the trend resuscitation thrill me; I have always loved a good choker and I'll never turn away from a classic silk slip dress, à la Carolyn Bessette, not to mention my eternal obsession with Doc Martens. But the rest feels dimly like a trumped up, watered-down, half-hearted attempt to sell the new generation on the old generation's ideas. Wandering through a sea of flower-printed cotton slip dresses and chunky-soled sandals and jean jackets feels more like shopping in a costume boutique than a major department store.

Perhaps it's just the trend's pervasiveness, or my own adolescent attachment to the decade, but the marketing attempts to sell a highly selective version of the "new '90s" just aren't working for me. It feels weird to see new versions of things that I wore when I was 14 hanging on racks in some of my favorite stores. It feels weird to be told that the '90s are back. I kind of liked my '90s where they were: in old, grainy photos and equally grainy memories of that time when I was just growing up.


Jennifer Astin is Racked LA's contributor.