Monday, April 19, 2010

Not So Functional 90s Fashion Trends

We may not all be slaves to fashion, but at one point or another most of us are guilty of following the crowd. Whether we're trend dabblers or wanted in six states for crimes of fashion, many of us gave in to the glittering allure of certain fads for no reason other than that everyone else was doing it. These fashion statements did not generally jive with any normal rhyme or reason of functionality; everyone else was simply jumping off that bridge and we decided we might as well take the plunge ourselves.

Everything is clearer in retrospect, so it's tough to admonish our former selves for not having the good sense to realize these trends were bad ideas at best. Fashion and trends are not about utility and function, of course, but these items are fairly high on the list of unjustifiable offenders. There remains no real solid explanation for their existence other than that magazines and stores told us they were worth sacrificing scarce allowance money. If we can't defend their usefulness, we may retrospectively embrace their complete lack of function.

There are many, many totally non-functional 90s fashion items to choose from, but here's a selection of some of the least defensible. If you wish to plead your case condoning their existence, feel free to use the comments section as an issues platform:

Tearaway Pants

Okay, fine, I admit these aren't completely without their merits. To professional athletes I imagine there was some millisecond saved when coming in from off the bench. For everyone else out there, these were generally inexcusable. These pants were held together not by stitching and solid fabric, but rather by well-ventilated snap buttons running down the outside of either leg. While it is something of an innovation to be able to remove your athletic pants in one single well-coordinated motion, it is not a necessary function by any means.

Shirt Ties/Clips
This may not be the authentic product, but it's the best Google Images has to offer. Plus, doesn't it make you want to get some for your next 80s/90s Halloween costume? Those things are sparkly to the max...and apparently "80s to the max" too

There are truly no excuses for these; they serve no purpose whatsoever, nor is the look particularly flattering. For some reason, though, it was all the rage in the late 80s and early 90s for young girls to clip or tie their oversized t-shirts on one side. I'm only telling you this because I've finally come to terms with the ridiculousness of it all, but at one birthday slumber party I had kits for each girl to paint and decorate her very own shirt clip. Humiliating, I know, but I'm willing to take one for the team in the name of exposing key shirt clip evidence circa 1994.


If you're playing tennis, I'll grant you this one, but if you're just looking for the comfort of shorts with the dressiness of a skirt you have no excuses for humoring that whim by wearing this garment. From the front, a skirt. From the back, shorts. If you're not in an athletic situation, it's not a particularly flattering look to sport (some pun intended) a hybrid skort-shorts. In typical 90s clever coinage, we called them "skorts" but we may well have labeled them "fashion mistakes." Off the courts, there are no situations where it's necessary to be wearing one outfit from the front and another from the back, period. The built-in shorts with a full-around skirt cover is a little better, but it's all relative in non-functional skort territory.

Giant Platform Shoes

I blame the Spice Girls for making these seem so darn appealing. In reality, they were impractical, cartoonish, and a bit dangerous. We started off in familiar territory with sandals and dress shoes, but things quickly escalated to a red-alert level when shoe companies started throwing these platform soles on sneakers. For that, there is truly no defense.

Fleece Vests

Don't you ever get really cold in the general torso area, but your arms remain comfortably warm? Well, have I got the product for you! Complete with its own insanely irritating Old Navy television commercial theme song, polar fleece exploded onto the scene in the late 90s in a major way. These vests were particularly popular, proving that many of us are willing to sacrifice arm comfort in the name of fashion. Stores marketed these as utilitarian and outdoorsy, but unless you're participating in a cold weather activity that requires exceptional arm freedom, these things are not exactly the most useful of warming winter garments.

Mini Backpacks

What, you've never had the urge to carry around a receptacle that holds approximately three nickels, a stick of gum, and a handful of M&Ms? That's a totally legitimate haul warranting a bag of its own. We all know how tough it is to hold an incredibly small quantity of items in our hands, so when these mini-backpacks cropped up in stores we were all too eager to hop on the scaled-down container bandwagon. They were sort of cute, yes, but usefulness was not high on their list of positive qualities.

Scrunched/Slouchy Socks

It's not so much that the socks themselves serve no purpose, but rather that the style in which we preferred to wear them was moderately mind-baffling. The scrunching served no real need outside of an alleged aesthetic purpose. It was simply the preferred style of sock self-expression. Why buy short ankle socks when you can just buy enormous tube socks and scrunch them into a fold-ridden mass? It's an airtight defense for slouchiness.


Coveralls may be functional in a manual labor slash farm hand type situation, but they serve no real protective purpose in everyday suburban civilian life. If you have no use for that hammer hook on the back, you probably could have just made do with a regular shirt-and-slacks combo. Just saying.

We may claim the primary purpose of clothing is purely functional: to cover our nakedness and protect us from the elements. Somewhere along the way, though, we've evolved a sense of crowd mentality that works against our primal instinct to wear things that serve some purpose. We may not be able to defend our past fashion choices, but at the very least we can laugh at them. A lot. Really. These are just terrible. Commence mocking.


Anonymous said...

I will never forget 8th grade, everyone was standing in the hallway, and one of the girls was wearing break-away pants. Out of nowhere, someone ran up and swiftly ripped her pants completely off while she was left standing in front of everyone in her underwear. What made it even better was that the girl was a total b**** and completely deserved it. :) I myself was a victim to a lot of these fashion faux pas, but especially the overalls - with only one strap done up. I don't know if this was cool everywhere or just my school, but man was it awesome!

Anonymous said...

I do have to defend the shirt clip/tie a little. As a kid I didn't have the clip, but I did have a lot of hand-me-down shirts that came nearly to my knees, in that case the tie option was definitely a good idea.

Alana said...

Wow, you hit the nail on the head! I am ashamed (and a bit delighted) to say that I owned EVERY SINGLE ONE of the items you mentioned in this post (except for tear-away pants, but my husband owned those, so that still counts.) In fact, back in 1994,on my first day of 9th grade, my outfit consisted of: Black t-shirt, White OVERALL SHORTS with ONE STRAP HANGING DOWN, a pair of black-and-white Converse-inspired PLATFORM SNEAKERS, and a TEENY-TINY BACKPACK filled with, presumably, gel pens and a black notepad. And I thought I looked awesome!! (HAHA) Thanks for the memories!

Cee said...

I am very proud to say I owned all of these trends. Except break-away pants...those were just odd to me.

Melanie's Randomness said...

Oh I definitely wore each one of these at one time or another. The tear away pants one was the worse. I do tho still have some skorts. Oops! hehe. =)

Shruti said...

Oh man I LOVED my denim skorts! Up until a very embarrassing age I intended on buying a small leather bag pack and I still want to own a pair of overalls. :)

Nessa said...

oh my...i think i was a victim to all of these...!! lol

Mel said...

Not gonna lie... I still have a pair or two of my platforms. And I love them. Haha! I think I rocked all these trends... wore my slouchy socks with my platforms and overalls. And who didn't have at least 3 skorts? Love it!

Sadako said...

I owned skorts and not for tennis but I was 11!

Overalls must suck re going to the bathroom. Same as with jumpsuits.

And yes. Minibackpacks are insanely useless. Though I have bought smallish backpacks to use as purses. So there's a little 90s kid still inside Sadako!

Ali said...

All these huuuuge 90s shoes remind me of that Sketchers sneakers that they have now that tone your legs. Bringin' it back!

Heather Taylor said...

Where did people find the breakaway pants? Everyone in my middle school had them for PE (where they came in handy with shorts underneath) and I did not have them because we literally had no clue where to buy them!

Brittany Ann said...

I owned at least five pairs of overalls. Which, at some point, I probably wore with only one strap. Making the look oh so much cooler! Gah! Not good!

perfectionishuman said...

Im sure Ive seen photos of tom cruise wearing those huge white sneaker type things hah.
And I totally had a larger version of that small bacpack and was in luurve with it. Still am.

Richard @ The Bewildered Brit said...

Mini backpacks! I hated those things with a passion.

I mean, what was the point?

They were my bete noir in the 90s.

Jen said...

Oh man, I used to rock a pair of overalls with a CROPPED shirt. Leaving exposed flesh. Yuck.

I can't believe you didn't mention the hideous-ness (and completely zero function) of a bodysuit! I owned probably 10 in 7th grade alone. You gotta love pulling down your pants and unsnapping your top, so that you can pee.

Seriously gross.

Laura said...

I LOVED platform shoes! They made me feel tall because I was such a shorty. Then I could wear my baggy Jnco pants and not have them drag on the ground so much.

Meg said...

Skorts are totally functional. The look of the skirt without the thighs rubbing together. I may have one in my closet right now...

ChristyG said...

I was a teenager in the 90s - does that count? Gad, do I ever remember the overalls, and that brief yet memorable time when people would wear them with one overall so fashionably undone and hanging down. Awesome.

Lil' Woman said...

I might have still sported a skort like 7 years ago. : ( I'm ashamed.

Au Lapin Blanc said...

I had everything but the tshirt clips because I've never seen them before! I think they didn't catch on in Ireland

Kristine said...

I can't believe how many people look at me like I'm crazy when I try to reference that Old Navy Performance Fleece song! I thought it was permanently scarred into everybody's brains, but apparently some blocked it out. Whatever. I had the red vest. :)

Never did understand the mini backpacks.

And not gonna lie, still rooting for overalls to make a reappearance! I've missed them so much!

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I can't believe I wore all of these. I took my 7th grade spring pictures in a red fleece vest from The Gap. Over a short sleeve shirt.

Alison said...

Ahhh! My mom still uses a mini-backpack sometimes. Like when we're on vacation and I'm desperately trying to not look like a tourist.

Kristie said...

Oh man, I've fallen victim to many of these fashion faux pas. Especially the tshirt clip and the slouch socks. My mom still wears those fleece vests. lol

Melanie said...

Dudes, I have a vest in my cube right now (though mine is puffy, not fleecy). It's freezing here at work but I need to be able to type and grab reference books, so it's really useful that my arms aren't all immobile. Also makes a great transition for chilly spring weather. And I brought it on my trip to Europe just recently, and it was a lifesaver when it was suddenly 30 degrees in Scotland and snowing to wear it under my winter coat.


chloe said...

Love what you've done here. I am, however, searching for a pic of one you didn't have (unless I missed it somehow). Do you remember the one piece jumpsuits? They had big bows, often across the seat, and sailor-suit collars. Same style as clown suits, in retrospect. I remember being oh-so-proud when I got one.

Templatefrogg said...

Hey, the white platform shoes, where can I find those? What are they called and do anyone rember a brand who made them? Want them sooo bad!!

Anonymous said...

Ok, so I know it was more so in the late 80/early 90's but I can't believe that noone mentioned Day glow! Doesn't anyone remember the big oversized dayglow tops with the matching crazy patterned gay glow stretch pants? Especially with a shirt-clip, these were my favorite outfits when I was in 1st and second grade (in '90-'92) and then I moved on to the stirrup pants trend- can't believe they're not mentioned on here! I loved my purple stirrup pants with matching embellished sweaatshirt combo and you just HAD to slouch down the socks OVER the stirrup pants! Come on people, I know I wasn't the only one to wear this trend in 3rd and 4th grade! Fess up folks! :) Loving this blog!

Angelina Jullie said...

An enormous round of applause, continue the great work.

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