My parents recently brought round a box of my old clothes they’d found when clearing out their loft. Untouched for over 20 years and encrusted with grime and dead spiders, it was a time capsule of my early 90s/late-teenage wardrobe. “It wasn’t your most flattering era, style-wise,” sniggered my mother, as I pulled out giant ethnic Glastonbury cardigans, XXXL grandad tops from Cult Clothing (if you grew up in Oxford, you’ll recall this indie-kid mecca) and flappy pairs of Joe Bloggs flares. “I didn’t dare say at the time, but you were far too short and stumpy to wear that stuff.” Er, thanks, Mum; don’t hold back. Then I tried on a pair of appallingly unforgiving white denim shorts that I used to wear to go raving and we all started crying – my parents, husband and children with laughter, me with shame.
But amid the horrors in this Pandora’s box were some pieces that gave me pause for thought: could I, would I… actually wear these things again? 1990s fashion is, of course, back with a vengeance, the shops groaning with slip dresses, pinafores, crop tops (sob), bodies and mules. Entering Topshop yesterday, I was confronted with a sea of silver jogging bottoms, which triggered a long-buried memory of an enthusiastic clubkid known only as Silver Trousers, alongside whom we used to dance at the Cambridge Junction’s techno nights. That’s the thing with trends you lived through the first time around – they can make you feel pleasingly nostalgic…. or simply ancient. There is the theory that, if you wore something the first time around, you shouldn’t wear it again. But blanket bans and unyielding rules can suck the fun out of fashion. Better, I think, to proceed on a case-by-case basis. So, here’s what I rescued from that dusty box:
Kerry in the 1990s
The band T-shirt
My Happy Mondays’ Step On top with a psychedelic print is, Shaun Ryder would be pleased to hear, very much a loose fit. I’m certainly not going to wear it with those white cut-offs and my purple suede Wallabees these days but, with rolled-up jeans or posh trackie bottoms and a structured blazer, it looks surprisingly sophisticated. If you’re going to wear a band T-shirt, it’s got to feel authentic – you need to have been there, done that and literally got the T-shirt the first time round. So wear your original 90s ones with pride, I say. (Unlike the cheesy, spanking-new, cash-in Bowie T-shirts I also spotted in Topshop – shudder. It’s what he would’ve wanted, said no one, ever.)
The slip dress
I unearth my own homage to Kate Moss’s famous Calvin Klein slip dress – a cheapo Pilot (remember?) ankle-length silver number. I used to wear this clubbing with blue Vans and a zip-up tracksuit top. Now it passes muster with a black polo neck or bomber jacket and white trainers or black biker boots. And worn with a bra this time round, two babies later. God, definitely a bra.
Several patterned men’s shirts, including an oversized paisley Topman one, are now enjoying a new lease of life, with the sleeves rolled up and worn over skinny black jeans or tucked into culottes. You just have to think about silhouette – back then, we didn’t care and would chuck a baggy top over massive flares. Indeed, there’s not a single photo of me from that epoch that suggests I might’ve had a waist. Now older and wiser, we get that a voluminous top half works best with a neat bottom half, and vice versa.
I attempt to resuscitate a pair of clompy black mules, but ultimately they die, too battered to be saved. But I’m watching the ones on the high street with interest (Zara’s reworked versions have a more elegant look than their 90s counterparts). They’d look fresh with cropped trousers or when you need a change from your trusty white trainers. I do wonder though if I can once again face entire days spent clawing my toes in order to keep the damn things on.
These 90s relics, however, get a big fat no from KERRY:
My once-beloved M&S body goes straight into the bin – once a woman has served her time changing nappies and endlessly undoing/doing up tiny vests, she can’t ever again face her own dignity-dashing groin-area poppers.
The “ironic” polyester shirt
The garish charity-shop numbers, in vile shades of mustard and turquoise, haven’t aged well (and still smell of their previous owners’ BO which, at 40, bothers me a hell of a lot more than it did at 20). At the time, I thought they imbued Jarvis Cocker geek-chic. Reality: The Mike Flowers Pops. Kids’ fancy-dress box incoming.
Hated ‘em then (although still wore them, strangely); still hate ‘em now. They never did anything for my squidgy jawline in 1992, and that’s certainly not changed.
The key, I’ve decided, to redoing 90s style in a non-tragic way is to keep it grown up and structured. But there is one thing that is absolutely going to stay in that decade, never to be spoken of again: my 90s haircut, a deeply unflattering tomboyish crop with a blonde-streaked floppy fringe. I thought I looked like Louise Wener from Sleeper. With hindsight, it’s safe to say I didn’t. I really didn’t.