Be grateful for '90s fashion

JACQUELINE MALEY
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2012

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OPINION: It has come to my attention that the '90s are back. The signs have been upon us for a while - people seem to be wearing hi-top sneakers again and neon colours are back in the fashion mainstream. 

They did a remake of 21 Jump Street and Elle MacPherson got catwalk work again (although I'm fairly sure her face now is not exactly the same one she had in the '90s).

But the final portent of the '90s revival, for me anyway, came the dark day when I received word of my little sister's 21st birthday party.

The invitation informed me the party had a '''90s theme''. My 21st birthday party also had a '90s theme, but given that it occurred in 1998 this was unremarkable.

As I held the invitation in my hand and marvelled at how my little sister had Photoshopped her own head onto the entire cast of Beverly Hills: 90210 (which was pretty unreal), I experienced one of life's Great Realisations: the moment when the defining look of your youth becomes ''retro'' is the moment you are officially old.

Now that I've calmed down a bit, I am revising ''old'' to ''no spring chicken, but not yet a boiler''.

Apart from heightening my awareness of my own mortality, the '90s revival has a massive upside, which I hope rubs off on today's youth.

It was not the most glamorous decade. No one would accuse the '90s of being chic, or elegant, and there were way too many high-waisted tapered jeans walking unmolested through the streets.

But the '90s ''look'', if there was one, favoured cool over sexy, and that's why I'm glad I came of age during that decade.

Not only was there zero pressure on '90s teenagers and young women to look sexy, it was considered naff to even try.

We wore floral skirts and Doc Martens, high-waisted jeans with Reeboks, baseball jackets and MC Hammer pants. We wore little makeup and I didn't know a single girl who owned a pair of heels.

Our style icons were Courtney Love and Winona Ryder and even the famous first supermodels were strong and sporty. These ladies had none of the porny undertones of your modern-day Victoria's Secret girls.

My friends and I considered the active pursuit of sex appeal to be not just irrelevant to our lives, but deeply and shamefully unfashionable.

Of course, just because we aimed for cool, didn't mean we achieved it. But that was not the point.

I still remember the outfit I wore to the Year Nine school dance; it was simultaneously the best and worst thing I've ever put on.

A pair of rainbow tights, worn underneath faded-wash jeans that I had customised so they had horizontal rips up and down each leg. The rainbow tights peeped through the rips.

I must have looked like a coloured pipe cleaner that had somehow mated with Mr Squiggle. I thought I looked awesome.

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I topped the ensemble with a band T-shirt (The Smiths? The Stone Roses? I don't remember) and wore my Docs, as I did in all environments barring the netball court. My mother tried gently to convince me to wear something more feminine but I refused.

I wore the rainbow-tights-jeans mess out, and that night I danced to MC Hammer like I was a booty-girl in one of his pop videos.

Had I worn something more feminine, I might have felt more restricted. It was one of the first times I learnt how powerful fashion can be, how it can change your mood and help you construct yourself, particularly as an adolescent.

At a time when the personality is at its most mutable and fragile, the ability to do build an identity with clothes is an important thing.

Much has been written about the raunch culture of the noughties, and although I notice it and hate it, I don't see the point in bashing the younger generation for looking and behaving like sluts, which is where those conversations always seem to end up.

But with the exception of hipsters (an updated variation of the '90s grunge thing, and super cute, I reckon), young female fashion does seem hyper-sexualised.

Crazy platform heels (the kind which until recently were only seen in strip joints), tiny skirts plus cleavage, the disappearance of female pubic hair...

Even judging by the Beverly Hills 90210-ometer (always accurate!), fashion has turned super porny since 1990.

In the photos of the original cast, all the girls are wearing flat shoes, you can't see any boob and someone is always wearing a peasant blouse.

In the official cast photos of the updated (2008) version, everyone is in a spa, there is a lot of cleavage and one bikini-clad girl is straddling a male companion with a python-like thigh grip. For no apparent reason.

It may be difficult to argue the '90s were a cool decade, but praise be, at least they weren't sexy. And consequently, us little girls growing up didn't feel any need to be.

-Daily Life

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