References to earlier styles dominated street fashion even more than in the eighties.  Young kids revisited the 1960s and 1970s.  Dress codes completely relaxed and jeans and leggings were accepted in the office, even dressing up for the Theatre vanished.  Sportswear was generally accepted everywhere and the clothing market only distinguished between everyday and elegant, and outdoor and street style.  Fashion was truly democratic and Reebok trainers could be worn with Armani spectacles.  Blurring of age differences happened – kids, parents and the elderly wore virtually the same casual, sport separates and bright colours.  Youth fashions, as distinct from those of working adults, re-emerged (example: 1970s revival platforms, flares and bare midriffs).  Body piercings and tattoos became popular and a blurring of cultures seemed to take place.  Pantsuits replaced skirtsuits in the second half of the 1990s, but generally the 1990s message was ‘to be who you want to be’.

27a Berger family wedding guests, 1997
The women on the left are wearing jackets and skirts along ‘classic’ lines typical of the late 1990s. Hats are no longer obligatory for wedding guests. The woman on the extreme right wears a Laura Ashley princess line maxi coat of about 1996, teamed with a thirties style ‘schoolgirl’ hat and suede boots. Late nineties fashions were very much a ‘choose your own style’ way of dressing.

Reproduced from a contemporary photograph

Main Garment
27b Little black dress, polyester lace, c.1995
A classic ‘little black dress’, in machine made, openwork net in an abstract floral motif.  It has applied beadwork to the front of the neckline in the form of fruits.  Totally synthetic materials (viscose, nylon and acetate) were preferred by many people as they do not irritate the skin (unlike many natural fibres), and are biodegradable. By Wallis, this dress is a typical example of quality high street chain store wear.  Also characteristic of the nineties ‘retro’ styles, as it refers to both the early sixties (shape) and the thirties (type of lace used).

Given by Jane Richards of Westwell, Ashford, in 1999

27c Basque (corset), white nylon lace, early 1990s
A ‘basque’ (the late 20th Century name for a corset) was usually in black or white.  This example is made by Gossard and is a 34DD.  It is 93% nylon polyamide and 7% elastane (Lycra).  It has plastic underwiring below the bust and plastic ‘bones’ down the front panel. A panel of elastane net at the back fastens with a choice of 3 rows of hooks and eyes.  The detachable shoulder straps are missing.  Like the famous Gossard  Wonderbra, this garment shapes the breasts into a good cleavage as well a hugging the torso into a classic hourglass, feminine shape.  It assumes for the wearer a confident sexuality based on the age-old principle of attracting male interest by emphasising the bust/ hip area.

Bought for the Museum Collections

27d Evening bag, black synthetic velvet, 1997
Smart black ‘classic’, slightly retro accessories were popular in the late nineties, normally in synthetics.  This bag is by St. Michael, a pouch style evening accessory bought as part of a set.  Made in acetate, polyamide, polyester and PVC, it also has a synthetic jet fastening and was made in China.  (Marks and Spencer in the past traditionally used British companies to make their products.  In the late nineties they increasingly looked abroad for cheaper sources, as competition in the fashion trade increased).

Given by Stefanie West of Rochester, in 2000

27e Sling backs, black suede, lace-ups, mid 1990s
There is a mixed retro reference in these black suede evening shoes.  Sling backs first appeared in the early 1940s, but the fronts and toe shape of these shoes look back to the ‘tango’ pumps of the First World War era with their lacing.  The Cuban heel is similar to a shape seen in the late 1920s/ early 1930s.  They are very good quality, fine black suede and have a ‘designer’ style label on the insole: STUDIO.

Given by Veronica Tonge of Maidstone, in 2000