Fashion has always relied on trends that have been popular in the past. The television show Mad Man recently sparked a resurgence in mid-century style. Women flocked to stores to buy dresses with A-line skirts or which flattered curvy hourglass figures. Young men learned the value of a sharp suit. The timeline of the show has recently entered the late 1960s, an era that did not produce many enduring or beloved styles. Zooey Deschanel kept the A-line dress alive for a while longer, but even her hold over the world of fashion is weakening.
In the meantime, the bohemian trend has been going strong, aided by the popularity of outdoor summer music festivals. This look is characterized by loose, flowing layers in neutral colors. One could throw on garments randomly and look effortlessly chic, since bohemian pieces tend to all be in the same color family and be made out of similar fabrics. Women who spend a lot of time outdoors latched onto this look because the layers are cool and lightweight and because the style actually looks good if an outfit is somewhat sloppy or haphazard. It is easy to create several different outfits out of relatively few pieces, which is why this look is so popular among women who spend whole weekends on festival campgrounds. The bohemian style is a polished, more mature version of the post-hippie look that was popular during the ‘70s.
As appealing as both of those retro styles are, people have inevitably become tired of them. There has been a brief ‘80s revival, but it mostly expressed itself in the form of contemporary clothing in ‘80s color palettes. People do not want to wear clothes that too closely resemble what was worn in the ‘80s, and for good reason. That decade is largely remembered as a low point for fashion. The silhouettes were deliberately unflattering. Even modern adaptations of those clothes would look more tacky than cutely retro. This left ‘90s grunge fashions as the only relatively modern style that could be adapted for current consumers.
The grunge period is known for flannel and androgyny, but it was also a minor golden age for female fashion. Women could wear dresses without feeling like they were putting on airs of cartoonish femininity. One didn’t have to be womanly to wear girlish clothing. The dresses were not fitted and were often made out of fabrics that could easily have been used in male clothing. The dress became a comfort item. The dresses that were made out of dramatic floral fabrics are the ones that are currently being emulated. Mimicking these dresses is a way of creating something unmistakably feminine that is nonetheless simply structured.
The florals that are characteristic of the early ‘90s are exaggerated outlines of recognizable flowers. Detailed roses and daisies decorate these dresses. Generic blossoms are somewhat common, but usually only if they are brightly colored. When this style reemerged a few years ago, the dresses copied the ‘90s silhouette almost exactly. The lengths were shorter, but the dresses still featured straight bodices that met gathered skirts at the natural waist. They eventually evolved into skater dresses, which have flared or circle skirts that do not have pleating or gathering at the waist. They are sexier and more mature than typical ‘90s dresses, since they cannot help but closely hug all of the body’s curves. Adjusting the cut of the dresses successfully updated them for modern women.
The grunge revival appeals to fashionistas because it taps into the Instagram aesthetic. The early ‘90s was an era during which high fashion was dominated by models like Kate Moss, who possessed stark beauty and a minimalist sense of style. Today’s women enjoy taking and editing their own fashion photographs, and in the absence of professional stylists, many of them land on the grunge aesthetic by default. This overlaps with the DIY trend, which drives women to wear clothing that they have either made themselves or looks handmade. These clothes have the boxy shapes and distressed or patched fabrics that were favored by men in the ‘90s.
The popularity of this clothing is due to how forgiving it is on all body types and the prettiness of the florals. This trend is interesting because, unlike other retro fashions, it does not indicate anything about the personality, politics or interests of the person wearing them.