5 '90s Fashion Trends I'm Wearing Again

by Rachel Levy Lesser
Originally Published: 
A rack with many different pieces of clothing on it next to a black mannequin with a blue bag on it ...
Yulia Grigoryeva / Shutterstock

My mother used to say that she should have held on to her miniskirts, her bell-bottoms, and other fashion trends of her past. She laughed when I started wearing updated versions of these items from the decades of her youth. I thought it was kind of cool but at the same time could have never imagined many of the trends of my own youth (which apparently is somehow behind me) making a comeback. Yet here I am shopping for fall clothes and seeing so many trends of the past—things that I never imagined would ever come back in style. Here are five of the most unexpected retro trends:

1. Flannel Shirts

Remember wearing those oversized lumberjack, flannel shirts in college? Sometimes you bought them yourself in size large or even extra-large so they could drape over a big part of your lower body, and sometimes you borrowed them from your boyfriend. That was kind of cool. Guess what? Flannel shirts are in style again. All the stores are carrying them, the magazines are showing them, and we are wearing them—with some changes of course. The flannel shirts of the 21st century are way more tailored and fitted, and we purchase them in more appropriate sizes so that we actually look like ourselves (and not our college boyfriends.)

2. Hammer Pants

Somewhere deep down, I always knew that those lightweight baggy parachute pants that gathered at the ankle were sort of cool looking even when they first exploded on the scene in the early ’90s. I’m not sure I had a pair back then. But these days I actually have a few pairs of the Hammer pants. You know what? They are really comfy. I wear them to yoga class on Saturday mornings and then keep them on all day for my kids’ soccer games. I see other moms out on the fields in the Hammer pants. Must be Hammer Time? Some women now also have the fancy versions of the parachute pants that they to wear out to dinner on Saturday nights. I’m not there yet.

3. Ponchos

My grandmother bought me a red itchy poncho with a Fair Isle type pattern around the collar when I was a little girl, and I wore it until it practically looked like a belly shirt on me. (Belly shirts, please don’t come back in style.) I loved the poncho of my childhood, and now I love the poncho of my adulthood. It seems other adults do too. I think they look great on a cool fall day, and I’ve even seen some with Fair Isle patterns at the collar albeit way cooler and chunkier knit collars. I wear my modern-day poncho with skinny jeans and with leggings too (which are also back on style—read on).

4. Leggings/Leg Warmers

We all rocked the leggings (sometimes with the stirrups) and leg warmers back in the day. I had an awesome pair of turquoise Esprit leggings with stirrups and way too hot pink leg warmers that I so loved wearing even though I wasn’t warming up my legs for anything. It didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now. I see today’s ladies keeping their legs warm all day long even if they never plan on busting out their Jennifer Beals moves. Flashdance never goes out of style, right?

5. Maxi Skirts

Laura Ashley long prairie skirts were a staple of my high school wardrobe. They looked so cool with lace tights and ballet flats. Yes, I was a little fashionably challenged back then. But maybe I was actually fashion-forward-thinking because those long flowy skirts are back in. Someone in the know decided to call them maxi skirts, and now they are actually cool. I wore a lot of them this past summer and saw a lot of cool-looking ladies doing the same. They are so easy to wear and look great with the right fancy flip-flop or ballet flat just peaking out from under the hem.

Someone once told me that if you wore the clothes one time around then you are too old to wear them if and when they come back in style decades later. Clearly, I don’t agree with that. Having said that though, if bodysuits, tapered cuffed jeans, or cowboy boots ever come back in style, I’m out. Just can’t go there!

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