Every single outfit that I put on has a purpose and comes from a point of reference in my mind. It could be from an editorial I’ve seen in a magazine, a music video, or a scene from a movie. We can’t help what sticks with us. I like what I like, and I always have. Still to this day, the way I dress mimics the way my circle of friends and I dressed in middle and high school. My layered gold necklaces and rings are something that I always wanted growing up, but couldn’t afford. I had to wait until I was an adult to be able to acquire my grandmother’s jewelry, and buy my own. My hair parted down the middle in a bun is the same shit I did in 7th grade. Stripes and leopard prints are my weakness, and rigid jeans are as valuable as gold.
My mindset has never changed when it comes to my style. The formula to how I dress is more complicated than just 1+1=2, but all in all, the ‘90s was the time period in which my personal style was set in stone. Here are four major pieces that helped to form the equation, in no particular order.
It was Summer ‘95 and I was in a Chicago movie theater the weekend this movie came out. Clueless really spoke to me because it was an exact reflection of me and my BFF at the time, minus the sex and expensive cars. She (being Dionne) and I (Cher) would synchronize our outfits–like matching plaid mini skirts and mohair sweaters–and spent weekends watching the film on VHS, quoting our designated parts. I thought I was hot shit having the same exact silver backpack, thigh highs, patent Mary Janes, feather trimmed cardigans, and rhinestone barrettes as Cher did, and shopping at Contempo Casuals was also a form of retail therapy for my underage self. Almost 25 years later, and the one look that still influences my wardrobe the most is Dionne’s jeans-and-orange-cropped-jacket combo when she’s on the cellphone outside Contempo Casuals. Hello!
90s RnB & HIP HOP MUSIC
Watching En Vogue’s music video “My Lovin’ (No You’re Never Gonna Get It)” at 10 years old changed my life forever. That moment shifted my brain into a mindframe I was destined to be in. It wasn’t just the music of the ‘90s, it was also the album cover imagery and creative direction in the booklets and music videos. TLC’s debut oversized looks, then their switch to baby tees and baggy cargo pants. Everything Janet Jackson served us from ‘92-94. Mary J Blige’s entire My Life styling. Aaliyah’s sleek side bang and tomboy sexiness. Every. Single. ‘Fit. from Salt ‘N’ Pepa & En Vogue’s “Whatta Man” video. Lil’ Kim’s hip-haute couture. Total, Xscape, and SWV’s bossy business attire and animal-printed accessories. Mariah Carey’s sexy-yet-minimal Butterfly era. Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu’s soulful mother earth vibes. These extraordinary women inspired me endlessly, and all the notes I took from their ‘90s existence continues to make a way into my personal style.
MADONNA, JULIA, & DREW
I don’t remember a life without Madonna in it. At a very, very young age (four), she was my idol, but the stages of her career that impacted me the most stylistically are Erotica, Bedtime Stories, and Ray of Light. She is why I went platinum blonde. Why I wear leopard, black berets, lace, and wish I smoked cigarettes. Madonna’s bohemian fashion editorial for Vogue magazine in 1992 is especially branded on my brain, and the reason I wear a middle-parted, low bun all the damn time.
Julia Roberts as Vivian in Pretty Woman turned me onto big white button-downs and letting my red, naturally mall-rat permed hair do its thing. Major shoutout to the final scene where Vivian wore a black blazer, white tee, and jeans. This is forever a go-to look for me. Finally–Drew Barrymore. She is my grungy, flower child goddess ‘til the day I die. I tried over and over to rework her ‘94 spiral-curled, mini bob, but I ended up looking like a Little Rascals reject. So, I kept her deep berry-colored lip instead, and I live for low-rise jeans and a baby tee (per her YM mag editorial). Ugh, and one day I hope to copy her layered vintage slip outfit from the Batman Forever premiere in 1995.
I’m straight up a city girl. Growing up in Chicago’s Gold Coast in the ‘90s, I quickly learned how movement plays a part in what you put on. It’s crazy windy there, so you get very strategic about your layers and textures. I love that feeling of getting ready to go outside and take over the sidewalk like Naomi on the runway. Depending on the weather, I’d visualize what I wanted to look like as I made my way around, a musical montage playing in my mind. Then, I’d spend hours getting prepped and hyping myself up. Once outside, I’d bounce from Urban Outfitters to purchase new Hard Candy nail polish, then Bloomingdale’s to shop their sales. I’d walk into Betsey Johnson on Oak Street like I could really afford her prices, but if I dressed the part, no one knew I was just an abnormally tall 14-year-old. Taking the train up north, I’d shop oddball stores for vintage pieces. Trekking downtown, I’d hit up Contempo Casuals, Clothestime, and Filene’s Basement. The whole time, dressed to express, in platform sandals or Candie’s wooden heels. To me, there was no better feeling than freely exploring my city in clothing that portrayed my mood for the day. Also, it taught me that black is the most essential color, appropriate for any and all occasions. Not a day passes by where I wish I could only wear black head to toe.
by Sarah de Brun