'90s cringe-worthy clothes

Coming of age in the '90s was exciting. I was livin' large with Hammer, "A Different World," the Macarena, "Scream," and my man, Tickle Me Elmo. However, there's one thing about this decade that still gives me the chills - my horrible, horrible clothes.

The first half of the '90s were particularly heinous, mainly because I was still in elementary school and my mother helped dress me each day. I'm not saying that I was a true fashionista in fifth grade, but I'm sure I would not have single-handedly sanctioned a Coca-Cola sweater, red stirrup pants and Looney Toons Keds as an appropriate fall outfit.

I now realize that little made sense in the world of '90s fashion. Why did we wear overalls with only one strap fastened? What was the deal with fleece tech vests from Old Navy? (Keep in mind it doesn't even snow in my hometown.) And who thought black nail polish was pretty?

Still, the most egregious example of this senselessness was the rap duo Kris Kross. Backwards clothes? Come on, how'd they even get to the bathroom in time? Their alternative fashion didn't prevent my peers and me from loving them though. We "Jumped" and "Missed the Bus" along with everyone else in backwards jerseys. One of Kris Kross' most devoted fans, my best friend in fourth grade, had "Totally Krossed Out" on CD and tape.

By the time sixth grade rolled around, I was in the throes of a serious Teva obsession, and was so mad my mom wouldn't buy me any. To make matters worse, my sister got a pair of pink and white K-Swiss the year before, while I was stuck with another pair or plain white Keds. A few months later, however, I'd forgotten all about the Teva drama and focused on the burgeoning hippie chick comeback. I had enough chokers, crocheted vests, peace sign jewelry and bell-bottoms to compete with even the most devout flower child.

Even though I dressed myself in middle school and high school, the results were not much better. There was flannel (grunge), kilts ("Clueless"), baby-doll dresses (Seventeen magazine), puffy coats (New York City) and skorts (who the hell knows.) I remember one lethal combination of a madras shirtdress, opaque stockings, white socks and Esprit construction boots. It was a sad, sad day in eighth grade. But one fact helps me through the memory of that fashion tragedy: everyone else was just as ugly as me.

It's true. I can say with complete confidence that even though I looked atrocious, I was always in style. I stayed on top of the trends and followed suit diligently. Although my look has improved dramatically since then, I still know what's in and needs to be added to my collection.

The 1990s was a time of goth, skater-punk, surfer dude, urban wear, grunge and Britney's revamped school girl. There were Hilfiger polos, stacked socks, NBA jackets, Birkenstocks, platforms, backwards caps, hi-tops and Doc Martens. We met "The Sak," the baby tee and that big, blue necklace from "Titanic." We bruised our juvenile wrists with neon slap bracelets and longed for flip-up glasses like Dwayne Wayne's. We cut holes into brand-new jeans and bought stupid millennium gear. This is the sad truth of our collective youth.

This unlikely and funny potpourri of styles and sensibilities didn't seem like such a bad idea at the time. But, realizing how wrong I was about opaque stockings, T-shirt ties and velvet makes me wonder if I'll look back 10 years from now and be disgusted by pointy heels and hobo bags. I mean, how could something that feels so right be so wrong? If I am indeed making some cringe-worthy mistakes now, at least I'll have something else to laugh about in the future.

In the spirit of the '90s, peace out, dude.

A Matter of Style runs every other Monday. Next Monday read Colleen McCarthy's study abroad column, My Two Pence.

Arienne Thompson is a graduate student in the School of Communication. E-mail her fashion questions and ideas to at5887a@american.edu.

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