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1990s Costume Ideas

Updated on November 12, 2014
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Hi, I am Adele, and I have run a large fancy dress shop in Essex, England since 1998. Happy to pass on my knowledge to help others.

1990s Overview

The end of the twentieth century saw a coming together of a number of different looks from previous eras. It may have started with hangover from some 1980s fashion, but the 1970s were very much alive in the form of bell bottom trousers and hipsters. The grunge look which was all about wearing comfortable clothing, became popular in the early 90s, with baggy trousers, tops, jumpers, cardigans and combat boots, mostly in sombre colours. Towards the end of the decade, it was 1960s clothing which saw a revival, with the mini-skirt back in fashion. This time however, it was teamed with bare midriffs, to show-off the belly button rings, jewels and tattoos, which became important fashion accessories into the next century.

Here are a few 1990s-orientated costume looks to work with. The ideas are designed to jog your memory, not give you a detailed description. They are also rather aimed at the British market, but if they are help to others, you're welcome.

Music & Pop Stars

Britney Spears - After early life as a 'Mousketeer' on Disney TV, her breakthrough single 'Baby One More Time' (1999) saw her in a video with an Iconic ‘dull’ Schoolgirl outfit (grey sweater, blouse tied to make a crop-top), black skirt, pigtails (or braids).

Courtney Love - Grunge dress and disheveled hair/make-up look.

Goth-style (Clash or Siouxsie Sioux) - Black or purple colour-scheme, with heavy use of black liner and lipstick.

Kurt Cobain (Grunge) - Cobain, lead singer of ‘Nirvana’ who apparently took his own life in 1994, is another classic grunge fashion icon.

Madonna - After her success in the 1980s, the 1990s saw Madonna enter her ‘Vogue’ period. She was also involved in a number of movies, from Dick Tracy (1990) to Evita (1996), which generated some extra hit singles.

Kylie Minogue - After breaking away from Stock, Aitken & Waterman in 1992, Kylie experimented with a number of music-styles and looks for promo videos. These included a Barbarella-style space interlude(‘Put Yourself in My Place’) and, a much lesser known incarnation, a white haired geisha fashionista ('German Bold Italic’).

MC Hammer - Key to the look are baggy parachute trousers. Off-the-peg outfits have these in gold or metallic.

Shania Twain - Country music 'girl-next-door' who successfully crossed to the mainstream music scene, helped by some distinctive videos such as ‘Man, I Feel Like a Woman’ and ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’.

Spice Girls - The Geri (Ginger) Spice Union Jack Dress has been popular for years, but following their recent reunion and the opening (and closure) of the musical based on their music, there have been new outfits on the market.

Spice Girl-style
Spice Girl-style

Films of the 1990s

101 Dalmatians (1996) - Remake of the classic cartoon in 'live action' with Glenn Close as Cruella. Only essential difference is a slightly shorter but 'madder' version of the trademark black/white hairstyle.

A Few Good Men (1992) - US Naval courtroom drama featuring Lt. Kafee (Tom Cruise), Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) and Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore). Male & female US Naval Offier outfits are useful here.

Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (1994) - Jim Carrey’s other major hit of the 90s besides 'The Mask'. Ace Ventura wears Hawaiian style loud shirts, shorts and has a quiffed hairstyle.

Apollo 13 (1995) - US Astronaut drama. NASA-style spacesuits are impressive but not necessarily party-friendly.

Austin Powers movies (1997-1999) - There were three Austin Powers movies, two of them in the 90s. Costumes have been available for Austin, Doctor Evil, Vanessa Kensington, Felicity Shagwell plus the Fembots and Fat B'stard

Batman Returns (1992) - The Tim Burton film which brought us Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in an iconic PVC catsuit and Danny DeVito as The Penguin.

Beauty & the Beast (1991) - Disney retells the story ‘old as time’ in animation. Costumes for Belle, one of the 'Disney Princesses' are fairly easy to find, ones for The Beast, less so - use a Georgian-style male outfit with a suitable animal half-mask..

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) - Dracula (Victorian-style) featuring Gary Oldman in the title role. Also features Winona Ryder as Nina and Sadie Frost as one of the Count's consorts.

Braveheart (1995) - Popular Scottish hero of early history, clad in furs and face-paint (technically plaids and tartans came later, but when did that ever stop movie producers?).

Edward Scissorhands (1990) - Tim Burton's follow-up to Beetlejuice, best described as a cross between Frankenstein and Romeo & Juliet. Costumes for Edward Scissorhands (& a Miss Scissorhands), plus make-up kits and wigs are available.

Flintstones, The (1994) – The much loved Hanna Barbera cartoon series was turned into a live action film. Main characters were: Fred & Wilma Flintstone (& Pebbles); Barney & Betty Rubble (& Bam-bam), Dino the Dinosaur.

It (1990) - The evil entity, Pennywise the clown, is at the heart of this film, derived from the Stephen King novel.

Pretty Woman (1990) - If you have the thigh-length boots (seen more on the poster than in the film) and the street gear, ‘tart with a heart’ Vivian might be an interesting look, and a Richard Gere lookalike gives you a potential twosome.

Pulp Fiction (1994) – One of Quentin Tarantino’s two major hits of the 1990s, (the other being Reservoir Dogs in 1992). Outfits are available for Vincent Vega & Jules Winnfield, the hitmen. Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) can be created with a blunt-cut page-boy/cheerleader wig, white blouse, black skirt (or Jack Rabbit Slim’s Diner T-Shirt).

Scream (1996 onwards) - If nothing else, Wes Craven’s film brought us a classic simple Halloween outfit in Ghost Face, based on the ‘The Scream’ painting by Munch.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) - Award-winning period drama featuring a young William Shakespeare, the cross-dressing Lady Viola and Queen Elizabeth I.

The Addams Family (1991) - Movie version of the classic 60s ‘scary’ sitcom’ featuring Morticia and Gomez, their daughter Wednesday and Uncle Fester, amongst others.

The Mask (1994) - Jim Carey as Stanley Ipkiss aka The Mask dons the yellow zoot suit ensemble, with smokin’ effect.

The Matrix (1999) - Neo, Trinity and Morpheus were seen in the first film. The Virus Twins were from a later part of the trilogy, Matrix Reloaded.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - Halloween classic animation featuring Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, and his companion, Sally the Ragdoll.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - Dr. Hannibal Lector-inspired outfits (strait-jacket and face-mask) are easily found. Clarice Starling is based on the 190s Power suit and big hair look (although you could cheat with a CIA tracksuit).

Titanic (1997) - The cross-class romance of Rose and Jack on the doomed trans-atlantic liner.

Toy Story 1 & 2 (1995 & 1999) - ‘Retro’ Woody the Cowboy and new toy-in-town Buzz Lightyear are ever popular. Mr & Mrs Potato-head outfits are also available. A Bo-Peep (in pink/white) may also be available.

Buzz Lightyear of 'Toy Story'
Buzz Lightyear of 'Toy Story'

Leisure-orientated outfits.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – First there was the film, featuring a curvy Kirsty Swanson and dour Donald Sutherland, then there was the TV version and long running series starring Sarah Michelle Geller.

Jamaican Bobsleigh Team Outfit - The 1993 film ‘Cool Runnings’ was loosely based on events surrounding the 1988 Winter Olympics, and in these retro times, outfits modelled on the team’s uniforms in the film have become available.

Lara Croft - Before the Angelina Jolie film, there was the highly popular video game. Official costumes are based on this original look - green t-shirt-style top, shorts and backpack, plus, of course, the twin holster gunbelt.

Liz Hurley Dress - Actress Liz Hurley had not made much impact in the cinema prior to the 90s, Then, as girlfriend to Hugh Grant, at the ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ premiere, she wore a Versace dress, seemingly held together with safety pins, and her fame took off. She then featured in several 90s films, notably the Austin Powers series.

Mr Blobby - Originally a character associated with the highly popular ‘Noel’s House Party’ British TV show, the larger-than-life pink entity took on a stardom of his own, and even had a Xmas number one pop hit.

Mutant Ninja Turtles - The Turtles (also known as ‘Hero Turtles’) were a popular cartoon series of the 1990s, who have since been revived and ‘reimagined’ several times. Aside from the various looks of the original turtles, sexy female versions are also now available.

Sonic the Hedgehog – The flagship character of the Sega video gaming system, (counterpart to Nintendo’s Mario the Plumber).

Millennium Bug – Because most computers worked on a dual digit date format, it was thought that the turn of the century to 2000 would create a major computer-crash crisis. It never happened (perhaps thanks to the efforts of IT experts) but perhaps you can create an entity to symbolize this feature of the late 90s.

Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog

Television entities of the 1990s

Baywatch – US TV series admired as much for its shapely stars David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson as its beach scenery and life-saving techniques. Various outfits are available.

Dangermouse - Popular animated British TV series featuring secret agent and all-round hero Dangermouse (voiced by David Jason) and his sidekick Penfold (Terry Scott). Costumes are available. As with several children's shows, Dangermouse has been revived and is due to make a return to TV screens in 2015.

Mr Bean - The creation of Rowan Atkinson, Mr Bean achieves international success because much of his comedy is non-verbal. A Mr Bean outfit is now on the market.

Rainbow - Originally designed as the UK answer to Sesame Street in the 1980s, the popular children’s TV show Rainbow survived until 1992, by which time it had taken on cult status. Costumes for some characters have been available for some time and recently cardboard masks have also become onto the market.

The Simpsons - They originally started as a segment of the Tracy Ulllman Show, then took on a life of their own, to become the world’s most famous dysfunctional family. Previous availability was mostly confined to masks, but new costumes for a number of characters have recently hit the market.

South Park - Anarchic cartoon show featuring a gang of potty-mouthed kids. Originally masks for the major characters were available, but inflatable costume versions have recently come onto the market.

Bart Simpson mask
Bart Simpson mask

Any Comments or Additions? We welcome feedback.

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