‘90s Nostalgia

Breaking in Doc. Martens was a ‘90s rite of passage and well worth it.

What a happy coincidence that I started writing The Rise, Fall, and Return of Sarah Mandelbaum, which is set in the ‘90s, before this fantastic trend of reliving and re-loving that decade. It’s fun and funny to see the return of cargo pants, athleisure as formal wear, sneakers with everything, boot and loose cut jeans, grunge makeup, and even that “’70s Show” being catapulted into the ‘90s for its reboot.

Gen X’er that I am, I have a special love for this decade. I met my husband in 1990 and married him in 1992—around the same time I started my favorite job at Women’s Wear Daily. It was an exciting time to be in the fashion and beauty industries, and the fashion magazines reflected that—nearly every fall and spring issue was the size of a telephone book back when we still had them. And the fashion shows were spectacular.

I don’t think anyone was more glamorous than Carrie Bradshaw & Co.

I went to my first show when I was at WWD. It was Ralph Lauren. When the lights dimmed, Rickie Lee Jones flooded the speakers with her rendition of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” which I’d never heard before. And then, wow, supermodels extraordinaire Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Nikki Taylor, and Naomi Campbell strode down the catwalk. I’ve been to many other fabulous shows with fabulous models, but never one quite that thrilling. I guess you never forget your first time.

From a fashion standpoint, the ‘90s was easily my best decade. I lived in flirty Betsy Johnson dresses, BCBG denim minis, bootcut, menswear-inspired pants from J. Crew with Nike kicks, and flowy midi-skirts from Banana Republic. Marc Jacobs invented grunge fashion, which made it okay for me to wear Doc. Martens with everything, including super trendy baby doll and granny dresses—something those gorgeous girls from Beverly Hills 90210 did and something my rotten feet appreciated. While I couldn’t afford his and Vivienne Westwood’s signature short-pleated kilts, Ann Taylor did several great ones. And I got my Robert Palmer video-girl-inspired black Lycra tank dress from The Gap. And, of course, I can’t forget Sex and the City and the steady glamour fix that it gave me.

The ‘90s also ushered in the freedom to go without pantyhose, which was a fantastic gift to my friends and me, even if we shivered our way through bare-legged winters. I hope you all enjoy the trip down memory lane that my book gives you. And if it’s your first time experiencing this decade, I wish you a supa dupa fly time.

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