If one woman embodied ’90s fashion in the minds of style seekers, it was supermodel Kate Moss.
Entering the decade at the youthful age of 16, it was her personal style that captured what women of the times desired most. They railed against the flamboyant eccentricity of the ’80s. No more neon! No more chunky bangles! And, certainly, no more leggings!
Moss defied the rules. She was discovered at JFK airport at the age of 14, and soon became known for her slim, edgy cuts in early campaigns with Levi’s and Calvin Klein. Think slips, tees, and jeans that flattered her waifish silhouette. Her only accessory? A glass of champagne. This unconcerned sensibility honed in on the pulse of women everywhere who craved more minimalistic expressions. It undoubtedly played into why she was awarded VH1’s Personality of the Year award in 1995.
And it’s also why Kate Moss went on to pioneer and flaunt the biggest trends of the decade.
Many of her model counterparts aligned themselves with big glamour, such as fellow models in the “Big Six” such as Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, and Naomi Campbell. Yet, Moss had rocker status that was unique to her. Freelance fashion art director Kelsey Reifler, who sharpened her skills at Vogue, expands on this, noting, “Kate was different than her predecessors in that she had a sort of laissez-faire attitude. Her effortless style paired with her natural beauty created a new type of chic.”
Just look to how Moss channeled the grunge movement’s palette of all-over black and looked at ease in any simple cut. This signature attitude and convincing authenticity contributed to her becoming a muse to top designers of the decade such as John Galliano and Calvin Klein. It also landed her countless covers of magazines like W, The Face, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle UK, and Vogue.
NYC fashion blogger Kathleen Harper says Moss’s star power was unequivocal. “When I think of ’90s fashion I think of the Spice Girls, Courtney Love, Winona Ryder, and, of course, Kate Moss. Kate was the ultimate ’90s It-girl who started a sort of heroin-chic trend, celebrating individuality and thin figures. Her style was a fusion of effortless androgyny and badass rebellion.”
Reigning as the ultimate icon of the day, Moss sported looks that would define the fashions of the decade, including these popularized 10 trends:
1. The Slip Dress
Moss is synonymous with this slinky style. It was a staple of her off-duty, personally styled look, which she sported at a slew of ’90s events including the CFDA fashion awards at NYC’s Lincoln Center, her book signing on London’s Oxford Street, and launch parties with fellow model Linda Evangelista. The lingerie-inspired look trickled down nationwide and became the biggest hit when the underwear-as-outerwear trend peaked in the early part of the decade. Harper says Moss’s bold fashion choices “made her the decade’s poster child for cool, fresh style.”
“Moss paved the way for not only other supermodels to wear what they wanted when they wanted to, but also mainstream fashion,” she continues.
2. The Shirt Around the Waist
There’s no clearer signature of the grunge movement. When the music and cultural wave of nonchalant slackerism exploded, everyone from influencers to mall-goers made it their own — even Moss. Here she sports the trend at Elle Macpherson’s dinner party in 1992. It was another way of boycotting the flashy fashions from the ’80s and issuing a message of nonconformism.
3. The Choker
This fitted necklace signaled a balance of sweet and sassy. It had a strong grip on the throat that felt rebellious. While pop stars got away with velvet or plastic fabrications, Moss showed another way to rock the style when she flaunted a black lace beaded number on the Donna Karan runway in 1993. Off the runway, Harper points to how Moss wore this still-trendy necklace with everything from floor-sweeping gowns to flannel-and-jeans combos.
4. The Slouchy Suit
This comfort-driven version of the ’80s power suit took off in the late ’90s. Designers such as Gucci, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Jil Sander had their own version that spoke to a class of women craving simpler wardrobes. Moss showed her take on menswear-inspired styles by pairing a blazer with her classic slip dress or an easygoing satin suit with sneakers.
5. The All-Over Denim Look
One thing was true in the ’90s: There was no such thing as too much denim. From big-screen actors to big-time models, the look was all about a casual energy that was still well constructed. Just look to Moss’s ensemble at a birthday party for The Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood in 1997.
6. The Sheer Salute to Minimalism
The ultimate in simplicity is going nude, and the closest look to that is going sheer. It has that devil-may-care attitude that made Moss famous. “Her carefree confidence is what makes this outfit iconic,” Reifler says. “It’s ‘Free the Nipple’ movement meets Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way.'” Well before these modern movements, Moss cemented a reference for celebrating individualistic expression at all costs. Other rebels took to this dressing style, too, including iconic singers such as J.Lo and her impressionable Versace gown on the 2000 Grammy red carpet. But no one emblazoned the sheer dress in the minds of the style setters like Moss when she wore it to a modeling agency’s party and to her 19th birthday soirée in ’93.
7. The Wide-Legged Pant
Flares and boot-cut styles skyrocketed in response to the skinny-jean silhouette of the ’80s. Moss embraced the trend in her off-duty looks. This was noticeable whether she was out in dress-casual pants with then-boyfriend Johnny Depp or in denim at a party hosted by London socialite Jade Jagger.
8. The Leather Jacket
Some things are timeless. The leather jacket was a nod to a multitude of nonconformist movements alive at the time: Grunge, goth, punk, and hard rock. With cool currency and rocker status, Moss was constantly spotted in black leather jackets, including here at a Calvin Klein launch event, adding shine to otherwise simple outfits.
9. The Animal Print
In the mid-to-late ’90s, a wave of glamour wear hit the fashion scene. However, Moss maintained her edge. She even took from the opulent trend and made it her own by incorporating small accents with her cool-girl style. Seen here, she hangs an animal-print purse on her understated look at Heathrow and throws a printed coat over an asymmetrical black dress at a fashion party for what Reifler describes “part-rebel, part-babe cool factor.”
10. The Mini-Skirt
One to always favor an exciting cut in lieu of embellishment, Moss took to the miniskirt of the early ’90s. Unlike fellow model Naomi Campbell, who also wore the short look but with more flash, Moss wore the mini with an easy tee. This kept her on trend without ever looking like she was trying, whether she was at London Fashion Week or at downtown NYC parties. “Kate liked to pair unexpected pieces together, showing that a mismatched ensemble could actually look put-together when done right,” says Harper. “And, of course, Kate always got it right.”
Now at age 43, Moss hasn’t lost touch of the trends. “Never looking like she was trying too hard, Kate was known for her feminine style paired with a masculine touch; a revealing slip dress under a blazer, a sleek pant suit with sneakers, or a waist-defining silhouette created by tying a jean jacket around her waist,” says Reifler. “Her style is timeless and unique yet approachable, which I think is why she has maintained her ‘Queen of Street Style’ status.”
This explains why Moss is still being featured on glossy covers such as W (March 2017) and has cemented a place as a contributing editor for British Vogue. In addition to an iconic career as one of the last supermodels of that era, her personal style has allowed Moss to stay relevant throughout the decades.
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