I Recreated 6 Iconic '90s Mom Outfits & Here's What Happened
The '90s were the best. You had awesome food, the most iconic shows like Friends and Seinfeld, and of course, '90s fashion. As kids in our butterfly clips and floppy-flowered hats we looked pretty great throughout the '90s (if I do say so myself), but when it comes to the queens of '90s style, our moms won, hands down. I remember thinking my mom looked like a model every time she got dressed. Since kids were allowed to stay home alone after school back then, I'd pass the time until she got home from work blasting TLC and Alanis Morissette and trying on everything in her closet. My mom has the best '90s style and loves clothes, and so many of my fondest childhood memories are of me sitting on her bed while she got ready. I remember helping her stretch open the opening of her turtleneck so it didn't ruin her carefully teased hair and picking out which pair of hoop earrings she should wear to work.
I loved how powerful she looked in a blazer and how she'd turn up Janet Jackson while getting dressed, making us both light-headed in a cloud of hairspray. It obvious it was that her clothes made her feel good about herself, and I wanted to be just like her.
Things seems more magical when you're a kid and now that I'm a mom myself, I decided to see if the styles my mom rocked in the '90s really were as awesome as I remembered. After some incredibly thorough research, here's what was great about '90s mom fashion, and what we should leave buried in a time capsule forever.
Day 1: A Shirt Around The Waist
Once upon a time an actress named Claire Danes wore a shirt around her waist in a show called My So-Called Life and suddenly, donning a shirt around your midsection was seen as super-fashionable and not something you did just because you had a leak while on your period.
My mouth may be smiling, but those are the eyes of a woman who wants to set her jeans on fire.
The shirt you chose to tie around your waist in the '90s was part of your overall look, a combination belt/outer layer that served as the perfect blend of function and fashion. Then, for some reason we all stopped doing it — until now. The second I tied my hoodie around me instead of stuffing it in a bag, I knew I was a convert for life. I had more room in my bag for kid stuff and I knew I'd be comfortable in any climate, plus no one would be staring at my butt or offering unwanted cat calls my way. Sure, it may not be the most flattering look I've ever tried, but it was comfortable and convenient, and that's good enough for me.
I did my typical mom thing of going to the grocery store and stopping at Starbucks in this outfit and no one looked at me twice. Sure, it's not a head-turner of an ensemble when it comes to showing off my sexy side, but for everyday errands, it's perfect.
Day 2: Scrunched Hair
Long before there were loose curls and beach waves, there was the scrunched hair look. I spent hours watching my mom gel and blow dry her hair using a defuser, grabbing chunks of hair, and crumpling them up by hand in the quest to create the perfect crown of crunchy, voluminous waves. I've always thought my mom was beautiful, but with scrunchy hair? Step aside, Christy Turlington.
My 3-year-old twins didn't get it at first. They kept touching my hair and wrinkling their noses saying, "Mommy's hair is wet, Mommy took a shower."
It had been years since I scrunched my hair, but once I found a dusty half-used tube of gel in the back of my bathroom closet, I knew I could pull this off. I had forgotten how much faster it is to scrunch your hair than it is to curl it, and even though I could hear my dried tresses whenever I turned my head, I was definitely digging this look. Fetch may never happen, but scrunched hair is, at least in my house.
My 3-year-old twins didn't get it at first. They kept touching my hair and wrinkling their noses saying, "Mommy's hair is wet, Mommy took a shower." Since I usually blow dry my hair, I think they thought I wasn't "done" getting ready. My husband loves when I curl my hair, but since it takes so long, that's something I only bust out on fancy occasions or when I've spent too much at Sephora and am trying to charm him. He thought I had curled my hair when I scrunched it, so it's nice to know that this is a faster way to impress him, especially since I've got my eye on a new eyeshadow palatte.
Day 3: Mom Shorts
You can't wear '90s clothes without paying respect to the wonder that is the iconic mom jean. Full disclosure: I hate jeans. Cotton is thick and sweaty to begin with, and then you take a whole wad of this scratchy material and stitch it together to nestle in your crotch so that every single step feels like someone's poking you in the vagina.
I'm not a fan of jeans from any decade, but the light wash, distressed, high-waisted denim of the '90s is particularly painful for me to look at. The light color always highlights the parts of my thighs I hate most and I refuse to pay more money for jeans that already have holes in them. But my mom gleefully foraged to the back of her closet and came up with these hideous shorts that sum up everything I hate about wearing any type of jean product in general, and for the sake of this experiment, I put them on. There's fringe to decorate the rash I get from walking and holes so high I have to shave my thighs, which is really the only good things about wearing jeans in the first place. But I hated these shorts before I even put them on.
As you can see, even though I've got the hoop earrings and tucked in tank top she wore, I look nothing like Cindy Crawford did in her mom jeans. Every single thing about this outfit felt unflattering on me, and the way the jeans hit my neither regions was uncomfortable. Any attempt to move and my waist was squeezed in an unyielding cotton death grip. My mouth may be smiling, but those are the eyes of a woman who wants to set her jeans on fire. Seriously, how did moms in the '90s willingly put these on their bodies? I tore these off before anyone could see them and retreated to the safe space that is a sundress. And those seven steps from my mirror to my dresser? Torture.
I have no clue how my mom chased two kids around while wearing this because I had to take it off after only a couple minutes and spent the rest of the day recovering in shorts and a t-shirt.
I know shorts like these are back in style now, but the only way I will ever wear them again is if someone's life depended on it. And even then, if it's like a third cousin once-removed? Eh.
Day 4: Giant Hoops
Large hoops earrings were the rage back in the '90s and I remember sneaking into my mom's room to try hers on whenever I could. She still had a couple pairs handy, so I used this story as the perfect excuse to finally get my hands on them. While they made me feel just as confident and sassy as they did when I was a kid, I realized moms of the '90s had a seriously high pain threshold. I only had the hoops in for a few minutes before my ears started to ache from the weight of them. But I pushed through and wore them for the entire day because I loved how they made me feel. There were times when I forgot I was wearing them and would whip my head around and smack myself in the face with them, so I found myself moving with the slow grace of the Evil Queen from Snow White just to avoid flying hoops.
My kids are 3, but they were still captivated enough by my new hardware to reach out and try to touch my earrings, which brings up another good point: either babies and toddlers are more grabby now than they were in the '90s, or moms back then were willing to risk having an earring ripped out all in the name of fashion. My kids are finally old enough to understand me when I tell them that if they pull on my earrings, it will hurt me, but they entertained themselves sliding their wrists through them like bracelets and extracting themselves very carefully.
Day 5: Power Suit
In my old job in the courtroom, I wore suits and dresses all the time so I was actually looking forward to slipping on a blazer again, even if this one did come with some serious shoulder pads.
I remember my mom wearing this suit to church and school functions growing up, and I was excited to see how I looked in it. I even dug out one of her bulky old costume necklaces and did a French twist to get the full, authentic '90s look.
First of all, getting a turtleneck on without ruining your hair, makeup, or winding up with white deodorant streaks all over your shirt is a talent I do not possess.
Since I was mostly enjoying this experiment I was was unprepared by just how much I hated donning a power suit. The suede was nice to the touch, but I was sweating buckets within minutes, and that high waist on my pants made it hard to sit down comfortably or take deep breaths. I have no clue how my mom chased two kids around while wearing this because I had to take it off after only a couple minutes and spent the rest of the day recovering in shorts and a t-shirt.
My kids saw it before I ditched the look and they loved, loved, loved the necklace. Remy said, "Ohhhhh fancy treasure necklace!" And they touched it in that reverent way I approach my morning cup of coffee. It's since gone missing, but I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in the toy box. My husband told me I looked like I was in a play and that the shoulder pads made him think of a football player so, no, not a fan.
In the suit's defense, part of the reason I hated wearing it so much could be that I'm not used to wearing business clothes or suits at all. Maybe if I was still dressing up for work on a regular basis this would have felt better on my body, but right now, it just felt stiff and totally uncomfortable.
Day 6: The Turtleneck
Before we had infinity scarves to keep us warm, there were turtlenecks. Watch any episode of Friends from the '90s and the odds are good someone will be wearing a turtleneck at some point. My mom wore them all the time, and I thought they made her look chic, so I hoped I'd look put together just by pulling one on.
First of all, getting a turtleneck on without ruining your hair, makeup, or winding up with white deodorant streaks all over your shirt is a talent I do not possess. I did my best to clean them off, but if you look closely you can still see the white spots on my chest. And instead of feeling instantly stylish, I was underwhelmed by the turtleneck. It wasn't uncomfortable as I did my thing with the kids all day and none of the moms at playgroup commented on it, but I hated being so covered up. I felt dowdy and frumpy instead of sleek and sophisticated. Honestly, it made me feel old. Not like, has-her-life-together old, but sad-old-lady old. My husband was very appreciative of the way it clung to my curves, but I felt like I was hiding behind my clothes in this top. Bring on the v-necks!
Is '90s Mom Still Making A Comeback?
As much as I envied my mom's wardrobe when I was a kid, after recreating some of the '90s biggest looks, it's safe to say that the mom clothes of the '90s were nowhere near as comfortable as the yoga pants and leggings I spend most of my time in today. I did find an old purple scrunchie that I am never, ever letting go of, and I have plans to work some big hoops into my jewelry rotation because if I've learned anything, it's that '90s accessories were the best part about the looks of that decade.
What struck me most as I tried on these clothes (besides the fact that I wouldn't wish a pair of high-waisted, light wash jean shorts on my worst enemy) is the fact that many of the styles my mom wore in the '90s were things that I wore too, things that were popular and trendy. So often I think that there are current trends I shouldn't wear because I'm a mom, but I see now that the only thing holding me back from exploring a new style is myself. So here's to a summer with my new (old) scrunchie, and maybe trying one of those maxi dresses all the cool kids are wearing.