I miss the 1990’s. Although born in the late 80’s, I grew up in the decade responsible for shows like Boy Meets World, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Friends. I lived in a colorful world full of stripes, plaids, and florals, jelly shoes, shoelace hairbows, and slap bracelets in every pattern imaginable. I have a very distinct recollection of the 90’s in the form of patterns of wallpaper and fabrics: soft, lacy florals and bright primary colors.
I miss the 90’s because I was younger, unaware of the trouble the world was in (though it went through plenty — cable television was new, and the internet didn’t appear in everyday use until the mid-to-late 90’s) and could explore and dream for hours at a time. Everything seemed softer, brighter, and happier.
Apparently, there’s a lot of other people that miss the 90’s because we’re now revisiting them in the form of fashion. Take the 2015 Oscars, what we are currently seeing on our television, I would even go so far as to the recently produced sequel to Boy Meets World, Disney Channel’s Girl Meets World.
There are other shows embracing this blast from the past as well. Fresh Off The Boat (Based on chef Eddie Huang’s best-selling memoir of the same name set in the 1990’s). Pulling inspiration from well known costume designer Debra McGuire, who was the genius behind the fab looks on Phoebe, Rachel, and Monica from Friends, Lindsay and the gang from Freaks and Geeks, and now provides the wardrobe for the cast of New Girl.
While we are nostalgic for the 90’s, I don’t think it’s all about the floral print and the “Thank God Its Friday TV” schedule we’re sentimentally remembering. I think it’s more to do with the grunge, the alternative media, and the discontent of the era. I think we’re mimicking that need for change, that yearning for a better, brighter future.
This style is especially apparent in shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. As Kimmy navigates a new world full of surprises, after escaping a cult that kept her below ground and out of the mainstream culture for over a decade. Upon being rescued, Kimmy purchases light-up sneakers, wears neon clothes and reminisces about the Babysitter’s Club books and her Tamagotchi.
Kimmy’s experience in this new decade shows the cynicism of her peers, the social issues that are nowhere near to being addressed, and the ultimately negative view people have of authority and each other. What if Kimmy had never been kidnapped? Would she have become one of the maladjusted, cynical twenty-somethings having to accept an unpaid internship in hopes of securing future success?
There are also a few animated shows that hearken back to the simplicity of the 90’s, take The Regular Show (the grunge look especially), Adventure Time (flashes of He-Man and She-Ra are instantly apparent), and Bob’s Burgers.
Bob’s Burgers could be a riff on Home Improvement, Full House, and Boy Meets World. The world of Bob’s Burgers is simply colored, using an array of primary colors in block form. This come through in Tina’s blue skirt, Gene’s yellow shirt, and Linda’s red shirt. It’s a simple world, with a family or personal problem solved at the end of most episodes. It’s familiar, comforting, and a breath of fresh air after years of Family Guy and American Dad.
Most of us are enjoying this return to the 90’s, but what does that say about us? Are we, in fact, nostalgic for the 90’s, or are we connecting with that desire for change? Do we recognize ourselves in the television, film, and fashion of the time? What does that mean, and does it matter?
Though our focus may have shifted, we’re still in need of change. The social issues that were prevalent in the 90’s are still problems today. As we pull inspiration from the 90’s during our look back, we must make sure it’s a productive flashback if we’re going to learn from it.
I think knowing why we’re nostalgic is helpful. It can help us pinpoint the problems we’re seeing today, and learning from the past might keep us from repeating it.
For the record, I still don’t think the layered look was a mistake. I might head to the nearest thrift shop this weekend to put together an outfit I can wear while I marathon Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Image Credits: Michael Jacobs Productions, Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Television, Bright/Kauffman/Crane Production, Fierce Baby Productions, Fox