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a guide to those wide ’90s fits

As we once again approach the great ouroboros of pant width and shoulder padding—the kids are trending wide—I am beginning to notice an aesthetic rumbling up  from the edge of retrospective fashion: Everyone is dressing like it's the ’90s. Call it fashion, call it Instagram mood board accounts full of ’90s GQ, wide is back. And unless your Halloween costume is a 2010 skinny jeans throwback, you need to know how to rock this new old look for yourself. From Seinfeld to Armani Fall/Winter ’91, let us dive into some fall fits.

The ’90s is a little harder to nail down to certain aesthetic pieces than, say, the 1930s, due to the fact that fashion has been pretty diffuse in style since the explosion of the casual in the late sixties and early seventies. That being said, there are some distinguishing factors that carry through the ’90s style that we can break down, such as loose and baggy silhouettes, cool textures, and monochromatic experiments that appear in the clothing of the day.

The suits of the ’90s were inescapably under the control of the unstructured, exaggerated, and elongated silhouette pioneered by Giorgio Armani at the beginning of the 1980s. The Armani look was one that harkened back to the relaxed formality of the 1930s with big patterns, casual fabric, and varying texture, but with a more rakish and fashionable look. Instead of a conservatively-cut glen plaid suit, an Armani suit would have extended yet soft shoulders (following the natural line of the shoulder) with a dropped buttoning point and lowered lapel gorge to extend the figure. For this look, the pattern would be exploded to its maximum size. All in all, it creates a more casual and cosmopolitan look than a standard suit would. When you wear Armani of this period, you feel like a rich count waltzing around Europe and the Riviera, the only pressing appointment for the day being your morning espresso and your afternoon aperol spritz.  Imagine late night parties and solitary walks in the streetlight, your only companion the Armani jacket draped around your shoulders. The same philosophy applies to shirts, pants, sweaters, and pretty much anything else that was trending during the decade. Roomy and baggy high-rise pants to go with your roomy shirt to go with your textured roomy sweater: all in all a nice and cozy aesthetic. This style is easy to get a hold of due to the glut of ’80s and ’90s wear scattered around Goodwill and thrift stores. History lesson aside, we can now focus on the particular pieces of this style one can work into their fall and winter wardrobe. 

Starting with suits and jackets, lean toward the more textured and tweedy side, as it will pair better with separates rather than looking like a suit jacket missing its pant-partner. These will not only fit the bundled up fall and winter vibes fast approaching—78-degree weekends aside—but add the visual interest to your outfit a plain worsted would not. Think of the monochrome stylings of the decade as a little challenge: How do I spice up my outfits with similar base colors? Texture and pattern will work wonders here. On the similar topic of overcoats, I would follow the general lines of this trend and go for something big and roomy. A tweed raglan sleeved coat, more reminiscent of a blanket than outerwear, will go well with the relaxed and louche lines of this look. 


In terms of shirts, I would look for either vintage or roomier modern versions that retain the boxy and relaxed shape that Polo Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers had back in the day. For business shirts, go for multi-stripes of white and blue and muted hues like mauve while also working in earth tones and gray for the European monochrome look. For more casual and country shirts, you should aim for plaids and flannel tartans that go with more traditional American styles—think of your dad’s flannels and wide chinos with penny loafers and dock sneakers. A style icon for the more informal side of this aesthetic is George Costanza of Seinfeld fame, not only for wearing a litany of tasteful Ralph Lauren plaids but also for rocking some very nice business fits with brown tweed sports jackets and navy blazers. The American-trad look has always been in the realm of elevated casual, much like the more cosmopolitan Armani look. I find they go very well together for such reasons. 

There are fewer exact guidelines for pants, but I would say: Stick to interesting patterns and textures as well as plain mid-gray and charcoal flannels, as they will go with everything else in your wardrobe. Keep in mind that they should be wide enough through the leg to hang cleanly and not catch anywhere; pleats are optional, but I prefer them to flat front pants. High-rise light-wash jeans, a trending piece right now, are a good option here as well. 

I hope this small rundown of some ’90s hallmarks coming back into style is helpful for your fall wardrobes. Remember to shop smart, wear your fun jackets, and look into an old GQ magazine every now and then… just not at the prices. 

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