Inspired by Chloé's homage to the decade’s cool girls for SS16, here’s your essential guide to the style heroines who mastered simplicity in excess
At Chloé’s SS16 show yesterday, the notes consisted of a list of enigmatic first names: Kate, Courtney, Corinne. Or, at least, they would be enigmatic if it weren’t for the visions of radical 90s style they immediately project. These names whisper of cool Britannia: where, worlds away from the Spice Girls and Raver Nation, fashion was falling hard for the imperfect glamour of a new style of fashion photography, and a new way of wearing clothes. Favouring the mismatched and slightly awkward over the airbrushed, this version of the 90s is the point where fashion becomes an instrument of selfhood rather than pure aspiration. It's when less-than-perfect becomes sexy. After the track tops and flowing skirts of Chloe’s SS16 outing recalled the label’s 90s heyday, here’s our guide to the ultimate style definers of the decade.
It’s impossible to put the influence of the late Corinne Day’s neorealist style on fashion photography into words. Containing humour, warmth and, at times, pain, her raw photos appeared in magazines like Dazed and The Face and captured an entire movement in British fashion. Her photos of Kate Moss for magazines launched the model’s career – more importantly, they showed that fashion imagery could be messy, tangled up with real life as well as a dream.
Kate Moss’ stylistic influence during the decade goes without saying – as the poster girl of the documentary-style movement in fashion, her look embodied a rebellious, youthful mood. But she also carved her own style on a personal level, apparently getting a taste for second-hand clothes on Camden and Portobello market trips with Corinne Day. The very early days shows Moss’ nascent style before designers were ready to give her clothes: sheer lace slip dresses, double denim, and, a little later, his and hers leather jackets with Johnny Depp.
Chloë Sevigny’s preppy-punk look, originating somewhere in the suburban Connecticut of her youth, continues to fascinate the movie world and fashion world alike. Sevigny was already on-the-rise when she interned at Sassy, modelling for Kim Gordon’s X-Girl soon after. But it was the moment that Kids was released in 1995 that Sevigny's reputation as a style heroine was sealed: her pudding bowl haircut and taste for thrifted clothes were immortalised by photographers like Mark Bothwick and, for a Miu Miu campaign, Juergen Teller.
The image of Courtney Love’s too-short baby doll dress, tattered fur coat and shock of platinum hair – as topped with a tiara, of course – is seared on the memory of anyone who lived through the decade. Dubbed "kinderwhore", her thrifted style brought vintage clothes into the mainstream. Still, high fashion can’t seem to get over Courtney: after her appearance in Hedi Slimane’s campaign for his Saint Laurent debut, she performed with a bunch of robots at Phillipp Plein’s show last week.
The face of Dolce & Gabbana and Miu Miu in the 90s, Ferguson was the Brit model who, along with Kate, became the poster girl for alt-fashion. Rosemary’s speciality was giving sexed-up photography tropes a tomboyish edge, often sans bra: she wore a sheer tank top, choker and greasy looking hair for the cover of The Face in June 1992, and one later shot by Corinne sees her in the photographer’s hand-made “spiderweb” top.
A fashion world polymath, Ukrainian model, singer and actress Milla Jovovich spent the better part of the 90s cementing her style status through the lens of fashion photographers and on our screens with roles in cult films like Dazed and Confused and The Fifth Element. Before the decade was out, she appeared on Dazed’s June 1999 cover – giving two fingers to beauty norms in her shiny bikini top, bridal veil and unshaven armpits.
With news that Lush are reforming this week bringing joy to the hearts of shoegazers everywhere, Miki Berenyi’s style is on our minds again. The unsung heroine behind feminist anthems like "Ladykillers" favoured thrift shop dresses much like Courtney Love – her signature tomato red locks and penchant for sequins, in a male-dominated genre of music not known for its style, made her stand out.
You don’t close the 90s with the same Polly Jean Harvey with which you began. When she first came on the scene, the alt-rock trailblazer had scraped back hair, a make-up free face and wore a single hoop earring on the cover of her debut album, Dry. In 1995, she appeared at Glastonbury in a hot pink zip-up jumpsuit with false lashes and bright blue eyeshadow. It was a transformation that redefined what strong femininity could mean in music.
You might know Jaime King from acting roles in Sin City and Blow, but the actress was originally known as James: the Omaha schoolgirl who would walk for Alexander McQueen and Gucci, right behind Kate and Naomi. In February 1996, Nan Goldin photographed King for a New York Times cover story, 'James is a Girl'. The photo-essay, following a sixteen year-old King during Paris and New York Fashion Weeks, became one of the decade's most enduring reference points for the youth-driven fashion moment – and made "backstage photography" beautiful.
Lisa Bonet rose to fame in The Cosby Show, but by the time she had left the show in the 90s her bohemian, thrown together style made her a poster girl for the hippy hangover-meets-grunge aesthetic of the first part of the decade. Along with short-lived husband Lenny Kravitz, she was the queen of the accessory: top hat, oversized nose ring and stacked necklace essential.