While on the hunt for some blog topic ideas, this Vogue article listed ’90s Redux as one of the trends for the upcoming season, describing it as “discreet chic.” The trend has been compounded by the fact that this year will be the 25th anniversary of the death of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and the release of the book CBK: Carolyn Bessette Kennedy: A Life in Fashion, by Sunita Kumar Nair.  

The untimely death of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy along with the fact that she never gave one interview after she was married to John F. Kennedy Jr., made what she chose to wear a huge communicator of who she was.  As this NYT article states, “…what she wore has become a stand-in for who she was,” and much of the reason we still look back at Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy as such an icon today was due to the timelessness of her clothing.  Three words to describe CBK’s style would be minimalism, refinement, and sophistication.  Her wardrobe relied strongly on cherished versatile classic basics.  Instead of adopting the current trends, Bessette-Kennedy held to the timeless classic style.  You can view some of her most iconic looks here.

LATE 90’S MINIMALIST FASHION

Much unlike the early 90’s, late 90’s minimalist fashion was much quieter.   The trend included:

  •  Neutral Colors: Minimalist fashion of the 90s often featured a palette of neutral colors such as white, black, beige, gray, and navy blue. These colors were versatile and easy to mix and match.
  • Clean Lines and Silhouettes: Clothing in the minimalist style typically had simple, clean lines and shapes. This included tailored trousers, shift dresses, A-line skirts, and boxy tops.
  • Quality Fabrics: Emphasis was placed on the quality of fabrics used, with a preference for natural materials such as cotton, wool, linen, and silk. These fabrics added to the sophistication of minimalist outfits.
  • Layering: Layering was a common technique used in minimalist fashion to add dimension to outfits without sacrificing simplicity.  
  • Minimalist Accessories: Accessories were kept to a minimum, with a focus on clean and simple designs. This might include delicate jewelry, such as thin gold chains or stud earrings, and classic accessories like leather belts and structured handbags.
  • Functional Footwear: Shoes in the minimalist fashion trend were often practical and functional. This could include simple leather loafers, sleek ankle boots, or minimalist sneakers.
  • Effortless Hair and Makeup: Hair and makeup in the minimalist style were understated and natural-looking. This might involve simple hairstyles like sleek buns or loose waves, and makeup that focused on enhancing natural features rather than making a bold statement.

WHY IS 90’S MINIMALIST FASHION BACK?

Well, the simple answer to that question would be that what goes around eventually comes around again but analysts are saying it’s the embrace of functional minimalism in the face of global turmoil that has brought minimalist fashion back.  It stands to reason, for sure.  90’s minimalist fashion, with its classic pieces, transcends time.  

STYLING THE LATE 90’S MINIMALIST TREND FOR WORK

Minimalist fashion is definitely my jam and look, not to mention the height of my fashion design days was right smack in this trend period.  It’s unfussy, uncomplicated, favors quality over quantity, and is neutral-driven.  It’s well-made basics, heritage designers, and well-fitting pieces that will carry you not just over the years but for a variety of occasions.  Minimalist fashion speaks, it doesn’t yell.

I have put together five classic late 90’s minimalist-inspired work looks to give you some inspiration and ideas on how you can embrace this look.

OUTFIT #1

I was just having a conversation with a client about a Max Mara raincoat I have that shows no signs of wear despite wearing it to death and buying it resale. It looks as good as the day I purchased it. Minimalist style hinges on high quality and fit because there is no running or hiding behind lots of ruffles, trims, or extraneous details. This is also a look that gets you more with less due to the versatility found in the pieces which also means you can invest more in less. This does not mean you have to purchase everything off the rack and can easily build your wardrobe around timeless investment pieces purchased secondhand. Yet, keep in mind, when you buy less you can afford to spend more.

I created this very timeless minimalist look by styling this Burberry classic trench with a white oxford from Everlane, and black pants from Argent. The look is finished with mushroom-colored block heel pumps from M.Gemi, ridged hoop earrings from Quince, a red satchel from Teddy Blake, and a printed scarf by artist Sonny Ross that is part of the Echo’s Echo100 to celebrate their centennial and support various causes.

OUTFIT #2

I created this very iconic Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy look by styling this camel MM. Lafleur skirt with a short-sleeved turtleneck top from Lauren Ralph Lauren that I layered under this double-face wool coat from Theory. I finished the look with cocoa brown boots from Tory Burch, a camel Longchamp tote, classic pearl earrings, and a link bracelet from Kendra Scott.

OUTFIT #3

Collars have been popular for seasons so it makes sense that the polo shirt has made a comeback for spring. I styled this polo from COS with navy wide-leg trousers from FRAME. I finished the look with a navy bowler bag from Linjer, tan wedges from Cole Haan, a tan belt from Reiss, Argento Vivo hoops, and a camel wrap scarf from J.Crew.

OUTFIT #4

minimalist

Discreet chic is all about mixing basics in minimalist yet compelling ways. I styled this basic cashmere sweater from J.Crew with pintuck crop flare pants from Vince and a plaid blazer from Veronica Beard. The look is finished with a pair of cognac loafers from Quince, a brown bag from Demellier, and crystal drop earrings from Kenneth Jay Lane.

OUTFIT #5

minimalism

One versatile dress can give you a ton of uses. In this look, I styled this black sheath style from BOSS with a pair of kitten heel slingbacks, and a trench cape from Cuyana, and further finished the outfit with a Tory Burch bag aptly named the Lee Radziwill bag (Lee Radwiwill was the younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), a pair of polarized sunglasses, pendant necklace from Monica Vinader, and leather gloves from Portolano.