Things We Wore In 1997 That We Wouldn't Be Caught Dead Wearing In 2017

The year was 1997. Buffy was killing vampires, Celine promised that our heart would go on, Will Smith flashy-thinged us, and the Backstreet Boys were playing games with our hearts. We lost The Notorious BIG, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, and Gianni Versace. Ellen came out of the closet, the Heavens Gate cult committed suicide, and Bill Clinton was in the middle of his eight year stretch as president. 


The mood was tense, but we were feeling the prosperity of the age, logging into AOL with our 56K modems (if we were lucky) and using pagers to keep in touch. In the midst of this, we were sporting some of the most ridiculous fashion out there, pairing crop tops with JNCO jeans, or dressing like we could skate like Tony Hawk. Get ready to look back on things we wore in 1997 that we wouldn't be caught dead wearing in 2017.

Baggy overalls

Baggy overalls were all the rage throughout the whole of the '90s. "Whether you rocked the look with one strap undone or perhaps even wearing them backward, overalls were totally bangin' in 1997," said Tiffany Reese, the styling marketing lead at Stitch Fix


Musical trio TLC sported baggy overalls earlier in the decade, setting the trend and making it super cool. The Fresh Prince himself rocked them as well, of course with one strap down. And '90s queen Winona Ryder graced the cover of Rolling Stone in 1994 wearing only denim overalls. So it's no surprise that they were featured in the spring 1997 catalog for Delia's, the iconic '90s fashion giant. 

Reese continued, "Street style trends began making their ways onto runways, and later were all the suburban rage," which explains their appearance in the catalog, as well as in everyone's casual wardrobe.

Track attire

Everyone understands the need for comfortable clothing that also looks stylish. But every now and again, a fashion trend catches on that really shouldn't, like wearing track suits (or separates) when you're not on the track team. The look was endemic in 1997, thanks in part to Sporty Spice and her penchant for Adidas pants. Fortunately, you don't see this trend much outside of the gym today. 


Susan Padron, a Philadelphia-based stylist, told me, "Track attire is reserved for gym clothes only." Thank goodness. But according to Padron, you still have an opportunity to look good while working out. She continued, "Even in the gym, the trend of athleisure has taken over." So not only are tracksuits a thing of the past outside the gym, but you probably won't see too many of them inside the gym these days, either.

Flower hair clips

Floral was huge in 1997. Everyone was wearing floral print maxi skirts and dresses, and sometimes even floral print pants. And if you paired your babydoll dress covered in sunflowers with a pair of Doc Martens (this was my go-to look), chances are you snapped some flower clips into your hair to complete the look. We can get down with floral clothing today — it's totally cute. But, it was perfectly acceptable — often encouraged — for adult women to accessorize like little kids back in 1997.


"I had dozens of these," confessed Lindsay Narain, a stylist and the creative director of Vaughan. "I will give myself a pass because I was in my early teens, really the only reason why someone should wear a flower hair clip." Even the most nostalgic of us can acknowledge that!

Rainbow edging

There's no shortage of rainbow accents in the spring 1997 Delia's catalog. A splash of color on your puffy vest or around the neck and sleeves of your shirt could give you a bold and edgy accent — bonus points if you paired it with red sunglasses. As Narain noted, "Rainbow edging was kind of cool!" The addition of these colorful edges gave you "a little '70s retro touch that was a perfect update on things like ringer tees, and a nice foil to the grunge movement." 


So what brought this '70s trend to 1997? Stephania Schwartz, an Ask A Stylist contributor at Stitch Fix suggested that, "The re-boot of Rainbow Brite in '96 may have had something to do with this colorful fad, as both little and big girls alike went wild ROYGBIV-style with everything from edged skirts, shirts, and itty-bitty shorts."

Platform shoes

If you're short like me, the platform shoe craze of the '90s was a blessing, making it easy to grow a few inches simply by putting your shoes on. Unfortunately, everyone else was also wearing platforms, so it wasn't all that helpful for me. But be it with sneaker, flip flop, or full on boot, 1997 was the year to give platforms a serious whirl. 


"It seemed like platform shoes were de rigueur in 1997, fueled by legions of Spice Girl Wannabes," noted Schwartz. And it was super fashionable, at least for a while. Schwartz continued, "This trend tidal-waved its way through practically every style of shoes (hello, platform sneakers!) before washing out in the aughts."

Butterfly clips

Butterfly clips were not the only hair accessory that were popular in the '90s, but they sure were everywhere in 1997. Whether you sported them in your long locks like Sarah Michelle Gellar and Melissa Joan Hart, or clipped your Gwen Stefani buns into place with them, these little plastic clips brought bright, garish colors into the forefront. 


Padron told me she's grateful that they're not making a comeback anytime soon. "Thankfully, trends such as the butterfly hair clip have not resurfaced," she told me, "especially since in the late '90s, 'the more the merrier' was the unfortunate way to wear them (teeth full of braces not included)." Bonus points if you matched the rubber bands on your braces to the clips in your hair (guilty).

Mood rings

The '90s were a time where color-changing technology was fascinating. In the early part of the decade, Hypercolor shirts catapulted onto the market, though they faded — literally and figuratively — due to a host of reasons, glowing armpits possibly included. In 1997, mood rings filled the void, giving color to hormonal and volatile teenage emotions. 


"A throwback from the '70s, mood rings resurged with generation Y and were the only way to vaguely discover whether you were feeling anxious, lovable or angry," according to Jennifer Moulaison, an Ask A Stylist contributor for Stitch Fix. But can you really measure a mood with jewelry? Moulaison doesn't think so. "Let's face it, they were never really very accurate, but they did work wonders as a conversation starter with that cute guy you'd been eyeing across the food court." So while they may have had a use in the days before everyone had a smartphone, it doesn't seem like they'll be coming back anytime soon.

Baggy pants

One of the most outrageous, iconic fashion trends of 1997 — more so than giant flannels or bucket hats — were pants so baggy and huge that you may as well have worn a bolt of fabric to the rave instead. But I can't lie: I had two pairs of JNCO jeans myself that I paired with my Chemical Brothers t-shirt, so I'm guilty of gleefully participating in this ridiculous fashion trend. 


And even though you can still buy JNCO pants, they're not likely to come back into style anytime soon or grace any runways. As Padron noted, "Super baggy pants are no where to be found in the world of denim, but instead they have evolved into classy palazzo pants or harem pants." Sounds like we're safe, for now.

Ball chain necklaces

'90s jewelry trends were all over the map, but there were some real stand-outs. Yin-yangs were all the rage, dangling around our necks and adorning our ears and fingers. Alien and celestial-themed pendants and bracelets were super trendy too, as well as smiley face everything. And chokers, which were super in vogue then, are making a comeback now — you can find them in every department store just like it was 1997. 


Fortunately, however, the clunky, metal ball chain necklaces of 1997 are most definitely not making a comeback. According to Padron, "Ball chains and bike chain jewelry have also been left in the past, so you no longer look like you stole from a mechanic to accessorize your outfit." That's a relief!

Short sleeve over long sleeve

Another classic fashion statement in 1997 was wearing a short-sleeved shirt over a long-sleeved shirt. And while this was helpful if it was cold out (but you still wanted to sport your favorite band t-shirt), it's now seems pretty ridiculous to wear your shirts in the wrong order. And, while similar trends may be making a comeback, this one is staying in 1997 where it crested. 


"While the trend of wearing a spaghetti strap dress over a basic t-shirt has made a come back, the trend for men of wearing a t-shirt over a long sleeved shirt has not," said Padron. The same goes for women, who were just as guilty of the fashion crime back then, but will hopefully not repeat the offense. 


There was nothing more fashionable than being a skater back in 1997. And if you weren't a skater, the next best thing was to dress like you were anyway, even if the only time your tried to skateboard you wiped out after going ten feet on a flat sidewalk. Thankfully, achieving the look didn't require good skate skills, but rather a brazen commitment to skater fashion. And at the time, that especially mandated the proper footwear, which was either Airwalks or Vans. Narain recalled the trend, and told me, "Airwalks were the easy way to show the world we were down with street style and skate culture... without actually having to go near a skateboard." 


If we've learned anything from one of the Internet's most popular viral sensations, it's that Vans have remained fashionable all these years later. Airwalks, on the other hand, while still in business, are synonymous with '90s nostalgia fashion, enshrined in the years when half pipes were church.

Porn star labels

Because nothing makes you sexier than announcing to the world that you're a porn star on your clothing, 1997 featured the ubiquitous "porn star" label that we found on hats, shirts, bags, and anything else with an inch of space. 


"Porn star logos... they used to be everywhere," recalled Padron. "That silhouette of a woman leaning back with her knees bent (and even though it's just a silhouette, you can tell she's naked). I remember seeing that on everything!" And if you thought it was only popular with adults, you're wrong. She continued, "Somehow it was allowed in in my middle school — even with their strict dress code. Girls weren't allowed to show their shoulders, but boys could wear shirts with the silhouette of a naked woman without their being any problems. Thankfully, middle school boys have other trends to follow now!" 

You could also find it sans naked lady, as in the Delia's 1997 spring catalog pictured above. Stay classy!


A lot of fashion from 1997 is coming back

A lot of the 1997 fashion mainstays are coming back into style, like chokers, sheer and lacy fabrics, and even some floral print dresses. It's not surprising, given how cyclical fashion can be. But there are some trends that, thankfully, don't seem like they're going to be resurrected anytime soon. They'll continue to be relics of the past, worn only on dance floors blaring "Barbie Girl" and "Return of the Mack" in succession, and in theaters playing The Fifth Element. And I'm okay with that.