Our ‘90s fashion conjures two memorable images: a man dressed in a crimson jacket with a big golden chain around his neck and a woman in coloured leggings, bright make-up and backcombed hair.
The must-have pieces of the ‘90s in Ukraine were Turkish sweaters and ‘Malvinas’ jeans. Actually, ‘Malvinas’ was a corruption of the brand name Mawin. While men boasted ornamental Turkish sweaters, ladies squeezed themselves into black stretch dresses 24/7. The alternative trending look back then consisted of leather vests and jackets with rivets or biker jackets worn with T-shirts and heavy boots.
We bought these outfits at flea markets. The largest one of such venues in Kyiv buzzed at the “Respublikanskyi” central stadium (has been named the “Olimpiiskyi” National Sporting Arena since 1996). Private traders, nicknamed “shuttles”, imported scarce consumer goods, clothes and footwear from Poland, China, and Turkey to Ukraine.
Second-hand shops were popular among low- income fashionistas who created many items themselves and popular “frosted jeans (tie-dye)” were homemade as almost everything homemade was cheaper. The extreme poverty of the 1990s in Ukraine did not prevent resourceful folk from looking bright, bold and fashionable. For the very ‘90s were all about experiments, the sexual revolution, and the destruction of political and moral boundaries.
The Noughties or 2000s in our country spark in memory as a decade of heavy glamour. As for the street fashion, ‘Luxury and shine’ were now a thing. Even sportswear became glamorous. Remember velour Juicy Couture tracksuits? Rhinestones, jewellery and sequins adorned them as well as almost everything, jeans, in particular. As for trousers in general, the waistband crawled lower and lower, and at the same time the skirt length steadily went upwards. The more body on show, the better: girls combined their micro-skirts with crop tops.
Extremely low waist gave rise to thong panties shown when the owner of the low-waisted pants leaned over. Alongside ‘glam sport’, military, boho chic, and afro styles gained popularity. Hip-hop rappers influenced fashion with Stunna hats, straight visor caps, oversized T-shirts and baseball jackets. Our millennials experimented with clashing fabrics, flashy colours and mixed previously incompatible styles.
Мода 2010-х більш екологічна, комфортна й певною мірою політична. The 2010s fashion was more environmentally friendly, comfortable and somewhat political. The Maidan protests and the Russian-Ukrainian war brought traditional embroidered shirts back into fashion. First, as a symbol of unity and patriotism, then as festive attire. The Ukrainians consciously chose the cloths of local Ukrainian designers, and the designers focused on their costumers’ preferences. Fashionistas learned to appreciate the fabric and texture of their wear rather than the opportunity to surprise. Comfort became our creed. We switched uncomfortable heels to flip-flops and ‘dad’s’ sneakers. An emergent ‘travel chic’ trend made fleeces, hikers, balaclavas and ski jackets popular. The classic down bomber jacket proved a hit one more time. Comfort fashion embraced pyjamas and nightgown styles. Girls wore ‘pyjama suits’ and slip-dresses. Bare ankles became a thing even in the freezing winter. Not everyone knew about those tiny footsie-socks or runner-liners yet and, so, “How come you aren’t wearing any socks?” became a question!
In the late ‘10s, string bags and re-usable fabric bags with provocative inscriptions made a comeback. Environmental friendliness became a conscious trend just like philosophical movements — normcore and comfortorianism. The former was about refusing to be fashionable. The latter promoted maximum comfort in clothes and a way of life — no makeup, no hair styling, only roomy and pleasant attire, please. And so, ‘unfashionable’ young people came into fashion; denying trends became a trend. And after a while, anti-fashion” itself became a mainstream.
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Photo from the private archive of Alena Grom
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Portraits taken in a provincial photo salon in the 90's
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Alexander Zhirnov's home photo album
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Leather and denim jackets of the 90s
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