6 Style Tricks Every '90s Kid Already Knows

There's no doubt that the teens of today bring a fresh perspective on style. But from what we remember — and everything we've ever gleaned from movies, magazines, and YA novels — the one thing that all former middle schoolers have in common is a unique sense of experimentation when it comes to clothing. Unlike other phases of young adulthood, middle school felt like the chapter when our sartorial identities fully started to develop; style decisions were finally completely our own (whether our parents agreed or not); trends felt palpable thanks to the influence of peers and pop culture; and, not-so-coincidentally, it was probably the first time we were ever allowed at the mall without supervision. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the outfits — or at the very least, the lessons we learned then — are still so applicable.

Chalk it up to nostalgia or an appreciation for simpler days or the time of year, but ahead, we're revisiting all the old favorites. Using the '90s-inspired Macy's fall collection, we're tapping into our inner preteen's fearlessness, love of accessories abound, and maybe even a self-professed awkward phase to craft looks that we want to wear now. Thankfully the six clashing, unexpected, experimental ensembles ahead encompass all those qualities — without a hint of what was I wearing? cringe.
Photographed by Rebekah Campbell.
Occasion Clashing
Save for a few bat mitzvahs or an older cousin’s graduation bash, our social calendars weren’t exactly bustling at 12 or 13 years old. But that never held us back from wearing a special piece for a just 'cause reason, and the same goes today.

Our current occasion-clashed look comes courtesy of a tailored, metallic two-piece set dressed down with a striped tee. It's part P.E., part disco...or rather, 8th grade dance at the school gym.
Photographed by Rebekah Campbell.

Not-So-Subtle Accessories
Anyone who attended middle school in the '90s probably remembers peace signs, sunflowers, and big, yellow smiley faces as ubiquitous symbols in fashion that were splattered on at least half the backpacks and notebooks in homeroom.

Instead of wearing all of them again at once, opt for just one iconic piece. It'll stand out especially well against super-laid-back silhouettes: cropped pants (think high-water, just-went-through-a-growth-spurt short), classic Vans (both in footwear and in a logo tee), and a stack of choker necklaces FTW.
Photographed by Rebekah Campbell.
Throwback Trademarks
Admittedly, in middle school a lot of the brands and logos we wore on our tees, backpacks, and hoodies were often influenced by what the cool kids (however we might have defined them) were wearing. While there’s nothing wrong with a bit of peer-to-peer inspo, think of today’s conspicuous branding as more of a personal declaration of love for timeless labels that shaped our style — and less about what everyone else is doing.
Photographed by Rebekah Campbell.
Unlikely Layers
We might consider ourselves masterful today when it comes to layering, but we'll argue that we took even more creative liberties and an anything-goes approach to it in middle school. Let’s revisit that, shall we? Here, '90s raver mesh goes a bit more daytime-friendly in a finer weave and paired with opaque layers (unless you prefer more skin, then more power to you).

Meanwhile, the signature dress silhouette of the decade (and right now) — the slip dress — looks less formal over a T-shirt. While a solid white one works, we prefer to go for bold in a contrasting camo pattern. Take it one step further (or back, actually), with patchwork and candy-hued jewelry that's plucked right from those summer camp days.
Photographed by Rebekah Campbell.

Prepped For Play
Our younger selves had a real knack for styling looks that could keep up with our many varied activities throughout the day. There were skorts that avoided any awkward mishaps during an impromptu game of tag; velcro sneakers that meant we didn’t have to crouch down 10 times to tie our laces again; and easy one-piece jumpsuits that saved us time in the morning and were ideal for hanging from monkey bars.

While we may have far fewer opportunities for that kind of spontaneous fun nowadays, those ready-for-anything pieces are making a comeback — especially the aforementioned sneakers and playsuit — and can be peppered in with modern touches, such as geometric jewelry and a sporty, colorblocked zip-up.
Photographed by Rebekah Campbell.