Unpure, Unchaste: Liz Phair Fashion of the Early 1990s

I have to admit that I wasn’t aware of Liz Phair until about 2002, when I was a sophomore in high school, long past the heyday of early 90s music. I’m not quite too sure how I stumbled upon her third album whitechocolatespaceeggwhich was released in 1998. This album was released after the arguable monumental Exile in Guyville in 1993, making it 24 years old today. So the Phair I knew I was aware of was significantly different than the Liz Phair of the early 90s. And even more different than the iteration of Phair in 2002, which was significantly more poppy and mainstream.

At 15, her music was a revelation. I remember hearing the song “Flower,” and thinking, “Wow you can say stuff like that? It’s OK to express those feelings?” The song today still feels a bit scandalous, but yet encapsulates a lot of what love feels like. Not even young love, but early love.

Every time I see your face
I think of things unpure, unchaste
I want to fuck you like a dog
I’ll take you home and make you like it

Liz Phair, “Flower”

In our image driven society, it feels odd to think about how I never concerned myself about what Phair looked like outside of what was on her album covers. Sure, I had the Internet, but it never crossed my mind to look up photos of her. So when I sat down to visit (not even revisit) the style of Liz Phair, I had no idea really what I was going to encounter.

I have to say, I was a bit shocked. Her look and image seemed very scandalous for the early 90s, and even though it’s tame by today’s standards, it still has that “Fuck everyone, I’m doing what I want” feeling that stands the test of time. It’s the type of sexy and scandalous that doesn’t quite give much, or anything away but still left me feeling uncomfortable in a way that doesn’t quite feel possible today.

I wish there were more photos of Phair from the 90s in the Internet, because they are, honestly, the best. They seem to capture the feeling of her music, the time, the mix of rage and femininity. Not to mention her style was on point without being over the top. Acid washed jeans, plain tees, body suits, metallic mini skirts. In these 90s photos, she never seems overshadowed by her clothes, nor does she ever seem to be saying, “I don’t care about fashion.” Feels like a hard line to walk and still be a meaningful musician.

And some reflections on Phair’s career would seem to say she didn’t walk the line well, that her sexuality and too-strong feminism backfired when she tried to expand and reach a wider audience. Perhaps this is what pushed her to be more poppy in the early 2000s with releases of “Why Can’t I,” which shared lyrics about a softer, less fuck-focused side of love. She’s still hinting at it, though in a seemingly way less clever way with lyrics like, “What if this is just the beginning / We’re already wet, and we’re gonna go swimming.”

Fashion-wise, Phair still seems to be trying recapture that scandalous/sexy feel she had in the early 1990s, but these are different times and somehow, it just feel like it’s trying to hard. I don’t want this part of the post to detract from how iconic her style was in the 1990s, so you can go and google new photos for yourself and see what I’m talking about.

Liz Phair definitely captured a feeling of the early 1990s, this feeling of uncertainty and anger and angst and change so many different things that built up in America through the Reagan and Bush presidencies. The music still stands up today, and while not all of the clothing still does, it definitely helped capture a feeling in time.

Hope Floats: The Best of Late 90s Fashion

I recently found myself clicking around on Netflix and stumbled across the 90s movie section. I randomly decided on watching  Hope Floats, a movie I remembered but hadn’t seen in 15 years. OK, it isn’t amazing, it has a 33% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But the fashion is amazing. It’s everything I love about 90s fashion.

As a fervent thrifter, I find myself drawn to all things 90s. The only type of style I don’t like is anything overly ironic. I appreciate the simplicity of the 90s, with its florals and pastels and high necklines along with knotted dress shirts. Hope Floats encapsulates a lot of things that I love about finding 90s clothes while thrifting. I definitely have nostalgia for that time, though I definitely came of age fashion-wise in the 2000’s.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s about how Sandy Bullock got cheated on and moved back home to Texas with her kid. That’s pretty much all you need to know. I wanted to share some of my favorite style moments from Hope Floats. For this film, Anna Abbey was the Key Costumer. Released in 1998, this movie does a great job at encapsulating the late 90s style as we moved into the early 2000s

Layered Necklaces and Southwestern Jewelry

Romona Culvert, played by Gena Rowlands, had a very distinct 90s style of wearing jewelry that has remained kind of timeless. Her character wore layered necklaces, at least five at a time with one cross.  I liked the pairing of the layered necklaces with distinct turquoise and Southwestern jewelry, which remains classic. It’s also worth noting that Hope Floats played it right. The grandma was the only character who really wore a ton of jewelry. Most other characters kept it simple aside from a watch or basic necklace.

High Neck Sheath Dresses

Birdie Pruitt, played by Sandra Bullock, was outfitted in many quintessentially 90s dresses. In this scene, she wore a high necked floral sheath dress with pastel colors and a cardigan. Sometimes the matchy matchy-ness of the 90s irks me, but I still love this style. I like how this outfit is coupled with simplistic hair and minimal jewelry.

Clear Framed Glasses

I also appreciated the stylistic touch that Abbey put on Bernice Pruitt, played by Mae Whitman. In movies, kids can be easy to gloss over. One aspect that stood out to me about Bernice’s style was her clear framed sunglasses, which have been making a come back as of late, especially with adults who are perhaps  feeling nostalgic for the eyeglasses of their childhood. Warby Parker is calling them “crystal” instead of clear, but you know, they’re clear.

Front Tied Men’s Shirts

A front tied men’s shirt on a woman is a style that’s both very 90s and 50s at the same time. So in other words, a throwback to a throwback. I really love this take on it. It looks like an oversized men’s shirt was cuffed at the sleeve about three times and tied in the front. The crisp whiteness of it makes it classic all around.

Classic Texas Menswear

Not to be overshadowed, the styling for Justin Mattisse, played by Harry Connick Jr., is so quintessentially Texas. Pictured hear in a graphic tee, loose Levi’s and a cowboy hat, I can guarantee you that I routinely see men in Texas dressed this same exact way today. There’s also some great scenes of him in denim-on-denim looks. The styling for Justin is both 90s and classic.

I hope you enjoyed this Hope Floats roundup! I think we can all agree that it’s not a great movie per se, but it is very 90s!

Welcome to Can’t Hardly Dress

About a month ago, I was stuck in bed with pneumonia, which was THE worst, and I found myself stumbling around Netflix and happened upon the 90s movie section. I was immediately pulled into the movies of my adolescence–Hope Floats, 10 Things I Hate About You, Practical Magic, the list goes on. OK, so some of these movies are still really good. And others just have amazing fashion that embodied at least the later part of the 90s. I found myself wondering, “Man, I really wish there were blogs back when these movies were out!” But then I realized, hey, I can make that blog NOW!

No one asked for this blog, I don’t know if anyone even wants it, but I want to talk about 90s movie fashion and 90s fashion in general. That’s how this blog happened.

I realize I’m not an expert–after all I was born in 1986 and was pretty unaware of fashion until my local mall got a  5-7-9, which now appears to have been bought out by a plus sized store, ironically. This was around the same time Clueless came out in 1995, around the time where the early 90s collided with the later 90s. I wore blue angora cropped sweaters, tattoo necklaces and even had a feather pen, just like Cher.

I realize there’s a lot of the 90s I’m not aware of, because frankly put, I was just too young to be aware of grunge kids, plaid button downs and raves, because you know, elementary school and lack of Internet back in the day. I think a blog is a cool way to explore that culture I’m only aware of as apart of our collective cultural memory.

So, what will be found on this blog? Excellent question. I plan to share fashions from movies and TV as well as places those styles can be found today. I also want to share personal reflections and how my own style was influenced by the 90s. I’m sure it will be about a lot of other things, too, but this is just the start.