Topics in the News
The phrase "dress-down days" had barely been seen in print at the start of the 1990s, yet within a few years the idea of casual clothing worn at the office took off. Employers and employees called the innovation the casual day, casual Friday, or office casual. By some estimates, loosened dress codes applied to half of all U.S. workers by 1995. A survey published in the May 1996 issue of McCall's revealed that 64 percent of all readers who responded worked in an office with a casual-day policy that applied year-round. Although employers often instituted these policies as perks, some workers found them confusing. Traditional offices had definite rules for dress; casual offices did not. A host of seminars, magazine articles, and books tried to fill the void. Levi Strauss, which in 1996 estimated that 90 percent of employers allowed some casual days and 33 percent had full-time casual-dress policies, spent millions on ads, brochures, videos, and training to instruct people about the new corporate climate. Some New York City investment-bank bosses even left voice-mail messages specifying what was acceptable. Employers sometimes worried about these new policies when they saw workers showing up in bike shorts and sweatshirts. Although each office had different standards, general rules emerged in this new era of office attire. The idea was to look comfortable and casual, but...
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Clothing Trends for Men
Men in the 1990s had almost unprecedented freedom when it came to office attire. Dress-down Fridays and casual days loosened dress codes at offices across the United States. Men once accustomed to wearing a dark suit, formal button-down shirt, tie, and wingtips discovered a variety of new styles, both formal and informal. The suit, of course, did not disappear. Men still bought traditional suits, both single-and double-breasted versions, in standard shades of blue, black, and gray. Ties never went out of style, and their widths remained moderate—neither exceedingly narrow nor ostentatiously wide—although their colors and designs became more vibrant. New fashion twists were employed, however. Sport coats came in leather, tailored suits were paired with T-shirts, and denim shirts went with everything.
While the traditional suit never disappeared, it relinquished its role as the only option for the office. American men bought thirteen million suits in 1994, down by 1.6 million since 1989. Neckties became optional on some or even all days, depending on a man's career and his office environment. In its place, jeans, khakis, polo shirts, casual button-down shirts, and even sneakers became acceptable in many offices on designated days. Some companies, particularly high-tech operations with plenty of young...
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Clothing Trends for Women
Minimalism to Millennium.
No one particular style defined women's fashions in the 1990s. Skirts were long and short, depending on the season. Blouses were either modestly romantic or daringly sheer. Pants could be wide-legged or tailored. No color seemed to dominate, as designers showed—and women wore—fashions in everything from grays, blacks, and whites to blues, pinks, and reds. Vogue took this view on the decade in its July 1998 edition: "In fashion, it's been a dizzying ride. Early on, designers set impossibly strict standards for women, stripping down style to monk-like minimalism. That period was followed by a no-holds-barred revival of all things lavish and ornamental. But now the pendulum has swung toward a less extreme middle ground, a place of under-stated luxury and a quiet, very modern comfort. The nineties as we see them now are about a less constructed, more personal look—which women, not surprisingly, support."
Classic to Sexy.
Despite the nod to individual style, designers still tried to set the standards of each season by introducing fashions that varied from minimalist to extravagant. Jil Sander of Germany won over American women with her spare lines and basic palette. Miuccia Prada for the Milan, Italy-based House of Prada also developed a strong following in the United States with designs that emphasized...
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Clothing Trends for Youth
The Grunge Look.
American youth greeted the new decade in ripped-up jeans. The look, a carryover from the 1980s, featured jeans—new and old—with strategically placed horizontal slits, usually across the knee. The trend was just a harbinger of what was ahead. A new fashion scene took shape in 1991, when the Seattle-based alternative rock band Nirvana released its commercial breakthrough album, Nevermind. Suddenly, the Seattle music scene—and its image—was the look for Generation X, as teens and young adults in their twenties were sometimes called. The music tapped into the sense of angst shared by many young people as the economy continued to spiral downward early in the decade. Grunge was a response to the power dressing and elitism of the 1980s, as rock bands such as Sound-garden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana led the way. Their look, rooted in urban bohemianism and club comfort, was emulated by youth around the country. The new uniform was not only easy to assemble, it was cheap: thrift-store finds fit in perfectly. Loose-fitting pants—either old jeans or long shorts for both girls and guys—formed the basis of the look. Thrift-store trousers were also acceptable. Ratty flannel, button-down shirts worn over T-shirts, or long-sleeved undershirts defined grunge. Torn corduroy jackets or old cardigans were optional. Converse high-top sneakers, boots, and...
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A Designer Murder.
Italian designer Gianni Versace had just returned home from getting coffee at a café near his South Beach, Miami, home. As he neared the steps of his house, around 8:30 a.m. on 15 July 1997, he was shot in the back of the head and then once more as he lay on the ground. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police announced that they suspected the gunman was Andrew Phillip Cunanan, age twenty-seven, a suspect in several other murders around the United States. Cunanan was found dead on 23 July 1997 in a Miami houseboat after a four-hour standoff with police. The assailant's death brought little relief to a fashion public that had grown quite fond of the slain designer's work.
A Popular Designer.
Versace was born on 2 December 1946 in Reggio di Calabria, Italy. His mother, Francesca, was a dressmaker; he fashioned puppets from remnants found on the floor of her workroom. At nine he designed his first dress: a one-shoulder gown made from velvet. Versace learned much in the clothing racks of his mother's shop, including the tailoring and selling techniques that would later help him develop a $1 billion fashion empire. Versace worked for his mother until he was twenty-five. Although he never attended design school, he moved to Milan in 1972 to design for a series of Italian labels. After his brother, Santo, joined him to...
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Modern Architecture: Design
Modernism, Postmodernism, Deconstructivism.
No one architectural style defined the 1990s, as several themes played a role in building designs at the end of the century. Modernism, which came to prominence in the 1960s, featured rectilinear geometry, minimalism, and an ordering of space; its philosophy called for form to follow function. It gave way to postmodernism in the late 1970s and 1980s. Postmodernism linked present and past designs, as well as brought ornamentation and context back to architecture. Deconstructivism followed, although it waned quickly. Deconstructivist architecture was identified by its fragmented forms. A "Deconstructivist Architecture" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in June 1988 provided a glimpse of what was ahead. The exhibition featured the works, most yet to be built, of Frank O. Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, Bernard Tschumi, and Coop Himmelblau. Mark Wigley, associate curator of the MOMA show, wrote: "What is being disturbed is a set of deeply entrenched cultural assumptions which underlie a certain view of architecture, assumptions about order, harmony, stability and unity." Each movement, though, had its share of criticism. Some critics accused modernism in its pure form of ignoring people's emotional needs; others saw postmodernism, particularly with its early reliance on facades, as superficial in its...
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Modern Architecture: Museums and Monuments
Museum construction reached new heights at the end of the twentieth century.These buildings drew on diverse styling elements, ranging from the objects the museums were intended to house to the surrounding environment to history itself. Starting in the 1980s and carrying into the 1990s, Europe, Japan, and, to a lesser extent, the United States commissioned new architectural treasures to house artistic jewels. One of the most significant projects was American architect I. M. Pei's work for the Louvre in Paris, France. In the first phase, completed in 1989, Pei erected the famous modernistic glass pyramid as a new entrance amid the nineteenth-century architecture of the Cour Napoleon. The second phase, completed in 1993, encompassed the Richelieu wing. Pei, who was tapped for the project by French president François-Maurice Mitterrand, doubled the Louvres exhibition space with his renovation of the three-story Richelieu wing. He also invited criticism by combining the museum with an underground shopping gallery, but the elegant new commercial area features an
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Modern Interior Designs
Diversity in Design.
No single look defined interior design in the 1990s. Styles were influenced by every-thing from minimalism to the Arts-and-Crafts movement; professional interior designers and American consumers alike drew on regional styles, historical trends, and personal tastes to create dwellings that were highly individualistic. Minimalism, as the name suggests, highlighted the absence of decoration. Walls and doors were white, windows were bare, and furnishings were spare. Critics thought it sterile and impersonal; proponents, on the other hand, found the design style calming and said it focused attention on the quality of the few pieces that were visible. A passion for antiques balanced minimalism. Americans gathered all sorts of collectibles at auctions, flea markets, and yard sales to help create homes that looked as if they had been in their family for generations. A renewed interest in art deco and the simple, clean, and almost futuristic lines of the 1950s also helped designers create interiors reminiscent of the past. Meanwhile, the Arts-and-Crafts movement brought to prominence regional furniture makers whose specialty pieces featured fine workmanship and individual designs. Another trend in the 1990s brought the outside indoors: wall colors mirrored natural shades, while large windows and skylights let in natural light. Designers also focused on the environment when...
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New Automotive Designs
The family sedan was just one of many popular designs in the 1990s, but Americans also bought everything from bulky sport utility vehicles (SUVs) to the rounded Volkswagen Beetle to sleek, luxury roadsters. Designers throughout most of the decade seemed to base their creations not so much on their imaginations as on the dictates of government rules on safety, fuel economy, and the environment. Some notable designs included the 1994 Chrysler LH sedans, which moved the base of the windshield forward and increased the wheelbase by pushing the rear wheels back to create a new look; the 1998 Mercedes-Benz ML320 SUV combined carlike qualities without sacrificing off-road capability. Another important design was the Ford Taurus. When Ford Motors introduced the 1986 Taurus, its softly rounded contours were a sharp contrast to the boxy-looking cars favored in the early and mid 1980s. The "jelly bean" look came to dominate the shape of the early 1990s, as the Taurus ranked as the best-selling car in the United States for three years running. Automotive designers, however, moved away from that shape later in the decade, as the market for automobiles—the cost of which averaged above $20,000—became increasingly fragmented. Designers pushed for more distinctive looks for the hundreds of models of cars and trucks on the market. Even Ford decided to restyle the Taurus. On 27 September 1995,...
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Gehry, Frank O. 1929-
Born in Toronto, Canada, Frank O. Gehry came to the forefront of architecture well before the 1990s. He studied at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (1949-1951) and at Harvard University (1956—1957). The principal of Gehry and Associates, Los Angeles, since 1962, he received the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1989. When he accepted the award, he spoke about establishing a link between art and architecture that would influence his work for the next decade: "I explored the process of new construction materials to try giving feeling and spirit to form. In trying to find the essence of my own expression, I fantasized that I was an artist standing before a white canvas deciding what the first move should be."
Architecture as Art.
Gehry was a pioneer in the movement to return architecture to its standing as fine art. One example of his links to art is the Chiat/Day Main Street building, completed in 1991, in Venice, California. The façade of the building is an enormous pair of black binoculars designed by Gehry's friends Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Cars...
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Hilfiger, Tommy 1952-
Tommy Hilfiger started his fashion career by peddling jeans around New York state and opening a string of small clothing stores. He later worked as a designer for Jordache. In 1984 he teamed up with Hong Kong tycoon Mohan Murjani to set up his own design shop and introduce his first collection. Hilfiger compared himself with established American designers, such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, in early advertisements. Although the industry scoffed at such boldness, Hilfiger's success in the menswear market came quickly when, in 1992, his preppie-style clothes caught on with black teenagers. In 1995 he was named the Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Tapping a Market.
Hilfiger embraced the inner-city market, adding urban flair to his fairly conservative clothes by emphasizing oversized logos and baggy styles. In the 16 September 1996 issue of Time, Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records, contended that "Tommy's clothing represents the American Dream to black kids. They're not interested in buying holey jeans; they want...
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Karan, Donna 1948-
Donna Karan was literally born into the world of fashion in 1948. Her father was a tailor and her mother a model and showroom representative. She designed her first collection in high school. Karan attended the Parson's School of Design, but dropped out after her second year to join Anne Klein. She was fired nine months later and went to work for another sports-wear house. She returned to Klein in 1968, however, and became an associate designer in 1971. When Karan was named head designer in 1973 she asked her school friend Louis Dell'Olio to join her as co-designer. Together, they created a classic, yet stylish, sportswear look. Her early training and connections helped in forming her own company. Karan and her husband, Stephan Weiss, founded Donna Karan New York in 1984; Klein's parent company, Takihyo Corporation, backed the new firm. By the end of the 1990s, Karan was one of the leading designers in the United States.
Clothes that Hug and Hide.
Karan's first collection was based on body-conscious wear: a body suit to be worn with long or short skirts, blouses, and pants. Well-tailored coats and bold accessories completed the wardrobe, which from the beginning were made of luxurious materials. Karan, who often wore layers of black cashmere, designed her clothes and accessories based...
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Klein, Calvin 1942-
Calvin Klein, in many ways, defined American fashion at the end of the twentieth century. Klein was born in the Bronx, New York, and attended the New York High School of Art and Design. Starting with dresses and coats, he soon branched out into sportswear. In his twenty-five years as a top designer, Klein promoted his vision of minimalism and sophisticated fashions in natural fabrics and colors. Klein formed Calvin Klein Ltd. in 1968 and built his business into a fashion empire over the next three decades, creating women's ready-to-wear and sportswear, menswear, underwear, home furnishings, and fragrances. He once said: "I made a lot of things that go with things."
Form and Function.
Klein's modernist style has been defined as spare, an expression of American style. He once pointed out that, "It's important not to confuse simplicity with uninteresting." His clothes, which included both day and evening wear, were simplified and refined with clean lines, and were made of natural and often luxurious fibers such as cashmere, linen, silk, leather, and suede. He generally...
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Meier, Richard 1934-
Education and Training.
A native of Newark, New Jersey, Meier received his architectural training at Cornell University. He worked in the office of Marcel Breuer from 1960 to 1963 and established his own practice in 1963. He received the Pritzker Prize in 1984 and a Royal Gold Medal in 1988.
The 1980s set the stage for how Meier would spend the next decade. Then based in New York City, the architect learned in 1984 that he was chosen to design the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles, California. Built on a 710-acre hilltop, the $1 billion Getty Center opened on 16 December 1997. The collection of six separate units linked by terraces and plazas has nearly one million square feet of space. The campus combines both modern and classic forms. Meier said of his creation: "In my mind I keep returning to the Romans—to Hadrian's Villa, to Caprarola for their sequence of spaces, their thick-walled presence, their sense of order, the way in which building and landscape belong to each other."
Although the Getty Center...
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Pei, I. M. 1917-
A native of China, Ieoh Ming Pei emigrated to the United States in 1935. He earned a bachelors degree in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1940 and then attended Harvard University, where he earned a master's in architecture and a doctorate. Pei formed I. M. Pei & Associates in 1955 and has earned several prestigious architectural awards, including the American Institute of Architecture Gold Medal in 1979 and the Pritzker Prize in 1983.
Pei's work spread across the globe in the 1990s. French president François-Maurice Mitterrand called on Pei to redesign the Louvre. Pei completed the first phase in 1989, which included the construction of a glass pyramid as a new entrance. Although critics charged that the modern design sharply contrasted with the surrounding nineteenth-century architecture, the French public came to accept Pei's design as the newest Parisian attraction. Pei also redesigned the Richelieu wing as part of the second phase of museum renovation, which was completed in 1993. An underground shopping...
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Pelli, Cesar 1926-
Cesar Pelli was born in Argentina and received a degree in architecture in 1949 from Tucuman University. He emigrated to the United States in 1952 and earned a masters in architecture in 1954 from the University of Illinois. After becoming dean of the School of Architecture at Yale in 1977, he opened his own office, Cesar Pelli and Associates, in New Haven, Connecticut. Pelli won the AIA Gold Medal in 1995. At the time, he was praised for his ability to create commercial buildings "that speak with an urban and civilized voice."
Carnegie Hall Tower.
Pelli entered the 1990s triumphantly. He already had a string of recent accomplishments, such as the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, California, the World Financial Center on Wall Street in New York City, and the Norwest Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In September 1990 his Carnegie Hall Tower brought the architect to new heights. The structure, designed to house both offices and apartments, is a full block deep and sixty stories tall, yet it remains sleek at just fifty feet wide. Time correspondent Kurt Andersen wrote in September 1990 that this "slender, elegant slab is like a dancer among thugs." Pelli designed the tower to fit with its partner and next-door neighbor, Carnegie Hall. He echoed the century-old Roman brick and...
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People in the News
Actress Jennifer Aniston, who portrayed Rachel on the TV show Friends inspired a craze in the mid 1990s for a longer version of the shag haircut. Women across the country demanded that their hairstylists give them the "Rachel" or Friends cut, a face-framing, multilayered look. Friends debuted in the 1994-1995 television season on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) network and was still running at the end of the decade.
Carolyn Bessette made headlines, not just for marrying John F. Kennedy Jr. (son of President John F. Kennedy) on 21 September 1996, but for wearing a simple, yet elegant, white slip dress designed by Narciso Rodriguez. Bessette-Kennedy went on to become a symbol of the new American style with its clean, classic lines before she and her husband died in a plane crash on 16 July 1999.
Bill Blass retired at age seventy-seven after sixty years in the fashion business. Blass, an important figure on the American fashion scene for his classic styles, held his last show—his spring 2000 collection—in New York in October 1999.
Newsweek featured Diane Von Furstenberg on a cover in 1976 for her wrap dresses. The American designer enjoyed a revival of these 1970-style dresses in the mid 1990s.
Lizzy Gardiner was the perfect golden girl...
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COUNCIL OF FASHION DESIGNERS
Womenswear Designer of the Year: Donna Karan
Menswear Designer of the Year: Joseph Abboud
Perry Ellis Award: Christian Francis Roth
Womenswear Designer of the Year: Isaac Mizrahi
Menswear Designer of the Year: Roger Forsythe
Perry Ellis Award: Todd Oldham
Womenswear Designer of the Year: Marc Jacobs
Menswear Designer of the Year: Donna Karan
Perry Ellis Award: Anna Sui
Womenswear Designer of the Year: Calvin Klein
Menswear Designer of the Year: Calvin Klein
Perry Ellis Award for Womenswear: Richard Tyler
Perry Ellis Award for Menswear: John Bartlett
Womenswear Designer of the Year: Richard Tyler Perry Ellis Award for Womenswear: Victor Alfaro and Cynthia Rowley (tie)
Perry Ellis Award for Menswear: Robert Freda
Womenswear Designer of the Year: Ralph Lauren
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Herbert L. Beckwith, 94, architect, helped design eleven buildings on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he introduced modern architecture and worked as a professor, 3 June 1997.
Pietro Belluschi, 94, modernist architect, designed the glass and aluminum Commonwealth Building in Portland, Oregon (1947), which is considered the first glass curtain-wall structure in the United States; a former dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture and Planning; and recipient of the 1972 AIA Gold Medal, 14 February 1994.
Samuel Brody, 66, designer, partner in Davis, Brody, Chermayeff, Geismar, deHarak Associates; one of the leaders of the team that designed the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan, 28 July 1992.
Gordon Miller Buehrig, 85, legendary automobile designer; helped design the Duesenberg Model J and Auburn Boattail Speedster in the 1920s and 1930s; in 1935 designed the Cord, which featured front-wheel drive and flip-top headlights; patented the T-top roof, 22 January 1990.
Gordon Bunshaft, 81, modernist architect; created landmark skyscrapers, museums, and libraries such as the Lever House in New York (1952), the Pepsi Cola Building (1960), and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington (1974); won the Pritzker Prize in 1988 and was recognized...
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Vilma Barr, The Illustrated Room: 20th Century of Interior Design Rendering, edited by Dani Antman (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997).
The Fashion Book (London: Phaidon, 1998).
Philip Jodidio, New Forms: Architecture in the 1990s (Köln & New York: Taschen, 1997).
Richard Martin, ed., Contemporary Fashion (New York: St. James Press, 1995).
Kate Mulvey and Melissa Richards, Decades of Beauty (London: Hamlyn, 1998).
Anne Stegemeyer, Who's Who in Fashion (New York: Fair-child Publications, 1996).
Architectural Digest, periodical.
Architectural Record, periodical.
Interior Design, periodical.
Ladies' Home Journal, periodical.
People Weekly, periodical.
Progressive Architecture, periodical.
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Important Events in Fashion and Design, 1990–1999
- Hot pants and mini skirts are back; tent dresses and pants suits are in.
- New car brands Infiniti, Saturn, and Lexus are introduced.
- Clothing fads include pre-ripped jeans, Ninja Turtle stuff, wide head bands, and sneakers ranging in price from $125 to $175 a pair. The Reebok pump is a new item.
- In February, men's bolo ties are popular items. Designer Ralph Lauren shows them with his Polo line, while rock star Bruce Springsteen is photographed sporting one. These Western-influenced string-thin ties are fastened at the neck with decorative clasps that come in everything from silver to stone, with costs ranging from ten dollars to three hundred dollars.
- In March, Vogue declares: "Pretty Makes A Comeback." Designers show softer suits, jackets with softer shoulders, curvy tailoring, and fluid skirts and pants for women. The "power dressing" of the 1980s, with its sharply tailored suits and distinct shoulder pads, is over.
- In April, real estate tycoon Donald John Trump opens his Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J. Architect Francis Xavier Dumont designed the 420-million-square-foot, $1 billion structure. Not everyone is impressed. Nancy Gibbs writes in Time that "the façade looks edible, the work of a candy-maker gone mad."
- In July, French...
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