’90s Icons and the NY Fashion Week Looks They Were Born to Wear

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We’ve known for a while now that the ’90s are back in a big way. But as we followed the new, fall 2011 collections from New York Fashion Week, references to the decade were inescapable: plaid, lace, layers, maxi skirts. They were so ubiquitous, in fact, that many of them conjured images of our favorite grunge-era icons, from Courtney Love and Björk to Kelly Bundy and Rayanne Graff. After the jump, we pair ten looks from Fashion Week with the ’90s stars and characters who were born to wear them.

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Betsey Johnson and Kelly Bundy (Married with Children)

Bleach-blonde hair. Tight dresses. High heels. A hint of rock ‘n roll toughness. Kelly Bundy is the undisputed queen of ’90s trash fashion, and Betsey Johnson brought her back to life in a fall 2011 show that was all about sexy chicks with attitude.

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Rachel Antonoff and Courtney Love

Back in the early ’90s, Courtney Love brought the kinderwhore look to the mainstream. It split the difference between girlie, riot grrrl, and Lolita, with lots of ruffles, bows, lace, torn fishnets, and short, white dresses. All Rachel Antonoff’s youth-inspired collection (for which she staged a high school-style dance rather than a traditional runway show) is missing is some bright, red lipstick.

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Tracy Reese and Fran Fine (The Nanny)

Nanny Fine had one of the decade’s oddest aesthetics: For the most part, she wore suits. But they were loud, short, sexy… and sometimes garish. She loved red and black, and leather (or, as she might have referred to it, “leath-uh”) was this Queens girl’s best friend. Somehow, Tracy Reese has managed to craft a look that reminds us of Fran Drescher’s whining au pair while still looking like something a sane person would want to wear.

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Diesel Black Gold and PJ Harvey

Although in recent years this grand dame of indie rock has retreated to a calmer, quieter, Victorian-style dress-wearing place, she came out of the gate in the early ’90s as music’s harshest mistress. She wore (often skimpy) leather get-ups, and her albums and live shows were pure, naked, female sexuality. In their hide-heavy fall collection, Diesel Black Gold showcases precisely this brand of raw power.

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Anna Sui and Rayanne Graff (My So-Called Life)

It makes sense that Anna Sui and Rayanne jibe so well: while the latter was the quintessential ’90s alterna-teen, the former was one of the decade’s leading designers for the rock-star set. Now that the layering and pattern-mixing of the era is back in style, Sui and Rayanne both look more current than ever.

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Jonathan Saunders and Sarah McLachlan

These days, you might think of Sarah McLachlan as that Lilith Fair lady with the song that was criminally overplayed in the months before your high school graduation (“I Will Remember You”). And she is those things, but she also had a pretty distinctive, kind of awesome sense of style back in the ’90s — at least in the music videos for songs like “Building a Mystery” and “Adia.” Saunders shares her enthusiasm for Eastern-inspired and brocade prints, saturated colors, and maxi skirts.

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Risto and Elaine Benes (Seinfeld)

The drab, earth-tone color palate. The all-over print. The long, modest, slouchy silhouette. Yup, that’s Elaine all right. And we’d sure love to see her switch from white socks and awkward hemlines to a lush, voluminous look like Risto’s.

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Burberry Prorsum and Dionne (Clueless)

Stacey Dash’s Dionne, like her best friend Cher, is a fashion-forward kind of gal. So we imagine that, these days, she’d be satisfying her taste for classic, black-and-white plaid with a coat like this one, from Burberry Prorsum. The matching bag is an upgrade, too. As for the hat, well, maybe some looks are best left in the ’90s.

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House of Holland and Björk

Her music may evolve with every new album, but one thing Björk has always loved, from Post to Volta, is bright color. In the first few years of her solo career, her get-ups were whimsical, bohemian, and often Asian-inspired. While she’d probably love everything from House of Holland’s cheeky and nostalgic fall collection, the look above could have been ripped right from her closet, ca. 1997.

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Yigal Azrouel and Brenda Walsh (Beverly Hills, 90210)

Yigal Azrouel’s fall show was all about menswear mixed with bright colors — and no one rocked that look quite as well as Shannen Doherty as Brenda Walsh. (Well, except for Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall…) Twenty years later, we’re sure she’d trade in dad’s tie for Azrouel’s more sophisticated update.