Whether it’s Victoria Beckham, Aaliyah, Princess Diana or Britney Spears, our favourite ’90s icons continue to inform the way we look. Thirty years on from the era that gave us the Supers, Friends and the Spice Girls – oh, what a decade it was – the beauty trends these women spearheaded are back, adopted by today’s hottest starlets, and therefore by us. Here,are the top ten.
Dark – often brown – lip liner was the thing back in the ’90s, with everyone from Naomi Campbell to Pamela Anderson sporting the look. Set against otherwise bare lips, adoptees of the trend often wore a slick of gloss over the top for a multidimensional effect. More recently, Kim Kardashian, Megan Thee Stallion and Lizzo have all tried the look.
2. Frosted eyeshadow
For old-school inspiration for the current frosted eyeshadow trend, see Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez, both of whom wore glimmering pastel hues up to their eyebrows way back in the ’90s. Now, it’s all over TikTok, and according to retailers, sales of frosted blue eyeshadow have surged.
3. A cropped ’90s bob
The bob has been all the rage over the past year, with many snipping off years of hard-won hair growth in order to embrace the trend. While there are myriad iterations, the ’90s bob takes its cues from Cameron Diaz in her There’s Something About Mary days – think jaw-skimming, boyish and low-maintenance.
4. Antennae hair
One person leading the charge when it comes to ’90s trends is Bella Hadid, who has almost single-handedly brought back the “antennae” or two pieces of face-framing hair. A big trend in the ’90s, Hadid wears hers with a slicked-back up do – the more gel, the better.
5. Skinny brows
Making its (in some cases, unwanted) return to Gen-Z faces everywhere, the skinny brow is having a renaissance. While those born in – or before – the ’90s have spent the decades since growing back their over-plucked tadpoles, the younger generations are channelling early Drew Barrymore, Gwen Stefani and Tyra Banks.
6. Blue eyeliner
From Princess Diana to Britney and Reese Witherspoon – plus, of course, schoolgirls the nation over – vivid blue eyeliner was practically a requirement in the ’90s. Now we’re wearing deeper hues, such as navy: Nicola Coughlan served up stellar cobalt shadow at the BAFTA TV Awards, and Iris Law went for a metallic winged look at the Fashion East X Browns party during London Fashion Week.
7. French manicure
The French manicure has been on a rollercoaster since its glory days in the ’90s, when it was the nail look to have, before its popularity faded. After overcoming its once passé reputation, it’s the mani of the moment again. The most flattering way to look is with a thin (rather than chunky) tip. Whether you wear it minimally or play with colours and nail art, it’s truly the trend to try now.
8. Obvious hair colour
Hair colour doesn’t have to look ultra-natural, you know. Obvious and overt hair colour has become de rigueur, with colour blocking a big trend favoured by Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid. Meanwhile, Billie Eilish’s acid green roots (R.I.P.) inspired a generation of fans to experiment with their own colour.
9. Lip gloss
Remember Lancôme’s Juicy Tubes? Everyone had one of those high-shine, scented formulas to top up plump, glossy pouts. They were discontinued, but made a return in 2020 to the delight of the millennials who loved them the first time round. Consider them the easy way to inject some luminosity into your look.
10. Poker-straight hair
Hair straighteners were deployed almost daily back in the day, given that poker-straight stands were very much in vogue. Now straighter-than-straight hair is back again – just see Lila Moss in British Vogue’s June issue – and you get extra ’90s points for throwing it up in a claw clip.
“I like to be a free spirit,” Princess Diana once said. “Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.” More than two decades since her untimely death, the public’s long-standing fascination with her – as a royal, a humanitarian, a style icon, and an unapologetic rebel — has yet to wane. Season 4 of The Crown is only sparking more intrigue around the ways in which she bucked royal tradition with a self-assured attitude and distinct codes of self-expression.
As a kid of the ’90s, I, like many, have always been taken with Princess Diana’s beauty, grace, and glamour. But of all her signatures, the one that has always stuck out to me was her ’80s-era proclivity for swipes of electric blue eyeliner; most strikingly worn with one of her sparkling diamond tiaras. Oh, the contrast! Yes, I know it was the ’80s and that it was the banner decade for colourful make-up, but for a woman of her stature, to me it always seemed kind of punk, a means of subtly railing against the royal system.
Plus, her pared-back approach to a decidedly bold colour statement brought a real-world sensibility to the look. “In the ’80s, blue eyeliner was about pulling out or brightening up naturally blue eyes,” explains make-up artist and Tatcha’s first-ever global director of artistry Daniel Martin, who famously gave Meghan Markle her natural wedding-day glow. “She kept it close to the lash line, enhancing the iris by creating this monochromatic tonal effect on the eye. She never took it up to her eyelid, which would create an entirely different effect altogether. I think her wearing it in that way made it wearable for so many.”
While I, for one, love an aqua eye and think of Princess Diana every time I smudge a cyan pencil across my waterlines for a quick dose of colour, I know it can be a polarising choice — and surely was for Princess Diana as the more-is-more ’80s gave way to the minimalism of the ’90s. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that upon meeting Princess Diana on her Vogue photo shoot in 1991, make-up artist Mary Greenwell, who worked with her throughout the ’90s, convinced her to add more neutral eyeliner shades to her repertoire. “In the ’80s, a lot of people were wearing blue eyeliner, and she was so young! She could get away with doing whatever she wanted,” says Greenwell. “She was experimental and absolutely loved make-up, but when she went out on the red carpet, we just tried to make her as glamorous and gorgeous as possible for the time.”
That being said, blue eyeliner certainly has its place, especially in the free-for-all that is the year 2020, where self-expression reigns supreme. “Right now, it’s about whatever you want to do, and making it look the best for you,” says Greenwell. “That’s what Diana always did.” Her tips for pulling off bold ticks of eyeliner, no matter how bright or understated the shade, is to keep the rest of the face fresh and vibrant: Clean skin enhanced with sheer foundation and feather-light swirls of blush and bronzer “to bring out the flush” in the face. “It’s about beautiful simplicity!” she says.
Welcome to Artist Spotlight #39 series on my blog.
There are few makeup bags that haven’t, at some point, been graced by a Bobbi Brown product. A brand that puts making women feel (as well as look) good at its core, 16th of January marked the 30th anniversary of its inception. To celebrate such a lengthy time in the beauty industry, the brand has, excitingly, appointed makeup artist Hannah Murray as global artistic director.
“Bobbi Brown is a brand I’ve loved since I started as a makeup artist,” Murray tells Vogue over the phone. “It’s such a well-loved global brand, and we have very similar philosophies regarding embracing natural beauty and individuality, as well as empowering women. These are things I’ve been championing for a while so it feels like a very natural fit.” Take a peek at Murray’s Instagram page, and you’ll see image after image of luminous skin, playful details around the eyes and bold brows on models and celebrities alike. Her makeup is real, fresh, and a far cry from the heavy contouring and airbrushed skin that have become popular in the last few years.
All of which makes her an excellent fit at a brand known for its feature-enhancing (rather than covering) products, where she will be overseeing everything from the fashion shows Bobbi Brown sponsors and campaigns, to education and product development. She has had experience with the latter before, having worked on the (rather brilliant) Topshop beauty line when it launched in 2011.
“I’m essentially going to be the visual voice of the brand, and I think with everything that’s been happening in the world, it’s a really pivotal moment to see things with fresh eyes and build on Bobbi Brown’s heritage,” she says. “I’ve lived in New York for the last 10 years, and before that in London, and I very much understand both the American aesthetic and the European sensibility and aesthetic too – it will be interesting to see that merge, something I think will give the brand a freshness, too.” When it comes to new products, we can expect some “innovation, excitement and fun”.
Though she isn’t, like many of us, forced to sit on Zoom all day, Murray is keenly aware of the “giving, giving, giving” that is endless, exhausting meetings, and believes in the power of beauty – whether that’s pampering your skin or applying some mascara – to uplift a mood. “There’s something ritualistic about [skincare and makeup]. Just like fresh air and eating well, having five to 10 minutes to yourself to cleanse, put a mask on, massage your skin is so healing. I have a three-year-old boy, so grabbing those moments is grounding. We all need to take care of ourselves and have a bit of me time.”
As for the beauty trends she expects to be big this year? Here she shares three of her key predictions.
“Instead of applying 10 products just to walk out of the door [like we used to], it’s now about feeding your skin and making it feel fresh and juicy and plump and alive. That’s a feeling thing, as well as being about how you look, and it’s using texture rather than product. You can layer on balms – I often dab Bobbi Brown’s gorgeous Lip Balm on cheekbones as it really makes skin look alive, like spa-fresh skin.”
“I’m hoping we’ve moved on from baking and cut creases – I want to see skin, feel it, and let it breathe. Another of my favourite products is the Bobbi Brown Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm, which is a lightweight moisturiser that imparts a subtle pearlescent finish for a “flawless, hyper-real skin effect”.
“I think everyone now wants to look healthy, like they’ve been outdoors and not stuck indoors for three months! I’m thinking the beauty of a real flushed cheek and freckles.” Try the brand’s Pot Rouge, a buttery-soft cream blush which melts into skin seamlessly for a natural finish.
“Take cues from the ’90s and apply eyeliner to your waterline to tight-line around the eye. It gives a bit of definition but it’s not laboured over. Makeup should do the work for you, you want to wear products that are smart, easy to use and that work well for you.”