5 Times the '90s Slip Dress Made Fashion History

Jenny Bahn

Digging through the archives of fashion history is like sitting down for dinner with your ageing relatives to grill them on what life like was back in the olden days. While you don’t need to have a front-to-cover handle on how Great Grandma Hearst rationed herself through the depression, you’ll benefit from soaking up some of the detailslike how she used to make dresses out of flour bags and darn socks by the light of candles she made herself. Why know all this stuff? Because history often repeats itself. And in fashion, history repeats itself all the time.

Right now, the 90s are on playback in a dozen different ways—some good (chokers), some not so good (belly button rings). The throwback piece I’m more readily capable of embracing into my modern wardrobe is the slip dress, which feels so positively of-the-moment it’s hard to understand why it’s been gone for so long. But fashion, as we well know, oscillates somewhere between ADD and amnesia, burning through trends like wildfire and leaving them to go fallow for decades before implementing a proper reboot.

Like flannel button-downs were to Seattle grunge bands, the slip dress became the feminine answer to an era that stripped down the shoulder-padded artifice of the previous decade. If Nirvana was the answer to the inconsequential theatrics of 1980s glam rock, the slip dress was the quiet, restrained response to sequined prom gowns and metallic taffeta. The look was deceivingly simple, letting a woman’s personality speak for itself without needing a garment to do it for her.

Today, designers are offering their take on the sleek silhouette, borrowing from the old and injecting it with the new. During the spring 2016 shows, the slip dress influenced Burberry’s “Helen of Troy at a rave circa 1996” look, as did it Saint Laurent’s “Carrie goes to prom again” number in silver lamé. They've come in satin, leather, lace. Hems were high and low. Straps thick and thin.

Whatever the updates, the ethos of the slip dress remains the same: easiness of wear. It’s the kind of piece that you just throw on with whatever you have and head out the door, and when you get compliments at the party you shrug and say, “What, this old thing?” before knocking back the whole champagne bottle and chain-smoking your 17th cigarette. At least if you’re Kate Moss, who kicks off our list of the five slips that changed fashion history, each paving the way for today’s trend.

Scroll down to get your master class in the slip dress.

Don’t know how to pull off a slip dress? Read more about how to channel your inner ’90s babe here.

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