Category Archives: Guest

A Brief History of ’90s Makeup (Guest Post)

Uma Thurman rocking Chanel Vamp nail polish in 1994’s Pulp Fiction. Image from

In the past week, the comments section has teemed with references to ’90s-specific products like Manic Panic hair dye, Revlon Blackberry lipstick and Vamp nail polish, so here is a timely submission from ’90s Woman Hillary Belzer, who wrote her thesis about Riot Grrrl. Her latest project is the Makeup Museum, which is devoted to examining cosmetics design and history. And here is what she says about ’90s makeup… 

Fashion trends, and by extension, beauty trends, are cyclical – usually about 20 years after the initial phenomenon began, it comes back in vogue and is slightly updated.  So it’s not surprising that the ’90s are making a comeback now.

Here I will look at the transformation the beauty industry underwent in the ’90s as a direct response to new notions women had about makeup.

In 1995, the L.A. Times quoted a beauty newsletter editor as saying, “The creativity the department stores had 10 years ago doesn’t exist today…the top five brands control 75% of the makeup business.”  Something had to give to meet the beauty needs of the ’90s woman, and it did. Continue reading

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And Now a Word About “Rate BU”

We’ve been busy and not posting so much, but ’90s womanhood marches on! Here is an email we just got from a student at Boston University who’s concerned by the very ’90s-male-gaze-y website, a new, campus-specific “Hot or Not” that uses women’s Facebook pictures, often without their consent. The guy who made the site, John Doody, got the idea from the movie The Social Network, which is a little like getting the idea to do acid and wear bell bottoms from watching that 1991 Val Kilmer movie about The Doors. And yet, the site’s caught on, and a lot of people are mad about it, including Jennifer Kole. Here’s her email:
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Testimony: Buzz-Cuts for Women!

Amelia Abreu, a PhD Candidate at The Information School in Seattle (talk about authentic!) writes in:

Something so 90s has occurred to me recently that I feel compelled to share. The buzz cut for girls (and this sort of intriguing self-confidence/self conscious hot-to-trotness that came with it) seemed very ubiquitous in my 90s college/high school years. Recently, having moved from Seattle (which is like forever 90s) to Cambridge, MA (which is like forever college), I’ve encountered a slew of baldheaded young women. Is this coming back? Did it ever leave? Continue reading

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Testimony: Dawn

Okay, Kara, I just grabbed this out of the comments, because it is awesome:

I was born in 1987. I narrowly missed the majority of what was really going on in the ’90s. I was influenced by it, but I was a kid. It didn’t have the same effect on me as it would have if I would’ve been 14-18 years old instead of 6-10.

I do remember being 7 years old and watching Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged show and sobbing because Kurt Cobain had just introduced me to the act/concept of suicide. I remember singing along with “All Apologies” and having no idea what it meant but being devastated by it. I remember thinking things like, “Why is the world so sad that some people do that?” Continue reading

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Testimony: Courtney

Courtney in 1992

first let me say i love your blog.  i when i was younger, i often feared the days when i would hear/read/watch someone saying the words, “back in the 90s”, but now that those days have come, i actually really, really love it.  i was born in 1980, so by the time i hit my teenage years i was right in the middle of grunge, at the tail end of MTV actually showing music videos, knee deep in weekends at the mall, ripe to discover third wave feminism and the zine revolution.  i found your blog as a link on kathleen hanna’s own, and after reading just a few entries i remembered exactly why riot girl punk, the diy movement, perzines, and records stores saved my life.  it was something i needed, because sometimes when you’re 29, you wake up and all that idealism that had you marching in protest of the iraq war and forcing your dad to listen to bikini kill on road trips home from college gets flushed away in the soul sucking vaccuum of adulthood.

Courtney in 1999

i know exactly how i became a 90’s woman and i owe it all to the internet.  my family got online early, and my parents encouraged us to use the internet – then a tangled mess of code, usenet groups, and bulletin boards – to entertain us while they were at work.  i was a very sheltered, very smart child who lived in a house with a lot of rules that kept me cooped up inside with cable television and baby sitter’s club books as substitutes for friends.  in early high school, i was starting to develop into a solitary, quirky, quiet girl who loved mystery science theater 3000, nirvana, and reading about the manson family when a bulletin board on the (i think) defunct prodigy internet service introduced me to some young ladies from all over the country who were into these things called zines.

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Testimony: Lorra

I started my teen years in 1990, so I had the best of both worlds – a childhood in the 80’s with the most delicious toys, cartoons, and pop music, and the great slouchy-glam rock of the 90’s, which I still ADORE to this very day.

I had a brief stint of loving gangsta rap when I was 12 (I don’t know how this happened) and then suddenly delved into Guns N’ Roses and then that led to watching a lot of Much Music and discovering Nirvana, of course. I was obsessed with a show on MM late on Saturdays called City Limits, hosted by a wonderful Brit named Simon – I discovered so many gems of music this way. I took weekly trips to a little store downtown in Vancouver that was the only place at the time that you could pre-listen to CDs. My 14 year old self considered it my second home, and I was convinced my soul mate worked there, and actually that guy still works there.

I love the fact I grew up in this era because it strengthened who I am. I grew up in a small town, so even though a lot of the rest of the world was doing the exact same things as me, for me it felt really different. I felt like I was a part of a very special “alternative” world where I was considered cool instead of the weird sensitive outcast. The pre-internet age left me quite adrift, so making connections via music was super important.

I still love 90’s style, especially babydoll dresses with Docs. Here are a few precious gems of my teenage years. I haven’t changed much. — Lorra Continue reading


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Testimony: Lyndsey H.

Lyndsey Harrington

Kara, we just got this super nice email about 90s womanhood from a hot chick born in 1990, making her almost young enough to be our daughter (gah!). She says:

As a member of ‘Generation Y’ (aka Generation Y Bother/ Y Care/ Y Don’t You Understand That I’m Entitled), and as someone who wasn’t born until the year 1990, I’ll admit that upon first encountering your 90swoman blog, I brushed over it, not making an effort to build a connection between myself (the 90s girl, technically) and a woman who, as the ’90swoman’ title suggests, is from a generation that I was too young to understand, who fought very different battles to me, against enemies who were probably dead already.  I mean, how could I have related to a woman whose girl power ideologies had long been expired on the shelf of modern civilization?  After all, I wasn’t even a feminist.

And as a non-feminist, I found myself, soon after, wondering why I was angry with my body for not being a size 2. Continue reading


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