'90s Fashion Fix | Bad-ass Chic

I don't know if this fashion look from 1989-ish to 1991-ish has a dedicated name at all, but I’ve always just called it ‘Bad-ass Chic’. It signaled a definitive change in fashion and music at the turn of the decade. Moving through the ‘80s it was all about glamour and power dressing; moving into the ‘90s all of that structure gave way to a slick new street look.

The easiest way I can explain this is to throw some vintage Kylie Minogue, Debbie Gibson and Collette down as case studies. I was mad keen on all of these pop starlets back in the day, and I think taking a look at their careers, which saw them go from girls-next-door to sexy-rexy schmitten-kittens, is a great way of tracking this key change of style circa 1990.

Case Study #1 - Kylie Minogue

Girl-next-door Kylie, last seen in 1989 (Wouldn't Change A Thing). Replaced in 1991 by bad-ass chic Kylie (Word Is Out) after a brief transitioning period in 1990 (Better The Devil You Know).

Case Study #2 - Debbie Gibson

All American girl-next-door Debbie (Lost In Your Eyes) dabbles in a bit of heavy eyeliner in 1989 (We Could Be Together) - an early sign that change might be afoot. Emerges in 1990 in full bad-ass regalia (Anything Is Possible) and absolutely kills it!

Case Study #3 - Collette

Aussie-girl-next-door Collette trades in her extensive 1989 collection of lycra bike pants (Ring My Bell) in favour of, well, we're not exactly sure what that is (That's What I Like About You, 1989). Next minute we turn around to find Collette bursting through the gates of the brand spanking new decade with a brand spanking new hair cut and one of the most bad-ass of bad-ass chic wardrobes we've seen. She even has some fierce matching 'tude going on, and thus we feel justified in crediting her account with an additional 10 respect points. (Who Do You Think You Are? - 1990)

So what makes the bad-ass chic look so bad-ass and so chic? What exactly are we dealing with here? Well first & foremost it's BLACK. Bad-ass chic chicks really got their black on. There were hints of colour here and there, but their only real purpose was to let the black shine, err bright.

Digging around in a bad-ass chic laundry basket you'll find hotpants & catsuits, bustiers & bodysuits, sheer fabrics, leather & velvet, and stockings & opaque tights. Jackets-a-plenty in anorak, bomber, crop & quilted styles; berets or biker caps & big buckle belts. Top it all off with some bad-ass boots & some bad-ass bedazzling and you're onto some winning bad-ass combinations.

Betty Boo gave the bad-ass chic look a red hot crack when she was Doin' The Do (1990)...

.... and Paula Abdul showed us all exactly how to put the bad in to bad-ass in Cold Hearted (1989) Hawt!

If you're still a bit hazy on the particulars of bad-ass chic styling the following editorials from a couple of teen and glossy magazines might help you out. Enjoy!


CLEO (Australia) | July 1990

Dolly Magazine (Australia) | July 1992

Looks Magazine (Australia) | June 1990

Looks Magazine (Australia) | May 1992



CLEO Magazine (Australia) | July 1990

Cover & : Elle Macpherson | Photography: Graham Shearer | Makeup: Sharman | Hair: Chris Coonrod

Dolly Magazine (Australia) | July 1992

Cover: Nicole Kidman | Photography: Herb Ritts

Leader Of The Pack: Kitt | Photography: Christine Schroeder | Hair & Makeup: Chris Coonrod

Looks Magazine (Australia) | June 1990

Cover: Belinda Yorke | Photography: Warwick Orme | Hair & Makeup: Erick Villiger

Road Gang: Sarah O'Hare, Gisele & Simon | Photography: Megan Hawkins | Hair & Makeup: Marshall

Looks Magazine (Australia) | May 1992

Cover: Melanie | Photography: Aref | Hair & Makeup: Brigitte

Zips Are Hip: Kiersten & Amanda | Photography: Garth Boyd | Hair & Makeup: Brigitte

So very very bad-ass! (I just wanted to write bad-ass one more time).