THE DECADES1990 TO 1999

The last decade of the millennium is one of extremes. It starts with a sour recession and is approaching its last year on the heels of one of the longest bull markets in history. The Eighties hangover—after a mania for junk bonds, a spate of leveraged buyouts-gone-wild and the stock market crash of October 1987—lays the groundwork for the end of conspicuous consumption. Almost symbolically, legendary editor Diana Vreeland dies just as the decade begins.The fashion front sees rough going in the early part of the decade, thanks in part to the attempted mainstreaming of grunge and deconstruction. Next up: a great paring down and stripping away in the minimalist hands of Helmut Lang, Calvin Klein, Jil Sander and Ann Demeulemeester. Bernard Arnault, meanwhile, shakes things up in his own way by bringing young blood into his ever-growing LVMH stable.In the workplace, dress codes are shattered: Comfort and cocooning dominate lifestyles and casual Friday brings a new relaxed wardrobe to the office.Consolidation rears its head and the decade sees rampant bankruptcies and numerous mergers. Dramatic bankruptcies—Barneys, Federated, Macy’s—play against phoenix-like comebacks—Sears, Gucci, and, yes, a newly merged Federated and Macy’s. Fashion goes ga-ga for globalization and IPOs; shopping on TV and via the Internet grows to become a multibillion-dollar venture.The economy livens up after Bill Clinton’s election. The stock market percolates, steaks and cigars come back into vogue and it’s OK to indulge in fashion again. Not necessarily in the glitzy, overdone styles of the Eighties, but with an attitude of buying well, buying expensive.However, whether it’s international economic disaster or a long overdue correction, the stock market begins to go south. But lest anyone think that fashion doesn’t matter, certain presidential antics turn a navy blue Gap dress and a DKNY beret into front page news.

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