No matter how popping the '90s were in all of its neon, mom jeans, and spaghetti strapped glory, there was always one thing that rained on our fashion parade: school dress codes. With outfit inspo coming at us everywhere from Clarissa Explains It All to Jennifer Aniston, there were plenty of things we wanted to wear to school so badly that we just weren't ever allowed to.
Accessorizing was, of course, the easy part. Fasten the velvet choker, strap on a mini backpack, and add a butterfly clip (or ten) for extra flair. Finding '90s fashion trends that were actually appropriate enough for strutting down school halls was another story.
We couldn't wear half of the things we wanted, what with all those rules that insisted skirts go down to the knee and hats of any kind be banned. Sure, high waisted jeans, oversized flannels, and overalls kept us completely covered. But how could you ever hope to be BFFs with Britney if you weren't even allowed to wear crop tops and mini skirts?! And who didn't want to be like the Spice Girls with a perfectly coordinated tube top to match skin tight hot pants? Plus, a tattoo choker really only looked right paired with the skinniest of tank top straps. Here are 11 '90s trends that used to tragically get us escorted to the principal's office if we ever dared to bring them to school.
1. All Of Britney Spears' School Girl Outfit
Ah, yes, a classic! Not only did Spears' debut single catapult her into pop stardom, but it gave us a video that forever changed my thoughts about school uniforms. Ever wanted to tie your blouse and hike that skirt like Brit? I was certainly guilty. While we knew this much alteration to the traditional uniform would never fly, many of us dreamed on the daily about duplicating Britney Spears in this saucy little number. Something tells me the Catholic school I attended back then still wouldn't approve...
2. Crop Tops
It feels like everyone is baring their navel these days in crop tops of all prints and styles, but it all started in the '90s. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Gwen Stefani all wore them (along with seemingly every other celeb and their mothers). Needless to say, we wanted to bare our bellies too! But school was definitely not the place where that was going to happen.
3. Bucket Hats
Remember how the dress code banned all head gear? On school grounds, that meant no bucket hats — the holy grail of headwear during the '90s. That seriously put a damper on my style (I had the perfect little red bucket hat back in the day that would have looked great with my uniform). That also meant no bandanas or Blossom Russo inspired hats. Sigh.
4. Platform Shoes
If there's one thing we learned from the Spice Girls, it was how to rock platform shoes. However, plenty of schools banned heels of any kind (and, weirdly enough, flip flops in some cases) citing "safety issues." I guess no matter how killer the Spice Girls made them look, platforms just weren't practical for shuffling through the halls.
5. Tube Tops
As a crop top's strapless cousin, the tube top or bandeau top was never going to see the light of day in a classroom. Tube tops were way too risky to try testing the dress code limits with. But no matter how wrong they were, Britney and Christina made them look so right.
6. Biker Shorts
Who could forget those black and white, polka dot biker shorts Melissa Joan Hart sported on Clarissa Explains It All? You've got to pair them with a vest of course, preferably denim! If Clarissa wasn't confirmation enough, we saw our favorite Valley Girls coordinating in biker shorts in Clueless. Not sure these would have passed the dress code though. In retrospect, they seem long enough. Then again, I'm a little fuzzy on that whole arbitrary fingertip, shorts length rule.
7. Baggy Pants
Baggy pants had their major moment in the '90s, and boy did I want to be just like Aaliyah and TLC. In true '90s fashion, you definitely had to let the Calvin Kleins or Tommy Hilfigers show while sagging. Was it dress code appropriate? No. Definitely not.
8. Bandana Tops
In most cases, there was barely anything holding bandana tops onto the body — just a little string tie in the back. Not even sure where these fall on the skin showing spectrum, considering they have less midriff exposed than a tube top, but they leave the entire back bare. Regardless, we could not pull these off in school with the dress code in effect.
9. Babydoll Dresses
Thanks to Courtney Love, '90s girls just had to have a babydoll dress. Whether you liked yours black and edgy like Love or you preferred the oh-so-popular floral print, you probably couldn't wear it to school no matter how much you begged your parents. Again, that whole fingertip length thing.
10. Spaghetti Straps
The skinnier the strap, the better! At least, so it seemed during the '90s. Come to think of it, spaghetti straps were totally dress code approved with a cardigan on top. But, like, then what would even be the point? Maybe I just wanted to be free to wear whatever kind of straps I wanted with zero restrictions.
11. Mini Skirts
Nothing complemented a crop top better than a mini skirt in the '90s. However, the fact that "mini" is a a part of this skirt's name let you know right away that it would never pass the dress code. I'm definitely not confused about the length rules on this one!
For a decade full of fashion, there were just way too many things we couldn't wear to school in the 1990s. Heck, these were trends our parents wouldn't let us wear period. What was a fashionable '90s kid to do?