Delia*s: Why I Dress Like a Different Spice Girl Every Day

90s fashion collage

I’ve noticed an influx of literature (read: listicles and internet troll comments) dictating style rules for women of a certain age (30+). The prevailing wisdom is that one should build a wardrobe around a specific look and not stray too far from it. I’ve read that I should adopt a hairstyle and a perfume that I wear each day and that my closet should be full of solid colors and well-tailored pants. I’m sure I’m also supposed to own an iron and an ironing board and have an account at the dry cleaners. 

But I don’t know if I’ll ever dress like a grown up. And I blame Delia’s for this. 

In the mid-'90s, a few years before e-commerce, I--like all barely-pubescent or otherwise waif-framed girls--raced to the mailbox for my Delia’s catalog. With so many different looks splashed across the pages, it was hard not to want to dress like a different Spice Girl every day. You had your skater girl, ska chick, rave babe, and a look I can only describe as gas station attendant chic. Then there were all the empire waists and baby doll dresses, floral print maxi skirts, and mod jumpers. Delia’s also offered all your classic shoe styles: 

  • (chunky) Mary Janes 
  • (chunky) Oxfords
  • (chunky) loafers
  • (chunky, knockoff) Converse

My babysitting wages could only support the purchase of the occasional pastel lipstick or dog tag necklace, but I used the catalog as major style inspo to piece together ensembles between what I could get my grandma to buy for me at 5-7-9, hoodies I “borrowed” from my boyfriend, and whatever I could shoplift from DEB. 

When I look at images from old Delia’s catalogs, I get so nostalgic and feel proud of how many pictures of me are floating around out there wearing outfits so close to the ones worn by those six girls who modeled for Delia’s. I might not have ordered them straight from the catalog, but I had those polyester track pants. I wore those sweaters with the horizontal stripes across the chest with baggy jeans and a messenger bag. I had glasses with orange lenses. I rocked plaid pants and terrycloth polo shirts. I had a 100-count package of colorful plastic baby barrettes that I used to clip my overgrown bangs to the side of my head a la Donna Martin from 90210. I wore glow-in-the-dark body glitter as eyeshadow. And blush. And lip gloss. I had a Caboodle full of friendship bracelets and Hard Candy nail polish. I bared my mid-drift under overalls. I smudged Urban Decay yellow eyeshadow around my eyes for that Courtney Love heroin chic look. And the chokers. Oh, the chokers.  

One of my favorite ‘90s pieces was a pink babydoll sweater dress with heart-shaped pockets on the front. I loved it not just because it was beautiful, but also because, at 11 years old, it was my first piece of clothing from Contempo Casuals. It represented finally filling out a size zero and being able to shop in the juniors’ stores! From that day on, I only wanted to shop. My favorite pass-time was spending other people’s money on fleeting trends that were not appropriate for my age. Some things never change. 

Pink Contempo Casuals sweater dress

That's the Dress!

I don't know why I don't look more excited about it. I think I was channeling my inner Kate Moss...If Kate Moss were ever photographed with geraniums in her grandparents' back yard. 

I came to understand fashion devastation for the first time when that dress got mixed up in the laundry and shrunk to a comical size that I couldn’t even have worn as a shirt—and that’s saying something because I was still in a training bra. I mean whose idea was it to make junior’s fashion with such delicate care instructions? In the years to come, I would grieve over many other important pieces. I got furious over a polyester paisley disco style dress that I lent to a friend, right after I bought over summer break, when she showed up wearing it on the first day of school, before anyone has seen me in it! I lost too many shiny shirts to snags. I would even mourn outfits that I simply outgrew as I got taller and became (ever so) slightly more womanly. 

I love looking back at that time when I embraced everything it was to be a fashionista of the ‘90s. I’m happy knowing that I’ve woven all those polyester prints into the fabric of my life. But that is not to say I’m not responsible for my fair share of fashion offenses. I’d almost be embarrassed about my occasional fashion faux pas if they weren’t so perfectly ‘90s. 

I abused my feet with high-heeled jellies. 
I wore Jncos so wide you’d have thought each of my legs was wearing its own skirt.
I channeled my inner T-Boz with men’s boxers, worn exposed under low-slung jeans, and let’s be honest, sometimes just as shorts. 
I wore knee-high tube socks with those Adidas shower shoes usually reserved for prison inmates.
Stirrup pants.

My worst offense was not being able to commit to one look in one outfit. I once wore combat boots, baggy jeans with boxer underneath, a halter top, and a wide-brimmed black hat that folded up in the front with a big-ass red flower. It was like Blossom, Aaliyah, and Gwen Stefani collided into one hot mess.

I know that a quick Google image search for “Delia’s catalog” will turn up some gems, but sometimes I wish I were a little more of a hoarder and maybe kept some of my catalogs or a few copies of YM or Sassy. I’d love to revisit those fashion yearbooks. 

Also, if you have any pictures of me in the ‘90s, kick down!

90s, FashionLindsey Hileman