A couple weeks ago, I went for a music festival with some friends, and style-wise we were astounded by the sheer...1990s of it all. There were girls in tube tops and track pants (hello Spice Girls!)! Tube tops and dungarees. Way too many tube tops, generally. Even some (gasp!) thin, arched brows.
We marvelled that we were now old enough to see trends return.
It's not all bad. I love 1990s style too, and it's not just whatever the Hadids are currently wearing. Specifically, I love Calvin Klein-era minimalism, DKNY cool and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy chic. When I described this to my friends, one of them said, "Ah, Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail."
Watching the movie again made me realise how many style lessons I took to heart (while forgetting the plot entirely). The soothing palette of grey, white, and black. The simple, sporty charm of a crew neckline. Simple flat shoes meant for walking around the city. I imagined that one day I would too live in a place like NYC, running around town in my cool, minimalist separates.
A few themes I loved, and still do --
#1 - The mock turtleneck
If anyone asked me what was the defining 90s style lesson for me, it would be mock turtlenecks. Less restrictive and more practical in the tropics than actual turtlenecks. I like how it highlights the neck while covering it up - it's a discreet elegance.
Meg Ryan wears a plain black one in the movie to a casual dinner party; I love how it has all the ease of a T-shirt but with the elegance of an LBD --
It's the kind of outfit that dares the wearer to keep it simple - no statement necklace, no statement earrings - and it would work in a variety of occasions, from work to well, dinner parties.
#2 - The crew neck, the twinset and the fitted knit
Whether it's a sweater or a T-shirt, my fave neckline of all time has to be a crew neck. Again, I like the covered-up charm of it, plus it's practical - no worry that I would flash someone when I bend over, or that my bag strap would pull on it in an unsightly way. There's also a sporty feel to it.
I like the crew neck of a white T-shirt peeking out from under a sweater, like it does here --
And this sweater dress is so good. A boatneck would have taken it to soignée territory; here it's still elegant, but in a brisk, almost sporty way --
Meanwhile, if the weather permitted it here, I would rock a twinset all the time. It's such a simple way to do a tonal look -- it's basically a T shirt worn under a cardigan -- and done right, it's visually interesting.
I love how Meg Ryan manages to do it in a way that doesn't look too "country club" --
On a related note, I also love all the crew neck cardigans in the movie It's a lot more common these days to see v-necks and draped styles, but I'll always love the tidy feel of a high, round neckline --
Finally, I love that a lot of the knitwear in the movie is fitted, without looking like those clingy, 70s' jersey knits. The light grey one Meg Ryan wears below is my idea of the perfect fitted knit (you can't really tell but it's quite a chunky knit) --
#3 - The white shirt
I love a blue shirt for its casual workwear feel, but I do own and regularly wear a white shirt, for the simple reason that nothing else looks as crisp and fresh as a white shirt. I like them slightly oversized but still crisp, relaxed but still buttoned up. Meg Ryan proves this oxymoron is possible (note she's buttoned the cuffs) --
Another a great look featuring a white shirt in the movie --
I like that it isn't a Peter Pan collar (so it's not twee), and that she's worn it buttoned up but the lapels are long and soft enough to drape slightly, like the kind you see in men's button downs.
#4 - The skirt
I find it challenging not to look fussy in skirts, and there's something so comfortable (and therefore inspiring) in the way Meg Ryan does it in the movie.
You can't see it in the shot, but she's actually wearing sneakers in the last outfit above. (Perhaps sturdy shoes is the answer? She is, after all, wearing heavy black oxfords in the first shot...)
P.S - That black bag in the first shot: how good is that length for a shoulder strap?
#5 - The trench coat
Ah, another item I have zero use for here in Singapore, but I have one nonetheless because I watched too many movies, including this one (I wear it when I travel to colder climes).
I do like them oversized, but it isn't just a matter of aesthetical preference; I find they have to be a little loose so that I can layer comfortably underneath, plus they need to be long to keep the rain off my clothes. I like that they're not meant to look sleek and perfect -- everyone, even Meg Ryan, looks a little dumpy in a truly functional trench coat. And that's what makes it such a classic across genders, sizes, age and eras.
#6 - The loungewear
This is a Nora Ephron movie, so there will always be a surfeit of great knits and loungewear.
#7 - The hair
Meg Ryan, among others, cemented for me the idea that short hair rules. No explanation necessary.
In 1998 (the year You've Got Mail was released), Meg Ryan would have been 37, a little older than I am now. This likely explains why I look back at all the mid/late-90s movies with such fondness for the style: I'm finally at the age where all these clothes make sense for my life.
It's been 20 years, but when I look at these clothes, time is irrelevant. Style is style, and you'll always find a way to love what's stuck with you.
What movies have you fallen in love with, style-wise?
P.S: A few of my movie style favourites:
A Bigger Splash
Thelma and Louise
A League of Their Own
All screenshots by me