Everything I Remember Buying At Claire’s, 1994 – 1999

Claire’s has filed for bankruptcy, and my 90s self would be shocked.  Claire’s was a boutique in the loosest sense of the word – it was more like a Toys R Us of tween accessories, and if my niece’s recent purchases of JoJo Siwa bows and unicorn hair extensions are any indication, it still is. Claire’s may be the latest victim of private-equity fund stewardship, but I think they may emerge victorious — after all, no store is better at giving tween girls exactly what it’s told them they want. I was never one of those kids with an allowance or parent-funded spending sprees, so each of my Claire’s purchase was long-coveted. That’s why, in 2018, I can still remember everything I bought at Claire’s during my childhood:

A Heart-Shaped Locket With Nothing In It

The nostalgia machine remembers the 90s in a few ways: bright and neon in the post-80s years, earth-toned and grungy in the middle, and pop-y and futuristic at the end. However, there was also a weird kind of neo-Victorian thing happening if you looked hard enough (see: country geese , Little Women, Titanic mania). Case in point: lockets, which always seemed kind of important and mysterious even if you had nothing to put in them. We can thank Annie and the American Girls Collection for this.

Mood Ring

You always blushed a bit if it landed on In Love. As a cold person with a low heart rate (actually… what do mood rings even measure?), I think the technical term for my mood ring results was Clinical Death.

Sunflower Hat

The sunflower hat was THE must-have accessory when I was in second grade, c. 1994. Different versions were out there but the staple was a denim bucket hat with a yellow sunflower on it. A little bit Michelle Tanner and a little bit Blossom, you could be any middle-class girl from a family sitcom you wanted in this number. The decision to wear it straight versus tilted was hotly debated … in the before-school lineup at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, anyway.

Confession: I scoped out sunflower hats at Claire’s but mine was actually from Bloomingdale’s. It was Quality Millinery, thank you very much.


They were gentle on your hair and you could buy one in any finish or pattern you wanted. Bring back the scrunchie.

Velvet or Lace Choker (Cameo Optional)

This was the more early-90s choker. Like the locket, it was part of the Interview With A Vampire aesthetic that was totally appropriate and not at all creepy for tiny children to be into.

Fake Tattoo Choker

This was more late 90s, and I only wore it once because I thought it looked cheap.

Which it did.

You could get them from gumball machines.

Fimo Necklaces

Popular in the 1996-1999 range, these necklaces had a nylon cord or stringed beads and a clay ‘hippie’-esque pendant.

In my personal suburban mall, there was a kiosk that sold these and also wizard candles. For the uninitiated, yes, I actually do mean candles that were shaped like an elderly wizard.

A Piercing

Thing 90s Kids Will Remember: getting your ears pierced by a teenager with a piercing gun and trying not to cry because strangers were eating Auntie Anne’s pretzels on a bench 5 feet away. My ear piercing was a First Communion present and it closed up within a few years, so I am in fact the proud owner of TWO Claire’s piercings. You had to search the earring racks specifically for the ones labelled stainless steel or else your ears would start burning. We had fun.

Headbands Headbands Headbands

Soft headbands, hard headbands that would dig into your temples, plush puffy headbands – if there was one constant in my life from 1995 to 1999, it was that my bangs were in a weird place and I needed hair accessories to deal with them. The worst ever, for my particular frizzy hair and iffy hairline, was the stretchy headband with teeth. They never looked good on me but I bought like 5 of them anyway.

I preferred a classic Alice band because I was a goody-goody, obvs.

Embellished Snap Clips

Remember those flat clips that all the gymnasts wore in the 1996 Olympics? Then, remember the teeny tiny version with daisies and stuff on them? You’d wear them right next to your part.

The real theme here is that as a people, we were dealing with a collective weird bangs situation for the better part of the decade.

Butterfly Clips

The last member of the wonky bangs starter pack, the butterfly clip spanned the difference between headbands and hair clips so you didn’t have to choose. I was pretty sure they looked rocking in my hair and in hindsight, I was entirely correct.

Butterfly Everything

Butterflies were so cool in the late 90s, and I’m so grateful that I was only in Junior High or else I definitely would have left the decade with a butterfly tattoo.*

*  I remember my junior high friends and I declaring that we’d totally get butterfly tattoos and belly button piercings when we were old enough. Now I can have as many butterfly tattoos and belly button piercings as I want, and it turns out I want zero.

Pen with marabou poof

You felt like Cher Horowitz until the ink ran out in a week and you were back to your Bics.

See also: gel pens, despised by every teacher I ever had. Now that my eyeballs are three decades old I Get It.

“Retro” “70s” Stuff

Especially during the 1996-1997 school year, 60s and 70s-inspired accessories were all the rage. We’re talking psychedelic colors, daisies, smiley faces, peace signs. The yin yang was pretty big starting in the earlier 90s but I seem to remember it fading out sooner.

I also remember combing my grandparents’ house for 60s-70s stuff during this time, only to find that most bona fide retro accessories were in the pukey oranges, avocados and browns of old appliances. Claire’s all the way.

Puka Shell Nonsense.

As of high school I had been to like 2 beaches and they were in New England, but still.

My Claire’s years mostly ended around 2000, when I started high school. Yesterday, today, and forever, Claire’s was a store that sold the idea of being a cool teenager to 7-13 year olds — not so much a store for real teenagers. Their financial situation may be bleak, but as long as 10-year-olds long to look 17, I think Claire’s will have a place in children’s fashion mistakes for years to come.


Coachella 2015 Fashion Wrap-Up

It doesn’t seem like a desert music festival – where people willingly subject themselves to sleeping in tents and peeing in porta potties – could house a fashion oasis. But sometimes, Coachella is just that. The festival is also home to its fair share of fashion missteps, but as a two-weekend event in which people can wear whatever they want without impunity, it may not always be pretty but it’s always interesting.

Jaden Smith

I don’t have a younger brother, but I do have Jaden Smith and that’s basically the same thing. Whether I’m shaking my head over his scrunchy forehead poop face or illustrating his grandiose philosophical musings, I can’t help but get a kick out of that little scamp. He has all of the youthful self-importance of Justin Bieber, but it’s less annoying because unlike Bieber he seems to at least have a good heart. Or any heart. Jaden’s latest exploit: wearing a kicky floral frock and a lush red flower crown at Coachella. Can we retire flower crowns from music festivals now? Because we have already established who wore it best once and for all, and it’s Jaden Smith.


LOL no just kidding, Jaden Smith didn’t wear the flower crown best. Beyonce did – and that’s no insult to Jaden, it’s just that anything that Beyonce wears, she probably looks better than everyone else in. That’s why her t-shirt reads “Go Burn Your Flower Crown.” With denim shorts and natural makeup, it’s like Beyonce is playing dress-up as a regular civilian.

Nicki Minaj

So apparently, those are plaid shorts with a faux plaid shirt sewn around the waist. It reminds me of those cardigans with the built-in half camisole I used to wear in 1998, or those skorts with the shorts attached to the skirt. Except Nicki Minaj is wearing it instead of 12-year-old me, so it looks cool. Note Nicki’s take on the once-ubiquitous feather headdress (ugh): a giant feather crown.

Joshua Jackson

Pacey Witter is wearing the same hat my dad always wears, and that feels weird to me. It’s also the hat that is ceremoniously bestowed at age 16 on American men who are really into people thinking that they have Irish heritage. Also pictured: Diane Kruger and Nina Dobrev. Yeah, they all just look like regular people in normal clothes. Let’s move along.

 Katy Perry

What I love about this is that the loose, billowy fabric is probably great in this weather, as is the slicked-down hair: I can’t even look at Coachella pictures without feeling like I’m losing a fight with the frizz-monster. Besides, she has such a pretty face (sorry, I’m your grandma) and it’s nice to have her hair out of it. Those sandals look great too. The choker is really fun but in the Indio heat, having metal clamped right against your neck might be a bit unpleasant. Anyone want to take bets on how often her train got stepped on?

John Mayer

Listen closely. You hear that? It’s my 17-year-old self, weeping. I want to draw your attention to the gentleman to the left. That’s how my face is right now.

Whitney Port

In the early 90s, the ladies’ pajama departments of stores like Ames and T.J. Maxx used to run ads with ladies in long, billowing nightgowns. They’d often be looking dreamy near a window or on a porch swing. They usually had long blonde hair in a french braid with meticulously curled-under wispy bangs. This is the exact nightgown they were wearing. It looks cute on her, though.

 The Kardashian-Jenner Sisters

I don’t know which Kardashian sisters are which. I mean, I know which one Khloe is. And I know which two are really Jenners, although I can’t tell one Jenner from the other. And I say this as someone who gets annoyed that none of my distant relatives or parents’ friends can tell me apart from my sister. So anyway, here are both Jenners and Khloe Kardashian (the one I can identify). They are wearing outfits I would hate sweating in. The far left Jenner will have some rough tan lines this week. I am very happy to see that they’re all confirming that ankle booties are still in though!

Florence Welch

Florence Welch sported the most badass accessory of the festival: a freshly broken foot. She fractured it leaping off stage, but carried on like the, well, machine that she is. Aside from the foot, she kept things loose and light-colored, perfect for a festival that, as we’ve said, seems really uncomfy to both of us.

FKA Twigs

Between this and the Jenner, I guess the in thing is dressing like Princess Leia when she was enslaved by Jabba the Hutt. Twigs is so pretty, though. Better her than me, having to represent this trend. Bless.She also wore this, which is interesting and probably lovely, but I can’t find a clear picture of it. Sculpted baby hairs haven’t been this in since the late 90s.

Rosie Huntington-Whitely

This is probably the most ladylike anybody has or will ever look at Coachella.

The Jenners, Again

These gals don’t look bad, per se. They just look like teenagers having fun at Coachella. But man, do I wish those hot pants that look like saggy diapers would go away.


When I was in my early makeup wearing years, I remember reading that you should not match your lipstick or your eyeshadow to your outfit, because that’s tacky. Rihanna probably read that same advice as a youngster, then realized that she’s Rihanna and she is wearing a full-length purple fur coat and she can put whatever the heck she wants on her lips.

Jourdan Dunn

These heavy metallic necklaces are  really making me cringe. Also did Coach just set a bunch of models loose at Coachella with their bags as some sort of viral marketing? Also, do you think I would look more like Jourdan Dunn or Rosie Huntington-Whitely if I were carrying a Coach bag??


It’s like they always say. You can take the man out of Ireland… but he’s still going to wear some rumply brown stuff and like 5 layers. Also, Aaron Paul. I’m not sure what his hair is doing, but I don’t really need to know.


Women’s Fashion (According To A 1976 Encyclopedia)

Remember how, before the internet, we had to read real, physical books to find things out? In my family, that meant turning to the cobalt-blue 1976 Encyclopedia Americana. One volume in the set was a yearbook that detailed the world events and current trends of the age. I was so obsessed with the fashion section — both out of genuine interest and childish snark — that the book still opens right to that page.

In the mid-90s, I turned to the Encyclopedia for help with Social Studies reports. In the mid-70s, people were turning to the Encyclopedia for help with looking as fly as possible. Such was the pre-internet age.

Let’s take a walk through 1976 fashion, as described in the vibrant pose of the Encyclopedia Americana editors.

  • “Chinese fashion”

    Shhh! Nobody can tell I’m Caucasian!

* Women’s fashion was “influenced by denim and China.” I hope that means you could buy a mandarin-collared denim dress or one of those flat rice-picking hat in Levi’s blue.

* The photo of the woman displaying “The Chinese look” looks like she’s wearing a kind of racist Halloween costume. I guess at least they didn’t say “Oriental?”

* Sometimes when I read this entry, I feel like a time-traveler from the future and wish that I could just save everyone without accidentally killing my own grandfather. The editors write that “politically, the effects of detente with China may not be known for years.” Not to spoil it, but the effects are a little known now and HOLY SHIT WE ALL NEED TO LEARN MANDARIN. What are you DOING, 1976? Stop importing their beautiful silk daywear because they are going to RUN us.

* Bitches wore mad “frog closings” and “coolie” jackets, I guess.

* OK, the encyclopedia DID end up saying Oriental, and they only capitalize it like half of the time. Casual racism is one thing, but casual racism AND sloppy copy-editing? I can’t.

  • Denim

* Real sentence: “The jean craze continued to mushroom at an unbelievable pace.”

* Another real sentence: “The better the figure was, the tighter the jean.” Hey 1976, could you please give that advice to literally everyone I saw at the bus stop the other day? Because the 2013 rule of thumb is apparently: “no matter what the hell your figure looks like, just say “screw it” and buys your pants 2 sizes too small.”

* In the “most horrible thing I’ve ever heard of in my life other than disease, hunger, and genocide” category: the “two-zipper” was in fashion. Jeans closed with two side front zippers instead of the usual fly front. I don’t even understand how this would work. Maybe one of you has an engineering degree and can help? I’m picturing a weird flap that would hang down, like an overall bib except in your crotch neighborhood, with a zipper on either side. If there’s one thing I definitely don’t need, it’s a 100% increase in the likelihood that I’ll forget to zipper my pants. I imagine that if you have any kind of stomach or side fat, it will accidentally get zippered into the “side front zippers” at least once.

* Unsurprising: “work” clothes like khaki fatigues, railroad overalls, and mechanic suits took off.

* Surprising: This “was an expression of the belief in the virtues of honest labor, even if the person wearing them was not engaged in it.” Encylcopedia Americana? You’re reaching. Although, sometimes I do wear a full McDonald’s uniform or nurses’ scrubs just to demonstrate that I believe in work. Who am I to talk?

  • Ladylike Dressing

* According to this section, sometimes women wore skirts and dresses, but other times they wore pants. That’s really the gist.

* Sometimes women wore suits, with “dramatic capes and soft coats” over “multilayers of separates.” The encyclopedia isn’t scratch-n-sniff, but I’m pretty confident they also smelled like sweat and patchouli.

  • The Sporting Life

* The jumper was back. A million home-schooling moms rejoiced, probably.

* Sweaters were “an education in ethnic artistic expression.” I’d complain about the cultural appropriation issues, but I am wearing “tribal” flats right now. I like to pretend that there is just a tribe of Target People who live in the basement of one of their warehouses in Indiana or somewhere, designing these things. I bet they even have native folk songs. Maybe that’s what Taylor Swift is.

  • Accessories

* Scarfs were worn big, in the “simple peasant style” or “elaborately as Arabian or African headdresses.” On behalf of white people, I apologize. This is really bad. I get annoyed at racist Halloween costumes, but apparently in 1976, every day was Racist Halloween.

You could even wear your scarf with an elaborate Art Deco costume while shopping in a general store from the 1800s.

* “Handbags ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.”

* “oriental jewelry” was popular (read: jade). They used the lower-case “o” for oriental, so this may just be jewelry worn to the east of other jewelry, not Asian-inspired as such.

  • The Feminine Foot

* Engineers, HELP. The earth shoe was “designed to lower the heel and raise the sole of the foot for comfort.” Does anyone know how that’s comfortable? They sound like those terrible McQueen cloven-hoof shoes.

Based on the above, here is a rough sketch of The Woman of 1976.

Pretty Like It’s 1999: Late 90s Tween Fashions — And Their 2013 Adult Equivalents

Are you a lady in your mid- to late- twenties? If so, congratulations! You were also a tween or young teen in the late ‘90s and early 2000s! Half your life ago you were part of a tween cohort in its golden age. The society that produced the Lost Generation may have been the perfect environment for budding artists and poets, but the tween renaissance of 1997-ish was a cultural tempest, too. There were just more sparkles, is all, and instead of Ernest Hemingway, it produced Lalaine and Aaron Carter. Here are some of the greatest fashion staples of that magnificent era– and a modern adult equivalent that you could actually get away with wearing today.

glitter eyes

1999 tween style: Body glitter. Like so many wholesome children’s and teen’s fashions of the late ‘90s, this was borne of rave culture. But you don’t need to be on ecstasy to enjoy a little sparkle! Body glitter was popular with tweens because it was like makeup for people whose parents wouldn’t let them wear makeup yet. I used to roll glitter across my cheekbones and sweep it over my eyelids, I guess so that people would look at my face more. If you read YM  or Seventeen, you might have learned to apply glitter to your collarbone, to draw the eye to where you hoped your cleavage would eventually come in.

Gold Leaf Eye Makeup

2013 adult style: Metallic eyeshadow. Like roll-on body glitter, this is a fun and glitzy look. Unlike roll-on body glitter, if done properly it will not make you look like you store hallucinogenic drugs in your pacifier necklace. I like the heavy gold-leaf look, but let’s be serious, I cannot figure out how to do it myself. Best to take your advice from YouTube makeup gurus.

Maddy's jeans - front leg

1999 tween style: Embroidered jeans. When I bought these (from Limited Too, naturally), my aunt told me that I should save them because my kids would get a kick out of them someday. Even at 13 I took this as a not-so-subtle suggestion that I looked completely ridiculous.

green pants

2013 adult style: Colored jeans and cords. Listen, I love my colored jeans. I think they’re great. But I also acknowledge that while bright pants can add interest to an outfit, I’ll eventually feel like they looked really stupid. Luckily, I still have plenty of older relatives who will remind me to save my magenta skinny jeans for posterity.

Example of baggy "JNCOs"

1999 tween style: Enormous JNCOs. These were probably your pants of choice if you were really into Korn and Marilyn Manson, or at least were not terrified of them like I was. These were a unisex style: I had a huge crush on a boy in my tween acting/improv classes who wore JNCOs and had a mushroom cut, which is the hairstyle that all of the cute boys voted to adopt by secret ballot in 1995. I never would have worn JNCOs myself, but they probably were really useful because they had pockets, and also if a friend’s pants ripped or were lost, they could climb in one leg and you could climb in the other, and you could share.

j brand cargo pants+cargos

2013 adult style: Skinny cargo pants. With giant pockets and a slim fit, these pants are entirely useless (except in that they cover the fact that you’re naked under your clothes). Like JNCOs, I do not wear these — not because I’m afraid of Marilyn Manson this time, but because an enormous pocket bulging from the hip area is not awesome on me. If you don’t mind adding a couple inches to your legs, width-wise, these are actually pretty cute though.


1999 tween style: Butterfly clips. These were the best. You would twist back rows of hair from your face, creating a butterfly meadow on the top of your head – the effect was a little more special than a headband and just barely less special than a freakin’ tiara. Of course, you would coordinate your butterfly clips with your outfit, and they were usually a little bit glittery. Theoretically, you could use even more butterfly clips to secure a bun into a fancy updo, if you were into that sort of thing or if you had a mom who did your hair.

Woodland crown-boho headpiece

2013 adult style: Fun hair accessories that don’t look like insects. I wish that I could be more specific, but the fact is, there are a lot of great hair accessories on the market right now. If you were a butterfly clip afficianado because you found it to be a fun and feminine style, you might like a hair flower,[1] especially if your hair is long and wavy. If you admired butterfly clips for their sheer functionality in getting hair out of your face, headbands have been back in for several years and are, in my experience, less painful and less poofy than they used to be.  You can even find them in semi-fascinator styles, thanks I’m sure to Beatrice and Eugenie. If you were one of those girls who created over the top, eye catching styles with your butterfly clips, try a headwrap like this or, because you’re probably pretty good with accessories, a turban. You probably won’t screw it up the way those of us who could barely manage a butterfly-headband would.

1. But if you have a baby, or know some babies socially, please rethink the obligatory baby girl giant head-flower thing. I was a super-bald baby and my mom used to try to make me wear those baby head garters that they sold in the 80s, and I ripped it off every time. I like to think this is because I developed an early sense of when things look absolutely damn foolish.  BACK TO POST