The 90s may be continuing to trend on a revivalist front, but how can an authentic version of it possibly be expected to thrive when all of the original stores that promoted its aesthetic seem to be closing their doors? The latest to go under is Bebe, which, in addition to the likes of Wet Seal and Contempo Casuals, enjoyed its finest hour in the mid and late 90s.
With magazine ads that promoted the signature heroin chic look (waifish thinness and eyeliner thickness) that will probably never be re-created thanks to the simultaneous benefits and drawbacks of political correctness, Bebe was at the forefront of original fast fashion in a pre-Forever 21-obsessed world.
Babydoll dresses, crop tops, halters and striped pants with a painted-on fit were just some of the staples of the brand. Now, the incarnations of these styles being put out by imitators such as Urban Outfitters (which makes its living by feeding on nostalgia for a time gone by) are but hollow homages to the real deal.
Bebe was, of course, a store that always made the cut when going to the mall (unless you were more the Hot Topic type). And yet, with the mall, too, being another institution quickly going the way of the dodo, the concept of 90s fashion simply can’t exist in the same way. And though the next generation of Bebe wearers might get a small sliver of the retailer’s 90s-ness via the internet, they’ll never fully be able to experience the faddism of the decade in an authentic sense.
After all, a key element of fashion in the Clinton administration was that a girl had to work to cultivate it, pawing through racks and spending upwards of an hour in the dressing room before perhaps not even leaving with anything in tow. It is thus that with Bebe’s absence of brick and mortar locations (invariably setting off a chain reaction for other stores like it), 90s fashions can only be the shadow of their former selves.