The 1990s were a pivotal time in fashion, seeing the rise of minimalism and modern styles. Sunglasses became a key accessory for achieving the coolest looks. Women’s sunglasses trends in the 90s went big and bold, with futuristic shapes and heavily branded designer styles popularized by celebrities of the moment.
In this article, we’ll explore the most iconic 1990s sunglasses for women and revisit the trends that made them style sensations then and still inspiration for today.
- Tiny Shades
- Cat Eye Revivals
- Wraparounds Take Off
- Oversized and Round
- Futuristic Shields
- Hip Hop Inspired
- Celebrity Designer Mania
- Coloured Gradient & Mirror Lenses
- Key 90s Sunglasses Styles
- How to Rock 90s Style Sunglasses Today
- The Bottom Line
Tiny and dainty sunglasses emerged as a cute counterpoint to the oversized looks of the 80s. The miniature rectangular or oval metal frames barely covered the eye area. Often lens-less and colourful, these micro sunnies were more fashion accessories than function. Popularity grew thanks to TV shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Clueless. Designers like Chanel released delicate wire-rimmed versions in a chic minimalist style.
Cat Eye Revivals
Vintage 1950s cat eye frames saw a revival in the early 90s. These femme retro sunnies got modern updates with brighter colours like red, white, and neon hues as well as funky patterns. Dark cat eyes with wings sweeping up to a sharp point became a go-to for supermodels like Cindy Crawford. The overdrawn winged eye makeup of the era perfectly complemented this sultry style.
Wraparounds Take Off
Wrap-around sporty sunglasses surged in popularity for women, favoured for their fuller eye coverage. Large rectangular wraparounds offered both UV protection and an athleisure look when worn with casual wear. From neon colours to gradient or mirrored lenses, sleek sporty wrap styles echoed futuristic vibes. Oakley particularly stood out with its moulded wraparound designs worn by elite athletes.
Oversized and Round
As minimalist frames got smaller, maximalist sunglasses went bigger and bolder. Round and oval oversized shapes dominated, led by Jackie O-inspired looks. Large round retro shapes came in colourful updates, while big ovals evoked a Hollywood glam aesthetic. Dark oval shades became Spiderwoman star Audrey Hepburn’s signature style. Oversizing also came through in the width of frame fronts and exaggerated pointed edges.
For the most eye-catching effect, shield sunglasses made a sci-fi statement. Also called visor or goggle styles, these futuristic frames were severe with angular sculptural shapes that obscured most of the face. Pop culture like the virtual band Gorillaz pushed shield sunnies into the mainstream. High fashion brands like Prada and Versace also created luxury interpretations with intricate metalwork and logos.
Hip Hop Inspired
Hip-hop and streetwear heavily influenced the 90s style, with sunglasses as part of the laidback urban look. Brands like Cazal rose to fame creating thick framed styles often in lucite or transparent candy colours. Large rectangular shapes in shades of yellow, green or pink matched graphic prints and baseball caps for a bold street style statement. The oversized looks helped conceal identities.
Celebrity Designer Mania
A defining 90s sunglasses trend was the explosion of celebrity-endorsed designer brands. Luxury labels like Chanel, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana splashed their logos prominently across frames, turning sunglasses into mobile advertisements. Pop culture icons like Madonna and Michael Jackson made them even more desirable. For consumers, designer sunnies became fashion status symbols with multi-hundred dollar price tags.
Coloured Gradient & Mirror Lenses
Lens technology advancements opened up a rainbow of tinting options. Gradient lenses with colours that fade from dark on top to light on bottom became a top trend, especially in blues, greens, and purples. Mirrored lens coatings also gained favour for their high-tech metallic look, coming in silver, gold, and other colour flashes. Both offered improved glare reduction while making visual statements.
Key 90s Sunglasses Styles
- Butterfly – Oversize rounded frames with extended wings/corners. Flattering on most faces.
- Wayfarers – Smaller classic rectangle style revived in the 90s. Suited for oval and heart faces.
- Teashades – Tiny round wire-rim glasses. Playful and cute.
- Cateye – Pointed retro frames extended at outer edges. Ideal for heart-shaped faces.
- Aviators – Traditional teardrop pilot shape. Flattering on oval and long faces.
- Browline – Distinct two-toned frames with bold upper border. Suited to square faces.
How to Rock 90s Style Sunglasses Today
The fun sunglasses trends of the 1990s have proven their staying power and still influence eyewear today. Here are tips for embracing 90s nostalgia in your modern sunglasses:
- Choose round or oval frames for a trending retro option. Go bigger for maximalist Jackie O vibes.
- Cat eyes never go out of style. Pick a coloured or bedazzled pair as a unique accent.
- Shield your eyes from UV and make a visor-style statement.
- Look for gradient and mirrored lens updates to classics like Wayfarers or Aviators.
- Have fun with transparent candy tones and patterns for a playful blast from the past.
- Incorporate bright neons and pops of colour for 90s flair.
- Mix different eras by styling a vintage oval frame with a modern athleisure outfit.
By revisiting some of the coolest 1990s sunglasses trends with a modern twist, you can pay homage to iconic 90s style while staying fashion-forward today. Let those shades inspire you!
What made 90s sunglasses different from 80s styles?
80s sunglasses tended to be bigger and bolder. In the 90s, tiny delicate frames became popular as a minimalist reaction, along with futuristic shield visors. Thinner metalwork and smaller proportions differentiated later 90s styles from the previous decade.
What sunglasses styles were fashionable in the early 90s?
Early 90s sunglasses included tiny thin wire frames, round and oval retro shapes, and early cat eye revivals. By mid-decade, wrap sport styles, bug-eye shields, and gradient mirrored lenses gained prominence.
Were aviator sunglasses popular in the 90s?
Aviators had a resurgence in the 90s after waning in previous decades. Their teardrop shape was given modern updates with brighter colours and reflective lenses. Aviators became associated with celebrity trendsetters like Victoria Beckham.
What sunglasses defined late 90s style?
Oversize wireframes, bug-eye shields, transparent candy colours, heavy designer logos, and coloured gradient lenses came to define the late 90s style. Y2K futurism and hip-hop culture pushed plastics and wraparound sports shapes.
How do cat eye sunglasses flatter the face?
Cat eye shapes with their swept-up signature wingtips help lift the outer corners of the eyes for a sultry upward gaze effect. They elongate the face nicely and draw attention outward to balance round or square face shapes.
The Bottom Line
1990s sunglasses combined elegance, playfulness and futurism for strong statement styles that still inspire today. From minimalist to boldly maximalist, the decade offered a fun range of frames for women to explore their individuality and flair.