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Top 12: Beauty horrors of the 1990s

 

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The Spice Girls, pictured here in 1997, were style icons to a generation. Emma Bunton, second from left, models the ‘bits’ hairstyle while Geri Halliwell, centre, showcases the bold highlights of the day

The Spice Girls, pictured here in 1997, were style icons to a generation. Emma Bunton, second from left, models the ‘bits’ hairstyle while Geri Halliwell, centre, showcases the bold highlights of the day

Alan Cantwell and Gráinne Seoige. Every Irish woman in the 1990s wanted Gráinne’s polished bob

Alan Cantwell and Gráinne Seoige. Every Irish woman in the 1990s wanted Gráinne’s polished bob

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The Spice Girls, pictured here in 1997, were style icons to a generation. Emma Bunton, second from left, models the ‘bits’ hairstyle while Geri Halliwell, centre, showcases the bold highlights of the day

Few things can bring a blush to the cheek as fast as the flicker of fashion disasters past, writes Regina Lavelle. But now, as discarded styles are recycled back into the public consciousness with dismaying alacrity, each month seems to dredge up some fresh hell from the annals. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, so as a public service, here is a countdown of the style choices every Irish woman made in the 1990s

12 Glitter

From around the mid-1990s forward, no going-out outfit was complete without sparkles. Like an explosion in a primary school supply cupboard, there was glitter absolutely everywhere. It was on eyes, in hair, bronzer was impregnated with it. At one point, there was a sparkly kids' toothpaste. Sparkly body gel, sparkly hairspray - aerosol sparkles, of course. Ozone Layer, you say? Never heard of them.

11 Chemical spill

If you went to the salon for a job, and it wasn't a perm, you wanted people to know you'd had it done. In a decade that wasn't big on subtlety, hair wasn't so much styled as tortured. Long before organic colouring was in mainstream circulation, highlights were so chemical they verged on an environmental incident. Highlights were scattered in stripes or painted on in a band at the front, which could look like you'd just suffered a nasty shock.

10 The Boy band curtain

A special mention for the boys here - particularly the early boy-banders who graced the bedroom walls of a million teenagers and in so doing, assured hair-gel manufacturers of their sales targets well into the Noughties. There was the short and spiky, the short and curly, the short and straight, and of course, the curtain. The curtain - a mop of long, impeccably straight hair - did not belong to any one member, rather it moved between the most popular members in the manner of a rotating taoiseach. Who knows the criteria? Elegant stool etiquette? Charming interview technique? Sturdy follicles? Secrets only known to Brian McFadden.

9 Necking On

In a surprising example of successful product placement, our key takeaway from 1992's Dracula, a movie in which many young female extras end up as casualties, seemed to be: must get myself a choker. We imagined ourselves channelling Winona Ryder via 1997-vintage Vivienne Westwood; the results were probably more Sabrina The Teenage Witch (the original).

8 Splitting hairs

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Like The Bump (see no 4), The Antennae had a number of aliases. In the US it was 'tendrils', in the UK, 'wisps', here, it was more often referred to as 'bits'. Bluntly, it was an up-do with some pieces, usually two, pulled from the crown of your head, 'framing' your face. Regular devotees were Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alicia Silverstone and Emma Bunton. Although for sheer commitment to 1990s' accuracy (complete with choker), it has to be Derry Girls' Erin.

7 Shadow of our former selves

At the end of the 1990s, white-blue eyelids were fashion. There were entire months at the dreg ends of the 1990s when nightclubs looked like open calls for Thierry Mugler's Angel, with only marginally fewer Swarovski crystals. Central to this was the blue eyeshadow, applied incautiously - and it was always applied incautiously - that gave the appearance of being either horrifically hungover or explosively ill. Maybe it was this 'Millennium Bug' thing we kept hearing about.

6 Electric feel

The only people who had really straight hair in the 1990s were The Corrs and Monica from Friends. Everyone else had curly frizz, brushed with added zealotry by frazzled mothers who had enough of our shit. Ah, the 1990s, such honest parenting. Tonsorially we were all somewhere between curly and straight. 'Haircare' was by V05 or Wella and it was bought in Dunnes. Curls appeared fully formed, unfrizzed and in the wild in Riverdance, which was what actually made it such a revelation for the young women of Ireland. Forget the legwork.

5 40 shades of Brown

The standard-issue make-up kit in the mid-1990s contained panstick, brown; mascara, possibly also brown; eyeliner, potentially brown, and some class of brownish lipstick with a lipliner a few shades darker. If you happened to have red hair, this was especially complicated. You know who you were.

4 Not 'The Snapper' variety

The Bump involved impregnating the top of your head with as much hair as possible. The trick was getting it to stay there. This involved an array of devices clipped at ever-greater degrees of tightness, until there was, invariably, a minor scalping. In the early 2000s, The Bump deflated in popularity before swelling back to prominence as The Pouf and worn by Valley girls, Lindsay Lohan and people who were on The Hills and Jersey Shore. It has recently been revived by Florence Pugh.

3 Eyebrow Of The Storm

Words fail us. And serums. In the 1990s, there was a committed crusade to cancel eyebrows. What it lacked in technique it made up for in enthusiasm. In practice, this meant jabbing ourselves repeatedly with our tweezers while listening to Nirvana. Awesome. All over the country, beauticians are still dealing with the fallout.

2 The Gráinne

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Alan Cantwell and Gráinne Seoige. Every Irish woman in the 1990s wanted Gráinne’s polished bob

Alan Cantwell and Gráinne Seoige. Every Irish woman in the 1990s wanted Gráinne’s polished bob

Alan Cantwell and Gráinne Seoige. Every Irish woman in the 1990s wanted Gráinne’s polished bob

 

After the launch of our third TV station it seemed a rare Dublin Bus which plied its route without the new station's news anchors, Gráinne Seoige and Alan Cantwell, smouldering across the back of it. Other countries had the Rachel. But we wanted the polished bob we called The Gráinne. Yes, Posh Spice may have had something similar at the same time. It was like the Posh, but as Gaeilge.

1 Ronsealed and delivered

For a generation raised in the aesthetic no-man's-land between the 1980s and the 1990s, panstick seemed a particularly egregious cruelty. Panstick was a stick of foundation you rubbed over your face to create an impermeable base. When applied correctly, it produced an effect not unlike wet plaster, and often with a similar hue. In the time before strobing and contouring, such a straightforward application of undercoat saved precious time in the morning, which could be used instead to prepare yourself for the New Millennium. You could boot up your table-sized modem attached to your relentlessly beige home computer and, some time later, send something called an email. What a timesaver! How about you find a HMV and get some music for your new minidisc player instead? That cutting-edge technology will definitely be around in 20 years' time...


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