From Union Jack suits to poofy dresses: How Brits fashion has changed from the Nineties to today

21st Feb 19 | Fashion

Unfortunately there aren't quite as many coordinated girl bands as there used to be.

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Some of the biggest names in music and pop culture will descend on O2 Arena in London for this year’s Brit Awards tonight.

First set up in 1977, this is the 39th Brit Awards and it’s set to be a big one – Jorja Smith, Dua Lipa and Anne-Marie lead the charge of nominations, and there will be performances by Calvin Harris, Sam Smith and Hugh Jackman.

But let’s be honest – we’re not that bothered by the winners and the losers, we’re just waiting to see what people wear.

Even the statuettes will be dressed to the nines, having been designed by British architect David Adjaye.

But before we see what trends will dominate the red carpet this year, let’s take a look back at how Brits fashion has evolved from the Nineties to today…

The late 1990s…

Madonna 1995
Madonna in 1995 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

The 1990s were a simpler time, and icons – from Diana Ross to Cher and Madonna – graced the Brits stage.

Cher 99
Cher in 1999 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

In terms of fashion, you really had two choices. The first was to go big on sparkles – this was, after all, a time of divas, so what else would do?

Annie Lennox 99
Annie Lennox in 1999 (Neil Munns/PA)

The celebs who weren’t into glitter went down a more patriotic route: wearing the Union Jack flag. Whether it’s Annie Lennox in her red, white and blue suit or Ginger Spice in her iconic minidress, this really was a sartorially nationalistic time.

Spice GIrls 1997
The Spice Girls in 1997 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

The early Noughties…

Denise van Outen 2000
Denise van Outen in 2000 (Michael Crabtree/PA)

Chances are most celebs wouldn’t like to think about their Brits outfits from the early Noughties, but we can’t help but giggle at some of these ensembles.

Will Smith 2000
Will Smith in 2000 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Shirts and big, fat ties were definitely a trend during this time – Denise Van Outen paired hers with a miniskirt, Will Smith set his off with a fedora, and the baby-faced boys of McFly looked like they got their mums to help knot their ties.

McFly 2005
McFly in 2005 (Yui Mok/PA)

This era had girl bands galore, and everyone followed the unspoken rules of girl groups: you all had to wear similar colour schemes in different styles.

Destiny's Child 2001
Destiny’s Child in 2001 (Matthew Fearn/PA)

Whether it’s Destiny’s Child going green and sparkly or Girls Aloud rocking the white and gold, there was another golden rule to being in a girl band – whatever you were wearing, there had to be a lot of cut-outs and draping.

Girls Aloud 2005
Girls Aloud in 2005 (Ian West/PA)

The late Noughties…

Paris Hilton 2006
Paris Hilton in 2006 (Yui Mok/PA)

It’s hard not to feel nostalgic looking at some of the outfits from the late Noughties. Most of the female celebs were wearing short, sassy party dresses, and that really set the tone for the rest of us. Who among us didn’t see what Lily Allen was wearing and beg our mum for something similar?

Lily Allen 2007
Lily Allen in 2007 (Ian West/PA)

Of course, most of these dresses were far too racy for us, so we had to settle for something a little bit more appropriate. After all, it’s not like we were walking the red carpet anyway…

Lady Gaga 2009
Lady Gaga in 2009 (Zak Hussein/PA)

The early 2010s…

Lady Gaga 2010
Lady Gaga in 2010 (Ian West/PA)

In the late Noughties many of the stars were wearing similar things, but this all changed come the early 2010s. This was a time for more experimentation – you really wouldn’t see Lady Gaga in a pink minidress anymore. Instead, she dressed as a baroque kind of high priestess to attend the Brits.

Rihanna 2011
Rihanna in 2011 (Ian West/PA)

Even baby Rihanna started showing us what a style chameleon she was, playing around with clashing colours.

Little Mix 2012
Little Mix in 2012 (Ian West/PA)

As everyone was getting involved in a bit of sartorially experimentation, it also heralded in the age of – gasp – girl groups not wearing colour co-ordinated outfits. We never thought we’d see the day.

Jessie J 2012
Jessie J in 2012 (Ian West/PA)

We also increasingly saw the nearly-naked trend of outfits with sheer panels – something that’s still going strong today, and will no doubt be a prominent feature on this year’s red carpet.

The mid to late 2010s…

Taylor Swift 2015
Taylor Swift in 2015 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

More outrageous outfits are still seen at the Brits, but in recent years there’s been a noticeable shift towards sleeker and more elegant styles.

Jess Glynne 2016
Jess Glynne in 2016 (Ian West/PA)

As with big events all over the world, women are increasingly wearing power suits in all kinds of fun colours.

Dua Lipa 2018
Dua Lipa in 2018 (Ian West/PA)

Particularly last year, there was a movement towards huge princess dresses. Both Dua Lipa and Rita Ora wore poofy gowns of tulle or feathers, so maybe we’ll see more ultra-feminine and OTT outfits this year.

Rita Ora 2018
Rita Ora in 2018 (Ian West/PA)

Last year, many attendants held a white rose in solidarity with victims of harassment and abuse in the music industry. We’ll have to wait and see if there are similar political stands on the red carpet this year.

The Brit Awards 2019 will air live on Wednesday 20th February on ITV at 8pm. 

© Press Association 2019

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