The 1990s

The last decade of the 20th century saw Kays’ customers place increasing reliance on designer clothing as a mark of status. Despite its high cost, even items by Versace were affordable to buyers with low incomes because it was all available on credit.

Just as, during the previous decades women had felt pressure to be slender, now men found that they had to tone up too. The unforgiving lycra sportswear of 1990 is echoed by the appearance of male models sporting relentlessly toned abdominals. The growing number of men’s magazines available during this period, such as Men’s Health launched in 1987, also reinforced this view.

In the same decade, it’s possible to see how entrenched the commercialisation of childhood has become. Not content with having separate ranges for babies, early years, primary school and teenagers and young adults, Kays introduced ‘tweenage’ fashion ranges for 9-12 year olds.

The fashions for boys in this range are loose, comfortable and hard-wearing: khaki combat trousers, t-shirts and fleece tops. The young boys modelling the clothes in single-sex shoots look comfortable and relaxed.

The girls in this range are increasingly styled in tight clothing: cropped tops, leggings or short skirts. Again in single-sex shoots they are posed in aggressive or provocative stances. It is hard to tell whether they celebrate the ‘Girl Power’ of the Spice Girls (established in 1994) or fear it.