Monthly Archives: March 2016

On… living the 90s

It all started about two years ago when I had an idea for a movie about four female best friends, who go to their twenty-year college reunion and are cast back in time to 1996. (It’s called Undergrads, I sold it to New Regency, it’s really damn funny, and now it’s in development so… who knows.) I immersed myself in the 90s when I was writing the movie and um, I never really stopped.

Everything was simpler in 1996, and not just because I was a teenager, but because the entire world was simpler. Think about it. It was before 9/11, before Britney, before George W Bush, before reality TV, before Spanx and Brazilians and revenge porn and ISIS and Donald motherfucking Trump. Can you imagine a world without those things? Yeah, man! It was fucking epic! The internet was around, but only just, and no one really cared about it. Everyone wore bad clothes in a great way. Hair was big and bouffy (and my hair in particular was great, I can say that because I am now practically bald… people think babies ruin your body but no dude, my body is totallyfinewhatever, my hair is like a troll doll in chemo).

Plus, men were hot, like this.



(Sorry about saying humminahummina.)

ANYWAY. Here’s how you can make your life just a little more 90s.Let’s start with dark bricky blue-red matte lipstick.


Russian Red was one of the original MAC reds, and I discovered it in 95 or 96, when an MTV DJ was raving about it in Allure magazine, and it doesn’t get more 90s than that. If you can’t be bothered to buy a lipstick, just go to CVS or Superdrug or whatever, and buy a cheap red lipliner – Milani, Rimmel, whatever. Any cheap red lipliner is guaranteed to be a strong red with bluish undertones, because I don’t know why stop asking questions.

And of course, the 90s was also a time of matte brown lipstick. Thank you, Bobbi Brown. You don’t want to look like Fairuza Balk in The Craft (just trust me on this one) but there is something very pleasing and flattering about a soft, slightly shiny, browny-tan lipstick. Try Make Up For Ever lipstick in N7 - I wear it nearly every day right now - with the infamous MAC Spice as a lipliner. Make sure you wear blush, that pancake-white 90s thing is taking it too far.

I’m not a huge manicure person – too impatient – but I had one with a friend a few weeks ago, and choose a dark bricky brown-red that made me supremely content with the universe and my place in it. I think it was Essie With the Band. (Side note: yes, everyone did wear Chanel Vamp in the 90s, too, but it was called Rouge Noir then, and because I couldn’t get it in Hong Kong I had to mix red nail polish and black nail polish in a water bottle cap and hope for the best – I know, such a beauty MacGyver. However, Vamp has never really gone away and therefore doesn’t look as fresh and throwback as this. See how much thought I am putting into the 90s for you?)

If you’re going to commit to the 90s, then be serious about it and wear the right perfume. No, not CK One. I know that’s what you’re thinking, and I totally get it, but that was (a) fucking disgusting and (b) late 90s. CK One smells like cleaning fluid. The late 90s is CK One and Gucci Envy and Gucci Rush. Early-to-mid 90s was different – it was sort of the end of the 80s power perfumes with an edgy punch of girl power. It was Ralph Lauren Safari which is a green-musky perfection, Lancome Tresor which is all apricot-and-roses if you’re into that kind of thing, and Jean Paul Gaultier Classique, which smells like sex and candy. None of these perfumes exist in the same way anymore because of various annoying EU regulations on perfume ingredients, so you have to go vintage to track them down – the easiest way is Etsy, or Ebay, but do your due diligence. Don’t buy a vintage perfume from places like Moscow or Borneo, okay? That way sadness lies.

I think I posted about big hair a year or two ago, but recently I figured out the easiest (read: laziest) way to get big 90s hair. 1. Stop blowdrying your hair 2. Instead, when you get out of the shower, smush this stuff with this stuff in your palms to make a paste, and then rub it over the ends of your hair. 3. Ignore it. Go about your day. It’s only hair. Who has the fucking time.

A motorcycle jacket. Yeah, man. Own it.


This one from Zara makes me feel like Cindy Crawford in House Of Style, but, um, not as hot.

The flip side of wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket is that you might look like Danny Zuko or, god forbid, Johnny Nogorelli.


This is not the look you are going for.


This is the look you are going for.


Or, even better, this. Drew!


Straight leg, high-waisted, 100% cotton blue jeans. Yuppers. No stretch. Pure thick cotton. The problem with stretch jeans is – duh – they stretch. And darling, stretch equals sag. You might call these Mom Jeans, but the key difference is: you don’t want any darts or pleats, okay? And don’t go too pale. It really doesn’t look good unless you are 5.11″.

You can can try these ones or these ones but I got these on sale and I am SO in love with them.

This is what you want your jeans to look like:


Or even better, this:


Next: a navy velvet scrunchie.

I KNOW. DON’T SHOUT AT ME. Carrie Bradshaw’s opinion of scrunchies isn’t the end all be all, damnit, she’s not the GOD of scrunchies or whatever. It looks good and it feels GREAT.

Bonus: I think it might be helping my troll doll chemo hair, as it had so much breakage from hair elastics. I’ve also been making nice soft hair ties out of old black opaque tights, which feels charmingly thrifty in a 90s way, though perhaps that’s just me.

Now. I got my scrunchie from Topshop but it’s all sold out – I would like to think because I instagrammed the below photo but, um, probably not. So I did some research and found this one for you on Etsy, because that’s the kind of gal I am.


Next, the music. I am very specific about my mildly-indie-alt-rock preferences, and I’ve posted about some of these before. I listen to Veruca Salt and Silverchair and Mazzy Star and Harvey Danger and Marcy Playground and Nine Inch Nails and the Counting Crows and Blur and Oasis and Cake and Hole and Kirsten Hersh and Cracker and Spacehog and The Flaming Lips and Pearl Jam and Six Underground and Alanis. Fuck me, we loved Alanis in 1996. And Jeff Buckley! If you ended a relationship in 1996, you probably made your boyfriend listen to ‘Lover You Should Have Come Over’, awkward church organ intro and all, followed by ‘Last Goodbye’. Then you cried a lot, chain-smoked cigarettes with your girlfriends while listening to the Alanis CD all the way to the end until that secret track came on, and then you went out and got drunk and danced to this, even though you hate that fake disco trance 90s shit. It’s not that I liked the song, it’s that DJs liked the song, and no matter what I did, they wouldn’t stop playing it.

If you’re thinking ‘sheesh Gemma, you’re so predictable, cool it with the angry guitar and crooning chicks music’ then try Salt’n’Pepa and Montell Jordan and Warren G Regulate ft Nate Dogg and OPP and, Ini Kamoze and East 17 (fun fact: being able to recite every lyric in that song, in my best Dagenham accent, has genuinely made my life better, so hop to it). There was also a lot of bad pop music, but I’m not the kind of asshole who’s going to put Cotton Eye Joe in your head.

Watch Hindsight. When I first heard about this show I was ever-so-slightly wary (Fox told me he’d seen an ad for it on the subway and I was like “WHAT? ARE YOU FUCKING WITH ME? THAT SOUNDS LIKE UNDERGRADS”) but it is actually this is a charming, quirky little VH1 show with a killer soundtrack. It was cancelled, which is a shame, but you can see why: you can’t do a time travel story without an ending, and TV shows just go on forever, ad infinitum, until we hate Kelly way more than we ever hated Brenda. So the question becomes: is the Hindsight chick going to go back to the future and see what she changed? Or is she going to stick around in the 90s and stop 9/11 and that terrible Stereophonics song from ever happening? Plus she kept bouncing from her old husband to her new husband and I couldn’t figure out who she loved. But anyway, watch it for the fashion, the soundtrack, and the fantastic relationship and banter between the best friends.

There are some things to avoid from the 90s, of course. Everything from the very late 90s – anything from 98 onwards – sucked ass. You know, like butterfly clips and Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Mama I Love You by the Spice Girls. I have a theory that the 90s took a nose-dive because everyone freaked out that the leader of the free world had been cigar-banging Lewinsky and sploodging all over her Gap dress. God! How innocent we were. I’ll take a little sploodge over sociopathic corpocracy any day. But hey, I’m old-fashioned like that.

Lastly. It’s always good to remember that there are some great things we have now that we didn’t in the 90s. Things that make life better, like the Valencia filter. And highlighter. And group texting.