It’s a Spice World: The Spice Girls' Impact on Fashion Twenty Years On

It’s a Spice World, we’re just living in it. Twenty years on and the stamp that the Spice Girls made on commercial fashion is still visible.

A potentially contentious statement to be sure, but attending a Spice Girls-themed party a week ago - where all-out costumes were obligatory at the request of the birthday girl - showed me that the style of the world’s first female supergroup is more relevant today than it ever has been.

Flashback to 1997 and the Spice Girls were at the centre of the ‘Cool Britannia’ movement. Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack Brit Awards dress became an emblem for the band’s ethos: free-thinking, fun and feminist. For the first time, there was a girl group in which each member had their own distinct sense of style. It marked a departure from the coordinated ensembles that pop bands of the past were notorious for, often leading to such groups being satirised for a lack of individualism and personality. The aesthetic variation within the Spice Girls was their USP: the girls all appealed and related to different subsets of the wider audience. The nicknames 'Baby', 'Posh', 'Sporty', 'Scary', and 'Ginger' – somewhat jokingly assigned to them in an interview with Top of the Pops magazine – quickly stuck and became a core aspect of the group’s branding. See a girl walking down the street in a two-piece Adidas tracksuit, and you could be fairly certain that she was a Mel C fan. Spot a woman on the bus with bunches and a lollipop, and you knew that she either had a strong schoolgirl fetish, or was trying to emulate Emma Bunton’s look.

You don’t have to look to hard to see the influence that the Spice Girls have in modern fashion. Trends that they pioneered in the '90s have come full circle, and are visible in the window displays of almost every high street shop. Sporty Spice style now takes the form of sports luxe, evolving from all-out activewear into athletic yet tailored pieces in silky fabrics. Look in any coffee shop and you’ll be hard pressed not to find at least one person in a pair of suede Adidas 'Gazelles'. Space buns, the biggest hair trend of the festival season – particularly publicised by Gabby Allen from Love Island – can be traced back to Mel C’s 'Scary Spice' days, or Emma Bunton’s baby bunches. '90s-esque crop tops and co-ord sets closely resembling those worn by 'Ginger' and 'Baby' were some of the summer’s key pieces, particularly with the launch of the Missguided x Barbie collection.

Victoria Beckham, however, is the true style star of the group in 2017. Whilst Posh Spice’s LBD is something that will never go out of style, her tailored, feminine suits of the '90s have made a comeback in recent years, from the red carpets of Hollywood award shows to to the Oxford University ball scene. Her eponymous fashion label, founded in 2008, continues to go from strength to strength. With dresses and handbags retailing for up to £18,000, she has become a respected fashion designer in her own right, regardless of celebrity association. Her collaborative collection with Target launched this year, offering shoppers a chance to own Beckham-designed pieces in a wide range of sizes and at a fraction of the price. Within hours of the website going live, the line sold out, and items appeared on eBay for nearly four times the original price. Even within this collection, hints of Spice Girls style could be seen. Lily-patterned silk tracksuits and baby pink A-line dresses are the modern-day hallmarks of a 'Sporty' or a 'Baby Spice'.

Whether the style of the Spice Girls will still be relevant twenty years from now is debatable. New pop groups have emerged, with their style emulated by a new generation of fangirls. Trends from this season will be seen only in charity shops the next. Yet at the heart of Spice Girls fashion is the sentiment that individuality is key; that you should dress for yourself, regardless of the opinions or behaviours of others. This is a  message that I hope has longevity in the wardrobes of girls everywhere, long after the Spice Nation revival has passed.


StyleMolly FlahertyComment