A tour of the ultimate '90s mall experience
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the sad news of dELiA*s decline. dELiA*s was my absolute favorite catalogue in the ’90s. And catalogues were a way of life in the ’90s. Calling up and making your order, writing down the item number. Thrilling stuff! I would dog-ear almost every page and circle what I wanted. Painstakingly waiting for my birthday or Christmas to roll around or, “don’t you want to get me something for my A- on this Health assignment?” I was OBSESSED.
My very favorite pajamas were from dELiA*s and obviously were a flannel pajama set like I was attending a slumber party in the movies (my ultimate dream). And then we got a dELiA*s in the mall near me and I was…a little overwhelmed TBH. Suddenly the clothes I could stare at on mannequins were here in front of me IRL. Incredible. I grew to love having dELiA*s accessible to me in the mall, and as a kid who spent a lot of time in the mall, this was important to me.
Here are other places I wasted way too much of my youth loitering in and occasionally buying under $5 items.
OBVIOUSLY. I got my ears pierced for the first time there and then my 2nd hole on my left side at a Piercing Pagoda and then the 3rd hole on left and 2nd hole on right simultaneously back at a Claire’s. (Did I mention I grew up in the 90s? I still have a cartilage piercing too, y’all.) We would stand around Claire’s and look at the dumb plastic jewelry and count out how much money we had and “Well, I still need money for an Orange Julius” and “Hmm, I really wanted to buy that Mariah Carey cassingle though. . .”
Bath & Body Works
I’m well aware these still exist because, embarrassingly, I STILL BUY THEIR BODY SPLASH. Sorry not sorry but there’s a scent I really got attached to and then they discontinued it and I still have a little left and look, the heart wants what it wants.
But in middle school, this store was EVERYTHING. Everyone had a different scent they were obsessed with and we would buy each other the lotions and sprays and body wash for every holiday. Ob-sessed.
(Guys, this is not a photo of a Structure. I can tell because there are no fake pillars. But Sears bought Structure the brand and still makes it now and this is a photo of that. I’m sorry for letting you down.)
Structure eventually became Express Men, which I have never cared for. But when it was Structure I was down. My ideal man was decked out exclusively in Structure and wanted to discuss it at length. We’d meet at the fountain, he’d be wearing carpenter pants and we’d hang out at the food court and I’d make him hold hands on the carousel in the little carriage that didn’t move.
Oh how much time I have spent in Media Play. It’s where I bought my first-ever DVD (a copy of the movies, Heathers, natch), where I bought my first CD purchased entirely with my own money (Boyz II Men II) and where I went and hung out in pjs with my dad and best friends to get the Titanic double-VHS (wide screen OF COURSE) at midnight when it was released.
Contempo Casuals was the first store I was intimidated by and almost couldn’t enter. I finally got the courage to go in and bought a tub of sparkle glitter gooey eye shadow (you know what I mean right?) and some blue mascara. As someone who didn’t wear “normal” makeup until she was 21, this purchase was a big deal for me.
Plus the fact that Contempo Casuals got a shout out in Clueless pretty much sealed its appeal to me. In 2001, it was bought by Wet Seal (which still exists) and turned into Wet Seals and Arden B.’s.
Yes, Spencer’s Gifts still exists and seems to thrive but I like to think the’ 90s was the height of Spencer’s Gifts. I bought all my glow-in-the-dark decorations from a Spencer’s Gifts, I got an inflatable arm chair from there, a lava lamp which my parents didn’t understand my desire for and still lives in my childhood bedroom, and it’s, of course, where we went to try to figure out what all the dirty jokes meant.
Gadzooks was the perfect place to buy all your hip ’90s tee shirts. You know the ones everyone had that weren’t that great in hindsight? Like some tee shirt with a Reese’s logo on it that you had to have in 7th grade because everyone else ALSO had it. Forever 21 purchased the store in 2005, so when you walk past a Forever 21 you can give a silent nod to Gadzooks.
The Sharper Image
I am sure every employee at any Sharper Image hates all pre-teens and teens because we would go in there and just TOUCH EVERYTHING. Oh cool, there’s a little putting green set up? Wait, there’s a massage chair, I’ll be right back! I can’t believe Sharper Image is no more but Brookstone is still allowed to exist. How rude.
No trip to the mall was complete without a snack of some ICE CREAM OF THE FUTURE. The hilarious thing is Dippin’ Dots is kinda gross. It’s tiny balls of ice cream and like, I was ENTERTAINED by it—but would always rather spend my money on some cinnamon twists and a Dr Pepper at Taco Bell.
Magic Eye Kiosk
THE ULTIMATE ’90s experience was the Magic Eye, as evidenced by this scene from Mallrats. I mean talk about the dumbest thing that ever became popular. And they set up kiosks in the mall where you could try out some Magic Eyes, buy a Magic Eye calendar, etc. Everyone had that one friend who could never see it and would get grumpy when you stopped there but since I was a BOSS at it I loved it and would be the most smug little kid ever when you couldn’t see what was obviously a ship.
Let’s go to the mall!
(Main image , Structure image via, Media Play image via, Boyz II Men II image via, Contempo Casuals image via, Spencer’s Gifts image via, Gadzooks image via, Sharper Image pic via, Dippin Dots image via, GIF via)