What’s So Good About a Minimal Wardrobe?

Maximalism to the max!

04.21.16

For a long time I believed that in order to build — not just have — a wardrobe, the only way to achieve it was by acquiring clothing that is boring to buy. White t-shirts, black jeans, denim jackets, wool pants, solid shirt dresses. Brown shoes.

White sneakers.

And this might still be true. Having basics is helpful. Some mornings you can’t figure out what to wear, or you feel like shit, and there are reliable clothes that let you slip to sidelines and feel comfortable in your elected anonymity. I’m not undermining that but I think at some point between the beginning of Franciso Costa’s tenure at Calvin Klein in 2004 and the end of normcore, I started to depend too much on plain clothes. Instead of adding them to my wardrobe, I sort of made them the centerpiece. I could blame this on the proliferation of the minimalism espoused by Céline, the perpetuation by brands that followed and how “athleisure” fit so seamlessly into that narrative package, but the more important piece here is that lately, I’m identifying with maximalism again and in doing so, definitively rejecting minimalism.

Give me a statement and make it a loud one.

And speaking of statements! In a recent post I wrote defending the statement coat, I mentioned that we often shy away from “the statement piece” because we feel trapped in its oneness. At our best, we intellectualize its and surmise, because of its statement-ness, that we can’t say more than one thing with the garment in question and that it quickly becomes too obvious a representation of who we are. At our worst, ego gets in the way and we feel self-conscious about having people see us wear the same thing over and over and over again. If you can get past this (this meaning yourself) though, what you’ll find is that egos lie. Statement pieces don’t trap us in their oneness. Nothing can actually do that — we are living, breathing people. And if you can bring yourself to get weird enough — to do the most exaggerated version of you, it’ll never come out the same way twice. That’s not how individuals work, which brings me back to this concept of a minimal wardrobe. Is my attempt to take it down just another means to a trend?

Gucci has no doubt facilitated the ushering in of this era, doubling down on the work of Dolce and Gabbana and at times, Valentino; adding gumption to the humor of Moschino and bringing that boisterous Italian woman back to the spotlight. So this shift in interest isn’t random but it does make me wonder how natural, or personal it is. Which then presents the question: am I really lobbying for the emergence of a new style era, one I’m reluctant to say I believe I helped build (I guess I’m saying it anyway), or am I simply feeding a well-oiled machine under the guise of a purported choice when in fact, it is being made for me?

Iris Apfel Photographed by Luis Monteiro for Financial Times. Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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