Minimalism for the Maximalist at Heart

Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, who, give or take a few exceptions, must be the main source of inspiration for The Row designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, had the kind of inherently chic, uncomplicated style I aspire to in my greatest of sartorial dreams. For all her haunting secrets, she dressed in a way that projected strength and confidence. She managed to look proper yet cool, conservative yet naughty, shy (especially of cameras) yet absolutely in charge.

My fascination with her stems from her ability to combine so many opposing, complicated personas within a single human being. The paparazzi-obsessed world wanted her to be its perfect muse, an American royal, but like no woman ever is, Bessette Kennedy was never just one thing.

Amid the clamor for her attention, I wonder if dressing simply was her way to find a moment of peace and quiet. I think about this whenever I begin to resist the alluring call toward minimalism. “Minimalism is boring,” I’ll say as I hold up a simple silk tank. “It’s a cop-out, Stella. You’re more complex than this. You should challenge yourself with layers, clashing colors and embellishment.” But recalling Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s clean silhouettes forces me to argue the case that style does not have to be visually complex for it to be great nor interesting. Maximalism is not the only way to tell a story.

For this shoot, I wanted to put the thesis of my own devil’s advocate to the test to prove the maximalist-only champion in my mind wrong. It was an exercise in restraint to not put on the extra accessory, to leave the printed blouse hanging in the closet. The beauty of this way of dressing is that, because all you need are a few pieces, and because these few pieces are basic, lanky, solid in color and hang without fuss, they live in harmonious tandem with the wilder things in your closet. Just because you have a silk slip holding court in your wardrobe doesn’t mean you can’t also enjoy a larger-than-life coat. Women are never just one thing, right? Certainly, the one thing we never are is boring.

Photos by Denise Bodden; follow her on Instagram.
Styling, art direction and modeling by Stella von Senger; follow her on Instagram.

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