Sunday, January 16, 2011

How to Wear: Minimalism

When I travel, I try to pack in a basic color story with items that can be worn many ways.  This makes for easy mixing-and-match, lighter packing, and forces me to look at pieces in a new light.  Then I got to thinking, "Why am I not doing this all the time?"  When the latest issue of Real Simple arrived in the mail, I really saw the light.  They have an inspiring fashion spread on modern and minimal pieces.

That said, I've complied a pictorial review of some of the principles of minimalist dressing.  Look for pieces that are well designed with limited "extra stuff."  One of the best designers that continually achieves this is Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein.  He uses clean lines, basic shapes, and neutral colors to create a sophisticated, sharp look.
(L to R): Spring 2011, Spring 2011, Pre-Fall 2011, Pre-Fall 2011, and Pre-Fall 2011

When creating a minimal wardrobe, neutral colors help create timeless options.  They match themselves and each other seamlessly.  One way to look instantly pull together is with a monochromatic pallet of really nice pieces. 
(L to R): The Row, Donna Karan, The Row, Lyn Devon, and Jil Sander

(L to R): The Row, ADAM, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Donna Karan, and The Row

(L to R): Donna Karan, Doo.Ri, Rachel Roy, Derek Lam, and Derek Lam

This doesn't exclude colors either, both pastels and brights.  Many of the traditional minimalist designers showed hot pinks, oranges, and bright blues on the Spring 2011 RTW runways.

(L to R): Jil Sander, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Lyn Devon, Akris, and Jil Sander

By mixing neutral colored clean pieces, you can achieve a color blocked affect that is very modern looking.
(L to R): The Row, Lyn Devon, ADAM, Givenchy, and Jil Sander

Three things to keep in mind with a minimal look: (1) structure and draping; (2) texture; and (3) accessories.

I feel that minimalist pieces can be either structure or draped, though structured (see Calvin Klein) is more traditionally thought of as minimalist.  I think the key here is that the piece should be effortless and aren't "over designed" (read: embellishments on top of screen printing, on top of unnecessary seams/zippers/pockets, on top of a destructed look).

Next is texture.  Texture is a great way to keep a monochromatic outfit from looking dull.  Take a look again at the first color blocked image from The Row- a knit sweater over a silk shirt with leather pants.  Basic, yes.  Dull, no.

Finally, accessories.  Why would you take a beautiful, simplistic outfit and junk it up with costume jewelry?  Accessories should coordinate well with your outfit, but are still a great way to add personality.  Consider just earrings, a bracelet, or a statement ring (but not all three).

Inspiration for minimalist dressing is all around.  I like to look to architecture and interior design, and Dwell magazine and Design Within Reach are great resources.  So is the hilarious website, Unhappy Hipsters.

You can also find inspiration in the celebrity world.  There are a few celebrities that have developed a consistent style, and they show off the range of looks in minimalism.  Kate Bosworth has a sweet, pastel sense, while Angelina Jolie is more sex pot and Kate Lanphear is more rock and roll.  Gwyneth Paltrow, Claire Danes, and Audrey Hepburn are great sources, too.

Shopping for modern, minimal pieces is fairly easy if you use an editing eye.  Consider the color, look at how well it is made, and think about how many ways you can wear it.  No store is off limits, from Anthropologie to Theory.  Here's a selection of pieces currently in stores to get you started:
Monochromatic Black (L to R): Kate Spade Mirna Dress, Eileen Fisher Lace Trim Long Cami, Theory Biara Pants, Banana Republic Draped One-Shoulder Dress

Monochromatic Ivory (L to R): Theory Codey Top, Max Azria Cotton/Bemberg Twill Skirt, BCBG Draped Cowl Neck Dress, Eileen Fisher Classic Collar Long Shirt

Monochromatic Grey (L to R): Gap Asymmetrical T, Banana Republic Silk Betty Layered Dress, Banana Republic Gemma Wrap Dress, Ann Taylor Luxury Drape Wrap

Monochromatic Color (L to R): Anthropologie Irresistible Maxi Dress, J. Crew Hammered Silk Flambé Dress, RACHEL Rachel Roy Michelle Dress, Kate Spade Janelle Skirt

Coco Birdie


  1. I love the middle top (black and white block) from the real simple magazine. Would you let me know which company made this top?

    nice post!!! thanks

  2. The magazine lists it as an Ann Taylor top, but I have yet to see it on their website or in stores. Anthropologie currently has one similar that is navy and teal:

  3. I also recently saw this dress on ASOS, which is very similar and could be shortened to a top:,83.659&sh=0&pge=1&pgesize=200&sort=-1&clr=CamelAndBlack&mporgp=L0pvaGFubi1FYXJsL0pvaGFubi1FYXJsLUNvbG91cmJsb2NrLVNoaWZ0LURyZXNzL1Byb2Qv