Or, How to Make Minimalist Style Work With a Non-Minimalist Body
First, mes amis, we all are wise enough now in the Ways of Fashion to realize that most of us will not be wearing these architectural wonders from the runways, much as we ooh and aah over them. Or at least, une femme will not. But that doesn't mean that we can't borrow the best of what these minimalist looks have to offer and make them our own, provided of course that this is a style that appeals. A caveat here: while some may define "minimalist" more narrowly, my definition would encompass clean lines, a monochromatic or mostly monochromatic palette, usually neutrals, no prints, simple but interesting structural details, an absence of fussiness. While many of the runway looks are tailored to within an inch of their lives, I don't think this is a realistic expectation for most of us for quotidien wear, and don't expect to duplicate that level of design or fit in my own wardrobe. I have to be comfortable, and I like a bit of ease and movement in my clothing.
The good news about the new minimalist style is that it's not married to one particular silhouette, nor does it require strictly matching coordinates or stiff and unforgiving fabrics or cuts. If you aren't sure which silhouette works best for you, check out Imogen's posts on body shapes at Inside Out Style (right sidebar, see "Body Shapes Explained" to find yours). Regardless of your shape and best silhouette, if you have more curves than angles, I have one word for you: knits. In Monday's post, I intentionally included a few images from Eileen Fisher, as her line of primarily knit pieces has some excellent options especially in tops and jackets that fit in perfectly with a minimalist aesthetic.
Long Belted Jacket, $298 Though I generally run screaming from anything with a belt, the placement of this one is optimal: right at the narrowest part of the torso.
Ponte knit biker jacket, $258. Moto style jackets are everywhere this fall, but I like the dimensions of this one; the collar doesn't dwarf the rest of the jacket, taking the trendy factor down a few notches and making this more likely to be wearable for multiple seasons. I find the asymmetric zip to be very flattering for those of us with some ballast up top as well. The EF longer moto style cardigan that I posted a few weeks ago is still available at Nordstrom, and still fabulous in either charcoal grey or blue.
This long open front cardigan (also available in auburn and black, as well as in Petite sizes) is one of those items that looks better on than in the picture here. The design is simple, but the diagonal weave of the fabric gives it some subtle interest.
Long diagonal weave cardigan, $228. I'm all about the long-over-lean silhouette these days, and have been pleased with the EF pieces I've found recently. No longer dominated by the shapeless and baggy, many of the current styles skim and flatter. I've personally learned to stay away from the more voluminous styles (the word "cascading" is a good tip-off), but they could work well on taller women. I've been singing the praises of the silk jersey tops for a couple of years now, and for this summer-to-fall transitional season, am living in these underneath cardigans or lightweight jackets:
Silk jersey tunic, $138. Best part, you can wash and hang to dry overnight, so they're great for travel too.
For those of you who might be hyperventilating at the thought of stepping into an EF store, how about some Helmut Lang?
One word of caution about knits: you want to stick to fabrics that have some heft and hold a bit of shape. Those dishrag limp "featherweight" sweaters which look so cute in more Boho ensembles won't work for this look.
Another designer that does some nice pieces in a more minimalist vein is Vince. (Yo, Vinnie!)
Cowl neck lambskin jacket, $995. Again with the moto styling, but not-quite-black.
Here's a sweater that's simple in style but with diagonal detailing interest:
I've shown mostly tops here, as that's where I focus the interest in my own ensembles, and these days mostly stick to dark wash jeans, black trousers and pencil skirts for the bottom half. When it comes to jeans, I'm still in giddy, head-over-heels love with these:
My favorite black Jackson lightweight wool trousers from Banana Republic have been discontinued (insert extended raspberry noise aimed in BR's general direction here) so I'm hanging on to the two pair I still have for dear life. For the pencil skirt, it's back to my new BFF Eileen for this ponte knit number.
The good news about a more minimalist wardrobe in a limited palette is that you don't need a lot of clothes to make it work. And no, you don't have to do black. Navy, charcoal grey, beige, camel or chocolate brown are all workable palettes for a capsule wardrobe. A few well selected pieces that can be mixed and matched, paired with a handful of the right accessories to change up the look can work for just about any occasion. I certainly understand that the minimalist look doesn't resonate for everyone, and some may find it drab or boring. But if this aesthetic speaks to you, there are ways to find those elements that work for your body and lifestyle, and make them your own.
Do you have any favorite minimalist pieces? Any items you're on the hunt for right now? Any strategies to make this look work for your particular shape and lifestyle?
We'll talk about accessorizing this look to maximim advantage in the next installment.
Photo at top from Style.com.