Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about minimalist fashion. At its core, it can be described as a Classic, unadorned, neutral-colored, or solid-colored, wardrobe made up of high-quality interchangeable pieces and little to no “logo” accessories. I advocate for having a lot of these kind of pieces in your closet. There is a lot to be said for such a wardrobe.
But I think the problem is that the whole concept got co-opted when celebrities wanted to prove that they were not conspicuous consumers. They didn’t want to appear too flashy. So instead, they started wearing these minimalist type pieces from extremely expensive sites like The Row, Khaite, and Celine that are easily identifiable as extremely expensive pieces from The Row, Khaite, and Celine.
Next, younger fashion influencers jumped on the bandwagon. They called the style “Old money” chic. And as day followed night, a torrent of faceless online critics began vigorously and somewhat viciously panning these Classic style “wanna-bes” and disparaging the whole concept.
Maybe a lot of this trend is fueled by a belief that color, print, and jewelry is somehow slightly vulgar or is harming the planet by using toxic dyes and other natural resources. And maybe the minimalist critics felt they were at risk of losing their individuality.
But the notion that dressing to be visible is somehow contributing to our collective demise throws the entire love of adornment – which has been a feature of human life since we were cave dwellers – out the window. It feels like a guilt-trip, frankly. There’s a difference between conscious consumerism and guilt.
Still, for us women over 60, 70, and beyond, can minimalist fashion actually hold something valuable? Or do we simply disappear behind all that tan, beige, and gray?
Minimalist style refers specifically to what is considered a Classic type of wardrobe. It’s defined by the parameters mentioned above: simple, neutral, or solid-colored, high-quality interchangeable pieces. It’s actually a very elegant and striking look for a lot of older women. It can demonstrate good taste and refinement. Those aren’t bad qualities for anyone. And they can help you to stand out on their own.
But Minimalism as a concept can refer to the sheer number of items in your closet. Embracing minimalism means that your closet isn’t stuffed to the gills with clothing items you rarely wear, or that held some sentimental meaning for you 10 (or 20) years ago but are terribly dated now.
Embracing minimalism can mean that your clothes speak to who you are, intrinsically, and that you wear them on repeat because they are beautiful. You don’t need a lot of unusual or showy pieces. It can demonstrate that you are not trend driven.
Maintaining this mindset when it comes to what you wear is a healthy way of simplifying your life and freeing your mind from clutter. Too much of anything can complicate life. And our closets are very revealing about how complicated our lives might be.
The answer is, of course!! I’ve been beating the drum about simple, classic, well-made basics as the foundation of just about any wardrobe for a long time now. That certainly doesn’t mean you have to throw out your love of color, print, or accessories.
But the reality is that as we age fewer of us want to be seen as wildly flamboyant or flashy. You have to have a pretty bold personality to carry that off after 70 or risk looking slightly foolish.
If you are attracted to the idea of having fewer and better things that withstand the test of time, and a wardrobe that uncomplicates your life, minimalism might be a good fit for you. It just requires being a little more strategic about how you organize your closet and express your unique style. You will start seeing the value of purchasing better quality items because you will want them to last a long time.
The main draw of a minimalist wardrobe is that it is a very practical and workable wardrobe. It’s practical because it saves you a lot of time figuring out what to wear. The fewer the items, the fewer the decisions. Workability comes from seeing that just about everything goes well with everything else in your closet.
And it can help you remind you that you don’t need to keep buying the same types of things on impulse. (We tend to do this when we have so many clothes that we’ve forgotten we already own the very same or similar new item that we are attracted to.)
When you simplify your choices, hone your color palette, and do some editing, you will find that getting dressed is a lot less stressful. And that doesn’t mean you have to replace your own style with a strictly Classic, neutral wardrobe.
In a post I wrote for Sixty and Me, we looked at the two extremes of fashion style displayed by the main characters in Frankie and Grace. Frankie was a true bohemian and Grace was almost a pure Classic archetype. Grace’s closet likely looks similar to the true Classic minimalist wardrobe.
Frankie’s character was all about patterns, textures, and ethnic-inspired clothing and accessories. But at this latter stage of her life, she opted for less pattern mixing, more solid-colored pieces, and fewer, but very bold accessories, often matching the silver in her hair. The whole look was extremely chic and elegant. And it had a striking simplicity to it. Her unique personality still came through clearly.
There are several ways minimalism can make you stand out – in a good way. If you just abhor the idea of all neutrals, simply wearing a pair of perfectly tailored slacks worn with a fabulous colored blouse or a gorgeously printed scarf in colors that are very flattering to your skin and eyes, can make you extremely visible… rather enviable, actually.
Or a simple, rolled-sleeve white blouse worn with your favorite stack of chunky or colorfully beaded bracelets can also be extremely chic, if you still want to express that more playful or bohemian part of your personality. Or wearing a bias-cut mid length satin skirt worn with a colorful cashmere sweater or even a crisp solid colored blouse can look elegant, sexy, and smart.
Or it could be something like a solid-colored neutral basic layer of tops, slacks or skirts worn with a fabulous, printed, or colorful coat and boots. These are all simple, “minimalist” outfits. There is nothing boring about them. And they can be varied and accessorized to make you visible but classy.
Sometimes it just feels like the right time to shed an old image of who you were and embrace version 2.1.
At another time in my own life, I strongly embraced the “High Spirited” part of my fashion style and personality. That persona was more extroverted, energetic, bubbly, had short curly hair with reddish-gold highlights, and wore red rimmed glasses.
But I have let my hair grow out, stopped coloring it, and now wear it straight. The Classic side of my style and personality is simply what appeals to me more now. By necessity, as I am in my 70s, I conserve my energy. I also conserve my finances in that I don’t go for an expensive hair color and cut every six weeks. And I have fully embraced my graying temples and the fact that, with length, my hair is now straighter. My dark rimmed glasses add an element of gravitas.
Personally, I feel more visible and authentic now than I did in my younger years. And it’s a heck of a lot less complicated than how I used to dress.
If you like the concept but the prospect of revamping your whole wardrobe is too daunting, start by applying the two most important criteria for a minimalist wardrobe: “Do I love it, and/or do I need it?” If you neither love nor need something, it’s just taking up space in the back of your closet… and in the back of your mind.
And then, with the items that pass that first test, create a few combinations that you wear often. Think about how confident and visible you feel in them. And importantly, apply an honest eye when considering whether or not they still reflect who you are.
You can pare down, eliminate a lot of fluff, opt for simple, well-made, and refined pieces, and still be something of a Bohemian, a Femme fatale, an “old money” Classic, a laid-back fashionista, or whatever “title” you want to give yourself.
And you will definitely still remain visible.
What do you think of the trend toward “minimalist” fashion”? Have you embraced the concept for yourself? Do you have a minimalist go-to outfit that makes you feel visible and chic?