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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Licentiate Column 04/11/09

You'll be hard pressed to find a word-heavy article about minimalism.  There isn't any clear cut reason for such a linguistic drought, but it might have something to do with the fact that the trend is just so, er, minimal that there's really not much to say about it.  It could have something to do with the fact that it's just so devoid of detail and, ironically, fuzzy around the edges that no-one really seems to know what it is.

Minimalism has it's roots in art and architecture, which is appropriate for such a simple, but complicated, idea.  Predictably, it means stripping down something (in this case, clothing) to it's most fundamental elements.  Minimalist clothing isn't fussy.  Imagine minimalist clothing and you'll think of Audrey Hepburn's iconic LBD and cocoon coat in Breakfast at Tiffany's or Ali McGraw clomping morosely through a snow-filled quad of some non-distinct Ivy League university.

A minimalist coat, a coat devoid of fripperies, is not a coat with vital bits missing - the sleeve ripped out or a collar carelessly forgotten.  Instead, the minimalist is obsessed with clean lines.  That means no ruffles, no pleats and no exposed zips or buttons.  Everything should be as straight and up-and-down as possible.  This is unfortunate for women, because as we well know, women are not 'straight, up-and-down' kinds of creatures.  We have curves and folds.  We loop, we undulate. We are inconveniently complicated.  We are squiggly shapes mercilessly hammered into a square, sharp cornered hole.
> Fashion designers seem to have forgotten, while drawing inspiration from art and architecture, that people are not inert objects.  A blank canvas doesn't have breasts or hips to ruin the perfect, minimalist straight line.  A building doesn't have to run for the bus only to discover that, after two minutes of movement, the hem of the chic Hepburn-ish cocoon coat is now around it's armpits.
> Minimalism, in it's original incarnations, called for the lithe-rail thin physique of a fourteen year-old boy who has recently completed a growth spurt.  Simple sixties boxy suit jackets teamed with matching minis hung best on narrow, less well endowed physiques.  Thin, vertically ribbed knit jumpers grew unnecessary and ungainly ripples when pulled across any chest larger than an A cup.  If anything, minimalism was the trend that taught women to be ashamed of their cleavage.
> The nineties revival was no different.  Only this time around, 'minimalism' also meant 'wear even less clothes'.  Most people will remember the stir that Kate Moss caused modelling sheer, wire-thin strapped, mons veneris short sheath dresses for Calvin Klein.  This started an offshoot trend for barely-there frocks, which in turn resulted in the simultaneous cricking of necks in males every time there was a stiff breeze.

This years Autumn/Winter trend is slightly different.  Designers have realised the economic power of creating a look that actually suits real women.  Minimalism still retains it's pared-down aesthetic, but is slightly softer around the edges and nipped in at the waist, made lovingly with luxe fabrics and in rich neutral tones, like the clothing equivalent of a Marks and Spencers dessert ad.

Ironically though, in order to properly subscribe to minimalism, you'll have to buy a whole new wardrobe.  Unfortunately, there's a catch.  When it was affordable, minimalism didn't suit us.  Now that it miraculously suits the average woman, its almost totally inaccessible.  

We have two options. 1) Marry a Russian ogliarch.  2) Recognise that you're stressing unnecessarily about yet another inaccessible trend for no good reason and carry on living your life as normal, no damage done.  Until minimalism become fashionable again in 2030, that is.