Age-Wise Style: Don't Call Minimalism a Trend

CWC Halston
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I have always been drawn to minimal designs. When I began my fashion magazine career in the early '80s, designers such as Halston (above), Geoffrey Beene, Calvin Klein, and Zoran were at the forefront of New York fashion. I remember being a nervous little fly on the wall at a presentation Halston made in his Olympic Towers studio, wondering how in the world I was lucky enough to be in the room!

Zoran, the famously cranky but brilliant architectural designer, refused to allow messengers to pick up his samples, so early in my career I was often dispatched to his loft downtown to get them. He packed them in large plastic garbage bags instead of garment bags (in keeping with his irreverence) and he would critique what I was wearing each time I arrived from the lofty perch of his bunkbed. Once he told me I looked like "Junior Bazaar"—which was a mass brand for collegiate women! It stung, but somehow, we grew to like each other and I spent many paychecks ordering the less expensive items he offered, wholesale, such as velour sweatshirts and gabardine sarong skirts. Most were one-size-fits-all and none had buttons or zippers. Genius!

These designers had a big impact on my developing taste and sense of style. I was never into the flashy side of the '80s, such as "the pouf," big gold buttons, or garish prints. Calvin Klein eventually became my designer of choice. His spare sportswear was perfect for me. I would have loved to have worn Geoffrey Beene's elegant, weightless, forward designs too, but I was young and my lifestyle didn't warrant such elegance and expense.

As I have gotten older, this early fashion education has served me well. For some time now, I have noticed that flowy, fluttering, fluid shapes are unflattering. Crisp collars, clean lines, and fine fabrics are the way to go. Structure is your friend!

You can assemble an incredibly functional, timeless, and stylish wardrobe if you start collecting well-made pieces in this vein. Keeping the color palette fairly neutral guarantees that almost everything works with everything else. Let your accessories introduce color, excitement, and surprise in contrast to these elevated "basics."

Here are some of my recent favorite minimalist items:


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These are your wardrobe power players—they go with anything! The key here is to look for a shape with structure, whether it be a modern sweat style, a timeless tunic, or classic v-neck.

Shop it (from left): Theory, $265; Lemaire, $440; Atea Oceanie, $395;


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A minimal dress doesn't have to be shapeless. You want to find a piece that will carry the eye from top to bottom. To really nail the look, seek out styles in neutral shades with little detail, like a belt, which will show off your frame while still maintaining a weightless vibe.

Shop it (from left): Tibi, $445; Lemaire, $630; J.Crew, $198;


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A pant with a strong yet simple silhouette screams minimalism—but a strong silhouette translates to more than just a straight leg. You can achieve the same streamlined look with a soft pant or skirt, just look for a style with crisp seams and subtle details, like a satin hem.

Shop it (from left): Inese, $380; 3.1 Phillip Lim, $350; Ted Baker London, $225;


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A clean cut jacket is the finishing piece to almost all your looks. What's great about a minimal style is that it can be reworn and restyled time and time again.

Shop it (from left): Helmut Lang, $395; Uniqlo,$100; COS, $290;

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