Updated: Feb 18
By Kendra Stiers
Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2021 Collection
Maximalism as a fashion style has become more prominent in recent years. Hallmarks of the style include layers, print mixing, tons of colors, flowing silhouettes and statement jewelry. This over-the-top style has started to become an everyday style for some people. So what are its roots in fashion history, and why has it become so popular now?
saracamposarcone / Instagram
In the arts, maximalism is defined as the “aesthetic of excess.” In direct contrast to minimalism, whose touchstone is “less is more,” maximalism ascribes to the philosophy that “more is more.” Maximalism breaks all the rules it felt like we were taught: You have to pick just one statement piece. Your colors have to go together. Mixing patterns is a veritable fashion crime.
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (1908)
Modern maximalism likely has its roots in the art nouveau movement, which was first seen in architecture in the 1890s and moved into painting in the early 20th century. The movement is built upon the principle of an organic line, providing a break from more rigid visual-art conventions.
Yves Saint Laurent Evening Dress (1976)
Like all fashion trends, the pendulum swings between minimalism and maximalism in cycles. Fashion curator Valerie Steele names Yves Saint Laurent as the epitome of maximalism in the 1970s, Christian Lacroix in the 80s, and Versace in the 90s in an interview with Vogue. So clearly, maximalism isn’t a new concept.
However, in the 2010s, standout brands focused on clean lines and neutral colors which created a polished silhouette. In the larger, day to day fashion consciousness, fashion subscribed to the rules about minimal texture, color, etc, and styles like loungewear grew to popularity.
@evelilythrifts / Tiktok
Maximalist style really blew up on TikTok. Scrolling through #maximalist or even #ootd (outfit of the day) will reveal influencers dressing in layer upon layer. Some aesthetics that fall into the maximalist category would be cottage core or even Y2K, both styles that have become popular on TikTok in recent years. So it seems that Gen Z are the ones embracing a more maximalist style.
@jessdruey / Tiktok
And when you think about it, this makes total sense. Maximalism has always been the answer to the blahs and constriction of minimalism, and what in our lives has been more blah and constricting than the COVID-19 pandemic? As people turned to expressing themselves through fashion during the lockdown, maximalism was the perfect way for a lot of people to bring a lot of color and fun back into the pandemic.
And furthermore, Gen Z has been seen to be the generation that rejects the rules imposed on them by other generations. If the fashion websites and magazines tell them that less is more, they put on another layer. If they tell them to stick to a pop of color, they mix and match them.
Maximalism isn’t for everyone, but the spirit of maximalism– wearing what you want and never letting anyone tell you that it’s too much– is! The key is not to be afraid of being “extra” but to boldly wear whatever you want however you want to express yourself.