Style Stories

The vibe is: Refined maximalism

Build an outfit that is streamlined, then fuck it up with unexpected delight.
by Leandra Medine Cohen
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What do you wear when you want to look streamlined, put together, like you’re in charge and all-knowing but also like you have a sense of humor, or like there’s a twistedness that you admire about the way you perceive the world?

Like you respect the concept of the benevolent gaze — understand that what you put on your person might wake up someone else out of an uninspired slumber and give them an idea for their own sense of style. For the pizzazz they pass on as they get in or out of a brightly lit subway car, or a crowded coffee shop, or a bleak strip of blocks (like in midtown) where everything’s grey (no matter how brightly the sun shines), amid a sea of style choices that are more like non-choices.

The small style risks that you take on your person are the easiest ones to get your toes wet with, they can surprise you and arm you with enough confidence to go out and take more meaningful ones. And lately, these risks (choices, really) are starting to look a lot like refined maximalism to me.

Examples from the most recent batch of runway concepts: Sandy Liang Fall 2023 (left), Bode Fall 2023 (right)

It’s not wacky or too confounding like full-look Gucci, it’s more like a broadly digestible edge that is rough.

Wales Bonner Fall 2023 (left), Tory Burch Fall 2023 (right)

Earlier this month, Phoebe Philo opened an Instagram account and said a collection would launch in September 2023 under her name. I got a dm from a reader turned internet friend and she asked if this meant we were going back to minimalism. I obviously have no real idea but if I had to guess, it seems impossible to me that Philo is going to swing out of the gates with a collection that piggybacks off the cultural imprint she already stamped all those years ago at Celine.

Fashion has changed in many ways since she left, but her customer has kind of been gargling through iterations of ideas she’s already had, that have been reinterpreted, streamlined, even minimized. Spun off and then reimagined from there, but if I had to distill what she always delivers, it’s classy with a dose of ugly.

Celine Spring 2014'; Celine Spring 2017

Maybe not in the same way Miuccia Prada does it — there is such a glaring Italian, matriarchal femininity about Prada whereas Philo designs for a more, I don’t know the word to use here — modern? Practical? woman. What both have in common is that they don’t smooth out the rough edges, they bring them out further, enhance them, make them part of the beauty.

Right now I think that vibe is inching closer toward refined maximalism, as opposed to staying put with straightforward minimalism. Refined maximalism how I see it is like that thing where you wear a straightforward outfit,

This is my “I watched Tár last night” look, featuring a button down shirt from Salie 66 (this one’s good), red vest from Maryam Nassir Zadeh, the omnipotent Emi Mess charcoal grey trousers (but they are indeed very expensive; here is a pair from Toteme, another from Maria McManus [blue] and one pair from Mango) and all-black Converse

Chuck Taylor All Star Classic
$65 USD
The Chiara Shirt - Sky
$150 USD

That might be harsh, or it might be dainty

A great suede jacket by Bogner; you would not believe how many great jackets you can find on TRR (but also, you can approximate the same look as above with a beige blazer styled over a black windbreaker, which I have done before), styled with Nafsika Skourti’s beaded mini skirt (this one is so cute too), white knee highs and Gucci slingbacks

Bow-embellished leather slingback pumps
$980 USD

Something that’s simple, but not necessarily easy.

Chanel jacket, LMND brown shirt, BITE grey t-shirt, Doen shorts, The Row derbies (a good alternative at $474), Khaite bag (I like her from Etsy too)

Claude Short
$198 USD
The Lilith Evening Bag
$2,200 USD
Jules Patent Leather Derby Shoes
The Row
$1,250 USD

It indicates a sense of reliability

This hat from The Row retails for $790. Is it worth it to fashion yourself into the final smores course (in more ways than one!) from that Netflix movie, The Menu? Also wearing an Ines Aquino trench coat (here’s a whole breakdown on what makes a trench good), Venstore’s polo sweater (a cool new brand I have never spoken about not once in this newsletter), Khaite shorts (also a brand I rarely mention; like these ones too — would be good in this look w knee-high socks instead of full tights), with Swedish Stockings tights and Saint Laurent slingbacks. As a good alternative, I have test worn these from Me + Em! And they are great.

Asrid Cashmere Hat
The Row
$790 USD
$846 USD
Nia High-rise Denim Shorts
$228 USD

With a vague dose of surprise 🎩 - and comfort

Go on, do a spinal twist. This corduroy shirt is from Donni. (This one by Marni x Carthartt is awesome too.) I suspect you have good enough straight-leg black trousers to style with a white t-shirt worn over a black t-neck. If you are still on the fence about pearls, though, might I suggest you jump?)

Or understanding

More pearls, less problems. Here’s a good jacket, a red turtleneck, these pants are Giuliva Heritage (but these on sale from Dries are good too) and the sneakers are Adidas’ Campus style

The various pseudonyms for feminine confidence. Until…

If Fran Frescher got her PhD in mysticism. Rixo coat, Khaite t-shirt, St. John skirt, Gucci slingbacks (what is Chiko!?)

Milly Leopard-print Faux Fur Coat
$584 USD
Leopard Knit Skirt
St. John
$597 USD
Emmylou Cotton-jersey T-shirt
$266 USD


The hat’s back. This time with a Prada coat I found on TRR, brown Michael Kors pants from TRR too, a bag I bought last summer in Ibiza from here and Prada creepers which can be approximated through something like this or this

Surprise attack.

I call this “homemade Bode.” The jacket is La Veste, the dress is Prada (close! And semi-related…this is very tempting) and the loafers are by The Row

Toad Green Blazer
la veste
$382 USD
Suede Flats
The Row
$258 USD

It’s an endearing attack, more soft and tender with the darts baked into the details.

I bought these old Celine pants in Paris like 6 years ago. And to date, I have not one single pair that makes me feel more mature and confident — styled with the MNZ vest, an old Chloe shirt with a dramatic collar, and house slippers I “thrifted” from the back of my grandmother’s closet. Here’s a close-up because they are great and I don’t fully understand how/why she only wore them at home:

And you’re thrown off course, but not really thrown because whatever you’re wearing — whatever you’re saying, it still makes sense.

Tory Burch coat, with a Tory skirt too, plus a Venstore polo and a Jil Sander bag (here’s a comp with a handle bar, in brown). These sunglasses are from a small German brand called Mapleton

Cotton Poplin Ballet Skirt
Tory Burch
$419 USD
Satin Wool Coat
Tory Burch
$1,499 USD

Or at a minimum, it’s still digestible. Maybe it’s the pearl necklace

This pose is the answer to the question, how do I expose the wedge on my shoe (La Double J) without jeopardizing the integrity of my pants (Kallmeyer)? Mango turtleneck (this one from Cos is good), Caro Editions sweater (I asked for it in a size large); cardigan’s nice too

Tones Wedge
La Doublej
$940 USD
Fair Isle Wool Sweater
Caro Editions
$354 USD

Or an unseasonal add of a strand of turquoise — some huge ring, or even a pair of boots.

That is, when they’re “ugly

It’s easy when it’s the shoes, but it can go both ways. Might be the prints

Big St. John energy

A Rochas top (found you know where for the seductive price of $49), with Paul and Joe pants and Toteme boots (are here too)

Or the colors up against each other.

CH Carolina Herrera mens button down shirt with Callas Milano pants, Converse sneakers and Delarge sunglasses

Be it through silhouettes that are not at all complicated, or the precise reverse.

This is a Valentino skirt from a collab done with MyTheresa last year (you can recreate the vibe with a weighted sarong that has fringe trim, then belt it), and Valentino sandals (sent them back! Not sure I’d wear them in real life), not from a collab but acquired through MyT.

I have been thinking that the style cues most interesting to me lately seem to relate to the wearer as much as they do the spectator. Like there’s a symbiosis about the ritual of getting dressed that somehow benefits both.

The way the outfit can embolden the confidence of the wearer and inspire the onlooker to reconnect to their own creativity. This is a feature that I believe is part of what can make style sacred. It’s embedded in the sharing of an idea as opposed to the mere showing off of one, in the formation of connection or unity.

Minimalism succeeded in performing the same duty. It promoted a quietude that was right for the moment, but I’m getting the sense there’s an appetite out there to break out of it now. We might be entering a new era of style that is more like a portmanteau of past and present, where minimalism cannot be unseen — with the cleanliness of those lines and the comforting simplicity of its shapes — but the desire for something a little bit off or ugly or rough or out there, thrilling and quizzical or straight up funny shows up to perpetrate it.

And I love the idea that getting dressed could positively impact the wearer just as much as it does the witness. We never talk about fashion in these terms — about the positive qualities it can bring out — in you, absolutely, but also in those around you.

There’s value in finding that how you dress can connect someone else to a sleepy part of themselves, or even can connect them to you. I would bet good money that whatever Philo spins out will look nothing like the above looks — but it will surprise us, I’m sure of that, and now that I’m writing this, I think too, it might bring us a little closer. Until then,

Vive le homemade carpet skirt.