Let’s get one thing straight: minimal in not boring. In fact, a well-honed minimalist look has the head-turning power of polka dots, tribal prints and neon colors—with a lot more craft and subtlety. The best unfussy outfits combine clean lines, rich textures and classic colors with simple styling to create a look that gives the wearer a vibe of uncomplicated and understated elegance, never the impression of trying hard.
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Victoria Beckham may be the reigning queen of the minimalist look, both in her designs and her street style. A perfect example is the outfit she put together for the VIVA Forever Spice Girls the Musical London premiere—the popstar-turned-designer wore her own white silk blouse with a pair of Isabel Marant cropped trousers, but it was the merlot-colored coat—also her own design—that made the look. A clean and tailored coat in a saturated neutral hue can easily elevate minimal basics. Zosia Mamet has been known to overdo it on the red carpet with trendy pieces, but her look really wins when she downplays it like she did at the recent Miscast gala. The Girls actress wore a figure-skimming Roland Mouret dress with black peeptoe pumps. This look could’ve slid under the radar if not for the folded detail of the neckline which adds interest. Emulate this by looking for an otherwise simple dress with one stand-out detail and keeping accessories to a minimum. Zoe Saldana worked a similar look at the Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds event: her plum Giambattista Valli dress is basic enough to be worn in the evening or at the office, but she created a head-to-toe look by choosing matching T-strap Gucci sandals. Her grey box clutch is a must-have for a minimal wardrobe—this piece can go anywhere with anything.
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Jessica Chastain knows that the classic pencil skirt-and-blouse combo can be pulled out of the doldrums with noteworthy texture. At the Chanel presentation during PFW, the red carpet favorite wore a look that’s unremarkable on paper, but fabulously chic in person—the ruffles on her sheer white blouse and quilted bag make this an outfit that says luxe without screaming. Pairing pieces in moody hues and rich fabrics is another way to put together a statement minimal look. Take the ensemble that Allison Williams, an actress known for her safe but stunning style, wore to the Target + Neiman Marcus launch: her navy cigarette pants, midnight blue silk blouse and scarf have a subtle sparkle. Finally, there’s the opposite trick: a crisp look like the cream coat and shift that Naomi Watts wore to Louis Vuitton at PFW has the same beautiful effect of walking into an all-white space with big light-filled windows. Watts was smart to pick a black pump to break up the monochrome a bit, and we especially like the gold heel. A detail like this makes you want to reach for your pair of all-purpose black pumps again and again.
Ready to put your prints aside for a while and become a minimalist? Start with these eight building blocks of a solid minimal wardrobe:
1. Vince Half Placket Silk Blouse – $275; 2. Goat Redgrave Summer Coat – $796; 3. ASOS Peg Pants in Jersey – $30.52; 4. Topshop Textured Snake Pencil Skirt by Boutique – $180; 5. Lafayette 148 New York Neeley Folded Dress – $208; 6. Mango Minimalistic Cut Blazer – $59.99; 7. Isaac Mizrahi Pointed Toe Leeza Pump – $130; 8. Smythson Cooper Zip Clutch – $670