Fashion History: Purism

Fashion History: Purism-Victoria Beckham

Designers like Jil Sander, Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Bill Blass, Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein have paved the way for consumers’ appreciation for classic designs done in a largely monochromatic palette.

Pure, natural colors, including gray, beige, camel, black and white, have been popular for more than two decades now. The focus of these so-called pure creations is on luxurious fabrics, clean lines, tailoring, draping and architectural and geometric forms.

It’s with this kind of design that creativity has to truly shine in order to be successful. It’s easy, after all, to command attention when wearing intricate embroidery, feathers, beading and other embellishments—not to mention piles of accessories woven into models’ hair and adorning their bodies. 

It’s infinitely harder, and takes a significant amount of gusto, to have the courage to attempt commanding the same attention when presenting toned down, discreet, minimally accessorized looks.

While the aforementioned designers have exerted significant influence, particularly with their work in the early 1990s, many of the fall/winter 2010 collections are reviving this simplicity. Look no further than collections by Marc Jacobs, Halston and Victoria Beckham (above). 

Fashion History: Purism

The idea of purism in fashion dates back to the 1960s. It was during the this era that we saw a strong push for functional and unpretentious clothing. An abundance of white—likely tied to the innocent connotations of the hue—resulted in the rise of now iconic basics like the polo dress, the cardigan and the shirt blouse.

Fashion is always rebelling against something, and in the case of the 1960s, it was in response to the frilly full skirts and constraints dictated by fashion in the 1950s.  The ‘60s, however, valued function over frill.

Similarly, in these past few seasons we’ve seen designers rebel against the ornamentation that accompanied fashion during the economic boom. The emergence of purism can also be tied into menswear, the epitome of functional-wear, which is another major trend in fashion right now.


Fashion History: Purism - Calvin Klein