Set to Neutral: On the Proliferation of Simpler Clothing

711933c1bc3221d2dec80f1e53fd01f0Last night at a birthday party for an old friend I was surrounded by a bunch of other ladies I’d grown up with. It’s safe to say that, even if I haven’t seen some of them in ages, I have seen a fair amount of their clothing over time.  It’s also safe to say that they have always had annoyingly great style—and while that is still the case, something different stood out this time. I noticed that every single one of us was wearing some version of a neutral—a collective mashup of blacks, whites, the palest pinks, deep greens, and/or grays. We would have been perfect stand ins for the Kardashians as mitigated by Kanye West, his presence having toned down their preferred color palette and “turnt up” their style game.

It’s not that these colors were new territory for any of us, but it was interesting to me that, across the board, five totally different women had gone the super neutral route. And—having the always-overthinking-everything brain that I have—I feel the need to explore it further, because a dress is never just a dress, and yada yada ya.

Is it simply because we’re growing up, opting for more sophisticated shades and silhouettes? I’m sure that has something to do with it, but I don’t think that’s the full picture. Minimalism has been infiltrating mainstream style more and more, and I’ve seen its effect most on my female friends. Together we seem to be craving looks that allow us to say more, but with much less. Tried and true lady-dressing stereotypes—the floral printed dress, perhaps, or the endless chain of super-high heels—seem to have lost some of their appeal. Such pieces too readily force us into cute little boxes of femininity as defined by the male gaze and other ominous forces such as Joan Rivers’ Fashion Police trolls or Us Weekly. There’s a freedom in not wearing clothes that put it all out there but that work instead like blank slates. You’ll have to pick my brain to figure me out, these pieces seem to say.

To be clear, we’re not walking around in burkas or sack-dresses twenty-four-seven. In fact, there was a good amount of skin on display last night. But it wasn’t necessarily radiating from the most obvious silhouettes—replaced, instead, by unusual jumpsuit-produced cutouts or, in one case, a slightly longer hemline than you might expect for a going-out dress. In lieu of anything too specific, the neutral colors lent us all a bit of a mystery—and that’s never a bad thing in our current overshare-everything state.

These pared-back clothes, in making it harder to crack our personal codes with just a glance, free us up to potentially more significant interactions—whether they’re with a new friend or someone who’s a little bit more.

1 reply »

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