Today I’m wearing black pants, a black sweater, gray sneakers, and a camel puffer. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started dressing like this, but I do know I haven’t bookmarked a colorful outfit since 2018. Maybe it was all the pictures I saw of Susan Sontag in a white button-down that did it, or all the dapper men I started following on Instagram. Either way, this year has been one of simplifying for me, at least in terms of getting dressed.
But there are drawbacks to this approach. It’s not very fun, for one. Or eye-catching when you’re in the mood for that kind of thing. Sometimes I’ll see my editor Mallory perched at her desk in a pair of key lime pie-green pants, or our market editor Elizabeth stream through the office in a massive red sweater and I’ll think: How fun! Dressing that way every day doesn’t feel very true to me, but neither does only doing it for the occasional wedding. What about those days when I want my clothes to work harder for my mood? When I’m so supremely bored of myself and of beige that I want to dunk my limbs in a bucket of tangerine paint just to feel something?
When Brazilian womenswear brand Farm Rio, known for its bold prints and outerwear imbued with summer energy, tapped us to style an editorial with their Fall collection, I was the least obvious choice to tackle it. But maybe that’s why I was the best one. It made no sense, which made it interesting, and I was feeling a little bored of myself, which gave it potential. So last week, I trekked to the East Village with a bag of clothes more delightfully exuberant than my entire closet and explored my maximalist alter ego in Tompkins Square Park. Below, the learnings I’ll be taking back to Brooklyn.
Maximalism for Beginners: Color Blocking
This color-blocked jacket was the simplest of the bunch, so I considered it my maximalist toe-dip. At first it read kind of “70s dad” to me (a good thing), but once I paired it with maroon corduroy overalls, a blue plaid turtleneck, and the wildest boots I’ve ever laid eyes on, I felt more like a kid on a playdate. Which, to be clear, is also a good thing. Possibly a great thing for a burgeoning New York cynic like me. I almost struck up a game of handball with the guy playing on the other side of this wall! Haven’t played in 20 years, but I’m sure I’ve still got it.
Takeaway: Hyper-focused color coordination can offer the same put-together feeling a neutral outfit does, with considerably more gusto.
Maximalism for Generalists: Pattern Loyalty
You can’t see it in full, but this jumpsuit is good. It fits like you wish every jumpsuit would fit, and everyone in the Man Repeller office kept commenting on it. That’s just a PSA. I paired it with a puffer jacket rendered in a similar pattern (and with shearling sleeves, because why not?) to create something akin to a monochrome look, but with print. Is monopattern a term you’re familiar with? Because I just made it up. Consider this Exhibit A. Despite this outfit only being comprised of two garments, it was loud and busy and fun. It felt like the winter equivalent of taking a summer vacation.
Takeaway: If you want your outfit to shout but pattern-clashing isn’t your thing, pattern-matching is streamlined without being boring.
Maximalism for Experts: No Rules Whatsoever
Enter the wildcard outfit. It was time to leave the nest and fly free. No more color-blocking or pattern loyalty, just a gentle kind of chaos. This puffer was the obvious choice: It’s a party in a jacket. I could examine it all day (in that sense it would make a great subway companion). I decided to pair it with some wide-leg geometric pants and a bold red sweater with matching sunglasses (replete with a multi-color sunglass chain). At first I felt a little silly, and then I felt kind of…great? Blame the cheerleaders on set, but I spent an unnecessary amount of time in this look, offering up poses after we’d already wrapped. Maybe I’m not as loyal to minimalism as I thought.
Takeaway: When in doubt, break all the rules.
Photos by Sabrina Santiago.