Maximalism, and the Art of Pairwise Matching

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I’m an aspiring maximalist when it comes to fashion.

I realized this when I was getting dressed on the day of this shoot; I had a pair of awesome new embroidered jeans to show off and had to compile the rest of my look around them. I imagined an alternate universe in which I wore a plain white shirt and sneakers and let the jeans speak for themselves.

And then I realized I don’t actually own a plain white shirt.

My closet is filled with patterns; quirky, loud, and sometimes gaudy enough that my mother cringes when I wear them. Some of my favorite patterned pieces, like this top, are from Thailand, a land where, I’m convinced, the absolute strangest patterned fabrics exist (seriously, if you want to find some cheap but incredible statement pieces, go to Southeast Asia).

In the past few years, minimalism has had an upsurge in popularity in fashion, interior design, web design, etc. Aesthetically, I enjoy it tremendously… on other people. For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to properly dress myself in minimalist style; I’ll lay out the skeleton of a possible clean-cut and simple look, but suddenly a technicolor animal print scarf appears and oh, it would look so good with those floral socks, and voila- I’m minimally minimalist.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with dressing like a maximalist. It’s fun, it makes people stop and smile (or occasionally point and laugh), it evokes a reaction (good or bad). On Instagram, my username is @absolutedax, and I’ve never owned up to why: it’s because I wanted to combine my name (Dax) with a mathematical term and chose the maximal point in any function: the absolute max.

Maximalism doesn’t come naturally to everyone, just like minimalism doesn’t come naturally to me.  Here are some tips for achieving a more maximalist look.

  1. You don’t need to wear just one statement piece.
    How many statements do you make, verbally, in a single day? I’d imagine you make several, not just one, so why limit yourself to one statement piece? Don’t make a statement; perform a monologue. Express yourself throughout.
  2. Not everything has to match perfectly with everything else; try pairwise matching for a start.
    I attempt what I call “pairwise matching,” where any one item should match with at least one other item in my outfit. In this look, my lip blouse matches with my lip bracelet, and my studded jeans match with my studded jacket. The blouse doesn’t quite match with the jeans, but I’d like to think it works.
  3. Challenge yourself to approach items in your closet creatively.
    Think through ways to wear a certain dress or shirt unpredictably. Imagine you are 1 out of 100 people who own this very same item; the majority of people will probably wear it in a very similar way. Shirt, meet pants. Dress, meet heels. As an aspiring maximalist, you don’t want to be in the majority. What are things you can do to dress outside of the norm? Try finding interesting accessories or shoes that add to the item in an interesting way. Try adding layers. Try finding patterns that aren’t obvious matches but still have potential.
  4. Don’t fear failure. Unsure of the look? Wear it anyway.
    Life is a very long series of fashion experiments; not all of them are going to be resounding successes. But I’ve learned from experience that the best ones aren’t necessarily the ones I have 100% confidence in. Sometimes (usually because I’m pressed for time after sleeping through my first five alarms) I wear an outfit that I’m not fully certain works, but I trust my instinct. What’s the worst that can happen?

Where do you lie on the minimalist-maximalist spectrum? Let me know in the comments below! I hope my tips inspire someone out there to dress a little louder this week… Wear that monologue, we’re all waiting to hear it!

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(Blouse from Thailand, Jeans from LF Stores, Shoes by Franco Sarto, Leather jacket by French Connection, Lip bracelet from H&M, Lipstick in Mon Cheri by Beauty Bakerie, Sunglasses from ZeroUV

Many thanks to Jane for taking and editing these photos.)

20 thoughts on “Maximalism, and the Art of Pairwise Matching”

  1. I’m so glad you wrote this post!!! I’m definitely more a maximalist when it comes to fashion but lately I’ve been leaning more towards simpler pieces. But this post made me want to keep trying out crazy patterns! Those jeans are amazing.

    Lee – leethrifts.com

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    1. Lee! So good to hear from you, hope you are doing well! I’m glad I was able to help re-ignite your passion for crazy patterns :o) Now that the weather’s finally getting nicer, it’s the perfect time to mix and match with bright patterns! Thanks so much ❤

      Like

    1. Hi Hannah, thank you so much! I’m thrilled to hear you feel inspired to be more adventurous. Once I started dressing more boldly, I felt more courageous and confident overall; makes a huge difference! Really appreciate your comment, and will do! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So much yes! I got these cute printed pants this weekend and the saleswoman was like “just make sure that whatever top you pair these with is solid” and now I’m like NOPE.

    Also that top is EVERYTHING.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Emily!!! Yasss girl! Wish I could see what you end up pairing the pants with but I’m sure it’ll be fabulous. Pattern mixing is SO much fun when you get the hang of it — and for me, getting the hang of it was basically just letting go of the fear of messing up! Thank you for commenting ❤

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    1. I completely admire your strategy! I have a hard time getting rid of things in my closet, so definitely do not classify as a minimalist in that respect. Not contradictory at all :o)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love seeing how other people do things so I can experiment with my own “flavor.” Even a style I haven’t tried before can contribute to me reevaluating my own. Many thanks for sharing 🙂

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    1. Hi there, thank you so so much! Really appreciate your support, and ready to return it in full! I’ve followed you back ❤ Thank you for finding me! 🙂

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