If you think defining your own personal style is difficult, imagine what it's like for a celebrity. Designers quite literally throw themselves (okay, their garments) at the A-list 24/7, and having so many options at their disposal must be overwhelming.
I'm not saying this problem equates to that of political strife or gender inequality, but personally speaking, I'd struggle to maintain my outfit identity if suddenly the world's most sought-after clothes were at my disposal. That's why I think it's so easy to sniff out a star who dresses the way they want to dress, as opposed to what stylists would have them wear.
No style set is more headstrong than minimalists. When your career calls for you to wear lavish gowns more frequently than jeans, it's little wonder the likes of Rihanna and Beyoncé utilize every opportunity to make a bold statement. However, with the minimalist movement more prolific than ever before, we thought it was high time we gave minimalist style icons the space they deserve.
Of course, we can appreciate all styles, but we're particularly inspired by those who choose simplicity over standing out, and whose wardrobes consist of clean lines as opposed to tulle and taffeta. Because style is so much more than wearing the first expensive dress that comes your way.
For this, I delved deep into the fashion archives to bring you the best pared-back dressers from the '60s right up to 2020. From Françoise Hardy and Audrey Hepburn to '80s It girls like Winona Ryder and Iman, keep scrolling to see the greatest minimalist style icons of all time.
Style Notes: Serving as a PR for Calvin Klein during its '90s reign, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was the epitome of pared-back chic. Sleek tailoring, midi skirts, and accessories The Row would design today were her go-to—even for the lavish state dinners she'd attend with her husband, John F. Kennedy Jr.
Style Notes: Cate Blanchett is elegance personified, equally confident in a couture gown as she is in suiting. Her eye for simple silhouettes is unrivaled.
Style Notes: While much of young Hollywood default to body-cons and short hemlines, Elizabeth Olsen stands out from the crowd. Sure, Ashley and Mary-Kate may be her (ridiculously stylish) older siblings, but Elizabeth's love of oversize cuts and androgynous separates is all her own.
Style Notes: In the '60s, Françoise dominated the French music scene for the best part of the decade and became one of the most influential women in the industry. However, her influence also spread to fashion. Androgynous to the bone, her uniform consisted of shirting, tailored trousers, and low-heel boots.
Style Notes: A modern-day French fashion darling, Clémence Poésy has starred in countless Chloé campaigns and is a regular at Paris Fashion Week. However, we think she looks her best in off-duty jeans, a button-down, and sandals.
Style Notes: From the costumes in Annie Hall to her own choice of wares, Diane Keaton never fails to inspire us. While she's undoubtedly a fan of off-beat accessories, her clothes are always simple and effortless.
Style Notes: The cream roll-neck, the high-waisted skirt in contrasting black, the chunky gold hoops, the earth-tone pout… There's nothing about this look that we don't love. In fact, there's not a super-minimalistic Sade look we don't love.
Style Notes: Gwyneth consistently proves that minimalists can wear color too. This navy-and-purple clash works perfectly, while the uncomplicated cut of her coat and trousers give an air of sophistication.
Style Notes: Since starring in The Crown, Claire Foy swiftly became one of our favorite dressers, and it doesn't get better than this understated Calvin Klein ensemble.
Style Notes: Little black dresses, trench coats, high-waisted trousers, and chic white blouses… Audrey Hepburn's capsule wardrobe is a minimalist's dream.
Style Notes: Don't be fooled by her penchant for beachy hair and flip-flops. Jen is as minimalist as they come. No-fuss dresses are her forte, with pared-back accessories serving as her only add-ons.
Style Notes: Having redefined women's fashion during her sovereignty at Céline, Phoebe Philo is singlehandedly responsible for making minimalism more interesting and what it is today. For that, we'll be forever grateful.
Style Notes: A Louis Vuitton muse and Bond girl, Carole Bouquet reached icon status in the late '70s and early '80s. However, fame didn't change her personal style. She always chose turtlenecks and cords over fancy dresses.
Style Notes: Charlize Theron is somewhat enigmatic off camera, and we only really see her when she's on red carpet duty, where she's guaranteed to be sporting a minimalistic gown.
Style Notes: Being a minimalist in the '80s wasn't easy, but Iman's fondness of monochrome made her a beacon of classiness in a sea of brash looks.
Style Notes: If you thought minimal fashion had to be all about oversize suits and coats, think again. Angelina Jolie makes minimalism work with her love of elegant pieces thanks to the muted color palette and interesting shapes created by her cardigan and the folds on her dress.
Style Notes: You may have seen her wearing sequins on Strictly, but Stacey Dooley's personal wardrobe couldn't be more different. Made up of camel coats, chunky knits, gold hoops, and relaxed trousers, her red carpet style is pared-back, too. Case in point? This Mother of Pearl dress.
Style Notes: Her hair may have been frantic, but Italian actress Monica Vitti's style was anything but. Think blazers, turtlenecks, and minimal jewelry.
Style Notes: Having undergone a style transformation on a scale previously unseen, Victoria Beckham cast aside her collection of Roberto Cavalli dresses awhile back and is now a minimal style convert, celebrating the concept of a capsule wardrobe via her own designs.
Style Notes: Lately, Zoe Saldana has been forgoing OTT gowns for understated dresses, cementing her status as a minimalist style icon.
Style Notes: While Winona still sets our fashion pulses racing today, her '80s ensembles will always have a place in our hearts. No one could pull off a brown suit quite like she could.
Opening Image: Getty Images
This post originally appeared on Who What Wear UK at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Maxine Eggenberger is Who What Wear UK’s deputy editor and has over twelve years of experience in fashion journalism. She been creating engaging and elevated style content for Who What Wear UK since 2018, covering runway reports, emerging trends, long-form features, self-styled shopping stories, and columns, including her edit of the best new-in buys. She ensures the highest editorial standards are met across the site, works closely with influencer talent on content initiatives, represents the brand at industry events, and regularly contributes to social media. Previously, Maxine appeared on TV in her own fashion segment and has interviewed countless celebrities—everyone from Victoria Beckham to Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.
Prior to Who What Wear UK, Maxine’s career began when, after completing her first-ever internship, she was offered a position on the Look magazine fashion desk. She accepted, leaving university a year early in the process. She went on to become the title's fashion news and commercial content editor, with a stint as InStyle.co.uk’s fashion writer along the way. She later served as Look’s acting Editor in Chief before embarking on a successful freelance career, working with Grazia, The Pool, and Marie Claire amongst others. Maxine works remotely from her countryside home near Edinburgh.
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