Less Isn’t More

By Revekah Echols

A lesson in arithmetic from the fall fashion runways

Pictured: Getty Images

Less is never more. More is always more, but in the last few years that idea seems to repulse us. We have been in an intense mode to simplify, to declutter, to live closer to what we eat and wear, to experience life with the essentials. Jars of marinara sauce, pouches of baby wipes, even motor oil now claim to be cleaner, purer and simpler. But are they? And are we truly cleaner, purer and simpler as a result?

Like it or not, we like stuff, lots of stuff. We like eating, exercising, laughing and crying too much. We like binge watching television shows, persistently testing probability and making bad choices on purpose. It is as if we believe that dearth and excess are both roads that will eventually lead to Rome. While we may currently cling to simplicity, in the indulgence, gluttony and excess we can also find a clear, steady voice that sails above the noise. This is the heart of fall fashion.

The ideas presented on the runways perilously bordered on schizophrenic. Fur stoles on top of car wash pleated skirts, knitted pompom hats paired with gold brocade car coats and chunky glasses, origami tweed tops back to bias cut silk skirts in neon colorways. Prints on top of other prints, fabrics stitched in with other fabrics, bows spilling out of other bows. Crayola-like paint replaced bare faces at Céline. Mary Janes replaced stilettos at Dolce & Gabbana. Mega-volume replaced impossibly skinny at Rag & Bone.

Designers showed the exact opposite of what anyone expected, and it seemed as if all of the trends from the last five decades ran through a paper shredder and attempted to reassemble themselves, strip by strip. It felt jilting, discontiguous and worst of all, it was coined “granny glamour.” Fashion is always supposed to be pushing, so what does this nostalgic, unsexy turn mean at large?

The easiest answer is that designers became tired of the sexy, young and pragmatic overtones that currently dominate mainstream fashion. Candid fashion found on the street has become as important as rehearsed fashion on the runway, and in effect, designers have found themselves in a position to re-earn the credibility of their audience every season. Maybe the razor-sharp tailoring at Hermès or the floor-length shearling coat at Chloé were more than exquisite, imaginative garments, then; maybe they also symbolized the anti-DIY, the hero to rescue us from normcore.

Without a doubt, fall’s mashup of trends could also indicate a changing of times. Just as the “it girl” or “must haves” are buzzwords of the past, media-dictated trends could also be an aging neologism, given that choices for consumers are becoming too varied to distill into one neat magazine feature. While it used to take culture decades or even centuries to turn over, it now transforms at an exponential rate.

Our physical world is changing so rapidly, but are we changing with it? Or are we still the people we were 100 years ago before technology, before industry? And finally, if we are without trends, does it mean we are also without direction? If the fall collections offered any hope, they seemed to create solidarity out of the excess, refinement in the indulgence, sanity out of the madness.

Less is always less. More is always more. Maybe it’s just a simple lesson in arithmetic.