Minimalism looks at, from left, Max Azria, Celine and Calvin Klein. Photos: Frazer Harrison, Getty Images for IMG; Tony Barson, Getty Images; Fernanda Calfat, Getty Images for IMG


So, you say you spent spring and summer letting your clothes scream in loud jewel-tone colors embellished with all sorts of sequins, ruffles and other notice-me elements?

Well, now it's time to switch gears, tone things down for fall and start dressing like a minimalist.

Simple, classic, neutral colors in sedated, yet sophisticated styles were a major runway trend. Stella McCartney, Max Azria, Calvin Klein, Balenciaga, Narciso Rodriguez, Céline. The list of designers turning to black, gray, camel and ivory is long this season.

"Some of it is a response to all of the bells and whistles that have been part of fashion the last couple of seasons," celebrity stylist and fashion expert Mary Alice Stephenson tells StyleList of the return to a more simple style of dressing. "The feminine bows, the sequins, the patterns, the florals. Some of it is a designer's response to what's happening in our world, for example, Haiti. If people are suffering and people are cutting back, they want to reflect that in what they create."

Lubov Azria, chief creative officer of BCBG Max Azria Group, agrees fashion is cyclical.

"I think all of the heavily embellished looks of past seasons created a demand for a more pared-down and simplified way of dressing," she tells StyleList.

We asked experts Stephenson and Azria for their advice on how to dress like a minimalist while maintaining maximum style.

Pick a neutral color and stick with it.
  • "The colors of the season were gray and camel," Stephenson says. "And they were everywhere, all over the runway. Some people did color blocking with them, where they were all the same shades of a color. A lot of actresses like Halle Berry or Jennifer Aniston do that -- they wear all gray or all camel or all ivory. That's one way you can wear it, just stick with all shades of the same tone."
  • As for color blocking at home, Stephenson suggests layering a light gray silk tank with a deeper steel gray cashmere-blend jacket, paired with gray tweed Katharine Hepburn-style pants. "It's the idea of sticking with various shades of one color. That's the simplest way to wear the newest colors for fall."
  • Azria agrees. "We played with color-blocking and layering for our fall 2010 collection to keep styles fresh and modern," she says. "All of the looks are clean and minimal without being boring or overly fussy."
But don't rule out color entirely.
  • Stephenson says one way to add a vibrant, glamorous take on gray or camel is to bring in a pop of color. "Take a camel pencil skirt and top it with a bright red cashmere sweater or twinset or button-down shirt. Whether it's purples or pinks, pastels or jewel tones, any color looks amazing with camel."
Minimal doesn't have to mean all-black.
  • "I think a lot of women think they should wear black if they're curvier to make them look thinner, or as they age you need to stick to black," says Stephenson. "But if you take tricks form some of the style stars on the red carpet, you'll realize that people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Aniston -- women their late 30s and 40s who are style icons -- are actually moving into lighter colors, grays, camels. It adds a real vibrancy to your skin and actually makes you look youthful and younger. That's definitely a red carpet trick that we use a lot. I can't remember the last time I put an actress in a black dress on the red carpet."
Don't be afraid to mix things up.
  • "Fabric and texture play a significant role when it comes to minimalist looks," Azria says. "When the silhouettes are clean, the focus becomes more about rich, luxurious textures. For fall, we focused on leather, suede, silk, satin georgette and wool cashmere blends."
  • Stephenson says it's time to break rules and play with texture and patterns. "Just because it's gray doesn't mean it couldn't be some sort of tweed, some sort of floral pattern or optical pattern," she says. "Some people mix patterns and colors and they go a little overboard. But if it's in the same tone, it's pretty easy not to get it wrong.
Now, add your personal stamp with accessories.
  • "Minimalist looks provide the perfect canvas for accessories, so anything goes," Azria says. "You can keep the look clean with a structured bag and architectural booties, as we showed in our BCBG Max Azria runway show, or go the opposite direction with more statement accessories, such as over-the-knee boots and a studded hobo bag.
  • Stephenson says accessories can help you express your own sense of style. "If you want to stay in that same tone, think gold with camel or silver with gray. There are great croc and faux furs and skins out there that also are in those same colors," she says. "But, if you have an amazing camel-colored shift, you might all of a sudden realize a fantastic purple suede shoe is great with it, or putting on a man-style cardigan in a color or a pattern."
And don't forget your makeup, either.
  • "Michael Kors is kind of the master of taking camel and gray and then topping it with a red lip or a pink lip," Stephenson says. "You can use your makeup or your nail color or your accessories to add color to those neutral tones and add a little personality that's a little bit more 'look at me.' "