The Death of the Minimalist

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Words: Mia Squire (She/Her)

Artwork: Rory McMillan (He/Him)

With almost 700 million views for the hashtag ‘Maximalism’ on TikTok, are we ready to wave goodbye to the neutral, minimalist, ‘clean girl’ aesthetic in favour of vibrant coloured self-expression? I hope so. 

Maximalism is an aesthetic of excess. Originally stemming from 19th century art and architecture, it presents the antithesis of minimalism. Here, more-is-more. With layered fabrics, bright and bold patterns and colours, and playfulness encouraged, maximalism promises to put a smile on people’s faces. Minimalism has had a tight grip on the trend cycle for several years, with the popularity of wardrobe basics and neutral tones synonymous with Yeezy. However, in the past few months, several maximalist creators have blown up on TikTok. 

One of the most viewed maximalist videos features maximalist giant Sara Camposarcone getting ready for the day. She first presents us with a pair of oversized green boots, moulded to look like bare feet, before meticulously layering a sheer pink dress over a green bodysuit, then finishing the look with life-sized lettice-shaped earrings, huge diamante glasses, and several yellow bows. In replying to a hate comment she claims ‘this is fashun bby’. 

This is a message similarly preached by fellow TikTok influencer Anna Golkayepez, whose over-the-top looks have led her to feature in Vogue. Her looks divide comment sections, which are filled with confused millennials questioning whether the videos are satire. One video which sees Anna paring a bra made out of snowflake Christmas decorations with stripy pyjama bottoms is particularly polarising. One comment suggests ‘your outfits look like they are on the most expensive coke on the market – it’s a slay honestly’. 

Maximalism represents the marmite of the TikTok world. Golkayepez and Camposarcone’s looks are frequently likened to something out of The Hunger Games and are quickly passed off as an inside joke. But, equally, others suggest their carefree approach to fashion ‘heals their inner child’. Here there is little emphasis on expensive and unattainable pieces, but rather taking simple everyday objects and turning them into a fun fashion moment. Watching their infectious personality and childlike joy of dressing, it’s hard not to see the appeal of maximalism. It’s fun. It is a reminder that there are no rules when it comes to what we wear. A comment on one of  Golkayepez’s videos perhaps best sums up the appeal:

‘Your videos are so therapeutic, like I can literally feel myself unlearning cringe culture with every outfit. I know there’s always people in the comments saying ‘there’s no way you’re serious about that outfit’, but one thing I really take away from these is, why be serious about an outfit if you don’t have to be’. 

Watching these videos I can’t help feeling like the emphasis that has been placed on minimalism is restricting us. With the ‘clean girl aesthetic’ dominating social media, it works as a reminder that society rarely popularises imperfections or mistakes. But, whilst there is a place for simple lines and easy basics, we are allowed to push boundaries with what we wear. It is a form of self expression. Maximalist GRWM videos become short pieces of performance art which can shock, amaze, and divide the audience. They tell the viewer it’s not all about looking ‘clean’ or ‘perfect’ – we can have fun with our appearance. They spark exciting conversations about fashion and taste that a SKIMS bodysuit never could.

Maximalism is a fashion movement that demands attention and space. This is why it is so importantly dominated by female and queer creators – members of society who are often encouraged to be small and take up less room. This movement subverts this expectation. It rejects the male gaze and champions self-expression. It becomes an artform which has the power to supersede the trend cycle, something unique in a world ever-consumed by microtrends. 

Now, aesthetics can be bought into and rejected almost as quickly as it takes us to watch a 30 second video. Suddenly, one girl with a unique fashion sense and big TikTok following can be branded a trendsetter overnight, convincing us to add to our constantly revolving wardrobes. From cottagecore to Y2K, the trend cycle has thrown sustainability out the window. Maximalism represents something bigger than a trend. Maximalists encourage you to dig out a tutu from Halloween 2016 and layer it over a pair of vintage jeans. It is not about new and perfect, but rather making something impactful out of what we already have. Despite the emphasis on ‘more-is-more’, it ironically could be one of the most sustainable trends TikTok has brought about. 

Sure, the everyday person might feel uncomfortable wearing four coats and some tinsel on a trip to the shops. In many ways the aesthetic appears redundant beyond the confines of our bedrooms. But the ethos of the aesthetic still stands. Whilst we don’t need to be as bold and courageous as Golkayepez and Camposarcome, we must remember fashion is fun. There are no rules. We can be freed from the confines of expectation and perfection. TikTok maximalists encourage us to stand out and take up space.

 Anna Golkayepez:

Sara Camposarcone :


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