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Brief Published: 11 Jun 2019

Maximalist Fashion Is Having a Moment at NYC Museums

Camp: Notes on Fashion

The monotony of minimalism is over – or so claims a duo of current fashion exhibitions in NYC. The Metropolitan Museum grapples with camp subculture, while the Museum at FIT traces style’s perpetual swerve from understated to exuberant, and back again.

These shows reflect the fashion industry’s current interest in irreverent glamour – a trend we analyse in Luxury Fashion’s Open-Source Thinking. In Camp: Notes on Fashion at the Met, this glamour is manifested in the exhibit’s unabashedly theatrical approach. Loosely structured around the 1964 essay Notes on Camp by American intellectual Susan Sontag, it moves from an exploration of the genesis of camp, to a dramatic display of contemporary, over-the-top garments. 

Camp emerges as a perennial flourish of showmanship – whether expressed in a Renaissance statue’s hip-out contrapposto pose, or Dutch fashion duo Viktor & Rolf’s 2019 billowing tulle meme dresses.  

While the Met presents an exaggerated interpretation of one maximalist subculture, Minimalism/Maximalism at the Museum at FIT proves that flamboyant garments stand up to academic scrutiny. Starting with the 18th century, it traces how tastes have pivoted from over-the-top to subdued and back again. Through this continuous juxtaposition, the show cautions against definitive style statements. 

In contemporary fashion, the tension between minimalist and maximalist styles has become integrated into cohesive statements. The multilayered, monotonal outfits we highlight in Street Style 2019: Part One underline how contemporary consumers merge these two statements.

It’s not just fashion demonstrating this malleable approach to maximalist tendencies. The upcoming Less Is a Bore at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art showcases designers and artists who’ve pushed back against minimalism – a trend underlined in our S/S 20 Materials FocusLand of Plenty.

For more on maximalist fashion, see Instagangs: Gen Extreme and Youth Style Tribes: X-Treme Expressionists.