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Fashion Made Simple

What makes an outfit beautiful?

If you asked me (not that you did, but I’m going to tell you anyway), I’d say that the same principles of beauty apply to fashion, makeup, sunsets, symphonies, and poetry. If you asked my younger brother, he’d probably say that they also apply to computer games and monster trucks.

I got to thinking about it because Teen Vogue just published a “Fashion Faceoff” between TV actress Nina Dobrev of “The Vampire Diaries” and heiress Nicky Hilton, younger sister of Paris Hilton.

The faceoff compares side-by-side photos* of Nina and Nicky, each wearing a monochrome Alice & Olivia mini-dress by designer Stacey Bendet. It asks Teen Vogue readers which they like better. (To see the side-by-side photos, click here.)

The mini-dress is solid white and solid black. Nicky left it at that, adding only black heels and a white clutch. But Nina added a layered silver chain necklace and sheer black leggings.

Which looks better? I like Nina as an actress, but Nicky won the fashion faceoff.

Why did she win? It seems to me that whether we’re talking about an outfit, a painting, a symphony, or a play in football (I included the football reference just for any male readers who made it this far), all the parts have to fit together harmoniously. Any clashes should be planned and carefully controlled. Colors can clash, musical notes can clash, and so can styles. But if you’re going for simplicity, it’s safer to stay with simplicity.

Nina went wrong because she tried to combine a simple, solid color mini-dress with a layered necklace and leggings that were visually complex and didn’t even match each other. You can combine simple with complex elements in an outfit, just like you can combine different colors and styles, but it’s tricky. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. A little bit of clash is good, but it has to be just the right kind and the right amount.

Nicky won by starting with the simple mini-dress and keeping the whole look simple. She took no risks, but the reason they’re called “risks” is that they can blow up in your face. Nicky wasn’t in any danger from that. Nina took a risk, so she deserves credit, but it didn’t work out for her this time.

So here’s my philosophy of the whole thing, and please forgive me if I ramble because I spent most of the day in airports and flying home from school. You’re always much safer if you keep it simple. That applies to fashion, friendship, sports, music, and almost everything else.

Complexity is the frosting on the cake: it’s fine but it should be used sparingly. A cake that’s mostly frosting will make you yak.


* I’d like to include the photos on my blog, but I don’t want Teen Vogue to get mad at me.

Copyright 2009 by Rinth de Shadley.

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