The Minimalism Art Movement in Fashion Sewing

Minimalism in fashion sewing emerged in 1914 when Madeleine Vonnet, the French fashion designer who established her first fashion house in Paris in 1912, introduced her signature bias cut to her Grecian dress. In 1964, Andre Courges created his space-age look with a dress embellished by squares, trapezoids, and triangles and the art movement attracted a lot of attention.

As a counterpoint to abstract expressionism in the late ’60s, this high-brow art first produced paintings and sculptures without any external allusion as opposed to the emotion-filled Abstract expressionism. And since art movements like cubism, abstract expressionism, and pop art have always been connected with fashion since the 19th century, minimalism also started to inspire sewing fashion.

Minimalist fashion designers renounced existing art as a surge of new inspirations and revived styles led them to question established limits between several media. They eliminated the nonessentials and seek the enhancement of form that is mainly prescribed by function. Some minimalist designs may seem unassuming but the execution is certainly not that simple.

The House of Halston

First involved in the design and manufacture of hats for Bergdorf Goodman and Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1960s, Roy Halston Frowick went into clothes designing when hats fell out of fashion. He opened his first boutique on Madison Avenue in 1968 and started to make a name for himself. Dubbed by Newsweek magazine as the premier fashion designer of all America at that time, his designs were noted for their minimalist but luxurious look like the simple jersey sarong, cashmere evening dresses, and ultra-suede wrap coats. These designs focused on comfortable clothing that was flattering to almost any figure. His goal was to simplify sewing fashion.

In an interview with Vogue magazine, he related that his designs got rid of “all of the extra details that didn't work, bows that didn't tie, buttons that didn't button, zippers that didn't zip and wrap dresses that didn't wrap”. This could well be one of the mantras of a minimalist fashion designer. With celebrities like Anjelica Huston, Gene Tierney, Lauren Bacall, Margaux Hemingway, Elizabeth Taylor, Bianca Jagger, and Liza Minnelli, the Halston brand continues to exist until today.

Comme Des Garçons

fashion sewing

Founded in Tokyo by Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo in 1969, Comme des Garçons, which is French for “like the boys”, was established in Tokyo in 1973. With minimalist women’s wear that made gender-ambiguous, their designs embodied the anti-fashion statement of the 1980s. In 1981, Comme des Garçons made its debut fashion show in Paris which attracted a lot of interest for its predominant use of black and distressed fabrics. Favoring the cool over the dramatic with clothes that always had the destroyed look, Kawakubo became one of the most successful minimalist designers in the 1980’s. Today, celebrities who have worn Comme des Garçons include Lady Gaga, Matt Bellamy, Kanye West, Usher, Tilda Swinton, Karl Lagerfeld, Mary-Kate Olsen, Selma Blair, and John Waters.

The House of Calvin Klein

Fashion designer Calvin Klein is credited with pioneering the new minimalism in the ’90s by Business of Fashion as he masterfully reinterpreted the austere, high-brow minimalism of European aesthetics to serve the American zeitgeist of the 1990s. His brand of minimalism was very accessible and was successfully promoted by fresh-faced models with straightforward clothing like jeans, knit sweaters, and briefs. Focusing on the relationship between the wearers and their clothes, his designs celebrated the human communication and the experience of the clothing. Calvin Klein continued to use minimalism in sewing fashion as an expression of sexuality and built one of the most successful fashion brands in the world.

Other prominent names in minimalist and post-minimalist sewing fashion include designers Herbert Lang, Raf Simon, Jill Sander, Matthew Ames, Francisco Costa, Prada, and Phoebe Philo. Impersonal austerity, anti-figurative forms, and accessibility are the three main components of minimalist fashion sewing that tends to focus on reducing clothes to its essentials by highlighting what it is made of and how it moves. Its decadence and conceit is in its understated luxury and in the richness of its fabric. And minimalism has continued to attract young and gifted designers proving that this art movement is not only a trend but a philosophical constant.

What do you think about the minimalist style?  Would you sew more minimalist designs if you had the patterns?  Please let us know in the comments below.

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Sandra Lyon-Frakes
Sandra Lyon-Frakes

I am a big fan of minimalism. Like Kawakubo, I started using discarded and donated household textiles to make clothes. What do we do with the curtains? “Well, fiddle-dee-dee,” as Scarlet O’Hara said. We make a dress and the fabric speaks for itself. No ruffles, no silly bows, no highways to nowhere. I will take a coat pattern with 6 pieces all day long.
Thank you so much for what you do, Mayra. You’re marvelous.

C Leigh
C Leigh

Yes! Please!


Very interesting! I love minimalist patterns, as they’re usually simpler to style multiple ways, and let the fabric itself shine. I’m definitely interested in seeing more minimalist patterns!


no thanks


I love minimalist fashion, but I believe it wasn’t only influenced by art. It was also influenced by what was going on in the world at the time, war rations, the depression, and the changing role of women at home and in the work place.

Yvonne Finne
Yvonne Finne

Since I came of age in the late 70’s, I’m a fan the designs of Coco Chanel and the Jacqueline Kennedy styles. I usually wear clothes from Liz Claiborne’s line since it is available in the stores. Without my being aware of the Minimalist influence on fashion design, I choose clean lines and tailored styles in my shopping and sewing. I am SO glad we do not have to deal with fashions that require long dresses or short dresses and hose. Think about getting in and out of a car while wearing a bustle!!!


I also noticed a return to the 70’s with loose flowing clothing. Minimalism works for me as it looks(maybe just looks) simple enough.And comfort is a real plus. I’d say go for your version of a minimalist dress.Even though they’ve moved on Kandinsky will remain my favourite.