Maximalism is the philosophy of “more is more,” and it’s permeating the look and feel of the moment—bold colors, vibrant patterns, complex shapes, and unexpected textures strategically layered upon one another. It’s a loud and climactic response to the minimalist era—defined by monochromatic color palettes and a “less is more” philosophy—that we’ve been in. Historically, maximalism has been adopted by wealthy elites as a way to show off their fortunes, but today it has a more considered approach. It’s become less about showing off prosperity and instead about showing off your rich, interesting personality.
Although the accumulation of ‘stuff’ is a byproduct of maximalism, there’s more to it than that—it’s about embracing chaos. As the world around us became increasingly unpredictable, maximalism invited us to let go of expectations and find freedom amongst the mayhem. When we were limited to our homes during the pandemic and the Millennial trope of valuing “experiences over things” became less attainable, we looked to the objects around us to enable self-expression. In periods of uncertainty, maximalism encouraged us to let go of our idealized, perfect self and move towards our more liberated, and truer, self.
Fueled by the comforting nostalgia of familiar maximalism, such as the over-the-topness of Y2K and the opulent excess of the Gilded Age, it was not only a way of self-expression but also a form of escapism. This can be traced back to the Victorian era—a time when society was obsessed with the material world, covering every inch of their homes with patterned decor from rugs to wallpaper to drapery. We see this influence in trends such as cottagecore. with people donning lace and ethereal gowns and outfitting their homes with vintage chandeliers and claw-foot tubs. And grandmillennial style, or granny chic, which is all about china patterns, floral wallpapers, and embroidered linens. Where both these expressions of maximalism are born from the past, dopamine dressing—dressing to make yourself feel good, which typically involves mismatched patterns, bright colors, and whimsical details—seems to be a newer manifestation.
Humans are complex—we want to express our most unapologetic selves but also seek acceptance; we want to challenge ideologies but also find comfort in ideas that conform to our principles. Maximalism gives us permission to own our complexities. It allows us to maximize our beliefs, our style, and ultimately—our happiness. Perhaps the next time you consider your outfit or a new piece of home decor, ask yourself, Does this make me happy, rather than, Does this make sense?
August’s issue is edited by Connie Lim, Elizabeth Luong, and Gabriela Nishanyan.
Tour Dita Von Teese’s revitalized 1927 English Tudor, full of her favorite colors, reupholstered antiques, and vintage pieces.
(Image: YouTube via Architectural Digest)
Designer and content creator Sara Camposarcone is teaching the world that maximalism as a lifestyle can be sustainable.
Jump into the TikTok world of @saracampz.