This Fall, I’m Embracing ’90s Minimalism With This Closet Staple

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Consider this a formal apology to the maxi skirt: I’m sorry I’ve maligned you all these years. Truth is, growing up in Texas in the late 2000s, I had just seen too many bad takes on the style. Remember those billowing turquoise and coral chevron maxi skirts? Paired with a chambray shirt and—of course—a chunky statement necklace? I even wore a white and blue striped maxi skirt for my senior portraits, making the bold decision to wear it with a blue and white striped RL polo shirt. So, I hope you understand why it took a long time to regain an appreciation for the look of the ankle-length skirt.

But, I’ve succeeded in replacing it with another, more sophisticated image: specifically, Stella Tennant in an ad campaign for Jil Sander in spring 1997. In the black and white campaign, she wears a tee I assume is gray and a black maxi skirt that hugs her backside and thighs just so to create an elegant curve. The ensemble is punctuated by kitten heels and slicked back, boyish hair. It’s the antithesis of the loud maxi skirts of the 2010s; it’s so quietly elegant, it’s almost painful.

This style was popular in the mid-to-late 1990s when simplicity reigned supreme. Of course, it made an appearance at Jil Sander (search “90s minimalism” on Pinterest, and you’ll likely find Tennant in the first ten scrolls), but also at Chanel in fall 1998, Prada in spring 1997, and again at Jil Sander in fall 2002. Our Lady of 90s Minimalism, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, was partial to long, mid-calf or ankle-length skirts. Who can forget the image of her in a full-length black Calvin Klein shirt with a Yohji Yamamoto white oxford top? I can’t, and it’s enough to erase the memory of coral-colored chevron.

Photographed by Shoot Digital

Not all of these are knit maxi skirts, but I find that fabrication to be the best bet when channeling this particular mood. They’re comfortable, form-fitting in all the right places, and can work for a lot of different occasions. Years ago, I stopped by the wonderful (and now sadly defunct) boutique Anthom in SoHo and tried on a black knit maxi skirt from Mijeong Park that hit just at my ankles. It hugged every curve beautifully and flared out just right from my knees to make a kind of trumpet-like silhouette. Worn with a t-shirt and a pair of sneakers, I felt like a personalized version of the late Tennant in those Jil Sander ads.

This fall, it’s become my fool-proof outfit formula. A basic black style is sexy enough on its own for me—Mijeong Park no longer makes my particular style, but this Aya Muse version is quite similar. Should you want something a bit hotter, there are options on the market that have extreme leg slits (Simon Miller) or midriff floss (Christopher Esber). Worn with a corset and chunky flatforms, it’s ready for a night out. Worn with a chunky sweater, I feel like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. Okay, she didn’t technically wear a form-fitting knit maxi, but I think it fits the vibe of an Upper West Side small bookstore owner. Only instead of going from enemies to lovers with Tom Hanks, I’m extending the olive branch to maxi skirts. Shop some of my favorites below.

Altuzarra Wetherby knitted skirt

Christopher Esber cut-out ruched wool and cashmere-blend maxi skirt

& Other Stories slim midi knit skirt

Gabriela Hearst Milo ribbed-wool longline skirt

Proenza Schouler wool knit long skirt

12 Storeez ribbed knit midi skirt

Raf Simons slogan-patch knitted skirt

Aya Muse zircon ribbed-knit maxi skirt

Amur cable knit tube skirt

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