In an overcrowded world where it’s often deemed more acceptable to present a streamlined, sleek and space-saving aesthetic, choosing voluminous clothing is a radical act. It can seem intimidating to try to pull off it takes up space.
But don’t be afraid to stake your claim to your immediate surrounds and give an outsized coat, some wide-legged trousers or an ample skirt a whirl. Remember it’s a myth that you need to be a certain size or height to wear exaggerated shapes there is a way to do it for everyone.
There’s a freedom in retraining your eye to encompass oversized silhouettes and details. For this particular trend, it’s important to forget the “rules” and have fun with it.
Local designer Mahsa Willis uses volume effortlessly in her trans-seasonal dresses and shirts. "It creates a sense of poetic licence," she says. Other elements assist the charm of volume too, adds Mahsa, so it's not solely about volume it's about design proportion, the focus on the human form, fabrication and how volume moves on the street.
“I’ve tried to create volume that sits in utility so even if you think the sleeve or bow will overwhelm you you put the garment on and it feels refreshingly simple and timeless.”
With the current focus on all things camp, volume in the form of layers of tulle, feathers and amped-up silhouettes has been a celebrity-endorsed stalwart on the international red carpets and at various awards ceremonies. It’s an irreverent antidote to 90s-style minimalism, and depending on the way it’s worn can reference anything from 80s-era power dressing to down-on-the-farm prairie chic and even medieval garb all of which can be more stylish than it sounds.
Lavinia Ilolahia and Talia Soloa, founders of emerging label Layplan, offer made-to-order clothing, much of which is exaggerated in form. They're familiar with women grappling between what we are told is "flattering" clothing and the irreverent shapes that we might want to try.
“We think people are intimidated by volume because so often we’re told to accentuate our waists or to wear clothing that fits well on the ‘most flattering’ areas of our bodies. Dresses like our ‘Frufru’ and our ‘Lucia’, which add volume to areas you traditionally wouldn’t, challenge that idea and we think people get a little intimidated by the thought of going against the traditional ‘fashion rules’,” say the designers.
However, Layplan has had positive responses to the exaggerated shapes of their pieces, which they say is down to people embracing the freedom that comes with wearing voluminous clothing.
Volume doesn’t have to be extreme a delicate frill or slightly puffed sleeve will inject a look with movement and femininity but if you do want to go all out, there are knacks to making sure you’re not overwhelmed in swathes of fabric. Here are the best ways to turn up the volume in your wardrobe.
Puff Up Your Sleeves
Seen on the fall 2019 and resort 2020 runways at Victoria Beckham, Simone Rocha, Aje and more, plus on the real-life runway (aka the streets), the puffed sleeve trend is showing no signs of abating. Whether subtly or dramatically executed, this is an easy way to add romantic volume to your look without any bulk through the body. It works with a variety of garments from dresses to shirts, jumpers and jackets. Try oversized sleeves on a button-up shirt for work and beyond, or look out for the plenty of bell-sleeved knit options around for winter.
Try A Full Skirt
A full skirt can be less prim than you think pair a flouncy midi skirt with a vintage T-shirt or a cropped bustier-style top for summer or with a polo neck or fitted shirt for winter or office hours. In the latest Karen Walker collection, a raw-edged denim skirt is toughened up with chunky Dr Martens. Italian brand Marni is also a good bet for styling inspiration. A pair of kitten-heeled mules and a swishy skirt will have you feeling like you're strolling along the French Riviera.
Embrace Oversized Trousers
A street-style photo of Vogue Ukraine fashion director Julie Pelipas (above) went viral last year, thanks to a particularly eye-catching pair of voluminous trousers. The recipe of proportion in her outfit skin-tight tank paired with oversized pants was the reason for its success, undoubtedly helped by her model physique. The latter element is not a must-have when it comes to wearing volume on your legs high-waisted, wide-legged trousers are almost universally flattering when paired, as Julie did, with a more fitted T-shirt or shirt. You can get trouser lengths taken up if they're swimming around your feet, or for those on the taller side, there's usually enough hem to be let down. It is possible, and encouraged, to pair a voluminous shirt with equally ample trousers or a skirt the trick is to cinch your waist in-between, so there is some contrast and your form is not lost.
Wear It As A Dress
Dresses are one of the easiest ways to incorporate volume into your look whether it's a sweet puff sleeve on a sassy short minidress à la Georgia Alice, or an artistic, effortless frock from Mahsa, there are myriad ways to introduce it. A day dress can incorporate a sweetly voluminous skirt, like this green one (above) from Ciao Lucia, and on a fuller gown, a waist belt can work but is not always necessary channel actress Maya Rudolph (featured above) or Aje resort 2020 and go for high-necked, big sleeved, ruffled glory.
Experiment With Outer Layers
For a touch of volume that you can discard as soon as you get inside, try a balloon-sleeved coat or jacket, or an oversized blazer. Even a relaxed trench coat is easily slotted into this category with a push-up of the sleeves. As always, a belt to cinch the waist will create contrast and shape in a looser garment, or embrace a cocoon silhouette sans belt.
Above: Stella McCartney Fall 2019. Helen Cherry coat, $615, from Workshop.