The (Wo)Man in Me


[quote] I don’t believe in fashion. I believe in costume. Life is too short to be the same person every day. [/quote] ― Stephanie Perkins, Lola and the Boy Next Door

Fashion week is exhausting.  And the very concept is overwhelming:  see new trends, shop for said trends, repeat ad infinitum. But perhaps there’s another way of thinking about the perpetual fashion cycle – one that appeals on a less superficial, consumeristic level.  It is also an invitation to change costumes.  To play a bit of dress-up and shake up the roles we play.

This fall there’s a strong masculine influence on womens’ fashion.  Tailoring, trousers, herringbone – is this a new cross-dressing trend?  The season of the tomboy?  A call for androgyny?  Hardly.  It’s about interweaving the masculine with the feminine.  Tailoring that accentuates curves; oxfords paired with skirts; tweed.  It’s not about dressing like a boy – it’s about reimagining what it means to look (and act) like a woman.

Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn could be the proto-heroes for this season’s looks. And Helmut Newton’s exquisite photo of Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking tuxedo suit (pictured below) reminds us how sexy and seductive sartorial gender bending can be.

But changing costumes is not frivolous child’s play.  A recent study on “embodied cognition” (made more accessible by The New York Times) suggests that what we wear affects our perception of self – the way we see and understand who we are – as much as it affects our audience.  We put on clothing, witness ourselves in it, feel it against our bodies, and subsequently experience altered psychological states. So what happens when a woman slips out of an evening gown and into a tuxedo suit? How is her role transformed?  How is it empowering?  How is it inhibiting?

Trying on identities is fun, but it needn’t involve an extreme makeover.  This season’s masculine-influenced trends are best managed and embraced by incorporating subtle details, rather than a head-to-toe costume change.  Here are some tips to guide you as you play:

  • Pair a structured blazer with a feminine skirt.  Mixing and balancing masculine and feminine elements is the new power look.  It takes sophistication, nuance, and is harder to pull off (if it were easy, it wouldn’t be powerful).
  • Work something shiny or metallic into a tailored look – Etro does it beautifully here.  This transitions nicely from day to night, demonstrating a sort of professional whimsy.
  • Add a collar – an affordable way to transform a masculine detail into feminine flair.

Anna AkbariComment