Steal his style?
Add some mannish flair to your closet?
We’ve all been accused of always wanting what we can’t have (no fibbing now), and that definitely extends to our wardrobe. Or perhaps, to be more accurate, I should say it stems from our wardrobe? And even though we own pretty, flirty pieces, the occasional frou frou statement garment, and sassy numbers aplenty, there’s something about man-centric designs that simply calls to us, singularly and persistently, akin to the siren song of Black Friday sales.
Despite conservative (read: archaic) mindsets, there is no loss of femininity when she wears something that belongs to him. When a woman wears what is traditionally male garb, she converts the garment into something that’s entirely feminine. And it is the very paradox which makes the entire affair ever so alluring. After all, who can say what constitutes men’s wear and women’s wear? Suppose that women are not borrowing apparel from men, but merely taking back something that was once theirs?
NOW THAT'S FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Navy Blue Vest & Dove Baptismal Pin (borrowed from Pierluigi) | Camo Pencil Skirt with Tuxedo Stripes (Forever21, option, option) | Madonna Tee & Bangles (thrifted) | Heels (JustFAB, option, option) | Novelty Pins, Ring & Sunnies (Poshmark) | Great Expectations Clutch (Kate Spade NY, option, option)
The world has not been entirely cordial through the years to feminists who have worn male attire, however. Say it isn’t so, Sheela remarks, with a mere hint of flippancy. Joan of Arc made many enemies by leading the French Army to victory in men’s chain‐mail tights. Novelist George Sand (nee Aurore Dupin) shocked 19th Century Paris by taking a male name, wearing men’s clothes and smoking cigars. Closer to home, in the United States, parents were outraged when their daughters began wearing pantalets in the 1820s, and Amelia Jenks Bloomer upped the sales of smelling salts in 1851 when she began wearing her own bloomers in public.
How positively shocking.
At the turn of the century, when women started going to work, the shirtwaist, a blouse adapted from a man’s shirt, became all the rage. In the 1920s, Chanel’s sailor pants and her celebrated suit were major advances in male styles for women (hooray, all ye suffragettes). Meanwhile, in Berlin, actress Marlene Dietrich started an international trend by wearing men’s pants, shirts, overcoats, ties, top hat, white tie and tails, a style that has become synonymous with the classic, androgyny vibe to this very day.
Other pants‐for‐women pioneers include Tallulah Bankhead, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Amelia Earhart and Claudette Colbert, who, in 1935, raised many eyebrows by sliding down an amusement park chute in male garb with Marlene Dietrich, similarly attired. I genuflect before thee all, I genuflect.
Antagonism toward women in men’s clothes was displayed as late as 1946 when men’s wear designer John Weitz created his first collection for women inspired by male styles, and was promptly booed by 120 editors at an out‐of-town showing. And in 1948, when he designed men’s jeans for women with a front zipper and a tight rear fit, the designer recalls, “I was denounced by the clergy in New York for creating immoral clothes.”
Good lord in style heaven, it was 1948, for crying out loud, not the 14th century.
As Gloria Steinem, one of the founders of Ms Magazine, declares, “There is no such thing as men’s clothes or women’s clothes. As far as I’m concerned, there are just clothes — body coverings —without sexual distinction.” Perfectly phrased, Ms Steinem.
Remember that in various periods of history, men have worn far more ornate things than women, and never have their masculinity been challenged. Personally, I find pants far more comfortable (and flattering) to wear, all year long. The endless line-up of fabric weight options available effectively eliminate any possibility of “too thick“, or “too warm“, or “too sheer“. I mean, seriously, there’s a pant for any season, any occasion, any size. What I object to most on the whole subject of clothes is that they aren’t (supposed to be) interchangeable. And that’s the part that makes the least sense to me.
Now, before you (completely) tire of my prose, welcome!! To the first of a tri-part project between Jodie and her ladies, Eve, and myself. Regular readers will be no strangers to these beautiful, strong women, with whom I’ve had the pleasure and honour of collaborating with on numerous occasions. For this particular joint venture, we decided to take things a step further, and not merely wear something that was inspired by menswear but, instead, to actually borrow something from the men in our lives. To start things off, here we are, wearing an item of clothing temporarily hijacked from him.
Eve, Teens (the world according to eve)
Trust Eve to take her stepdad’s white undershirt and transform it into something completely street, completely edgy. Yes, I kid you not, that’s Pierluigi’s undershirt. Here, Eve has knotted it by the side to create a much more flattering silhouette and then bam bam pow, throw in those electric blue suede OTK boots, and she looks ready to slay it at a concert. Or the runway.
Sheela, 40s (sheela writes)
It was challenging finding something to wear from my husband’s wardrobe because he has a massive chest. He’s only 5ft 8″ but with a chest circumference of 45″, everything he owns drowns me. So when I chanced upon this navy wool vest, it was an alleluia moment. I added bits of me with the camo tuxedo skirt and, of course, the studded heels.
Jodie, 50s (jodie’s touch of style)
Here’s Jodie, wearing her husband Rob’s shirt, as a duster. How clever!!! And adding the belt promptly eliminated any possibility of a boxy silhouette. Doubly clever. I like how she’s also chosen to wear the shirt over a knit dress, giving it more of a colder-time-of-the-year vibe. And to all pundits who claim we ought not match belt to boots, I say pshaw.
Nancy, 60s (jodie’s touch of style)
Look at Nancy rocking that Desigual shirt (ok ok, Rob’s Desigual shirt). What a graphic statement, perfectly complemented with touches of contrasting denim at the cuffs. Hers is a look I can easily see myself emulate because of how universally flattering it is. And I especially love those boots, they add a laidback, glamping touch to the overall outfit.
Charlotte, 70s (jodie’s touch of style)
How sassy and classy and kick assy does Charlotte look, pairing that shirt with a turtleneck. It’s such a Katherine Hepburn move (read: timeless elegance with more than a hint of moxie and spunk). There’s something to be said about men’s wear on a woman, and I think this outfit personifies the very best of both worlds.
Come back and see us on Wednesday as well as Friday, as we churn out further interpretations of female-styled-men’s-wear, incorporating elements such as accessories and jewellery. I do so hope you’ll join the discussion and leave me a comment too, because many of my posts are inspired by what you say, and how you feel.
What’s your favourite men’s wear item?
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p/s my photos are by Sofia Touassa
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