Awesome Androgyny

I’ve made several intimations in my postings on fashion that mens and womens clothing designs are getting closer and closer to each other. Yes folks, androgyny is in – but just what do I mean by that? What is androgyny?

Well the little dictionary on my mac says its ‘of indeterminate gender’, however dictionary definitions rarely capture the nuances of anything, let alone issues of sexuality, gender identification and definition. Therefore, I’m going to set the terms of reference for this particular post thus:

Clothing and style choices that introduce an element of ambiguity about ones gender.

Key here is ‘an element of’ – by this I meant that it doesn’t have to be crossdressing or an attempt to look entirely like the opposite gender, merely that a little bit of playfulness and fluidity is introduced into the equation.

Now there are people who identify themselves as androgynous on as their definition of themselves on the gender spectrum, if you’re interested in that then http://www.genderfork.com is a good place to start, but here we’re talking about the style choice only.

What has kicked off this post? Well its the news that Andrej Pejic was chosen as the model for a range of push-up bras for the dutch company Hema. Andrej Pejic is the one of the premier womens clothing models at the moment, fronting designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Marc Jacobs and he got much acclaim at the 2011 Paris shows. Yes – that wasn’t a typo. He. Andreij is a man.

This is fine, but it highlights one particular issue – designers are designing womens clothes that look their best then modelled by a man. Now Andreij Pejic is a particularly feminine looking man, but he is not a transexual, he has had no surgery or augmentation and therefore the clothes he models are designed to fit a shape that is unobtainable (and probably undesirable) for the vast majority of women. This is a giant signifier of the gradual unification of mens and womens clothing trends.

Now obviously this is at the most extreme end of the trend – but the same phenomenon can be seen right down at the consumer end of the market – most noticeable to me recently was outerwear or coats. I needed one, so I was searching through the usual haunts of Topman/Shop, River Island and the like and here are some examples of some strikingly androgynous styles…from relatively mainstream retailers…

Check out all the gold buttons, the sharp shoulders and the slight pinching at the waist, not to mention the belt. This is a pretty feminine coat, but not so much so that it looks like an womans coat, but it could be…

And here is the other side of the coin, this one being from Topshop – a womanswear retailer.

Womens fashion has always been better at integrating more masculine styles into ostensibly quite feminine clothes. For example:

At first glance this is clearly womens clothing, but have a look at those shoes – they not dainty, they’re big and stompy and an adaptable of mens office shoes in terms of the stitching detail. The dress too, its straight, with very little flare or embellishment, and bag looks like something a Doctor would have carried around in the 1950’s.

Look back up at the t-shirt. Looks like a mans t-shirt, but again a closer look reveals a dropped neckline, which is way more common on womens tops, its relatively long, and the sleeves are pretty short.

The perception therefore of whether something is ostensibly masculine depends largely on the model, and thus this is the key to androgynous fashion: it would probably look good on either gender.

Is this just a British thing? Let me know what you think.

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