I don’t know about you, but I have heard “androgyny” in various contexts, varying from a scandalous or heated discussion to casual daily use. Androgynous traits are usually asexual or are qualities attributed to the opposite sex. There is physical, psychological, and fashion-related androgyny. To be clear, my inspiration is found in androgynous fashion and styling. Some people accept the idea, whereas many are steeped in traditionalism, focused on the idea that men and women are both supposed to look certain ways that are unique and separate of each other.
A rulebook from the older days for dressing and fashion etiquette (from 1965) includes rules that sound ludicrous today.
“It is disrespectful and unwise to deviate from the norm of those around you. It is not polite to stray from the costume worn by your date. If he is in street clothes, you are to wear a day dress or a dressmaker’s suit. […] You must always compliment your man.” “Mules, open-toed shoes, and ankle straps are in poor taste at all times.”
The writer and followers of this book would probably end up in shock if they ended up in any kind of gathering, party, restaurant, or department store today.
Considering that these were the rules, consider how nonsensical the idea of finding pieces in “your man’s” wardrobe would be. Performers like David Bowie, Boy George, Prince, Grace Jones, Marlene Dietrich, and Annie Lennox challenged the norms back in the 1970s and cross-dressing continued to become more elaborate through the 1980s. Leonardo DiCaprio wore the ‘skinny’ look in the 90s, resulting in a fad known as “Leo Mania”. Marilyn Manson wore female clothing and PVC suits that made him seem genderless. These entertainers started trends so that men and women could think outside of conventional styling and start to explore where they felt at home outside of the limitation of their own department at the store. In high fashion, Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent became pioneers by encouraging women to dress in a minimalistic manner, freeing them from the bind of corsets and stockings. In 1966, YSL created the “Le Smoking” tuxedo, the first of its kind for women. Now, fashion on the street was changing and women were freer to find and wear what they liked most.
There is considerable societal redefinition of traditional gender fashion norms today due to the popularity of these artistes and the trickle-down effect of high fashion. Menswear inspired womenswear (and visa versa) has become commonplace: boyfriend blazers, boyfriend jeans, oxfords, and more.
Experimenting with androgynous fashion doesn’t mean you have to dress like David Bowie when he performed. But it’s certainly inspiring, isn’t it? See Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall” or Cate Blanchett in “The Aviator”. Remember Katherine Hepburn? As current style inspiration, we have Ellen Degeneres, Agyness Deyn, Kate Moss, and Diane Keaton to look to. These ‘celebrities’ incorporate menswear pieces into everyday dressing all the time. In the next post, we’ll talk about how they borrow from the boys. Arshia inspires me to learn to borrow from the boys, and experiment to define our individual style further.