Menswear Why When How What ?
In the midst of NY fashion week fury, I wanted to write about something beyond trend. A style that knows no season. A driving design force. A term that’s often casually thrown around while runway looks rarely rise all the way to its occasion. The “it” factor of so many timeless icons: androgyny.
One of the best compliments I get as a drag and burlesque performer is NOT being recognized off stage. Somebody once said they imagine I screw on a whole new head for every piece, like that queen bitch in Return to Oz. I consider myself very lucky to have the time and place to go buck wild; to practice my belief in the possibilities of bodies. I have an outlet and opportunity to embody what inspires me about the most irreverent couture. Having an alter-ego is something like your own fashion microcosm: my performance persona is haute, and the rest of me is RTW.
As a queer person in the day-to-day, I know that for some androgyny is deeper than costume, than clothing, than choice. There’s always interplay between style and identity, and there are people who are neither men nor women or they are both; people whose everyday label is androgynous, regardless of whatever labels are making menswear for women. Some people who blend in, and some people who are breaking boundaries and informing all of fashion from the street.
So the fall trend reports were all saying “girls will be boys.” Then masculinity cropped up in resort wear. This is my favorite look from The Row.
And according to all the runway photos from New York Fashion Week, it’s not going anywhere in S/S 12. Some looks were turning me on, and some were rubbing me the wrong way. I struggled with how to decipher the two sensations. I re-looked at A/W 11 runway shows and took my pulse. I scratched my head. I talked to my dearest fashionista friend Becca D’Bus and finally we came to it together.
Here’s the thesis statement on androgyny: I don’t want to see women dressed like girls, so the theory should continue that I don’t want to see women dressed like boys either. Androgynous looks for me are about grown and sexy. Shape, contour, curve, angle, skin, and self-awareness. Androgyny is not a formula that includes “bing bang boom slap a bowtie on it” as one of its factors.
My biggest pet peeve while shopping is the proliferation of “menswear” with feminine details like ruffles and lace. Can I get a button up without booby pleats or frilled cuffs? Clothing tells stories; creates characters. I want to look like a gentlemen, not a pirate. Never that. I do think button ups are a classic and affordable way to incorporate masculinity into your wardrobe. Number one because they can be easily paired with stretch denim which is becoming more and more unisex. And number two because jackets and blazers with the right tailoring for your proportions are expensive as shit.
Key style points for me in the shirt department are: button the buttons all the way up. Sometimes I wear a sports bra so I can serve a more square silhouette and let the garment shine. You can be playful with your own proportions; you can alter your own norms around what you expose and cover. Exploring “menswear for women” is an opportunity to expand what else could be sexy about your body, or what else is interesting besides sexy.
I took the two images below from Style.com’s Fall Trend report called “Tux Love” (gag). These looks are supposed to be similar, but for me they’re miles apart. In an androgynous look, one should send up signal flares of femininity not erect flagrant sign posts.
On the left, you have a girl in Chanel with chest and foot cleavage and very girly flats. She’s only giving you belly button to ankle bone. She is holding up a sign that says: exit to girl wearing boys’ clothes ½ mile ahead. On the right, you have a head-to-toe diva in D&G giving you just a pop of hot pink on her nails (not to mention of her slick hair and severely contoured cheeks). Her blazer IS on the short side but ultimately…what is she saying? COME FIND OUT ABOUT ME.
To bring us up to the present (which in fashion is actually the future) there is some VERY exhilarating NYFW make up making me lose my breath. Most notably, there was deep unabashed contouring at Prabal Gurung and super defined brows at Altuzarra. This make up is not so much glamorizing as galvanizing. It’s energetic and transformative. And still: gorgeous.
Make up can be used to highlight, downplay, as well as shift. You can change the shape of your face and more deeply develop the layers of your look. Pair bold contouring with a matte lip; gloss garbles a statement about masculinity.
Elements of androgyny that I’m embracing right now are: a bowl cut with close shaved sides, angular cheeks using mad bronzer, mens tee shirts (so that the sleeve falls lower on my arm and makes me broader), and sleeveless button up shirts paired with a long cardigan falling lower on my legs to lengthen my torso. I’m still coveting a really dashing pair of menswear inspired shoes, but haven’t saved enough coin for that investment…yet.