Hey Boy, Hey Girl

Marita Maloney takes a look at the loosening definition of men’s and women’s clothing.

“Androgynous” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “partly male and partly female in appearance”, and one has to simply glance at the catwalks in recent years to notice that the line separating the sexes is becoming ever increasingly blurred. There appears to be no conceivable limit to the extremes that designers are willing to explore in regard to creating almost genderless clothing; indeed, in the five short years since trailblazing Irish designer Jonathon Anderson established his avant-garde label J.W. Anderson, he has consistently produced shock-inducing looks, particularly for menswear. With a design aesthetic that comprises of “things that can be borrowed from a man to a woman and from a woman to a man”, along with leather dresses, bustiers and hot pants appearing in his recent menswear collections, he is part of an increasing number of visionaries pioneering unisex fashion.

This evolution may emerge as unanticipated and even downright ludicrous; merely an opportunity for the movers and shakers of the fashion world to test the realms of their own creativity, yet in fact, menswear has influenced women’s attire and vice-versa for decades. The humble trouser, for example, was traditionally firmly limited to men, with the first pair worn by a woman in 1851 achieving particular public outrage.  It was not until the 1920s and the innovative brilliance of the formidable Coco Chanel that the barriers which confined women to corsets, stifling layers and long skirts were finally abolished, and instead replaced with the freedom of movement that trousers allowed for.

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With The Great Gatsby still influencing trends, timeless styles are returning, such as pocket squares, dapper suits and even leather gloves, providing an antithesis to the skirt-clad crew.

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In seeking a more androgynous look, the designers of the 1920s began a movement that has navigated the years resulting in pants becoming a staple of every wardrobe that would be impossible to comprehend living without. In turn, the figure of ladies in suits reached iconic status thanks to actresses such as Marlene Dietrich in the movie Morocco, who donned a top hat and tails, and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, whose character favoured masculine outfits. These ladies, in addition to the revolutionary le smoking women’s tuxedo jacket created by Yves Saint Laurent, as well as diminishing outdated standards throughout the years, has resulted in ladies adorning a suit with as much, if not more, aplomb as their male counterparts. Pinstripes, watches, bow ties, fedoras and leather brogues are among an endless list of gender transferable accoutrements.

This transition has been one gradually spanning the years, yet the influence of women’s fashion on menswear has been considerably briefer. In recent seasons the headlines have been consumed with news from major fashion weeks of menswear collections showcasing the skirt as a desirable garment, one not limited to girls or the Scottish. This may seem an extreme approach to unisex fashion, limited to those eccentric individuals within the industry (Marc Jacobs has displayed a penchant for wearing skirts for years) but with influential rappers such a Kanye West and 2 Chainz advocating skirts and tunics at their concerts, this trend may be gathering pace. Indeed, one of the original “cross-dressing” enthusiasts was Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain who would often be seen dressed in one of Courtney Love’s dresses in the 1990s. It is also undeniable that prints and colours are consistently becoming louder, brighter, and ultimately more feminine, with fashion commentators observing a move towards a unisex colour palette in particular.

Fear not though, boys, this season displayed, as will the imminently approaching winter collections, a contrasting return to old-school, traditional masculine tailoring. With The Great Gatsby still influencing trends, timeless styles are returning, such as pocket squares, dapper suits and even leather gloves, providing an antithesis to the skirt-clad crew. Even hues are more refined, with grey proving to be a prevalent shade in numerous Autumn/winter collections, followed by deep-red claret and striking blue. However, all that being said, I’m not predicting the genderless uprising to occur anytime soon around UCC campus or Ireland in general, but it may provide some interesting Halloween costumes.