February 3, 2010

Gender-Bending Trends: Androgyny in Fashion

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Over Winter Break, I had the opportunity to visit the newly opened Barneys in my hometown, Scottsdale, Ariz. Among the throngs of impeccably dressed shoppers, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a particularly chic couple hovering near the dressing rooms, modeling potential purchases for one another. The Girlfriend stood in the open doorway, posing in a pair of tight dark-rinse jeans. Wrinkling her nose as she checked out her butt in the mirror, she asked The Boyfriend, “So what about these?”

The Boyfriend shrugged, holding out a pair of slim black denim pants towards The Girlfriend. “I actually really like these. What do you think?”

The Girlfriend turned the jeans over in her hands, taking in their tapered legs and taut cut through the thigh. Her eyes widened as she exclaimed, “Oh babe, these are perfect! I could wear them with my black boots, and that new top I got from … ” Her voice trailed once she saw the look of confusion and embarrassment on The Boyfriend’s face.

“Actually,” he mumbled, snatching the jeans back from her. “I meant I liked them for me.”

Weirdly, the scene I saw at Barneys shouldn’t have been as awkward for The Boyfriend as you’d think. For decades, women’s ready-to-wear has mimicked the masculine aesthetic of menswear, from trouser pants to tuxedo vests. But now, guys are taking a cue from the girls, with collections from Rick Owens and Alexander Wang featuring narrowly cut pants, draped fabrics and slim cardigans that, while not necessarily feminine, are at least decidedly androgynous in appearance.

Several new ads from John Paul Gaultier feature models in role switch-ups, with guys in slim skinnies and women in baggy “boyfriend” style jeans. And it’s not just high fashion companies that are selling androgynous clothing. Unisex lines at American Apparel and Urban Outfitters, offering cardigan and tees in dozens of colors, make the gender-ambiguous apparel trend even more accessible to the public.

Collections from Owens and others have caught the eye of both celebrities and fashion editors over the past few months. In January’s edition of Harper’s Bazaar, Victoria Beckham erased all traces of her usually feminine style, sporting a boxy, sapphire-colored three-piece suit. Rihanna, known for her avant-garde fashion choices both on- and offstage, experimented with military jackets from Balmain — a take on the androgynous look accentuated by the pop star’s blunt, boyish haircut.

Male celebrities take the trend even further, borrowing not only fashion from the ladies, but makeup as well: Adam Lambert has become ubiquitously known for his black nail polish and lipgloss, while Johnny Depp keeps his black eyeliner intact even when not in character as Captain Jack.

I don’t expect guys to see guys wearing dresses and skirts anytime soon (and honestly, I’m not sure I’d like them to), but unisex styles certainly have the potential for longevity in the fashion arena. Gender-neutral clothing takes apparel design back to the bare essentials — well cut fabrics, in figure flattering cuts and neutral colors. It might take a while for people to get used to the idea of blurring the line between men and women’s fashion, but once people realize that digging in their spouses’ closet doubles the size of their wardrobe without spending a cent … it could be a trend that’s very well received indeed.

Original Author: Becca Lesser