A bright emerald satin robe with fur cuffs worn over a pale pink pussy bow blouse and paired with drapey navy pants… From this description alone one imagines a high fashion women’s runway in Milan, perhaps Paris. Well, think again, this look is from the most recent Gucci Men’s show.
More than ever this season, menswear designers have been borrowing from the women’s playbook. Silhouettes were more fluid, fabrics more delicate and the overall tone was anything but macho. Even conservative heritage houses like Burberry and Louis Vuitton showed two key items of the season : the lace shirt and the embroidered bomber jacket, respectively.
Realistically speaking, the pieces available for purchase probably won’t be as daring, but it is still the sign of a growing trend towards less rigid codes of dressing for men.
The fashion world has always been fascinated by androgyny and gender-bending. Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood in particular have been pioneers in questionning gender roles through dress. The British designer, and icon of the punk movement, never shied away from showing skirts and dresses on hunks. Gaultier, for his part, famously had his men wear corsets, a sign of female oppression if there is one. His work was always focused on poking fun at the patriarchy and by objectifying men he, in turn, empowered women.
Nowadays, however, designers seem less focused on the spectacle and more on the actual product. Even if the shows can be shocking in their representation of the male 2.0, the clothes themselves have real-life appeal especially when taken apart.
This new wave of femininity in men’s fashion is also less about shining a light on gender barriers and more about breaking them. We are slowly but surely moving towards an era of genderless fashion where the categories of menswear and womenswear are becoming obsolete.
The phenomenon is emphasized by the fact that now women’s pre-collections are being shown in conjunction with the men’s shows. One runway, two collections but one unified message. JW Anderson (Loewe and his eponymous label), Alessandro Michele (Gucci) and Rick Owens are all breaking new ground in terms of redefining men’s wardrobes with an emphasis on aesthetic rather than gender.
In other words, men’s fashion has become a fascinating laboratory for experimentation. Whereas womenswear is stagnating, there is still a lot to explore within the field of menswear. Historically, changes in men’s dress are slow and happen progressively, in contrast to women’s fashion which tends to be very fickle. As a result, radical shifts in menswear are few and far between, but they’re also more likely to stick. Not so long ago, a man in skinny jeans was a grotesque idea. Now, thanks to Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme, you would be hard-pressed to find a guy without at least one pair in his wardrobe.
There is obviously a commercial aspect to this trend of femininity in men’s clothing (this is a business afterall). Indeed, the market for menswear has known a meteoric rise in the last few years and brands are ready to cash in on this expansion. Borrowing fabrics and cuts from womenswear is an easy way for labels to provide the customer with a new product he has never seen before. That is why men bags in particular are such a hot commodity at the moment.
However this movement also reflects deeper changes within our society. Topics of transgenderism and gender fluidity have become increasingly present within mainstream media, especially thanks to the recent (and very public) transition of Caitlyn Jenner. As lines become more blurred and we start viewing sexual identities as something other than binary, our minds also open to the idea of dressing outside of traditional gender-segregated constraints.
That is why fashion is so important as an art form. The way that people dress is a direct representation of the times that they live in. More fluidity in gender rules of dressing only means a more open-minded society. Even though it will probably take a long time for true genderless fashion to gain mainstream acceptance, one can already enjoy an extended playground.
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