Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020

Fashion notes: When is menswear not menswear?

We seem to be landed with utilitarian chic: menswear worn as womenswear – all while appearing wonderfully feminine, of course. Here's how to get it right.
This season Marc Jacobs transformed military looks into soft dresses with utilitarian pockets and camouflage. Getty Images
This season Marc Jacobs transformed military looks into soft dresses with utilitarian pockets and camouflage. Getty Images

Despite the promise of investment buys being, well, an investment, fashion loves to keep us on our toes – encouraging us to experiment (and spend more), season after season. Last season saw us dining out on feminine allure – pussy-bow blouses and knee-length skirts that promote a certain swagger.

Just when we’d managed to get that down to an art, we’re landed with “utilitarian chic”. Confused? Think of menswear worn as womenswear – all while appearing wonderfully feminine, mind you. An ­androgynous militant style isn’t an entirely new thing. Nothing is; it’s simply yet another part of the cycle. We did it in the 1990s with grunge, if you can remember that far back, with designers such as Martin Margiela and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons mastering the art beautifully.

But there are always ways to push a trend further, times when a micro trend begins to gather momentum – perhaps indicative that we’re moving beyond symbolising a wearer’s identity by his or her clothing choices.

Most recently, we witnessed a definite nod to uniform. From cargo pockets to army green, the runways showed a multitude of ways of making something masculine, feminine, durable and luxurious.

Always with his finger on the pulse, Marc Jacobs managed to execute the balance perfectly, transforming military looks into soft dresses with utilitarian pockets and camouflage.

The normally romantic Ralph Lauren followed suit, looking to the military girl and adventure gear for influence, with desert khakis and large utilitarian inspired pockets, softened with feminine skirts and loose-­fitting trousers. A normally masculine classic, the safari jacket was transformed into a semi-sheer affair, feminised further by the glinting jewels dripping from the models’ necks and ears.

Victoria Beckham’s line-up featured stand-out buttons, visible shirt pockets and strong, tailored silhouettes, while the king of utilitarian sportswear Jason Wu, borrowed boxy shapes and heavy belts from the boys.

But how do we wear it without sacrificing our femininity? Because most of us, despite our love of experimenting with the avant- garde, don’t exactly strive to look like men.

Certainly, when it comes to a trend that asks us to change the basic silhouette suited to our form, there need to be a few clear perimeters set in stone.

It may not be news to you, but men are shaped entirely different from women; the very reason that we have two completely distinct collections in the first place. What we have to understand is that what we’re working with is menswear that, in this case, is designed for bodies it isn’t usually proportionate on – so remember to balance out the form.

For an oversized boxy jacket, aim for a slim trouser or skirt. The same goes for accessorising – add feminine touches, such as elaborate visible jewellery, or lighter fabrics, such as silk and chiffon to heavier separates.

Think of things as a fluid state of affairs – it’s not as straightforward as slinging on a pair of khaki slacks and an oversized jacket, as you’ll end up looking like someone else; a kind of unisex pin-up, only to be understood by the highly ­fashion-literate.

theweekend@thenational.ae

Updated: January 22, 2015 04:00 AM

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