The masculine look, pioneered by power-couple Marlene Dietrich and Giorgio Armani in Dietrich’s heyday, is not, contrary to common thought, a simple staple ‘trend’. In fact, when Armani helped create the iconic actress’s equally particular wardrobe, it beat down the rules of femininity expected to be followed by any on-screen heroine. The beautiful women on screen were meant to be objects of desire for men and aspirational for women; inspiring women to wear long trousers and tailored tuxedos (as Dietrich wears in “Morocco”) was, at the time, a subtle hint of revolution. The actress’s style stayed with her off-screen as a personal preference in her day-to-day way of dress, which helped promote the fact that it was not only the character, but also the woman who had the right to ‘wear the pants’; a statement of power (and independence from the male view of women) that continued out through other films such as “Out of Africa” (where Meryl Streep wears suits to visit the plantation), “Victor Victoria”, Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” and, very recently, David Fincher’s screen adaptation of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”.
“Annie Hall” (1977) is a particular case of androgyny in fashion, both as a character and as a film, starting with the fact that Alvy, the male protagonist, makes a positive comment on Annie’s way of dress. In that particular scene, the influence of menswear is obvious enough to translate itself into high-waisted trousers, a vest, a crisp white shirt and even a necktie. Throughout the film Annie is portrayed as a free spirit who dislikes the rules of haughty New York, a sort of neo-hippie, and the way she dresses is a symbol of her not belonging in a place where certain social and style guidelines are imposed. In her on stage singing scene, Annie (Diane Keaton) wears a full men’s suit with a white shirt, paired with unkempt long hair, and the few dresses that she is seen in are not that feminine – straight, loose, without a cinched waist or a flared skirt. Much like Dietrich, this mature take on androgynous wear has followed actress Diane Keaton throughout her life, both in real life and fiction (“Father of the Bride”, “Mad Money”, “Manhattan Murder Mystery” and even a slight influence in the “Godfather” trilogy).
The feminine take on menswear was pushed forward onto the runway most notably by designer Yves Saint-Laurent, who is credited with designing the perfect tuxedo for women. In a slow but steady evolution, the line between mens’ clothes and women’s has been blurred, with elegant three-piece suits now being considered ‘stylish’ and being widely accepted as, for example, gala wear for events such as award ceremonies (costume designer Milena Canonero, for example, has worn a full tuxedo when receiving an Oscar). Nowadays, boyfriend coats are ‘a staple’ and most of us can’t live without a straight, long blazer that looks straight out of our father’s closet.
But the presence of this trend on the runway was most remarkable in the 2013 Fall/Winter season. The list of designers who looked to menswear traditions like houndstooth, herringbone and Prince of Wales checks in heavy woollen fabrics is endless – from Haider Ackermann’s draped two-piece ensembles, Alber Elbaz’s loose tied-up loose jackets for Lanvin and Dries Van Noten’s feather-adorned boxy dresses to Rag&Bone’s literal translation of the menswear suit, Calvin Klein’s cinched-in skirt looks and Comme des Garçons experimental structural approach. Billy Reid even gave us flowing maxi dresses in grey herringbone paired with matching calf-length boyfriend coat – although said coat was underlined as a must-have yet again this year. Stella McCartney, Philip Lim and Reed Krakoff presented stunning, constructed yet slightly cape-like masculine coats, while the ever-feminine Chanel took a walk on the wild side and came out with a more military version of this menswear-inspired wardrobe staple; Christophe Lemaire gave us length, Trussardi gave us volume, Michael Kors gave us colour. The boyfriend coat is something you can’t – and don’t want to – get away from. Ever.
It is much more more than that, however. From tuxedos to houndstooth, from straight suit trousers to Prince of Wales checks, from Annie Hall’s tie to Ingrid Bergman’s white shirt in Casablanca, androgyny is no longer a revolution or a rejection of femininity. It is a part of women, a stylistic choice and an extension of our personalities. It’s in all our closets, in the simplest of things – Oxford brogues or our grandfather’s wristwatch – and we couldn’t possibly part with it now.
After all, where would we be without a good blazer?