Suzy Menkes has a lovely piece in The New York Times‘ current T magazine about fusion fashion. For a long time, she says, gender bending or cross-dressing — that is, dressing as though you were a member of the opposite sex — has been a sign of feminism or gay pride. “The concept of women dressing like men to shatter the glass ceiling hung around throughout the 1980s.” (And some of the more successful female politicians, such as Hillary Clinton, still do it, she notes.)
Menkes says that for the new season, though, there’s a “new aesthetic: take any elements from either sex and piece them together.” She loves the combinations that are popping up, “[a] tough jacket teams with soft pants; a draped dress has a straight, cutaway shoulder.” Rough and soft textures are working together. She’s calling it a “gender truce.”
I think she’s onto to something: We have evolved, it seems, past the time when the “Armani pantsuit and Calvin Klein’s unisex looks were flag-bearers for feminism.” In my opinion, we pushed back against ideas of traditional femininity long enough to reclaim it, and postmodern as these days are, we’re combining whatever we like. But I wouldn’t say it started this season.
Who hasn’t worn a dress over jeans? How about a long, angular blazer or men’s-style leather jacket over a frilly frock? Who doesn’t love a romantic top with boyfriend jeans? Back in the ’90s, Sharon Stone wore her husband’s white oxford button-up with a majestic skirt to the Oscars. Juxtaposition is great, and interesting — but I think we’ve known we don’t have to choose elements from strictly male or female fashion for a while now. And I wouldn’t throw gender bending completely to the wayside …