A CLOSER LOOK AT MASCULINE & FEMININE

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved a ‘masculine’ shirt worn tied up with some variation of high waist bottoms – equally, I love a pair of strappy (some might say feminine shoes). It’s this act of dressing in opposites that really makes me feel at home. That’s why I find it so hard to pin point my personal style and explain it to other people – just like me, it’s always evolving, and always surprising me. Whenever I get asked about my style, I often say something along the lines of ‘masculine meets feminine’, and each time it leaves me feeling a little uneasy. These are labels that the fashion industry (and beyond) still utilises, but when will clothing stop being labelled in terms of who it’s intended for, and start being more gender inclusive…

The fashion industry is incredibly powerful, and has the power to shift societal norms and change the way many of us view the world. In a way, we have a lot to thank fashion for in terms of how far we have come in stepping away from strict gender constructions. Dressing in an androgynous manner is now more popular than ever – thanks to icons like Bowie and Katharine Hepburn, many people started to question the clothing that they were being told to wear, and started to gravitate towards what made them feel like an individual instead. I mean, to think we once lived in world where we had to campaign for women to wear trousers is quite ridiculous.

Katherine Hepburn once said in an interview, “I put on pants fifty years ago and declared a sort of middle road”. It’s this middle road that often makes us feel like we are breaking the rules in some way. I guess it makes fashion feel rebellious…

And so it should be. Fashion should be about shaking things up, altering traditional beauty standards, and above all – self expression. I guess this post has mainly stemmed from my own uneasiness when it comes to describing my outfits – is it time to ditch words like masculine and feminine, and stop putting the clothes we wear into neat little boxes? Yes, it’s fun to feel like we are breaking the rules, but when will we reach the point where each item of clothing is completely free of gender labels. If there were no ‘men and women’s sections’ when we went clothes shopping, how would this affect the way we dress – would we feel free to decide for ourselves, or would it just make the whole experience a lot more difficult to navigate…

These are all topics that fascinate me as someone who owns just as many vintage men’s blazers as I do vintage Granny chic bags. For me, there’s no clear distinction between the two categories – I just know that my brain recognises them to portray some sort of contrast when worn together. I see everything stuffed into my wardrobe in terms of pieces that I’m drawn to, pieces that make me feel like my most powerful self. Therefore, am I being lazy when I use words like masculine and feminine – is it time we started being more inventive when describing our outfits of the day. After all, if we keep feeding the distinction between different genders, we are surely part of a wider issue…  

In the fashion world – the barriers between masculine and feminine are constantly being broken down. The act of dressing ‘masculine or feminine’ has become much more fluid throughout fashion history. We see this on the likes of the Gucci catwalk shows that often don’t differentiate between male and female pieces, and reinforce the fact that clothing can be beautiful and creative without being intended for a specific gender. It’s all well and good for designers to be creating unisex pieces, but the real issues arrives when we start delving into the retail world. Not everyone can afford to be dressed head to toe in designer pieces, and you only have to walk along your local high street to notice the obvious gender divide in most stores. In fact, there was once a time when a shopping assistant greeted me with ‘are you shopping for your boyfriend?’ just because I was browsing the men’s striped shirt sectionOften the women’s shirts don’t fit how I want them to fit, and aren’t long enough to wear as dresses. I remember being a bit taken back, like these clothes weren’t meant for me, and that I shouldn’t be shopping there…

Similarly to when I was an overweight kid and never dressed in anything but loose fit ‘boys’ clothing (cue violins) – I’d dread shopping trips because they were always painfully embarrassing and unexciting. At this point, I had no personal interest in clothing, and just wanted the clothes to feel comfortable against my body. I remember all the jeans in the women’s section being super skinny fit with crystals all over them – this was the 2000’s after all. My mum suggested the boys section and that’s when it started – that feeling of breaking the rules somehow. I’d carry an armful of male clothing into the female changing area, and feel a stronger sense of self. Maybe I wasn’t dressing like my friends, but the idea of revealing my body in tight fit clothing was unthinkable. I was safe in the boys section, but it definitely didn’t do me any favours.

It was only when I slimmed down considerably throughout my college years that people around me started making more comments about my clothing. I was experimenting more because I felt more confident, but it also made me sad that my baggy boys section clothes weren’t worthy of a positive comment. I think this is why I’ve always had such a strong connection to my personal style – the way I dress now is a reflection of who I’ve been in the past, who I am now, and who I’d like to become in the future… 

I guess reflecting on how masculine/feminine dressing has been a huge part of my personal development makes me realise how fickle so many of the labels we use really are. So much is changing – all the time, and rightly so. I’d like to think that if a little girl stumbled into the Mens section today then she wouldn’t be laughed out of the boxer short isle. I’d like to think the way I dress is a reflection of my mood that day, or a character I want to identify with, and not confined to gender labels that are much less interesting…


Photographs by Adam Mane 

Shirt – Nan In vintage

Skirt – vintage Burberry

Shoes – Rouje (similar here)

Bag – Mango

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7 Comments

  1. Hi Alice! I’ve been reading your blog and following you on Instagram for a long time. I really enjoy your posts and the variety of topics you write about. Your words often inspires me, comfort me or make me think. I just want to thank you for share all this. You have created a very special blog, the only one I read frequently.

  2. I think this might be my favourite post of yours. Couldn’t agree more with “clothing can be beautiful and creative without being intended for a specific gender”. Although I don’t often venture into the mens section in shops, when I do I always find such beautiful pieces. Such a good read! Love the outfit too x

    Summer, http://www.thetwinswardrobe.com

    1. Thank you – really means a lot to have positive feedback as pieces like this are always a bit trickier to write/publish. So happy I can use this space to explore thoughts and that you guys are always so interested in the same topics xx

  3. Hi Alice! I have been reading your blog and following you on Instagram for a long time. I really enjoy your posts and the variety of topics you write about. Your words often inspires me, comfort me or make me think. I just want to thank you for share all this. You have created a very special blog.

    1. Such a lovely comment to receive – thank you! Really means a lot to get recognition for my writing and not just the materialistic aspects of blogging. Thank you for reading and being so kind xx

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