Clothes without gender

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Yohji Yamamoto SS13

“When I started designing, I wanted to make men’s clothes for women. But there were no buyers. Now there are. I always wonder who decided that there should be a difference in the clothes of men and women. Perhaps men have decided this.” Yohji Yamamoto professing his preference for gender-neutral dress way back in 1983 to The New York Times.

What strikes me is how long this notion that men and women should dress differently has stuck.  And as constrained as women are by expectations around presentation (makeup, dresses/skirts/heels/purses) so, too, are men. And boys, judging by the recent protest by schoolboys during the UK’s recent heat wave.  Why do girls get to wear skirts and boys not shorts?  Or vice versa for that matter, as witnessed by this photo.

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As witnessed in The Guardian

Now Thom Browne is adding his voice.  Interesting message, execution of long and slim with heels will inevitably lead to the hobbling walk that has plagued many a great woman, but that’s not the point.  Why not genderless dressing?  What has taken so long to come around to this simple yet still radical notion?

Thom Browne Men's Spring 2018
Thom Browne SS18

 

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And again, working those arms

As Browne told the New York Times, “It all started with these,” Browne says. They’re his own shoes from childhood; it’s a tradition in his family to dip a pair in gold and have them on display. “I was thinking about how we all start off the same — wearing almost the same clothes,” he says. “And then, it changes.”

While the women’s line has some playful yet traditional womenswear, then there is this example of what is good for the goose is good for the gander:

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A women’s appearance is no longer an indication of her spouse’s wealth, nor need it be the lure to reel in the fish.  Those notions are no longer relevant.

It might  also be helpful if the prevailing idea wasn’t to radically change one’s wardrobe each year. Even if you can’t do (afford) the absolute classics, anyone can find a wardrobe that makes sense for the cold weather, hot weather, the roads we travel and the work we do.  And if women could take more of the pragmatic from menswear, maybe men might be free to take a fraction of the liberties women take for granted and particularly as it applies for dressing in hot weather – if not a skirt, then at least shorts.

You may not approve of all his clothes but you can’t argue with Yamamoto’s thinking.  Let’s give the last word to Yohji taken from a recent interview in Dazed.

“But, after almost fifty years in the industry, in which fast fashion has replaced craftsmanship, and globalisation has promoted homogenous idea of what’s ‘in’ across the planet, he’s come to have a critical distance from our cycle of trends. ‘Casual fashion became like garbage in the world. There are so many cheap, wasting fashions. Young people look so ugly.’ How can you avoid becoming a fashion victim? ‘It’s quite easy: don’t copy your friend,’ he enunciates. ‘Don’t be one of a group. Be yourself. Stay a little bit monotone – walk on our side of the street, don’t walk the mainstream of fashion. You’ll be polluted by trends.’

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Yamamoto from 2007, the no-pantyhose dress look.

Who am I kidding?  This won’t be the last word from Yohji.

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Yohji Yamamoto

Men’s basics for women

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La Garconne Collaboration with Khaki as seen in NYT

It’s always reassuring to know you’re not alone, or crazy.  Another indication of sanity came by way of the Times Magazine article on a menswear brand offering a line of menswear for women without any of the accommodations typically made (contouring, needless frills and fancies) in these circumstances.  Think about every piece of classic basics produced by virtually any manufacturer and you’ll know what I’m talking about – white t-shirts with a fraction of the cotton, wider necklines; khakis that are low rise (no!) tapered legs with a little boot cut at the finish (no!) and so it goes.

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The menswear line Save Khaki has collaborated with La Garconne to get it right. What does disappoint is the somewhat desultory manner in which these are shown.  Is it really necessary?  Just because you don’t want the uncomfortable and inconvenient shaping of women’s clothes doesn’t mean you’ve given up on life!

Maybe they could be shown with a little more of this vibe from Ponytail Journal (the lovely and talented Lauren Yates).

 

ponytail

Not to complain.  All to be done now is hope the trend continues.  And that those of us trending in this direction will refuse to settle for less.

 

Great woman – Amelia Earhart

 

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Amelia Earhart – aviator/aviatrix

Pilot, author, adventurer, innovator, equal rights crusader – Amelia Earhart was all those things at a time when women had so few options that it is hard to imagine just how she was able to achieve so much in such a short period of time with her final flight and ultimate disappearance culminating in her death at the age of 42.

 

Amelia Earhart
AE in full pilot gear

As a young woman she was determined to live an independent life rather than following the convention that would have seen her married by the age of 20.  She volunteered as a nurse in the First World War, became a social worker after and, once introduced to the world of flying never looked back.  For Amelia becoming a pilot was a calling and she changed every aspect of her life to pursue it.  At a time when Charles Lindbergh was making a name for himself flying across the Atlantic she set out to do the same, not just as a woman but as a pilot.  Though committed to the ideal of female emancipation and the freedom to choose a career outside of convention, she was intent on tackling the same challenges as male pilots and even going beyond what they had achieved.  She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and one of the first pilots.  Her list of achievements is extraordinary, breaking one record after another.

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AE in coveralls – I wouldn’t mind a pair of these

Amelia remade herself in the image of the pilots she admired, donning the same clothing and style as her male counterparts, softening the look as time went on with a scarf rather than a necktie. When you look at these images (and there are so many more) it is an interesting contrast of a rather shy looking woman with the heart of a lion, demonstrating the courage to thwart convention and live a truly independent life.  She wore what worked effectively for the job she was doing, and the life she chose to lead.  Almost 100 years later debate persists around appropriate work wear for women, and convention continues to dictate, even when it makes no sense at all.

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AE at the aerodrome

This quiet and persistent disregard for convention was also reflected in her relationship with her promoter and spouse  George Putnam. The relationship began as a business partnership with George seeing a business opportunity promoting Amelia through books, newspaper articles and events all geared to create a celebrity.  Then the relationship developed into a romantic one in which Amelia agreed to marry in 1931 provided certain conditions were adhered to (read her letter to George), and freedom to leave being one of them.  She knew her own mind and had the courage to stay true to what she knew was right for her.

Fellow pilots at the time have said she was not a great pilot, that she didn’t put in the hours and hours needed to prepare for the final round the world trip.  She didn’t learn enough about radio and navigation, relying too heavily on celestial navigation (JFK Jr. made the same mistake) and perhaps not the best judge of character when it came to choosing her flight crew (alcohol causing one to drop out and possibly negatively affecting the performance of Fred Noonan her navigator).  It was an ambitious adventure and success depended upon so many things both within and outside of her control.

 

amelia with putnam
AE with husband George Putnam

Whatever happened on that final flight doesn’t diminish her many accomplishments, her true greatness and her continuing influence and inspiration to chart your own course, pursue your dreams, become who you choose to be.

Resources and  links

A quick history:   http://www.history.com/topics/amelia-earhart

PBS American Experience:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/earhart/

Amelia website: http://www.ameliaearhart.com/

Hollywood’s version:  Amelia, starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere

Buy replica clothing and dress like Amelia:  http://www.phoenixproject.com/category/1

A great podcast:  http://www.astonishinglegends.com/portfolio/ep004-amelia-earhart-vanishes-part-1/

Kapital is capital!

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Great outfit and I like her paintings!

A very interesting brand featuring multi-age real people in their campaigns.  The women’s clothes are interest though the men’s clothes are even  better.

Checkout the quilted pants he’s wearing.

I would wear these in a heartbeat

I applaud the multi-age approach.  When you know yourself a bit better, which often (not always) comes with age, then you are free to wear what works for you, leaving the stereotypes behind as every great woman should.

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A ‘great woman’ approach to jeans.

How do you find things on the interweb?  I discovered Kapital via the very charming Ponytail Journal.

Enjoy!

 

Resources & links

Kapital

http://kapital.jp/collection/detail/13.html

Ponytail Journal

http://ponytailjournal.com/womens-wear/

 

 

 

 

Life beyond pantylines

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What do we think of when we think of women’s undergarments:  Pantyhose, stockings, tights, knee-highs, Spanx (or that sort of thing), control top anything, underwire bras, knee socks.  Lovely though many of these items are (like ice cream, made to seduce) they are also prone to running, tearing or ripping in three wearings (lucky if you made it to 3).  Then there is the binding factor – just below the knee, at the waist, around the thighs, digging under the breasts.  What is the male equivalent?  Frankly, I can’t think of one.  I believe there are some Spanx-like undershirts that can smooth things out for men but based on anecdotal evidence, they don’t carry the same percentage of elastine (or whatever that is).  Ever spoken to a woman after a normal-ish lunch wearing Spanx?  What she really wants is to get her hands on a sharp object to cut herself out.  It’s mind-boggling how these brave women put up with being squeezed, having underwires cut into their underarms, and religiously invest hard-earned dollars in pantyhose where it’s a crap shoot if you get out the door with that brand new $20 pair intact.  Interestingly, among Boomers and Gen X (think Michelle Obama) spending on pantyhose has declined, whereas Millennials have picked up the mantle (think Kate Middleton).  If women spend on average twice what men do on underwear per year (ours cost more) and if they maintain the pantyhose habit, consider the financial drain knowing that we still outlive men and should really be scrutinizing every penny to save for a long and well-funded post-work life.

The tyranny of the undergarment has certainly loosened its grip on women.  But have we gone far enough?  Should the great woman take one step further and eliminate all such undergarments from her wardrobe?  We know she would be more comfortable, likely boost her circulation, free her to move with ease, and comfortably digest a delicious lunch, but that’s not her only concern, is it?  She has to think about how she is perceived by society and particularly by employers because perception plays such a large part in economic value.  As much as we would like to believe the Western woman exists in a meritocracy we know that’s not true.  If it were, there would be the same number of women in the C-suite, sitting as CEO’s (currently 4.4% of Fortune 500 companies) and holding board positions.  And there is the lingering notion that dressing in a traditionally ‘female’ or even ‘feminine’ style assuages the insecure male ego.  (I happen to think better of men but perception can be a trap for us all.)

So why, I ask, does the great women not shed herself of these physical and financially debilitating traditions? One answer is that a fundamental change to underwear would by necessity trigger a fundamental change to the overall wardrobe.  Think of men’s suits:  beautifully designed so that you can’t see what lies beneath – neither the man himself (a few pounds gained or loss discretely covered) or whether he’s a boxer or brief man. A carefree life without nary a thought for pantylines or coloured bras showing through.  Their white t-shirts and cotton boxers – all loose, sweat-absorbing, 100% cotton – hidden beneath a flattering silhouette that signals authority, reliability, no-nonsense. The perfect disguise.

The closest retailers have come to mannish underwear for women is the boyshort.  Having personally investigated I can tell you – don’t let them fool you – these have virtually none of the features of their  male counterparts.  They sit too low, ride up and don’t cover your butt, often feature a seam running from front to back (creating yet another place to dig in) and are not in my experience produced in the same quality fabric. A disappointing sham at best.

So why wouldn’t the great woman take the plunge?  Rid her dressing room of the thongs, push-up bras, single-wear stockings and control top anythings in favour of fit, comfort, and most importantly rid herself once and for all of the distraction that discomfort brings that may in fact be preventing her from realizing her ultimate and glorious potential?  Might there be room for a whole range of women’s undergarments that bring the same fabrics, structure and utility to women that have so long been the purview of men?  I say yes.  Bring them on.

What say you?

 

Is it cheaper to be a woman – or a man?

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2012/dec/14/cheaper-man-or-woman

 

Why pantyhose sales are still surprisingly strong

http://fortune.com/2015/11/11/pantyhose-sales-fashion-work/

10 things to start my day

  1. Fill a water glass and head to the basement for 30 minutes of morning exercise – Right now that’s either a Mary Helen Bowers workout or a stretch routine
  2. To the kitchen – Make an omelette – mushrooms and bacon at a bare minimum, happy to add leftover potatoes, grilled vegetables and throw in some herbs. I focus on protein and fat in the morning.
  3. A quick scan of my calendar to frame up the day and get my head into the day’s priorities.
  4. To the bedroom – make the bed. The proverbial first win of the day.
  5. I don’t shower everyday but if it is a shower day then quick in and out of a cool (not icy) shower. Touch of coconut oil/shea butter mash-up on my face and neck, a few quick strokes of brow pencil and eye liner, brush teeth and then the bathroom is done.
  6. To the closet – a menswear wardrobe makes dressing quick as a … well, quick as a man. Socks and underwear on, grab a shirt and suit off the rack (pant legs double wrapped over the hanging bar). Think about the shoe du jour (always a lace-up, always low-heeled and leather) and then unfurl the matching belt (no knickknacks, studs, fake gemstones), on goes the watch, in goes a pair of studs, and I’m heading to the door.
  7. Fill jacket pockets with subway pass, glasses, iPod.
  8. Bike to subway.
  9. Scan podcasts (often the best part of my day) with current favourites being Tim Ferris of 4 hour work week fame or Art of Manliness. Start anywhere on both and then prepare to be entertained and improved.
  10. Arrive at destination and head outside for the last leg of the journey and enjoy the final hit of fresh air before the day begins in earnest.