Nothing says action like sitting down! That said, at least she is dressed for action. I have recently found myself scrolling (for hours) through Pinterest captivated by fashion illustrations from the first half of the 20th century, and largely focused on the menswear illustrator Laurence Fellows. I have @GreyFox to thank for the introduction – as I do for so many insights and explorations into men’s style.
As noted by the Grey Fox, the gentlemen depicted in Fellow’s illustrations are largely, older, incredibly dapper, dressed appropriately for each activity, and I have to say – extremely fit. In an ideal world for men, they all would be 6’1″, broad shoulders slim hips, and just enough muscle to do a few laps in an Olympic-sized pool before cocktails. Here are a few fine examples of the man he portrays:
And then at work:
As with so many things on the internet, one obsession leads to another, and I was determined to find the equivalent for women – to absolutely no avail. Lovely illustrations of young women in beautiful dresses, lounging, shopping are everywhere,
and then this one of a young lady struggling to get out of a car:
A woman does need a few role models and while these were not found in fashion they were around in real life with women like these:
If you think about advertising today, not much has changed. In the real world, women are operating in virtually every field at all levels (not so much at the very top) and yet most depictions are delivered through the male gaze – or at least, what we believe to be the male gaze. I wonder if men find the images of made-up 15 year olds as attractive and alluring as we believe? I give them more credit.
We know that all women love to see a grey-haired model wearing beautiful clothes and living an interesting, engaging life, because we’re all going in that direction. Like I did on my browsing binge, you have to look for the images that inspire you. Of course, you will always find them here.
“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.
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?
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:
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.’
Who am I kidding? This won’t be the last word from Yohji.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.