Men’s basics for women

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.


Great woman – Amelia Earhart



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.

Resources and  links

A quick history:

PBS American Experience:

Amelia website:

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

Buy replica clothing and dress like Amelia:

A great podcast:

Kapital is capital!

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.

A ‘great woman’ approach to jeans.

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



Resources & links


Ponytail Journal





Life beyond pantylines


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?


Why pantyhose sales are still surprisingly strong

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.

Style versus fashion – an even more contrarian view



When you see someone with great style displayed day after day, year after year, it’s often incomprehensible how they manage to nail it all the time.  Worse, ‘style’ is couched in mystery – something that she’s got and you don’t.  In the genes.  To decode – it’s not that difficult and I don’t think  natural – it’s the result of serious contemplation and thoughtful editing before each purchase and a consistent and strict set of parameters followed largely by habit that makes it work every single day.

Barack Obama has great style – famously, his is the result of wanting to limit the number of daily decisions.

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he told Vanity Fair in 2012 …. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

A white shirt, conservative though often bright tie (light blue!) and he’s done. Dress it down, take off the tie and put on a navy or light tan Harrington Jacket and he’s in weekend mode.   Yes it’s simple.  Maybe too simple, but that’s the essence of style.  Simplicity built around a clear vocabulary that work not just in one item but with just about every item in the closet,  and that delivers seemingly endless opportunities for variety.

The other thing you’ll notice about Barack Obama, or let’s find a female equivalent, Christine Lagarde of World Bank fame, as one example, is that nothing is too tight.  Tight clothes are not elegant, and elegance is at the heart of real style – if clothes are tight you might be perfectly comfortable with all that spandex or whatever is going on to allow you to breath, but you don’t look elegant and if you don’t look elegant then you can’t be stylish.  Sorry, that’s the unspoken law and you need to play be the rules here. Of course, Barack and Christine are both tall and super slim and so the average woman will decide that she can’t play that game because of her body type – the assumption is that the more curves you’ve got the tighter the clothes should be so as not to increase volume.  Wrong.  Look at Meryl Streep – an average smallish woman who look great in a loose-fitting suit.  If you believe that you’ve got fit the suit (pants, shirt) rather than the other way around – you have bought into the rhetoric of fashion and do yourself a disservice.  The more form-fitting your clothes, the more likely you are to have to replace them (or house multiple sizes in an expanding closet) because inevitably pounds come and go or at least shift location as one ages.  Equally irksome is that this again contributes to undermining a woman’s financial strength.  No – buy loose – buy so you can sit down comfortably after a delicious meal and not be distracted by an overwhelming desire to rip your clothes off because you’re so damn uncomfortable.  I suspect you can tell I am speaking from experience here.  Let your pants fall straight from your hip and if you can’t find women’s pants (and it will be hard) then go to the men’s department.  Trust me, their pants are designed to create a tall, slim silhouette and once you get used to not being in tight clothes you’ll realize the advantage they have here. Skirts should be aline, long enough so you don’t have to have your legs crossed all the time and the waistband loose enough to allow for a healthy digestion.  Eliminate all tight clothes from your wardrobe. Including jeans.

One of the lasting problems with internet images (despite fashion blogs by and for middle-age women) is that the women featured are 98% under 25 and the remaining 2% are former models or actors, like Tilda Swinton, who are uncommonly thin and gorgeous.  Examples of women with real-ish bodies are hard to find.   There is no better woman to look for inspiration regardless of your height, weight or age than Isabella Rossellini.  The poor woman is the poster-child for the unslim, ageing with graceful beauty, but it’s a burden she must bear.   And no better example exists to support my argument for loosening the ties that bind.  In addition, we also have the benefit of a woman whose face reflects our own – imperfect in its ageing though full to the brim with character and therefore beauty.

Whether in pants or suits (men’s suits by the way), or a dress the fabric falls from the shoulders and usually well past the hips.  I feel like she shares my aversion to displaying the butt in so many unnecessary ways.

You know something is brewing when both Target and Zara are launching genderless lines.  That’s all well and good – but I don’t want to miss out on the better quality and more affordable pricing in the men’s department.  Don’t let them kid you, like men’s haircuts, they pay less, often for more detailed work.

And so what would happen if we changed our ways and headed straight for the men’s department?  If we began buying our suits, pants, jeans and shirts in the men’s department?  Bought for years not the next season, had the luxury of a wardrobe that gave us authority and comfort while reducing our spend.  Would the fashion industry grind to a halt?  Would there be significant job losses?  Maybe – fast fashion and the pressure to keep up is making retailers a lot of money.  It’s providing work for developing economies, it’s having an impact on the environment, creating clothing that gets dumped back into emerging markets creating a non-sustainable cycle.  Let’s rethink the role women play in the cycle.  Let’s think about economic divides and how to close them, how to remove the shackles that bind and the rhetoric that keeps us shopping like a bunch of zombies instead of saving our money to secure financial strength.  A great woman will consider the folly and take decisive action.  Will you?


Vanity Fair 2012 – Obama’s way


the Great Woman

If I could wipe the slate clean, how would I define ‘the great woman’?  How would she behave, how would she dress, condition her body, maintain her health, manage her relationships, her finances, her time?  From the vantage point of middle-age, I have some years of experimentation, success and failure to draw upon – and it’s not over yet.  Can I still achieve greatness?  Can you?  Let’s see.


The phrase usually begins with ‘Behind every great man …’.  This blog will focus on the makings of a great woman, being a great woman, examining the greatness of women, and if a woman is to be great what can or should she let go of.  And if there is a great man behind her, well, we’ll take a look at him too.

A real-live Rosie the Riveter.  They were great women.