15 October 2014

Masculinity vs. Femininity

credits: getty images, Alexander Wang/hm

Suits, baseball caps, and sneakers; one could easily mistake this for a typical boy’s wardrobe. But fashion is changing. We have been taking influence from the boys for decades. In the 20s, Coco Chanel rocked Breton stripes and suit pants while the other girls pranced around in the flapper dresses of the day. Katharine Hepburn made the three-piece suit her trademark in the 1930s and 40s, turning it into a sexy woman’s staple. Yves Saint Laurent created some of the best pantsuits for women and dressed the icons of the seventies, such as, Bianca Jagger, Laura Hutton, and Charlotte Rampling. Androgyny consumed fashion in the eighties and nineties. And now in fashion, the tomboy look is the top trend.

credits: getty images
Coco Chanel was the real pioneer of the menswear/womenswear crossover. Chanel propelled the trouser into mainstream fashion after wearing them on holidays on the beach. She made all of her decisions based on modesty—later in life saying, “I came up with them by modesty.  From this usage to it becoming a fashion, having 70% of women wearing trousers at evening dinner is quite sad”. She also was the first to introduce jersey fabric into womenswear. Up until then, jersey was used only for men’s underwear. But for comfort and ease, Coco began to use the lightweight fabric to make dresses and tops. She contradicted the famous looks of the twenties: sequin, silk, and flashy uncomfortable pieces. 

credits: getty images, Chanel, Sophia Smythe

The one thing Coco Chanel is best known for is her signature black Chanel suit. The creation of it spawned from the need for a professional outfit for women going into the male-heavy workforce. The color was revolutionary, for black was reserved for funerals and in mourning at that time. The construction was visionary. The suit consisted of a collarless boxy wool jacket with braid trim, fitted sleeves, metallic embellished buttons, and matching slim line skirt. The Chanel suit has become as iconic as the white interlocking c’s that the world’s come to know. Some of the most famous faces in the world have donned the iconic two-piece including Jacklyn Kennedy on the terrible day her husband, President John F. Kennedy, was murdered (Dunne)
credit: getty images

Katharine Hepburn also took what Chanel was pioneering and made it her own. Hepburn was the first woman in Hollywood to wear trousers, insisting on doing so on set and off. Many producers called the look “box office poison” saying the style she had would never sell tickets. “I wear my sort of clothes to save me the trouble of deciding which clothes to wear,” Hepburn said of her style. She graced the silver screen time and time again in high waisted trousers often with a sharp, slightly oversized blazer to match. The look has become her signature, and at the time, showed all women that inner strength can translate into outer strength.  (Sylvia)

The look that Katharine made her stamp brought inspiration to many fashion designers, but one French boy named Yves Saint Laurent took the women’s pantsuit to astronomically new heights. “For a long time now, I have believed that fashion was not only supposed to make women beautiful, but to reassure them, to give them confidence, to allow them to come to terms with themselves,” Saint Laurent said a few years before his 2008 death. And that he did. Yves launched his own label, with his namesake, in 1962 after heading the House of Dior for four years. He broke down women’s wardrobes based on two lifestyles—the practical, everyday woman and the flirty girl ready for a night out. Saint Laurent released his first pantsuit, the Le Smoking, in the mid-sixties. 
credits: getty images, VOGUE Paris, British VOGUE 

That suit changed it all. Style superstars like Bianca Jagger (the wife of Rolling Stones frontman Mick, who also donned YSL), Twiggy, and Lauren Hutton. He then revealed the look that would become the uniform for the fashion mavens of the time: leather jacket, knit turtleneck sweater, and knee-high boots—aka the “chic beatnik”. Yves Saint Laurent took the inspirations from his dear friend Coco Chanel and style muse Ms. Hepburn and created a look that re-invented woman’s fashion. (Critchell)

Look for part two of Masculinity vs. Femininity on Thursday! Who's your favorite suit-repping style icon? Leave your favorites in the comments below.

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