You've come a
long way, baby
By Lori Amer
j P INK IS FOR girls, blue is for
boys," an age old adage used
to distinguish the sexes and maintain
traditional roles, is no longer as
predominant as it used to be. As the
times have changed, and -sex roles
move closer together, fashion is no
longer totally divided.
The numerous publications Fashion
Power by Robert Lauer, Mirror Mirror
by Michael Batterberry, The Why of
Fashion by Karlyne Anspach, The
Language of Clothes by Alison Lurie,
etc.) on the fashion trends over the cen-
tury illustrate how the changing styles
of taste in clothing reflect the attitude
of the nation. Everything from WWI to
economic crisis, Hollywood and the
struggle for equal rights influenced
dress. The fashion industry needs to be
very aware of this reciprocal influence
to keep up with the trends of the time.
Since the Bloomer movement of the
1850s, women have been trying to adopt
men's styles. The Bloomer was named
for and popularized by a feminist
magazine editor, Amelia Bloomer.
In the fashionable dress of the times,
women could hardly fulfill their duties
at home. Neither could they participate
in sports, professions or outdoor work.
Tired of the heavy layers, constric-
ting skirts and tight undergarments,
some women opted for full trousers
gathered at the ankles and a knee
In spite of all the positive utility of the
Bloomer costume, the style was never
accepted. The attempt to reform
female clothing was equated with
feminists and seen as a threat to in-
crease women's freedom.
By 1910, though, the Gibson girl
emerged. The ideal was classic and
athletic. Pants were accepted for
bicycling or perhaps gardening, but
still frowned upon for any public oc-
During WWI not only did women's
roles change but so did fashion. With all
the men at war, women were needed in
the work force. As some women left
their homes for the factories, so did
they leave their skirts.
The flapper of the 1920s represented a
height in freedom and a low in
femininity. The look was a short hair-
cut, a tall, slender boyish figure, and
bare arms and legs. Women's style
eliminated burdensome clothing. They
could move freely and therefore think
It has been argued that women were
asserting their newly-won rights by
dressing like men. Some say women's
fashions had to be sexually provocative
in order to boost the birthrate. But the
clothes of the '20s, with the suppression
of secondary sex characteristics, were
not necessarily provocative. Others
claim that the androgynous female
clothes of the '20s enabled the women to
symbolically replace the young males
that had died in the war.
By 1930 French fashion designer Coco
Chanel popularized men's clothing
for women. So many looks known as
"basics" in today's fashion world were
born for women. Jersey trousers and
striped T-shirts, blazers with pleated
skirts, shirts and ties, and long car-
digans over button downs were the new
wave styles of the '30s.
Not unlike today, these styles were
transformed into mass fashion through
Hollywood. The movies became the
poor * man's theater where the
glamorous stars of the '30s gave a
promise to life that was often missing in
the real world.
Marlene Dietrich, one of the first to
be called an "androgynous heroine"
became known for her tuxedo look in
Blonde Venus. While certainly very
glamorous and beautiful, the prac-
ticality of her clothing could easily be
Of course Kathrine Hepburn, Greta
Garbo and Veronica Lake can also be
remembered for their inspiration
toward androgynous dressing. Many
sophisticated film stars chose men's
trench coats and trousers for their off
stage wardrobes as well.
During the period of WWII, the
feminine trend of wearing men's
clothes became more than a
fashionable whim since it was
necessary when women were called to
replace men in the factories during
WWII. "Rosy the Riveter" buried the
custom once and for all that women
wore trousers only for sports.
It was not until both the equal rights
and self awareness movements of the
'60s began that fashions became unisex.
The way yoti dressed became a political
statement for or against the dominant
norms and values.
Women discarded and burned their
bras telling society they were sick of
being looked at as sex objects. At the
same time, men grew their hair long
and wore beads, bright colors, and
The older generation of men in grey
business suits and women in skirts
which accentuated their hips and tight
sweaters complained because they
couldn't y tell the difference between
their sons and daughters.
Blue jeans and T-shirts spread as the
national uniform. Rising up from the
position of work clothes for male
laborers, denim peaked in the early '70s
with the tight designer looks for both
men and women.
With the second wave of the feminist
movement in the early '70s, business
women struggled to be equal and
adopted the three-piece suited look.
Women executives quickly accepted
the rules of "dressing for success" in a
At the same time that the mass ap-
proach to women dressing as men
began, girls began to shop in menswear
departments or their father or
Gianfranco Ferre, an Italian fashion
designer explained in a New York
Times interview, "What was on the out-
side an expression of American style,
was, underneath, an unspoken
argument that women could dress like
men in ways that were not necessarily
extreme. It was bourgeois androgyny."
In 1977, Diane Keaton as Annie Hall
transformed this casual look into high
fashion. She created a sense of in-
dividual style when she wore men's
baggy pants, shirts and jackets.
Hollywood, in the '80s, went even fur-
ther to help abolish the strict divisions
between what men and women should
wear. Films like Tootsie, Victor/Vic-
toria, and Yentl all deal with sexual
Other images in today's mass media
also help to promote this trend. The
ideal female body today is boyishly thin
and straight - not curvy. Transvestite,
Boy George, and the very effeminate,
Michael Jackson have recently won
Grammys for their popularity in
Changing attitudes about 'the male-
macho image is also reflected in
fashion. In the '70s men were told it's
okay to cry. By the '80s they could even
wear baby pink or lavender. Today it is
totally accepted and encouraged that
men be concerned with self adornment.
In addition, the increase in imported
designs in the last two years has helped
10v George -
... do you really want to dress me?
to break down sexual differentiation in
clothing. The loose Japanese look
stresses comfort and is designed to be
worn by either sex. The English punk
movement has been turned into a car-
bon-copy androgynous fashion by the
The height of this trend today is the
break out of men's briefs, boxer shorts,
and undershirts for women by Calvin
Klein and Jockey. The popularity of
these products leads many to believe
that androgyny in fashion will be seen
in greater volume in the years to come.
Most designers agree that
femininity is in the eye of
the beholder. They might borrow
concepts or clothing of menswear such
as trousers, coats, jackets and ties and
turn them into chic women's clothes
that aren't overbearingly macho, but
instead confident, relaxed and sexy in a
charming sort of way.
Menswear is one of the most
prevalent influences seen everywhere
this season. In order to achieve the
proper balance, certain cautions are
recommended by many of todays
popular fashion publications: -
" Avoid costume dressing. If you want
a playful look, try wearing menswear
one piece at a time as a finishing touch
to an outfit.
" To transform the androgynous look
into an all female one, add a
"feminine" element. A lace blouse or
scarf, or maybe an antique pin might be
the perfect touch to a man-tailored suit.
Remember, the outfits look best when
the woman, in menswear, stands out first
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