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October 19, 2006 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-10-19

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6B-The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 19, 2006

{the b-side}

This year, fashion
goes back toward

By Caroline Hartmann
Daily Arts Writer
Androgyny: partly male,
partly female, wholly indeter-
minate. Fashion today recalls
the gender-bending fads of
the past: Ditching corsets in
the '20s, the sexual revolution
and "mod" of the '60s and the
hyper-masculine power suit of
the '80s. The concept is an old
one, but this generation lacks
the political circumstances that
have driven fashion to mascu-
line extremes in the past. If the
feminist struggle to gain equal
recognition isn't the goal this
time, then what is?
At birth we all possess the
mental capacity to learn any lan-
guage, so do we also embody all
aspects of gender before society
has its way with us? Fashion eas-
ily puts personal identity on an
all-too-visible stage, making the
manifestation of our inner selves
not only possible, but essential.
What we wear is the silent ver-
sion of a soapbox sermon, the
loudest statement that requires
no words at all. Our gender is
as malleable as our wardrobes,
even though society treats it as
a given fact of life.
The tailored dress suit, pushed
to the back of the closet for years,
is making its comeback. Design-
ers like Jean Paul Gaultier and
Paul Smith are reacting under
pressure to refit their men's col-
lections for women, and Brooks
Brothers has never seen so much
business. Sleek legs, trouser legs,
cropped jackets, draping jackets
- the options are endless and
none are any less fashionable than
the next. Women are also borrow-
ing men's accessories, adorning
outfits with plaid patterns, neck-
ties and newsboy hats.
But androgyny goes both
ways. As women flock to the
men's section and demand
designer suitware, their male
counterparts are buying shirts
one size smaller and reveling in
their ability to wear slim-waisted
jeans. David Beckham may have

ignited the flame of the contem-
porary metrosexual movement,
but he's just one of many to
embrace his feminine side. (See
David Bowie, Gerard Way.)
Women are reasserting their
masculinity, men are working
to suppress it.
But other forms of androgy-
nous dressing find a stylish
middle ground. Dr. Marten's
footwear was on to something
when it introduced countless
lines of unisex shoes; instead
of extrapolating certain styles
and transplanting them onto the
opposite gender, some fashion
attempts to blur the boundary
Designer Helmut Lang is
famous for uniting his men and
women's collections with com-
mon elements such as shape
and color, abandoning gen-
der conventions of both sexes.
In his spring 2007 collection,
Lang's runway alternated male
and female models, all wearing
squared-off looks in the same
white, taupe and gray color
scheme. His designs focus more
on sleek, minimalist silhou-
ettes than on highlight typical
feminine or masculine features.
Though his clothes aren't meant
to be universally worn, he down-
plays gender influences in favor
of structure and clean lines.
Erotic fashion - though usu-
ally relegated to avant-garde
editorial spreads and fringe
markets - is parading sexual
ambiguity with both campy
humor and burlesque ferocity. In
October's issue of Flaunt Maga-
zine, Scarlett Johansson and
Dita Von Teese pose as kinky
sex objects, alternating roles
of male dominators and female
seducers. The costume. mask
worn by Von Teese suggests the
mystery and playful rebellion of
gender mix-ups.
Mass-produced clothing
design is playing the same
gender games as the high fash-
ion industry, and the public is
responding with open arms. Gap
now offers structured trenches

and leather utility jackets for
women, fur-trimmed coats for
men and has revived chic skinny
pants for both.
This generation is notoriously
silent when it comes to political
expression - most of us spend
more time worrying about per-
sonal style. It's become trendy
to focus on identity issues and
reject society's confining expec-
tations of gender and sexuality.
Our obsession with distinctly
personalized ensembles isn't
fading into the background any-
time soon. We seek unique and
one-of-a-kind pieces with an
ardent drive that far surpasses
the energy we devote to mass
movements and social reform.
Androgynous fashion embod-
ies decades of radical dress. It
provides this generation with an
individualistic mode of expres-
sion to keep pushing the enve-
lope on gender without being
chained to society's limiting

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Courtesy www.johnvarvatos.com, www.trendencia.com, www.greatestjeneration.com, www.net-a-porter.com
TOP LEFT, RIGHT: John Varvatos fall 2006 runway show. MIDDLE LEFT, RIGHT: Gold jackets on
Helmut Lang's runway, androgynous style Icon Katharine Hepburn. BOTTOM: Chloe tote, unisex.

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Irmura Sports Program

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