I sat reading a book about Marlene Dietrich today. She was just the most stunning women imaginable, with legendary sex appeal. And this was never more apparent than when she dressing like a man. Marlene’s wardrobe, both in films (In Morocco she famously sported a tuxedo and top hat) and in real life veered towards mannish tailoring. And the androgynous spirit of Marlene is alive and kicking in the fashion world today.
One of music’s hottest new stars, Janelle Monae, acknowledges Dietrich as a style icon, and works that tuxedo look to its best advantage. Rihanna wore a stylised D&G Tuxedo to the Met Ball, whilst Leighton Meister was widely photographed wearing a mens suit and tie late last year. Coco Sumner has a style that’s based on wearing boys clothing with lank hair, in the style that Luella Bartley celebrates as typically English.
There are some who are the old masters of the cross dressing scene, often sporting male garb whilst totally retaining their femininity. Kate Moss has worked this style for many years, with a love of leather biker jackets, tuxedos, skinny jeans and rock style t-shirts. Grazia recently recognised that at times her wardrobe is interchangeable with that of her fiance Jamie Hince. In a similar vein is Alexa Chung, who adds a boyish sensibility to even her prettiest looks, dressing Chanel dresses down with chunky work boots. Tilda Swinton is so similar to David Bowie, and always looks more comfortable in mens tailoring (she was the perfect choice to play Virginia Woolf’s Orlando), with Cate Blanchett another actress whose strong, striking looks can carry off the most masculine outfits.
What is the appeal of androgynous dressing? I guess it is the lack of flesh on display, that covered up-ness, that is so appealing. Most men say their is nothing sexier than when their loved one wears their clothes, from the pyjama top without the bottoms, their old shirt, or old jumper. Magazine polls often state that men love women best in simple jeans and white t-shirts, a totally asexual outfit. New Fashion label The Kooples have jumped on this matching his-and-hers looks in their ad campaigns, which feature couples in very similar outfits, which could almost be from a unisex wardrobe
Androgynous dressing seems to look effortless, like you hadn’t got anything to wear so you raided ‘his’ wardrobe. It is both a timeless and ageless look, see Tilda Swinton in her 50s and Coco Sumner in her 20s – the look belongs to both of them. To me, the Queen of androgynous style is Patti Smith, who has sported the same look from the ‘Horses’ cover in the mid 70s to the present day and still looks amazing in it.