Hers and his
FOR AS LONG as I can remember, fashion weeks have been divided between the genders. Shows of womenswear and menswear are sometimes months apart. Each sort of show has a particular following among fashion connoisseurs, editors, buyers and front-row celebrities. For decades after the word “unisex” was coined, it was unimaginable that the separate clans could ever occupy the same space. Men were men and women were women, and gender dictated what each wore.
Yet the history of fashion is full of examples of clothing associated with one sex being worn by the other. Coco Chanel made waves when she refused to conform with the conventions of femininity and dressed her models androgynously in suits and blazers. Demand for womenswear that looked like menswear was amplified by celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn.
Designers other than Chanel answered this call for freedom from the norms dictated by gender.
Yves Saint Laurent created the suit he called
Le Smoking. Giorgio Armani made the power suit popular among women. Women pushed back the limits to what they could wear while retaining their femininity.
Since then, women have pushed back the limits to what women can wear further than men have pushed back the limits to what men can wear. But men are catching up. Boys are borrowing skinny jeans from their girlfriends, men are swinging Birkin bags, and androgynous male models are strutting their stuff in Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Vetements and Vivienne Westwood.
Consumers no longer care whether a garment or accessory is intended for the opposite sex. So why should designers design clothes and schedule their shows as if consumers do care? A growing number of brands are blurring the distinctions between menswear and womenswear, and between menswear shows and womenswear shows. And they have begun to gather a united tribe of followers of fashion who appreciate what can be worn by both sexes.
In keeping with the times, the #legend review of the autumn/winter collections this year is confined to shows put on by designers that intend their creations to be worn by either sex, whether the creation is deliberately unisex or whether it is a garment of a type usually worn by women adapted for men to wear. Here are the best 10 unisex collections.