VOGUE (Italy) - - CULTURE - By Va­nes­sa Fried­man

As our un­der­stan­ding of gen­der and tra­di­ti on alg end er de­fi­ni­ti ons be­co­me sev er­mo ree la­stic,stret­ch ed me­ta­pho­ri­cal ly i nto hy­per-in­di­vi­dual sha­pes, i twill al so be­str et che din­to new sha­pes l ite­ral ly. Af­ter al l, the­re is no ex­pres­sion of iden­ti­ty mo­re l ite­ral than clo­thes.

The point of fa­shion, at lea­st when it is doing its job, be it men­swear or wo­men­swear, is to sen­se the di­rec­tion so­cie­ty is mo­ving in bo­th cul­tu­ral­ly and po­li­ti­cal­ly, and then to gi­ve that form. That is why a gar­ment has re­so­nan­ce with the viewer: it gi­ves them a new way to si­gn­po­st who they are at that mo­ment in ti­me. For men­swear spe­cif ical­ly, this new ela­stic def ini­tion of gen­der means that ju­st as wo­men ha­ve long dip­ped in and out of the clas­sic ma­le wardrobe - ap­pro­pria­ting its tro­pes as it sui­ted them ( pun in­ten­ded), whe­ther as ar­mour again­st the ma­le po­wer struc­tu­re, or to si­gnal equa­li­ty of in­tent, or to al­low them­sel­ves to re­di­rect and ma­ni­pu­la­te the ma­le ga­ze - now men too wi l l in­crea­sin­gly ap­pro­pria­te the tro­pes of wo­men­swear, from prin­ts (f lo­rals! f ili­gree!) to fa­bri­ca­tions ( la­ce! gau­ze! bro­ca­de!) and si­lhouet­tes. In­deed, it i s pos­si­ble that for so­me de­si­gners men­swear and wo­men­swear may mer­ge en­ti­re­ly - not ju­st on the ru­n­way - when men­swear is sho­wn with wo­men­swear be­cau­se they are part of the sa­me sto­ry, but con­cep­tual­ly too: so mu­ch that the di­scre­te terms ‘men­swear’ and ‘wo­men­swear’ will ef­fec­ti­ve­ly cea­se to exi­st.

This is not the sa­me thing as gen­der­neut ral clo­thing, whi­ch mo­st of ten s eems l i ke ano­ther t erm f or bas i cs su­ch as jeans and T- shirts. It is, ra­ther, gen­der- bl i nd clo­thing, and t he­re i s no­thing ba­sic about it. Men­swear has mo­ved in ti­ny in­cre­men­ts for de­ca­des - a third but­ton he­re, a sof­ter shoul­der the­re, al l fra­med by the boun­da­ries of the suit and tra­di­tion – but this gen­der­bl i nd al­te­rat ion would al l ow it t he sa­me showy zigs and zags of form and con­tent that ha­ve co­me to be seen as the pro­vin­ce of wo­men­swear.

On t he one hand, t hat could be enor­mou­sly l ibe­ra­ting, at lea­st for the ima­gi­na­tion. On the other, it could gi­ve eve­ryo­ne whi­pla­sh. Or, all in li­ke­li­hood, it will be a bit of bo­th.

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