Monday, July 28, 2008

She's a Dandy (Pt. I)

Masculine/Feminine: I never belittle the fact that there is still much to be accomplished when it comes to improving gender equality. However, as a person who always tries to see the proverbial glass of life half-full, I often muse over the things that make being a girl seem...well, a whole heck of a lot better than being a guy. One of those things is, of course, fashion. We simply have more choice, more freedom, and generally more encouragement to be creative than men do. I feel grateful that society no longer makes me choose according to assigned gender roles, but rather that I can be an amalgamation of traits that have long been considered either masculine or feminine. Speaking of having the best of both worlds, I've always appreciated a bit of fashion-gender-bending. I find it particularly interesting that ladies seem to be able to take traditional male clothing and accessories and wear them with more style and panache than many of their gentleman counterparts. The famous song lyrics from Annie Get Your Gun come to mind: "Anything you can do, I can do better..."

(The image above left is Radclyffe Hall, lover of men's suits ...and author of the amazing novel, Well of Loneliness, published 1926).

Portrait of a Lady: This picture of the lovely Louise (below, right; from her blog Pandora) reminds me of early 20th century artist Romaine Brooks' self-portrait (1923). Brooks, a lesbian writer and artist during the early part of the 20th century painted portraits of herself and her fashionable friends and acquaintances dressed in men's attire. Like Brooks, many talented female/lesbian/avant-garde artists (particularly in Paris' Left Bank region) began co-opting dandy fashion for themselves. Thanks in part to these talented and provocative women, items such as men's hats, ties, ascots, collared shirts, riding pants, etc. began to slowly trickle into women's mainstream fashion... and continue to do so. Louise creates a sort of Victorian femme fatale with her version of the top hat (view her blog for the full outfit).

(left) Romaine Brooks, Self-Portrait, (1923); (right) Photo originally downloaded by pandora-pandora.

Warming up to Menswear: There is something a little seductive about a lady donning menswear, but let's face it, it's damn comfortable too. As I've said before, comfort is at the top of my priority list these days. It wasn't until the past few years, however, that I've actually felt comfortable playing with more androgynous clothing. Hats are a must for me these days, and I've recently warmed up to collared-button-ups (I was traumatized by private school uniforms, so it has taken me a while to recover). I'm also obsessed with Oxfords...but that's a subject fit for an entire post. I think as I've grown older, I've become more comfortable with playing outside of the confines of typically "feminine" clothing, and I like the idea of putting my own touches to menswear and experimenting with the options. I'd love a vintage top hat like Louise's, but they run several hundred dollars on Ebay...gulp. Oh well, I'll have to stick to my cheapie fedoras. Perhaps tomorrow I will play dress-up and see what dandy outfits I can come up with...and snap some photos?

More of Brooks' portraits:

Both by Romaine Brooks. (Left) Una, Lady Troubridge (1924). Peter, A Young English Girl (1923-1924).

Hats off to these ladies:

Vintage ladies donning menswear. Images from

1 comment:

Bobble Bee said...

o geez i love this post!
there's always something transgressive in a woman wearing a suit, even nowadays. it's funny how a man wearing a dress doesn't have the same effect at all; he can look funny, but rare he'd look as sexy as a woman in a man's garments