Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Male and Female Fashion Divide

I've been thinking about the recent poll in The Radio Times that came up with a discrepancy between men and women in their choice of favourite female screen actresses. In a survey of 2,000 readers, most women chose Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's while the masculine choice was Ursula Andress in the first Bond film, Dr No, in 1962. Apart from what this tells us about the likely age of the readers who took part – Breakfast at Tiffany's is only a year earlier than the Bond movie – it shows the great gap between sex and glamour that dominated fashion in the fifties and sixties. Nice girls didn't; confident women did. Women wanted to be the gamine young lady; men wanted the sexy vamp.

Such a survey carried out with younger men and women would almost certainly have a much closer result in that young women and men tend to admire the same icons, whether it is Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson. Which makes me wonder - not for the first time, even in this blog - if the sexes are drawing closer in taste and therefore fashion than ever before. Certainly, their lifestyles are very much more similar than in the past and so are their attitudes to freedom and sex. The pill, the changes in laws concerning sexual freedoms, behaviour and beliefs have increasingly revealed that women like the male lifestyle, even if men are at this point only beginning to come to terms with the female element in their sexuality. No more hunter-gatherer, weaver and cook divisions, in Western society at least.

I hate to use the word unisex but I wonder if Courreges and Cardin were not on to something valid for the future with their fashion statements in the sixties, even though they were laughed at or simply ignored at the time. At a time when female fashion is desperately trying to grind every last ounce out of styles popular in the recent past, and when menswear is almost totally static, maybe it is time for a little more creative cross-over to kick-start creativity again. We could start by asking what dress is actually for in a modern context.

1 comment:

  1. One might say that this cross-over or unisex tendency is just a trend, and perhaps it is, but it also seems to be indicative of a gradual reorientation in fashion.

    For starters, fashion is no longer tethered to function, and cannot be relied upon to faithfully depict class distinction or gender (among other things). Modesty and a concern for simply covering the body are not exactly central to most designers' aesthetic.
    So perhaps the purpose of clothing in a modern context is becoming purely decorative. I think that this is part of the picture, but "decorative" means that the clothing is made for the body, to decorate it, whereas over the past few decades clothing (or runway fashion at any rate) seems to be made more for itself in a way. I dont think fashion is turning into art, but when I look at runway shows the body seems to have become somewhat secondary, a necessary object, like the dress dummy.

    Then again I'm kind of a formalist, and tend to see most things in this light.