O PT I O N S
Fine Dandy Gradual shift to a more androgynous style
emininity and the female form can only inspire so much. While a woman’s beautiful face is said to be able to launch a thousand ships, it obviously can’t launch a thousand fashion seasons. Which is probably why over for the past few years, we’ve seen a gradual shift from the deeply feminised forms of fashions to a more androgynous style. Designers have increasingly favoured style elements that are masculine and macho, and this season it’s all about being openly dandy as well. Building upon elements already big in past seasons — like the tuxedo trend and military fashion — the dandy women this time channel a little bit of Beau Brummell (who famously changed men’s fashion by tying his cravats in increasingly more elaborate conﬁgurations) and some bits of Oscar Wilde into the mix. The overall look and feel is really a mixture of sharp tailoring and stereotypically masculine clothes, but all cut to accentuate and ﬂatter the female body. So, are we really looking at men for inspiration? Are we digging that deep into the bottom of the barrel? Before we ﬂuff our twirly skirts in indignation, it’s best we keep in mind that this trend isn’t something we’ve never seen before. Yves Saint Laurent’s famous Le Smoking pantsuit and, of course, the brashness of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and her liberating sense of style are the predecessors of this trend. But while their stylish inclinations were more socio-political, today’s dandy style and androgynous fashions
serve purely a creative purpose. Most importantly, it’s a trend that’s both easily adaptable and intensely wearable for just about anyone. The most outstanding element of the dandy woman this season is the boyfriend jacket. Deliberately oversized yet given just a whiff of streamlined shape, boyfriend jackets are both longish (much like what the 1980s popularised) as well as sharply cropped at the hips or waist. Elaborate buttons down the front à la military jackets and rufﬂed collars are a frivolous — albeit very beautiful — touch and therefore should be worn with Gucci caution. Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel tagged the brand’s autumn/winter collection Belle Brummell, a gender-reassigned quip referring to the very dandy Englishman. That formula translated into white collar and cuff treatments in Coco Chanel’s favourite colours of black and white. Decadence at the house of Chanel means frothy plissé ruffs, chiffon camellias and French maid frills encircling the neck or sleeves on soft, ﬁtted black silhouettes. Also, nipped jackets and waistcoats are presented in plain black, tweed or houndstooth check. Mademoiselle Coco would be impressed. Hermes thought the unthinkable (as they always do) this season and took the dandy androgynous trend in search of Amelia Earhart — or her sense of style anyway — and came away with nipped jackets, dramatic collars and narrow trousers that gave femininity an independent streak.
The preferred fabric? Lots of soft brown leather. Well, it is winter, after all. Pantsuits are a favourite of many corporate women, and this season they have been reinterpreted in lovely ways to be increasingly chic and less power-hungry. Donna Karan’s razor-sharp shoulders nicely played up slouchy trousers and pencil-slim sheath skirts, paying homage to a streamlined, slender silhouette. A Salvatore Ferragamo pantsuit is also a must-have this season — whether trousers are cut till mid-shins or extend to the ankles is up to you. Paired with waist-length coats or longer 1980s-styled jackets, it’s a superbly chic look. Even the ultra feminine dress has not been spared the masculine treatment. Bottega Veneta’s dress features a long skirt that’s completed with a super slim belt and an austere, collared top. Spaghetti straps
2 0 0 9 O C T O B E R
atop slender shoulders continue in a single straight line to the knee in very basic silhouettes, while a very Victorian neckline is almost at odds with slouchier skirts. Over at Lanvin, basic dresses with simple silhouettes were treated with decadent Parisian elements — beading, embellishments and bold accessories that even featured feather-lined neckpieces. Deﬁnitely a trend that can be replicated in a local context — an old saree tailored into a dress with the richer part of the fabric fashioned into the bodice, for example. Or perhaps, plain coloured silk edged with songket strips... the options are limitless. Gucci’s dresses are made for the young and brave, as short hemlines sparkle with generous metallic embellishments and a slender shoulder is exposed here and there. But the real genius in the collection are the pantsuits — creative director Frida Giannini gave an old-fashioned silhouette a very mod look with sharp lines, shiny fabrics and a very futuristic styling. Skinny capri pants and a long boyfriend jacket in shiny gunmetal grey are a fabulous setting for a brightly coloured shirt within, or perhaps a navy blue ensemble with a similarly dark blouse for a more sombre look. The best part about the dandy, androgynous trend is that incorporating it into your current wardrobe means adding on just a few choice pieces. High-waisted jodhpurs, high collars, rufﬂes and bow blouses, a waist coat or a tailored vest and one or two jackets is all you really need. With a basic palette of a black dress, classic black trousers and a white shirt, you have a lot of room to play with. Let your creativity go a little crazy this time — the dandier, the better.