We have been celebrating the greatness of ‘The Frock’ all month, from work wear pinafores to the every woman’s fail safe LBD but there is more to this wardrobe staple. Yesterday we looked at ‘Men in Dresses’.
Dresses have been loved and adored by women since time began, buy what about the men? Of course men all over the land appreciate the dress and the female figure but how about the boys that like a dress themselves?
The concept of gender dressing now seems rather old fashioned; boys wear blue, girls wear pink is something now only new mothers use as an instantly recognisable ‘tag’ so that cooing strangers are not faced with that awkward moment. This colour divide was actually determined during the 19th
century, although surprisingly pink was the choice of colour for the boys as it was deemed a stronger colour than the dainty blue hue for girls, it was not until the 1940s this changed around.
Children of both sexes up to the age of seven wore dresses for centuries, white cotton for practicalities; these could be bleached and created ease for nappy changing. A dress on a child whether a boy or a girl was not considered something unusual in fact it was the only way to dress your child. We do still see a part of this concept in the form of Christening dress.
Men in dresses are in fact an important part of fashion history and culture. The Roman’s and Greeks when ruling their empires did so in a tunic or toga, a simply cut form of dress in which they would lay their armor, as with the kilt which is still an iconic symbol of the Scottish identity and national dress. Religious dresses for men is also common place with the Dishdasha and Ulttarasanga robe prominent amongst devout Muslims and Buddhist Monks.
So when did it all become so gender specific? Fashion of the early 20th
century was hugely focused on women, women were the subjects of attention and thus created an image of superficiality, objects of desire for many deemed to be spending their husband’s money. With this in mind, male fashion followers self-conscious of their appearance become tarred with the same brush, this was particularly evident with the Dandies, although a status of affluence that these men could afford to buy nice clothes and present them-selves well, they faced much discrimination.
The post-war years saw a change, ‘men should be men, women should be women’ was still very much the attitude into the 1950s but with women working becoming accepted role reversals did begin to occur and the emergence of the ‘hippie’ movement of the 1960s which supported equality meant the lines between genders started to blur. Men and women started to dress in a similar fashion in particular with the dress like ‘Kaftan’ becoming increasingly popular.
It has most often been associated with the drag industry, men dressing as women. Impersonating flamboyant females for entertainment, famous acts such a Lilly Savage and Danny La Rue have graced our television screens for decades along with socialite Jody Harsh and artist Grayson Perry who opt to wear elaborate female attire as their public image. Where drag has the entertainment aspect, cross-dressing is different; it is a form of personal preference and works both ways for males and females. The aspect of ‘cross dressing’ and fashion today has become something that is far more accepted than perhaps it once was, the mix of feminine and masculine clothing with designers is fast becoming an on-going trend. This summer saw JW Anderson
at London Collections: Men, sent male models up the catwalk in frilly shorts, halter neck tops and palazzo pants reminiscing of a 1970’s Bond girl.
Many famous men have donned the skirt without fear of losing their ‘masculinity’; Kurt Cobain, David Beckham even Hollywood ‘tough guy’ Vin Diesel this could become less of a gender issue and more of a fashion choice, after all, girls have embraced the androgynous look for a long while now with icons Debbie Harry, Agyness Dyen favoured so maybe it’s about time the men got the chance to feel the benefits of the much loved dress?
Traditional Muslim dress: Males in Dubai wearing THE DISHDASHA
Buddhist Monks pose in bright orange UTTARASANGA
Artist Grayson Perry has often been photographed wearing a dress as part of his 'performance'
Hollywood hero Vin Diesel is not afraid to show a bit of let in a black leather skirt at the MTV European Music Awards in 2003
The 'frill' of exploring male/female style from J.W Anderson's SS14 collection shown at London Collections:Men in June 2013.