squared off


The watch wasn't my only recent buy. Also, do yoga pants count?

Anyway, I went into Massimo Dutti (yes, my favourite purveyor of inexpensive, well-made shirts that fit me to a tee) and lo and behold, a blue-and-white checked shirt caught my eye. It was decidedly cheery, and it brought back fond memories of my kindergarten school uniform. The bright blue made me think of picnics. It was the kind of wardrobe refresher I needed - something that yes, could be a staple, but wasn't just a necessity; it's also fun.


The details of shirt are every bit as appealing - nice buttons and seams, and gosh, the contrast cuff and collar linings -


I am now left to wonder why checks weren't part of my life sooner.

So, crosses off the list:
- A watch
- A small-ish day bag also that works for night
- Perfect black cigarette pants
- Casual shirt

Anyway, since we're talking about shirts, a bit of a digression. I was thinking about this quote that has been making the blog/Tumblr circles -

"Girls can wear jeans, And cut their hair short, Wear shirts and boots, ‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy, But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, ‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading, But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like, Wouldn’t you, What it feels like for a girl." - Charlotte Gainsbourg as Julie in "The Cement Garden"

I use the words "mannish" "boyish" "tomboy" to describe clothes and styles I like, just like a lot of people, but I never thought about why such items had to be gender specific. Thinking about the above quote (how come I never knew this book was made into a film?!) made me think about using words more carefully.

I should take a leaf from my design hero Margaret Howell's book, who describes her clothes as "equal dressing".

I take that to mean designs (not actual items of clothing) that look good on both men and women. There are styles that are perfect on both men and women (tailored jackets, trenchcoats, jeans, tailored shirts, trouser suits, t-shirts, Converses, leather belts, a fine cashmere knit sweater, sweatshirts, breton stripes), and why should they be ascribed to one particular gender? They may be made differently to fit the physical differences in men and women, but their design DNA is the same.

Universal and enduring design has always attracted me, which is why I'm drawn to classics like a nice pair of jeans, a peacoat, a white shirt. They can be worn in so many ways no matter your age, gender, or shape. They work for both sexes and we should think of them that way.

P.S.: I'm not for getting all PC about every single word, and tomboy is still a charming, easy catchphrase that instantly connotes so much (the way "French style" these days connotes a certain look). But a little awareness about perpetuating gender stereotypes never hurts?


Ammu said…
Cute shirt!
Re: the whole 'tomboy' question, I suppose it's a matter of the context people have grown up in. I never thought there was anything particularly feminine about sarongs, because I grew up in India, where many men wear dhotis (very similar to sarongs). Or indeed thought trousers were 'male' because the salwar and churidar trousers are worn by both sexes in north India and have been for ever.
S said…
Ok, first of all, I love the shirt! I really love gingham, there's something very summery about it.

Re: the whole gendered descriptions of clothing, I agree the whole thing is definitely cultural. I think that things like shirts and brogues seem masculine because they have been primarily worn by men historically. But things change over time ... I mean, can you imagine it being controversial for Katherine Hepburn to wear trousers? Now trousers are a non-issue for women. I think given time, the same can happen with other "masculine" or "boyish" items.

In terms of the whole masculine vs feminine thing (I'm about to start grossly generalizing here, but how else can we have a discourse about this?), in my mind, the problem is rather one sided. Women do not feel as often threatened by men's clothing or looking masculine or tomboy-ish. Men are the ones who more often see "feminine" as a pejorative term when applied to themselves. Ok, very random, but did you know that computer terminology adopted violent terms such as "command," "control," and "escape" in order to disassociate computers from typewriters, which were seen as secretarial (i.e. for women)? I no longer have the reference for this (I learned it in one of my grad clases), but anyway, this whole feminine as a pejorative idea is very pervasive.

Sorry for the long comment!
And the little details of the shirt like the brown buttons, different fabric on the inside and the cuffs make it special too. I agree with you about the universal appeal of those items, I suppose a lot of classic items have more of a menswear angle, because their clothing does not change as radically as women's has.
onlycoolcats said…
Pret a P. is right,men's clothing does not change that radically as ours.Besides I think that men's clothing is of higher quality,for the price, than our's (e.g men's sweater of the same price range is usually richer in fabric).

Talking about Your list.A small day and night bag is surely an investment,but in my opinion these bags are definitely worth the splurge:)
Chanel 2.55
Celine Boston Tote- the small version
PS1 Pouch bag
son said…
i really like the size of the check (im weirdly fussy about stuff like that!) - kind of reminds me of pixelated images.
excluding deliberately emulating menswear cut and fit, i suppose anything in womenswear thats considered menswear-like has one main factor in common, which is the lack of embellishment.
and then theres the price range, where i think menswear on average offers considerably better value.
Kate said…
Nice shirt! I think I agree with Pret a Porter P. on this one - menswear doesn't change as much as womenswear, so it's easier to remain classic and unaffected by trends if you buy menswear-inspired clothes. (Also, it's less likely to be glittery. God, I hate glitter.)
Milly said…
I have a black and cream gingham check shirt from Gap that has been my friend for many years and I have been seeking a replacement. May have to pop to Massimo Dutti on my lunch...x

Fleurette said…
Interesting post and discussion. I may be a bit old-fashioned but I actually like that some things are gender specific, and then it's up to a person to wear those items despite its gendered description.
Amanda said…
I wear tomboy clothes because it's comfy and really easy. It's easy to stick to a few basic staples that doesn't restrict your breathing when you want to pig out. =)
t said…
Nice shirt!

If Jane said…
nice shirt...
gosh...i wish i could be as poetic and articulate re; my purchases...;))
asha said…
I recently cut my hair and have been told I look like a Tomboy by more than one person- I think I look more feminine! Androgyny is one of the things that makes fashion more versatile and fun.
lin said…
Sorry for the late responses, have been on the tired side!

Ammu: I've always found it amazing that the sarongs (Malays here wear them too) stay up when as they are engaged in all sorts of manual work!

S: No worries about the long comment! I did not know that about computer keywords, haha. I agree about the feminine as a perjorative as being prevalent and I've always found it disturbing. I guess that's why I think the reverse of 'masculinising' good design isn't a good thing too. But that's just me, haha.

Pret a Porter P: Men have been fortunate that way! I guess because they've always had a need for more practical clothing being traditional family breadwinners.

onlycoolcats: Thanks for the bag suggestions; I admit I've always loved the quilted Chanel purse, but still find it too formal and glitzy for my lifestyle.

Son: Thanks, I totally identify with check sizes :)

Kate: I hate glitter too.

Milly: You should! I always feel like moving into the store permanently. I hope my shirt becomes an old friend too.

Fleurette: I suppose there is an appeal in knowing some things are special to you, and yet there is room for intepretation. But personally for me, I've always liked universal design - I like the idea that some things can be egalitarian and don't need further refining. On the other hand, does this mean more people will start to dress the same, hahaha....

Amanda: Agreed! Like I said earlier, men have been doing practical/manual professions longer and also have less pressure to primp - and hence their clothes reflect that.

t, If Jane: Thanks!

asha: I've always had short hair, actually I often get mistaken as a boy (I'm also on the tall side), so no such luck for me :) I like the hair btw!
miss sophie said…
i agree with Pret a porter and most of the comments here...i think a large part of it is that women's clothing is so much about novelty and change that it's easy to get lost on specifics of how to assess quality and tailoring/fit. my aim this year is to learn more about certain aspects of clothing and hone my sense of well-made clothing to be able to buy things for the right reasons. and yay for doing one's part to break down tired gender stereotypes! :)
editor said…
great post!!!

Popular Posts