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Jun 8, 2010

Women who dress like men!


I just don't get it, readers.  Maybe I'm from a different generation.  (Wait -- that is my generation.) Why, oh why, did women ever want to dress like men?



Just look at this March 1984 Vogue spread (click photo to supersize):


Something very weird was happening back then and has never entirely disappeared, awful as it was/is.

Which leads me to the formal announcement of the winner of the Ugliest Pattern Ever contest -- Vogue 9128!


It finally arrived yesterday and let me tell you, it's as hideous as I'd remembered it.  Here's a closer look:


It's includes both the loose, sack-like jumper and the oversized, shoulder-padded shirt -- a study in nausea.  I'm hoping Cathy can sprinkle it with some girly-girl dust and make it all OK.

Now lest you think I'm some kind of neanderthal, I'm fine with a little male gender-bending...



It's playful, insouciant -- fun!  It's normal.

But this...


Creepy.  Is it any wonder that we don't know whose clothes to put on in the morning?

I'm an open-minded person but I have my limits and I just can't wrap my head around this women in menswear thing.  

Luckily, I think the trend has largely faded and good riddance.  Young women today have positive feminine role models like these:




We've finally come to our senses.

Are you with me, readers?  Do you agree that a man in heels is cute but a woman in pinstripes looks bizarre?  Wouldn't you gang up on a gal in a tailored tux to teach her what's what? 

Seriously, have you ever been tempted to wear men's clothes?  What was the reaction?  How did it make you feel and how did you handle the fly?  Do you also like to smoke cigars?

Do you think this trend is behind us at last or merely waiting in the wings?
 
I'm all ears!

61 comments:

  1. Ah, Peter - how your posts always make me laugh! You have a very witty style.

    Personally, I love love love suits on women - especially those that show of the figure of the wearer, whatever that figure. I find it endlessly amusing that the three-piece was originally designed and worn for many years by men, and yet a three-piece of wonderfully fitted trousers, a waistcoat nipped in to the waist and a fitted jacket look so elegant on a woman.

    I can't wait until my sewing skills stretch to such garments. I shall wear the whole lot with a tie, no less! Whooop!

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  2. I spent many years dressing androgynously, but mostly in overalls and flannel shirts. Never pinstripe suits!

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  3. OMG, I had a pink jumper just like the one in your ugly pattern when I was a freshman in high school! Ewwww....

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  4. I spent the time I wasn't in vintage clothing in my teen years and early 20's, dressing in guys' 501s and white t-shirts.

    However, Nowadays if I were going to dress like a man, I think I would want to dress like men did in the 10's-40's. I could get behind wool flannel trousers and fair isle vests. The way men dress now is either too sloppy or too something... I don't like most modern menswear suits and the like.

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  5. My high school prom was in 1977 and I clearly remember wanting to tempt fate and wear a tuxedo instead of a dress. I was a bit of a rebel or maybe it was the Leo in me that made me want to stand out. Regardless, I never ended up wearing it and I tend to dress quite feminine since then.

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  6. There was a "restyle" on Burdastyle a few weeks ago of a men's jacket into women's wear... not my style, but evidence the trend continues :)... around the time I met my husband, I wore a lot of army surplus camo pants and a big red-and-black plaid lumberjack jacket (and a shaved head)... in hindsight I looked like I should be hiding out in a bunker somewhere in North Dakota, but ah well. It's a power thing. If masculine equals powerful, independent, strong, successful, free... then a woman wearing men's clothes is adopting these qualities via her wardrobe :)

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  7. I have never been compelled to dress like a man, but loved preppy 80's with RL polos or oxfords, designer jeans and topsiders. I don't care about labels, but never really got into the severe menswear. Now as for smoking a cigar, sure, have done it many times with DH.

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  8. But usually only the petite demi-cigars, the full sized ones are too strong for me.

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  9. Wearing menswear feels more feminine to me than a dress for some reason...... I never did the entire suit look but have been known to wear a white men's dress shirt - untucked - with a tie. And a men's dress shirt with a long straight skirt? Yup, done that too!

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  10. I put the whole mess at the doorstep of John Molloy - Mr. "Dress for Success" and "Women's Dress for Success". He's the guy who put business women into pant suits and little floppy bow ties to try to 'fit in' with the boys.

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  11. When Madonna (and Vogue) was all the rage, I ran out and found a black, vintage tuxedo in a resale shop. I wore it with heels, a little cami and a fedora and got hit on by men AND women all the time! I loved it and I rocked the hell out of it.

    I wouldn't wear it now, tho. I'm more into looking feminine than I was then.

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  12. Zeus, what have I unleashed?! It's even worse than I thought.

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  13. I do like a thin tie on a woman. When I was flat chested I could pull it off. Then I had a kid and now my double dds have no compassion for menswear of any sort.

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  14. I'm wearing a man's shirt today (from the Liberty collection at Target) but I never wear a man's tie.

    I wear men's styles when I want to be taken seriously but not stand out, so that the first mental box people put me in is "competent and professional", and the "moderatley attractive female (who is here for my sexual consideration when the meeting gets boring)" response is delayed just a tiny little bit as the unenlightened male gaze scans the room.

    However, if I want to kick ass and be noticed for it, my go-to outfits are feminine shapes in manly fabrics, such as fitted pinstripe skirt suits with a blouse in a beautiful and sensual silk. If I'm kicking ass, people are probably noticing me for that already and I like to challenge the idea that nice girly-girls don't kick ass.

    As tanitisis said above, it's all about adopting and signalling supposedly masculine qualities through dress.

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  15. Oh, you can't be serious! I LOVE butch styles! I don't like wearing them myself, but I'm a huge fan. Gender-bend away, please!

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  16. I'm one of those lurkers: a wannabe sewer. And I just have to say, I love your writing. I think you're hilarious.

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  17. Cross-dressing/gender bending/androgynous dressing is not a trend that will come or go. It's more like a subculture. At the same time there were ladies in the 20's and 30's trying to free themselves from dresses there were also men fighting to get into them. It obviously hasn't stopped (or started) there.

    The 1980's obsession was more related to women in the workplace trying to assert themselves as educated and as powerful as their male coworkers. It goes back to the social-economical elements.

    While nobody fusses over you in a skirt or the persona you take to the streets in camp drag, I think the ladies in suits deserve just as much room to express themselves and experiment with men's clothing.

    If you keep digging into current men's trends around the world, you'll see there are LOTS of men in heels, skirts, makeup and carrying bags. Not as cross dressers but as new fashion trends that are always pushing the envelopes. I have lots of respect for the designers and the men who are confident enough to wear the experimental looks.

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  18. I have to say, I just love men's clothes on women! I own several men's shirts and spend about half my time in the winter in my boyfriend's jumpers, but apart from the fact that it's comfortable and makes me feel much more relaxed than my usual very feminine, very colourful, very obvious vintage style, I think women blessed with more height and smaller breasts than me look really sexy going all out in a top hat, a tuxedo and a cigar. I for one hope this trend never really goes away!

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  19. I think menswear works, but only on rather feminine types. I'm a child (actually, teenager) of the 80's, and gender-bending styles - or a more gender-neutral style, for sure - were more populat then. And that goes both ways. When I don't want to dress my 6 yo son in camouflage or motorcycle motifs (or strange fighting mutants), I really have to search high and low. Which I will. For some reason it's not so bad when my daughter, 4 yo, only wants to wear pink frills... As for myself, I can't for the life of me recall where I got the idea, but when I got my first passport at age 15, I wore a white shirt and tie (sewn by mom to my specifications, of course) for the photo. To this day I love the classic menswear suit style, although I don't wear ties anymore. The only time I had to reduce my menswear love was when I had a buzz cut for a short time. Menswear just goes better with long hair, imo.

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  20. Completely agree with Mikhaela! There's something so sexy about a woman dressed in masculine clothing. And all this after you made those atrocious harem scarem pants! Not to mention skirts. You are one to talk!!! Ha ha ha! Love it.

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  21. If you look up "girly girl" in the dictionary, you'll find my picture. I'm willing to wear a feminine double breasted blazer over a skirt or simple dress, but no shirt and tie, thank you. And I want my man to look manly. He's a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than me, and we look good together looking traditional.

    I don't agree with cross-gender styling, but I'm happy to let everyone enjoy his/her choices without criticism. That's what makes the world go around, right?

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  22. I have to admit to wearing tailored 3 piece pinstripe suits in a previous life.

    By the way, what's going on with that man's package? The one wearing the bowler (like the photo needs to be identified further), it's hooooge!

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  23. Why is it okay for men to bend gender but not women? In the 80s, I had a bleached crewcut and I was into weight lifting. A lot of people were thrown off, but I never felt sexier. When people rudely commented that I looked like a man, I stretched the truth a little and told them I used to be one, mostly to see if they were gullible enough to believe me. (I was a bit of a troublemaker back then!) Some actually did. I had a lot of fun and no animals were injured in the making of that film.

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  24. What about le smoking by YSL? Love it. I also love the Annie Hall look, but I'm too chicken to attempt it. Well, now that I know it will get a rise out of you, Peter, maybe I'll have to give it a shot!

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  25. Well, I guess women dressed as men thinking that maybe they'd finally get PAID as much as men! Didn't work, though.

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  26. Well I'm a big old lesbo, and I like my women in menswear.....but for me personally - I'm a femme mobile!

    Suits on women are SEXY! Boyish! The idea of women who aren't willing to subscribe to the status quo....*rebellion*!

    It's a big turn on.

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  27. Peter- Based on previous posts, I'm guessing that your distaste for women in men's clothing is based around the fact that *generally speaking* men's fashion is nowhere near as interesting, fun, or varied as women's fashion. When a woman has all of these amazing choices, why choose the most basic of all wardrobe items - the suit and tie?

    I think this topic naturally touches on a lot of gender role and societal issues, but the heart of it (to me) is how boring men's fashion can be - hence the harem pants to shake it up!

    Loved the harem pants btw........

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  28. I don't really have an opinion about women in menswear. Some women look really nice in mannish suits, some not so much.
    The one women in menswear trend that I did love was in the 80's (I think) when women were wearing mens style topcoats. I made one and loved it.
    Mermie

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  29. What about all the career women across the world? They are all forced into some degree of cross-dressing - although they may not go all the way! Hands off the tie, girls...

    And oh, the 80ies! I had little man shoes. They were clunky and hurt my feet, but I had to have them. I wore huge jackets, among them an old dinner jacket my brother had grown out of. Such fun, such big shoulders

    And of course, every woman who ever wore a pair of jeans has donned mannish clothes. So however we may camouflage it, most women manage to incorporate some amount of cross-dressing into her wardrobe.

    And what about the women who do take your bathing beauties as role models although they should not? You will find them on that horror of a site "people of walmart".

    Is it not totally unfair that men in skirts still raise eyebrows?

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  30. Wasn't this movement born out of feminism? (please correct me if i'm wrong) When women started working and wanted to be just as equal as men. Personally I don't mind a good suit as long as it's tailored for the female body. Why hide those glorious curves? This trend has come a long way and has changed in many way and I still love it.

    Peter, how u do you like male gender bending and not female?

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  31. I must say I realllly love the first pattern, but maybe just the pattern and not necessarily the real thing! I think with a cute do and pretty feminine touches trousers and shirts can look really sophisticated, especially 40s style. That said I'm going off trousers/jeans in a big way, mainly because I find them so uncomfortable and I feel totally un-glam wearing them these days, the silhouette just does nothing for me compared to a nice skirt or dress. Great post!!

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  32. It's a look I enjoy. Menswear looks for women are a staple of fashion--Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, and more--have all played around with it.

    That jumper is awful though. It reminds me of something a nun would wear.

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  33. I swear if I did not make that jumper pattern in the 80s I would have, because it was the height of fashion. You should have seen the purple knit Norma Kamali suit I made back then. Shudder!!

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  34. nothing of substance here, just wanted to state for the record that Marlene Dietrich in a tux is teh sex.

    heh... word verification = mants

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  35. I have occasionally worn men's jackets . . . I've got the build so they don't look odd on me. And I have -- on rare occasion -- been known to smoke a cigar. But there was usually a lot of alcohol involved!

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  36. Oh, not you too, Auntie Allyn!

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  37. I can't tell if you're joking or not...but I have no sense of dry humour whatsoever, so there you go.
    Personally, I like menswear inspired womenswear, but it has to remain appropriately girly, like a tie with a dress.

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  38. I don't have the build for menswear but the YSL smoking jacket and pants? Love it and if I looked good in that style I'd wear it adjusted for today's cut. Don't forget that when he designed these women were not allowed to wear pants into many of the finer restaurants and girls could not wear pants to school. It's really about freedom of dressing and we are looking at this through a 30 year old lens and many of the styles just look ridiculous today because of proportion.

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  39. I admire a woman who can carry off wearing menswear. She looks amazing, esp. if she is polished. I take cues from menswear myself in a small way. And I love wearing large men's shirts around the house. The arms are long enough for me, unlike female shirts.

    I'm not built for men's trousers or jackets. But I do like a tailored look, like K. Hepburn.

    Peter, if a guy can wear balloon pants and try on skirts, women can mess around with menswear.

    The reason we make fun of eighties fashion is because it looks like the female equivalent of zoot suits.

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  40. I love a nicely tailored man's blazer...I have fairly broad shoulders so I've always had better luck with men's blazers than women's - for some reason the men's have more room for the tata's (how that works, I have no idea...)

    I don't do the whole 80's power suit thing, but a tailored blazer over a pair of jeans and a crisp white shirt has always been a favorite look of mine. Sometimes my inner dyke insists on being seen....I've been known to sport a white wife beater and leather braces with jeans when the mood strikes me!

    Of course, a poofy skirt and steel boned corset is a favorite look as well, because apparently I have an inner barbie doll that wants to be seen too.

    :)

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  41. I personally can't see the point of dressing like a man. Whilst I don't have a busty, curvaceous figure, I am still shaped like a woman and I'd much rather show off what I do have. I know it's popular (the whole boyfriend jeans and jacket look is beyond me) but I won't be wearing it anytime soon. I don't care if other ladies choose to dress like men, as I don't care when men want to adopt feminine styles.

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  42. Oh Peter, I remember the 80's fondly... A Flock of Seagulls, , the Thompson Twins, Duran Duran and the Smiths... It was 1983, I was young, wild and free! It was a time of experimentation when I hung out with gay men in gay bars. They loved it when I dressed up in men's clothing, short hair and blurred the line between the sexes. Yes, I wore men's clothing purchased from consignment shops and the Salvation Army and I liked it.

    Now I'm (much) older and more mature, wiser, I'm not so sure but I struggle with fashion and femininity daily. I didn't grow up wearing high heel and dresses, I was a tom boy, think Scout from To Kill a Mocking Bird. Look, my hair is still short!

    Women wearing men's clothing is no more creepy than men wearing women's clothing which, I don't think is creepy at all.

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  43. This whole series of comments has reminded me that in the 1980's I wanted to be like David Bowie (Lets Dance) and wore man-pants and shirts. For my 40th birthday party I wore a Marlene D inspired pants with mens shirt and gold satin halter. I wear my dinner shirt with a red tie with white polka dots to work with dress trousers. Wearing clothes is like wearing a character. I love reading this blog!
    BTW, the pattern is hideous and I am sure that no-one on the planet could look good in it.

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  44. I am sitting here in a pair of subtle pinstripe wider leg trousers that I wore to work today, and they are my favorite slacks. Peter, you seriously have much better gams that I ever did, plus I'm over six feet tall and I look good in pants and suits. Never thought of it as dressing like a guy, oddly enough. I draw the line at ties though. That would equal cross dressing for me. I wore the Annie Hall look when it was in style and loved it, and then the '80s happened with the whole oversize shoulder pads and jackets and suits, and I was right at home there too. Double-breasted, menswear-inspired dress? Yep. Plus I loathe pantyhose so I've got to have a very good reason to wear a dress or skirt these days. So there's that, and like I said, I don't have the legs to go without hosiery. Other than the pinstripe pants I've got on though, and a couple hideous old jackets in the back of my closet bound for Goodwill, I can't think of anything else I currently wear that spells menswear. Oh, I have a ladies lavender button-down shirt that I actually don't wear much anymore because I think it makes me look a little too mannish. But other than that, I'm okay with what I've worn in the past.

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  45. I totally rock a suit that is tailored for my curves. It suits me, really. :p I wish I had some pictures from when my suit was made, because it doesn't fit anymore.

    ... And I *so* want that duster/trouser look the first gentleman on the runway is sporting. With a silk camisole underneath. I'd look smashing!

    The sack dress is icky. My hideous 80s dress (lifted from a friend's closet of shame) has purple lame and is fortunately suitable for clubbing as a fairy princess from the kingdom of Bowie.

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  46. Slightly on topic, I watched Xanadu to comfort myself during a loooong 14 hour saga of trying to get home from Dallas on Sunday and I always forget how amazing the (mostly male to female) gender bending is in that movie. I can't believe my extremely conservative parents took me to see it way back then!

    I am femme to an almost ridiculous degree, but I did wear a tie in high school sometimes (but always with a skirt). I hate wearing suits, but not because they're mannish, just because they're boring.

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  47. Hello everyone - ooh love this topic - so Peter I am taking your bait; hook,line and sinker. I am sitting here at work (it is ok,its lunch time) in wide leg black trousers, crisp white long sleeve shirt, black knitted vest and black patent lace up brogues with my husbands thin black socks - but am I dressing like a man? sometimes I wear my husband's old skinny black tie - does this make me more like a man? No one has ever said so and I have worn clothes like this for decades. Granted though I don't have curves. I do toned down 'Annie Hall' occassionally - but not sure if people would pick it - cream baggy trousers, cream converse and a shirt. I wear dresses and skirts too but more commonly trousers. Is there some confusion about gender going on here? How or why is wearing pants, shirts and blazers 'dressing like men'? Do you think Slim Keith in the 1940s wearing black matodor trousers and red jacket; Katherine Hepburn in trousers,jacket and brogues; Lauren Bacall in check trousers and white shirt with sleeves rolled up, are all masculine??? what about Inès de la Fressange in a smoking jacket or Annie Lennox in a white suit??? All are superb in my eyes - men's clothes?? - I don't think so. Oh and lets not forget a lot of us wear 'masculine' for the cut...oh the cut. I haven't got started on the role of class and world events (e.g. Rosie the Riverter, Land Army, power suits in 1980s) - the place of women's clothes on their social identity...and their agency.... the many parts that clothes play.
    regards Maree (in Australia).

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  48. I legitimately adore the sack-like jumper. I think it's dowdy chic.

    And I really like the corset-on-a-dude look.

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  49. I'm wearing pinstripes right now, I have a collection of garish paisley 70s ties I like to wear with a tie to work, and two-tone men's brogues. So I wear a bunch of men's clothes but on me I don't think they look particularly mannish.

    That said, I loves me some high-frockage, too!

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  50. I love a good single malt and a big fat cigar.

    But I also love my 40's and 50's style dresses.

    And sometimes, I admit, I do like dressing in jeans and a man's t-shirt and work boots (I have a pair of steel toed red wings I use to have to wear on job sites). I feel a little kick ass when I do!

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  51. Your role models rundown is too funny. Well I do love Judy Garland in Summer Stock, but beyond that, not so much. If men's garments are revamped to fit a woman's body (like adding princess seams and such), that's okay too. Myself, I prefer looking like a lady.

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  52. Your blog is great! :) I have to disagree, I think women in mens clothes (altered to the curves of a women) is very sexy and feminine if paired with the right underneath pieces... a little lace, satin, etc. Perhaps a good blazer and pin stripes with lacey minidress under just makes us feel more "kick ass" Angelina Jolie sexy. ;)
    Hey, if men can push the feminine boundries... so can us women.
    Btw, cigars & pipes rock, nothing better than the smell of a good pipe!
    Heather ~
    http://www.sew-over-it.blogspot.com/

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  53. i wear very girly dresses most of the time, but i love the look of some classic menswear items (like vests, but very tailored of course) and i have these amazing 1930s black tuxedo pants to wear during wintertime (they were handmade for my great-grandfather and i slightly altered them to fit me)

    sometimes a male elemant in a female outfit can make it more casual or surprising. i'm liking the 'sweet dress with biker boots'-trend.

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  54. Hi Peter! I went to one black-tie affair dressed in a tailored-in men's tux... Was a very curvy size 4-6 then (:( then). Felt, looked, was responded to as being VERY SEXY!! It's the "shock", the playfulness, the "confusion" that "works", I think.
    FUN!! Much more than "blatant" female underwear-wearing... Have it peeking out of a curvy sweater--or a guy's sweater...
    Yup, we differ in this opinion. I STILL think you're super!!
    Rhonda in Montreal (PR)

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  55. I would never wear a shirt buttoned up, or a tie, but I think taking mens items, and using them with other things and unexpected ways is cute. Head to toe mens wear, like some of the pictures you posted, are way too much for me. I would never want to look like a dude, but taking some of his clothing is fine. I also think this look works better on women that are less curvy. I have an hourglass figure, these hips and boobs look all kinds of crazy if I don't try to highlight them. Put me in a mans coat and I look like I put on 40 pounds. No thanks!

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  56. I am female. And while I love my jeans and pant suit which is rather form fitting, I have not worn anything so ill-fitting as a jacket except in the final year for a school photo session. I think I would stick to the retro dresses than a man's suit... even if I did thought my husband's wedding suit looked pretty dashing.

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  57. The male model in what looks like his grandmother's underwear looks ridiculous.

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  58. Every "positive feminine role model" you've pictured looks like a two-bit hooker. Glad I'm not a feminine role model!

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  59. I am male and I like "masculine" clothes on women while I dislike overly "feminine" clothes on any gender.
    High-heeled footwear, frilly dresses and excessive jewellery are both impractical and inelegant. A woman wearing (properly fitting) "menswear" will look more professional than she ever could in "womenswear" suitable for the same occassion. As a male feminist/pro-feminist/anti-sexist, I want women to look confident and not like passive objects.
    For me, most good-looking "feminine" clothes are closely related to traditional men's clothes, for example simple shirtdresses (galabiya, thawb) or black low-heeled pumps (classically worn with men's evening dress).

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  60. I would not ask a woman for a date if she did not look and dress like a woman. e.g. skirt, dress, or at least a skort. I desire a woman, not a man.

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  61. It's a subconsciously penis envy. I repeat "subconsciously". I hope you know what that means.

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