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Aug 5, 2012

What is it with gay men and women's fashion?



Readers, in life, some questions are eternal.  Why are we here?  Are there dogs in heaven? Whatever happened to Deanna Durbin?

Another question asked since time immemorial was restated recently by an MPB reader only the other day, in response to Wednesday's post, Things I Don't Get, Vol. 4, the Empire Wedding Gown.

To quote said reader:

Something I don't get: why gay men are arbiters of women's fashion. 

Wait -- I know: you're about to say that this isn't a question at all, but rather a statement referring to a question.  Still, for the sake of simplicity, let's call it a question.

Marc Jacobs

Readers, I do not have the answer!  My immediate response, just a gut reaction, was, I think it's because we're bored with our own clothes.

But now I'm not sure if it isn't something more.

Catherine Deneuve with Yves Saint Laurent

What is it about women's clothes that makes them so interesting to gay men?  Why do they so often design them, critique them and, on occasion, even wear them?

Nature, nurture?  I really have no idea.



And how about all the straight designers of women's clothes -- Oleg Cassini, Oscar de la Renta, Jean Louis?  However do you explain them?  And how about the gay men who couldn't care less about women's clothes?

Readers, I turn to you and your collective wisdom. 

What is it with gay men and women's fashion?

Halston

Coming soon: What is it with gay men and Carol Channing? 


62 comments:

  1. Because men's clothing is so boring? I don't know if that's it either. Look at Michael Kors, he's gay, he dresses and critiques women and he dresses in boring when in his field he could wear whatever the hell he wants. Maybe its more about men having to dominate women no matter what the field and what's more basic than telling women how to dress?

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    1. "Maybe its more about men having to dominate women no matter what the field and what's more basic than telling women how to dress?"

      I've wondered that myself. But I don't think it's that deliberately sinister in most cases.

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    2. Nah. If that were the case, the fashion industry would be overflowing with straight men. Gay men aren't really interested enough in women to want to control them.

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    3. "Gay men aren't really interested enough in women to want to control them."

      This is part of what makes it so baffling to me.

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  2. Are you aware that there is going to be an exhibit specifically on this topic at FIT? Phrased differently, but basically a celebration of gays in fashion. Lemme look it up. I know I saw something about that recently...

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  3. Here goes...
    http://www.fashionologie.com/Valerie-Steele-Interview-FIT-Queer-Style-Exhibit-23631276

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  4. Gay men and women's clothing? Women are permitted to wear colors, women's clothes have more than one acceptable silhouette. Women's clothes have options and invite creativity, and until men get used to pushing the envelope of acceptability, their clothing will be prescribed.

    I love your toile jeans and floral linen shirts. The shape may be familiar, but the fabric choice is whimsical and lively.

    On the other hand, the lack of variety in mens clothing styles makes it easier to attain a tried and true pattern against which all others are measured. Women's clothing has so many options for fit and disaster we rarely use a single pattern enough for it to acquire tried and true status.

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  5. Artists are on the fringe of society as are gays. But as more people become enlightened, these things are no longer for either. Also, there is something about being different, novel and interesting, and at the same time pretending all the while that it is no big deal. Or not pretending but just being who you is.

    Don't get rid of the Fonz.

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  6. I meant to type "these things are no longer true for either."

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  7. Oh WOW...what a question. I think, in some respects it's a fascination with the female form. I think everyone shares this interest, and has nothing to do (for most)with sex. As a straight women, I've always found the female form attractive. Straight men enjoy the female form for very base and primal reasons. Gay men appreciate the female form, but in the absence of sexual attraction, maybe take it to a different level--appreciating all the adornments and do-dads that go with it...and for some it may become an actual artistic outlet, they're favorite form of artistic expression which might explain why straight men design women's clothing. Anxious to read other's take on the subject.

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  8. Without any regard to sex the making of pleasing, 3D shapes (sculpture-like) is a problem to be solved. The female shape is often harder to fit, hence more problem solving. Some minds enjoy this. Talking this way to artist son, and artist brother, in his saner moments. Also, in other cultures, and in costume history, clothes for men are often very elaborate. Even religious vestments, with embroidery, etc. , etc. Cathie, in Quebec, whose hubby is always buying fabric and patterns, which we work on together, making clothes for me....

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  9. Straight men learn fast that critiquing a woman's clothing is the path to sleeping alone. Naturally, appreciating another woman's appearance is the same as offering suggestions to the one you're with. Straight women and gay men can be as appreciative (critical? bitchy?) as they like without major consequences. So they do.

    How's that for your dime's worth?

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    1. LOL I do like your take on this topic.

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  10. Oh dear, this isn't a generalization is it? My mother always said, "no matter how good a woman is, a gay interior decorator will be better"

    How sad!

    I stomp my feet and say "No!" I stubbornly do not want to live in a world with these rules!

    Let's all wear tutus and discuss.

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  11. I want to say first of all-- thank WHOMEVER that gay men are interested in fashion. I personally differentiate fashion from the shit I wear everyday. I want fashion to be lofty art. It isn't practical. It isn't always beautiful. It challenges. It perplexes. It pushes boundaries of what the body is-- male or female. Fashion is often about gender bending, even denying the natural states of the body. Once you realize that fashion is meant to transcend boobies and hips or whatever someone sees as an essential part of the body, it becomes so much easier to appreciate it for what fashion is-- art for art's sake.
    Art for art's sake-- going back to Monet, Picasso, Mondrian, Chagall, Barlewi, Hoch, and so many others has gained criticism, and fashion as art is no different and possibly has it worse, because at some point the canvas is attached to the body of a living, feeling human.

    And therein lies the issue for people. How do people (women) feel if they are treated as the canvas or bearers of art?

    I make a distinction between fashion (art) and style (stuff to wear, often influenced by fashion, but ultimately to be practical for a range of women). I have been lucky that I've had many gay men around me to talk fashion and style. And most of them have been especially helpful in working with me to figure out my style and works with my body and style. Maybe because they aren't trying to be nice to score. Maybe because they know I like for who and what they are, and I trust their opinions because my out friends, back in the day especially but even now, lived and live in a place in which you have to say (to an extent) "I don't care what you think of me."

    I'm not being as articulate as I could be. But this issue of gay men and fashion is close to me right now. My fashion and style spirit mate died just under a year ago, and I have not yet fully realized the loss. I knew him longer than I knew my husband. I trusted him in ways I can't trust a straight man. I talked to him about things and in ways I don't with others. So my feelings about fashion are wrapped up in this friendship, and they are influenced by what I learned from him. I am grateful everyday I had this friendship, for so many reasons, most of which are beyond words.

    What is in words is an appreciation of fashion. And the gay men in fashion seem to revere women as the ideal bearers of the Art they create. It's beyond attraction. It's beyond muse. There is a very deep connection to women that many gay designers have. I find it perplexing at times (as a woman who doesn't alway "get" the art of the design) and awe-striking (as a woman who'd rather be an object of inspiration than usable objectification).

    If that sounds complicated and contradictory, it is. Humans are complex. We contradict ourselves. THat is part of our experience.

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  12. I'm with the first commenter, womens clothes are so much more fun!

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  13. I think that the question "Whatever Happened to Deanna Durbin?" has been replaced with "Who WAS Deanna Durbin?"....to my deep sorrow....

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  14. I think (and I'm just throwing some words around here) that there are two issues. FIrst, why are men arbiters of women's fashion, ever, and second, why are so many of those men gay?

    I think the answer to the first question, historically, is the same as why the professionals in many "womanly" tasks were traditionally men---cooking, sewing, weaving---pretty much any time a domestic (i.e. "womanly") craft became professionalized, it became the domain of men. Probably this has to do with perceptions and gender roles and power structures and a system just not set up for women working outside the home (at least after marriage).

    But why is it so many gay men? It seems like queers of all sorts are more open to and interested in gender bending than most (not all) straights. Does this arise from having to confront issues of gender norms at the same time you accept your non-standard sexuality? Is it part and parcel of whatever genetic or epigenetic factors are responsible for homosexuality? Or is it a cultural feature of the "gay subculture"? I remember my mom saying that her gay male friends were more like female friends in the way she could interact with them, than her straight male friends, and I think I could describe a lot of the gay men I've known that way as well. But is that nature or nurture? I'm leaning towards nature, but I obviously don't have the data for that and I doubt that anyone else does, either.

    So I guess my hypothesis is that:
    1) when traditionally "feminine" crafts and activities became professionalized and taken outside the home, they have traditionally become the domain of men. However, because these were traditionally female roles, some stigma still can attach.
    2) for whatever reason (nature, nurture, self-examination), historically gay men appear less likely to adhere rigidly to masculine gender roles---and to be less threatened by the idea of being "feminized" by pursuing an often-female profession. So they may have gravitated to roles in those professions more frequently.

    Now how's that for a pile of massive generalizations? Ah, well. Great question, Peter---of course, I still want to hear your answer. :)

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    1. You hit the nail on the head. I was commenting on a specific circumstance in the last post, but I meant men in general. I dislike being told what to wear but dislike even more being told what to wear by someone who never will deal with girdles, high heels, bra shopping, etc. They have no idea how painful heels are!

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    2. Makes me think of the Glorious Ginger Rodgers quote, " I did the same as Fred did, only i did it backwards and in high heels".

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  15. I'm kind of with Nancy K at the top of the page, and I hear Linda the Bathtub Fabric Queen although I'm less OK with some of the things she says than she seems to be.

    Obviously, anything I say doesn't apply to all, or even most, or any more than a tiny minority of gay men. I know far too many gay men to make generalizations.

    I do think that a lot of it has to do with women's clothing being allowed far more variety, color, and embellishment than men's, at least in modern Western society. I also think, though, that there is a paper doll element. They can indulge in the clothing without having to actually wear it (most of the time), which is fine except when they turn into Karl Lagerfeld and start pushing unrealistic and harmful physical requirements for the sake of "art". Saying that clothes "don't hang properly" on any but the tallest, thinnest, women is a load of something very smelly that is found in abundance in barn-yards. Clothes don't hang properly when whoever is designing and making them doesn't know what s/he is doing. Passing it off as "art" is a diversion and a cop-out because it involves living beings whose mental and physical health cannot be ignored.

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    1. Paul Poiret had such an ego that he designed a skirt so tight at the hem that they made women hobble...as a matter of fact that's what it was called! Chanel came along with her practicality and put an end to his foolishness. After the end of World War II, Dior did his much heralded "New Look". Practical, comfortable? Not hardly!! He advocated corsets, horsehair padding and bustles....a return to the tight hourglass sillohette and women clamored for it, since they had to do without during the war years. I doubt that Dior would have succeeded with his "New Look" in a time of peace and prosperity. Looking back at his work, it is definitely locked into a specific time-frame and doesn't transcend time. The very idea of it wouldn't be tolerated by today's woman!

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  16. Two thoughts:
    1. All men are constricted, in a "style luge".
    2. We can see better for the other, than ourselves.

    There is no "pretty" allowed in our self-expression, and that is the crux of the outlet women's fashion is for men (gay, straight, and the husband who is post scripted with, "He picks out her clothes, did ya know that?").

    "Pretty" is the embodiment of feeling or being special, and there is no masculine form of the word which captures the fuss or freedom. Women can seek and be pretty, men can create pretty. This is where our symbiotic energy lives, in a hidden common ground; the "someplace only we know".

    Gay men are less inhibited by the feminine stigma of fashion, though many talented and brave heterosexual men deserve praise for persevering in the face of convention.

    My hopes are these, that more men will see fashion as open to them, AND that a legion of women will go into designing menswear and seriously shake things up.

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  17. Search me. I still don't get Michael Kors aesthetic. And Marc Jacobs? Looks like Cathy but way less pretty. Hairy legs + a-line skirt = fail. Hairy legs + kilt = awesome.

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  18. All of the above, plus a dash of mommy issues? ;-)

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  19. I think you nailed it with the idea that men's clothes are boring. And I love the idea of all of us donning Tutus and discussing this (thanks, "a little sewing,")

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  20. I think it has more to do with gay men who are ...um... of a certain age. Older gay men, boomers and older, seem far more into women's fashion than younger gay men. I think it was a cultural thing. They grew up in an era when being gay was not accepted by the wider culture. As such, they were excluded from the wider culture and expected to become hair dressers, fashion consultants, and the like. You know, leave the "real" professions to the "real" men.

    But that's no longer the case. I was born and raised in rural Texas of all places, and it was no big deal when I came out during high school. And that was almost 25 years ago. The same is true of most of my friends. And very few of us have any interest in women's clothing. The same seems true of the younger generation, too. If anything, they seem to be swinging to the other extreme of hyper masculinity.

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  21. It’s not gay men telling women what to wear. It’s just men telling women what to wear. Fashion is a business. Most successful designers are successful business people. What we know as fashion is a product of industrialization. Its goes back to Coco Chanel, the rise of mass-produced clothing, and seasonal changes to goose sales. The degree and speed of change in fashion might make it more appealing to gay business men, whose lives are probably more non-traditional than those of straight business men, but I think that’s where the psychology stops.
    Fashion isn’t dominated by women because men continue to dominate industrial leadership. Chanel, a woman, designed clothing for women that used a boy’s silhouette and included machine-age features like monochrome palates, interchangeable parts (separates), and numbers (Chanel No. 5) to define products. She disrupted the ideal that women and their clothing must be individualized, decorative, and complex, creating the clothing equivalent of the Model T and, with it, an industry. See Miranda Priestly’s summary in The Devil Wears Prada: “This…stuff? Oh. Okay. I see. … You think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, etc., etc.”

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    1. I used to really like Chanel until I read how mean,jealous and super competitive she was!! She never had a kind word for anyone and really despised Patou, Dior and Schiaperelli! She once said that men should stay out of women's fashions!! Oddly enough she didn't speak ill of Balenciaga....but then no one did.... both he and Vionnet were the 'Mount Olympus'ofthe profession.....untouchable!!

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  22. Hi Peter, I'm excited to see a discussion of my question! I do wonder why men dictate what women wear? It ticks me off to have men decide what's acceptable, or best, for women's clothing. Most of these fashion decision are decidedly uncomfortable or painful, but the designers never have to suffer for them. That is not fair.

    Seeing normal women's anatomy deemed unsightly (tummies, breasts not chin-high, untoned arms) is upsetting. It says a lot about the downfall of a culture when a rare swimming pool shower or burlesque show gives more of a glimpse of realistic womens' bodies than hundreds of hours of TV or magazines. When even models don't look like models in real life how can the average woman hope to be happy with her body? That's the root of the problem for me, and a problem that's growing in scope as we continue not to deal with it.

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  23. My shop is mere yards from our University of design, and so I see loads of fashion students. Most of the guys are flamboyant and wear androgynous clothes - skirts and tights etc, without seeming in the least effete for doing so. It fascinates me. I don't know how many of them are gay, I'm too old and wise to trust obvious things like effeminate behaviour to make such a call (and really I don't care anyway) but it's clear that they all have a deep, clear interest in fashion, women's fashion in particular, and it is the same creative obsession I see in the industrial design students. I don't know if this is at all relevant, but I find it very interesting anyway!

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  24. I don't know why either, and here's another though: why do some female designers never wear their own designs? (I'm talking to you Vera Wang)

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  25. What I don't get, having been searching recently for a Formal dress for my daughter's grad ball, is why every shop seems to have a gay guy in there, who just "LURVES" the dress you're wearing, "it's just PERFECT on you! You HAVE to BUY IT!" Even if it doesn't fit. And they're not offering a discount to cover the cost of taking it to a tailor to get the adjustments made.

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    1. Oh, I don't know about that. I used to shop in a clothing store that was owned by a mother and son, the son being gay. It was the mother whose opinion I never trusted, Michael on the other hand could be trusted to be truthful and he never steered me wrong.

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  26. As an Australian, I must say "Crikey, buggered if I know." And I can't wait to read lots of theories on the Carol Channing question.

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  27. I love it when you throw these loaded questions out there and the comments explode -- you must be a hoot at dinner parties! :-)

    Has anyone systematically PROVEN that there are a disproportionate number of gay men in fashion, or is that just something we all THINK we know? There is this whole stereotype of the gay male designer, in both fashion and interior design, and it's exaggerated and perpetuated by our media culture -- remember Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? Since "Culture" is so heavily influenced by the majority in society and what they find acceptable, perhaps we all have the impression that most fashion designers are gay men, and this vague sense that gay men automatically know fashion better than straight men/straight women/gay women, because our society is only really comfortable with gay men in certain artsy fields (fashion, theatre, etc). Sure, lots of openly gay men are in the fashion industry, but there are gay men in every field: law, medicine, construction, whatever. Now that we're done with the ridiculous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," we are more aware of gay soldiers in our military -- yet the gay men in our television shows and films are still strictly confined to a select few "artsy" fields. The only exception that I can think of was the character of Will in the show Will & Grace.

    All stereotypes are inherently dangerous. You can't just make sweeping generalizations about people based on one aspect of who they are, whether it's race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. We're all onions, with layers and layers that make up our identities. (That was so corny; even I want to puke...)

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    1. What an interesting question.

      I've glanced at some posts, read through others; and Rebecca, yours is the only one with which I'm prepared to take issue.

      I'm not sure that it matters whether or not anyone has "systematically proven" whether or not there are a disproportionate number of gay men in fashion. That wasn't really the question, was it?

      The question was "why are gay men the arbiters of women's fashion"? So, first, there's a presupposition that the question is a correct assesment...that gay men are indeed the arbiters of women's fashion.

      So, are they? I'd say an emphatic and positive...YES, they are.

      And why is this so? Well...for one thing, for whatever nature/nurture has molded them into...a lot of gay men have absolutely FABULOUS taste. They just do. And not just in women's clothing, although I've never questioned the "why" of it. I'm just glad that SOMEBODY has great taste, and the wherewithall to be able to ahem..."flaunt it" in everyone else's face.

      I'm reminded of a book of short stories by Truman Capote. I can't remeber the title of the book just now, and can't seem to find it by Googling it...but anyway, there is this one story called...
      I believe it was: "Spin Dazzle". It was set in New Orleans, his hometown, I think, and it was so beautiful and poignant..hauntingly beautiful.

      It is the story of a young Truman, a boy who finds a woman who is a conjurer. He goes to her with a specific request.

      "Make me a girl".

      I think that may have a great deal to do with the issue. I think that, deep down, some gay men think..."if I were a girl, this is what I'd wear..."

      Not being female, but being an outsider, so to speak, seems to give homosexual fashion designers an objectivity that allows them the eye for creativity they have.

      Further,I don't see the fact that there are gay (successful) fashion designers as some sort of "stereotype". I think it's an objective fact. And, did I mention, I think it's great. It's not a "sweeping generalization" to say that gay men fashion designers are the arbiters of women's fashions. It's the truth.

      Again, I'm glad to have The Divine Mr. M, that is, IssacM, Michael Kors,,,one of the BEST designers ON THE PLANET!!!, and so on. I think they're wonderful.

      Oh, and did I mention? They've got fabulous taste.

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  28. bippie might have it right. I am older and love designing women's cloths. I have a chance to be creative and express myself that just isn't there in men's cloths. However, when I do try men's cloths, they always come out with a softer line and nothing the average guy would wear. I just am not attracted to the same old same old that is today's men's style.

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  29. My high school English teacher always said she blamed gay fashion designers for the rake thin models dominating the catwalks that have shapes like boys...

    Not sure if she was entirely right about that. I think they use models without curves because its far easier to design for a stick figure.

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    1. Coco Chanel didn't like women with curves, she once criticized Bridget Bardot, saying she had too much derriere and bosom. She liked the flat silhouette on women. You might also ask why female designers follow the men. I personally don't like this skin and bones look!!

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    2. Coco Chanel designed for figures like her own. She was quite proud of the fact that she had the body of a (skinny) fourteen-year-old girl even into old age.

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  30. I remember hearing somewhere that designers for women fall into 3 places, with my notes on that:

    If you are a woman designer you design either for yourself (and possibly your sister, friends, daughter, mother, etc). This leads to clothes that are perfect for the person & lifestyle they are designed for. (Prada, Stella McCartney, Trina Turk)

    If you are a straight man you design for your wife/lover and this is your idea of what would look good on them. There is likely an element of what you want to see in an attractive sense. (Cavalli, Oscar de la Renta)

    Side note: As a woman, if you fit into any of the visions above, you've found a great line (if you have the cash for it..) that speaks to you (nearly to you anyway) and your niche.

    If you are a gay man you design (possibly for an actual person, but) more often for the grand theatre and possibly making a statement of some kind. (McQueen) These clothes are far more generalized - sort of designing for the Platonic woman. And the shows are either more over the top, or they are just covered more in the media. It is nice that being gay celebrated, more places these days, thankfully, but it seemed like this was it for a long time.

    Anyway, maybe less connected with real women & their lives and more getting into the realm of fantasy and possibly escapism? Gay men generally don't live with women's bodies (as their bodies or as the body of a bed-partner) so there is an element of distance, and maybe an escape from day to day living. This may also be why some design for impossibly thin and willowy bodies - they don't live with these bodies after all. These are fantasies, and not sexual ones where the body is actually enjoyed, but a delight in the form & geometry.

    Maybe we all long to experience all of human "gender" and when not in a hetero-normative relationship (where you & the other half generally cover the gender range) you seek other, non-sexual ways to incorporate this experience. I had a couple men's shirts in my closet when I was single. I bought (and never wore) because I loved them. I used to be enchanted by men's wear, especially suiting. I figured out in high school that I didn't want to wear any of it, just to admire it. Now with a husband and a son I still like men's suiting but I'm more interested in dresses & jewelry. hah!

    From personal experience, your best-gay-friend is more likely to be kind, honest and helpful when shopping.

    When shopping with your girl friends there is often either keeping your mouth shut so you aren't feeling like you are sniping at them, or it's amateur therapy time! Your romantic partner is distractable by either your body or how long the process is taking, or possibly also distressed that they body s/he likes so much is annoying-to/held-in-contempt by it's owner.

    My husband is good at reviewing clothes I pick, but only the first 5 or so, then he says "I've seen too many things, I just don't know anymore."

    Cice (sometimes cait)

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  31. Your question reminded me of a scene in M. Butterfly (the one with Jeremy Irons)

    Song Liling: Comrade! Why in Beijing opera are woman's roles traditionally played by men?

    Comrade Chin: I don't know. Most probably a remnant of the reactionary and patriarchal social structure.

    Song Liling: No. It's because only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act.

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  32. I think it is definitely a complicated question with a nuanced answer, but in my experience with fashion and the gay men in my life who love it, it mostly stems from a deeply ingrained aesthetic worldview. Obviously not all men are stylish, but it seems there is an appreciation for beauty that the average straight guy is probably not hip to.

    Additionally... I'm not sure how to articulate this but I think that as much as gay men are "super" men (what is more male, really, than a sexual love of other men?) there exists in response to that an appreciation for the traditionally feminine. Yin to the yang, as it were. This is obviously a gross generalization, but all of the gay men in my life seem to have a much softer touch when it comes to cooking, dressing, homemaking than the admittedly sensitive and gentle straight men I know. Perhaps gay hypermasculinity needs this more `female` balance in order not to veer towards testosterone fueled aggression and dominance. The universe makes balance.

    Or perhaps it is a deepseated longing to understand and engage with women since gay men are not interested in a romantic/intimate connection.

    Who knows, really? But thank god for gay men and their love of women's fashion. The world would be a much darker place, and women less beautiful without it.

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    1. Did I hear my name?

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  33. Have no clue, but Deanna Durbin was living in France with her third husband, and last I read she was well and happy. Her husband passed away several years ago. She left Hollywood behind, and I read somewhere one of the reasons was to do with her failed marriages. My family love all her movies, especially my mother. I know that there are several fan pages on the net. I remember a gorgeous black dress that she wore in one of her movies.

    Josette

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  34. Maybe because
    1/ they're gay so they're "allowed" by society to deal with something as un-viril as dresses and fashion (where a straight guy would be eyed suspiciouly or laughed at)
    2/ Since they're men, they're trusted more than women and assumed to be better at whatever they do.

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  35. I wonder if part of the reason is that a creative field like fashion has historically been more open to different lifestyles than traditional workplaces. Ergo those with non-traditional lifestyles find a home there. Just a thought...

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  36. Maybe gay guys just feel freer to 'buck the system'. At least I hope they do. Some of our best thinkers also seem to be gay men.

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  37. Hmmm. Quite a question. I am thinking about something James Merrill said in his theatrical production Voices from Sandover . . . adapted from his epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover that addresses the predominance of gay people (men and women) in creative fields as having something to do with and urge for "progeny" -- this was how their "parenting" desires/urges/needs were channeled into a different kind of creation. It's an interesting thought. I certainly think that, for whatever reason you choose not to have children, it frees your energy, time, and concerns for other endeavors. True visonaries -- whatever their gender/preferences -- make life exciting and interesting. It's interesting to me that Alexander McQueen's visionary line has been continued with such gorgeous and challenging creativity by a woman (who was his dear friend and collaborator). We see more women in the creative frontline as our socially acceptable (and biological) choices have expanded. Will fewer gay men reach the heights of creative stature because they can more easily choose to be parents now? And will we find more creative straight men choosing women's clothing design since calling something a "gay" field is dopey and passé. Shrug. I'm grateful for everyone who's made clothes fun and exciting and interesting. All the women -- Coco Chanel, Claire McCardell, Donna Karan . . . all the men, Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Armani, Marc Jacobs (who looks great in either black lace and in a skirt). And no one knows better than those who sew how great they all are at what they do!

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  38. In the Victorian era, Charles Frederick Worth pretty much invented the concept of haute couture. He was, by all accounts, straight & married one of his first models, & they had two children. The idea that high fashion is run by gay men is a pretty recent concept, as is the idea that men's fashion is boring -- look to the early 19th century for Beau Brummel (the original dandy) & before that for the 18th century where men wore clothing as elaborate, highly decorated, embroidered, & colorful as women, plus they wore wigs, makeup, & shoes with relatively high heels. And men had been for centuries before.

    Blame the Victorians for dulling things down.

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  39. I don't know whether Gianni Versace was gay or straight. I loved the way he saw women and designed wonderful clothes.
    is it too twee of me to say talent is talent no matter what the source?

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  40. At this time, men are still inhabiting a very limited stereotype of "masculinity". A few free thinkers break free, but most straight men embrace it and defend their "masculinity" by avoiding any practices that may be seen as "effeminate", like becoming a fashion designer. One day there will be a Men's Movement, when men demand the right to be nurturing, emotional and creative. After that, the proportion of men in creative fields, including fashion design, will mirror the proportion in the population.

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  41. Do lesbians like to design menswear? Seriously curious about that.

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    1. I don't think so..... what they would like to do is take the masculine and somehow adapt or apply to the feminine form.

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    2. Caryn, that comment actually made me giggle -- which is rather a sad commentary on the state of things. ;)

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    3. I have nothing sensible to add to the comments on the original question. But I will say I wish I knew other lesbians or bi women who are into sewing clothes. I can't be the only one!

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  42. Most women appreciate a compliment from a man (whether he's straight or gay) on their appearance much more so than they do another woman. In hairdressing I've heard women say they would never let another women touch their hair, because they're convinced she wouldn't make them as attractive as a man would. Fashion designers today can only suggest, the days of dictating are long over! If he or she wants to stay in business they have to keep their feet on the ground. In spite of what you may see in Vogue or Bazaar the bottom line today is sales and that crosses the line of both genders. I love "Project Runway" because it clearly demonstrates how important being commercial is in any designer's career no matter what their sexual preference is.

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  43. What is it with gay women and men's fashion? ;)

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  44. i agree with sewsy that gay men may simply be projecting their desires by designing for women. Because if gay men were so bored with men's clothing, they probably would have changed that by making men's clothes more exuberant. However, still because men's clothing choices tend to be safe, marketing such novel styles would be more difficult. Thus, designing for women allowed them creative freedom and helped them grow their business as well.

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  45. I know this comment is way late but I think it's very simple. When I was a little girl I loved dressing my Barbie doll. I got this exquisite sense of satisfaction seeing her all dressed up in her finery. There was something very stimulating and creative about it. I got a huge thrill over seeing it all come together. I loved shopping for new doll clothes and loved the satisfaction I got the first time I took out the new outfit. I would run my hands over the fabric and marvel at how they were made. It was the greatest thing ever. I think that women are a gay man's Barbie. There is something that is beautiful and sensually artistic about a woman's curves - I think gay men admire this the way a car lover would admire a sleek sports car. Maybe some gay men are better at designing clothes because in a way sex is out of the picture - it's more about artistry and the elegance of the design. Perhaps there is more thought of creativity and symmetry rather than just showcasing 'tits and ass'. I think that to them the 'feminine' is seen as a type of beauty to celebrate and revel in. It's a compliment - we are admired by our gay friends in a way that we may never be by our boyfriends and husbands. The clothes gay men design are a homage.

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  46. Wade@MacMorrighan.NetDecember 22, 2012 at 12:48 AM

    I have wondered this same thing, and I can only imagine it's because men feel confined by the form of men's clothing. However, I once saw a gorgeous Ralph Rucci shirt for men that was was like wearing a sexy piece of art--because it was! it was based off of a painting he had created and had the design woven into fabric. I would love to wear clothing like that, *IF* I could find it, let alone dare to afford it (which I never could). I have been getting ever more picky with the fugly mens' clothing sold in Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc. because I cannot afford to shop elsewhere. Well, save for Kohl's which has no changing rooms so the guys that shop there (locally) are all buff and change in the isles making me VERY self-conscious, so I don't shop there.

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