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Mar 5, 2014

The Worst Way a Man Can Dress (Is Like a Woman)



Readers, why must our clothing be gendered?

Presumably, for evolutionary reasons, men and women at the height of their reproductive age might have benefited from enhancing their secondary sexual characteristics through dress.  But why do we still cling to this today?  Can we only recognize who's a man and who's a woman by their clothes?

Also, it seems contemporary women can dress as masculine as they wish.  Decades ago, there might have been some (largely whispered) backlash that women who dressed like men were lesbian -- dating back at least as far as the days of Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Katherine Hepburn, all of whom were rumored to have had affairs with other women. But most women who sport manly looks today do so with no controversy whatsoever.  It's just another style, and an easy, casual, and convenient one at that.

Men don't have it so easy.  While fashion-forward types are coming around to the idea of a man wearing a skirt, it's generally accepted only if it's styled in a way that is appropriately masculine: with biker boots, sewn in traditional Scottish plaids, if it maintains a "straight" silhouette (as opposed to A-line), or if it echoes ancient (or folkloric) menswear.  Just check out the comments in my culottes post and you'll see what I mean.

Why this double standard?

I think it comes down to our culture (by which I mean Western culture), its definition of masculine and feminine qualities, and the relative value it assigns these qualities.  So-called feminine traits include being nurturing, gentle, empathic, soft, and sensitive.  "Masculine" traits are the opposite: being aggressive, standing your ground, taking up space, looking out for number one, taking action.

All you have to do is spend a day immersed in American media to understand which qualities are valued and which are demeaned.  While women might be admonished for having too many "masculine" qualities, they are still given grudging respect by the culture at large (Hillary Clinton, Martha Stewart, Barbra Streisand).  Men who are deemed to display "feminine" qualities, on the other hand, are publicly mocked and bullied (Al Gore, Barack Obama, the French).

Times are changing, and the greater acceptance of gay people and their relationships seems to reflect more open-mindedness about traditional definitions of masculine and feminine.  But with greater acceptance comes the expectation that gay people act "normal," an attitude that's prevalent within the gay community itself.

Why should dressing in a skirt be balanced with "butch" styling?  What if you're wearing it, not to evoke its ancient masculine roots, but because you like the fabric, the swirl, or just think it's pretty?  Can you be fully self-identified as male and be OK with looking feminine?

What is it about male-to-female gender-bending style that makes so many people so uncomfortable?  After all, clothes are just what's on the surface.  Why must our clothing be gendered?  Why can't people decorate themselves the way they want?



I see Timothy John (above) -- who often appears in Bill Cunningham's fashion photo essays in the NY Times -- at the flea market nearly every weekend.  It's hard to describe his style in a sentence, but he mixes men's and women's clothes in a unique way, while always looking recognizably male.  I strongly recommend watching his video interview below, made for the blog, Style Like U.  He brings a great deal of wisdom and consciousness to the way we present ourselves to the world.  I also find it very moving.



I don't have all the answers to my questions, but I'd like to know what you think.  Particularly if this issue pushes your buttons, I'd be curious to know why.

We all live in the world and are a product of a lifetime's worth of cultural conditioning (me included!).  But if we can step back and examine our attitudes it can be helpful to identify what's really at stake for us personally and perhaps broaden our ability to feel comfortable with different ways of being human.

Jump in!

125 comments:

  1. I am new to your blog, but thought I would let you know how much I am enjoying your postings. I learn something new all the time and have something new to think about after today's post too. Thank you for sharing your time.

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  2. I am not sure I buy the notion that women who display masculine traits are more accepted than men who display feminine traits. I think both groups are abased by the media and targets for name-calling and disdain for many people. I personally agree with you that we should let people determine their own place of comfort and style and accept them as they come.

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    1. Indeed, just think about how a woman exhibiting masculine traits is referred to as bitchy or bossy, while these same characteristics would be praised in a man. I enjoyed rading this post since it touches a more general subject that's being talked about quite often these days, and I'll refer to it if someone else tries to start a discussion again about why feminism is necessary. It's not about women gaining power over men; it's about 'female' things and character traits being seen as equally important and valuable as the male ones, no matter who displays them.

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    2. I totally agree with you Lynn. My daughter dresses rather masculine and has a very masculine haircut. She doesn't wear make up and is often mistaken for a man. Now, i don't have a problem with people mistaking her gender and quietly apologising and moving on but it's often not the case. Recently my 21 year old daughter and i attended a week-long travel language class. As we entered and sat down the instructor, a mature male, came up to her and said very loudly in front of the whole class, "I know you're a man!". I replied "No, she's a woman." He was apologetic but then continued to make inappropriate comments as he fumbled through his embarrassment. Another older male in the class then said in an awfully ugly tone "glad i'm not the only one" As in, he was glad he wasn't the only one who mistook her gender. It appalls me that my daughter gets treated so very differently because of her gender identity. Everybody else was welcomed into the class with an appropriate greeting...all except my daughter. Why do people have to know if she's male or female??? We all assume that she would be treated the same whether she be male or female, but this isn't true. People feel the overwhelming need to categorise each other and then act accordingly - often with ugliness. Watching my daughter experience this daily discrimination is heart breaking and makes my blood boil.

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    3. SuziWong, I'm sorry to hear that your daughter faces discrimination because of her gender expression. There are A LOT of narrow minded people out in the world that need to be educated. It surprises me that it was the older men that had a problem/confused with your daughter's way of dressing. I would've thought that they've seen a lot in their time! Right?

      As for me, it doesn't bother me nor is it my business how anyone dresses. To each their own as long as they're not hurting anybody.

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    4. Every day I dress like a man--I wear blue jeans! In the last 75-ish years or so, women's clothing has crossed into traditional men's wear--pants mainly--in a way that has been accepted. Not so much men crossing over into women's wear. I would like to see more men wear skirts and dresses in an un-ironic way. Ditto makeup.

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    5. As a school psychologist, I find that I am constantly faced with these issues in schools. Boys who wear make up (eye liner or a little lip enhancement) are often ridiculed. Particularly in Alaskan culture. However, girls who wear brother's clothing may not be faced with the same issues. But if that is accompanied by "butch" behaviors, then it can become an issue right quick.

      A recent court case with a transgendered elementary aged boy who is dressing "feminine" has been permitted to use the girls' bathroom. The school had accommodated to the point of allowing her to use the staff facilities, but the parents fought it demanding she be allowed to use the girls' bathroom. While I deeply sympathize with the student, were I a parent, I might not be very comfortable with that situation if my daughter was in that school. I personally believe there are no easy answers. These are questions for which our culture and biological evolution has not provided solutions.

      The expression of self is critical to healthy emotional development, but our society and culture have not caught up with the needs of all. My two cents, I always hope I have not offended and mean not to either with this. My apologies if I have.

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  3. To take your point about feminine signals and their value a step further, I think there are still deeply misogynist ingrained beliefs about feminine traits being weak and not valued. So women with masculine traits might not be "feminine" enough, but those masculine traits are broadly valued as good. But men with feminine traits are somehow seen as "less than". My feminist two cents :)

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  4. all i can say is: one step at a time. people will come around, but it just takes time. change is hard.

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  5. Hi Peter - I'm glad you brought this up. I was in the process of commenting on your culottes when I noticed some of the comments about how "men need to dress like men" and was so disgusted that I had to click away. As for one's clothing choices, there are many people who feel that their clothing and style reflect something of who they are. If we believe that we live in a world where people have the right to be themselves and express themselves, then it makes complete sense that people should be able to dress however they choose. Skirts can be very comfortable. Particularly in the heat of summer, it can be nice to have some air flowing around one's thighs and I fully support your right to wear skirts and culottes and whatever. Actually, I don't like culottes... my comment was going to be something about how I dislike culottes and wouldn't recommend them on man nor woman, however, they might look better with a drapier fabric. Happy sewing!

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    1. Yes! I found it disturbing too! If male-identifying people want to wear skirts simply because that's what they want to wear, that should be totally fine.

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  6. I think you missed one element/dimension of what is going on when you mentioned powerful women. In western society it is still largely true that in the workplace and public sphere "Masculine" qualities are generally respected and admired while "feminine" are not. I would posit that women who espouse masculine qualities are grudgingly respected because those qualities are respected. On the flip side, in women "feminine" qualities are accepted because they are expected, whereas men would be reviled for espousing what are considered qualities with lesser value. (This is not my opinion, just what I think is still at work.) I would also point out that those powerful women are also reviled for not being feminine or beautiful enough.

    I love your point of view - and have been enjoying your journey. Perhaps I'm more open to men in skirts since my family does don their kilts for occasions. I hate that you got push back on the culottes. I think they have a very spry fun look!

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    1. Hmm, rereading your post, maybe you did actually say this point. LOL. Long week in progress here.

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    2. Clio, I agree with your analysis of gender and power dynamics. Males continue to command the best salaries and most prestigious positions, thus the benefit of being culturally marked as male. But to take our analysis further, we have to look at the purpose of stereotypes.

      We are a meaning-making species, and labelling is a shortcut to making sense of our world. It's not the labels per se that are the problem, it's the meaning we associate with them.

      When women wear "men's" clothes, we are confronted with conflicting information: breasts, woman, check. Long hair, lipstick, woman, check. Apparel...?? (mental explosion).

      Our brains work harder (often not enough harder) when confronted with non-matching conditions. Still, we can say, "that's a woman in blue jeans." It's when we add, "she must be a lesbian" that it's problematic.

      It's great for people to break down the barriers, and although I'm not a fan of the culottes (who wants to take down a skirt in the bathroom? The only benefit of skirts is ease of access), I love that you and others wear what appeals to you. Only when enough people make unexpected fashion choices can we deconstruct the labels that are associated with them.

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  7. I think you should wear whatever you feel comfortable in - staying aware that some folks are not willing to stretch their own comfort to accept it. I'm more of a tom-boyish woman who is considered masculine by my friends (due to my ambition, willingness to try new things, and general fearlessness). My shape doesn't help either, as I'm built like a board and taller than most men. I'd love to dress like a girly girl sometimes, but I'm just not comfortable with it, so I don't. Give me baseball tees and jeans at home and suits at work. I might go for a frill on a blouse or a girly shade of purple, but my femininity is mostly expressed with my hair and makeup, not my clothes. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we all have issues with societal "norms", whether we're gay or straight, women or men, and it does stink sometimes, but there are so many great people in the world that I try not to get too caught up in the negatives.

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  8. I agree that we are acculturated to accept anything, and that generally happens over a long period of time. Change from that norm also takes a very long time, as I'm sure you are personally painfully aware.

    Personally, I don't like skirts (and detest culottes) for myself. For the record, I am a straight female. If you like them, then you should be free to wear them. In our culture, you will likely get odd looks, or comments, since it's not "the norm". I guess that's the cross to bear of the trend setters!

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  9. I think your culottes look great (at least for culottes!), and I think you've hit the nail on the head with respect to the difference in the way that we evaluate women dressing in a "masculine" way, and men dressing in a "feminine" way.
    However, I think it's interesting to note that there are other cultures, not that far removed from ours (Britain and to some extent France), where male-to-female cross dressing is more routine, and is not seen as a comment about the effeminacy of the cross dresser.
    I was talking to a male French friend the other day who had been invited to a drag party, and was trying to gently tease out of him why he was not going to dress up. Anyway, leaving aside his personal reasons, he mentioned that in his experience, male cross-dressing in France and Britain is normalized for themed parties or pub nights. However, doing so is simply another expression of a derogatory attitude towards "feminine" characteristics, rather than an affirmation of the value of these traits or as a simple expression of the cross-dressers' personal tastes -- much like the (mostly historical) American practice of white performers putting on blackface and enacting negative stereotypes of African Americans. On the other hand, this same friend has remarked many times on how typical dress for American women is much more masculine than for their French counterparts.
    All of this is to say, I think you're totally right, but that the sort of attitude that our society has towards the value of "masculine" and "feminine" can be expressed in many different ways when it comes to cross-dressing.

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    1. I wouldn't go so far as to compare drag to blackface, as I don't think that drag performers are mocking women, but I am not someone who really appreciates drag, particularly when it's presented as gay men depicting the essence of womanhood. What I see is an interpretation of being female by someone who is not a woman that is not entirely accurate.

      I especially hate the drag-makeover movies in which drag artists liberate bedraggled, oppressed straight women who didn't know how to cope before the helpful gays rolled into town. "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" is an example.

      Drag celebrates gender notions that women don't need. Drag artists sometimes look ridiculous because they are performing a construct of femininity that is ridiculous. It's just more obvious on a man.

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    2. I think that's not what Julie meant... It's not actual drag that is akin to blackface, but the "straight man with a terrible drag costume on a party" type... I see that a lot where I live - the guy is homophobic and sexist all year long, then dresses up as a woman in Carnaval. The way they act while in costume makes it obvious that they are doing it in mockery.

      Real drag, otherwise, is a celebration and an art form. :)

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  10. Yeah - it does make people uncomfortable. I think that as well as the difference in respect for perceived masculine/ feminine qualities you discuss, people are uncomfortable with ambiguity in general, and in particular with anything that prevents the ready slotting of people into gender categories. I have noticed this in myself (not just with gender but with other things) - I am a gay woman but have a noticeable (transient) uncomfortable sense of dissonance when I meet a woman who dresses in a typically masculine way (suit and tie, for example). Less so with a man in a dress, but that's partly because I think that in my culture at this time men in skirts are usually either a) flamboyantly transvestite or costume-y cross-dressing or b) drunk farm boys at a party, and so easy to categorise (rightly or wrongly).

    I was quite astonished to see the comments on your culottes, too. Some may have been tongue in cheek (I hope so). It interested me that people who read your blog (probably not typical of the whole of the western world - mainly female and people who sew, for a start) would come out and say those things.

    Dime store psychology alert: I'm guessing that we want to categorise people because it makes life easier. It's one of the aspects of culture shock that is challenging when travelling, not being able to instantly judge if people are rich/ poor/ bohemian/ threatening/ newly out of prison/ part of the governing class, policemen or postmen, etc.
    So it's kind of natural that we want to do it with gender as well. I guess it's a kind of mental laziness. When something doesn't fit the box exactly, we can see we have to do some mental work to decode it (or expand the box), and we react to that according to personality and the degree of interest and energy (or fear) we have to invest in such things.

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  11. How one chooses to wear their clothes, pick their loved ones, live their life is that person's choice. There are so many more things in this world, in our country, that need our attention, abandoned children, spousal abuse, and homelessness, just to name a few. I honestly can't believe people waste their time, money, and effort trying to police how other adults live their lives.
    There is a gentleman in my neighborhood who loves to wear skorts while roller skating or sometimes a lovely swishy skirt when jogging. And I LOVE that he has the self-confidence to do so. I hope that one day people put as much effort in pulling the people in their sphere of influence up instead of spending all that time, money, and energy in putting them down for how they dress or who they love or how they choose to live.

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  12. While some made it a gender issue about the culottes, I was seeing it more as a critique of that horrid garment in general. Culottes are terrible on anybody! Right up there with jumpsuits, and both seem to be making a come back. Marfy WHY? MOAN!

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  13. My four year old daughter has a four year old male friend who wears dresses and skirts, at first she was confused about his gender but we simply told her he's a boy and he feels comfortable wearing skirts boy can wear skirts just like girls can wear pants.

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  14. When I started sewing clothes, I really noticed how opinionated and judgmental some people were to wearing something different than what you find on a store rack. I have a habit of being surprised when others aren't as accepting and appreciative of individuality as I, and was a bit shocked at the looks, and reactions people gave me. And we're not even talking about anything out of my gender realm! (Just vintage dresses sewn up in fun novelty prints!) For some, it must be insulting, stupid, or even a cry for attention, to wear something different.

    I think dressing outside of the "normal" gender style makes people uncomfortable in the same way, (uncomfortable with different), but to an even greater extent, because in our society it seems SO important to "know" if someone is a man or a woman. And some people just don't get why someone would step out of those boundaries. Not sure why... why folks can't just be okay with just human? Maybe others will have insight on this? I'd sure like to know.

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  15. But why do we still cling to this today?
    Because it's absolutely delicious to unwrap a man from his beautifully tailored suit.
    ...now I'll finish reading your (always) delightful blog.

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  16. I was just thinking about American culture and how strong the pressure has always been to dress in certain styles to fit in with a group and show your status.
    As someone who makes and wears vintage clothes in upscale New England, the land of Lilly Pulitzer shifts and Tory Burch flats, I understand the weird pressure to conform. Unlike you, though, as a woman I don't have to worry being publicly taunted or harmed for walking around in a 50s skirt.
    That said, I stand by my previous comment stating that culottes look crappy on everybody.

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  17. The gendering of clothes is a way of enforcing the assignment of power. Traditionally, men have it and women don't. When straight women dress like men, up to a point, they are seen as enhancing their power. Women (again, traditionally, not my personal view) aren't seen as important as men therefore it doesn't matter if they dabble with fashion and different identities. Actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich did not have real power. In history, many laws that criminalized homosexuality punished men, not women, because only men mattered in the eyes of the law.

    Men who dress like women are seen as yielding their power, which is abhorrent and weakens the moral fiber of the nation. It's as if a free person were willingly becoming enslaved. Many of the worst insults lobbed at men are sexist, stereotypes about women, e.g., "You cried like a little girl" (as if there are no brave little girls). "Move it, Ladies!"

    I'm convinced that one reason for the hostility by straight men against gay men is homosexuality makes them confront what it might be like to be treated as a woman, which is monstrous.

    I only had time to watch a couple of minutes of the video. The subject seems sweet and eccentric. He isn't someone who get taken seriously in many contexts, although I'm sure he knows that.

    These attitudes are slowly changing, but anyone who wants to influence the world as it is now probably needs to be aware of these codes.

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    1. I didn't care for the culottes. It would be difficult for any man to look good in them, but I didn't like the shape or the fabric.

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    2. But why should someone's choice of clothing have anything to do with their sexuality?

      It's skirts specifically - why are people uncomfortable with mean in skirts? The power-based theory doesn't answer that.
      ~Jen

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    3. Uh, that should be "men" in skirts.

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    4. Anonymous 4:45 PM

      "But why should someone's choice of clothing have anything to do with their sexuality?"

      It depends on the context. When I was a teenager and had short hair I sometimes was mistaken for a boy. It wasn't a choice, but the result of my available wardrobe. But as a straight female I did not like it, although I always envied the freedom of men and thought that pretty women with more androgynous figures wore clothes best.

      With some people, their choice of clothing quite obviously is related to their sexuality and their desire to exemplify gender norms or to transgress them.

      Over the years, I've seen a fair number of young men who dressed in robes or skirts and had top knots or other interesting and unusual hairstyles, relative to the wider world. I think Rule One is that you have to have the looks to get away with more "extreme" styles and it helps to be young.

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  18. No question, Americans are really rigid about gender-assigned dressing. (Yes, I'm American but I couldn't care less about what anybody chooses to wear). So - it's not this way everywhere, and some cultures have far fewer issues with this. I think we are not as evolved as we think we are.
    ~Jen

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  19. I had never heard of Timothy John before, but he has some great style!
    I am all about wearing what makes you happy/feel good. Apparently the way that I dress (mostly vintage 40s-50s) gets me looks. I for some reason do not notice these things, but other people (husband, family, friends) sometimes point out when other people are staring/whispering/etc. I have never had anyone say anything particularly mean to me (I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt though when they say something that could be considered rude).
    I find it odd because I don't think that I am that extreme, so I can see where people dressing even further outside of the norm may get more resistance. Which is really a shame. Some people are just going to be rude no matter what you are wearing though.

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  20. My son wears many of my jackets on stage. A bronze crushed velvet and a swedish naval top coat I found second hand. Now that he is getting a more masculine build I try to sew things similar (my shoulders are bib but not that big)

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  21. I admire men who wear female clothing whilst still remaining obviously male. I can't do it. I crossdress, but I wear a mask of makeup, wigs and shapewear to create an illusion of being female. To some extent that makes other people more comfortable around me as well, since on the surface I conform to their visual expectations. I think this need to wear the 'mask' is too well ingrained in me now, and I'm unlikely to change, but I;d love to see a more gender-neutral approach to what people wear.

    I still have an ambition to turn up for work in a skirt one day, though :)

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  22. Nowhere is clothing more bizarrely gendered than in the baby and toddler aisles.

    At an age when humans of both genders have exactly the same body shape (the pudge-ball) and zero sexuality (two of the factors which influence gendered fashion), clothing is absolutely branded for boys (blue/orange/black, dinosaurs, trucks, sports) OR girls (pink/purple/red, flowers, glitter, ruffles). Many online stores require you to first choose BOY or GIRL to navigate into that section, instead of first sorting by shirts or pants.

    Of course, this extends into furnishings for children's rooms, toys, games, etc. Everything is gendered. So, if you feel like throwing up your hands in exasperation over this, blame those of us who are new parents who cause that industry to thrive.

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    1. p.s. Count me as another pro-skirt for you.

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    2. I know right? Why? I buy pink for my grandson and refuse to dress my grandaughter in girly things. Fortunately their parents are also following this trend. It's hard though.

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    3. I totally concur, I have noticed similarly myself. Only recently I was speaking to someone that was complaining her daughter was dressing her granddaughter in boys clothes so she had to go and buy girls clothes because it wasn't right! I was horrified, that is hardly going to teach the next generation that it's ok dress how you like!

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    4. I have a four year old daughter and buying clothes for her is a nightmare! She's out of the "baby/toddler" section and is now into the girls section and I hate how trashy it is. I'm lucky because I get hand-me-downs from my sister who lives in Europe (where girls clothes are more modest). But I've saved a few clothes from my son and I pass them on to her. I also have difficulty buying clothes for my 11 year old son. He doesn't like sports or trucks and that's almost all that's available for tees. The gender stereotyping is almost at an extreme for childrens' clothing. And don't get me started on swimwear...

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  23. I agree with those who have said that traditionally feminine traits are seen as being of lesser value than traditionally masculine traits. It has always bothered me to see women dressing or acting like men because I feel that real feminism would be to try to make the feminine equal, not merely to give women the freedom to be more like men.

    Now I'm sure that's going to push some people's buttons but I rush to point out that I believe in the freedom of the individual to wear anything they like as long as they are decently covered in public. Of course I have my opinions but they're just opinions not laws.

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    1. "I feel that real feminism would be to try to make the feminine equal, not merely to give women the freedom to be more like men."

      I agree, but this won't happen until many more women have power, influence, and money in our society, which usually means being successful in some line of work, which in turn means having to conform somewhat to rise up the ladder in male-dominated fields.

      Look at how powerful women still are treated when on the public stage: Angela Merkel is made fun of for her no-nonsense style, HIllary Clinton was knocked for her headbands, then her pantsuits, now she's praised for being "softer" (as was Michelle Obama).

      Successful youngish businesswomen featured in articles all seem to look alike: Long, straight hair, shortish skirts, mile-high stilettos. Not very encouraging.

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  24. Yes, I plead guilty.I was one of those that did mention taking the 'feminine' touch off the culottes by minor adjustments, but I did phrase the word feminine' simply because I personally don't quite assign anything to any gender. But I suppose in a sense I try to empathize where ever I find myself. If your audience tell you to be masculine (and a lot of them sound like they have been around your blog for long and are familiar with what makes you tick), then I suppose it was my mistake to assume you wanted to know if it was 'masculine' enough, so I gave my two cents, although I did wonder why you cared what anyone would think, if it was what you wanted to wear. That said, I am glad you are addressing this right after the culottes blog, and in fact glad for the specific questions.

    The fact is we live in an age where validation is sought after, whether or not we think so. We want to belong somewhere and sometimes we do that by claiming the right to be different, to be altruists, to be progressive, to be open minded, to be masculine, to be feminine, to be both, to be neither.....or we simply want to be. BUT, whatever we decide to be, we are because we want to take a stand about something we believe in, and in a sense, taking a side.

    Do you want to dress the way YOU are comfortable? I would say go for it. The question is, can the people around you stand it? Can you ignore them if they can't? Truth be told, we can wear whatever we want (or even go sky clad) and love every minute of it as long as we are thick skinned enough to not care what anyone thinks or feels about it. Unfortunately we do.

    The sad truth though is people are uncomfortable with anything that doesn't fall into a category they have a definition for. So I guess that is why we tag things/behaviours/looks etc as gender specific.

    Women are not necessarily 'fortunate' to get away with dressing masculine, we just learned to have them talk about it and not care. I personally wish more men would dare to dress outside the norm, I find it a delight to see, unfortunately it will (for now) come with a price. It's sad but the truth is we are not very ready yet to melt the dividing lines between the gender even if we say/think/claim that we are. BUT WE SHOULD.

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  25. Getting your point totally. And it's also present here in Europe (I'm a Dutch female). For example: I have worked somewhere for 6 months now. We don't work with customers face to face so there isn't much of a dresscode. To me that has usually meant; comfy clothes. Pants 'cause they have pockets (one of the reasons I've started making dresses myself and one of my pet peeves), a simple shirt and if the aircon is acting out again a sweater. When I feel like doing something nice I put on a suit. Nicely tailored, with a nice blouse or shirt and looking fab. I always feel really nice and special in it. Yesterday I felt like doing something else and put on a dress. In the first 20 minutes of getting to work I got 4 compliments about how I looked. That's 4 more than I had gotten in the last 6 months. Everytime I had put on something just as nice; nothing. Because I wore something "male", meaning pants. And this was just a very plain dress. No extra make-up, hadn't washed my hair in 2 days, feeling kinda scruffy. And all the compliments were from female co-workers! I felt to me that it has just been sorta beaten into us to only like female stuff on other females I think. We are only allowed to like stuff that is gendered and complimenting someone who identifies as a man with wearing a skirt or a woman with wearing a pair of pants is weird apparently. Let everyone just wear what they want and compliment them because they always look fab!

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  26. If it feels good to you and you like what you see, then wear it.

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  27. Here in New Zealand I often see men (Pacific Island men mainly) wearing traditional skirt-like garments without looking feminine; they often look extremely masculine in them. As a 60+ woman I like to look at well-dressed men and don't mind if they wear skirts or not - although they should be covered properly. The culottes however as they were shown in your muslin were just too ugly to do you justice - I agree with everyone who said they should be longer, and straighter, and made of wool. I don't think many women would look good in them either. But if you want them the way you made them by all means, it's your choice. Keep challenging us Peter, your blog is amusing, thought-provoking and so very enjoyable! Cheers, Anne-Marie

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    1. Oh yes - I often see men in lava lavas too, interesting that I had not thought of them in the context of this skirt discussion, at all. No "yielding of masculinity" there. Same with djellabas and other dress styles of cultures other than 21st century "western"

      Delete
    2. Jeez, I'm getting my ass over to New Zealand as soon as possible to check out the guys who are that secure in their masculinity. They sound like loads of fun and pretty hot. Doesn't sound like they're wearing culottes, though.

      Delete
  28. Cathy should not be the only one who has fun with her clothes. You love style, you love fashion. I share others joy in developing a keen eye for style.

    Sail on! Roll with it and have fun. You look great, you dress with verve and you sew fearlessly. That is super cool, uber chill and brilliant.

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  29. Are you a man? Why are you gendered? I'm not being mean here, I think our gender identity is important and relevant to us for many reasons, some good, some uncertain. I have a transgendered step-sibling and I'm trying (very hard!) to understand why it's so important to her to be a woman and not a man. The very discussion seems so absolute and binary. So back to you, Peter. Why is your gender identity male? Why is the idea of gendered clothing so bothersome to you? I support you whichever way, even in "feminine" culottes, if that's what you prefer, so please take this as simply posing some questions to further the conversation.

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    1. Well, I think that the problem is the social construction. That is, society attaches a gender identity to clothing. Separately, a person perceives his/her sex identity in a personal, emotional and physical way. If that person wants to express that perception in society, through society's conventions, then clothing is a part of that self-expression. However, I don't think that wearing clothing assigned to one gender or another necessarily reflects one's self-perceived gender or sex identity. Clothing, which is not the body obviously, involves all kinds of (external) social rules. Obviously, women have had some leeway to play with this for some time. However, in regard to the initial issue–when you look into other cultures and history, men have worn and do wear non-pants extensively.
      ~Jen

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  30. I love pointing out to my teen son and friends how the long baggy basketball shorts worn in the NBA look like skirts or culottes. We've also had interesting discussion about how men have more limited options in clothing.

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  31. I read your blog a lot (thanks to MainelyDad) but never comment but this one got to me.
    My two cents:
    My experience that any transgression across the gender line in clothing and accessories is threatening to people (in the U.S.A.). Even gay men and women seem to be unsettled by a guy wearing something as simple as a woman's cuff bracelet. Crossing that line seems to draw everything defining the gender in to question. If a man can do/wear that and be a man, what IS a man? For me, that is sort of the point – I am not defined by the label “male” but I’m a person who HAPPENS to have a male body.

    Do what makes you happy but be aware of the reaction it may cause. Safety first and all that.

    In closing: I totally need that black jacket, that awesome white skirt in a color and a fez. 

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    Replies
    1. I was reading a book about gay people in the 1940s and 1950s (Gay New York?). The author talked about the strong dress codes for gays WITHIN the gay community. If you were a woman, you had to be "Butch" or "Femme." You couldn't just be yourself. It was fascinating, and of course, surprising to me.

      I've read that many sophisticated, upper class gay men did not like it when other gay men began to dress more provocatively, including more femininely. They preferred their elegant, conventional, male clothing.

      Conformity is a very powerful force. Perhaps it gives comfort, and if your group is already besieged, there may be internal pressure to stick together.

      Delete
  32. I exist in lots of queer feminist spaces and so I'm used to people wearing whatever they want and its just a really liberating experience - you come to expect nothing as normal. At the moment I'm at the UK National Union of Students Disability conference and at the disco (lol) we just had I was wearing a ball gown (handmade!) with slippers whilst dancing with other women in things ranging from shirts and bow ties to short mini dresses, with non-binary folk, some in dresses some in t-shirts, and men one of whom was wearing a bra and a long red wig. I think as the idea of a gender binary is challenged more and more these things will start to be more common and in my opinion this is part of a slow cultural revolution. I'd also never heard of Timothy John but that's really interesting so thanks for sharing!

    (As a side note you've used male and female (biological sexes) in places where I think you men man and woman/ manly/ womanly etc - genders you can choose rather than assigned sexes at birth).

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  33. I have always thought that most women's clothes were designed to restrict the ways people wearing them could move -- the skirts, shape-enhancing undergarments, shoes designed for appearance and not comfort. This both reflects and influences the expectation that women are weaker, shouldn't move around much on their own, must be protected, should dress to be decorative, and so on. Men's clothes for the most part are designed for functionality and comfort. So there is more reason, I think, for women to wear men's clothes than vice versa.

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  34. “I'm not ashamed to dress "like a woman" because I don't think it's shameful to be a woman.”

    ― Iggy Pop

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  35. I am sure there has been much debate about the gender issue before. Surely it is a western centred debate and I don't have the answers. My opinion is that you live in one of the most diverse western cities, so make and wear what you want Peter, because you do it with flair.

    Recently at a wedding my 2 year old boy wore a kilt and was described as cute. My husband who was wearing a kilt also got ribbed for wearing a skirt. We are Scottish but live in Australia.

    We also lived in NZ and my hubbie got me to make him a Lava Lava for really hot days. He loved it and nobody batted an eye. In one grad ceremony a man from Saoma wore a traditional grass skirt and flower headpeice and neck adorments. It was beautiful.

    I want to see you in those culottes!

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  36. This is really interesting post, It's a theme of sociology for discussion.
    It is most important that you do confidently what you want. Only it can be truth.
    Just The Way You Are.
    Masa

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  37. Interesting stuff here.

    As for the culottes, I think part of the issue is/was age, which is included in the "cheerleader" description. You present as late 40s, maybe 50. Cheerleader is high school. The contrast is a bit uncomfortable even when it's a woman in a garment that shape. (When it's in fashion, yes, it reads okay; but short full skirts like that are not in fashion at the moment and we don't see them on the street.)

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  38. Sadly, where I live, a woman who dresses in the 'wrong' sort of masculine clothes still gets harassed for being a 'dyke' or 'butch'. So while the gender restrictions are a little looser for women's clothing, we're not exactly living consequence free over here on the distaff side of the fence.

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  39. This is a great discussion topic! Can you address the issue of non-gender biased clothing by considering the purpose of clothing and the aesthetics of fashion? We wear clothing to protect our bodies (from abrasion, from cold temperatures, from sunburn, etc.), and we overlay style to enhance both physical appearance and personal expression. An item of "masculine" clothing on a woman can serve to conceal any body part which may elicit a sexual response, but it may also trigger a completely new set of responses from those she encounters.

    I have felt for so long that the clothing options for men is very limited. It became even more evident when I started to sew. When you design for men, it feels like a minefield...so easy to end up with a garment that is unflattering to the male form, or that communicates an unpleasant aesthetic. I want to look great in clothes! I don't want to look ridiculous! I want to communicate that I am fun, but very competant. I don't want to be dismissed because my clothing looks ill-kempt (grungy), unstructured or with a poor sense of both texture and color. Aren't these thoughts common to both genders? Don't both genders try to push the boundaries? Shouldn't both genders attempt to be aware of clothing that satsfies the fundamentals of clothing's purpose?

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  40. The subject does not push my buttons...go ahead with the cheerleader skirt.

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  41. While this is a very complicated point of discussion, one of the more simple aspects (symptoms?), I think, is that fashion designers have yet to design and market fashionable skirts for men. Men do dress much more 'feminine' than they used to; slim fit pants, pink, embellishments, etc., are no longer just for homosexuals and 'metrosexuals.' In my area, Minneapolis, these are totally accepted looks for heterosexuals who are into fashion. I think a lot of more 'feminine' looks have been marketed to men, and they're buying it. The skirts that I've seen marketed for men, though, have a very teenage rebellion look to them. They are not presented for the sophisticated, fashionable man, but rather for the rebelling man. This fashion has not yet been presented to the masses in a way that makes sense. On women, skirts are comfortable, flattering and often sexy. The looks shown for men do not look comfortable, they're not shown in summer, breezy styles. They do not look sexy or particularly flattering (hiding all shape of the bum and showing the legs, chopped off by long hems and socks, bleh). Anyway, my point is that the fashion industry has sold us on many gender-bending styles, but they are phoning in skirts in a big way.

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    Replies
    1. Historically, though, pink has been seen as just as acceptable a color for men as for women.

      Delete
  42. You will pull off the skirt look just fine. Because you are fun and kind and it comes across to others. The weirdest thing about this conversation, though, is that the real victims of disdain are the poor souls who like gender-distinct clothes!

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    Replies
    1. The disdain is not for the preference for gender distinct clothing, but for the idea that such a preference should be forced on those of us who do not share your views.

      Delete
    2. Well, people who make such a fuss about whether or not someone is dressed "like a man" do seem unsophisticated and closed minded. It's one thing to prefer certain fabrics, colors, and silhouettes; it's something else to assert that men must comply to rigid codes of dress to avoid appearing the least bit feminine. It's discriminatory and misogynist, and such attitudes should be criticized because they hurt people.

      Delete
  43. I have been mistaken for a man many times during my 30 of life. Most recently last summer when I was wearing printed skinny jeans and a black lose Tshirt. Maybe it was my short hair?!

    Gender based dressing is BS. Having spent good part of my 20 in goth scene I have seen my fair share of men in scirts and corsets. I do not mind at all! And as far as I know they are straight. Not that it matters.
    I've always found men wearing scirts fascinating! And I think its bold and fabulous.
    I remember when mens skinny jeans became the IT item here and I saw more than one boy browsing trough girls jeans in stores. Simply because there were no man skinnies available!

    I have no idea why our clothes are so gender defined now days. I always have preferred more unisex clothes even thou I am girl lol.

    I think your culottes will be fab and you will look fab yourself in them! And I doubt anyone will dare to chace you down NY streets with torches.

    -Maimu

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  44. Timothy John has one of the most expressive, beautiful faces I've ever seen. I would love to live in his world, where you only wear "things that make your heart sing."

    I have given this topic a lot of thought, as I'm one of the women who dresses toward the androgynous side. I have had people assume I was gay when I was younger and even more androgynous. It all started because I needed to get my work done without the men interfering with me, talking and flirting, which always happened when I dressed more girly. I'm an aerospace engineer, and we are vastly outnumbered by men-- women in this job make up less than 6% of the work force.

    To make it worse, when I was a little girl and I wore dresses I had to "stay nice and clean" which meant sitting still and doing nothing. I never got over the horror of the boredom of it.

    I think that gender distinctions are for people who aren't observant or bright enough to tell what's in front of them and need broad hints. I'd be fine with pitching all of it overboard, just to see what everyone would wear if they actually had a choice.

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  45. I wouldn't take any of it too personally. When people are confused or unsure about something they often act out in ways that are less civil. Just go on being yourself. Haters are gonna hate and the world goes around and around. I enjoy your blog, it is informative and you have an interesting "voice" as I read your entries. Thanks Peter

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  46. I've been fortunate enough to live in many places around the world and have noticed overtime a homogenous trend moving into people's clothing. Everyone is wearing t-shirts and jeans. What happened to the joy in celebrating your culture or yourself through your clothing? When I see someone who dressed differently I can't help but admire the cajones they have to go against the trend.

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  47. I'm wondering how much of it is related to the societal idea in past centuries that women were somehow less than men and that men who dress like women are maybe dragging men down to the level of women. I know that we've changed and women in western cultures are now equal with men, but unfortunately because men haven't been wearing clothes traditionally seen as womens wear; people haven't had the chance to get used to it as much as they have with women wearing menswear. I hope that will change, but it will only change if men are willing to wear skirts and make them mainstream. I don't mean cross dressing (though if people are comfortable with that then go for it); I'm meaning dresses tailored to the male form and skirts also tailored that way.
    I think my husband would look great in a skirt (nice legs), but there's no way he'd wear one unless it's his traditional kilt. If that attitude can't be changed then men are doomed to boring trousers and tops. I do have hope though, when we first met he wore black and grey. I got him in purple a few years back, so change can happen.

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    1. I think it's great that you believe the societal/cultural idea that women are less than men is extinct, but the fact is that it still remains in full force in Western culture. It's weakening, for sure, but it is by no means dead and gone on a culture-wide basis. All you have to do is look deeper than just the surface of our society and you'll see how it still negatively impacts women--and men: because when one group is systematically debased, degraded, and disenfranchised by a society, it lowers everyone involved, even those doing it. It doesn't just limit women, it also limits men.

      Delete
  48. In the early 80's I saw a fashion spread with men in mid calf straight stretchy skirts & have hopefully been looking for the trend to go mainstream ever since. A) I find men in skirts HOT. B) skirts are ace, so comfy, so fun, men should wear them too.
    (I'm also from NZ & am used to seeing pacific islanders in lava lava, & when i travelled to India the men from South India in their lunghi)

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    Replies
    1. I forgot to say I liked your culottes but many schools here have them as uniforms & I can't look at them as fashion items as a result.

      Delete
  49. As a young adult I try very hard not to condition myself to the strict gender binaries. I don't particularly mind how someone is dressed or what their sexual or gender identity is, my main concern is what they are like as a person. I myself have frequently asked, if it is ok for women to wear trousers, why can't men wear skirts? They're not hurting anyone, they're just creating fear of the unknown in people. I suspect that fear of the unknown is main reason we have strict gender binaries and the clothing limitations that go with them. I believe that every individual should be entitled to dress how they would like without fear of retribution. So, Peter, I'd love to see some men's culottes!!

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  50. What you say about the perception of gender boundaries is really interesting. A few years ago, I volunteered at a costume wardrobe, mainly full of vintage clothes. One of the things that they did was go into schools and do workshops about clothes from the past, and I helped out at one focusing on the Second World War. We brought loads of clothes for the kids to talk about and try on and the interesting thing was that the boys, rather than go for the original army uniforms or the bowler hats and silk cravats, immediately zoned in on the dresses and pinnies. Obviously, there's quite a bit of bravado and showing off that goes on with a group of ten-year-old boys, but they were genuinely more interested in what it was like to wear the 'girl's' clothes, and thoroughly relished dressing up and trying out something new to them.

    I doubt that any of the boys decided to completely re-evaluate the way they dress because they spent five minutes in a tea dress for a dare, but it was great to see them all so engaged and interested in what would usually be considered a complete no-no for the average ten-year-old boy. Like lots of people have already said, in most places in the world it's accepted for women to wear what would traditionally be seen as men's clothes (the girls were not at all fazed by the uniforms and, in fact, were busy clashing handbags with the lads), but not the other way around, and it does seem silly that something so commonplace as a pinafore or an a-line skirt can be so alien to essentially half of the global population.

    Oh, and I am a HUGE fan of the culottes!

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  51. I’m going to answer your question with my own story. My 20 year old niece and her sorority sisters wear dresses that look like shirts, shorts that look like underwear, you get the picture. It is the uniform of their tribe. To me she looks desperate and sad, but she is quite militant about her clothes and what she calls “slut shaming”. Whenever anyone mentions anything about the way she dresses she takes to twitter and tumblr (which she doesn’t seem to realize her family can see) and reposts things other people have written about judging someone for the way they look.
    The first thing you notice when you are meeting someone is their appearance. It is, whether they accept it or not, the way they are choosing to have the outside world (outside of family and friends who know and love them) define them.
    You are certainly wiser than my niece. You know that people can and should wear anything they want, anything that makes them happy. But when they do where something extraordinary, they can't pretend to be surprised or upset when someone’s first reaction to it is surprise, curiosity or confusion.

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    1. okay, I meant wear not where

      Delete
    2. Yes, they can be upset. It's upsetting for people to make such a huge issue over clothes, to get so angry and threatened over people who look "different" from the standard.

      How your adult niece dresses isn't your business. (And for eff's sake, she is young and in college.) You can think whatever you like, but reacting overtly to her clothing is rude. What right do you or anyone else have to decide for someone else? To shame someone for not complying with your notions of propriety? None. Keep it to yourself.

      Delete
    3. Is there some reason you are taking this so personally? Maybe you could share it.

      Delete
    4. I agree. People can wear whatever they want without offending public decency (no, I don't want to see your butt crack) but they have to take responsibility for it. I've had a couple of arguments with young women on the web who seem to think that Feminism's aim was to "empower" them to wear whatever they want regardless of the context.

      If you profess to be interested in changing the world in a meaningful way (not just a college protest march) and dress in a manner that seems to contradict your principles or causes people to take you less seriously, of course people are going to comment.

      Not everyone is going to have an independent lifestyle in which they can dress completely to suit themselves. Many of the most influential jobs (the ones that could actually change the world) come with a dress code.

      The issue of appropriate dress for a particular context often collides with the adolescent American notion that we never have to compromise.

      Delete
    5. Are you saying the notion (that we "never have to compromise" as you put it) is adolescent, or the Americans that hold it tend to be teenagers?

      Delete
    6. I think that's exactly what the previous poster is saying, that the desire to dress as we please without commentary from others is childish. I disagree.

      I think it's disingenuous to bring the workplace into the discussion. Having to dress for professional purposes is not relevant to this discussion, as few would argue that we should be able to dress as we please at work.

      This is about when you're not at work, and, no, it is not okay to make uninvited comments on other people's clothing. It's rude. We should, as I said above, mind our own business. For the record, I am nearing 50, not 20.

      Delete
    7. Rude comments are virtually never appropriate. And I don't think anyone with any common sense would get angry or threatening about someone's clothing. But people will make their first judgment by what your appearance, which includes what you are wearing, whether they verbalize it or not.

      Delete
    8. [From Anonymous 10:06 a.m.]

      I meant that the idea that we never have to compromise is adolescent and that in America there seems to be a feeling of entitlement to a prolonged adolescence that can last well into middle age.

      Admittedly, it's not hard for this to happen: At almost every age we worship youth, the economy is lousy and young people can't find jobs and reach the traditional milestones of adulthood.

      I've had a few discussions with young people on the web who claim they want to change the society and the world and they've gotten angry when I've pointed out that if you are a member of a disempowered group, lack money, influence, entree, etc., you don't get to make the rules. If you want anything like mainstream success you have to figure out how to interact with your environment, which includes how you are perceived, which may be completely unfairly. How you dress bears on how you are perceived.

      I'm told I'm reinforcing these attitudes. I respond that there's a difference between reinforcement and recognition and that many people who supposedly were dogged individuals did play the game to some extent.

      It's a disservice to tell people who are in no position to negotiate that they have the run of the world. Nor is reaching this understanding the same thing as capitulating or completely assimilating.


      ---

      [To Anonymous 12:26 PM]

      I don't understand your tone. There is nothing "disingenuous" about my discussing work attire. The topic has not been so narrowed. Hardly anyone would complain about how people dress on their own time. The issue is what kind of dress is appropriate for large, more formal public spaces. The young people on the web I've mentioned think they're entitled to wear anything to work without comment. One woman said that if she wanted to wear a skirt falling just below her crouch to her technical job that was her business. I said it wasn't appropriate.

      Delete
    9. Should have been "doggedly individualistic."

      But really, this idea of the lone, uncompromising iconoclast who stands before the crowd and triumphs is usually not based in reality. It's a nice story, but some people literally believe these myths.

      Delete
    10. I should add that with 24/7 social media, selfies, etc. the line between people's personal and work lives has become blurred. If you are on the online radar, you're always on display. Some people would not be able to support radically different identities, even in dress.

      Delete
  52. We are born as a particular sex and have no idea of masculine and feminine until we are "genderised" if there is such a word. We can begin to change all these ideologies by giving children the choices early on on what they would like to wear (style and colour) and toys to play with. Without criticism maybe we could produce new generations who accept a person for who they are and not what they appear to be. A long way ahead perhaps but maybe one day a post on whether a man wearing culottes is masculine or not wont exist. I hope so.

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  53. I think what we are looking at is a society in transition. For example, in my generation, mixed races, homosexuality, etc., were not acceptable for discussion or being seen in public some 40-50 years ago. Same with long hair on men, or wild, curly hair on women. Now, long hair is okay on men, although not currently very stylish. Today, we see openly gay / lesbian couples holding hands and kissing, in public and on television and in the movies. Interracial marriages, and children, are more acceptable, and more acceptable in some areas than in others. As a child, while not "visibly" black, I learned I was "part black" and was sternly admonished, "Don't tell anyone, because they won't like you." Nowadays, I do mention it, but I also still feel nervous talking about it, because it is a deep and hidden secret - but stern warnings also meant safety as a child, a means of survival in a hostile territory. So, times do change, are changing, and it is how society is no matter what the change - worldwide and locally. So, who cares if you are macho femme, or femme macho? The thing is, in the right place, it is okay; in other places, you may be in danger. Personally, I admire those who stand out - who push the envelope (peacefully) - because, in reality, I am a coward who prefers to fly below the radar, the nail already hammered down! (And I am posting this anonymously for those same reasons!)

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    1. I admire people who stand out (especially if I agree with their choices), but some people are more effective for NOT standing out and I respect that as well,or even more, because it may take more control.

      I agree, context matters, and only the individual can judge (or guess) whether it is safe. I love it when people who never had to worry about being different toss their heads and act as if certain concerns were never a big deal.

      Delete
  54. Hi Peter! I am a bit disappointed to read that people were so worried about "gender appropriate" clothing in your culottes post (I loved the post and did not look at the comments from my rss feed reader).
    I don't have the time or patience to wade through the comments on either of these posts, sorry.
    I really just wanted to say thank you for writing both of these posts, I love your blog and all the thinking that we are all doing because of it.
    Cheers!

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  55. What interesting, thought provoking posts. We are stuck in a culture that is very rigid. The individuals who react to off-gender dressing are afraid. It is fear that makes people act that way.

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  56. Wow. Seems you have touched a nerve here. We Americans are so uptight about so many things; I'm constantly amazed at the energy that gets spent fussing over things--like fashion--that ultimately don't really matter. If you like the culottes, wear them. Perhaps not the ones made of toile, but if they're your cup of tea, then, "do what you know is right and keep your middle finger extended."

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  57. Last summer, my step son-in-law wore a kilt to his wedding. He looked amazing!

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  58. I grew up in a city with a large and mixed immigrant population where it wasn't unusual for men to have manicures, good haircuts, expensive jewellery and wear wonderful cologne, beautiful clothes and thin socks that looked like ladies knee his in the summer with their Italian loafers instead of regular socks. Not all the men, but a large number of very macho men. No one thought anything of it or thought about the gender lines being blurred.

    We also have a large number of muslim men who wear traditional dress and other religious denominations (various monks and Jain, for example) who wear their traditional dress and a fair number of Sheiks whose beard nets seem to fascinate some people.

    Is the problem that people are surprised by something they don't expect, or are people really that rigid?

    I thought kilt skirts were old hat for the music crowd by now - starting with Ginger Baker in full kilt down to grunge types.

    Perhaps we should have taken Rudi Gernrich's advise and all wear caftans (which he predicted would be standard dress by the year 2000.)

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  59. When I cruised over to Burda, look what was on their page:
    http://www.burdastyle.com/blog/boys-club-11-menswear-inspired-patterns?utm_source=burdastyle&utm_medium=hp&utm_campaign=bsawblog030614-hpseecollection

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    Replies
    1. Can you imagine seeing the male-to-female equivalent? I can't!

      Thanks for the link!

      Delete
  60. "What if you're wearing it, not to evoke its ancient masculine roots, but because you like the fabric, the swirl, or just think it's pretty? Can you be fully self-identified as male and be OK with looking feminine?"

    As a straight crossdresser, that about sums it up for me: I don't want to be a lady, but I enjoy feeling pretty. I've been dressing openly for almost three years and have encountered no problems with my colleagues, nor with anybody else. I even got married in a dress...though I made sure that I didn't look prettier than my wife!

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  61. Hmm . . . interesting timing with this topic. Actor Omar Epps just wore a skirt on The View this morning.

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  62. The whole dress-appropraiately-for-your-gender thing is so confusing. Maybe we should all just wear long tunics and pants, which are prevalent in many cultures in various forms for both men and women, loose jackets, Asian style conical hats and be done with all the controversy. I think I just designed the new world garb.

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  63. Wow. Lots of comments on this one. I admit to not having read all of them in detail but I wonder did anyone comment on the biblical commandment that mem are not to wear women's clothing and vice versa? No, I can't quote chapter or verse, but I believe it's why orthodox Jewish women won't wear trousers.
    Oh, and Peter, in the first episode of Star Trek The Next Generation one male crew member (only) was shown wearing a dress for his uniform

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    1. See http://biblehub.com/deuteronomy/22-5.htm for various translations.

      For example:
      New International Version
      A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

      Would be interesting to see a good commentary explaining the background to this.

      Delete
    2. Interesting. If I ever heard that, I'd forgotten it.
      I would have loved to see a man wearing the equivalent of a woman's caftan/burnoose explain that rule.

      Delete
  64. Peter,
    Men wear skirts in the South Pacific-or at least in Fiji. The men I knew back in the '90's wore them so well that it took me a few days to realize that they weren't wearing pants. The attitude and confidence meant more than garb.

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  65. Someone somewhere above spoke about the French and the way some men and women crossdress sometimes/ I am french, woman. As a teen I was wearing boy's clothes, for a while, first like the idea of a tomboy (think jogging, sneakers, chinos, everyday) then a nicer and more elegant idea of a boy (think vest, smart shirt, bow tie or tie-yes- and flannel trousers-yes bis). But always with long hair (even had a mulet..no comment). I played football (I mean soccer in the US) with boys (was very good as goal, so been told), used to fight a lot (and broke several teeth) (and still know how to defend myself). I cut my hair very short when I was 20 only but then started to wear skirts and dresses when at university. I'd say as long as men wear something that suit them, is stylish and confortable for them, wear it. I'd rather see a man wearing a skirt (well not a pencil skirt...) than an ugly short sport pant in an ugly fabric or worse, baggy shorts erkk! I leaved for a while in Northern Scotland and my then fiance wore a kilt quite often and had long red haur (lucky him!). And I can tell you he was very stylish and he felt himself and good. Wearing trousers for men is a recent occurance in History. True a suit can be stylish too and I would like to have one that fit me one day. Ah yes, I am under 5 feet! I do think that the "issue" lays more with the fit and fabric of your skirt that the fact that you want one. A culotte (jupe-culotte in french, I knkow, I wore some a lot during the late 70's and early 80's) is much better with a thick fabric like heavy cotton, wool or even velvet. Because it can be very tricky to wear anyway.

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  66. So many comments. I did not read them all, so maybe i'm just repeating someones opinion. I believe that this just repeats history of women starting to wear pants, just the other way around - men getting the freedom of wardrobe. Women did not change their style in one day, it probably took a generation for entire society, all age groups to fully accept a trouser wearing woman. So it would take about the same time to accept a skirt wearing man. :)

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  67. Why, as a culture, are we all so concerned about males presenting as masculine? (and about people's gender presentation aligning with their biology generally?) Because it isn't just clothes--a male that dresses masculine but has certain mannerisms, habits, interests, etc., takes a *lot* of flack. The reverse is somewhat true for women, but less so these days, which is probably the result of rebellion going clear back before the suffragettes. So, I say, let the rebellion continue--may they wear culottes in happiness and health. And safety.

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  68. Of course, it is strange that women can get away with dressing in almost anything they like, and men can't. There are many possible ways to explain this, covering every degree of the 'gender war' spectrum. From 'indulgence to the weak' (= because women are weaker than men, they are allowed more leeway in how they present themselves) to the (near) complete victory of feminism (= women are strong and they can fulfill any role in society and dress any way they want. The role of men is in decline anyway so they'd better stick to what's expected from them). Of course, all the extreme explanations are bound to be wrong for the phenomenon as a whole.

    Historically, there have been more times in which menswear was inventive, ever changing and used intensively for personal display than womenswear. And this was for all men, including those in the most 'macho' roles, like warriors. This only changes for society as a whole over the course of the 19th century. Ironically, personal display for men seems to become inappropriate at the same time that notions like equality of all people and human rights and the freedom of thought are developing into generally accepted concepts.

    All in all, I think everyone should be free to dress the one likes but we all know it attracts attention, and always in a nice way, to break with the accepted trend.

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  69. I don't have the time to read all of the comments right now, but I think it comes down to a simple distinction: Women dressing as men are "dressing up" - they present themselves as something that's more worth than they are, if you so will. And this is accepted.

    A man dressing feminine is a downgrade, and therefore a much bigger problem I think. They are making themselves more vulnerable by appearing as the less vauled female and therefore are treated less like men, and more like women. We all know what this means in the society we live in …

    I think everyone should wear whatever they want. Be it pink frilly dresses or pantsuits. This should have nothing to do with one's sex or gender.

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    1. I don't think that's quite the whole issue here. Namely, the "dressing up" part. That could have been true when women started wearing trousers; but now this part is more blurred. Trousers are accepted for both genders, and I don't think most women wearing trousers are thinking they're dressing up as men these days (in the Western society).

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  70. Sociological Images is a blog that discusses gender roles.

    "The paradox: masculinity is strength, power, and dominance… but femininity is terrifying. Gender rules insist that men must avoid association with the feminine at all costs because, if they do not, they are weak. They are pussies, bitches, women, girls. Femininity is weakness and yet, oddly, it has the power to strip men of their manliness. It is as if, as sociologist Gwen Sharp once put it, 'masculinity is so fragile that apparently even the slightest brush with the feminine destroys it.'"

    The post features a Summer's Eve commercial in which a man is appalled to learn he is using a cleanser that is designed for women. As the writer notes:

    "Let’s be clear. The reason he’s afraid of femininity is because it’s reviled. It makes you a woman, which makes you worthless. Which is fine for the ladies, but dudes are advised to avoid personal denigration if at all possible."

    http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2014/03/08/femininity-feared-and-reviled/

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  71. Actually, I think this business of "blurring the genders" has less to do with "people becoming evolved" as it does with hormonal derangement due to the tremendous numbers of chemicals we are exposed to daily..did you know some of the worst offenders are perfumes, fabric softeners, and the fire retardants that synthetics (polyester, especially) are DRENCHED with? People have NO idea just how gender identity is affected by imbalances in our endocrine systems and of course CHILDREN suffer the worst; it's hardly surprising that children with distorted "gender identity" are popping up in DROVES. I have NEVER seen "endocrine imbalance" or "exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals" considered as a possibility at any time, in any of these cases.

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  72. There have been plenty of well thought out comments above that I don't think I can really add anything profound to, so I'll simply say this: Good for you for expressing your gender in a way that feels comfortable to you. This faceless internet stranger thinks it's great.

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  73. I admit I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole issue myself. I just want to add one bit that rather disturbed me recently: I followed one of those links on one of those fun internet sites that one's Facebook friends link to. It was a series of images of Disney heroines (there are always series of images of Disney heroines / princesses in there somewhere) dressed as their male counterparts. So far, so good, light fun. Then, the post itself said they were dressed in "gender neutral" outfits. And I stopped and thought, "Wait, wasn't the whole point of this exercise that they're NOT gender neutral?"
    I bet they would not have said that were they Disney heroes in their female counterparts' clothes, and that's a pretty neat illustration of how one-way this whole situation is.
    (Also, Mulan in Shan's clothes was particularly funny in this context, seeing as she spends a large chunk of the film in an outfit that's pretty similar to his, just simpler...)

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  74. Personally, I don't care what anyone wears. Seriously, what does it matter if a man wears a skirt or a woman wears a suit? Let's live and let live. What I find much more disturbing is the self-righteousness and lack of kindness of some of the comments, on either "side" of the matter. To me, this is the more important issue.
    Marianne

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  75. Thank you for brining up this topic and all the discussion! And Thank you for the video of Timothy John!!! WOW! I loved hearing him talk and will look into his books. I agree with him all the way! It is amazing how people try to make you feel bad if you wear beautiful cloths. I am always shocked at the hateful, passive aggressive comments I will get if I wear beautiful clothing! I believe it is SO important for us to wear what makes us feel good, be happy, and have fun in! People really are what we wear and mostly what I see is a lot of repressed people - until I started getting on sewing blogs and thankfully you all are challenging those oppressive ideals.

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  76. Girls and women have faced so much prejudice and tyranny regarding clothing it is hard to be objective. In second grade I saw the principal chew out a little girl for not wearing skirts to school. I was seething. I was chewed out in 5th grade for wearing pants on a snowy half day of school. Do you know how cold dresses are when it is snowy in Kansas? Why men would want to take on the symbol of female oppression, I cannot understand. When drag queens do it, they exaggerate femininity. Is that a complement or criticism?? Or are they making light of our history of wearing dresses?? It is hard to tell.

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  77. I can remember not being allowed to wear pants to school and as the woman above said, it's cold in winter in a skirt! I don't wear skirts or dresses very often, but when I do I feel different. Not, bad or good, just different. I imagine that you feel different as well. You actually looked fierce in your avantgarde attire. Clothing can do that and we should all be free to wear what we like.
    Of course, this really isn't the case, is it? It calls for a lot of bravery to be true to oneself if that includes dressing differently than the norm.

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  78. Timothy John's bracelets in photo #1 are in Burda this month...so it has to be good!

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  79. You left out the comfort factor. At least for women's bodies, skirts (and for that matter sundresses) are fantastic for summer. You say much cooler without fabric between your thighs for sure. My bf is about the same size as me and when we are camping, etc. he'll offer me his cargo shorts, j. crew stuff, tshirts. Everything you guys wear (or at least him) is so HOT and thick and ugh. You all deserve some lighter weight clothing esp. for summer. I think skirts for guys are long overdue just for the comfort factor. With sandals (not biker boots). I admit I'll be all 'what is THAT' when I first see it (being honest) but we'll all get over it in a couple summers. So much more practical.

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  80. While it is true that women who dress masculine face some criticism, it is much much worse for men who want to dress feminine. When was the last time a women was beat up for looking like a man? (And, for the record, I'm female and have been mistaken for a man and called lesbian for dressing not girly enough).

    The thing though is, women did go through a much tougher phase when they first started donning trousers. So you see, society takes time adapting to these changes. I believe that as long as brave, courageous males such as Timothy John and you, Peter, keep pushing the fashion envelope, it will become more accepted. Personally, I can't wait.

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