The Allure of Men in Dresses
Who can resist a man in a dress?
I'm not talking about drag queens or transvestites, just cute guys subverting rules and daring us to object. There's a certain swagger to a man in a dress, especially in the case of Atlanta rapper Young Thug.
Young Thug already had a penchant for vintage thrift shop dresses when he saw a piece that rocked his world, by Italian designer Alessandro Trincone, and chose it for the cover of his latest album, “Jeffery.”
Thug had already stated his disregard for gender. Years ago, David Bowie reflected the same mindset by walking out in a floaty blouse to push his baby son in his pram. Girlish and manly at the same time, Bowie made it look easy.
Personally, I'm a bit of a tomboy, so I feel a little awkward wearing a dress. Maybe I'm stuck in a rut, but I feel most like me wearing jeans and lace-up shoes. My femininity speaks for itself, I figure. The more masculine my clothes are, in fact, the more feminine I feel.
Women have been wearing trousers ever since Katharine Hepburn led the way in the early 1930's. It doesn't feel fair that men can't adopt female style elements without causing a big fuss or putting their masculinity on the line.
When I see a man in a dress, I am inevitably delighted. Partly, I take a perverse pleasure in seeing a man in a confining garment. It's a little spiteful, yes, but that's how I role. And in any case, the real thrill is the naughtiness: the dress tells me that this guy doesn't give a fuck what you think. He's a rebel. He's his own man, however girly. Then, I want to imagine him taking off the dress. It reminds me of that line in "Allison" by Elvis Costello. You know the one. I want him to feel vulnerable but predatory, like I feel. Is that so much to ask?
A man wearing a dress has to own it, but the same can be said for anyone wearing anything, right? What I mean is, Kanye in a kilt is just a pose. Same with Jaden Smith. I can't take them seriously. They'll sear a skirt but not a dress. Mere child's play.
A hairy, bearded man can look beautiful in a dress. The delicacy of the dress can underscore his virile sexuality. A pretty feminine man in a dress is aesthetically pleasing, like a young girl at a communion ceremony. It makes me feel maternal. As soon as that passes, it makes me feel amorous. It's like the feeling I get when I see a young man with very long hair. I'll stroke his and he can stroke mine.
How long will it take before men can wear dresses without having to explain their feelings about gender and societal norms? Is misogyny so entrenched that anything connoting femaleness is threatening to men?
In America, the answer to that last question is clearly yes; any observer of our presidential election will have observed how deeply woman are feared and loathed.
The UK has always been more accepting of eccentricity and likewise androgyny.
Vivienne Westwood has just produced a unisex collection for fall, combining her Man men’s wear line and her Red Label women’s wear collection, noting:
We’re very keen on unisex. It sounds like a joke, but in fact it’s all about styling. Swapping clothes with your partner means you can spend less. For at least 100 years women have been wearing trousers but now like the Arabs, men are wearing dresses.
The unisex element will have to be pretty strong to stand up to the provocation of Thug's muse, Alessandro Trincone. But Viv knows what she's doing. In one show a few years ago, she had hunky men on her runway wearing leather shorts with fishnet tights. It was funny, sexy, and downright adorable.
Years ago, there was a guy I used to see at the supermarket who wore the most beautiful dresses and accessories, along with a full beard. He was such a striking figure, at least 6' 4" tall and often wearing enormous Chanel sunglasses. He totally fucking brought it, every single time! I finally gathered the nerve to talk to him one day, and told him how much I admired his style. His face lit up and he thanked me, woman to woman or man to tomboy or let's just say one bad-ass to a bad-ass in training.