As we wander into an increasingly confusing future, fashion wanders in parallel down runways to show us what our reality can and will be. As Miranda Priestly says, “You think this has nothing to do with you…It’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry.”
That wise observation by a fictional character points to why we may scoff at runway showings as silly fun when they really are observing a way of thinking, dressing, and being that will trickle down into the everyday very soon. In the recent showings of Paris and Milan Fall 2017 women’s fashion week, something very curious was going on: women were walking the runway as men.
This isn’t a new phenomena. Womenswear inspired by menswear is a very old construct that reflects a lent sportiness to women. Yet, as gendered clothing is all but eliminated, a fluid discourse of openness, we’ve come to a place where womenswear isn’t simply inspired by menswear but where women are men.
This came from a many places, seen in subtle and unsubtle ways. Rihanna’s Fenty saw women looking like lax sport bros whose tearaway pants turned into dresses and whose soccer shorts became culottes. Both Rick Owens and Comme des Garçons went rightly avant garde and amorphous for women but had an intriguing button to their formless looks: sneakers, Nikes specifically for the latter. Acne offered delicate Spring indigo patterning with some dandy looks that suggested the utilitarian working man. Gareth Pugh offered a death cabaret, much of the collection a take on the Emcee character.
Then there were the direct references, where the fashionable man in the mirror was a specific masculine entity. Kenzo nodded hardest with a curious collection of strapped-in women who made way for their take on Notorious BIG inspired looks. From chunky sweaters to brightly colored fur coats, the collection was very much an ode to the high-masc Coogi club days.
Both Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton saw their women’s man very clearly as gal-guys of a specific mindset. Balenciaga’s gal-guy was a backwards cummerbund wearing bro’ette whose tapered tuxedo pants and industrial shirts looked like service staff from a distant planet. Vuitton’s effort was most surprising because their guy-gal was a streetwear focused dude with sharp-edged patterns that teetered along nouveau butch akin to the chain and sword emojis. You could see their sweaters doubling as any Fade To Mind artist’s album artwork.
Where Balenciaga and Vuitton turned directly male, Saint Laurent and A.P.C. brought this thought, trend, etc. full circle: back to women. They both saw masculinity as something entirely female by offering butch lesbian style. From sagged waists to sweater-leather-jacket combinations, these women looked like they’d body check you and buy you a beer. The butch-femmeness was so exaggerated that the models almost looked like little boys trailing their toxically male fathers hoping for approval.
That was what is striking about Fall 2017 for womenswear: it is a sharp turn from being “menswear inspired” to turning women into men. This isn’t a cute, twee attempt at androgyny or formlessness in sex but instead stealing manhood for women in ways that feel so new and different and now. By appropriating the culture of male fashion, we can also appropriate the culture of patriarchy, reshaping it into something else: matriarchy. The revolution starts on the runway, friends.