The clothing women wear no longer defines their roles within society. Just 70 years ago, women were expected to cook and keep the house clean while wearing the pearls and heels to match. Ever-changing views in society have made this viewpoint a thing of the past for most people in the fashion industry.
An androgynous style has been introduced, and, ever since, fashion has mixed masculine and feminine in everyday clothing. In recent decades, stars such as David Bowie and Boy George have helped popularize the look, and it has only risen in popularity since.
Women are constantly seen wearing clothing — such as oversized shirts, combat boots and masculine prints — that would have once confused them for boys. But even with the rise of women donning menswear, there are still old-fashioned souls that prefer the style of the ’50s.
James Lee, a freshman, is one of the men who find women in dresses and heels appealing.
“I’ve seen a lot of girls wearing army coats, men’s boots and stuff like that. I love girls, so whatever they want to wear is fine, but if I could choose, I would prefer girls to wear more feminine clothing,” Lee said. “Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always had crushes on the old-time movie actresses. I just love when girls dress in their nicest clothes. It makes me want to look as nice for them. I just really like the girly-girls.”
More women, however, are wearing clothing that simply makes them feel comfortable. Pica Nagano, a senior majoring in piano performance, embraces a more masculine wardrobe in her everyday style.
“I’ve always been a tomboy growing up, and I never had curves so I didn’t really feel feminine,” Nagano said. “I love femininity, but I don’t consider my personal style to be ‘girly,’ so I like to incorporate masculine or unisex elements in my clothing. It also might be because I like clean and minimal clothes in terms of silhouettes and color.”
Dressing more masculine isn’t always about making a statement. Body type plays a major role in what women wear despite personal style tastes.
“My body is still really skinny like a lanky teenage boy, so I don’t feel like I fit into the kind of girly style like Zooey Deschanel,” Nagano said.
For many, fashion is about attracting admirers. Robert Greene, the author of the international bestseller “The Art of Seduction,” explained in his book how the androgynous trend makes a statement in society and, in turn, gets the best of both worlds.
“In a society where the roles everyone plays are obvious, the refusal to conform to any standard will excite interest,” Greene wrote. “Be both masculine and feminine, impudent and charming, subtle and outrageous. Let other people worry about being socially acceptable; those types are a dime a dozen, and you are after a power greater than they can imagine.”
The fashion world is embracing the merging of genders, but in Utah, fashion isn’t quite there yet. Dawna Baugh, a BYU professor in the school of family life, loves seeing men dressed up in their best clothing.
“With all the cultural changes in society, all of a sudden we start to see men have an interest in fashion,” Baugh said. “We slowly started to see nowadays women work outside the home; they pursue careers; they move; they travel; they do everything, and so they can wear whatever they want.
“And men are starting to be more into fashion and wear fun things,” Baugh added. “Women started doing things, so it was OK for women to dress a little more masculine, but it took a long time for men to be OK to look a little on the feminine side. We’re seeing a lot more men looking what we would consider feminine, but it’s just fashion.”
Men are now being given greater opportunities to show their interest in fashion.
“With designers like Alexander McQueen we’re seeing some designers that are really into menswear now more,” Baugh said. “So it’s kind of fun for guys. There are some men out there that will still say, ‘Oh, I’ll look like a girl,’ instead of saying, ‘That’s ugly, I don’t like it.’ Still they’re dressing anti-feminine instead of pro-whatever they like.”
The Utah Valley area does not, however, portray the typical trends of the world’s fashion capitals. Baugh commented on the conservatism in Utah playing its role in the fashions men wear. Men have to take into consideration the image they portray, and many men in Utah Valley have the same viewpoint as men of the past. For most, they still think bold outfits and colors should be kept for the women.
“It used to be that men didn’t dress masculine, but even more importantly, they dressed to not look feminine,” Baugh said.