Colleen Carlisle: I Spy Style


Personal Style: Menswear

The Latest Fashion Trend

“You know, pretending to be a man does have its disadvantages” - Victor Victoria, 1982

There is a theory that the role of women in our society can be reflected in fashion. As women take on a more prominent place in the cultural zeitgeist, for some reason we start behaving - and dressing - more like men.

In the Roaring 20s it was shorter hair and straight-lined dresses to cover our curves, in the 70s it was Annie Hall vests and ties, the 80s had extreme Power Suits and Grace Jones  and now, in Fall 2011, we are seeing a rebirth of the menswear trend in women’s fashion.

The trend is so strong, in fact, there are signs of it carrying ahead for Spring 2012 and forward. The interesting thing about this incarnation is how we are combining elements of really masculine items - like stiff oxfords, sharp jackets and stiff shirts - with luxurious and incredible feminine elements - like floaty florals, sequins and fur.

The key to this modern menswear trend is contrast. It’s about pairing pieces in your wardrobe that are almost extreme opposites. Dressing in men's clothes is one thing, but expertly folding a piece or two into an outfit is quite another. The power then lies in not just wearing “men’s clothes”; it’s having the freedom to wear what you like!

One of my style idols and fashion director of Flare magazine, Liz Cabral, effortlessly pairs a silvery sequin dress with a classic Roots melton wool leather-sleeved varsity jacket.

Jenna Lyons, the creative director for J Crew, is an expert in contrast and can often be seen with a wrinkly chambray shirt paired with an impressive sparkly statement necklace.

Elegant celebrities Jessica Alba and Olivia Palermo both look fabulous in men's-style suits, but pairing them with luxurious skins like python and leopard remind us they are most certainly women.

Key fabrics this season include: tweed (even more awesome with metallic thread mixed in), corduroy, velvet, gabardine and felts. Key pieces include: cropped skinnies in denim and suiting fabrics, brogues, blazers, men's shirts and suit vests.
Some tips on pairings: look to mix a pencil skirt with a men's shirt and oxfords, skinny pants and a boy blazer with pointy heels. Makeup is minimal and natural but a bright lip can be a welcome shock.

In terms of accessories, large men's watches in bold gold tones or ceramic as well as statement necklaces in a shorter length peeking out from behind a shirt collar.

Sure, menswear requires a certain confidence to pull off, but this is a reflection of our freedom rather than a political statement on equality. It shouldn’t be stressful getting dressed; it should be a relief to be able to Express Yourself.

Celebrate your freedom to choose! Some women aren’t so lucky.