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What will it take for more men to wear skirts?

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24.04.2019

For 100 years, women have embraced fashion that was once only considered appropriate for men, like suits, military jackets, blue jeans, and brogues. Why hasn’t it become the norm for men to take on traditionally feminine clothing? Will it ever be socially acceptable for more men to wear skirts and dresses?

These are some of the questions that Michelle Finamore asked as she curated the Gender Bending Fashion exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition is a psychedelic experience. The space is moody and dark, with green, yellow, and red neon lights illuminating faceless mannequins, crafted by the MFA’s in-house designer Chelsea Garunay. Finamore chose to take an ahistorical approach to fashion: Outfits from different moments over the past century sit beside each other, with ’90s men’s kilts next to a women’s bicycling ensemble from 1900. Interspersed among everyday looks are clothes by designers that have played around with gender norms, including Christian Siriano, Yves Saint Laurent, Rick Owens, Rei Kawakubo for Commes Les Garcons, and Alessandro Michele for Gucci.

This allows the viewer to see the outfits out of their context–and better identify patterns. And it quickly becomes clear that there are recurring motifs. The dark suit, with its boxy shoulders and sharp angles, comes to represent masculine dress. Meanwhile, colorful patterns and flowing robes embody the feminine. But these two forms of dress are slowly colliding in our current moment. The future of fashion appears to be neither masculine, nor feminine, but an intriguing hybrid of the two.

The dark business suit is a relatively recent phenomenon. Finamore, who studies clothing in the 20th and 21st century, believes that our culture has transformed the suit into a symbol of patriarchal power. Before the 19th century, European aristocratic men tended to wear colorful, frilly outfits, along with wigs that gave the appearance of long hair. But then, in the early 1800s, wealthy men began wearing well-cut tailored suits in somber colors, like black, gray, and blue. This is still true today, particularly in male-dominated industries like finance, consulting, and law. The shift occurred during the period after the industrial revolution, when middle-class women were increasingly relegated to the home, while men were out in public spaces working. “There was this idea that colors and patterns were frivolous, and something that women cared about,” Finamore points out. “So these things came........

© Fast Company