He’s a Woman, She’s a Man


When the woman first wore a pair of trousers, in the 1960s somewhat commonly, one could almost hear gainsayers crow with disdain: "What's next, men in skirts?"

When the woman first wore a pair of trousers, in the 1960s somewhat commonly, one could almost hear gainsayers crow with disdain: "What's next, men in skirts?" Er, yes. Or so it seems. Women's clothes are getting a more masculine and tailored look, while men's silhouettes are becoming softer and more fluid.

Gender-neutral dressing, or even cross-dressing, is sensationally au courant. Both European fashion and its Indian correspondent are experimenting with androgynous styles in dressing. As society's boundaries are being redefined, so have masculine-feminine aesthetics.

At the men's fashion week in Paris two months ago, several designers sent their male models out in various forms of the skirt. Ricardo Tisci for Givenchy had vagina-shaped flowers on his skirts. Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons had calf-length skirts. Yohji Yamamoto showed baggy culottes like those of Samurai warriors.

In India, designer Arjun Saluja opened his fashion show at the recent Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in Delhi with a model in a hooded black sari — one only had to imagine the motorcycle the woman wearing this just rode. His next outfit was on a beautiful male model: a men's shirt worn with a long pleated skirt. Especially exciting were his "bartender" pants for men: slim trousers with a knee-length skirt draped over them, as if one were a server in a restaurant.

Wendell Rodricks, a pioneer of softer silhouettes for men, continued to dress his men in lungis and lungi-inspired skirts, teamed with kurtas or bandhgalas. Power shoulders showed up in women's clothes ubiquitously. Every cocktail dress that Rajesh Pratap Singh sent out had padded shoulders. Designer duo Alpana Neeraj's origami-style silhouettes came with exaggerated shoulders and racer-back elastic details. Kanika Saluja Chaudhary's label Anaikka had women dressed in punk-rock metallics. "The world has been moving towards unisex clothing since the '60s," says Rodricks. "There's nothing more androgynous than jeans and a T-shirt. My clothes have been fluid between men and women from the beginning. We make shirts for men and do them in a different fabric for women," he says.

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