By Lotte Jeffs
I won't pretend I didn't love wearing this
Dolce & Gabbana three-piece suit. The cool crispness and stiff collar of the white shirt,
the weight of the mother-of-pearl cufflinks, the
sharp snap of braces and the tight tug of the black Lanvin tie around my neck; I've never been more sartorially sated.
My normal look isn't particularly 'feminine'. I don't want to look like a real boy (although there are times when I've enjoyed the subversive thrill of 'passing'), I'm just not a girly girl. Lesbians everywhere rejoiced when androgyny became an actual trend, not just a way of
identifying with a (yawn) 'community'. There was a time when wearing brogues was the equivalent of sporting a green carnation in your lapel. But since the Noughties, when tuxedos for girls hit the catwalks in a big way, the look has become ubiquitous and hot straight girls often look a bit gay; which is pleasing and confusing in equal measure.
Like most trends, what you see on the catwalk is an exaggerated version of what ends up on the high street. It's one thing for models such as Arizona Muse, Freja Beha Erichsen and Andrej Pejic to gender-bend on the pages of Vogue but, as Lady Gaga found out when she unleashed her male alter ego Joe Calderone at the Video Music Awards in LA last month, in a non-high-fashion context, dressing as an actual boy is still considered as madcap as a dress made of meat.
So, although I was quite thrilled to take androgyny to a greater extreme than my usual nod to the trend for a photo shoot, having to wear the suit out over the weekend was another matter. I was heading to Cornwall for a friend's wedding. I'd normally wear a dress to such an event and feel not entirely myself, tottering around in kitten heels because it seems the conventional thing to do, and no one wants to look Gaga on someone else's special day (just ask Britney Spears, who was thoroughly baffled by the lusty Mr Calderone at the VMAs).
This time, however, I side-parted my hair
and slathered on the gel. I buttoned up the
waistcoat and pulled on the grey pinstripe jacket, smoothing down the irresistibly soft velvet lapels. I felt stronger and sexier than I would in my usual wedding garb. My girlfriend Jen, fabulous and feminine in strapless white satin, turned to me and laughed. 'Oh God,' she said, 'we look like the bride and groom.'
I was surprised more people didn't comment on my outfit. 'You do look quite fantastically intimidating,' was Jen's explanation. I rather relished taking my place with the men during the barn dance. Dosey Doe-ing in Dolce & Gabbana was an ultimate fashion moment.
Interestingly, my girlfriend and I were more openly affectionate than we would have been had we both been in dresses. Perhaps we made more sense visually, as a couple in oppositely gendered clothes.
With H&M, Zara and Topshop all well stocked with boyish girls' clothes this season and designers including Chanel, Jason Wu and McQueen buoying the androgyny trend, A/W 2011 seems the perfect opportunity for me to get my butch on - all in the name of fashion, of course. And when it is eventually my turn to get married, I now know exactly what I'll be wearing.
By Richard Godwin
Whatever was running through John Galliano's disturbed mind as he appliquéd the final appendages on to his own-label A/W 2011 menswear collection, it probably didn't involve wandering down the Uxbridge Road to buy a tin of chickpeas. I am wearing a year's rent's worth of clothes
as I walk into the Al Abbas convenience store. I look like a Mongol prince who has just returned from conquering the Jovian moon of Callisto. Not only am I wearing enough fur to reupholster a mammoth, but my look has been dreamed up by a designer who recently got up in a Paris bar and told everyone what a great guy Hitler was. Aside from looking like a colossal feathery prick, I run a serious risk of having my face smashed in.
I am a discreet dresser normally. I loathe anything remotely bling. There's a certain amusement in being so incongruous, I suppose. It is fun sorting out the recycling in Ottoman pants, or catching the No 283 bus wearing a flump. But that is not to say I am feeling remotely dignified, tasteful or comfortable.
Then again, who says fashion has to be any of these things? For his graduate show, Galliano sent a model down the catwalk with a tree in her hair and a dead mackerel in her hand. Before he was sacked as creative director of Christian Dior for his outburst, his shows featured lascivious schoolgirls and nuns in bondage gear. Remember the scene in Zoolander in which Ben Stiller has to dress as a tramp to model the Derelicte collection? That was inspired by Galliano's S/S 2000 'homeless' range for Dior.
Last week Galliano was found guilty of making anti-Semitic insults - it would have been incriminating if his menswear collection had featured Nazi uniforms embroidered with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. As it is, he went for something oddly Russian. He was inspired by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and Rudolph Nureyev, or, as his press material deftly puts it: 'Tarts and Tartars'. The result is something like Tolstoy's noble warrior Hadji Murat turning up at Bungalow 8.
The hat is a Russian-style shapka in auburn fox fur, adorned with a bird-of-paradise feather, gypsy trinkets and no fewer than six foxtails. I shudder to think of the vulpine slaughter that made this headpiece possible. Or perhaps Galliano simply found this creature gambolling about the glades of his dreams, trapped it and presented it to the waking world? I'm sure it purred when I placed it upon my head. The overcoat was presumably hunted in the same realm. This mutant offspring of an ostrich and a zebra is shaggy, feathery and warm enough for a Siberian winter, or London in September. It has thick black and white horizontal stripes - the only discernible nod to any other 'trend' I can see. Underneath this, I wear a dark red jacket that looks as though Michael Jackson's leather biker from Thriller has mated with your grandmother's floral cardigan, and is festooned with carbuncular gewgaws, diamanté studs and bronze nipples.
My white shirt is almost normal, deftly cut, though the lithe silvery collar caresses my neck creepily. The crotch on my trousers is almost as low as the hems - either Galliano was giving a shout out to Humpty Dumpty, or he was saluting the Druze of Syria, who believe that when the saviour returns to Earth, he will be born of a man, so wear baggy trousers to catch the baby should it pop out at an inopportune moment. My shoes are like something a desert clown might wear and, inexplicably, boast two sets of laces.
When I present myself to a panel of my nearest and dearest, the responses are as follows: 'Hideous'; 'Disgusting'; 'Ridiculous'; 'Take it off now unless you want a divorce'; and 'OHMYGODIWANTITIWANTIT!' The last comes from Glynn, the host of a gay club night who dresses almost solely in vintage Lycra, so his enthusiasm should probably be taken in context. Still, he does manage to explain the appeal. High street trends are about fitting in. Fashion is about standing out, it's far closer to the childish act of dressing up than most people realise. 'That's why Galliano's so amazing, his designs are more like costumes than outfits,' Glynn says. 'There's no point in dressing this stuff down. You have to go for it fully. When people point and laugh at me, I don't get embarrassed: I take it as a compliment.'
Out and about in Shepherd's Bush, people do point and laugh and there is nothing to do but cackle back, like a big gay hyena. In fact, I begin to be mildly put out when people do not react. Never mind. By the year 2017, everyone will dress like this.
By Rebecca Newman, GQ's erotic affairs editor
Standing on the central reservation of the Strand, I feel like I'm in an Impulse advertisement. Pedestrians, bus drivers, one eager Vespa in particular, are all veering off route to rubberneck. They aren't checking me out, but my remarkable footwear.
It's a balmy evening and I am in Alexander McQueen boots with ten-inch stiletto heels, laced up to my crotch. Accessorised with a rubber corset belt and accentuated scarlet lips, I'm somewhere between Japanese doll and Madame Whiplash. I feel powerful. I feel poised: the belt makes it impossible to slouch. The look is extreme, but a welcome contrast to summer's floaty neons. 'This season fashion is more sophisticated, tailored and sexy,' says Kate Evans of Precious boutique in Spitalfields. 'Fetish is an extension of this. Grown-up girls having fun.'
Marc Jacobs championed the trend, sending
Kate Moss down the Louis Vuitton runway in hotpants and lace-up boots, followed by models in military caps, handcuff bangles and lace. At Thierry Mugler, Nicola Formichetti put Lady Gaga in Latex; Givenchy, Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen all embraced the look.
With tiny steps I make it to Somerset House, trailing cat calls. 'I thought you'd look dreadful,' says my friend Cata when I make it to the bar. 'It's actually quite cool, though it reminds me of Nancy Augusta Wake - that spy who killed men with her high heels.' I ask the next-door table what they think. 'It's like Marmite,' suggests Nicky, who works at Deloitte and is wearing sensible trousers. 'You love it or you hate it. I hate it.' 'I love it,' her male colleagues chime in together.
Certainly, fetish wear is not neutral. Nor something you can just throw on: my belt had to be fastened by someone else, and buffed with a mixture of water-based lube and rubber polish to give it an oil-slick sheen. 'Every woman should experience shiny latex. It empowers you,' says latex designer Atsuko Kudo, whose fans include Naomi Campbell, and who made the latex for the Mugler show. It's true. For the first half of the evening, I feel like a Helmut Newton Amazon. But as I flag, the outfit becomes hard work. There's a thin line between looking commanding and looking available. Let the attitude drop and you risk losing the 'don't' in 'don't f*** with me'.
I make it to a taxi. 'That's one helluva pair of
boots,' smiles the cabbie. 'You look like a woman who likes to be in control.' ES
Original article published in Evening Standard, in September, 2011