Skirts as Menswear
From insisting on wearing them every day as a kid to refusing to wear them as a budding queer, skirts and I have a complicated relationship. These days, I wear a skirt or dress about once a month, either for a special occasion, on laundry day, or because it gives me an excuse to wear my knee-high Frye boots. Sometimes I feel great—I think the boots have a lot to do with it—but most of the time it’s just awkward; like I’m at a costume party and no one else bothered to dress up.
For some reason, this doesn’t stop me from continuing to buy skirts when I go thrifting. They’re just so gosh darn cute. But then I get home and put them on and realize, um, no. Usually these skirts are brightly colored and way too short. Case in point: neon pink skirt from H&M (via Crossroads) that I bought to bring on a queer writing retreat this summer, thinking to myself “I can totally wear a skirt around queers without compromising my not-so-femme queer identity.” I was about two feet out of my bedroom before I turned around and put my shorts back on. Second case in point: a tiered, shades of green, semi-stretchy mini-skirt that I think is supposed to make the wearer feel like a mermaid. WHY DO I BUY THESE THINGS? I think it’s because I DO like girlie things. I like to look at them and admire them and crush on them, and in the heat of the shopping moment, I forget that I don’t actually like them ON ME.
My best skirt, my favorite, most reliable skirt, is a brown tweed A-line skirt with two rows of buttons that I thrifted sometime in the distant past. I wear it with the aforementioned boots, dark-colored tights, and a plain t-shirt and cardigan. I feel as much myself in this outfit as I do in plaid pants and high tops. Better, even, because BOOTS! So I’d like to figure out how to wear skirts more often, while still hanging on to my sense of self.
Even since I saw the fabulous Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit this summer, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of skirts as menswear. One of the very first pieces in the exhibit is this simple but striking men’s skirt:
This got me thinking: as a tomboyish person who takes many of her fashion cues from traditional menswear, could examining the skirts-as-menswear phenomenon give me some ideas about what sorts of skirts to buy, and how to style them? Though he was certainly groundbreaking, Gaultier is hardly the only designer to feature skirts in his men’s lines. In the last couple years alone, they’ve shown up in Vivienne Westwood, Comme de Garcon, Givenchy and more. I LOVE this look from the Fall 2009 Rick Owens show:
and this, from Raf Simons Fall 2010, is pretty classy:
Gaultier has continued to do amazing work throughout the decades. But overall, I was surprised to find myself coming out of this research largely uninspired. I think it has a lot to do with the already huge disconnect between high fashion and what we regular human beings actually wear. Combine that with an attempt to draw conclusions about cross-cross-gender style, and circuitry overload is nearly inevitable. A lot of these pieces are fun to look at, but I’m not sure how they apply to me. Would I ever wear a shiny purple skirted suit?
from Vivienne Westwood, Fall 2010 (source: nymag.com)
Sad to say, but I probably would not. Plus, to be honest, this particular skirt feels like an afterthought. The jacket is tailored so beautifully, and then the skirt is just sort of… there, like the only reason it’s a skirt and not trousers is to make you go “Oooh, a men’s skirt. How transgressive.” Then again, that color palette is pretty great. Purple jacket, black-and-red button down, red and purple tie? There’s someone reading this who could totally rock that.
Believe it or not, one of my favorite men’s skirt looks came to me courtesy of Vin Diesel at the 2003 MTV Europe Music Awards. Did you ever think you’d be inspired by the fashion stylings of Vin Diesel? I sure didn’t, but check this out:
Apparently this landed him on plenty of worst-dressed lists, but I think he looks RAD. And I think I would look rad in that outfit, and if you’re someone who wants to rock a skirt while still looking tough in a masculine way, you would look rad in it, too. Obviously, leather skirts, and even their faux alternatives, aren’t cheap. But a simple black skirt paired with black boots and a black long-sleeve tee should be pretty easy to put together. Throw on a military-style jacket and you’ll be ready for anything: