“Learn a playful dandyism and you will become the magnet for people’s dark, unrealised yearnings,” advises Robert Greene in his book The Art of Seduction. The ‘dandyism’ Greene is referring to isn’t prescriptive to a style of dress but rather to an underlying ambiguity. It’s about mixing masculine and feminine attributes. In other words, it’s about androgyny.

The history books are littered with examples of androgynes who captivated society with their pleasant gender-bending confusion. But while the concept is not a new one, they were historically figures who rebelled against society’s norms. They were the Beau Brummels, the David Bowies, the Coco Chanels and Marlene Dietrichs. Now, with the boundaries of what’s acceptable being more and more blurred, the time has become right for the outliers to become the mainstream. Androgyny is now an evolving, large-scale fashion trend and one we’ve continued to observe as we move into the fashion trends for spring 2014.

Click the thumbnails for full pictures
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13
Boy meets girl for S/S '13

The rise of the modern androgyne

Let us return, for a minute, to the sage Robert Greene:

“In a society where the roles everyone plays are obvious, the refusal to conform to any standard will excite interest. Be both masculine and feminine, impudent and charming, subtle and outrageous. Let other people worry about being socially acceptable; those types are a dime a dozen, and you are after a power greater than they can imagine.”

Greene was correct of course. Part of the interest generated by androgyny is the stirring of a desire that we don’t quite understand. It’s the incongruity, the question mark, that intrigues.

Society’s definition of what’s ‘acceptable’ has also changed, though. A woman wearing a pantsuit, for example, is now commonplace and hardly though of as boundary-pushing. So in turn, for androgyny to be noticed, the game had to be upped considerably. Hence came the new wave of androgynous models.

From one decade to the next, the ’90s feminine waif evolved to become almost genderless. Physiologically she was already boyish of figure; in the 2000′s she evolved to have edgy tattoos and piercings, attitude, and a sexual confidence that aligned neatly with the burgeoning nudity in fashion trend. Now the fashion industry was embracing models like Freja Beha Erichsen: they were often openly gay or bisexual, alluring to both sexes, physically either muscular or androgynously slight.

Freja Beha Erichsen nude androgyny
Freja Beha Erichsen in issue 13 of Purple Magazine

And the wave went both ways. It’s impossible to mention androgyny in the modelling world without drawing reference to Andrej Pejic. 2011 was Pejic’s year internationally. A male model with femininely delicate features, he went from modelling menswear to, in 2011, being cast in womenswear shows, starring in womenswear campaigns, and even having a topless magazine cover censored by Barnes & Noble. Did it matter that Pejic’s bare chest was a male one? No – not when his gender was so ambiguous.

andrej pejic androgynous model
Androgynous model Andrej Pejic in Viva! Moda S/S ’11

These were the new boundary-pushers. And girl-boy / boy-girl models started to be signed by agencies worldwide in search of the next Freja, the next Andrej.

Androgynous dressing in 2014

If you’re looking for inspiration on masculine dressing for women in spring 2014, you might want to check out our guide on the current incarnation: boyish, slouchy and cool, it’s a trend you can read about at the link below.

oversized, boyish, cool: how to go masculine for spring

Oversized, boyish, cool: how to go masculine for spring

Embrace sneakers, slouchy pants, masculine tailored blazers and oversized shirts, because menswear for women has gotten even more effortlessly cool. It's all about volume, layering, and an underlying attitude when it comes to wearing the masculine trend this spring.

Androgyny in 2013

But like most societal changes this pushing of androgynous boundaries came in a forceful burst and then slowed down. Viewers and consumers became used to (on the whole – naturally such movements, especially where sexuality is concerned, have vocal critics) the sight of physically ambiguous figures. Having reached some degree of acceptance, the trend has evolved again. For now, it’s subsided. As such 2013 has moved well away from a focus on physical and sexual ambiguity and has refocused on fashion. The spring 2013 runways subtly played with notions of how the consumer can adopt elements of dandyism or androgyny and make them their own.

Sexualised masculinity

While 2011 and 2012 revelled in bringing effortless, tomboyish styles to the runway and the street – think oversized blazers paired with full skirts, masculine sporty accents or boyish accessories – the most prominent use of gender blurring in spring 2013 was masculine tailoring. A number of influential designers mixed masculine suiting with soft details and high heeled shoes. Think Le Smoking: in such a way this key take on the trend is a move away from gender neutrality and a step in the direction of sexualised masculinity for women.

sexualised masculinity fashion
Masculine-feminine sex appeal at Paco Rabanne & Francesco Scognamiglio, S/S ’13

Effortless tomboy dressing

Just because sexed-up suits rose to new prominence on the spring 2013 runways, doesn’t mean effortless and tomboyish dressing has gone out the door. Au contraire, it’s simply become such a part of our wardrobes we hardly notice it trending anymore. What spring does entail are new ways to wear boyish looks in feminised ways. Dries Van Noten was a prime example, transforming grungy plaid shirts and men’s pyjama cuts into something highly luxurious and androgynously cool.

effortless tomboy dressing
Effortless tomboy dressing on the runway at Vanessa Bruno and Dries Van Noten, S/S ’13

Boyish sporty luxe

Boyishly sporty hasn’t gone off the radar either, and who else to be the flag-bearer of the trend than Alexander Wang? Wang’s mix of tough, sexy details like cut-aways and use of leather, crossed with boyish oversized cuts and tailored shorts, is the epitome of spring’s ultra-luxurious take on sporty tomboy dressing (replacing the slouchy jerseys and track pants of yore).

sporty boyish fashion

Which leads to a conclusion that, when it comes to working a little menswear into a women’s look in 2013, the options are near endless. The key thing to remember is that it’s not about an all-out single gender look: mixing up both masculine and feminine elements is 2013′s way to master the art of seduction.

For more ideas of masculine-meets-feminine dressing for spring 2013, visit the gallery above by clicking on the thumbnails.

Androgyny beyond clothing
tomboy hair trend

Hair trend: tomboy hair

Androgyny and gender-blurring when it comes to fashion isn’t limited to our clothing. Last year saw a trend towards boyish hairstyles for girls hitting the runway. These tomboy hairstyles are ones that carry easily into spring 2013, so follow the link to view them all along with tutorials on how to create them.

The trend as it was in 2012

A bit about the trend as it was last year:

For fall 2012 the overriding aesthetic was femininity with a masculine edge. For some designers the look was sharp and tailored, or rebelliously luxurious, both looks that play out with a very deliberate, powerful nod to androgyny. Others gave off the distinct feeling of having been thrown together from pieces borrowed, quite literally, from the male wardrobe.

Of the latter Jen Kao’s fall 2012 androgyne was the poster girl. Her coquettish nature saw her borrowing coats, winklepickers and schoolboy caps from her male conquests and incorporating them into her insouciant outfits. Burberry Prorsum, with its focus on voluminous shapes, tailoring, and boyish accessories like newspaper boy caps, gave off a similar vibe.

boyish fashion
Borrowing from the boys: Burberry Prorsum & Jen Kao F/W ’12

Meanwhile across Gucci, Emilio Pucci and Victor & Rolf a range of smoking jackets and tuxedo pieces put lavish dandyism back on the table for fall. At Miu Miu the masculine motif was whimsical and retro-inspired (in fact, 1970s fashion is a starting point for many a masculine look); at Isable Marant the male details were cowboy-Western, Max Mara’s girl could have been a sailor on shore leave. In fact the themes and aesthetics spanned far and wide across the fall 2012 runways: much like the dandyism described by Robert Greene above, the defining trend here is the existence of masculine details on feminine clothes, regardless of how they’re executed.

Female dandy
Masculine ’70s whimsy at Miu Miu; plush dandy dressing at Gucci F/W ’12

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