are men in dresses nyfw's most radical trend?
For autumn/winter 15 it looks like the thigh is man’s new favourite erogenous zone.
Hood By Air fall/winter 15
On the catwalk, a knit dress clings to the voluptuous curves of the body, flexing with each sauntering step. Flesh is revealed: a glimpse of the upper thigh - a whole leg perhaps - is undressed for full public view. It's the look of unadulterated sex that doesn't belong to a woman this time, but a man.
During New York Fashion Week some of city's most courageous designers have proposed knit dresses for men. Rather than making a statement about gender neutrality as men's dresses have before, these ones exploit the male figure for all it's worth. It's the male body objectified, celebrated as a thing of lust and desire. And it looked pretty compelling.
On Sunday at Hood by Air it came in black jersey with a slit all the way up to the hip bone. Fitted at top, flowing at the bottom, it had sense of occasion, though the black fabric against flesh only drew focus to the bare leg and the model's muscular thigh. It was erotic. Later in the day Telfar sent out jumpers worn as mini-dresses with matching leg warmers. Though more casual in feeling, the thigh was again gloriously revealed with potent sex appeal. Tuesday night at Gypsy Sport there were knitted dresses as well. Based on tennis jumpers, they had a more prudish air, but that only made them naughtier. Between the three it was a sure trend and it became clear: the thigh is a man's new erogenous zone.
Though the male body was proudly displayed in the classical age, in our contemporary culture it's often tucked away whilst women's bodies are exposed and exploited without a second thought. Feminism in fashion sees women adopting men's dress but it's almost never the other way around. Clemens, Uribe, and Hood By Air's Shayne Oliver have played with taking elements of women's dress and adapted them for men many times before. But in a season when gender play has become such a key theme, their offerings feel different. Rather than removing gender and sex from the equation they have amplified it. "A woman wants to see a man's thighs and the man just won't give it up," Oliver once remarked on his penchant for turning t-shirts and tunics into thigh-revealing mini dresses. Clemens, working with stylist Avena Gallagher on his collection, realised that the knit pieces looked better on a man whose musculature was on full display. That way, the look remains masculine, or butch, even if they are in a dress.
Despite the sexual overtones of the knit dresses there's a practical if not political application. "They're part of a larger and more abstract concept for brand, which is always about multi-functionality and unisex applications," Telfar Clemens explains, hinting at its utopian appeal. "Men and women should be able to borrow each other's clothes," Rio Uribe of Gyspy Sport says. "Knits seemed like a great way to do that." If feminism is in fact the belief that men and women are equal, then these dresses, along with being lust-inducing, are actually quite righteous.
It's not a fashion statement, but a genuine style proposal that I've begun pondering myself. Could I pull it off? I'd need to go the gym for one. And my legs would be cold. Clemens didn't mince his words when I asked him for advice on how to wear his dresses replying, "With as little underpinnings as possible." Why not go all the way? No sense in doing things without total conviction. But where shall I wear it to and where would they get their best use? "Everywhere," he replied.
Text Jeremy Lewis
Photography Mitchell Sams