LOS ANGELES — In the old days, psychologists may have thought there was something a bit odd about women wearing men's clothing. But now, it is the height of fashion.
The menswear look has not exactly taken over this spring, but it is showing up in combination with ultra-feminine looks. Some analysts say the mix-up shows how the sexes are blurring the lines of distinction, which could herald an era of greater understanding and communication.
Traditionalists aren't quite so sure. In unsuccessful pairings, the woman's take on menswear can come across like a mixed bag of laundry.
Gender-bender outfits are a cornerstone of Ralph Lauren's collection. He matched tailored blazers with striped ties and soft, flowing striped skirts to the ankle. His spring women's suits, with their suspenders and pleated trousers, could as easily hang in the men's department.
Donna Karan paired a menswear, pin-striped suit with an open-to-the-waist, striped dress shirt with a lacy bra. The bra is there, evidently, so you know which gender is which under all those layers.
Even California's swimwear designer Anne Cole puts pin stripes up a one-piece bathing suit. So that everyone got the picture, it was worn at a fashion show with a pin-striped blazer.
Giorgio Armani may be the man responsible for all the gender blending. His history of elegant tailoring transforms what could be a mannish suit into a sophisticated uniform. This season, his suits come without a blouse, but with a long, feminine scarf.
The menswear mix likely will continue throughout the spring and summer, say market analysts. The look will combine clunky deck shoes with frilly, vintage dresses, or put a boxy "boyfriend" blazer over a lace skirt.
As for bras with business suits? It is doubtful that most businesses will find that suitable.