Gender Migration

ANNA SHAFF

December 04, 1992|By ANNA SHAFF

San Francisco. -- The season's imperatives have once more been handed down. Ladies, now that Men'swear is back, as you're knotting that tie, struggling with that fly, buckling that belt and hoisting those shoulder pads -- ask yourselves why.

Would it perhaps have been more kindly of couturiers to leave male appendages (and the sartorial elaborations thereof) where

nature originally placed them? What possible use could we, the already overburdened lifestyle-jugglers of the '90's, have for an extra gender-crossing accessory in the morning?

Take that limp swath of fabric, overhung by a knot. Not only do we lack the time to add the most benign knot to our morning repertoires, not only do we not need a pendulous appurtenance perched precariously above the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in progress, but of what possible utility could such an encumbrance be? We've long ago disposed of the Victorian mores which bade us view buttons and buttonholes as agents of temptation. Well then, this graft, this flap, this layer eliminating any hint of what lies beneath, is a blatant case of form without function, even for the male.

Isn't it rather ironic that an anachronism which designers should be crusading to remove from the male wardrobe, is instead being foisted on the female? A tie for females indeed! Why, it's almost as useless as a . . . fly.

Below our dysfunctional ties, below our bebuckled and bestudded waists, Men'swear regales us with the fly.

For the fairer sex, the function of the fly remains a mystery. For those born after 1960, after the blue jean institutionalized the frontal zipper, let me affirm that the zipper did indeed exist in lateral and rear versions.

Yet, such early zippers never dreamed that one day they'd be called upon to migrate to the frontal region of the female form and to bring attention to a part of the anatomy that . . . did not exist.

Today, the fly is so pervasive that we no longer remember to ask which is more flattering to the female form, a smooth expanse of fabric conforming to the contours of the belly, or the disruptive stitching, the extra layers of fabric, the discomfort, the visual disharmony inherent in the frontal zipper.

Well, ladies, between this morning's second and third attempts at aligning those grossly unwieldly shoulder pads, stop. Stop and reflect. Ties, flies, buckles and pads. Didn't we rebel against padding 30 years ago, preferring the natural look to the padded bra? And now, still spurning padding, we've meekly resigned ourselves to being puffed in a more northerly region. Oh, those uphumped shoulders we've been staggering under lately! Such When was the last time we saw a man attempting to acquire power by reference to the female anatomy? Padding his breasts, slimming his waist, baring his legs?

homage to the unnatural. Yet we convince ourselves that such crude male mimicry, is fair game in the service of equality.

What equality? In this case, what's good for the goose isn't for the gander. This fashion puffery, this posturing we've been doing for two decades now, only serves to broadcast the obvious: We do not yet perceive ourselves as equal, since we are still willing to adopt the symbols of power from outside our gender.

When was the last time we saw a man attempting to acquire power by reference to the female anatomy? Padding his breasts, slimming his waist, baring his legs? (No, not on Donahue, but in the board-room.)

We've come a long way baby, but we'll have truly arrived when we no longer need to resort to gender-mimicry to announce our presence.

Anna Shaff is a free-lance writer.

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