Is this a shirt or a blouse? Hmmm. It is cotton and crisp, with a shape dictated by its own seams and creases, rather than by the body wearing it, and it has blue stripes, all of which say: shirt. On the other hand, its primary distinguishing feature is a large bow, which is most definitely blouse-territory, and said bow throws the centre of gravity of the piece off-centre, which again says blouse, rather than shirt. (Masculine clothing tends to be more symmetrical than women’s. A shirt is embellished with a straight-down-the-middle necktie, in contrast to the floppier collars and brooch potential of a feminine blouse.)
Dunno. What do you think? Really? OK, so it’s a bit of both. So this is the point, normally, where we dream up a name for this new shirt-blouse hybrid. Um, the blirt? The shouse? Needs work. And anyway, not the point. In 2016, when we have men modelling skirts in Louis Vuitton womenswear ad campaigns, making a big deal about traditional sartorial boy-girl divides seems a little passé. Much more modern to shrug and say they’re just clothes, right?
Clothes that don’t slot neatly into feminine or masculine categories look at their most contemporary when you don’t make a big deal out of their nonconformity. That Helmut Newton tuxedo-jacket-with-red-lipstick, masculine-meets-feminine thing is a classic aesthetic, but it looks a bit costumey now.
A bow is a traditionally girly flourish. It is a soft, yielding way to fasten your clothes. (Compare with buckles, and cufflinks.) So it is a sign of fashion’s current spirit – not so much androgynous, as relaxed about the rules – that bows are cropping up on unusual places. The bow here is at the hip bone, but there are lots of pieces around with bows on the rear view – you’ll spot them in the shops soon. A bow is a gift-wrap, a flourish, a people-pleasing touch, so wear it in a place that makes you seem indifferent – the back of a white shirt, the rear hem of a loose-fitting rib sweater – and the effect is surprising. In a good way.