The combination of a tuxedo jacket, cigarette pants, red lips, and stilettos redefines sexy. This sexy, with its juxtaposition of masculine and feminine elements, is fierce, jarring, and bold. A tight tuxedo jack emphasizes a woman’s waist and sinuousness, yet the structured form and broad shoulders connote a masculine physic. The tailored pants are evocative of a conservative corporate setting, yet the four-inch stilettos beg for neon lights and drowning music. Why are these seeming irreconcilable pieces when paired together so irresistible?
This feminine, masculine ensemble, think Le Smoking 1970, is so powerful and provocative because of its ability to defy and deconstruct. The contradicting masculine and feminine aspects break the stereotypes of femininity as weak and masculinity as asexual. A Le Smoking outfit makes the feminine fierce and the masculine sexy. After all, a distributing boundaries is more powerful than conforming to them.
Blending masculinity with femininity while simultaneously pitting the two next two one another is not the only way the stereotype of femininity as frivolousness can be challenged. Take for example, Vanessa Friedman’s article “For Michelle Obama, Girlie Clothes that Lean In.” Friedman points out how Obama called for a re-elevation of connotations surrounding the 1950’s housewife dress. In fact, by wearing a dress reminiscent of the Dior New Look that countless feminist derided for being oppressive to women at a time when women were just gaining equality, Obama brought this long held feminist belief of a full skirt dress as detrimental to the empowerment of women into question. Obama made the point that a woman does not have to mask herself in an asexual, dry male suit to be taken seriously or exude powerful. After all a dress is only seen as weak and subordinate, if we construe it as such. If a floral dress was worn by businessmen and male politicians for centuries, I am almost positive that we would see it as powerful. Clothes are given a meaning that we construct and attach to them.
Freedman writes, “How do you erase a stereotype? You confront it, and force others to confront their own preconceptions about it, and then you own it. And in doing so you denude it of its power.”
I am glad we have finally reached a burgeoning phase of femininity that sees a feminine dress as powerful and not frivolous. Femininity should be connoted as powerful and given the praise it has long deserved.