We fell in love with Harlem’s vulnerable drag queens in Paris Is Burning. And we fell in love with that feisty ’50s chick named Rizzo, with her chopped hair, rolled sleeves and mouth too red-crayon pretty for the trash talk that came out of it.
For decades now, we’ve seen that clothing can accentuate, exploit or disguise, but no matter what, the basis for fashionable commentary has always been male and female stereotyping.
But now, by using strong stylistic examples from the past, we have entered a time when trends can be based entirely on an aesthetic of androgyny. By abandoning assigned gender roles — even ones that allow people to be ambiguous, backward or brazen — a keen sense of expression can become a model of ideal asexuality.
This new sexually charged style is dramatic. But most importantly, it is an archetype of attractiveness; one that is ultimately closer to the truth of beauty.
Subtle makeup touches which highlight one erotic part of a man’s face — such as full lips — are no longer seen as showy or overtly glamorous. Rather, it’s one more way to accentuate human beauty. And as seen here, it’s a narrative of cinematic nostalgia, with faces painted to look expressive, but never drastic or theatrical. Color, line and shading are simply used to enhance an individual’s features and present a poetic story.
On a man or a woman, a soft blouse (as shown) may seem decidedly feminine. But sneaking out from underneath the rough, weathered sheen of a jacket sleeve, the blouse’s tailored cuff is historically romantic … and calls to mind clothing worn by men of the 18th century. The cuff is a subtle detail — decidedly “Louis XIV” — which proves that pretty is by no means synonymous with female beauty. In addition, a strategic absence of material can reveal the notoriously coveted curve and shadow of a breast or collarbone.
This new androgynous beauty is a timeless expression of eroticism. Better than any gender bend (or flex) of recent decades, it undoubtedly identifies the secret of true fashion sense: Women and men shouldn’t have to belong to any schools of beauty other than those of good taste and desire.Rebecca Mazzei is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org