Why The Dawn Of Gender Fluidity Doesn't Mean That Femininity Is Over

​Fashion has made a new case for the lady - and she's fierce


Boundaries are over. As are binaries. And gender. And labels. Right? And womenswear and menswear as we know it is a thing of the past. Or is it? In the midst of all the gender fluidity that has owned the fashion conversation, from Balenciaga's men in satin slips to Gucci's decision to stop separating its shows by gender, there was a different strain percolating on the AW16 runways that is certain to carry right over into the next season and beyond: unquestionable femininity.


Whether it was the butterflies on a baby soft pink Alexander McQueen duvet coat, the cinched waist and white bows on a violet taffeta bombshell dress at Miu Miu or the lace and flounce on an Alberta Ferretti gown, there's a very real argument for unapologetic prettiness happening in the middle of fashion's shift towards gender swapping and blurring.  But this isn't girliness of the frail or demure kind, but rather of the 'hear me roar, I slay' variety. The woman at Comme des Garçons, dressed in a huge jacket of pink ruffles, looked like she could offer you a plate of macaroons one minute and then rip your head off the next, while Valentino's ballerina girl, dressed in a black diamante-embellished tutu and matching rollneck looked far from your typical ingénue in need of rescue.


'I like a strong, daring woman who has no fear of showing who she is, her force,' said Donatella Versace to the fashion trade bible Women's Wear Daily, while explaining why she'll never ride the gender-blending bandwagon. The idea of the pretty-girl-gone-tough is not just limited to fashion but TV and music, too; this was the year Sansa Stark, Game of Thrones' princess in perpetual distress, fed her rapist ex-husband to a pack of starved wolves, and Piper Chapman, Orange Is The New Black's resident victim, became the prison boss. Beyoncé was also refreshingly enraged in the film portion of her visual album Lemonade, smashing car windows while dressed in flowing Roberto Cavalli chiffon and erasing the memory of her reacting to that now-infamous elevator fight between sister and husband with a frozen pageant smile. And then there's pop star Ariana Grande, who Jezebel.com criticised for behaving like a baby by allegedly allowing her bodyguards to carry her like an infant. Her publicist laughed off these reports and she's rebranded herself a Dangerous Woman, swinging ponytail and all.

When the pendulum swings too far in one direction, the opposite mood gains traction. It's how fashion works. You could argue this is how the season of the hoodie, puffer coat and tailored suit also became the season of pink, lace and ruffles. But that would be too simple; streetwear androgyny and hyper-femininity have a lot in common, specifically the spirit
of being a tough, thick-skinned kickass.

This attitude is the key to wearing the season's multitude of feminine wares – that, and an arsenal of rough-edged accessories that temper the sweetness of the clothes. For an example, look to Prada, where Creative Director Miuccia's brocade dresses might have looked sugary without the buckled boots and thick leather belts she paired them with for autumn. Similarly, Chloé's romantic peasant dresses developed bite when worn with biker boots. 

The tension between the lovely and tough can also coexist in one garment: the off-kilter proportions of Molly Goddard's doll dresses, for example, or the strips of lace splicing leather dresses at Christopher Kane. The idea is on the high street too, where both Topshop and J.Crew mixed pink lace and florals with leopard. Put simply, pretty has never looked stronger. 

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