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Moment 11: Women Embrace Menswear

WWD first reported on gender-bending trends in 1931 in Paris, which soon trickled to Hollywood, with Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich leading the pack.

Marlene Dietrich 1940

Marlene Dietrich, 1940

Photo By THOMAS/PEPPER FOTO/GETTY

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

Greta Garbo did it. Katharine Hepburn, too. Lauren Hutton and Betty Catroux still do. We’re talking gender-bending, borrowed-from-the-boys style. And while Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking revamped and revolutionized the look in the late Sixties, the now-classic motif experienced its first major moment in the limelight decades prior. On September 16, 1931, WWD’s Paris correspondent B.J. Perkins reported on the vogue for mannish dressing. “Most of the smart women who are returning to Paris from the Riviera…are boasting that their clothes come from men’s tailors,” he wrote. “They want men’s polo shirts...flannel shorts...men’s neckwear to use as belts. [Parisian tailors] say what the wives have bought has offset what the husbands have not.” Stateside, that mannish motif began rearing its head in Hollywood, with Garbo and Marlene Dietrich publicly leading the pack. “While Women’s Wear Daily has been reporting the acceptance of trousers in cinema circles,” noted WWD on February 1, 1933, “and while the consumer press has been discussing the controversial subject ‘Will women wear trousers?’ at least two progressive manufacturers…alert to the ever-shifting whims of fashion, have been quietly at work designing tailored cloths to meet this demand. Especially noteworthy is the fact that [Zuckerman & Kraus] has dared to make tuxedos for evening.” —Venessa Lau