Designers and stylists have been playing with gender-bending fashions for decades, but if there’s one niche where role-swapping is seriously tricky, it’s lingerie.
By definition, lingerie is meant to showcase the female form and arouse a partner’s passion. Throw too much male-centric styling into the mix and you might find yourself awakening some hidden desires that are best left undisturbed (for now, at least).
Lingerie that borrows style cues from men’s fashion has to walk a fine line between the masculine and the feminine. It should be playful, intriguing enough to invite curious inspection, and yet sufficiently erotic so as not to turn your romantic evening into a night of macho breast-beating and self-analysis.
If you can avoid that pitfall, then get ready for some fun: after all, whether it’s in the boardroom or the bedroom, men love games.
Want to try something adventurous? This season, a number of intimates labels have come up with some clever takes on menswear-inspired lingerie that play with conventions — in both fashion and gender roles — in surprising ways. Here are some of our favorites.
The elegant Canadian label Blush Lingerie deserves some kind of award for its ‘Private Affair‘ style range that mimics the kind of pinstripe power suit you’d expect to see on a hedge fund trader. The Venice lace provides a flirty and very feminine contrast to the buttoned-down boardroom vibe created by the slate-gray cotton and mesh main panels.
This range, from Blush’s AW2011-12 collection, comes in a bustier, a brief, a convertible bra and high-waisted panty. These images were shot by the California retro retailer Dollhouse Bettie, which adds some vintage appeal to the collection.
The winter collection from the always-inventive Dutch brand pays tribute to historic female role models who inspired the designer. Among the collection is this George Sand set, named after the 19th Century French novelist and romantic rebel who wrote under a male pseudonym.
Dekkers’ homage offers a collection of pinstriped undergarments with faint lavender trim, all while retaining the cut and style signatures for which the brand is known. Learn more here.
The venerable Italian couture label experimented with some ambitious new style directions this year, as seen here in its provocative campaign photo (top) and the unique and unusual Smoking range (above).
The babydoll on the left is all business from the bustline up, thanks to its mens-suit-like collar and lapels, but all temptress below. And on the right is the daring Smoking bralette with tiny bow ties where one might expect cups on something called a “bralette”. Try this if you want to project a kind of cabaret cool.
Two Tuxedo Classics
Nothing makes a gender-bending fashion statement so quickly as tuxedo-inspired womenswear. And it works surprisingly well in lingerie, too.
The left image shows the Natalie range from Affinitas Intimates, which subtly evokes the penguin-suit look by combining sheer polka-dot lace with black piping. Available in an air-pad push-up bra, thong and boyshort.
On the right is further evidence of how a playful use of black and white can conjure up a tuxedo vision worthy of Marlene Dietrich. It’s from last winter’s collection from the cute French swim and lingerie label Bien Fee Pour Toi.
Frederick’s of Hollywood
No one has more fun playing around with menswear styling in conventional lingerie pieces than Frederick’s. That’s probably because Frederick’s understands this trend for what it is: costume play.
The iconic brand is targeting a more youthful, adventurous clientele these days, and one of its lures is a surprisingly large range of menswear-inspired pieces that use collars, lapels, vest fronts and other details to add a macho vibe.
The Satin Lapel corset with bow-tie detail (top right) looks prom-worthy, while the pinstriped Menswear Corset on the left will work in a club or while delivering a sales pitch.
But Frederick’s takes this trend beyond the expected clichés. That’s the Houndstooth corset (bottom right), which apes a menswear print staple, while the Exxtreme Cleavage mesh and satin ensemble on the left finds a new way to channel the tuxedo look. Frederick’s also offers its bestselling Dream corset in a sleek pinstripe, and also in a pinstriped halter.
Finally, the racy French label Maison Close — a leader in the less-is-more lingerie market — knows you don’t need to do much to start a little role-swapping game. Their Salon Bourbon silk bow tie makes an elegant and unmistakable statement all by itself …