I'm a femme through and through. To me, this has usually meant that I'd like you to give me all of the dresses, all of the pink, all of the lipstick and as much lingerie as my drawers can handle. There are tons of other ways of dressing and identifying as femme that don't involve lace, glitter, and pastels, of course — just like there are a myriad of ways to dress along the masculine spectrum. But as for me, I always find myself wanting to put on coats of red lipstick with everything, wear underthings that are a little OTT, and wear dresses that require pantyhose. Lately, though, I've found myself drawn to silhouettes that are more slouchy than flowy, and cuts that are still tailored, but with more of a minimalist aesthetic. Lines like Hackwith Design House and Tony Chestnut have inspired me to explore a different interpretation of what dressing feminine can look like. In my search for new pieces to mix in with my basic femme staples (like my pleated and tulle skirts), I've been crushing on a lot of amazing unisex clothing. Mixing items that would fall along the traditionally femme and traditionally masculine spectrums is not a new style trick. Fashionable babes and gender-fluid/nonconforming folks have been doing it forever! But with a greater availability of unisex lines, it's simply become easier to source specific items, and unisex clothing has taken a modern turn. The best part about using unisex pieces as outfit cornerstones is their versatility — a characteristic that allows you to play with styles, not to mention with the way you express yourself, without having to own two different wardrobes. So here are five essential unisex pieces and two different ways to style each of them:
1. QUILTED VEST
A quilted vest has been on my to-buy list for a while now, and this reversible one from Muttonhead is a total dream. Versatile and warm, it's the perfect casual topper — or a great extra layer in chillier months.
For a femme-of-centre styling, throw it on over a boxy-cut sheath dress and pleather leggings. Add a slouchy knit hat, a long pendant necklace, and some sleek ankle boots to nail a cozy but chic look. To style this piece more masculine, sport it on top of a button-down with slouchy dark denim, lace-up boots, and a big 'ol watch.
Reversible Travel Vest, $98, Mutton Head
2. CREWNECK SWEATSHIRT
One of the best things to come out of 2014's normcore trend was the ease with which one can find a super cozy, well-fitted crewneck sweatshirt. It's a casual staple that you can dress up or down with ease.This basic gets feminine with a midi skirt, a delicate pendant necklace, and a good pair of boots. To make it winter-ready, add a structured wool or knit coat.To style this look a bit more on the masculine side, pair with jeggings or the skinniest jeans you have and a boxy denim vest. Add a snapback and slip-ons for a more causal look, or a button-down shirt peeking over the collar and some lace-up boots to make it a bit more styled.
Basic Crewneck Sweatshirt, $88, Steven Alan
3. BUTTON-DOWN SHIRT
A button-down is about as classic as it gets. With a unisex style, there's definitely a baggier fit — meaning that you can't just throw it under a sweater and go.
For a more feminine look, pair the top with an elastic-waist skirt that leans toward the fitted side (a print or some sparkles are a plus). Make sure to style the top a bit blouse-y and rumpled looking for an, "I woke up like this," vibe. Keep your accessories minimal with some unique studs, or go big with a statement necklace. In the summer you can pair with bare legs and some slip-on sneakers, but in the winter you can never go wrong with ankle boots.Leaning masculine? A pair of fitted joggers and a sharp sneaker or oxfords (depending on your destination/occasion) will keep this classic staple looking fresh. For an extra-casual look, keep the top unbuttoned and add a basic t-shirt underneath.
Unisex Cloudy Oxford, $78, American Apparel
4. OVERSIZED OUTERWEAR
This coat is the perfect mix of sporty and fashionable, making this designer activewear super on-trend and also super adaptable.
For a femme outfit, put the coat over tapered jeans and a textured bodysuit (or a fitted top). Bold thick-framed sunglasses, like Karen Walker's signature shades, and a wedged bootie will polish off the look.
For a more masculine interpretation, either choose some printed pants/leggings and an oversized sweatshirt with sneakers, or pair the coat with joggers and half-tucked baggy tee and combat boots.
Harmon Parka, $490, Oak NYC
5. DRESS/TUNIC TOP
This organic cotton dress from Kowtow is the perfect unisex piece that sort of skirts the line between tunic and dress, making it easy to style at any point on the femme/masc spectrum.Get a classic, feminine-casual look by styling this with a cropped moto jacket, leggings, and some Chuck Taylors. Alternatively, layer a cropped textured long-sleeve knit over top with leggings and knee-high boots for a cozier take.Go more masculine by putting the dress over leggings or straight-leg jeans and a fitted long-sleeve tee. Finish the look off with an oversized scarf.
Exposure Dress, $150, Personnel of New York
Images: Courtesy Brands