Andrew Bolton

Skirts à la Mode

In Walter van Beirendonck's autumn/Winter 1999-2000 'No References' collection, Gernreich's prediction was realized in a series of mini skirts worn with latex body stockings (below left). Like Gernreich, van Beirendonck, whose logo is 'Fuck the Past (Kiss the Future)', is a highly visionary designer who uses fashion (and particularly skirts) as a means of challenging traditional definitions of masculinity. Since the late 1980s, van Beirendonck has experimented with a variety of skirted garments. As well as minis, he has produced midis and maxis in plain and pleated styles. 'I have always found the skirt an intriguing garment', he explains. 'On a man, it is more than an item of clothing, it is a statement. I try to use the skirt in a "natural" way, not in a transgendered way. When it is properly balanced, a skirt is without gender. If only society was not
so conditioned, then a skirt would be an essential item of a man's wardrobe.'31 Van Beirendonck explored the non-gender specificity of the skirted garment in greater depth in his Spring/Summer 2000 'Gender?' collection, which included crocheted dresses worn over floral cotton trousers (below right). In an interview with Suzy Menkes, van Beirendonck said of the collection, 'Whether clothes are for men and women is all in the head - and none of these are 100 percent.' It is a view shared by the American design company As Four, whose skirted garments, like those of van Beirendonck, question accepted or received notions of gendered clothing.

left: Walter van Beirendonck, 'No References' collection, Autumn/Winter 1999-2000
Photograph courtesy of Maria Valentino/MCV Photo
right: Walter van Beirendonck, 'Gender?' collection, Spring/Summer 2000
Photograph by Etienne Tordoir
Courtesy of Walter van Beirendonck
  Divided skirts

Aestheticterrorists by Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Respect, Rethink, React' collection, Spring Summer 2003
Photograph by Donald Graham for Paper Magazine, 2003 Styled by Timothy Reukauffor
Courtesy of Donald Graham/Helen Roche
  Boys in dresses

Walter Van Beirendonck, 'Futureday'
collection, Spring/Summer 2004
Courtesy of Walter Van Beirendonck