Faux Pas: Ill Suited

“I dress for myself. Not for the image, not for the public, not for the fashion, not for men.” –Marlene Dietrich

One of the great style icons of the 20th Century, Marlene Dietrich loved to push the boundaries of gender and fashion.  She and her contemporary, Katherine Hepburn, made the look of menswear so iconic that designers continue to send Dietrich inspired creations down the runway seventy years later.  

But while this look can be sexy, if you have enough inner verve to pull it off, failing at this task will cause you to wind up looking like a hot mess.  And nobody wants that.

So what does it look like when someone tries and fails (epically) to cross the gender line and pull off the menswear look?


Well, it looks a little something like that.  A pair of shockingly heavy platform booties, poorly designed wide-leg pants, an ill-fitting white button-up and a hastily knotted skinny tie make this ensemble schlumpy instead of stylish.  And don’t even get me started on the canvas beach bag for a professional meeting, or with that outfit in general.  

If you want to pull off the menswear look–and be advised it’s not for everyone, yours truly could never pull it off–you need to do exactly the opposite of what Julia Allison is doing above.  Instead of ill-fitted, you’ll need perfectly tailored separates made out of quality fabrics.  You’ll also need glamorous makeup and a hairstyle that emphasizes your femininity.  Lastly, you need to ditch the canvas tote bag and find a pair of shoes that don’t look like they weigh thirty-five pounds.  Instead try a sleek clutch and a pair of high, open toed stilettos or a pair of 30s-inspired saddle shoes.  

If you like Marlene Dietrich’s style, but you’re not ready to jump the high fashion shark, I would suggest an outfit like this:

Grace Beret (YesStyle, $32)

Oasis Flower Petal Earrings (Asos, $17)

Milly Wool Boucle Jacket (MyTheresa, $702)

Thomas Mason Tuxedo Shirt (J.Crew, $150)

Lafayette 148 Chase Trousers (Nordstrom, $130)

Uselton Saddle Shoe (Aldo, $80




  1. dcm58 says:

    How do you pair the jacket with the shirt? buttoned or un-buttoned? collar in or out? shirt untucked or tucked?
    I love those jackets, but I can only pair them in my head with a simple crew neck shell — and then I feel too old-lady goes to church?
    deep sigh. I have such a hard time with fashion. This could be why I wear only neutrals and simple (boring) lines . . .

    January 29, 2010/Reply
  2. Capitol Hill Barbie says:

    I love your unabashed hatred of Julia Allison.

    January 29, 2010/Reply
  3. Friend says:

    Seconded. The random Julia critiques are little gifts for when I pop over here.

    January 29, 2010/Reply
  4. clh147 says:

    I was JUST wondering how to pull off some classy menswear. Obviously throwing on my male roommate’s clothes wouldn’t be the way to go, so thank you for giving the feminine, stylish alternative. I adore Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn, and I love the opportunity to reflect their style today.

    January 29, 2010/Reply
  5. Jill says:

    I would love some comments on these. Frye items are beautifully made, which is fueling my lust. Think they’d have to be paired with feminine, wide-legged trousers because they’re very masculine. Too masculine?

    January 29, 2010/Reply
  6. Ms. B says:

    The Lafayette 148’s are worth their weight in diamonds. A staple of
    any professional wardrobe. The fabric is comfy, the fit forgiving. I own them in every

    January 31, 2010/Reply
  7. Steph says:

    Those shoes. <3. Amazeballs.

    February 1, 2010/Reply