Bilkish Vahed

Notes on Style & Daily Rebellion

Tag: androgyny

A Badge of Individuality


No one looks the same in a trench coat. Each person gets to stamp their own signature on the look, whilst borrowing its crisp, classic form. Originally a military uniform worn by army officers, designed with details to aid soldiers through the travails of wind, rain and the conditions of trench warfare, the trench coat found its way into the realms of high style, and persists today as a garment of elegance and functionality for both men and women.

“Embodying a certain cool, effortless, sexy feel with hints of masculinity…. A piece that will never date and a piece that will epitomise chic elegance no matter how you choose to wear it. Simply put, it is a classic to suit every woman.”

— Vogue (Australia)

Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy, Paris, 1982, photographed by Jacques Scandelar.

Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy, Paris, 1982, photographed by

“The Trench Coat was once a uniform, now it is a badge of Individuality.”

The drive to develop fabrics for the manufacture of outerwear that protected one against the elements, began in the 1800’s.  As early as 1823, Scotsman Charles Macintosh invented a “rubberized cotton” and made outer garments called “macks,” that were worn by the military and civilians.

In 1853, British clothier John Emary, developed a better fabric, still weatherproof but more breathable, and appropriately renamed his company Aquascutum: “aqua” meaning “water” and “scutum” meaning “shield” in Latin.

It was in 1879, that Thomas Burberry, English gentlemen’s outfitter, invented “gabardine,” a “weatherproofed twill” that began the design development of the iconic Burberry trench coat.

Kate Moss for Burberry, 1999

Kate Moss for Burberry, 1999

Kate Moss for Burberry , 2006

Tailored Self Possession


Chancing upon Dior’s Pre-Fall 2018 advertising photographs, I’m seduced by the elegance of clean-lines and refined silhouettes. Ensembles that scream: soignée. Luxurious fabrics and sleek tailoring that drape the body. An air of confidence and self-possession oozing from every frame.

Jennifer Lawrence photographed by Brigitte Lacombe for Dior Pre-Fall 2018

jennifer-lawrence-brigitte lacombe-dior-fall-2018

The words rolling around fashion magazines to describe this collection are – tailoring, menswear staples, gender fluidity, androgyny, identity.

All suggested by the fact that the muse for this collection was none other than French photographer Claude Cahun, whose self portraits were an on-going, layered de-construction and re-construction of self, gender and identity.

The intimate relationship between clothes and the self unravels.

A Rebellious Style


At one point eight three metres tall with lanky body, white-blond hair and gaunt features, Betty Catroux casts a striking figure. The fact that she has stuck to the same uniform for over fifty years – ‘le smoking’ black suit, black leather, and denim – and still manages to look chic is stylishly transgressive.

Loulou de la Falaise, Yves Saint Laurent, Betty Catroux by Guy Marineau, 1978

Born in 1945 in Rio, Brazil, her family moved to Paris when she was four. At sixteen Catroux went to work as a model for Chanel. In conversation with Sofia Tchkonia she explaines – “I didn’t like that catwalk thing you know. And we had to carry a number like the cows in the agriculture saloon. I hated it! I felt like a thing. A thing, not a person. So I stopped after two years. Then I did photos, just like that. I was not very fascinated but I wanted to earn money, to be independent and to go out all night, and then I was picked up by Saint Laurent in a nightclub and my life changed completely.”

Though she refused to model for Saint Laurent, she bacame one of his coterie of muses, travelling the world together, doing “crazy things,” not sleeping for days at a time. “He’s a genius,” she tells Tchkonia. “He understood his epoch so well, his times. He’s not a couture, he’s much more than that, he’s a great artist.” To the writer Marie-Dominique Lelièvre, Catroux said of Yves, the man, “Yves Saint Laurent didn’t have friends. He loved nobody. He was intimate with nobody.”

“In her way of being, of moving, of dressing, Betty invented modernity,”
Yves Saint Laurent

Catroux’s sartorial choices, built around classic easy to wear elegance, distinctly androgynous, wearable at any age, are interesting not because they must be compellingly copied. What’s interesting is her self-possession, how she has confidently and stylishly donned her chosen uniform over the decades, blissfully immune to the vagaries of changing fashion.

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