The Met Gala and menswear

It feels like men’s fashion always takes second place in the fashion world.

(Audrey Schreck / Daily Trojan)

Happy summertime, readers! I hope you’re taking full advantage of the warm sunshine, wearing your SPF and enjoying some well-deserved downtime. I’ve grown to love this time of year, as I’ve noticed that “summer Hadyn” has become more of an obvious thing — she’s more relaxed, more tan, has more freckles and the best part: she gets to spend more time talking about fashion.

To me, the most appropriate kickoff to summer is the Met Gala. As fans excitedly wait outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art or online to see which celebrities wear what, the flurry of opinions and live reactions only add excitement as we develop our own “winners” and “flops” of the night. My favorite was Lana Del Rey’s archival Alexander McQueen look, followed by Bruna Marquezine’s structured Tory Burch dress and Taylor Russell’s custom Loewe tree-inspired look.

It is always sweet to hear about the designer’s intention behind the dresses. My favorite story was from Balenciaga’s recreation of the Callot Soeurs dress displayed in the Met exhibit for French actress Isabelle Huppert. Despite the confusion about why Balenciaga recreated another dress, the design is a nod to her great-great-grandmother, one of the founding sisters of Callot Soeurs in 1895. What a sweet and subtly literal nod to the theme, “Garden of Time.”

This year, though, I’ve had another incredible opportunity to kickstart my three months of pure fashion obsession: working on set as a stylist. The last time I worked in wardrobe on set was before starting college, so returning was a bit daunting. My dear friend asked me to help style a music video she was directing, and it sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up.

After months of sourcing, vision-boarding, meetings and final fittings, I realized that this was my first time styling men. Although the music video wanted me and my co-stylist, Sophie, to lean into more avante-garde looks, when the day of the shoot came, one model still hadn’t been fitted.

I tried to brainstorm the entire day, thinking of what to put him in and what wasn’t already used. He had brought this wonderful teal suit that I planned to work around, but all I knew was I wanted to pair it with a vintage brooch I thrifted in Minnesota of a flapper dancer’s face and a choker necklace with a green stone.

I was having a tough time, wanting the model to like the outfit and input his own opinions. And yet whenever I asked, “Do you like this? What do you think?” he would laugh and respond, “You’re the stylist! What do you think?”

Eventually, as I stared at the mannequin form, I returned to the very basics of fashion: drapings, lines, colors and shapes.

I took a black skirt I thrifted with a wavy, arch-shaped hem and silver beadings to layer over his pants. I paired the skirt with a soft lace button-up to peek out under his matching teal suit jacket, and I draped a long scarf over his torso in pleats, drawing inspiration from sarees and kilts.

I was incredibly proud of the outfit I made, and upon reflecting on my drive back home I realized I never really thought about men’s clothing. When asked for fashion advice from men, I would always preface it with, “I will admit, I don’t know that much about men’s fashion, but some popular brands are …”

I just find women’s fashion more beautiful to look at and admire. Maybe it is because there are so many more options for women or because there are so many sub-styles and attire types for women, but I know saying this without understanding men’s fashion means I have these opinions with great biases.

In actuality, though, recent studies have shown that men have been spending more than women, becoming the more dominant consumers. Not only are they spending more, but a 2021 study found that men spend more frequently and buy more nonessential goods.

A lot of consumers, myself included, used to believe that the culprit of the lack of popularity in men’s fashion lies in the industry falling victim to the shadow of the dominating womenswear. In actuality, it seems that men’s-wear tends to be more uniform, while womenswear marketing can easily be amped up with constant changes. With classic lines and shapes, menswear has sustained thousands of years of change, holding its own power in its ability to remain timeless.

On the other hand, women’s clothing is much freer in consumer-designer experimentation and curiosity to try a new silhouette, hemline or closure style. While silhouettes and necklines have remained uniform, there seems to be so much more change in womenswear.

Perhaps I feel this way because I see many women drawing inspiration from red carpets and grandeur events like the Met Gala, while it seems men always seem to just don a classic suit. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, I so deeply love seeing men switch it up.

At the Met Gala this year, Olivier Rousting wore a sand mold of his own face for his bodice, matching his brand, Balmain, with his client, Tyla, while Bad Bunny wore Maison Margiela’s almost deconstructed suit and hooved Tabis.

Still, I need to take the time to learn more about men’s fashion to round out this theory, as so far, it is nothing more than a (slightly) educated opinion. I know that first, I have to stop associating uniformity with neutrality. Just because something is consistent doesn’t mean it is less exciting or more strict — it is simply a constant, and with the pace life seems to be going at, having a constant is not a bad thing at all.

So, it seems I have my work cut out for me this summer in New York. As I take on the Big Apple and all the fashion it has to offer me, I hope to learn and be inspired. I hope you will as well.

Hadyn Phillips is a rising senior writing about fashion in the 21st century, spotlighting new trends and popular controversy in her column, “That’s Fashion, Sweetie.”

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