Giorgio Armani Fall/Winter 2014, Emma Watson in a suit at the Late Show with David Letterman and Yves Saint Laurent Spring/Summer 2014, All Over Press.
A bit traumatised from her childhood adventures in tomboy land, Mattie Kahn is finally ready to fully embrace the menswear trend.
My older brother and I shared a room until I was six. This is a relevant point. It explains the fact that as my friends whiled away their youths playing dress-up, I spent my formative years devouring comic books, analyzing baseball statistics, and begging our mother to let me wear Josh’s questionable hand-me-downs. She did not take much convincing. I had evidently inherited such a predisposition for menswear. Afterall, it was she who insisted Josh gift her his old demin jacket some years later.
Still, this stage of my sartorial development predated the advent of Jenna Lyons endorsed tuxedo pants and statement-making snapbacks. Tomboys were not yet style icons. And neither was I. One rather tragic family photo album suggests that I spent approximately two years of my life dressed in the same pair of mustard-coloured leggings and a seemingly infinite assortment of oversize concert tees. “You’re wearing my shirt!” Josh once screamed across the breakfast table. I looked down at the Power Rangers decal stamped across faded cotton fabric and blushed.
Eventually, Josh moved into his own bedroom and I discovered Disney princesses. Sleeping Beauty did not wear basketball jerseys. Unlike me, Cinderella brushed her hair. I gazed at their sweeping gowns and lithe limbs and impressive posture. These were the kinds of women my grandmother might have called “ladies.” I resolved to be just like them. By the time I enrolled in elementary school, my wardrobe was more “pastel” than “Power Rangers.”
As I grew older, I built a good life for myself. Better yet, I built a great wardrobe. But while I had long before renounced two-dimensional role models, I continued to gravitate toward silk and satin and Little-Mermaid-approved sea-foam green. I collected beautiful dresses and whisper-thin tank tops and sweaters so charming that Walt Disney himself might have had a hand in their manufacture.
Proportions played their part, too. I am 5’2. At airports, I am frequently mistaken for an unaccompanied minor. Last week, I was nearly denied entry to an R-rated movie. Sophisticated slip dresses and single-sole pumps are more than a uniform. They are a form of personal identification.
And so even as slouchier denim and more than one nod to the Clinton-era pantsuit paraded down recent runways, I remained faithful to my decidedly feminine aesthetic. Who needed boyfriend jeans and power suits? I had pink!
That is until I came across a photograph of Emma Watson that changed everything. Forever. Watson has always been a personal favourite. I like her intelligence and wit. I admire her elegance and the fact that she is a certified yoga instructor. She seems smart and balanced and flexible. She seems “ladylike.” I have long maintained that were we to meet under the right circumstances, we could be great friends. Of course, I would have to overcome my inferiority complex first.
The image in question—snapped in late March—finds the actress on arrival at the Late Show with David Letterman. Her accessories include sling-back heels, a sleek minaudière, and a slick of red lipstick. Her expression is fittingly fierce. But I only noticed these details upon subsequent reflection. At first, I could see only the suit.
It was a Saint Laurent design and hopelessly gorgeous. Fastened by a single button, the iconic suit was le smoking, indeed. But Watson and I were not the only two to think so. It seems every woman whose style I esteem has since stepped out in a similar ensemble. The effect? Not since kindergarten have I ever been so determined to “borrow from the boys.”
For a week or two after spying Watson, I briefly wondered whether Josh still owned a now too-small suit. But then I thought better of asking him. Alas, I think I have finally outgrown his castoffs. It turns out I learned at least one valuable lesson from those stories of Disney Princesses that once transfixed me: like Cinderella’s Prince, I’m searching for a perfect fit.
Mattie Kahn is a writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared on VanityFair.com, Refinery29, and the Man Repeller, among other platforms. She hopes this will be the year she cements a signature drink, resuscitates the semi-colon, and masters liquid eyeliner once and for all.