Marlene Dietrich and Androgynous Fashion

Marlene Dietrich and Androgynous Fashion

As modern businesswomen, we peruse our wardrobes and make the choice to wear trousers, capris, a skirt, or a dress to work—even jeans if it’s “dress down Friday”. But what we don’t consider is the ground-breaking women who enabled us to make this simple clothing choice. We forget that just a century ago, women didn’t wear trousers—in 1919 in Puerto Rico, a woman was even jailed for wearing trousers in public.

Masculine fashion for women

Then, something magical happened. Two actresses in the 1930s started wearing trousers on screen and in photos—an item otherwise limited to men’s fashion. Suddenly, trousers weren’t just for men. These women were Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn. However, it was Dietrich who truly bought masculine and androgynous fashion to masses. So today we’d like to thank Marlene Dietrich for her unique influence on women’s fashion.

Marlene’s influence on fashion

Marlene Dietrich was born in Germany in 1901. Her career spanned almost a century, and in the 1930s, she moved to Hollywood and starred in six Paramount films, making her one of the most famous actresses in the world. Through her films, stage performances, and personal life, Marlene changed women’s fashion by pushing the boundaries of what was considered appropriate for women.

As a result, Marlene became a fashion icon for designers, and a style icon for other women. Her iconic style has forever influenced the world of women’s fashion, and it often involved playing with traditional gender roles in fashion.

“I am at heart a gentleman.”

1. The gentleman

Marlene famously said, “I am at heart a gentleman”. In her 1930 film Morocco, she wore a tuxedo, shirt, bowtie, and top hat, which was unprecedented at the time. In her cabaret performances, her signature pieces were a top hat and tails, and she was frequently seen in men’s three-piece suits.

2. The femme fatale

As a cabaret artist, Marlene performed in glamorous figure-hugging beaded gowns. Her most famous of these was a luxe “nude dress” designed by Jean Louis, a silk soufflé sequined dress that appeared sheer, under a famous Hollywood-glamour swansdown coat.

3. The androgynous

Despite the ultra-femme and masculine looks on stage and screen, in her private life, Dietrich was known for her androgynous style. Dietrich was bisexual and challenged expected gender roles by boxing and joining Berlin’s gay scene.

Off screen, she favoured comfortable menswear. Despite knowing much about fashion, she told The Observer, “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men … Clothes bore me. I’d wear jeans. I adore jeans. I get them in a public store – men’s, of course.”

Get Marlene’s signature style

If you’re inspired by Marlene’s iconic style, it’s easy to recreate her aesthetic in your work wardrobe:

  • Masculine: Think tailored men’s trousers, ties, waistcoats, and wool jackets. Marlene opted for high waistbands with a thin belt.
  • Androgynous: Go for comfortable loose trousers and tucked in shirts.
  • Feminine: Mix in luxe items such as silky blouses, pencil skirts, and ruffled collars.
  • Hats: Marlene’s looks almost always featured a hat. While a top hat probably isn’t suitable for work, consider adding a chic beret, a fedora, or
  • Old school glamour: Dietrich was known for her fur stoles and collars. Save the animals and add a faux fur collar or scarf for some old school glamour.
  • Sultry: Finish with sultry makeup, such as dark eyelashes, cat eye top liner, white under-eyeliner, and subtle red lipstick.
  • Unconventional: Marlene’s style became so famous because she broken convention and challenged traditional gender expectations in life and fashion. Be unconventional with your fashion—break the rules.

Although Marlene died in 1992, her iconic style lives on in women’s fashion and will continue to influence designers for many years to come.