Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Sexual fluidity is a fact of life for women. This is what you need to know.


My life used to involve statements beginning with: “As a lesbian, I …”.

The findings of the latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) seem to suggest. The number of women reporting same-sex partners has increased from 1.8% to 7.9% over the past 20 years.

I’ve been checking out this world recently and have found that while the male half of couple’s profile will identify as straight, it’s pretty much par for the course that a woman will indicate “bi-curious” or “bisexual”. Sure, a lot of this is about women trying to please their men – it plays to a common male fantasy of a threesome involving two women and a man – but actually, in my experience, the bisexual ones really are up for it. I think there are a ton of “straight” women out there who, once they’ve ticked all the safety boxes (get married, get financially secure, have babies), are ready to “play”. And that is the thing about this new sexually fluid world (for women). Its politics are much less right-on compared with the old-school lesbian separatist thing. The women who claim to be bisexuals in the Natsal survey are not the type to go marching on the streets about it.

While some big actors and singers have admitted to bisexuality, there is a lot of fudging from other young ­heroines of popular culture (what is all this “wifey” business, as Cara ­Delevingne refers to her friend Rita Ora? Go on, Cara, you’re a rock’n’roll chick, spell it out), which makes you wonder how on earth the unfamouses are going to be proud about their ­not-totally-100% hetero status.

London’s biggest lesbian club impresario of the moment, Nicola Chubb, who runs the high-end lesbian club night Mint, says she has noticed a sea change of so-called “fluidity” going on in her clubs. Straight girls who, a couple of years ago, might have preferred the company of gay men and would have suffered the “fag hag” tag are now choosing to hang out with lesbians. “They’ve worked out that lesbians know how to have a good time too.”

Women allowing one another to be sexual beings rather than seeing other women as a threat. In some ways, this is one of the unexpected boons to have come out of feminism.

Certainly, the rise in the number of women-only clubs, gyms and networking organisations points to a feel for more all-girls-together stuff that lezzas have been doing for years. I personally prefer the old word for “networking”: cruising – but maybe this will come about in this new oestrogen-only renaissance. Otherwise, it’s rather like going to a Japanese tea ceremony and leaving before you’ve tried the tea.


Hellosie, it’s Maisie. When teenage girls are denied classroom time cause of the length of their skirt it privileges their sexualisation over their right to learn.


As pupils go back to school this month, institutions may hit the headlines for sending girls home for wearing skirts that were deemed “too short”.

The most contentious issue for some schools, is the style and length of the skirt worn by the girls.

But parents do express frustration at their struggle to find skirts that would fit their daughters’ waists while fulfilling the length requirement.

Other reports have described children being sent home from various schools in the past week for wearing the wrong footwear, or even the wrong kind of socks.

 And while boys have been punished for some dress code violations too, it is clear that the majority of cases involve girls’ appearance being policed.

A number of pupils at a UK school were made to change because their trousers were deemed “too tight”. And these cases follow hot on the heels of two schools that have banned female pupils from wearing skirts altogether. It was reportedly said by the headmaster from both schools. ‘It’s not pleasant for male members of staff and students either, the girls have to walk upstairs and sit down and it’s a complete distraction.’

This week the same school is reported to have sent home 10 girls whose trousers were deemed too tight because they would prove a “distraction” to male teachers.

The media images of schoolgirls in their “inappropriate” skirts, worn over thick black tights, powerfully remind me of another case, in which a US teenager was sent home from school for wearing an outfit that revealed her collarbones. What is so shocking, or offensive, about the bottom inch of a teenage girl’s thigh, or the bones below her neck?

In fact, that case was just the latest in a recent string of high-profile dress code battles in the US and Canada, where students have been protesting for some time about dress codes that unfairly target girls. 

While the principle of asking students to attend school smartly dressed sounds reasonable, the problem comes when wider sexist attitudes towards women and their bodies are projected on to young women by schools in their attempt to define what constitutes smartness. It’s no coincidence that many school dress codes contain far more rules pertaining to girls’ clothing than to boys’, as we live in a world where women’s bodies are policed and fought over to a far greater extent than men’s. When girls are denied time in the classroom because their knees, shoulders or upper arms are considered inappropriate and in need of covering up, it privileges the societal sexualisation of their adolescent bodies over their own right to learn. We don’t have the same qualms about seeing those parts of their male peers’ anatomy.

All this is before we can even begin to explore the potentially negative impact of draconian dress codes on trans or non-gender-conforming pupils, many of whom have reported being blocked from their school yearbooks because of clothing choices.

Another common refrain is that it is important to prepare pupils for the “world of work” – this was the explanation given by the headmaster of an Academy school on the Isle of Wight when more than 250 girls were taken out of lessons because their skirts were too short. But if schools pull girls out of lessons and publicly shame them for exposing too much of their bodies, they are only preparing them for a sexist and unfair working world in which women are constantly judged and berated on their appearance. Men, by comparison, get a free pass. Look at the endless articles about whether women “should” or “shouldn’t” wear makeup to be taken seriously at work, or cringe-worthy instructions from firms on how female staff should dress.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a school taking a stand against the idea that girls’ bodies are irresistibly dangerous and sexualised, instead of reinforcing it?

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Is it ‘too raunchy’ to wear a red bra and no knickers in the office?


In the suggested ‘dress code’ for a London law firm, women trainees were told to invest in “neutral T-shirt bras and non-VPL knickers”. Men, meanwhile, were told that black suits are only for funeral mourners and bouncers while skinny ties are for cool bars, not the office.

Dress codes are a sensitive issue for many employees – a slew of similar stories have graced the internet in modern times.

From one law firm to another, – decided against “very short skirts” two years ago after the sight of dozens of trainee solicitors arriving for work in skirts with high hemlines failed to impress senior partners. Women were told to increase the lengths of their skirts and reduce the height of their heels or face “uncomfortable discussions” with the human resources department.

We’ve been asked to draw your attention to the fact that HR have received numerous complaints about the way female trainees have been dressing around the office,” stated the email from a trainee solicitor liaison committee.

Some dress codes stipulates “business casual” dress while in the office and suits when meeting clients. I think people should apply “common sense”.

Some airlines stipulate exact rules for skirt lengths, but in the City, it’s more complicated.

UBS, the Swiss investment bank, issued guidance in 2011 talking about the colour of female employees’ underwear, the best perfume to wear and the length of employees’ toenails (“to extend the life of your knee stockings and stockings”).

It was disclosed the guidance was 44 pages long. Men were told how to tie a knot, and to get their hair cut once a month.

In 2003, JP Morgan issued a three-page memo reminding male members of staff to shave, polish their shoes and consider investing in an iron.

The email suggested that a dress-down code at the investment bank had led to “dress collapse” in some cases.

What if you were forced to wear high heels to work?

Airline bosses, City banks and West End department stores came under fire in a recent TUC report for having “sexist” dress codes that force female staff to wear high heels.

The report found that a number of high-profile employers require women to wear high heels if they are dealing face to face with customers. As well as being sexist, being made to wear high heels can cause major back and feet problems, the report warned.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Cross-dressing: are women’s and men’s fashions blending together?


In retrospect, I was not the best choice of person to walk through Harvey Nichols’ selection of “ambiguous” clothing.

The designer store says the latest fashion isn’t about androgyny but a blending of genders. Instead, men are shopping in the women’s department, and vice versa. But I can’t help feeling that the women shopping in the men’s section are Cara Delevigne lookalikes without any hips to distort the cut of men’s clothing – as in, Baggy jumpers, bomber jackets and suits are all very well if they’re draped over a model with the frame of a coat hanger, but can real women really pull off the look?

Harvey Nichols promises that it’s not just the Kate Moss types who are shopping in men’s stores. More than 60 per cent of 25- to 35- year-olds admit to cross dressing and men are just as keen to embrace more feminine shapes and sample from their partner’s wardrobe.

And as they’re shopping in Harvey Nichols, it must be fashionable. The gender neutral looks come from designer brands that make me feel guilty just looking at them. We start in Givenchy (gee-ven-chi? ji-von-chy?) and tour racks of perfectly tailored jackets, T-shirts and trousers that cost more than my monthly rent. There’s a leather-trimmed wool coat that is undeniably beautiful, but some other items look more bizarre than fashionable once off the hanger.

I try out an outfit worth £1,295 and while I’m sure there are some very cool fashionistas who could totally work the look, Though the jeans made me look “like a mum”. My usual size of jeans are far too tight when they’re cut for a more masculine shape, and I have to get Harvey Nichols to courier over a bigger size, which classifies as my first ever fashion emergency. The colour of the jumper is suitable for high-fashion devotees of either gender but a size small was baggy on my shoulders and tight across the chest. The Madonna T-shirt was a far better fit though, and I could see myself wearing it with some black leggings (though I may need more attitude).

We’re seeing “a new wave of gender ambiguity” in fashion, according to the people at Harvey Nichols – who have put together a range of items that could be worn by men or women.

It’s great to discover you’re ahead of a trend. I have a couple T-shirts that have been moving round my wardrobe for years, though considering one is a lurid purple and the other a souvenir from a Kylie Minogue concert, it may be for the best that both are currently kept there.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Stores are claiming about half of their men’s underwear is bought by women. Is this true genderless fashion?


Things are moving apace in genderless fashion and, as per, women are ruining everything. Women are starting to buy men’s underwear, with some increasingly close to out-buying them.

A British retailer famous for its underwear sales claim half of their men’s underwear is currently bought by women, and while it’s impossible to ascertain how many of these are women purchasing for partners/parents and how many for themselves, the retail chain says it “does suggest that men’s underwear is a common consideration for women irrespective of whether or not they are wearing it themselves”. Without jumping to conclusions while jumping wholly to conclusions, does this mean that the final frontier in gender-specific clothing – underwear – no longer exists?

Of course not. That would be absurd. But it does make you wonder what’s going on.

So, what’s the appeal in loose and manly underthings and what should you buy?

The trend in unisex underwear was further crystallised in the spring, when Calvin Klein reissued its original pants from the early 90s. Now we all know Calvin Klein operate a tight pant game. And reissued as part of a media campaign encouraging people to tweet #mycalvins, the label was clearly tapped into a style we were resolutely comfortable with. Elsewhere, though, the trend was building foundations in a more high fashion direction.

Famously unisex-friendly Swedish brand Acne recently launched a line of “gender-neutral” underwear. “It’s underwear for real kids and not models,” the label’s creative director, Jonny Johansson, told a magazine, before getting Ryan McGinley, the man who would perhaps have shot those grainy CK Wahlberg campaigns were he a little older, to shoot the campaign. Elsewhere in Sweden, singer Beatrice Ali posed on the cover of her album in Y-fronts, while American Apparel’s pop-coloured Y-fronts remain consistent bestsellers.

For one male writer – let’s call him John Doe – the rise of unisex underwear has left him cold. “It started early – whatever she [his girlfriend] came wearing to our dates was compromised by the evening’s later activities, so she’d just borrow something of mine to sleep in.” Not initially against it – “it was a reminder we were recklessly sexual people” – events reached a tipping point when they moved in together: “She still wears my pants in bed.” As to why, he says: “I think because girls’ underwear is expensive and uncomfy and she hates shopping.” However, the choice of Gandy’s undies is inexplicable: “Do they think they’re his personal underpants and he might come round to get them back?”

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. How the gender-neutral trend is trying to ruin my girly wardrobe.


In an issue of Vogue, actor Ellen Page explains in newsworthy fashion why coming out has rekindled her love of fashion: “I used to feel this constant pressure to be more feminine,” she explains, adding: “You need to wear a dress or people will think you’re gay … Now I feel a sense of freedom in dressing.”

Page is far from the first gay woman to discover new-found sartorial freedom after coming out. Though I realised I was into girls at an early age, it took until my teens to come out, and then later to tell my mum. I think she must have realised when I started cutting my hair. “Don’t you want boys to like you?” she asked. And now I wonder, like Page, how many women – straight or not – would benefit from never having to consider what a man – real or imagined – thought of their clothes.

After coming out, excluding time spent in ubiquitous cut-off denim skirts, I’ve stuck to some outfits a bloke could wear without being heckled – and which I call butch chic. To me, butch chic is printed shirts without frills and skirts without peplums or lace – or any of those things that look pretty, or pretty uncomfortable depending how you look at it.

Functionality takes precedence, with elements taken from queer-friendly subcultures: punkishly torn vests, riot grrrl boots, hip-hop’s baggy T-shirts and grungey jumpers. What’s more, most gay women I know dress using elements of the above; it’s not only a uniform, but a Freemason’s handshake. It’s how we could tell the queer from the straight. So, it’s no surprise that Ellen Page prefers a Saint Laurent suit to a pretty dress.

It used to act as code for your sexuality but now things have changed. News that the biggest trend of the season is unisex – which, let’s face it, draws on some of the things I’ve mentioned, perhaps with a cleaner cut – has complicated things. From gender-neutral style at JW Anderson to unisex shopping areas at Selfridges to next season’s Saint Laurent collection, what was once a queer-owned style has shifted to the mainstream, being appropriated by straight women to the point that it’s now impossible to infer a sexual orientation from the way a woman dresses.

Obviously, it’s fine. I’m not one to tell straight women to dress straight and vice versa, but it’s certainly having an impact on gay women. What was once lesbian code is now merely on-trend, thanks to the high-street ubiquity of unisex outfitters such as American Apparel and Uniqlo and the androgynous cuts of Scandinavian shops like Cos. Add to that the rise of gender-free accessories (Grenson shoes, beautiful and virtually indistinguishable between genders). Some women are shirking the “boyfriend” cut for actual men’s clothes, something we gay women have been doing for years.

Celebrity influence has also helped, from the ever-quirky Tilda Swinton to the more tabloid-friendly, youth-appealing sorts such as Cara Delevingne, who’s fronted a DKNY campaign in suits and tees. Even Emma Stone, who happens to be straight, prefers to put a little subtle butchness into her off-duty looks, dressing like a cross between Kristen Stewart and preppy Taylor Swift. As for singers Jessie Ware and Lorde, both are styled by Avigail Claire – who just knows how a monochrome masculine cut works on a feminine physique.

Stepping outside of sexuality, it’s an interesting shift for fashion. If lesbians and bisexual women dress butch, it’s not necessarily because they want to be boys, or deliberately to peacock for other women. They’re doing it because they don’t necessarily aspire to a supposed male ideal of what looks cute; they’re more interested in wearing what’s most comfortable to them, that or emulate ‘out’ model Freja Beha Erichsen in black tees, black jeans and biker jackets.

For me, it’s a question of comfort and a lack of fear of being judged for “looking like a lesbian”, because, well, I kind of am. That’s why I love labels such as Wildfang, an American company that makes men’s clothes in female cuts for “tomboys”. It’s a women-ready menswear delight.

It’s nice to fall, accidentally, into fashion, but I also miss the exclusivity of what we wore. It’s not only going to be harder for lesbians to pull, now that every woman is wearing these signposts of queer, but I’m a bit proud of looking like a ‘dyke in those jeans sometimes’. It’s not the insult you’d assume; one friend jokingly identifies not as gay or queer, but as ‘Carhartt’. And that pride in setting yourself apart, in wilfully doing something that will never ever be done for the pleasure of a bloke, is kind of liberating.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The fashion world goes gender free mad!


Fashion reflects the times we live in, said Coco Chanel, and schoolchildren and the French bus drivers prove her right. We are more relaxed about gender rules, these days. A century after women started wearing trousers and 19 years after David Beckham was ridiculed for wearing a sarong, the last taboo of fashion – men in skirts – is being swept away.

Zara has capitalised on the market for clothes that can be worn by men or women, offering a gender-neutral fashion range. And the further up the fashion food chain you go, the more the boundaries between menswear and womenswear evaporate.

At the menswear catwalk shows in London, skirts appeared almost everywhere. Men wore silk dresses at Vivienne Westwood’s show, puff-sleeved gowns at Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, and hooped floor-length skirts at Edward Crutchley’s. As did Palomo Spain menswear spring/summer 2018 collection.

Among the more commercial brands, too, the rules are increasingly fluid. Louis Vuitton, the world’s biggest luxury brand, last year photographed Jaden Smith, the rapper-slash-model son of actor Will, in a leather kilt for a womenswear advertising campaign. Smith, who wore a floral T-shirt dress to the Coachella festival, captioned an Instagram post of himself in a skirt with the words “Went to TopShop To Buy Some Girl Clothes, I Mean ‘Clothes’.”

Co-ed catwalk shows are becoming a badge of honour for brands with agenda-setting ambitions. Calvin Klein in New York, Burberry in London, Paul Smith in Paris, and Gucci in Milan all combined clothing for men and women on their catwalks during the last fashion show season.

The Gucci designer Alessandro Michele has said that blending the two collections “seems only natural … it’s the way I see the world”. The impact on menswear is clear. On the Gucci catwalk men wear pussy-bow silk blouses, on the Burberry catwalk they wear pastel-coloured lace shorts.