Wanted – An Annie Hall for the 2000s

In the last few years a new look that combines 1980s and 90s female fashion and preppy 1920s male style has been dancing around the edges of the fashion world while failing to completely make it into the mainstream.

Its central elements are loose, man-style pants, waistcoats, oversized shirts, ‘boyfriend’ jeans, golfing shoes and long-line oversized cardigans. It’s often combined with raunch culture influences – high-heeled boots and cuffed shorts, for example.

Yet the more masculine elements of the look haven’t really taken off in their own right. I have a theory about this – raunch culture, derived from porn, currently dominates mainstream fashion, and has brought us totter-producing heels that recall sadomasochistic props, tight short skirts and strapless dresses. The main market for fashion is younger women. These women are often desperate to conform to current style, and may be reluctant to appear too ‘masculine’.

Cut back to 1977, when the film Annie Hall took Hollywood by storm. Directed by Woody Allen and starring himself and Diane Keaton, it was partly autobiographical, chronicling the one-time real-life relationship between Allen and Keaton. The latter played the irrepressible free spirit Annie Hall.

Keaton used her own wardrobe,
despite the protestations of the film’s wardrobe mistress. Her individualistic fashion style, featuring man-style baggy pants, white shirts, loosely knotted ties, vests and oversized jackets, unleashed a whole new fashion trend. Newly liberated women embraced the anarchic yet elegant androgyny Keaton offered them.

The film was one of Woody Allen’s most popular; it won four Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Diane Keaton and Best Picture.

Keaton taught women that fashion could be fun, inventive and creative; that dressing stylishly was consistent with  an artistic sensibility; and that it wasn't purely about being attractive to men. Most important of all, Keaton's adventurous look symbolised the growing social power of women and their status as equal partners in romantic relationships. Her sartorial style is indissoluble from the aim of the film, which is to depict a modern relationship of equals.

The publicity poster for the film featured below is a case in point. Keaton’s large hat makes her appear taller than Allan, who contemplates her frankly, with his hands in his pockets. She smiles at him in her exaggerated garb, an individual whom he must accept on her own terms rather than subdue or protect, as in more traditional romances.
Keaton’s distinctive style is not simply a copy of masculine dress of the time, but an adaptation, as the flowing skirt, clumpy boots and oversized hat indicate.

It’s impossible to exaggerate how exciting the advent of this style was to a 14-year-old Melbourne girl who loved clothes but had no money. Here are last was truly accessible fashion, available at my local op (thrift) shop.

The cover of one of the 1977 winter issues of Australian Vogue trumpeted the arrival of the Annie Hall look in Australia. It featured a narrow-faced blonde model in a quaint rustic setting, wearing a houndstooth jacket and waistcoat, white shirt, black necktie, and flared tailored pants, her golden hair escaping from under a fishing cap.

But I didn’t have to spend a fortune to adopt the look, or something similar. With my best friend at the time, Sharon, I raided the local stores for long white men’s shirts and narrow ties in dark colours (we wore these long shirts over jeans). I adopted my grandfather’s fishing cap, which looked a little bit like the one in the pic below, but I could also have bought a cheap Stetson hat from any op shop.
The term ‘more dash than cash’ was never more applicable.

Today, high heels, tight miniskirts and fitted dresses will trump the more relaxed ‘masculine’ styles. But, with the return of 1980s and 90s masculine-influenced fashion, at least we have alternatives to choose from. Yet Annie Hall teaches us that we don’t have to adapt to current fashion styles at all – we can create our own.

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