Anu Elizabeth on Menswear for Women

You may recognize Anu Elizabeth from Styleforum’s regular Pitti coverage; as one of the tradeshow’s well-dressed female attendees she makes her way into a lot of pictures. She’s often found in tailored clothing, which prompted Arianna to reach out for a discussion about what inspires her stylistic decisions, and how she thinks about menswear on women.

Arianna Reggio: Anu, you told me that you’re a “jeans kind of girl” most of the time. However, we’ve seen you at Pitti in tailored clothes wearing men’s accessories. Where does that come from?
Anu Elizabeth: I have always disliked uncomfortable and ill-fitting clothing. I haven’t been able to find blazers or sports coats that fit me – for a reasonable price, at least. I only got into wearing jackets and blazers after I got together with my fiancé Jussi Häkkinen (@jussihakkinen on Instagram), who started making those pieces for me. The suits he has made for me are mostly made according to my wishes. I’ve chosen the fabrics and what style I would like in general. Jussi creates the pattern and makes the smaller stylistic decisions according to the house style of their company, E-F-V Gentlemenswear, as my suits are also concept studies and prototypes for their future ladies line. This suits me just fine, as I love their classic yet slightly rugged style.
I’d also like to emphasize that I don’t consider suits to be menswear per se, just a type of clothing that can be womenswear just as well. Accessories, like neck ties and pochettes, are considered mainly as menswear, yes, and sold in menswear stores, but I’d like to see that to change in the future, too. They can complement the outfit, adding interesting details to it. They make the wearer look more dressed, and show an effort. Of course the same dressed-up effect could be attained with “ladies” accessories, too, but I personally find men’s accessories more interesting and versatile. I like, for example, to wear pochettes as scarves, too.

Arianna: What’s your style on a daily basis?
AE: For the office I generally wear jeans or chinos with collared shirts and knits. I like heavy boots and military parkas for the winter and field jacket with loafers or sneakers in the summer. I don’t see customers face to face in my job, so relaxed, smart and comfortable is the way to go. I mainly use Uniqlo and army surplus stores for my everyday clothes.
Arianna: Do you dress in tailored clothing on occasions outside of Pitti Uomo?
AE: I do, on weekends and holidays and other special occasions, although I do wear dresses and heels for parties as well.
Arianna: Your fiancé works in fashion; what differences do you see between men’s approach to clothes – specifically tailoring – and women’s?
AE: Not that big a difference, in the end. In the menswear circles, classic tailored clothes and bespoke are the thing now. Outside that group, however, men and women are pretty equally into disposable fashion and, of course, some could not care less about what they are wearing, as long as it’s comfortable – this group seems to increase with age. I don’t see much difference between sexes here.
It does seem, though, that in women’s fashion comfort and classic style seldom meet, at least at the commonly available and affordable vendors. There are far fewer bespoke makers for women’s suits and shoes than there are for men. I know maybe two women who use bespoke and dozens of men, but my view on this is probably a bit distorted because we know so many menswear people.

Arianna: Do you see differences in terms of quality between menswear and women’s clothing?
AE: Outside of bespoke circles, especially in the lower price range, there might be some difference, favoring men. Maybe it is due to the faster rotation on women’s fashion. I really can’t say. I try to avoid buying disposable fashion items.
Arianna: What has been the response of you wearing men’s tailored clothing?
AE: Surprisingly positive, although I still do not consider it as men’s clothing – but I know what you mean. I have felt very comfortable and well-dressed in a suit or similar styles everywhere I’ve been. No one has ever commented anything negative or told me that I’m dressed like man. Rather, I feel I have just been viewed as “well-dressed” when Im out in a suit. Compared to the more traditional way of being a well-dressed woman, the power and comfort of the well made suit is something different. It makes one feel very confident.
Arianna: Lastly, if you were a man, what do you think your style would be?
AE: Pretty similar to what it is now, I think. Jeans and parkas for everyday wear, suits for weekends and occasions. I might have a lot more shoes than I do now, because there would be more well made, comfortable and stylish shoes available in my size – assuming my feet would be somewhat bigger than they are now. I do like the way high heels look, but I’ve never liked the way they feel.