Women have been filching garments from men's wardrobes for centuries - eighteenth-century riding-habits, nineteenth-century shirt-waisters and most of the iconic garments of the twentieth century (the trench, the tuxedo, the pea-coat and the rest) find their roots in mens rather than womenswear. Last night, however, we saw a twist on the established format, in 'Vestirsi Da Uomo' (Dressed Like A Man). When I say twist, I mean just that - as a selection of men's garments from established firms such as Church's, Nigel Cabourn, Pimobo and Haversack were revised and remixed by esteemed fashion historian and curator Olivier Saillard, director of the Musée Galliera and curator of the sensational Madame Grès exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle.
A selection of iconic eighties models-cum-muses - Violeta Sanchez, Amalia Vairelli, Axelle Doué and Claudia Huidobro - prowled the catwalk in Saillard's rejigged menswear: a shirt twisted into a pencil skirt, a double-breasted jacket buttoned and noted into a cape, a pair of trousers turned into a bolero. All very well and good - they're the kind of tricks a five year-old plays in the dressing-up box - but with these results, you'd expect it to be an infant Jacques Fath or Hubert de Givenchy. Both of their spirits came alive on the catwalk, as shirts were twisted into taut strapless dresses, jackets were worn upside-down to from cropped spencers with high peep-over collars, and one especially lithe model teetered out wearing a single trouser leg as a skirt - the other forming a dramatic train. It felt fresh, invigorating and exciting - not least because evoking fifties couture so accurately with men's attire was entirely unexpected. And it was done with humour: a bunch of handkerchiefs became a bustle Dior would have been proud of, half-a-dozen ties formed a bandeau skirt, and a pair of Church's brogues were strapped onto a model's head to form a graphic chapeau Balenciaga would have adored.
Much credit to Saillard's ingenuity - but the models really made this event into something special, striking arch poses halfway between a couture catwalk way back when and a Vogue Ball. A mesmerising opening to Pitti's unique mix of men's and womenswear. Tonight, it's the turn of Scott Sternberg to wow us with his Band Of Outsiders show - and with a womenswear line named 'Boy' (alongside the slightly more conventional 'Girl'), there's plenty more gender-bending in store.