Do you like high-heeled loafers?" asked Kitty, 13, brandishing a copy of Grazia that included a full-page selection of the footwear in question. "I suppose they're quite good for women who don't like wearing girlish heels," I replied. "Or even for women who don't like wearing women's clothes," added Joe, 11, neatly summing up his mother's personal style – and it's true that high-heeled loafers are a feminine twist on an essentially masculine wardrobe staple.
For the most part I do indeed prefer fashion inspired by the rigour of a man's wardrobe as applied to womenswear and with that, menswear's attention to detail. I also like that men's clothing is based on classic codes that may be tweaked and updated though – the odd notable exception apart – rarely overturned entirely. Marlene Dietrich, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn, Charlotte Rampling, Tilda Swinton... the roll call of women who feel more comfortable borrowing their style from men is impressive to say the least. And I know that Céline Dion might also find her way on to the list, but let's overlook that for the purpose of this column, at least.
For autumn, anyone in this fashion camp will be spoilt for choice. There are, of course, certain labels for which at least a degree of androgyny is always essential. First past the post is Chanel – that house's namesake based her style on the English aristocracy she loved to, let's just say, mix with. This season's collection features a cropped boucle wool jacket worn with straight-legged trousers, lace-up army boots with tweed cuffs and even a boiler suit – rarely has the latter seemed so appealing. Then comes Yves Saint Laurent, whose Le Smoking and safari looks took the world by storm in the late 1960s. Today, the Saint Laurent customer will find a high-waisted masculine trouser teamed with a bomber jacket that has an aggressively wide shoulder.
In the 1990s, Jil Sander's stripped-back tailoring was the well-heeled working woman's uniform of choice and that label, too, remains indebted to the menswear tradition.
The new kid on the block where androgyny is concerned, meanwhile, is Phoebe Philo's Céline (pictured). From the little the world sees of this designer, it's safe to assume that her own wardrobe is reassuringly androgynous. It's small wonder, then, that the label she designs looks like that, too.