girls will be boys

In the new unisex stores and on the street, what's his is hers. Shw wea rs desert boots, flat-front trousers and boys' school shirts.

When was the last time you saw someone walking down the street and asked yourself, "is that a boy or a girl?" Increasingly, it is more and more difficult to tell the difference.

Boyish girls and pretty boys are nothing new. In the past, they may have attracted raised eyebrows, but no more. Androgyny is a Nineties fashion phenomenon, and despite the resurgence of unadulterated femininity in high fashion, it is here to stay. Yves Saint Laurent's le smoking tuxedos made masculine trouser suits fashionable in the Seventies, and designers from Helmut Lang to Jean-Paul Gaultier have continued to send mixed messages down the catwalks. But the real heroes (or should that be heroines?) are celebrities such as Elastica's Justine Frischman, kd lang, Sleeper's Louise Werner and Madonna, who have made androgynous dressing more acceptable because they have made it look easy -and sexy.

People Corporation and YMC (You Must Create) are two young British labels that sell themselves on their androgynous appeal. People Corporation is 70 per cent unisex, and YMC has the same designs cut to fit both men and women. Their idea is not to forgo femininity, nor is it to emulate masculinity. The clothes are just pared down to suit either sex.

In February, Browns Focus, the streetwear shop from the South Molton Street designer emporium Browns, opened to fill a yawning gap in the market. It stocks YMC, Evisu (the cult Japanese jeans label) and Helmut Lang denim-wear, among other labels. In a canny marketing ploy, there is not a separate department for women or men : all the clothes are hung together creating a totally unisex shopping experience.

Whether men and women are ready for unisex changing rooms remains to be seen.

Above: Camilla wears camel cotton shirt, pounds 60, by YMC, from Browns Focus, 38 South Molton Street, London W1; Duffer of St. George, 29 Shorts Gardens, London WC2; The Library, 268 Brompton Road, London SW3 (enquiries, 0171-251 8861); camel skirt, pounds 110, by Joe Casely Hayford, from Geese, Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester (enquiries, 0171-240 3572); navy nylon jacket, pounds 120, by Joe Casely Hayford, from Autograph, 15 Ethel Street, Birmingham; Hip, 14 Thornton Arcade, Leeds (enquiries, 0171-251 8861; stone desert boots, pounds 36, from Clarks, 260 Oxford Street, London W1; 1 Union Street, Bath; 25 Church Lane, Liverpool, and branches (enquiries, 0990 785 886). Rene wears navy polo top with green trim, pounds 32.50, by Fred Perry from Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1; Lillywhites, 28 Clumber Street, Nottingham (enquiries, 0171-3073 500); navy Prince of Wales check trousers, pounds 200, by Copperwheat Blundell, from Liberty, Regent Street, London W1; Zoo, 239 High Road, Ilford, Essex; Hervia, Royal Exchange Arcade, Manchester (enquiries, 0171-613 0651); navy nylon jacket, pounds 139, by Jigsaw Menswear, 9-10 Floral Street, London W1; 76-80 King Street, Manchester; 51 East Street, Brighton (enquiries, 0171-240 5651)

Right: Camilla wears purple lifeline T-shirt, pounds 30, short-sleeved striped shirt, pounds 68, black waistcoat, pounds 80, all by YMC, as before; black skirt, pounds 145, by Copperwheat Blundell, as before; black desert boots, pounds 36, by Clarks, as before. Rene wears pale blue polo-neck jumper, pounds 130, by Gucci, 33 Old Bond Street, London W1; 18 Sloane Street, London SW3 (enquiries, 0171-629 2716); beige cords, pounds 50; cream desert boots, pounds 117, both from Jigsaw Menswear, as before

Union Jack cashmere polo-neck jumper, pounds 285, by Fake London, from Jones, 15 Floral Street, London WC2; Liberty, as before; Geese, as before; black skirt, pounds 54, by Jigsaw, 21-23 Northgate Street, Chester; 53-54 East Street, Brighton; 61 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, and branches (enquiries, 0171-491 4484); black desert boots, pounds 36, by Clarks, as before Styling assistant Holly Davies

Hair Craig Taylor

Make-up AlexSandra, using NARS

Models Camilla Rutherford and Rene Bouman, at Storm

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