Hit & Run: Suits you, madam

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The Independent Online

You’ve heard of boyfriend jeans and boyfriend blazers - if you’re worth your fashion salt, girls, you’ll already own both. Or better still, you’re wearing them. But an entire wardrobe that matches your boyfriend’s? Such notions went out with his and hers hand towels… Didn’t they?

Well, identical dressing has been given a makeover. On Friday, Yves Saint Laurent launches its “Editions Unisex” line, a capsule collection that redraws garments in the men’s range as clothing for women.

While there are no peplums or exaggerated darting, the garments have been gently reconfigured. “The anatomy of the female body has been considered, and proportions adjusted to reassign the menswear looks to women,” explains YSL spokeswoman Anoushka Borghesi. So girls, you can get your hit of androgyny, safe in the knowledge that you don’t look too masculine. And boys, well, you can carry on wearing your suits.

Saint Laurent designer Stefano Pilati has tapped into the label’s USP. “It’s a contemporary translation of the mixing of gender roles that historically belongs to Yves Saint Laurent’s aesthetic,” continues Borghesi – and she isn’t talking about matching dungarees and shell suits. Yves’ iconic Le Smoking, a tuxedo reworked for women, revolutionised high fashion when it was launched in 1966, but that didn’t stop swanky establishments turning away the fashion-forward femmes who dared to wear it in public. When New York socialite Nan Kempner was refused entrance to a restaurant, she simply took off the trousers and wore the jacket on its own.

Androgyny is subtly titillating when it’s done correctly, but simply traumatic when cocked up. Who could forget, for instance, the late-Nineties unisex horror of combat trousers, a trend that caught on thanks to girl-band All Saints. The multi-pocketed, billion-zipped creations were part of a laid-back street vibe which went even more horribly wrong when shops began rolling out versions in pink satin with diamante and embroidered dragons.

And while anyone can do the simple androgyny of jeans and a T-shirt, nobody has ever managed to look good in a male skirt. Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons and John Galliano have all tried to promote the garment, and Jean Paul Gaultier famously wore his with a transparent, skin-tight T-shirt (kilts are exempt from the debate because they’re regional dress).

The basic truth that Yves Saint Laurent hit on back in the Sixties is that only tailoring lends itself to the Victor/Victoria-style blending of genders. Very little else seems to follow an easy his and hers formula with any success – apart from towels, of course. Harriet Walker

YSL’s ‘Editions Unisex’ is available to buy only on 20 and 21 February. Call 020-7493 1800 for details

Anyone seen Lance’s bike?

Lance Armstrong is a man who relishes a challenge. Even so, the cancer-beating Tour de France comeback king may struggle in his latest competition – someone’s made off with his bike. This was no ordinary set of wheels but a unique Trek time-trial cycle, the kind of thing that would draw attention at a car boot sale – or on eBay, where spoof pages appeared yesterday offering it to the highest bidder. OK, so it was locked in a van in California rather than chained to railings in Britain, but how should you secure a £10,000 bike? Over to Warren Rossiter, lock tester at Cycling Plus magazine. “Just buy the best one you can afford,” says Rossiter, who “attacks” locks with bolt croppers, hammers and an angle grinder. The toughest device out there? “I’d get a Kryptonite New York 300D” for about £75. Simon Usborne

Caution: may cause public humilation

This week’s cult viewing is the video clip that prompted the Japanese finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa to resign, in which he appears somewhat tired and emotional at a Rome press conference. Nakagawa blames the shambolic performance on his excessive consumption of cough medicine and, to judge by its place on the viral video chart, a lot of people are having a laugh.

But the perils of over-the-counter medication are no laughing matter, especially when they end your career. (Of course, Nakagawa’s resignation might have had more to do with Japan’s steepest quarterly decline in GDP for 35 years than a stiff Suntory and soda or two on the plane.)

Spare a thought for Alain Baxter, who was stripped of his bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics after testing positive for Levmethamphetamine, a mild version of a banned substance. Baxter never got his medal back. His mistake was to use a Vicks Vapor Inhaler when he got the sniffles.

In April 2001, cold medication was blamed for the deaths of two men in a plane crash at Goodwood airfield near Chichester. Norman Leas, the flight instructor in the cockpit of the vintage Spitfire, had diphenhydramine in his blood, an antihistamine known to induce drowsiness.

Indeed, many cough and cold mixtures contain antihistmaines. They’re cheap and effective, but also strong. (More expensive examples have fewer side effects, hence their cost.) So always read the label, particularly before taking control of a vehicle or entering a sporting event. Or holding a press conference, of course. Tim Walker

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