Mastering the Boy-Girl Mix for More Interesting Outfits

One of the things I’ve always loved about the French style aesthetic is that there’s often a mix of masculine and feminine elements in an outfit. Today I’m sharing an easy striped sweater outfit. And I’ll break down how I balanced the masculin/feminin elements to hit my style sweet spot.

I think a little bit of contrast or tension in an outfit can be what makes it interesting. Outfits that are too much one thing can look a bit formulaic and expected. I love mixing masculine and feminine, rough and refined, polished and relaxed, or classic and quirky to achieve a certain vibe. (And I’ve never been comfortable in a strictly “girly” look, anyway.)

Creating balance in a striped sweater outfit

Mixing masculine and feminine elements in an outfit: Susan B. wears a striped cardigan, silk bandana, off-white tee, boyfriend jeans, ballet flats, carries a soft leather bag.

Nowadays, many types of clothing have become more unisex. (Jeans, for example.) And whether an item of clothing “reads” as masculine or feminine may depend on the viewer’s culture, region, upbringing, and traditions. It’s not my intention to perpetuate rigid gender stereotypes, and your perception of an item may differ from mine. And each person will have their own idea of what feels “balanced.” But here’s my breakdown, and why this look hit the balance and vibe I was going for.

Susan B. wears a rag & bone striped cardigan, silk bandana scarf, off-white tee, boyfriend jeans, pointed toe flats, wears a Loewe Flamenco bag over the shoulder.

The boy-meets-girl outfit breakdown

  • Starting with the base, the jeans and tee alone would read as masculine. (Especially a cuffed, straight-leg jean.)
  • The bandana pattern of the scarf leans a little masculine, but the soft, silky fabric is more feminine, so that’s a nice mix right there.
  • The softer shape and crocheted texture of the cardigan read as feminine, though the stripes temper that a bit. (Straight lines and shapes tend to read as more masculine, curved lines and shapes more feminine.)
  • The shoes…definitely feminine with that pointed toe. (I could also go slightly more androgynous with a pair of sneakers instead.)
  • And the soft bag with the drawstrings also reads as more feminine.
Susan B. sits on steps wearing sunglasses, a brown silk scarf, striped cardigan and bead bracelets.

👉Style tip: Don’t forget to factor hairstyle, makeup, and jewelry into the mix. My short hair can read as more masculine, which is why I don’t feel quite myself in a strictly “garçon” look. Makeup can also offset a more masculine-leaning look, even just a swipe of red lipstick. With some exceptions, jewelry tends to skew more feminine.

Susan B. stands on the sidewalk holding a soft leather bag, wearing a striped cardigan, silk bandana, off-white tee, boyfriend jeans and pointed toe ballet flats.
Not sure what I was trying to demonstrate or explain here 🤪 but was having some fun with it…

In this outfit: the striped cardigan sweater is a cotton blend (wool-free) and a nice light weight for spring. I’m wearing X-Small.

Budget-friendly options:

This tee is a good one for Springs and Autumns, as the color (“Lighthouse”) is a slightly creamy off-white. I’m wearing X-Small. And the scarf is one of the silk bandanas I mentioned in Tuesday’s post. (If you’re “carré-curious” they’re a good starting point, as they’re budget-friendly and lightweight.)

I’ve had these jeans for a while now. I’m wearing size 27. I keep saying I’m going to get them hemmed, but then end up wearing them cuffed.

What opposing elements (if any) do you try to balance in your outfits?

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  1. Great post; very helpful. Thank you for breaking each piece down. I realize that, with short hair like yours, I too am inclined to include more feminine pieces in my outfits, but I don’t have your gamine cuteness and tend more classic. And I don’t feel like myself without a necklace and earrings.

    1. Hi Michelle, thank you! And yes, it’s good to know those pieces that make you feel like yourself.

  2. Great post, because this is exactly my style :). I would only add that I associate certain colors with a more traditionally feminine outfit, especially pinks and pastels.

  3. Thank you Susan, this is really interesting. I definitely prefer a natural look and jeans are a large part of that. I never seem to quite achieve a balance between my preference for casual attire (mainly jeans and fleeces) and looking ‘put together’. Reading this article I think I will have to look carefully at the masculine and feminine aspects of my outfits. Thank you again – great article.

  4. Great post! I love how you break down the components of your outfit. I think it’s always more interesting when there’s some tension in the look – masculine/feminine, or formal/casual. Makes it fun!

  5. What a great outfit and I love your analysis of male/female elements although I feel rather paralysed by the task of putting together an outfit now. I’ve really enjoyed watching how your styling and colours have developed over the years.

  6. I’ve always felt most comfortable in a boy meets girl look. Your outfit would suit me perfectly, although I’d probably choose sneakers over the pointed toe shoes.

  7. This is a super interesting and informative post. I have learned something today and I am going to try and duplicate my own take on this outfit. (I am petite, have short hair and a gamine but skew more towards classic with gamine secondary.). I love the feminine shoe with the jean. I must try that!

  8. I guess I haven’t really thought about this. Head to toe ruffles versus garage-man coveralls I could recognize, but the subtle hints is something different. I’m going to look at my wardrobe and give this more thought.

  9. You achieved a very balanced look. I often struggle with this balance. Being tall can mean I look more masculine. Thanks for explaining your process.

  10. This is one of my favorite oft-overlooked aspects of style! And as I get older, and less markedly feminine in my looks (waistline fading etc.) I find I nudge my style more towards the girly. I have been known to put on an outfit and say to myself, “Nah, too butch,” or, “Nah, too girly;).”