Charlotte Rampling was shot by Helmut Newton multiple times in the seventies, often wearing little more than an alluring Mona Lisa smile. Yet there is one black-and-white Newton of the French bombshell taken for Vogue in 1978 in which she is covered head to toe, dressed in a handsome two-piece houndstooth suit by Yves Saint Laurent-and arguably at her most smoldering. "I actually think a really feminine body is the best foil to an androgynous wardrobe," says Vogue.com Contributing Photographer Rachel Chandler Guinness, who counts the actress as one of her style icons. "In some ways it's more sexy than a dress." Like Rampling, she is at her best in pants (she wore a wide-legged pair by Céline on her wedding day), regularly borrows button-downs from her husband (stylist Tom Guinness), and somehow doesn't quite fit the classic tomboy mold. "When you're wearing a masculine silhouette, there needs to be a contrast," says Chandler Guinness who keeps her nails polished, Manolos high, and hair no shorter than shoulder-length to amplify the tension. She'll step up a baggy pleated pant with a flirty midriff-grazing crop top.
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And you don't have to look much further than the street to see that others are following suit. Model and record label owner Caroline de Maigret, for example, is often captured dashing between shows in a menswear-inspired uniform that usually includes a collared shirt unbuttoned to her navel. New ideas of androgyny are on the agenda this season overall, from the influx of boy-girl dressing on the runway to gender-bending models like Casey Legler, a six-foot-two former Olympic swimmer featured in the latest issue of Vogue. "I think masculine clothes can really frame your femininity," says Hannelore Knuts. The Belgian model recently helped launch new Parisian tuxedo line Pallas and likes to wear the label's tailored vests with nothing underneath. "It's nice to show a little décolleté with a suit," says Knuts, who played David Bowie in the Soulwax brother's audio-visual tribute to the British music legend last year. "One of my girlfriends gave me a beautiful button-down shirt with strict instructions-she said don't you dare button it up to the top! Just buy a beautiful bra."
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In addition to her friend's advice, Knuts suggests using ladylike accessories to soften the look, like a printed silk scarf, jewel-like box clutch, or delicate pendant necklace. To counterbalance the boxy line of her favorite boyfriend blazers she'll wear skinny jeans with stilettos or a body-skimming dress. From time to time she'll still go full throttle on androgyny, "just like the thin white Duke," as she puts it, with baggy pants and an oversize blazer-but never without heels. "You know, as much as I like wearing boyish looks, I'm still very much a girl," she says. "There's always a duality, a dialogue-and that shows in the way that you carry yourself more than anything else."
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