Femme tie girls show boys how neckwear should be done

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      This spring body-hugging, white shirts with structured collars will be paired with black shorts or skirts. Expect the tops smartly opened down by two, even three buttons. Women will be tempted to fill the space with cleavage, jewellery or, may it be suggested, with a Femme Tie ($60 at Hum Clothing, 3623 Main, and at Urbanity at 207 Abbott Street).

      They’re crafted of silk organza by Katherine Taylor. Taylor is a textile artist based in Montreal who, under the Viola Blanca label, smartly turns her art into beguiling fashion by making ascots, ties, and scarves that double as belts under her line.

      The Femmes are screen printed. Some, in a seeming nod to the menswear tradition of displaying critters on ties, feature birds or deer. They do not, however, make you look like Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. They’re more Audrey Hepburn. And unlike men’s ties, they’re free of emasculatory hang-ups. Men’s ties, though dashing, are also burdensome yokes of conformity. Instead, consider the Femme Tie a lady-like innovation in the evolution of neckwear. It has all the natty panache of a man’s four-in-hand and yet it still draws out a feminine mystique.

      Taylor says, “I was just looking at historical costumes and men’s accessories for inspiration for women’s accessories and I developed a tie for women that was a little more feminine yet still structured and architectural.”

      The Femme Tie, when knotted, is shorter and more crisp than the homme version. Better yet, Taylor’s cravat goes around a bare neck, bestowing upon the wearer the sexual allure of a swinger’s ascot without the smarminess.

      Try it. Amping up an outfit with a striking band of fabric has a long and provocative past. In 19th-century Paris, courtesans wore black satin ribbons like chokers as a way of signaling their trade. Female suffragists in search of the vote and prohibition adopted men’s long ties to assert their political aspirations and sobriety. Then there was Natalie Wood in Rebel Without a Cause. She was dressed in what seemed to be a mismatched twin set, black under, green on top, memorably set off by a rust-red neck scarf.

      Like a flower, the Femme Tie exudes a florid vitality. Paired with an open-collared blouse or a scoop shirt, it provides sexy oomph. As Taylor says, “If you add something with a little more structure and line to it, that’s a little less soft, I definitely think that gives you strength...I think it’s a great side effect.”