For generations after Woody Allen’s seminal film Annie Hall was released, women have looked to Dianne Keaton (and Annie Hall) for their fashion inspiration.

Diane Keaton was 31 when she played Annie Hall. When she became herself.

That always makes me feel better, like it’s not too late.

In July I was too old to be spending my first New York summer eating banana popsicles and watching basketball at West 4th and Avenue of the Americas, and certainly too sweaty. I told Jackie we should go to the Film Forum. They were playing Annie Hall.

After the movie, which I’d seen a hundred and two times but which felt new in New York, the way so many dead things do, Jackie said she wished she could dress more like Diane Keaton. Every woman in the West knows what that means: Long, loose-limbed trousers; funny sharp vests; floppy hats; silk ties — so easy, so iconic. But you have to be tall, in height or confidence (preferably both) and you can’t take your body, or anything, too seriously.

The “Annie Hall” look is not per se sexy. It was about removing oneself from the gender paradigm, the male gaze. It was about looking like a man, thinking like a man, “having sex like a man,” a la that first infamous episode of Sex and the City and an entire wave of feminism. But to steal from philosopher Judith Butler, gender is a burlesque show, not biology. Sex is part science, but sexiness is all art, all show, not tell.

For Keaton, a certain Bohemian-second-wave feminist, anti-sexiness was more like hide and seek. Just as Comme des Garcon and Rei Kawakubo’s “anti-fashion” is also the highest fashion, Keaton became the height of desirability. In her bowlers and burlap-sack slacks and bad secretary blouses, her body seemed disappearing, wispy. Men wanted to find it, to pin it down. She wanted to stay damn near invisible. As a woman with sexual capital, you know you can always use your body to get ahead. But if you can escape your body, you can go more places. You can feel freer.

In Keaton’s recent memoir Then Again, she remembers Allen’s direction on set. “Loosen up the dialogue,” he told Keaton. “Forget the marks. Move around like a real person. Don’t make too much of the words, and wear what you want to wear.”

So she wore exactly that, or borrowed it, Keaton says, from “cool-looking women on the streets of New York.” These women, “the real costume designers of Annie Hall,” weren’t wearing so-called boyfriend jeans or some such normative bullshit. These women were wearing the notion of manhood, mimicking it, mocking it. And the costume these women collectively inspired, for Keaton, for Hall, for us, will last as long as does that notion of manhood, and woman’s need to self-define against it.

Sarah Nicole Prickett is a writer based in New York.
Michelle Jun is a streetstyle photographer based in Toronto.


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