In today’s world, the fluidity of gender and gender expression is experiencing a very public renaissance.
Maybe you’re one of the many people who have explored your gender expression in the past few years, discovering how wearing more feminine or masculine clothing affects your confidence and the way you show up in professional or social situations.
Or maybe you’ve known since a young age that you felt most authentic wearing clothing and enjoying hobbies that didn’t match what you were “supposed” to wear/enjoy according to your biological sex.
You may have been the tomboy girl growing up, wearing boys clothes and having mostly guy friends.
Or maybe you felt most confident & authentic as a girly-girl, wearing pink, lace, frills, makeup, long hair, and dresses.
Personally, I love seeing a greater acceptance around the exploration of gender roles, gender expression, and fashion.
I’m a big believer that diversity is a benefit to society and that homogeneity is frankly, a little boring.
I don’t like being pushed into a box. I can’t even count the amount of times I got called “bossy” or “aggressive” because I’m loud and don’t hold back my opinions, and I didn’t act like meek and subservient like a woman is “supposed” to act.
We live in a day & age where it’s more acceptable to step outside traditional gender norms to fully & authentically express who you are.
Not to say there aren’t still struggles, persecution, and even violence against those who dare step outside the norm – that is very real.
But I’m hopeful that is changing.
At Embodied Art Boudoir, I want to be an agent of change by creating a space where my clients feel free to explore their own personal expression and fashion while being celebrated for it.
I recently had such a fun & creative photoshoot experience with a genderfluid client, where we got to play around with femme vs masc outfits and posing, finding ways to capture the range of their depth in their images. It inspired me to write this post! Those photos are at the bottom.
What is Feminine vs Masculine?
Ok, I’m going to start off with saying I can’t possibly address this robust topic in a single post. There are so many societal & energetic factors in the feminine vs masculine question – local culture, family, religion, spirituality, and more.
As a photographer, I’m considering feminine vs masculine qualities as they play out through body language, outfits, colors, emotional expression, and feelings conveyed in the images I create.
So that’s what I’ll be talking about here!
I’m also using the shortened form of masc to refer to masculine and femme to refer to feminine.
Check out the images below – do certain ones strike you as more feminine while others feel more masculine?
The top two images have a more masculine feel to them, and the bottom two images have a more feminine feel to them.
We’ll explore what elements of the outfits, posing, and body language contribute to that.
Keep in mind – NOTHING I say is a hard & fast rule. I’m not a fashion expert or an expert in the varied ways people can express their gender & sexuality.
As a professional photographer of people’s most vulnerable & intimate selves, what I will share with you are just some of the things I have noticed, considered, and shared with my subjects when the topic of styling comes up.
When I say masculine, I generally think of the qualities of:
- Physical Prowess
When I say feminine, I generally think of the qualities of:
- Emotional Prowess
As you can see, even if you identify as a woman with a lot of feminine qualities, you probably recognize some masculine traits within you too!
Masculine traits don’t only belong to men. And feminine traits don’t only belong to women.
As a practitioner of yoga, I believe we benefit when we have a healthy mix of both the masculine & feminine qualities present in ourselves. It’s all about balance & authenticity.
Even my branding has intentionally blended masculine & feminine elements.
I use this masculine leaning font & color.
And this feminine leaning font & color.
Most people will lean more toward one set of qualities than the other – and that may even change throughout your life!
So let’s break down how we can communicate these qualities in your images.
We’ll start with outfits, because that’s a little easier to visualize than body language.
Outfits tend to look more masculine when they have multiple of the following qualities:
- Neutral & earthy colors – gray, black, brown, olive (with the exception of white)
- Thicker fabrics – leather, denim, wool, cotton
- Structured construction – the shape is apparent in the garment even when it’s not on the body
- Solid colors
- Prints: geometric like checkers, tartan, plaid
- Metal and leather details
Clothing tends to look more feminine when it has multiple of the following qualities:
- White, bright, or pastel colors
- Soft, flowy, or shiny fabrics like silk, satin, rayon, cashmere, velvet
- Sheer fabrics like chiffon, tulle, lace
- Form-fitting or loose, flowing construction
- Prints: florals, polka dots, small delicate details
- Details like embroidery, frills, and bows
Masculine Poses, Body Language, and Emotion
Here are some of the posing cues & body language I think of when posing clients to convey masculine qualities like confidence, assertiveness, power, and strength.
- Smirks & subtle frowns
- Eyes open
- Chin up
- Direct or confrontational gaze
- Legs wide
- Chest / body open toward the camera
- Hands on hips or crossed in front of chest
Feminine Poses, Body Language, and Emotion
Here are some of the posing cues & body language I think of when posing clients to convey feminine qualities like vulnerability, softness, receptiveness, and sensuality.
- Smiles & expressions of happiness
- Softness & relaxation in the body parts
- Coyness / shyness, like hiding behind a blanket, shoulder, or curtain of hair
- Eyes closed a lot
- Legs together or crossed
- Fingers gently grazing lips, breasts, hips or playing with hair/outfit
- Soft parts of the body exposed & turned toward the camera – neck, chest, wrists, thighs, belly, lips
Blending Masc & Femme in a Boudoir Photoshoot
Now we get to the really fun stuff. There’s so many ways we can express the range & depth of who we are through our images.
Check out these example images that blend masculine & feminine qualities together to represent multiple facets of the subjects.
Clockwise, from the top left:
- Masculine shirt with feminine pose & set styling (the flowers)
- Masculine blazer & strappy bra with feminine posing (lips, neck, chest) and jewelry
- Masculine body language with feminine lacy bralette
- Masculine button-down with feminine body chain & body langauge
- Masculine structured corset with feminine robe & body langauge
- Masculine styling (strappy, bold black lines) with feminine body language
- Masculine hoody with feminine flirty body language
- Masculine pose, body language, and leather jacket styling with feminine lacy rose bodysuit
You can see a beautiful interplay of masculine & feminine in these photos from a photoshoot with a genderfluid client who tends to present more masculine, who is in a same sex relationship with a cis woman who tends to present more feminine.
One of their favorite things about their relationship is how both of them embody both masculine & feminine qualities and the balance flows fluidly between them.
I guided them through choosing outfits (fabrics, colors, and patterns) and posing to express the power dynamic & emotion between the two of them that represents the fluidity of masculine & feminine in their photoshoot.
This is how those qualities were expressed in their images:
Masculine Boudoir, Feminine Boudoir, and Everything in Between
If you think boudoir is only about your feminine, sensual side, think again!
The beauty of boudoir is that it’s such an intimate form of photography, we have a wonderful opportunity to reveal the true you in your images.
No preconceptions, no “shoulds” about how you need to show up.
Show up as yourself, with all your messy humanity and depth.
Masc boudoir is just as worthy of being captured as femme boudoir, and everything in between!
Get in touch if you are interested in a boudoir photoshoot for yourself!