“What do you mean fashion has no gender?”
Yes, most of us never really had a choice when we were younger. Most of our parents announced our genders with shades of blues and pinks. We were dressed with cute pink purple bows, or shirts with depictions of trucks and superheroes. Middle school was this purposely forgotten time in our lives where girls HAD to be feminine and boys HAD to be masculine to be crushed on. Also a time when girls who dressed in boys’ clothing were considered “tomboys” because we had no other terms in our vocabularies to describe it. Even leading into high school, we were separated into these binaries in which girls were meant to be more comfortable in dresses, and drenched in makeup. Boys wore cute button ups, and basketball shorts. No one seemed to question it.
After all, clothing automatically expresses what our binary is, the assumption that sex, gender, and sexuality are all aligned, RIGHT?
How about no.
This isn’t always the case. While clothing is an expression of ourselves, it doesn’t automatically suggest that we are one or the other, or anything in between binaries. Fashion and gender identity became intertwined and lost in between all of the masculine and feminine talk. Yes, it is perfectly fine to identify yourself within the normative binaries of woman and man. The problem is that most people automatically identify people by what they wear because of this construct that men dress a certain way and women dress a certain way–forgetting that there are in-between identities.
Fashion designers have incorporated femininity into lines meant to be for people who identify as men, as well as masculinity into lines meant for people who identify as women for decades. Yes, heads have been turning for quite some time now. Whether or not designers are making this move for profit, or as a social movement is beyond me. But, gender neutral fashion lines are actually quite common in the industry at this point. Take Koché’s Spring 2016 line, for example.
HOLD UP, BACK UP! What is gender neutral clothing? Are you telling me that clothing and gender are separate? Are you telling me to wear it?
I’m telling you to wear whatever the hell you want to wear.
…and feel FABULOUS doing it no matter how you identify yourself.
Let me make something clear.
WE as individuals decide our respective genders. Those identities can range from woman to man, transgender, gender fluid, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, the list goes on.
If you didn’t know that gender is a social construct, in which the people decide what roles and behaviors are associated with each gender identity, well now you know! (And it’s total bologna)
…and because it is a social construct, we get to decide what piece of clothing we choose to cover our bodies!
For example, as a person in the Lgbtq+ community, the whole “gay aesthetic” revolves around this idea that gender binaries are apart or intertwined with the way we wish to express ourselves. It is actually very important what Lgbtq+ fashion has done for this industry. You’re probably thinking about how the fashion industry is already run by gay, white, cisgender, men anyways, so what’s the big deal? Well, unlike many big named fashion designers who are incorporating gender neutrality, Lgbtq+ specific fashion lines are a form of social and political activism. DapperQ, a clothing line that caters to masculine presenting women and trans identities, is an example of a brand that goes against the normative gender binaries. Editor-In-Chief Anita Dolce Vita states,
“But, queer style is not simply about white, cis, gay male fashion designers creating binary, gender normative, heteronormative collections to fit the fashion industry’s unattainable beauty ideals. It’s about inclusion and dismantling everything we’ve been taught about beauty norms rooted in ableism, classism, fatphobia, ageism, racism, misogyny, transphobia, and self-hate. Queer style is a social movement.” (Huffington Post)
(BTW, gender neutral clothing isn’t just for Lgbtq+)
“So, what does this all mean?”
In other words, beauty is not just rooted in heteronormative identities and style. Beauty is found in all kinds of styles, on all kinds of bodies, and all kinds of identities. This idea of gender neutrality is something that American society needs to talk about, deconstruct, and accept. It is time to start challenging the way America sees gender through this visual form. This fashion style isn’t just for queer people, it’s for everyone who finds comfort in it and wishes to embrace it.