Is gender in fashion still relevant?
Written by Adél
Since we were little, we have been taught that blue is for boys and pink is for girls. That girls should wear skirts, while boys have to wear trousers, and that women should wear high heels, whereas men cannot be seen in anything other than trainers or (desert boots - really?). Who would have ever thought that men in the 18th century wore high heels long before women? Or that in history, it was mostly about having the most embellished gown in order to be categorized in the higher social classes?
It was not uncommon for men of the past to be wearing wigs, pink suits, jewellery, silks, and other rich fabrics. Fashion started to become divided according to gender in the 19th century. Since then a lot of stereotypes have emerged, many of which can be seen today. Plenty of them came about for practical reasons, such as men's buttons on shirts placed on the left side, because they used to wear guns on the left so it was easier to access. Nevertheless, are these utilitarian reasons still relevant in fashion nowadays? And why should or shouldn’t my gender determine what I wear?
Photo: Motoguo.com, MOTO GUO Fall/Winter 2018 Lookbook
It is interesting and sad to think how the role of clothing has totally switched over the years. From defining the social class and a person's wealth, laws, to cultural and traditional costumes, to a tool for self-expression and at the same time an actual weapon made to be against people. From a cultural point of view, in many countries men wearing items like skirts is considered a highly-respected tradition. Whether it is the Indian dhoti, veshti, mundu; Scottish kilt; Sri Lankan sarong; Fijian sulu vakataga; African dashiki; ancient gowns of Egypt and Rome; or the Japanese hakama. All of these items of clothing are still worn at a lot of social gatherings to establish a great cultural and social identity, and there is nothing to look down your nose at with these traditional garments.
In this decade, designers have been invited to take a more liberal approach towards determining gender, in terms of creating new pieces. Not only designers, but also plenty of celebrities have become the faces of a new movement for gender fluid fashion. Usually, as fashion shifts and becomes more diverse, contemporary pop stars proudly adapt the novelties and spread them forward to their admirers. Putting Harry Styles in an impressive Gucci lace-trimmed dress paired with a dark double-breasted tuxedo jacket, on the cover of Vogue last December was far from the first step forward. So why is he given so much credit for that?
It is well-known that American Vogue has often featured unobtainable perfect white women on their front covers, as well as avoiding sharing something that might be a thorn in somebody's eye. We all appreciate that the magazine has finally featured something that was not that common until recently, however, I am left wondering why it is that a white man wearing a dress on this renowned magazine cover is considered as revolutionary, even though there were plenty of people before him - such as Billy Porter with his tuxedo dress for the Met Gala; Kanye West wearing his leather skirt in 2014; also Keiynan Lonsdale, Brandon Wilson, and Kyle MacLachlan appearing in front of their audiences in feminine clothing before.
Outside of show business
As I have already mentioned, it is great to see celebrities, magazines, and other media breaking stereotypical gender boundaries, however, in real life, people are still pretty sceptical about this. Sometimes it is even risky to leave our houses and walk or speak without being judged or pointed at. So imagine arriving at a family gathering with your conservative grandparents dressed up more like the opposite sex? It is essentially just a dress, just a piece of fabric, and if people cannot comprehend a man wearing a dress and feminine attire, or women wearing baggy jeans paired with a beanie, they should just get with the times or check in with their therapists! Thus we should be looking at masculinity and femininity in fashion as a scale. The job of designers is not to create gender-neutral clothing in a sense of unisex, instead, they should strive to use beautiful elements from both sides, and combine them into totally new gender-fluid statements.
Illustration: Tereza Nawrocká
The same would work for clothing in boutiques. I don't think that having only a unisex section is the best solution, since we have different anatomies, and the garments should fit our bodies properly, rather than our bodies fit the clothes. Therefore, anatomical arrangement might work, plus I would organize the shops more like a scale from more masculine to more feminine pieces, rather than having only 2 sections of “men/women”.
The most important thing is to feel powerful, and to stand tall in the outfit you are wearing. Our style does not define our gender, and I am more than happy that people are slowly adapting this mindset and starting to think out of the box.
Jared Michael Lowe: Pop Stars Didn't Invent Gender Fluidity, Teen Vogue, https://www.teenvogue.com/story/gender-fluid-fashion-celebrities-stars
Cathy Newman: Gender-bending fashion rewrites the rules of who wears what, National Geography, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/gender-bending-fashion-rewrites-rules-who-wears-what
Raiheth Rawla: Gender Fluidity: Fashion's Next Big Social Moonshot, TEDx Talks, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZde3PoXUs0