By Miko Takama
For as long as fashion has existed, the industry has worked under the assumption that gender exists in a binary. Every aspect of the fashion system is constructed to the segregated ideas of menswear and womenswear: fashion weeks, retail floors, modelling and even creative directorships.
The society and the fashion industry have been slow to break outdated gender roles and the binary concept of fashion while creating a space where clothes aren’t confined to a particular gender.
However, the idea of gender-neutral fashion or to not conform to gender stereotype with clothes is becoming mainstream. Young generations are trying to erase those gender-specific presumptions that would normally be attached to clothes.
So what’s this movement mean and is the fashion industry ready to embrace it?
Gender-Neutral Clothing is Challenging the Social Norms
People tend to categorise certain garments as being traditionally built for a particular body shape, but the traditional notion about garments made for certain body types is eroding.
The fashion activism; it’s not a new concept to use clothes as a way to tell society about how you feel about something. Fashion has been used as a platform to break binary constructions. Fashion can be a political statement, a symbol of resistance against a repressive government. The way we dress can be an expression and an extension of who we are and what we stand for, and a reflection of how we regard gender roles.
Young generations don’t think of themselves in terms of boxes or binaries and they don’t want brands to, either. They expect brands to acknowledge gender inclusivity, even if these consumers don’t identify as non-binary themselves. They want spaces where everyone can really express themselves more authentically.
Fashion with No Masculinity, No Femininity
Last year, Harry Styles was on the cover of US Vogue wearing Gucci ballgown and a tuxedo jacket. He has blurred the boundaries between masculine and feminine fashion with his gender-neutral dressing. He’s not the first one to take the genderless approach to fashion. Stars like Prince and Elton John wore their disregard for gender norms on their sleeves quite literally.
Young generations including Gen-Z and Millennials are watching the LGBTQ+ community gain more mainstream visibility through shows such as Queer Eye and shows starring transgender actors. Social media has also allowed people to see a constant stream of provocative images. Over time, one considered outrageous or social faux pas will be normalised to a certain extent.
As a result, they are more fluid about gender identity, sexuality, and expression than any previous generation.
As gender roles are burring, the traditional fashion identities of both men and women are blurring along with them.
Gender Neutral Fashion Is Not Unisex
Unisex clothing isn’t as inclusive as gender-neutral clothing. The focus of unisex garments is only on the two sexes. Most unisex clothing is oversized, too big for women’s body, and not everyone prefers that. Gender-neutral designs need to be fitted for all body types and should be comfortable for people to carry and move around.
The same goes with when we talk about queer style, we are not talking about gay men creating binary clothing for women. When you cater to gender-neutral garments, it’s more inclusive as well as queer-friendly.
Reorganising The Fashion Industry
The fashion industry is now taking a leap towards the eradication of gender-specific dressing. Brands are trying to align themselves with choice and openness to self-expression. 56% of Gen-Z consumers already shop outside of their gender, ignoring clothing labels and gendered sections.
Brands are also seeing the greater potential for the genderless fashion because it connects two market segments and the audience is much bigger. Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Stela McCartney among other brands parading such style for spring 2021 or launching capsule collection in recent months.
Last year, London Fashion Week in June was digital-only and merged menswear and womenswear to form a gender-neutral platform. Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of BFC stated “Many of our businesses have always embraced LFW as a platform for not just fashion but for its influence on society, identity and culture.”
Meanwhile, at the fashion department of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, an exhibition, “Gender Bending Fashion” was showcased. All mannequins at the show were gender-neutral looking, and all of them are in a shade of grey. The show examined a rich history of fashion disrupting, blurring, and redefining conventions and expectations around the relationship between gender and dress.
All of these collections from brands, fashion week and exhibitions reflect the changing gender roles, increasing visibility of LGBTQ+ communities, and touching on issues of gender identity and expression, sexuality, race, class, activism, social justice and more in the society.
Genderless Fashion is Here to Stay
The world is different today. It seems like the societal stigmas related to staples such as dresses and heels could finally get broken down. People are much braver. They’re feeling more secure with themselves and the society that they’re living in.
The fashion industry needs to aspire inclusivity, companies need to revise hiring structures and amplify trans and non-binary representations at a senior level and a diverse range of genders, races and sizes on the runway and in campaigns.
It’s time to move beyond gender-segregated stores and magazines. People should be able to wear whatever they like, without the fear of getting judged. Hopefully, the journey will help us discover a new sensuality, and new sexuality, breaking down preconceived ideas of what’s masculine and feminine.
How do you see the future of gender neutral fashion, leave your comments below.