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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

(Re)Fashioning gender: The art of androgyny

In the past few years, there has been an influx of clothing that caters to folks who wish to defy the gender binary.  More than ever, runways are being overtaken by collections inspired by androgynous and gender-bending apparel. At the same time, there have been loads of start-ups, both online and off, which feature similar fashions. It’s impossible to say exactly why androgyny has become so prevalent – have people become more aware and accepting of the idea that gender does not strictly exist inside of a binary? Have those who are frustrated with the mainstream perception of gender become more active in the fashion industry? Or, is it simply an increase in both areas?  Whatever the reason, genderless fashion is making big waves, which is an inevitable step towards broadening common ideas about gender identity.

It’s easy to see that androgyny has become extremely popular in recent high-fashion.  Designer Vivienne Westwood, for example, created a collection for Autumn/Winter ‘14 that was largely inspired by Androgyny Queen (patent pending) Tilda Swinton. Then there are designers like Craig Green, whose Autumn/Winter collection featuring “romantic menswear” like tunics and skirts are flipping gender roles on their heads.  Each of these movements in high-fashion could mean big things for the ways that society perceives gender in general. Fashion, after all, is part of how we choose to represent our identities – and a large part of our identities revolves around our gender.

This could be one of the reasons why many start-ups geared toward, and created by, LGBTQ individuals have begun to pop up all over the place. Companies such as Sharpe Shooting and Greyscale Goods have begun to offer suits and other garments tailored to queer and trans-identified folks. A lot of these companies function mainly online, such as DapperQ and Original Tomboy, allowing them to cater to a much wider clientele.  This is a huge deal for those who have attempted to purchase and wear clothes designed for a gender that does not match their physical bodies. It seems that this issue has been used as motivation for designers and business-owners though, as more and more companies which center around exactly that dilemma are beginning to populate the fashion industry.

Androgynous fashion is still kind of a niche overall – not all of these gender-bending start-ups are exactly affordable, nor are they available in most large retailers – it’s certainly a step toward dismantling binaristic notions of gender identity. Genderless fashion refuses to assign an individual a gender based on their body type. This is awesome, because it allows people to accurately express themselves without being limited by the size and shape of the clothes they’re shopping for.

To reach CHELSEA SPILLER, email her at ctspiller@ucdavis.edu.

Graphic by Jennifer Wu

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