Gender Fluidity in Fashion

Ryan Thompson

It seems as though our clothing represents our gender identity from the time we are young. Little boys are dressed in blue onesies covered in monster trucks, and little girls are clothed in pink onesies with frills and bows sewed at the hems. My hypothesis is that one’s dress is usually the first mechanism we use to decipher if a person is a “male” or “female,” because it is the most outward expression of gender there is. It is how we keep from having that embarrassing slip-up of complimenting how pretty a woman’s little baby boy is or how handsome one’s little girl is. However, as we grow older, it is suddenly okay for boys to wear a little bit of pink here and there, and it’s okay for girls to wear a jersey of their favorite football team. Now, as I become an adult, it is clear just how gender-fluid fashion really is.

Gender fluidity has become a popular topic within the “millennial” generation. Gender fluid meaning one whose gender is not fixed. They don’t identify as male or female, but gender fluid. Though it is a hot topic, I wouldn’t exactly say gender fluidity is a new topic. Gender fluidity has always had a place in high fashion, and with terminology such as “tom-boy” and “drag queen,” it has become more and more common to challenge gender roles in fashion. Popular artists of today such as Rihanna, who frequently turns men blazers into dresses, and Kanye West, who has made headlines in leather skirts, have spearheaded the gender fluidity movement as of late. The hip-hop community, frequently accused of hyper-masculinity, has slowly begun to evolve into a more open and accepting community with popular rappers such as Kid Cudi in a crop-top and Lil Uzi Vert doing… whatever Lil Uzi Vert decides to do.The line of acceptable deviations from the gender norms of fashion have become blurred, and I personally couldn’t be happier. Popular fashion lines such as Gucci have brought collections to Paris Fashion Week with men wearing exclusively womens clothes littered with lace and oversized bows, and as I flip through last month’s issue of “W” magazine, women in baggy men’s suits and oversized denim seem to be a new normal. The idea that fashion and one’s dress exclusively represent their identity as male or female has been shaken up.

When Rihanna hits the streets in a men’s blazer, it does not speak to her identity of a woman, nor does it challenge her femininity. It is simply a deviation. When Kanye West leaves the house in a woman’s skirt, it does not represent nor does it discredit his identity as a man. Whether this deviation is a rebellion against social norms, or a deviation with no meaning at all, it still sends a powerful message nonetheless. Masculinity has been known to strike down vulnerability or regarded as a sign of weakness, and femininity has been known to emphasize women as cooperative and seductive.This can be extremely damaging to those who feel the desire to defy those norms and expectations.

Fashion has become a first-line of defense for those outliers. Fashion has begun to separate itself from gender identity. It has become exploritive and inviting, proving that men and women aren’t so different. Fashion shouldn’t be used to emphasize the differences that do occur.

Though fashion can be an integral part of one’s identity, it’s interpretation can still be left to oneself. Femininity can be expressed with more than a pink frill and a tutu. Masculinity can stretch far beyond baggy pants and fitted caps. Though it is much easier for people with celebrity status to challenge these gendered-fashion norms, the movement is slowly trickling down to us “regular” members of society. The less we label these members of society “pariahs,” the more likely we are to make progress within fashion that hopefully strikes progress in the entire gendered system. Let’s just hope that society can see this as a milestone, as opposed to a hurdle to overcome.