Is there a place for gender in fashion?

Sophie Schneider asks if the future is androgynous

Sophie Schneider
27th February 2017

Genderless clothing is clearly the future of fashion. The bridge between what is deemed appropriate attire for either genders is becoming extremely narrow in the 21st century; our world is constantly evolving, and the rigid hegemonic gender binaries are shifting, therefore fashion is a platform to express this change.

I imagine a utopic future where we all float about in harmony, decked out in a mixture of wide-leg flare trousers and long tunics: a sort of mash-up of a Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ vinyl cover, and Louis Vuitton’s 2016 Spring Ad Campaign featuring Jayden Smith wearing a skirt. As modern and fabulous as this feels, androgynous fashion is not a new concept in the UK. Gender neutral clothes have been lurking around since the 1930’s, where women’s fashion evolved almost instantly to being more masculine, as a direct reaction to the number of women taking over traditionally assumed ‘male jobs’ during WW2. The 1960’s and 70s saw a uniformity of male and female fashion styles, although there was a slight masculine tilt, such as longer shorts and shapeless shirts for both women and men. The US experienced similar changes towards gender neutrality in fashion. Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent were the real pioneers throughout the genderless fashion movement of the 60s and 70s, with YSL launching ‘le smoking’, the ‘mannish’ suit for women in 1966.



  Recently, there has been more of a push for gender neutral clothing, as designers have softened men’s clothing styles with floral patterns and pussy bows, and similarly women’s styles have been toughened with leather and straight-leg styles. In March 2015, Selfridges opened a new line called Agender, a pop-up shopping experience in their department store released with a powerful video where the clothes were sold without fixed gender categorisations. Zara also joined the craze, and created a subsection of their store called Ungendered, although I personally found the clothing quite uninspiring, confined to black and white jumper dresses. That being said, it can’t be denied that UK department stores have started to adapt to a more neutral stance with women’s clothing.

“Recently, there has been a push for gender neutral clothing, as designers have softened men’s clothing styles with floral patterns and pussy bows”

There is so little stigma around women wearing traditionally assumed ‘male’ clothing. I can wear my dad’s old jumpers, shirts from the men’s department and dresses from Topshop without shocked looks of disapproval, so I’m more interested in how gender neutral clothing will affect men. It’s very hard to imagine a hardcore group of Geordie men nursing a pint of bitter whilst sporting a lilac dress complete with heels; the future for that is probably not too near.



However, as previously mentioned, Jayden Smith has been advocating asexual clothing, and his reasons for becoming involved in the Louis Vuitton campaign were apparently so that his future children can wear what they want, be it a floral dress or spike-encrusted biker boots, regardless of their gender and without shame. I’m sure that with the influence of young male and female celebrities and the continuous push of daring designers, my idealistic vision of a complete shift towards acceptance of non-binary gender fashion (albeit not quite as psychedelic trippy-hippy as Hendrix’s album cover) is just around the corner.

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