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The fashion industry is breaking gender constructs

Model: Andreja Pejic

The topic of Gender has gained traction in public spaces, and a positive and necessary dialogue is occurring regarding issues such as gender equality, expression, neutrality, and trans rights.
Fashion is a powerful means of expression, and has always had an important function for exposing the underlying patterns of gender distinctions for centuries. Fashion and gender are intertwined with each other, so much so that the clothed human body has created a gendered-structure of society.

Despite fashion being a form of expression, it is also limiting, and bound by the rules and norms of society. Fashion is by far the most gendered part of our life. Clothing stores are extremely gender-specific, with pronounced “Men’s and “ Women’s” section.

Societal norms require a man to strictly adopt styles labeled for them or else they risk being ridiculed as feminine. Likewise a woman wearing men’s clothes is generally regarded as masculine. Such a requirement has posed restriction to the freedom of clothing, more especially among the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, or Questioning. Lesbian, gay, bisexual) community, which is also associated with a constant pressure of being judged by the society.

Recently, the fashion world has made waves as a playground to explore the ways the body can display sex; be it femininity, masculinity, or ambiguity all through clothing.

Gender cross pollination is being embraced by some high-end fashion brand names and is making appearances on the runway, and the retail world is becoming more accepting of gender-fluid clothing.

Earlier this year, Milan Men’s Fashion Week saw gender-bending trends on the Gucci runway, with fashion houses such as Prada, Givenchy, and YSL introducing collections that can be worn by multiple sexes. Fresh off the press is Footwear Designer Nik Kacy, who just launched a luxury gender-fluid footwear line. As reported in Fashion Times, the designer’s kick starter campaign, which was launched back in February, saw that there was a hunger and a need for a line of ubiquitous, gender-neutral shoes that anyone could wear without conforming to any gender binaries.

Target Corporation, an  American discount retailing company is working to phase out gender-based signage. Earlier this year, Selfridges, a London department store, did away with the binary form of clothing by debuting “ A gender concept pop-up” which showcased the world’s most popular unisex clothing lines.

Further ubiquity of dominant outfitters such as American Apparel and Uniqlo with unisex lines have further blurred the gender lines. There is also Ellen DeGeneres’s clothing line called “Ed” which offers clothing with gender neutral lines for women.

Right here, in our own neighbourhood, we have “FUTURE IS THE FUTURE” a Toronto based vintage clothing store which has eliminated gender through unisex clothing.

These are just a few names amongst many others in the fashion industry who are stepping outside the binary implications of gender.

This trend has progressed beyond just clothing; from androgynous model Andreja Pejic walking both men’s and women’s shows on the runway, to as far as beauty lines, where individuals like Charles Worthington showcasing a new collection of gender-neutral hair styles, this effort to be more conscious and aware is making leaps and bounds.

However, non-gendered clothing isn’t new, it has been around for centuries. Ancient Romans wore gender neutral robes, as well as the Japanese with their kimonos, which were worn by both males and females.

It was during the mid-nineteenth century, a period which was highly patriarchal, when the  apparel of men and women become clearly differentiated.

The resurgence of this ancient neutrality around clothing is making waves in society, and society is also becoming more adjusted to the idea that gender is far more fluid than previously considered.

So, here’s to a future of fashion; an industry which is on its way to being inclusive. Let’s  celebrate “Our, not Her or His!”

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