The Indian activist and former prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, used to say that ignorance is always afraid of change. The truth is that in a world full of sources of information that are highly accessible and are updated constantly, our thoughts and ideas are evolving quicker than ever, and it is easier to find answers to the questions we’ve had for a long time.
During the last couple of decades, our perception of gender and sexuality has evolved because more information about these topics has been discovered thanks to scientists, psychologists, and lots of research. This information has answered some questions but has also raised some others that question traditional gender expectations related to fashion: "Why do I, as a girl, have to wear a skirt at school if I don't want to?" "Why am I being judged for wearing "feminine" clothes as a man?" "Why is there an expectation for men to dress "masculine" and for women to dress "feminine"? What does that even mean?
These questions are very relevant to designers because, in the end, consumers have the ultimate decision on what direction fashion should take. So based on these discoveries and the questionings on traditional gender expectations, fashion is evolving. Fashion is becoming genderless!
What is gender?
Many people use the terms sex and gender as synonyms, and even though they are related, they are not the same. Sex is related to the biological attributes of a being. In most countries, babies are assigned a sex based on their reproductive anatomy and are most commonly categorized by male, female, and a third option on some occasions. (CIHR, 2020).
In contrast, gender is our expression, identity, and the social constructions we build around our behaviors and the way we interact with each other. Gender is not static, and it can change over time. (Gender Spectrum).
We perceive gender differently, and that's how we express it. That's why there are women who are "not so feminine" or "a little harsh" and men who are "not so masculine" or "soft." These expressions have nothing to do with who we are attracted to but more about who we are and how we want to express ourselves internally and externally.
Gender is often a determining factor in our personality, the way we relate to other people, and of course, it may also determine our fashion choices.
Define genderless fashion
If we start from the very basics, a garment is not meant to be for any gender specifically. It is the marketing, the label, our perceptions of gender, and the categorization of the retail or online store that communicates what gender must wear this garment. As an example, a skirt is meant for girls because the ideas that our society has built around it made us believe that. There isn't really a physical or biological reason that impedes men from wearing skirts. In fact, young generations are making political statements about the strict binary uniform policies at schools, and boys are encouraging other boys to wear skirts. (Girls Uniform Agenda.)
This binary categorization that tries to dictate what people should wear based on their gender is segregation and is no longer an accurate representation of our society. In today's world, where inclusive language is becoming more relevant in global companies and where it's becoming easier for trans people to update legal documentation true to their identity, our world is transitioning to become genderless. And if we change with our world and policies, so does our fashion.
The Binary Categories.
Think about a library that only has two main categories: Highly tragic dramas and silly childish comedies. What happens to the big spectrum of narratives that combine these two genres? What about those comedies that have a little bit of drama just to have a memorable happy ending? Doesn't it feel extreme to categorize literature into such specific genres with little room for diversity? That's what's happening when we categorize fashion in binary terms. Folks from different backgrounds struggle to find their authentic self through fashion in a department store divided by men's and women's clothing. We are putting obstacles in a world that is asking for gender inclusivity, equity, and diversity.
William Shakespeare didn't find words to express concepts that he needed in his novels, so he came up with words to describe what he was trying to say. Some of the words invented by Shakespeare include uncomfortable, unaware, and critic. (Grammarly.) Language evolves when we find the need to express concepts that we cannot articulate with existing words.
So right now, our language is evolving to articulate the huge spectrum of gender identities, with words that were unfamiliar to most people decades earlier. Terms like genderfluid, genderqueer, or pangender are now part of an established vocabulary that helps us understand better this spectrum of gender identities.
Diverse gender identities have existed for as long as humans have existed. The novelty is that now we have enough information and vocabulary to understand them better.
The Resistance Towards Genderless Fashion
As with every moment of evolution in human history, there's been an attempt for resistance. Galileo Galilei was charged with heresy after holding the belief that the Earth revolves around the sun. Voltaire was arrested for his fight for freedom of thought. It seems like every time we make progress in our beliefs; there is an attempt to push us back.
One of the main reasons why there is resistance to change is because we don't have enough information to understand the progress made. How would people trust Galilei if people believed for centuries that the Earth was the center of the Universe? How dare he challenged the status quo and the statements that Plato established and were believed for a long period of time?
Progress can be challenging, but it's necessary and, in many ways inevitable. So the best thing we can do to accept and welcome genderless fashion in our lives is to answer the questions we may have.
Here are some of the most common questions related to genderless fashion.
"Why do I as a cisgender man/woman care about genderless fashion?"
Genderless fashion gives everyone more room for creativity and authentic expression, regardless of your gender and how you perceive your gender. It is a relief from traditional social constructions we've been dragging for centuries.
"Is genderless fashion related to drag?"
Drag is a form of gender expression that often exaggerates gender roles and is used for performances and entertainment. Drag can be genderless, but it's not the only way genderless fashion looks.
"Are genderless clothes for trans people only?"
Genderless clothes are not for trans people only. They are designed to be easy to use by different types of bodies so that every gender feels comfortable wearing them. Genderless clothes are particularly welcoming for folks who are figuring out their authentic self and don't feel comfortable with restrictive categories in fashion. Cisgender (people who identify as men or women), transgender, gender-fluid, and the whole spectrum of gender identities may use this type of clothing.
"If I wear genderless clothes, am I gay?"
Your sexual orientation is completely unrelated to your fashion choices. You'll see lots of genderless clothes very similar to what other stores label as "menswear" or "womenswear," the idea is to introduce these clothes in a general and welcoming way for everybody.
"If I don't wear genderless clothes, will people think I'm against gender diversity?"
Not at all. As autonomous beings, we decide what clothes align best with ourselves; if you feel comfortable wearing menswear or womenswear, that is fantastic.
Your ideas, values, and practices in your everyday life are a great opportunity to show your support for gender diversity, which has nothing to do with the clothes that you pick for yourself! Genderless fashion targets the whole spectrum of genders, and if you as a consumer don't feel this kind of clothes is the best for you, that is fine. You can use this opportunity to educate yourself about genderless fashion and how it can positively impact people's lives.
"If I don't want to wear genderless clothes, but I want to be an ally of gender inclusivity, what do I do?"
The best thing you can do as an active ally is to spread the information and knowledge you have. By understanding inclusivity as the acceptance of all people, it's easier to understand the concept of genderless fashion. Explain to your friends and family what genderless fashion stands for and why it's important to push it forward. Little by little, this spread of information will make a more informed and, hopefully, more inclusive society.
“What does genderless fashion look like?”
It can look in any way, shape, or form! A genderless piece can be as simple as a t-shirt with enough ease to welcome different bodies and genders. It can be a tailored suit, a traditionally "women's piece" like a chiffon blouse that has room for wider shoulders, a dartless shirt, or a jumpsuit for the everyday look. You can take genderless fashion to all kinds of occasions and in all silhouettes, colors, and budgets.
“How do I start wearing genderless clothes?”
A lot of it comes from having an open mindset. There's a popular meme that says, "All clothes are genderless if you stop being so close-minded." Men who identify as men may shop in the women's department and try a pair of black sneakers that, even though are marketed to be women's sneakers they fit him. He likes the sneakers and he buys them, regardless of the marketing around them.
“How do I support genderless fashion?”
Many of the brands that aim to be fully genderless are quite small, so they need visibility. Follows, likes, retweets, comments, and shared posts on social media are a fantastic and free way of supporting these businesses and their values of inclusivity.
Now that you have a clearer idea about genderless fashion, and why it is so important for so many people around the world, it’s time to celebrate this significant progress in our society. Share this information with your inner circle and celebrate your authentic self with inclusive fashion that won’t put labels on you or make you feel excluded.
Welcome to our lives genderless fashion!