From: Fashion Journal 1/28/2020
By: Ruby Staley
With the original intention for function – hunting, running, sleeping etc. – clothing was initially shaped in organic ways. Capes and tunics were formed from the natural shape of the arbitrary materials and animal skins used.
The gender rules of clothing then transformed after the Middle Ages, when people went from rocking tunics to caring about the aesthetics of their outfits. The Victorians amped up gender distinctions from simply being the difference in hem lines, men’s tunics were traditionally knee length and women’s to the floor, to assigning gender stereotypes to specific pieces of clothing. Men were seen as serious, sober breadwinners so they wore classic three-piece suits. Women, on the other hand, were regarded as frivolous, superficial and silly so they wore flouncy and embellished dresses. Trousers were a man’s game and it was considered pretty scandalous for women to don a pair of slacks up until the 20th Century.
For so long, and even still so, dressing androgynously was synonymous with female versions of men’s clothing, see: power suits, or female figures borrowing wardrobe pieces from their male counterparts. Lately, we’ve witnessed men’s designers dip into feminine shapes, colours and combinations such as Sies Marjan’s belted jackets and Dior Homme’s experimentation with soft colours and cinched waists.
And while this form of androgynous styling, which could be considered ‘cross-dressing’, has seeped its way into the mainstream, there exists a more nuanced approach.
We’ve made some strides in separating gender stereotypes from fashion since the Victorian ages. But with the resurgence of puffed sleeves and the corset, we haven’t moved that far.
And while it’s safe to say that gendering clothing is arbitrary, due to the changing nature of its rules and regulations, it’s a trend we’ve never seemed to shake.
Androgynous dressing opens doors for design and styling that falls somewhere in between the two fashion worlds. It’s about more than women in pants and men in skirts.
It’s about innovation and taking it back to the functional roots and purpose of clothing.