Abolishing Gender in Fashion

I feel like we’ve reached the point in our modern day society where fashion should have no gender, where everyone and anyone should wear whatever they like without feeling shameful about it. A few months ago I felt the need to put this concept of abolishing gender stereotypes and breaking the boundaries in fashion into practice by creating a fashion project.

My passion is fashion that tells a story, communicates an important message and has an impact, and I wanted to bring this idea to life through my own creativity.

Now gender plays a big part in the world of fashion. I’m sure you’d agree with me if I said that a man wearing lace and an evening dress would be a bit weird and women sporting knee length gym shorts or a tuxedo would seem “too masculine”, but what I want to ask you is why is that? Why do we think that those clothes are only suitable for a specific gender? The answer is, because that’s what we’re told for some strange reason. It’s ridiculous right? I’m glad you agree 👍 Seriously though, in terms of origin of this “gendered fashion”, back in the day in the 1600s men wore lace, and in the 1800s women wore suits! I mean, the suits were with a skirt, but let’s just ignore that.

A particular fabric that is known to be feminine is lace. And ladies, get ready to be mad at society for what I’m about to say: lace is delicate and fragile, so are women. Lace is easy to break, so are women. Men don’t wear lace therefore men are strong, physically and mentally, unlike women. That’s essentially the message that lace being a lady’s fabric brings across. Awful right? I got so mad when I realised that. And, looking at typical masculine fabrics such as Harris tweed and leather, I learnt this: leather and tweed are strong, tough, and hard wearing, men are strong physically and mentally. Women don’t (typically) wear tweed or leather because women are not fit for the jobs where strong/tough fabrics are needed to be worn. Again, awful isn’t it! Its communicating this idea of all women are delicate and fragile and all men are strong, when actually, we’re all fragile, and some women are stronger than some men! We are all completely different and your gender doesn’t tell you how strong or weak you are or what you should wear and how you should look.

So here’s what I did about it.

I was like “right, this is not okay. I’m gonna make a no gender garment that uses both masculine and feminine patterns and fabrics and show people that you can wear whatever you want to and shouldn’t be afraid to express yourself” and that’s what I did! I created this unisex/no gender jacket with stereotypical feminine and masculine features to represent the two traditions colliding, forming the ultimate no gender garment, a complete slap in the face to society. I used a drawing of lace for my print pattern and used strong, “manly” colours together with the lace pattern to bring the typical man and woman features together. My fabric choices were dark denim, a stiff, hardwearing fabric, and polyester satin, a floaty, feminine fabric, as they contradict each other.

While exploring various techniques that I could use I looked at using feminine garment features such as frills and smocking and applied those techniques to heavily structured or masculine fabrics such as a dark denim and black leather. This mix of the usual man and woman-like fashion features on a unisex garment communicates that fashion should no longer be gender specific.

I was highly inspired by social influencers and people in the fashion industry (brands and models) who are already breaking the rules of gender, for example male makeup artists such as James Charles and Manny Gutierrez who both have huge social media followings and have collaborated with makeup brands showing young people, particularly males, that makeup is for anyone, the first female menswear model Casey Legler, and thecorner.com who now have a no gender premium brand on their website. I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before and create a completely unique garment that is nothing like I have ever seen before and communicates mine and other people’s views on gendered fashion.

Details:

  • Heat press printed satin – To create this print I painted up many pieces of paper with disperse dye in my chosen colours and printed them onto photocopies of my own lace drawing before heat press printing those onto the satin. I also printed the negative in some areas to prevent the pattern from being too repetitive.

  • Leather frills in the shoulder seams

  • Smocked denim – To add texture and a slight 3D effect I smocked a piece of denim in a geometric pattern. Smocking has been one of my favourite techniques to do as although it is very time consuming and can cause many accidental needle stabbings it is so worth it. The finished result always looks very effective and instantly adds character to any garment.

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  • Lace embroidery – This embroidered back piece is kind of complicated so stay with me. I printed onto the satin the same design as the front (not exactly the same because each small print is different but the same kind of thing) so it was the same as the front. Then for the piece on top I did free machine embroidery in a lace-like pattern with white thread through the needle and pastel pink/lilac and baby blue in the bobbin (this meant that the pink/lilac and blue is subtly shown through the white) with writing on top in black on a dissolvable plastic. I did 7 small individual pieces and then attached them together into one large piece that would fit over the slightly loose hanging satin. The short poem that I embroidered sums up my whole concept and the message of the garment perfectly, “Imagine if we lived in a world where colours were simply colours. Blue was not for boys, pink was not for girls, and everyone could like and wear whatever colours they wanted. Imagine how fresh that would make us feel when we wake up in the mornings.” Source of the poem: http://br-o-ken-poetry.tumblr.com/post/129946130868/imagine-if-we-lived-in-a-world-where-colours-were

So there we go, a little insight into my mind as a designer and how much time, effort, trial and error, and research goes into designing and creating fashion garments! Hopefully you learnt something about this, I would love to do more posts like this about design projects and things I’ve made as it’s what I’m most passionate about.

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you lovely snowflakes again soon!

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11 thoughts on “Abolishing Gender in Fashion

  1. What an awesome idea! While I dress in a very stereotypically feminine manner, I don’t see why bright colors, prints, florals, and full skirts can’t be for people of any gender!

    And I’m afraid I’ll never look at lace quite the same way…I’m no delicate flower!

    xx
    Emily
    emilyhallock.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your idea for your final piece – it’s an amazing point that we shouldn’t be bothered about anyone else’s thoughts and opinions on our clothing choices anymore and I love that you ran with that idea to create your project x
    Claire | clairesyear.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In functional anthropology, fashion is considered to embody cultural categorizations of people, for the purpose of marking belonging in [a] group/s…this can include age, gender, class, political role, spiritual association, etc, in whatever way the culture deems important. The categorizations are considered natural (because the culture is saturated in them and it’s learned at an early age through language, symbology, and other interactions), even though they are actually culturally constructed and may be unheard of in another culture.
    The problem with gendered fashion in our culture steams from our cultural categorizations of gender: it’s binary. You’re either a girl or a boy, and our culture has considered that an important enough categorization to visually mark through what we wear.
    Thing is….gender is not binary, and our culture is just beginning to realize that! Gender (when we look at all cultures, past and present, comparatively…and at what’s now going on in our culture, especially through the LGBTQ community) is an expression that has a spectrum of choices….and doesn’t necessarily have to connect with our sex as either male or female.
    I definitely agree that it’s about time for fashion to abolish the boy vs girl gender expectations, allowing room for better expression in our changing culture.
    You are going to be a wonderful and thought-provoking designer, and i’m so excited to get to see some of that process! This post and your design is brilliant.

    P.S., i’m super excited to find another blogger who feels the same way i do about fashion!…as something that has the potential to tell a story and say something important. I’m so happy you’ve set out to write about this sort of stuff! There’s so much to say about fashion and it’s depth…but i rarely find blogs that do much more than look at the aesthetics and tell you what to buy. I’m kind of dancing inside right now, feeling a little less lonely in this blogging world 😊

    -Alissa Ackerman, storybehindthecloth.com

    Liked by 1 person

      1. But you designed a killer jacket along with it! 😄
        I’m just an anthropology nerd…or.. general nerd….So i was lucky to have terminology to turn to that described what you were talking about in your post. 😆

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sometimes design can say so much more than words. Your post is very actionable because of that, instead of focusing just on analyzing. People can look at this and be more likely to understand HOW gender doesn’t have to be binary and confining, and how that can look. ☺

        Liked by 1 person

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