Coco Chanel once said: ‘Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening’. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the fashion industry has begun to make strides into genderless clothing. With the idea of gender fluidity becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society and the publication and production of films such as ‘The Danish Girl’ or Caitlyn Jenner’s transition; it would seem that rigid and exact gender roles are becoming a thing of the past; people have the ability to choose the way in which they want to live their lives; and thus fashion has followed.
The idea of androgynous dressing dates back as far as the early 1900s when Katherine Hepburn was brought to light by Hollywood wearing her version of a mens shirt. However the idea really took hold post World War 2, when a style that was more of a necessity for women on the home front became a conscious fashion choice. Similarly with males, the idea of male grooming and taking pride in appearance became increasingly popular for men in the 1950s. So with fashion blurring the lines of the male female divide for over a century, is it any wonder that in the 21st century the lines have started to completely disappear.
Genderless clothing is often described as being ‘unisex’ clothing – garments that can be worn by both men and women without the need for any adjustments or alterations. With the rise in confidence and support of the LGBTQ and non-binary community, it was only a matter of time before the fashion industry took hold. The fashion industry, in particular, is one mainly centred around the ability to shock a captivated audience; one that thrives on remaining one step ahead. Therefore successfully being the first to produce genderless clothing would mean huge publicity and recognition for any brand able to break the mould.
The 2014 runways saw a significant rise in the idea of gender fluid clothing, designers such as Saint Laurent, Gucci and Prada all showcased the idea of clothing no longer being specified for one sex. Men and women stormed the runway in very similarly styled ways – men and women wearing pussy-bow blouses, heavy tailoring and skirts. Ever since the choice to produce garments worn by both has become increasingly popular on the runways and has more often than not been met with praise and appreciation. However the same cannot be said for highstreet brands attempting the same thing. Zara recently came under fire for its ‘un-gendered’ clothing line earlier this year. The ten piece collection consisted of basically designed t-shits, hoodies and joggers which many argued weren’t in any way specifically genderless but rather promoting the idea that genderless clothing had to be boring. Twitter erupted with complaints about the ‘boring’ and ‘basic’ clothing line with many questioning whether Zara was in fact too afraid to ‘go all out’ and simply seeking media attention by including the words ‘un-gendered’ in the title of the collection. It was also argued that the collection, although intended to be genderless, was in fact more geared towards males than females. There were no skirts or dresses included in the collection, which begs the question exactly how genderless and groundbreaking can the collection be if it does not appropriate a typically ‘female’ item for male use.
However, Zara must receive some praise as, unlike its hightstreet competitors, there was an attempt made to break into such unknown and as of yet, unconquered territory. So the question still remains, is genderless clothing destined to remain on the runway, in amongst other more daring and experimental collections? Or is Zara’s attempt the beginning of the change of the face of the clothes we see, buy and live in everyday?
by Sophie Daniel