When looked like a skirt and they even

 

When it
comes to gender, especially when looking at fashion, there has always been a
set of rules as to how men and women should dress. There has been a constant influence
on our society suggesting that men and women should dress differently, but many
people believe that gender is irrelevant when it comes to fashion and you
should have the liberty to be able to wear whatever expresses you, no matter
who you are.

 

However, we
only believe this idea that men and women should dress differently as this is
what society has influenced us to believe. As Charles Jeffrey suggests, gender
is like an idea, it creates this perception of how a man and woman can look and
it’s such an interesting place to explore (Jeffrey 2018). This is something
that I am going to study to see what designers are doing today to break away
these gender stereotypes and create a post-gender and gender-neutral fashion
world.

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World Clothing and
Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence, suggests
that gender stereotypes began at birth. In the late nineteenth, mothers in the
West began choosing frilly pink outfits for daughters and masculine blue
accoutrements for sons. Schools then extended the gender identification with
skirt uniforms for girls and trousers for boys (Snodgrass 2013). So, this goes
back to what Charles Jeffrey suggested, we are made to believe from day one
that men and women should dress differently, but should this be the case?

However,
there are times in history that question this gender separation. In the 17th
century in Western Europe, men wore tall wigs, white stockings, petticoat breeches that almost
looked like a skirt and they even wore ruffles and lace. At the time it was
normal for men to take to a more feminine style of dressing, so why can’t this
attitude such an issue today?

In contrast
to this, in the 1920’s a ‘boyish’ silhouette became popular for women. Some
women would strap down their breasts to achieve a flat chested look and many
started sporting short hair styles. However, these women still felt the need to
mix these masculine traits with the use of lace and chiffon to still give them
a slightly feminine look reiterating the separation and expectation of how men
and women should dress differently.  

It wasn’t
until the first and second world wars that there really became an acceptance
for women to start wearing more traditionally masculine clothing. Land Girls
and the Woman’s Land Army started to wear more masculine cuts and use less
typical fabrics for practical reasons as they had to take on more work, and as many
women started to do this the idea started to become more normal however after
the world wars clothing started to diversify itself again.

The 1950’s
to the 80’s, is the closest time that we reached gender fluidity within
fashion. With subcultures taking over and using inspiration from music and celebrities,
fashion started to become much more significant and a key way to expressing
yourself. People also started to rebel from the typical conventions of society
and this took a toll on how people would dress for example punk. Then moving
into the late twentieth century, fashion seems to calm down again and we start
to fall back into these suggested ways that men and women should dress.

So, as you
can see, throughout history there have been challenges towards the idea of
clothing for men and clothing for women, but we still don’t just have clothing.

 

Today, many
activists are pushing for a gender-neutral world specifically when looking at
fashion, one organisation in particular, is ‘Let clothes be clothes’. This is a
group made up of parent activists that believe that as the name suggests,
clothes should simply just be clothes without any kind of relationship to
gender. They work with a range of retailers to try and make them rethink the
way they design their children’s wear as well as other products that are
typically aimed for either girls or boys not both.

They believe
that it is most important to target children, as a survey of 15 countries conducted by
WHO (World Health Organisation) found that children believe in the idea of
gender stereotypes by the time they reach 10, and the Girl Guiding Attitudes survey
2017 found that 55% of the girls and young women that surveyed believed that
gender stereotyping affects every aspect of their lives.  Therefore, if we start to teach these new generations of children that clothing shouldn’t
be determined by gender, this will start to create a society that doesn’t instantly
fall into this idea of gender stereotypes, but a society that supports and
encourages people to wear whatever expresses them. Rather than continuing to
live in a world where girls and boys or whoever you identify as continue to
struggle with self-esteem and being able to express who they are.

 

Most influence
for fashion comes from highly regarded designers and brands who’s designs and
trends then trickle down to influence those on the high-street and depicts what
we want to wear today. So why don’t these designers highlight this and express
to people that gender when it comes to fashion is irrelevant? Because gender in
relation to fashion isn’t to do with a trend, but reflecting a cultural shift
towards breaking down stereotypes

This is
exactly what Gucci is doing. Gucci has decided to get rid of its separate men’s
and women’s fashion shows, and instead bring both collections together for one combined
show per season. Alessandro Michele, creative director at Gucci has said that
for him it seems only natural to present his men’s and women’s collections
together. It’s the way he sees the world today, and believes it will give him
the chance to move towards a different kind of approach to his story telling
(Michele 2016).

Gucci’s
clothing is also becoming much more interchangeable, with skinny suits, chevron
prints and neckties making their way into both men’s and women’s wardrobes.

This is a
very big move for such an iconic fashion brand however it is already making
changes as other brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford and Burberry are also
making a shift to genderless collections and merged seasonal shows.  

 

This change
has started a revelation in the fashion world as high-street retailers have now
started to design and sell gender neutral clothing ranges.

John Lewis
is one of the first major UK companies to have started to do this. Caroline
Bettis, head of children’s wear at John Lewis said: ‘we do not want to
reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want
to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or
child can choose what they would like to wear.’ (Bettis 2017).  Their approach to reduce gender stereotypes
was to remove the tags that classified all of their own brand clothing for new-borns
to age 14 as either being for girls or boys. Instead they have created tags
that say ‘Girls & Boys’ or ‘Boys & Girls’, giving children the freedom
to wear whatever they like.  John Lewis
has then also started to introduce gender neutral pieces to their children’s
collection and have removed all gender identifying signs from the department
stores children sections to remove any suggestion of a separation between girls
and boys.

Other brands
such as Zara, Asos and Selfridges are also noticing these changes in society
and are on their way to creating genderless shopping.