The Fashion Industry Isn’t Just Bending Gender Norms, It’s Obliterating Them [Opinion]

We hear a lot of talk about gender these days. Terms like gender-bender, transgender, gender equality, and gender norms are commonplace. Compared to conversations that took place just a decade ago, we can easily see a shift in public opinion and conversation when it comes to gender. The stereotypical male and female from the fifties is a thing of the past, and one can only guess how what was seen as a gender norm will hold up in future generations. If the fashion industry has anything to say about it, there will be no gender norms when it comes to the wardrobe choices humans adorn themselves with.

Fashion for both men and women is radically changing. While it may have been a revolutionary act for actresses like Marlene Dietrich or Katherine Hepburn to don trousers in the thirties, seeing men wear dresses, blouses, skirts, or lingerie in the new millennium shocks, stuns, and offends many. While female celebrities have broken the barrier and have worn clothes typically associated as male attire for approximately a century, the wall is just now coming down for men’s clothing. Male celebrities such as David Bowie, Kanye West, Jared Leto, Jaden Smith, Kurt Cobain, Brad Pitt, R. Kelly, Chris Brown, Marc Jacobs, Vin Diesel, and Mos Def have all been photographed wearing dresses. For some, public opinion regarding their sexuality suffered for it.

There’s a growing trend in menswear with more floral patterns, ruffles, lace, and fabrics traditionally associated with feminine styles gracing men’s runway pieces. Beyond material choices, many designers such as Palomo Spain, Vivienne Westwood, Vejas, and more are embracing gender-bending or gender neutral styles. Fashion has always been about creativity, pushing the envelope, and thinking outside of the norm, and today’s fashion show is taking gender to a new place. Ironically, many ancient styles of dress included tunics or togas that were worn by both sexes, yet it has taken centuries to blur the gender lines that have delineated clothing choices far too long.

Many people in society seem to be uncomfortable when they see men wearing skirts, dresses, or other attire designated as feminine. The sight of men or boys in feminine clothes makes people ask questions that they may feel uncomfortable asking.

First, when people bend gender roles, the question that is left is what is gender exactly. Is someone less of a man if he wears a dress? The same question was asked about women who wore pants. Gender-bending is happening on a more public and prevalent level than ever before, and many are simply uncomfortable with it. Some find it sinful to wear clothes associated with the opposite gender based upon religious beliefs and the scriptures they were raised to believe.

Do clothes really define sexuality or gender? Will wearing pants or a dress make someone less of their gender or if you wear clothes that were assigned to your gender do you become more masculine or feminine? In a world where more gender confirmation surgeries are taking place than ever before, how does clothing fit in? Many trans people describe the personal level of discomfort they had from wearing clothes associated with the gender they were born with How would gender neutral clothes help those who are trans? If clothes were no longer associated with a gender, would many issues regarding gender simply resolve?

Society is dictated by fashion and in nearly every aspect of public life, people are expected to dress in a way others deem as appropriate. There is no question that the world of fashion has always found society’s limits, tested them, and then moved the boundary line even further. If fashion has its way, there will no longer be gender-appropriate clothing.

What are your thoughts about that? What do you think when you see male celebrities wearing skirts or dresses? Is your first thought to question their sexuality? Do you feel men who wear dresses are less masculine than their male counterparts who dress in stereotypical menswear?

Feel free to leave your comments, thoughts, and opinions below.

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