Fashion & Gender

Hubert de Givenchy once said “The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.” But why must the body of a woman be represented by only a dress?

Women are constantly told how they should dress, to be feminine and attractive, but have we gone too far? Hundreds of clothing brands tailor their items to only one specific gender; Topshop and Topman being prime high street examples. The fashion industry is growing ever more discriminatory  towards gender, even to the point that it puts people in actual danger! 36% of people believe that a woman  should be held wholly or at least partly responsible for being sexually assaulted or raped if she was drunk and 26% believe this is also applicable if the woman was in public wearing supposedly revealing clothes. The fact a woman can be blamed for someone else’s actions because of how they choose to dress is ludicrous-but we all know it happens. With that in mind, however, women are consistently focused upon as victims of gender, but men are equally victimised – if not more so.

Clothing brands are tailoring clothes in certain sizes and shapes to fit a male or female body. This kind of assumption leads to a mass belief that people should look a certain way to encompass their gender identity. Male “skinny” jeans are made much looser than females “skinny” jeans, indicating to the public that a female must be slimmer than a male. That’s without even mentioning shops tailored for transvestites. The idea of a shop with the sole purpose of selling women’s clothes to men reaches a new level of complexity in gender defining clothing . If a man wishes to dress in clothes that society deems as “women’s” why should he have to be segregated? Top London retailer, Selfridges, is introducing a gender neutral shopping experience for six weeks. The stores will be launching top designer, Faye Toogood’s, exclusive unisex line. Could this be the start of a new gender neutral way of dressing? With the hope of embracing androgyny, we’re inspired by the daring fashion icons such as David Bowie and Agyness Deyn.

RuPaul, famous drag queen, claimed “Whatever you proclaim as your identity here in the material realm is also your drag. You are not your religion. You are not your skin color. You are not your gender, your politics, your career, or your marital status. You are none of the superficial things that this world deems important. The real you is the energy force that created the entire universe!” As a drag queen, RuPaul believes in expressing yourself as you, not how society dictates you should be. Surely this is how everyone should be? These kinds of attitudes are gradually growing across the fashion industry and changes have been made against gender inequality-but it’s still not enough.

American Apparel are currently launching a range of new drag queen t-shirts modeled by three infamous drag queens. The three “Drag Race” contestants; Alaska, Courtney Act and Willam Belli are now brand ambassadors and muses for the company. Belli told the Huffington Post “Every little boy dreams of being on a baseball card’ adding that he was proud to work with a company so keen to support drag”. Finally, that’s two big labels on gender equalities side. Of course this isn’t the end for gender discrimination against transgenders and transvestites, if American Apparel were the be all and end all of fashion ethics we would be sweatshop free by now. But that’s an entirely different issue!

However,  it isn’t just brands that are jumping on the, ever so important, band wagon. World famous designers such as Chanel are backing the fight against gender stereotypes. Paris Fashion Week 2014 saw Karl Lagerfeld’s protest on feminism  which created quite an uproar of controversy. With famous faces such as Alexa Chung, Daniel Radcliffe and Prince Harry backing the feminist campaign as well as ELLE’s Rebecca Lowthorpe who tweeted “It’s true, Karl is a feminist #Chanel #pfw”. So that’s big brands and huge names in the fashion industry fighting against gender inequality.

With the air of feminism breezing it’s way across the fashion industry could we be looking at some vital changes in gender inequality?  We may well be raising awareness, but it’s a long way before the gender divide is completely eliminated. Or is that going too far? Now picture a world where androgyny ruled and unisex clothes were all we had- matching dresses with your boyfriend doesn’t sound quite so ideal does it? But then why shouldn’t it?

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