Gender fluidity as a fashion statement is nothing new, but it has been abuzz lately with cultural icons like Harry Styles donning racy corsets and billowing skirts one day and tailored suits and neckties the next. Apparel makers may slap the “genderless” label on a line, but clothing is inanimate and can possess no gender on its own. Our societal default of viewing certain objects as masculine or feminine is an imaginary construct, one that’s on its way out the door as we embrace fluidity in gender, fashion, and beyond.
What a person wears when they walk out of the house and into the world is less about the fit, cut, or pattern and more about the intentional identity behind it — and there’s room for everyone. Fashion is one of the first ways a person is able to express themselves to the world around them. It’s not about classification, it’s about expression. The way a person chooses to present themselves can change from day to day, moment to moment. Contrast the last time you went out dressed to the nines in head-to-toe glam with your Saturday morning errands look. What your clothing expressed wasn’t the end-all be-all of who you are as a person, just a result of how you were feeling or what you were doing at that moment.
Men are wearing skirts and crop tops, women are wearing oversized suits and baggy shorts, and non-binary people are wearing whatever they want. The increased visibility of gender-neutral clothing in mainstream fashion is a sign of incredible growth in our pop culture, and opens many doors for freedom and authenticity. Brad Pitt wore a skirt to the “Bullet Train” premiere. Janelle Monae and Brandi Carlile wore suits to the Grammys. It’s all excellent exposure therapy. The more we see non-binary represenations in the mainstream, the more comfortable we become at accepting parts of ourselves and members of our own communities who identify in a non-binary way.
This isn’t some crazy new invention. Don’t forget, Coco Chanel pioneered women’s pants in the 1920s. Diane Keaton’s iconic looks paved the way for more gender-flex inspiration. Rock legends from David Bowie to Prince to Boy George have experimented with makeup and fluid sexual expression. Marsha P. Johnson also deserves a highlight as a fashion icon who fought hard for trans inclusivity — if you haven’t checked out her looks, please do! The strength and boldness with which these people walk through the world are shining invitations for all to authentically express their identities and live their beautiful truths. We need more individuals to show up as themselves to keep the momentum going. Style is highly personal for everyone, and to be understood as you intended whatever you wear is the only goal. Let’s hope this movement has staying power, because it goes so much deeper than clothing. People finally feel they have the right to literally wear their identity on their sleeve, and can be accepted in doing so.
As more people embrace gender flexibility, culture as a whole evolves. We move away from repressive, carbon-copy constructs and make room for a rich and diverse array of personalities. Fashion has always been filled with eccentrics wanting to dive into the abnormal and find the beauty in it. Just look at what was worn in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s! The miracle of our era is that society is learning to welcome all genders to safely present themselves as their authentic selves.
When it comes to picking your outfit to stride into the world, wear what feels right. You choose the intention, you exhibit your voice through what you wear. Clothing only means what you want it to.