Clothing is our chosen skin. It communicates the most fundamental aspects of who we are as individuals.
Yet fashion is one of the biggest sources of gender assignment.
The reality is, most popular brands still categorize their merchandise in two heteronormative categories: men’s and women’s fashion. For those who don’t identify with what society has deemed traditionally “masculine” or “feminine,” the opportunities to fully express oneself through clothing are limited.
This forces non-binary individuals—and those who choose not to conform to such societal standards—to choose between two sections or get creative while shopping.
Bo Choi is a visiting faculty member in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design’s fashion design program. When asked about the future of fashion in terms of genderless clothing, Choi said it’s all about societal expectations.
“We’re moving away from the traditional ideas of what societal expectations are when it comes to fashion,” Choi said. “When we think about why we have separate clothing for men and women in the first place, it’s all about perception, not about practicality and functionality.”
Now, we’re in a period where the aesthetic of our own identity has become increasingly important.
IU senior and fashion design major Thomas Emoff said the restrictive nature that clothing fosters is an important aspect to note in the discussion surrounding androgynous fashion.
“As somebody who is a gender queer person, the way in which gender is inherently tied to fashion is very stressful sometimes,” Emoff said.
Many brands are reconstructing consumers’ overarching view on clothing through inclusion. Suddenly opening the floodgates to accessibility within clothing allows everyone to feel comfortable in the clothes they wear.
Genderless fashion has been around for a very long time. While there have been trailblazers in the queer community who fought for gender expression outside of the binary in times where it was so enforced, Emoff said specific brands are beginning to realize just how important fashion inclusivity is.
“Once we start broadening our designs is when the gender binary within clothing really goes away,” Emoff said. “It’s a bright future as long as we continue to listen to the trailblazers of genderless fashion.”