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Gender-neutral fashion: The blurring of masculine and feminine dressing

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 02, 2020 5:00 am Updated Dec 01, 2020 11:29 pm

Gender fluidity in fashion has been around for a while. “A History of Androgyny in Fashion” at Oxfordstudent.com claims that it has existed for centuries. Now more commonly known as gender-neutral fashion, it is clothing that does not conform to sex and is neither masculine nor feminine.

Throughout time, experimentation and pushing the boundaries when it comes to dressing has come from designers and individuals alike. The blending of femininity and masculinity has become more prevalent as a way to express oneself. 

Film star Marlene Dietrich was known to have said, “What a fuss over nothing,” referring to women wearing trousers, which became fashionable in the 1930s. She had been wearing trousers years before it was commonplace for the ladies. 

In the mid-Sixties, Yves Saint Laurent created Le Smoking, the elegant tuxedo jacket that has become a classic for women. 

  Le Smoking by YSL

In 1969, Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger wore a dress onstage to perform in London’s Hyde Park. The particular dress he wore was Sixties label Mr. Fish, which ushered in the “peacock revolution,” where flamboyant attire countered the conservative dress of this time. 

  Mick Jagger performs in a dress by ‘60s label Mr. Fish.

Then there was music legend David Bowie, who redefined gender dressing and famously wore a floral dress on the cover of his Man Who Sold the World album. And who could forget his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust?

 Music legend David Bowie wore a dress on this album cover.

We jump into 2020 and Harry Styles is all over the news for his December Vogue magazine cover donning a frilly, voluminous Gucci gown with a tuxedo jacket. He is considered a “style czar.” In the article, he mentioned that “there is so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never thought too much what it means — it just becomes this extended part of creating something.” 

Harry Styles on the 2019 Met Gala red carpet in bespoke Gucci

The Vogue spread, however, sparked passionate discourse where on one side, there were those who criticized the musician and on the other, those who defended his sartorial choices.

Let’s just say that Styles has his own style. This is not his first time wearing feminine clothes.  He is adventurous and is not the typical youth in jeans and hoodies. He has even been accorded a British Fashion award. At the 2019 Met Gala, which he co-hosted, Styles came dressed in a black frilly lace see-through top, very high-waist pants, high-heeled boots, and wore a single drop pearl earring. The One Direction cutie has now become the face of gender-fluid fashion. 

  In the Vogue spread, Styles wears a Gucci creation.
  Styles in a Comme des Garçons kilt and blazer. Photo from Vogue
  Vogue December cover Harry Styles

In Asia, there is G-Dragon, the Korean K-pop cultural idol who continues to be fearless in fashion. He was Vogue Korea’s cover for November wearing head-to-toe Chanel women’s wear.  One of the House of Chanel’s fashion ambassadors, GD had been using their famous ladies’ tweed jackets, bags, and accessories for years, adding his own personal, manly touch, of course.

G-Dragon accessorized with strings of pearls in Vogue Korea’s fashion feature.
   Vogue Korea November cover boy G-Dragon wears Chanel ladies’ fashion.
  House of Chanel ambassador G-Dragon has been wearing their famous ladies tweed jackets for years. Photo from the official Chanel website.

His current grandma style includes lace, brooches and strings of pearls. Definitely, it is the look of a rich and elegant older woman, but this time on a man. He updates classic and vintage clothes by mixing pieces with his own cool streetwear brand called Peaceminusone. 

  What a fuss over nothing,” Marlene Dietrich said about wearing trousers.

Jaden Smith, talented musician and son of superstars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, has become a fashion icon for his generation. In 2016, he was featured in a Louis Vuitton women’s wear campaign wearing pleated skirts. In the same year, he launched a gender-neutral clothing line called MSFTSrep. He was 17 back then, which says a lot. He would mix both feminine and masculine pieces and would stand up to criticism for it. 

G-Dragon accessorized with strings of pearls in Vogue Korea’s fashion feature.
  Jaden Smith’s Fashion is based on his values. Photo from his IG c.syresmith

That same year, the British Fashion Council awarded him and his sister Willow the Fashion Icon Award. His fashion evolution then brought him to collaborate with G-Star Raw for a capsule collection called “Forces of Nature.” The importance of this collaboration is that the production of the line was not harmful to the environment. Whether it be challenging gender norms or promoting environmentally friendly clothes, Jaden Smith creates fashion that is synonymous with his beliefs. 

  The much-talked-about tuxedo ball gown outfit Billy Porter wore to the 91st Academy Awards

Not to be missed is Emmy-, Grammy- and Tony-award-winning singer and actor Billy Porter, who has been making waves on the red carpet. The Pose actor and veteran Broadway star has appeared in various show-stopping, gender-bending outfits. From being carried by six men in last year’s Met Gala in an all-gold getup to his groovy aqua jumpsuit complete with matching hat with crystal fringes at the Grammys, Porter has always made an impact. 

A caped Billy Porter at last year’s Golden Globe Award

His most notable feminine-masculine red carpet moment was at last year’s Academy Awards, where he wore a formal black velvet dinner jacket over a ball gown by Christian Siriano and funky Rick Owens boots.

Whether it be expressing creativity, breaking norms and barriers, or making a statement, gender-neutral fashion will always continue to be a part of the sartorial landscape.