Over The Skin

RONITA BOSE

Looking at a pantsuit, many wonder if it was meant for a man or a woman. Despite efforts to create androgynous clothes, companies are still struggling to create a trend that will not be pushed to either menswear or womenswear section. Ronita Bose discusses why androgynous fashion is a distinct trend.

Illustration by/ Remya Ramesh
Gender fluid Remya Ramesh- over the skin.jpg

It is time the world accepts gender fluidity and starts living as one wish to, without being chained by the shackles of brands or labels.

It is incredibly difficult to break out of the narrow definitions of gender and androgyny to create or wear a dress that is inclusive of all gender identities. Androgyny, as it is often expressed in fashion, does not actually represent a full scope of gender, nor does it speak much beyond women wearing masculine apparel. It should be perfectly okay to include more traditionally feminine clothing in a gender-neutral line.

Androgyny is about letting go of restrictions and gender binaries, not creating new ones. Clothing and shoes typically have different sizing systems based on the targeted gender, which can feel restrictive to someone who wants to hit the mall. In the women's department, one can be a size eight. But in the men's department, can be a size 29. In order to make gender neutral fashion more accessible, consolidating units of measurement in clothing without gender differentiations feels like it would be a great step in the right direction.

Given a positive inclination, the prospering acknowledgment of gender fluidity in design nowadays does show a lot of promise and guarantee. During the past couple of years, various top of the line and high road brands have tried to provide clothing for gender-neutral costumers. Brands like H&M and Zara have both presented ‘gender neutral’ offerings of hoodies, sweatshirts, and T-shirts, designed for both men and women. But while their intentions may have been positive, each collection was merchandised either within the menswear or womenswear section of both the stores, effectively forcing gender neutral customers to make a decision as to which way to head for. We need the potential beauty of gender expression to transcend the currently inescapable norms and conventions.

At the 25th Annual Elle Women in Hollywood Celebration, superstar Lady Gaga gave a moving speech on her encounters with emotional well-being, rape, and how she at last came to suit her inward quality. She chose to wear the Marc Jacobs Spring 2019 suit that sent out the message that she wanted to the audience. She said that she chose not to wear a gown, but an oversized men’s suit tailored for a woman. The overall picture of the outfit spoke a thousand words at a first glance – a true sense of empowerment, boldness, and equality not in the regular world but in the fashion world too, which acts a major influence. She gave a powerful speech which she concluded by urging everyone to continue to “fight for justice” and “be a force for change” within the industry by using their platforms to help others. As a woman who has been subjected to chronic pain, and bounded by the shackles of men at a very young age, Lady Gaga’s parting shot was “I decided today I wanted to take the power back. Today, I wear the pants.”

Vasantika Singh Choudhary has a similar story to tell, who, when asked by about how she approaches life coming from the royal household of Bharatpur, said, “ Since I was a child I have always gravitated towards button up shirts, jerseys or basically clothes that were masculine, clothes that my age or generation girls would not even look at leave alone buying or wearing them. When my mother took me shopping, I would often find myself envying the clothes in the men’s section but knew I could not say I wanted anything from there or like that. But I dressed very differently from my girlfriends or girls my age. Not that I needed anyone’s approval, but my friends and family had accepted it and the way I wanted to dress myself up. It did not change my identity or gender, it in fact separated me from the crowd and helped me made or create a different identity.”

 

“My mother has been the most supportive, even more than my father. I am a huge fan of the football team Manchester United, and have been so since I was in fifth grade. I still remember on Diwali when all of us cousins got more or less the same Indian outfit made and got traditional gifts, I wanted the Manchester United jersey, but I did not know how to say it. I was gifted a Wlehenga, but I knew apart from a kurti, I would never wear anything else, of course I could not say it. But while receiving the gifts, she knew it. And I knew she knew it, but we did not say anything to each other. The next day, that is the day after Diwali, in the evening she came to my room and gave me my first ever Manchester United jersey. I was taken aback, speechless and teary-eyed. Till date I have never faced any problem from anyone. It is my choice and my life.”

“What is your opinion on gender neutral dressing or androgyny?”, she was asked. “People have been breaking the “rules” about what they can and cannot wear for ages. I think as an industry, the fashion world has finally caught up to societies’ need to break down the strict rules that gender binary plays within how people dress. Hopefully the support from this newfound “acceptance” of gender-neutral or androgynous fashion will continue to push that envelope further to reduce the stigma associated with how people dress. Regardless of how the industry reacts, the amazing thing about fashion trends is that you will find people who were wearing that style before it was “on trend” and you will still find people rocking after it is long gone. Because for them it is just a way of life, and that is how it should be.”

Untie Roshini R