Colorful patterns, exuberant accessories and gemmed out garments are all essentials in making a statement through appearance. People express themselves by designing their bodies-assembling the most exclusive outfits that attribute a unique personality and taste. Unfortunately, the integrity of personal style has been pursued by marketing masters in order to advertise certain styles by a gendered dynamic. Fashion in its creative pursuit has been negatively affected by this dynamic which restrains the idea of style as being categorical. The fact that there is always a men’s and women’s section in a store dictates a dichotomized set of seething rules that measure these artistic tools through gendering the characteristics of an outfit. Namely, by stamping reductive labels of femininity over tight pants declaring baggier clothing as masculine. By gendering clothing, society conforms to this socially constructed idea that clothing must be rationalized through assumed appearances and expected associations of the body with clothing. Certain garments are made to support certain body types but they should not correlate to which gender a body subscribes to. For example, women are often sexualized by the hem of their skirts and men are criticized for not owning a suit. The emphasis of gendered clothing in our pop culture is an attack on our autonomy.. Choice in clothing should only amount to our own idea of unique beauty and how we want to demonstrate it, thus, warranting a cultural narrative about fashion based on creative and personal ambitions.
Pop culture has shown interest in advancing idealized forms of expression, but gendered preconceptions of choice in clothing only limit how we perceive our bodies and represent ourselves through shallow definitions and motives. Although unique outfits are considered to dismantle the toxic political climate, some instances serve more as a distraction to the problem rather than a start to an open dialogue of it. The more we see celebrities like Ezra Miller or Bad Bunny ‘gender bending’ through clothing, pop culture has shown both criticism and support in exploring the history of men wearing ‘feminine’ clothing and challenging the aesthetic norms of society. Even though both talents radiate confidence in their personal choice of style, what is concerning is how the impact of their choices informs the conversation about gender into an ironic and regressive direction. When these big names display their rejection of toxic masculinity to the public, the conversation surrounding gender and clothing only erupts into a convoluted spiral of dialogue about clothing being a cultural symbol of gender rather than digressing into why we are so obsessed with or critical of a man wearing a dress and painting their nails. If the media were to navigate the conversation into a critical and constructive direction about gender norms and why they are so pervasive in fashion then there would be some access to a view of why we have been judging each others appearance in terms of gender. Topics like toxic masculinity, sexualizing femininity, the history of cross dressing, and the influence of Drag on pop-culture would aid in reducing the current stigma of gendering our clothing. Discussing these concepts instead of simply pointing out “gender-bending” on a superficial level will urge the public to question the foundation of how fashion has been presented.
The dichotomy of clothing is a direct reflection of societies pervasive standardizing of bodies by gender. Statement attire stops at what it is, statement attire; it is not an action that is politically charged because style should not be rooted in gender, it should be rooted in autonomy. Challenging the norm and rejecting gender norms in clothing are both forms of well intentioned advances, but the impact of emphasizing clothing as a description of gender only diminishes the central argument of assuming gender through appearance. We forget that clothing is mainly meant to guard you, express your taste and exemplify the ways in which you think it should it should look on your own body, regardless of your gender. The conversation should not be about how a man is gender-bending by wearing a dress but rather how flattering any piece of clothing can be when it is an autonomous decision; that is the most beautiful, culturally shifting statement. Choice of clothing is an empowering and inspirational movement of a forward thinking generation but it is not the cure to the extensively problematic discourse of gendering our bodies through clothing.
Photo: Richie T.