Fashion is one area where men and women have traditionally been kept in their boxes – menswear and womenswear are shown and discussed separately, with separate fashion events, separate aisles of shops and separate allotted items of clothing. This does not mean that our perception of the boundaries that constitute menswear and womenswear has not changed dramatically in the past, and it doesn’t mean that it won’t continue to change. 100 years ago, women wearing jeans was scandalous, and in the 50s Coco Chanel made the radical move of putting women in suits.
Now, the necessity of the strict boundaries is being questioned more generally – increasingly, men model for womenswear, women model for menswear, and trans models are gracing the runways. At the same time, menswear is playing more with classically feminine looks and vice versa. Although this is not a new idea in the fashion world, there is a certain momentum which may reflect a movement in society more generally.
A market research firm (NDP Group) recently released a report, aimed at shops and brands, called ‘Blurred Lines: How Retail Is Becoming Less Gendered, and Why You Should Care,’ which indicated that young consumers are more inclined to see gender as a spectrum and become detached from the labels ‘male’ and ‘female’.
This movement towards a more gender fluid outlook on fashion has been met by certain brands opting to provide gender-neutral items, like Nike and American Apparel. Selfridges created a pop-up department called ‘Agender’ that aimed to create a genderless shopping experience, and sold clothes which did not specify items by gender. Faye Toogood, who designed the retail space, said that Selfridges’ ambition was to “create a space where men and women could essentially come and shop together irrespective of gender, and that you would choose clothes as an individual rather than based on your gender.”
Catwalk fashion has long played with gender boundaries, but this was taken a step further when a Louis Vuitton womenswear campaign featured Jaden Smith. Smith openly ex- periments with women’s clothes – he went to prom in a dress and posted a photo to his 2.5 million Instagram followers with the caption, ‘Went to Topshop to buy some Girls Clothes, I mean ‘Clothes’”.
If placing him in a womenswear campaign was a publicity stunt, we must ask why this decision was made. Lucas Ossendrijver, creative director of Lanvin Homme, has gone as far as to say, “This isn’t about a man wearing a skirt; it’s about a changing mindset with men – their eye for fashion has changed. Men aren’t so concerned about their masculinity anymore”