Re-defining the Gender Boundaries in Fashion
This is basically an article on a topic that has been weighing on me recently.
In ancient times, it wasn’t awful to think about men in skirts or in skirted garments. Fast forward to today or even a couple of years back, it would be a cardinal sin for a man to be caught wearing skirted garments. By skirted garments I’m essentially referring to skirts, tunics and dresses. Society has evolved and with it, it changed the rules of fashion or rather dressing, creating stringent dress codes for the two genders to follow. The men are to be in shorts or pants and the women in skirts or dresses. However, ironically, women are allowed to cross dress without question but men should not wear skirts unless they want their masculinity to be questioned. Where’s the logic in that, except to say cross-dressing as a female is somehow worse as female qualities are inherently weaker? The supposed gender boundaries in fashion were man-made and like every other rule, they’re meant to be broken. Unlike in the near past, where movements such as feminism and Marxism created new dress codes that had more change for women than for men, this time, it will be a celebration of absolute freedom.
(Quilted skirt from the A/W 1985-1986 “Le Charme coincé de la Bourgeoisie” collection)
Jean Paul Gaultier believed that there is no one apparel that is intrinsically male or female and hence offered to reinvent dressing for men 30 years ago with the collection, ‘Et Dieu Créa L’Homme’ (‘And God Created Man’). It didn’t go down quite as planned. Now as more of society starts to open up and experiment with various choices, designers too decided to jump on the bandwagon and incorporated skirts and dresses in their recent menswear collections. Where there were no skirts or dresses, fabrics used were definitely softer and exuded lightness and flow to the wearer. Men are generally more comfortable in structured apparel as to one that’s loose and flowy like a woman’s dress, but apparently more men are taking a liking to the graceful form of skirted garments.
Rick Owens, Givenchy and Commes Des Garcons reintroduced dress shirts, floor length dresses and skirts in full force for their menswear Spring 2011/12 collection. Some were taken aback with the power in which the men stomped down the runway in somewhat feminine clothing but more were left pleasantly pleased with this possible shift in dressing norms. It’s a shift that could become permanent but it’s a transformation that must be handled with delicate care. To aptly put it, there was a new-found strength in menswear this season.
Masculinity doesn’t have to be suits and pants and structured tailoring, it could be strength and confidence from experimenting and exploring new trends and patterns. Men should be free to enjoy a male and female wardrobe just as the women do and the only thing left is to see how this revolution affects that one sniveling issue that continues to fester whenever fashion makes any leap forward, and that is employment.
Article featured in XinMSN.