Gender Expectations in Fashion

In recent years gender and gender neutrality have been hot topics in fashion. With various designers and retailers creating gender neutral lines. Such as H&M’s unisex denim line. While these lines are a great step foreward, there are still expectations on what a woman and what a man should wear.

H&M’s unisex denim line

These expectations begin when we are first introduced into the world. Pink for girls and blue for boys. While a newborn isn’t able to tell a parent they prefer pink to blue, isn’t it strange we feel the need to announce the genitals of our children through color coding? These expectations are impactful on what type of clothing one may choose to wear. When I was in 2nd grade I went out shopping with my mom and brother. We took turns shopping for him in the “boys” section and me in the “girls”. While looking through the boys side of the store with him I found a shirt with a large wolf graphic that I fell in love with. I showed my mom, and being the wonderful mother she is, she offered to buy it for me. I looked at it again contemplating what my classmates would think if I came to school in a “boys” shirt. I put it back on the rack.

My next experience with gender and fashion was in high school. Boys and girls are starting to mature, their clothing becomes more expressive. Here beings the dreaded dress codes. For boys, no inappropriate sayings/images on clothing and no underwear showing. For girls, tank tops should be “3 fingers” width, no crop tops, no spaghetti straps, shorts/dresses must reach mid thigh, no open shoulder tops, no open back tops, bras must not be seen through or “poking” out of clothing and, in extreme cases, shorts must be worn under dresses/skirts. The reasons behind these dress codes were always “to avoid classroom disruption”. We all know what the real reason was, to try and keep the boys from sexualizing girls. The imbalance was stretched further as enforcers would focus on female students. Many times I would see my fellow female classmates get sent to the office to change out of their “inappropriate” clothing. However one of my male classmates made it through an entire day wearing a shirt featuring a photo of a model in a string bikini.

This brings us back to how fashion has influenced what is expected of each gender. A woman can just as easily wear a 3-piece suit and dress shoes to a professional setting, and a man could wear a skirt and jacket if he pleases. Though perception of these clothing choices may label them “unprofessional”. Women are expected to wear dresses/skirts with heels to office settings, and may be labeled unprofessional if she chooses pants and flats instead. Bindle & Keep is a suiting company who creates suits for everyone, male, female or gender queer. No matter your preferred gender identity they can make a suit for you that makes you look great.

Bindle & Keep, “suits for all”

Gender expectations in fashion still have a long way to go, however the rise of gender neutrality in clothing could help. So far gender neutral lines mostly feature casual items such as jeans and hoodies, items that both genders already wear. What we need in the fashion world now is a line that features women in flat shoes dressed professionally, men in dresses and skirts, gender neutral suiting and many more “unorthodox” choices. Only when these types of styles are at the forefront will fashion truly become gender neutral.