Blurred Lines: Androgyny as a Style or Lifestyle?

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by Barbara Gonzalez, Social Justice & Fashion Columnist

Teen Vogue Cover, August 2013From models all across the globe to the fashionistas we see on the street every day, one thing can be agreed on by all: gender bending fashion is a big time hit. The trend has spread like wild fire in the high fashion world, leaving its mark on everything from Teen Vogue’s August issue to the runways of fashion week.

Celebrities have also been caught taking the trend to the red carpet. Even typically softer personalities such as Lily Collins and Leighton Meister are guilty of donning suit and tie combos at Hollywood events.

Of course, the beautiful, rich, and famous are certainly not the only ones rocking this fad. Almost any fashionista can be caught walking down the street with a rebellious leather jacket, loose-fitting boyfriend blazer, or even casual yet classy oxfords. This has given women more freedom to dress up in a new and different way, adding a certain edge to their outfit instead of wearing the usual floral-and-frills ensembles that are expected of them.

Yet what does this mean for people who don’t dress this way for the impact of a fashion statement, but as a way of life?

Emma Watson, Teen Vogue August 2013
Emma Watson, Teen Vogue August 2013

The LGBT community, especially those who identify as gender-neutral or transgender, are often known for dressing in similar types of clothing that are portrayed in these mainstream settings.

The trend can be beneficiary to these communities by normalizing gender-neutral or androgynous fashion. Unisex clothing lines for gender non-conforming individuals have been successfully created and are becoming increasingly more visible. It creates a space in the fashion world where people don’t have to be ostracized or looked at negatively for wearing a style that best fits their personality.

Susan Herr, founder of gender neutral clothing line, dapperQ, says that she created her line “to bridge transgenderational divides and to compellingly advance visibility for masculine off center queers.” “It’s not cross-dressing for me to wear a suit,” she says. “It’s cross-dressing for me to wear a dress.”

Emma Watson, Teen Vogue August 2013
Emma Watson, Teen Vogue August 2013

However, where this fad can go terribly wrong is when the fashion world hypersexualizes and exotifies the nature of gender bending. Many fashion designers and popular magazines will often portray their models wearing androgynous pieces in dark, seductive settings. The models seem like they are putting on a costume, a thrillingly foreign identity to be played with that is not their own, but can be taken off when they grow tired of it.

Now don’t get me wrong; I am not by any means saying you have to go burn your favorite pant suits and go back to wearing dresses and skirts 24/7. That would be terribly and unfittingly anti-feminist of me.

Instead, wear the clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Gender is a fluid, broad concept, and it is not just constrained to one sector, such as fashion. Yet also remember that to some people, this is not a choice or a persona that they can take off and put on a hanger whenever they feel like it.  This is a way of living that should be acknowledged, appreciated, and, above all, respected.

Androgynous Fashion
Leighton Meester, Alexa Chung, Lily Collins

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