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Fashion: Sans Gender

“I think that fashion, for a long time, has been in a prison. Without freedom. I think that without freedom, with rules, it’s impossible to create a new story.” 

– Alessandro Michele

It's no secret that our society is moving in the direction of a more gender-neutral, androgynous, and accepting way of life. Men are presenting ensembles that have a more feminine silhouette or even makeup to challenge the notions of "toxic masculinity," and women are starting to wear apparel from the "men's" area beyond just borrowing their boyfriend's sweater. The word "androgynous" comes from the Latin word "androgyne," which refers to a combination of masculine and feminine physical traits. By blurring the lines between masculine and feminine characteristics, androgynous design supports the idea of non-binary gender identification. There is a discernible shift in attitude about gender styles among companies, celebrities, and style influencers.

Unquestionably, one of the closest instruments for both men and women to discover and express more of their sexual identity is fashion.

The first few pioneers to bring androgynous fashion to the fashion business are thought to be Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel. In the early 1900s, Coco Chanel created women's-specific pants. Following this, other freedom movements in the 1900s permitted women to dress comfortably and move around freely. The 1960s witnessed a significant shift in how women were able to break free from traditional gender norms, but it was also a moment for males to shed their gender preconceptions and explore their identities.

Elvis Presley, one of the earliest pioneers who not only popularised Rock n Roll fashion but also androgyny in men's clothing. People perceived him as "effeminate" due to his attractive looks and usage of eye makeup. Many men have been inspired by androgyny fashion to leave the confines of the socially prescribed definitions of masculinity and explore their identities via clothing.

In India, we may see androgyny in some of our authentic traditional clothing as well as in Western clothing. For instance, the Mundu or Lungi, which are primarily worn by South Indian males, resembles a feminine skirt. Men and women both wear kurtas and salwars. Similar to how the male dhoti is draped, Maharashtrian ladies wear a Nauvari saree.

Numerous international firms are gradually including androgynous collections into their product lines. Examples include Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Zara, and others. Recently, the Trafulac label at Zara debuted an "Ungendered" assortment of clothing. A fashion presentation featuring the debut of Louis Vuitton's first-ever gender-neutral collection was held in 2019.

Fashion is dissolving gender stereotypes, and gender-based fashion segmentation restricts self-expression and presents a barrier for people who don't agree with them. Which is why, Menswear designers and fashion influencers are experimenting with forms and silhouettes that are plainly feminine.

The fashion influencer who has sparked the greatest steam in gender fluid fashion would be Siddharth Batra, he challenged gender-conforming fashion standards by sporting a blue satin saree paired with full arm gloves and loafers to complete the look of his Bazaar magazine front cover shoot. He is one influencer to never shies away from exploring gender neutral fashion and wears it with a great amount of confidence. He is not the only one adapting this style, Fashion Influencer Pushpak Sen, Fashion designer Karan Vig, are also following the same path as him in influencing youth to understand androgyny fashion and to see fashion as a way of expression without any discrimination in menswear and womenswear.

From Hollywood to our favourite Bollywood sweethearts, this trend has become a favourite among everyone. One Direction star Harry Styles, A British pop singer broken down barriers of style by wearing a ballgown dress defining new freedom of fashion. At Brit Styles defied gender-conforming fashion norms at the Brit Awards in February by donning a Marc Jacobs yellow spring womenswear suit with a lilac chiffon bow on the lapel.

Bollywood celebrities Jim Sarbh and Ranveer Singh have both adopted androgynous dress in their own unique ways. Ranveer Singh can be called the mascot of gender-fluid fashion in India. He is known for his statement fashion on red carpets, and hence he embraced androgyny in his own distinctive way by wearing a black skirt and matching tuxedo, making it appear daring in his own way. But Sarbh wasn’t far behind and supported the new gender-neutral fashion by accessorised his flowing lace outfit with jewellery to make it stand out. He also donned a skirt and shirt. His Instagram serves as evidence that style can be altered to suit personal preferences and moods. He has a great sense of style, even when it comes to casual apparel, wearing everything from breezy tunics to flowery designs.

Although it's nothing new in terms of fashion, this time around we truly saw designers and fashion influencers push the gender convention by having women take outfit inspiration from men's wardrobes. Finally, menswear is beginning to meld with womenswear. Pantsuits have become such a trend bandwagon that even B-town celebrities like Sonam Kapoor and Deepika Padukone are rocking this trend. Fashion influencers are styling them in different ways to show and portray empowerment while adding a little female touch to a full male style.

Deepika Padukone is not far behind Ranveer Singh when is comes to experimenting with her style. She frequently appears in gender-neutral clothing such as bomber jackets, trousers suits, hoodies, and jogging sets. In fact, she donned a cropped jacket, half-pants that looked like bermudas, a high-neck shirt, and fierce gloves for a recent luxury brand campaign.

Rhea Kapoor, who generally styles her sister Sonam Kapoor rocked a bandhgala and salwar combo—a set typically spot in ethnic menswear section. Not only was the attire comfy to look in but also supported gender-fluid fashion.

Fashion influencers such as Siddharth Batra, Ankush Bahuguna, Komal Pandey, Roshni Bhatia (aka @chiquefactor), Kritika Khurana, Malkeet Singh and many more are promoters of gender-neutral fashion. The way they portray fashion on their Instagram pages shows a world where there is no discrimination in what is menswear and what is womenswear, Finally, menswear and womenswear are beginning to mix, and unisex attire is becoming more widely available.

Many people have been motivated by global fashion influencers like Jamie Windust, Vick Franco, Eli Erlick, and many more to further explore their personalities via dress.

India’s one the biggest Fashion Influencer Komal Pandey is a huge motivation for idol for the androgyny fashion, she promotes and supports it the most. When she started wearing blazers and her dad’s shirts, she didn’t even know that this was called ‘androgyny fashion’, she just wanted to wear clothes that made her feel powerful and those clothes had a power to do that. Androgyny fashion is a supposed to be a statement that makes individual feel stronger, powerful and is a way of expression rather than a way to please society because of the norms set by it.

She has been experimenting with her style for a long while, and the outfits that she wears are gender-neutral. She promotes and inspires youth to follow a more expressive form of fashion which is androgyny. Her approach to fashion is more ‘boss girl'. She wears bold statement outfits with splashes of power in them.

She believes fashion to be expressive and powerful and has many styles a traditional saree with a matching blazer to create a look of strength and adding men’s wear to a female piece of cloth making it more gender-neutral. Her outfit is very subtle yet super impactful and gives the vibe of a person who knows what they are doing. She has given clothes a whole new meaning in the fashion industry and even has influenced a huge chunk of people to not only understand her fashion but also follow it.

She makes fashion a feel like freedom, a way to express without thinking about what one can wear and what one can’t.

Fashion that is androgynous is becoming more and more trendy. The days when people had to dress in accordance with society's expectations will soon be a thing of the past. The advancement of both comfort and style will be coordinated. In fashion, there aren't any rules and that's why it's so fun. We also observed that the entertainment business is embracing these changes, as shown in the roles and makeup techniques of male performers, artists, and other professions, in addition to the addition of women's fashion items to their appearance.

As the distinction between men's and women's fashion blurs more and more, you have more opportunities to experiment with different looks as fashion is not rigid and style is endless to explore.

“Fashion should be a form of escapism and not a form of imprisonment.”

 – Alexander McQueen


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