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Photo: Kris Krug, vis Flickr

Post by contributor Kate Getty

Writing an article on androgyny in fashion, I guess I didn’t realize just how personal it was for me. But, I mean, look at me. Obviously, I enjoy androgyny in fashion.

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See, I get sirred almost daily. I can tie a bowtie. I have 30. I have seven bolo ties. I don’t own a dress. When I was younger, I used to tell the neighbor boys, skateboard in hand, that when I grew up, I wanted to be a “working man.” I wore my father’s old Army jumpsuit. I played war. I burnt wine corks and gave myself goatees. I stole my brother’s Umbros and soccer shirts, and pretended to be Zack Morris. I never wanted to be Kelly Kapowski. And I never knew that wanting to dress this way was political. Or a trend. I didn’t know the word gender. I only knew that I hated itchy white tights, Laura Ashley floral and Sam & Libby’s. Tell me you remember Sam & Libby’s.

Finally though, the fashion world has caught up to me. Androgyny is now a new novelty placed on blurred gender lines. Androgyny is now “in-trend.” It is walking shows in New York Fashion Week. It is drag queens in every Marco Marco outfit on his runway. We, the gender-nonconforming, we have arrived. And now, there are clothing lines popping up in every major city that made men’s clothing or clothing somewhere in the middle for men and women who prefer the grey area between the hard lines of a man’s cut, and the darts of a woman’s. Something in the world is saying, fluidity between genders is here.

Which reminds me of this chant I heard at Santa Cruz’ pride parade, “We’re here. We’re queer. We’re not going shopping.”

Except, we are. We are going shopping.

And we’re actually finding clothing we would like, outfits designed with a more fluid gender expression in mind. There are models that look like me. Women in vests and ties. Tailored pants. There is fashion and clothes I would choose.

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Me, senior year, 2000.

But it hasn’t always been the case. I remember sneaking more boyish outfits to school in my backpack, and changing in the bathroom. I remember posing in my senior picture like all of the other girls, even making my mother pay extra for more soft focus. Yes, these were my choices, (and I lived in Kentucky) and other queers were bending norms, wearing ties, dating girls openly, being “weird.” But something held me back. It makes me wonder, in this day and age, would the fact that there are faces in the mainstream, a big thumbs up by the fashion worlds from New York to Paris for some gender-bending, would that make it easier for a kid like me to express themselves however they wanted?

I think so.

Because it’s 2013, and “androgyny in fashion” is a thing. A commodity. It’s something that is okay, sexualized, even; it’s something that corporations can applaud and sell, because now women can wear men’s clothing, now tailors can make “men’s” suits for women and make it an entire business. Because, right now, something is happening. And it isn’t only about gender.

Meet Casey Legler.

Casey Legler wearing Givenchy suit

Casey is a queer woman, a former French Olympic swimmer, an artist in New York City. And the first woman in history to be signed as exclusively a male model.

So brava, Ford. She’s hot. And she writes:

“This is about making space, making room and making things better. To limit this conversation to the (albeit salacious) red herring of gender is dangerous, careless and nothing short of ignorant…”

Casey just wrote this for an opinion piece for The Guardian, explaining why she didn’t want to attend a trend seminar on gender, because, she wondered, who gets off having a trend seminar on gender? Why is playing with gender so trendy right now? What is that saying about our culture? But Casey isn’t the only woman working as a male model. Or male working as a female model, or even, just dressing like it on the daily. Like I said, something is happening.

It seems gender nonconformity is all over the place. Diesel ads. Buzzfeed. In fact, there’s an entire modeling agency that employs only androgynous models. (It’s not just a clever name.) The world is asking questions, examining the strictness and confining nature of its traditional gender norms and constraints (ie., boys don’t cry, girls wear pink) and something is shattering.

Coco Chanel or the scary Vogue lady with the bob or someone influential in fashion once said a quote, like, “Fashion is a reflection of society,” and sometimes fashion is ahead of society, (I mean, remember Bjork in her swan dress?) so fashion sometimes scares the world a little. And maybe that’s a good thing.

For women, androgyny is especially “en vogue.” Writer April Shacklock told The Times Live, it’s a “refreshing antidote to the hyper-sexualized images of women we tend to be served up.” And think about that. The ideal woman has been reflected as cleavage, long legs, shiny skin, va-va-voom, celebrating the hyperbolic feminine. But now, it’s as if women are allowed to take back their sexuality and strength, and not make it about wearing something traditionally gendered.

Ironically, this past fashion week in Paris was inundated by women in pants and fashion inspired by menswear. Many people believe this is partly because of the official abolishment of the 1777 rule (in 2013, people!) stating that any woman in the French capital who wished to “dress like a man” must obtain special permission from the police to do so. In homage to this FINALLY not being a part of Parisian law – androgyny on the runway was rampant. And applauded.

So it’s more than just clothes, people. It’s a reflection of society. Or perhaps, some are taking it.

“It would be a really beautiful thing if we could all just wear what we wanted, without it meaning something, ” Casey Legler says. “What I wish is that we all get to be exactly who we are. And sometimes that’s complicated. We have very specific ways in which we identify ourselves as man or woman and I think that sometimes those can be limiting. Seeing me on the men’s board … speaks to the notion of freedom, you know. There’s something really bold about that, and that it really is saying look, there is also this other way, and it’s really rad.”

Rad is right. And I couldn’t have said it any better.

  • Carlita Carla

    I was agreeing with everything in your article till we go to this part:

    > “It would be a really beautiful thing if we could all just wear what we
    > wanted, without it meaning something, ” Casey Legler says.

    We so often wear things *to* mean something. It’s a non-verbal form of communication, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If everything we wore became meaningless (whatever that means) it would take away the whole point.

    I think what she really meant was it would be a really beautiful thing if we could all just wear what we wanted and no one would judge us for it. That’s a different thing entirely.

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KQED Pop

KQED Pop is a daily blog edited by Emmanuel Hapsis that critically examines the social and cultural impact of music, movies, television, advertisements, fashion, the internet and all the other collective experiences that make us laugh, cringe and cry. We focus on local, national and international experiences with a Bay Area lens. We don’t do reviews.

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