“Is that a woman? Nope, it’s a man in a tunic shirt wearing skinny jeans.” This scenario is becoming an increasing reality each passing day in society due to the uprising of gender-neutral clothing.
Designers all over the world jumped onto the unisex bandwagon and produced enough gender-fluid labels to make an impact on both the cat walk and high streets of New York. This fall will be filled with gender-neutral designs taking shape in Christian Dior’s astronaut jumpsuits, Gucci’s menswear silk, satin shirts with scarfs and in Schaparelli’s three-piece suits for women.
“Against a backdrop of increasing gender fluidity, we are seeing a rise in a unisex or co-ed mode of dress,” said Judd Crane, director of women’s wear and accessories at Selfridges, in an interview with Vogue. “Clothes are becoming trans-seasonal and lines are rapidly starting to blur.”
Designers Vetements, Maison Margiela and Michael Kors sewed elements of unisex into their fall and spring collections as well. Still other designers took an even broader leap and designed entire collections around gender-neutral garments modeled by both men and women.
One such brand was Baja East, a brand who doesn’t bother with gender distinction in its designs. Baja East is less than two years old, but has become successful enough to make it onto the Resort 2016 watch list. Oak, designed by Louis Terline and Jeff Madalena, features edgier looks than Baja East and focuses on looser fits, longer lines and a classic, romantic look for men and women.
Designer Vivienne Westwood titled her fall 2015 collection “Unisex.” Men wore dresses, and women wore suits. There were even notes available to the audience discussing the androgynity of the hula skirt, which was worn on both male and female models.
Not all designers with mixed-gender elements claim an androgynous title. Michael Yip, designer of the men’s brand K’Yan Yip, blends the masculinity and strength of men with the romantic and sensual attributes of women. The collection centers around a black and grey theme with sheer fabrics and flared lines.
Jonathan Anderson followed the same trend in his new collection Loewe, which is specifically designed for men. Loewe incorporates ideas taken from women’s clothing in regards to patterns and traditionally feminine silhouettes, but the main architecture is masculine.
Alexandre Plokhov, a designer who creates pieces for both genders, also stresses his clothes are not unisex. Elements overlap in regards to the dark mood and fabrics, but the gender of the silhouettes remains distinguishable.
Women have been stealing from the closets of men for decades. It’s not unusual to see women wearing pantsuits or shirtdresses with combat shoes and oversized sweaters. Katharine Hepburn shopped at a girls-only counter hidden in the back of New York City’s Brooks Brothers.
In Jo Paoletti’s book,“Sex and Unisex: Fashion, Feminism, and the Sexual Revolution,” Paoletti said, “The difference between avant-garde unisex and the later version is the distinction between boundary-defying designs, often modeled by androgynous-looking models, and a less threatening variation, worn by attractive heterosexual couples.”
It was frowned upon for women to wear anything masculine in the early 20th century. It wasn’t until the start of World War I in 1914 when women adopted their husband’s trousers as work uniforms, taking on the intensive jobs their men left behind. It took another 15 years for women to wear pants in public as a stylistic choice.