OPINION: Clothing has no gender


Celina Watkins

Illustration by Celina Watkins

You’ve seen it on the cover of Vogue. You’ve seen it on ancient Greeks. Men in dresses are not a new phenomenon. So why does “manliness” require “manly” clothing? Clothing is simply a way of covering our bodies as a means of self-expression. But at some point, our society decided that certain clothes were for certain genders. Because of historical misogyny and these stereotypes, men who wear traditionally feminine clothing are seen as weak. However, when women borrow aspects of traditional menswear, no one thinks twice. This double standard proves that men’s clothing is the standard for fashion.
Women have always been put in an inferior position to men, by men. From the color pink to flowers and jewelry, femininity and frivolity have been signs of weakness. Fashion is one of the easiest ways to express yourself, and to have the confidence to wear something out of the gender binary is nowhere near weak.
The phrase “bring back manly men” has been circulating through social media ever since Harry Styles broke the internet by posing in a ballgown. He received equal praise and criticism from people who decided that the way other people dress affects their lives. How is having the confidence to wear a dress not “manly” enough? If he were transgender, he would be criticized for not being trans enough. If he were a woman, he would be criticized for being too feminine. No one can win. No one has ever been able to win.
Even when we were in elementary school girls were told what we could and could not wear. Shoulders and thighs are too distracting for the boys; cover up or go home. The only dress code item for the boys is usually far less constraining. Girls are being sexualized from an early age simply for the fabric they choose to cover their bodies. But the fabric made for girls is the same fabric made for boys. The fabric itself does not have a gender. That is assigned to it by us, the people.
No one should have to go through expressing themselves openly and vulnerably only to be torn down by someone who thinks they have a say in what other people wear. Gendered stereotypes have no place anywhere, especially in the world of fashion.