Gender neutrality is making its mark in every aspect of life and when it comes to fashion, there’s no getting left behind. As androgynous fashion steps in, girly, chic, flowery, formal and manly styles are replaced with a one style fits all phenomenon. The advent of gender-fluid fashion means many things and one of these could be that your wardrobe needs a revamp. We spoke to fashion designers, stylists and those who hold the crystal ball when it comes to the future of style. They say gender fluidity and fashion are set to be the match of the decade!
What is gender-fluid fashion and when did it start?
Pink is girly. Puffed sleeves are girly. Straight jacketed looks are for the boys. Cufflinks are for the men. Shirts too. How often have we been subjected to these stereotypical norms of fashion and forced to conform? Enter in Gen - Z that is ditching the old school of thought that puts fashion into boxes that couldn’t be interchanged, and embraced comfort instead. Blurring the lines between what is ‘girly’ and what is ‘manly’, gender-fluid fashion is starting to overtake your wardrobe and you have no clue!
The queer community has long since advocated the need for fashion that is not synonymous with gender. But when did the fashion industry start taking this to heart and steer in the right direction?
Let’s take you back in time to 1966. If a ramp walk ever witnessed a woman wearing pants, it wouldn’t dare be in this era. However, Yves Saint Laurent - the French fashion designer decided that it was time for some groundbreaking upgrades. Le Smoking suit debuted at the Fall/Winter 1966/1967 in Paris and soon had a fan following of its own, acclaimed for being the first-ever suit that was designed by a man for women. This historic event in time was followed by various designers coming up with their own renditions of gender-fluid fashion.
Right from Pierre Cardin who designed the Space Age line that had gender-neutral silhouettes, to Rudi Gernreich’s male thongs and monokinis to Rad Hourani’s unisex haute couture, gender fluidity had begun and there was no looking back.
Can I build a gender-fluid fashion wardrobe?
Aashna Narang, a stylist says yes! Clothes reveal so much about the wearer if you choose to be unafraid of societal norms, she says.
To build a gender-fluid wardrobe, Aashan says:
Work on your capsule wardrobe
“Make sure you have reliable wardrobe staples. Be it bias-cut tailoring, diversely-sized blazers, conceptual pieces grounded in life, layering over ‘angrakhas’ or pantsuits, graphic hoodies, boiler suits, vibrant prints, skirts, they all make for a sublime capsule that doesn’t distinguish between genders.”
Make sure your clothes fit perfectly
One trick to making any item of clothing look amazing is to hire a good tailor. Tailored clothing not only looks polished, but it also feels more comfortable, says Aashna.
Learn how to balance proportions
“Balancing proportions is about styling your outfits to create an overall aesthetic harmony.”
Find your personal style
Aashna says that developing a signature style can take years, but you can get started by creating a mood board.
Become a better shopper
“Learning how to shop for exactly what you want will help you avoid filling your closet full of items you never wear.”
Play with tones, print on print and patterns
“An oversized blazer can be worn by one and all, regardless of any gender.”
Over the last few years, this stylist says that we have witnessed a noticeable increase in gender-fluid fashion ensembles. Various designers, Indian and international, have been making co-ed dressing the new normal. “There are so many examples for the same from Bollywood Industry: Be it Ranveer Singh’s quirky sense of style, Anushka Sharma’s three-piece Pantsuit paired with gold accents, Deepika’s All black outfit from Cannes to Harry Styles, Cara Delevigne from Hollywood. The sense of fashion is evolving every day with every new project going around the globe.”
If you caught a glimpse of the recent Ranveer Singh look on Instagram, it sums up what gender fluidity is all about. With a tracksuit paired with a leather handbag complete with heavy gold jewellery, the look got applause from numerous fashionistas for the bold statement it made!
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Aashna says the focus on non-binary clothing was overdue not just to blur the lines between feminine and masculine, but also to include gender non-conforming individuals into mainstream fashion.
Is genderless fashion the future?
Gender-neutral references in art and culture have always been prevalent and adored in India. Wajahat Rather, Founder and Design Head at Raffughar says it will be interesting to see how gender-neutral fashion has evolved in the present day.
“An androgynous look is one that ignores gender binaries and embraces both feminine and masculine elements of dressing. Whether you want a more permanent androgynous look or are playing with styles to see what you like, the most important thing to remember is to choose the fashion, hair, and makeup that makes you happy.”
Some tips to achieve gender fluidity in fashion, according to him are:
- Rely heavily on black, white, and shades of grey
- Stick with more neutral tones and clothes that are a relaxed fit
- As far as necklines go, a boat neck is perfect for the androgynous look as it is a mix of masculine and feminine
- Pick a blazer in a fun print and layer it over a plain shirt
- Add boot-cut jeans and a canvas sneaker to keep it casual, or pair it with black pants and oxfords for a dressier look.
- Choose items in traditionally masculine fabrics, like tweed, corduroy, or leather
- Fabrics that are a bit heavier, more structured, and don’t conform to the shape of your body will help you complete your androgynous look
- Harem trousers have a partial skirt around the waist and taper toward the ankle
- If you’re ready for a bold look, try pairing harem trousers with a fitted button-up shirt
What is the first step to a gender-fluid collection?
“Firstly, stop restricting yourself with the thought ‘should I wear this or not’,” says Varunesh Pal, Fashion Director while saying that thinking of colour and styles which express your inner personality more is what will help.
Varunesh breaks this down for those who wish to take the first step into gender fluid clothing.
Men who want to have feminine clothing
The best thing to start with can be small accessories which you can find in your sister’s or mother’s wardrobe, says Varunesh. These can be either a neckpiece or stole or finger rings or even a purse. “You can start by picking one piece from feminine section like pants or denim, your mother’s kurta or some collared top.”
He further goes on to say that it’s not always the outfit. Sometimes if you feel you want to break it with the colour of your choice or fabric texture, that is also the best way to add it to your style.
Women who want to have masculine clothing
“You can find your brother or father’s loose fitted pants at home. Later add loose fitted shirts or printed illustrated t-shirts. More tailored outfits too and shoes can work well.”
Makeup and Hair
“Sometimes when you don’t feel yourself by way of clothes, then hair and makeup can be the best way to reflect the inner you.”
Varunesh says many brands in the market are emerging with the theme of gender neutrality and they are playing an important role in it. “This is going to change the mindset of people in coming years. Growing demand for unisex clothing is giving confidence to buyers.”
Fashion - a form of escapism?
The journey to androgynous fashion, says Sakshi Nahar, a Fashion Stylist and Image Consultant, begins when you stop associating skirts with women, and suits with men. "Fashion should be a form of escapism and not a form of imprisonment." The queer community has time and again spoken about having the lines between gender fashion blurred and now that this is happening, it is changing the way people perceive style.
These days, being an image consultant has gone way beyond simply conforming to what looks good. So, with the androgynous style coming in in a big way, the task gets more challenging. Sakshi says clothes are the gateway to self-expression. “As the world changes, so will our closets. And that’s the moral of the story.”
One clothes item styled in many different ways
Srishti Arora says we are now finally in an age where we are recognizing all the people in the world and have so many more clothing styles. “The future of gender-fluid fashion according to me will touch the sky and be very huge. It also adds comfort to every person's style as it helps them reflect on what their thoughts are and what they are most happy wearing.”
She says the future is bright not just in the industry, but also in the sales aspect. “There are so many fashion designers and brands who are now creating gender-neutral clothing. They recognize the need and the change in our society.”