Unisex clothing

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"The Bicycle Suit", caricature from Punch magazine (1895) Bicycle suit punch 1895.jpg
"The Bicycle Suit", caricature from Punch magazine (1895)

Unisex clothing is best described as clothing designed to be suitable for both sexes in order to make men and women look similar. The term unisex was first used in 1968 in Life , an American magazine that ran weekly from 1883 to 1972. [1]

Contents

History

Although the first use of "unisex" as a term dates from the 1960s, it can be argued that "unisex clothing" its first appearance dates from the late nineteenth century, [2] as part of the "Victorian dress reform". It can be argued that in the nineteenth century fashionable clothing, which originated in France, reflected the dominance of traditional feminine roles. John Berger his famous statement 'men act, women appear' can be useful to further discuss the appearance of "unisex clothing". [3] Berger claims that, in Western European cultures, the role of men is considered active and that of women considered passive or, to put it differently, men observe women and women are observed by men. [4] This asymmetry in the relationship between men and women was visualized in dress in the nineteenth century: women were more and more prescribed to fashionable clothing, clothing that disabled them to be active due to, for example, crinoline dresses that were very heavy, whereas men had the ability to be active due to their sober and simple clothing. [5] An attempt to develop alternative feminine roles by the use of alternative clothing behavior started in England and the United States. [6] For example, members of the women's movement deplored the use of corsets and sets of ponderous garments and centred their proposals of dress reform on the adoption of trousers. [7] However, they were unable to win the support of many women outside of their own group due to the basic premise of nineteenth century ideology concerning women's roles in which "the belief in fixed gender identities and enormous differences – physical, psychological, and intellectual – between men and women" was at centre. [7] One example of this was the organized "Symposium on Dress" in which three designs, that included either a divided skirt or trousers, were presented. [8] These dress reform proposals were, at that time, very controversial and seen as too radical by the middle-class women, therefore, leaning more towards alienation than involvement of this potential group of supporters of the women's rights movement. [9]

A more fruitful account of the recognition of non-conformist costume or dress of that time lies in the history of "alternative dress". The alternative dress style can be described as a "set of signs, borrowed from male clothing, that appeared sometimes singly, sometimes in combination with one another, but always associated with items of female clothing." [10] This alternative dress is a form of non-verbal communication and is different than the "Victorian dress reform" (as mentioned above), being a form of verbal communication. Bicycling, for example, was a late nineteenth century sport that was not identified as a male activity. Women, therefore, were able to wear divided skirts and knee-length bloomers without having difficulties considering gender roles because this "alternative dress" did not intend to undermine patriarchy. After a while, this and many other alternative dress examples, such as uniforms, became more effective in conveying a message than that of dress reformers, because alternative dress had more "followers" in everyday life. The bicycle, therefore, can be seen as 'one of the symbols of emancipation' that has changed the attitude towards women's sports apparel. [11]

In the 1887 novella The Republic of the Future , American writer Anna Bowman Dodd depicted a future New York in which "men and women dress alike". A conservative, Dodd regarded that as a negative development, one of the features making the future she described into a dystopia [12]

Eventually, the 1960s can be considered the decade in which "unisex" and "unisex clothing" became widely spread. The "unisex" trend arose in response to the youth revolution and the hippie movement of the 1960s and the women's liberation movement of the early 1970s. [13] However, this trend can be considered a more recent form of the aforementioned fashionable clothing, because it confirms a traditional feminine role subservient to the masculine role given the fact that "unisex clothing", mostly, represents women wearing (altered) men's clothing.

Contemporary wear

People wearing T-shirts, which are considered unisex in modern culture. Leipzig2012.jpg
People wearing T-shirts, which are considered unisex in modern culture.

Today, a common mode of unisex clothing may be an outfit made up of shirt, pants, or both, as these articles are considered appropriate for either gender in western society. Both men and women wear shirt and pants on regular basis in the western world and it has become quite a fashion favourite despite feminine style clothing maintaining a secure place in female fashion.

See also

Related Research Articles

Cross-dressing Practice of dressing in a style or manner not traditionally associated with ones sex

Cross-dressing is the act of wearing items of clothing not commonly associated with one's sex. Cross-dressing has been used for purposes of disguise, comfort, comedy, and self-expression in modern times and throughout history.

Tomboy A girl who behaves in a manner considered typical of boys

A tomboy is a girl who exhibits characteristics or behaviors considered typical of a boy. Common characteristics include wearing masculine clothing and engaging in games and activities that are physical in nature and are considered in many cultures to be unfeminine or the domain of boys.

Shorts Garment for the lower body ending above the knee

Shorts are a garment worn over the pelvic area, circling the waist and splitting to cover the upper part of the legs, sometimes extending down to the knees but not covering the entire length of the leg. They are called "shorts" because they are a shortened version of trousers, which cover the entire leg, but not the foot. Shorts are typically worn in warm weather or in an environment where comfort and air flow are more important than the protection of the legs.

In fashion design, primarily in ready-to-wear lines, boyfriend is any style of women's clothing that was modified from a corresponding men's garment. Examples include boyfriend jackets, boyfriend jeans, and boyfriend blazers, which are often more unisex or looser in appearance and fitting most women kind of jackets or trousers, though still designed for the female form.

<i>Butch</i> and <i>femme</i> Masculine and feminine identities in lesbians

Butch and femme are terms used in the lesbian subculture to ascribe or acknowledge a masculine (butch) or feminine (femme) identity with its associated traits, behaviors, styles, self-perception, and so on. The terms were founded in lesbian communities in the twentieth century. This concept has been called a "way to organize sexual relationships and gender and sexual identity". Butch-femme culture is not the sole form of a lesbian dyadic system, as there are many women in butch–butch and femme–femme relationships.

Femininity Set of qualities, characteristics or roles associated with girls and women

Femininity is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Although femininity is socially constructed, research indicates that some behaviors considered feminine are biologically influenced. To what extent femininity is biologically or socially influenced is subject to debate. It is distinct from the definition of the biological female sex, as both males and females can exhibit feminine traits.

Femme is most often a term used to describe a lesbian who exhibits a feminine identity. It is sometimes used by feminine gay men, bisexuals, and transgender individuals. The word femme itself comes from French and means 'woman'.

Crinoline Petticoat designed to hold out a womans skirt

A crinoline is a stiff or structured petticoat designed to hold out a woman's skirt, popular at various times since the mid-19th century. Originally, crinoline was described as a stiff fabric made of horsehair ("crin") and cotton or linen which was used to make underskirts and as a dress lining.

1890s in Western fashion Costume and fashion of the 1890s

Fashion in the 1890s in European and European-influenced countries is characterized by long elegant lines, tall collars, and the rise of sportswear. It was an era of great dress reforms led by the invention of the drop-frame safety bicycle, which allowed women the opportunity to ride bicycles more comfortably, and therefore, created the need for appropriate clothing.

Victorian dress reform

Victorian dress reform was an objective of the Victorian dress reform movement of the middle and late Victorian era, led by various reformers who proposed, designed, and wore clothing considered more practical and comfortable than the fashions of the time.

A gender bender is a person who disrupts or "bends" expected gender roles. Bending expected gender roles may also be called a genderfuck. Gender bending is sometimes a form of social activism undertaken to destroy rigid gender roles and defy sex-role stereotypes, notably in cases where the gender-nonconforming person finds these roles oppressive. It can be a reaction to, and protest of, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, or misandry. Some gender benders identify with the sex assigned them at birth, but challenge the societal norms that assign expectations of particular, gendered behavior to that sex. This rebellion can involve androgynous dress, adornment, behavior, and atypical gender roles. Gender benders may self-identify as trans or genderqueer. As academic theorists, gender benders may also craft software for wide release and shape "design of the future body" in order to subvert cultural norms and "increase the probability of more desirable futures happening".

Bloomers

Bloomers, also called the bloomer, the Turkish dress, the American dress, or simply reform dress, are divided women's garments for the lower body. They were developed in the 19th century as a healthful and comfortable alternative to the heavy, constricting dresses worn by American women. They take their name from their best-known advocate, the women's rights activist Amelia Bloomer.

1970s in fashion Costume and fashion in the 1970s

Fashion in the 1970s was about individuality. In the early 1970s, Vogue proclaimed "There are no rules in the fashion game now" due to overproduction flooding the market with cheap synthetic clothing. Common items included mini skirts, bell-bottoms popularized by hippies, vintage clothing from the 1950s and earlier, and the androgynous glam rock and disco styles that introduced platform shoes, bright colors, glitter, and satin.

1900s in Western fashion Costume and fashion in the decade 1900-1910

Fashion in the period 1900–1909 in the Western world continued the severe, long and elegant lines of the late 1890s. Tall, stiff collars characterize the period, as do women's broad hats and full "Gibson Girl" hairstyles. A new, columnar silhouette introduced by the couturiers of Paris late in the decade signaled the approaching abandonment of the corset as an indispensable garment.

Mens skirts

Outside Western cultures, men's clothing commonly includes skirts and skirt-like garments; however, in North America and much of Europe, the wearing of a skirt is today usually seen as typical for women and girls and not men and boys, the most notable exceptions being the cassock and the kilt. People have variously attempted to promote the wearing of skirts by men in Western culture and to do away with this gender distinction, however skirts have been a female garment since the 16th Century, and was left behind by men due to a cultural convention along the time, albeit with limited general success and considerable cultural resistance.

Metrosexual Lifestyle of heterosexual men

Metrosexual is a portmanteau of metropolitan and heterosexual, coined in 1994 describing a man who is especially meticulous about his grooming and appearance, typically spending a significant amount of time and money on shopping as part of this.

Anti fashion is an umbrella term for various styles of dress which are explicitly contrary to the fashion of the day. Anti-fashion styles may represent an attitude of indifference or may arise from political or practical goals which make fashion a secondary priority. The term is sometimes even used for styles championed by high-profile designers, when they encourage or create trends that do not follow the mainstream fashion of the time. Anti-fashion is considered radical creativity in apparel. It recombines a hodgepodge of details that dramatically alters current fashions. The newly transformed styles are later incorporated into the mainstream through media hype and commercial sales which reduce its stature.

Androgyny is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics into an ambiguous form. Androgyny may be expressed with regard to biological sex, gender identity, or gender expression.

Mathilde de Morny

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Genderqueer fashion

Genderqueer fashion is fashion among genderqueer and nonbinary people that goes beyond common style conventions that usually associate certain colors and shapes with one of the two binary genders. Genderqueer fashion aims to be perceived by consumers as a fashion style that focuses on experimenting garments based on people's different body shapes instead of following the restrictions given by gendered clothing categorization.

References

  1. "Home : Oxford English Dictionary".
  2. "A Brief History of Unisex Fashion". The Atlantic.
  3. Berger, John, "Ways of Seeing", London (BBC and Penguin) 1972, p. 47.
  4. Barnard, Malcolm, Fashion and Communication, New York (Routledge) 2002, p. 119.
  5. Barnard, Malcolm, Fashion and Communication, New York (Routledge) 2002, p. 141.
  6. Crane, Diana, 'Clothing behaviour as non-verbal resistance: Marginal women and alternative dress in the nineteenth century', in: Riello, Giorgio and Peter McNeil (eds.), "The Fashion History Reader: Global Perspectives", London/New York (Routledge) 2010, p.
  7. 1 2 Crane, Diana, 'Clothing behaviour as non-verbal resistance: Marginal women and alternative dress in the nineteenth century', in: Riello, Giorgio and Peter McNeil (eds.), "The Fashion History Reader: Global Perspectives", London/New York (Routledge) 2010, p. 342.
  8. Sims, Sally, 'The Bicycle, the Bloomer, and Dress Reform in the 1890s', in: Cunningham, Patricia A., and Susan Voso Lab (eds.), Dress and Popular Culture , Bowling Green, OH (Bowling Green State University Popular Press) 1991, p. 139.
  9. Sims, Sally, 'The Bicycle, the Bloomer, and Dress Reform in the 1890s', in: Cunningham, Patricia A., and Susan Voso Lab (eds.), Dress and Popular Culture , Bowling Green, OH (Bowling Green State University Popular Press) 1991, p. 141.
  10. Crane, Diana, 'Clothing behaviour as non-verbal resistance: Marginal women and alternative dress in the nineteenth century', in: Riello, Giorgio and Peter McNeil (eds.), The Fashion History Reader: Global Perspectives, London/New York (Routledge) 2010, p. 336.
  11. Crane, Diana, 'Clothing behaviour as non-verbal resistance: Marginal women and alternative dress in the nineteenth century', in: Riello, Giorgio and Peter McNeil (eds.), The Fashion History Reader: Global Perspectives, London/New York (Routledge) 2010, p. 347.
  12. Kenneth Roemer, The Obsolete Necessity, 18881900, Kent, OH, Kent State University Press, 1976.
  13. Sterlacci, Francesca and Joanne Arbuckle (eds.), Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry, (Scarecrow Press) 2007 (<http://fashion_history.enacademic.com/834/Unisex_clothing>[October 13, 2014].