Guest blog by Elly Morris
Gender Free World is all about finding clothes to fit your body, no matter your gender. But what does it actually mean to be gender free, and how is that reflected in fashion?
If you search Google for ‘androgyny’, the images that pop up are of Tilda Swinton, Agyness Deyn, Emma Watson et al. There are three things these people have in common: they are all cis women, they are all white and thin, and they are all wearing men’s suits. So from a cursory glance we can see that androgynous fashion means thin white women in men’s clothes, according to the largest search engine in the world.
But where does that leave the rest of us? People who are fat, people of colour, men and nonbinary people, and people who like more feminine fashion? The media tends to forget about us, focusing on only those with slim shoulders and hips, contouring their faces to look more masculine and shooting pictures of them in men’s clothes.
If we branch out a little, we can see the likes of Janelle Monae,Travis Alabanza, and Alok Vaid-Menon – artists of colour who defy expectation based on their perceived gender. Their fashion choices are striking and beautiful, but still carry the notion of dressing in ways that challenge the gender binary by inverting expectations.
Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani_Balasubramanian
When we expand our criteria to include fat people, we begin to lose the word ‘androgyny’. An example of a prominent fat fashion advocate is Tess Holliday, who recently appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in a green bodysuit and heart earrings. It’s wonderful that Cosmo are starting to include plus-size models, but it’s almost impossible to find any mainstream fashion that caters for fat people who don’t want to over-perform femininity. It’s also more acceptable in influencer circles for women and feminine people to be plus-size. If you search Instagram for #fatfashion or #plussizefashion, the pictures that come up are overwhelmingly white women with big boobs and hips dressed very feminine.
So where does that leave plus-size men, nonbinary people of colour, and everyone in between? It is certainly difficult to find entire outfits on the high street that cater for everyone, even when you’re not including specifically androgynous fashion. It’s clear that the common image of androgyny excludes so many people, so where can we go from here?
Androgyny literally means a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics.
If we take the word at its dictionary definition, that means that most people are wearing androgynous fashion at least some of the time. Traditionally masculine clothes are constantly being reworked to be styled for typically feminine frames, but clothes for women are rarely designed to fit men’s frames. Probably the most high-profile names of men wearing feminine fashion are Ezra Miller and Jaden Smith, who have both rocked skirts on the red carpet or photoshoots.
It’s so important that people are free to express themselves through fashion however they like and whatever gender they are, and it’s also important to remember that those expressions may say nothing about their gender. Men can still be men, even if they wear skirts. Women can be as feminine or masculine as they like. And nonbinary people are valid in their identity, even if they don’t like androgynous fashion.
Bam modeling GFW Clothing bee print shirt
The beauty of companies like Gender Free World existing is that clothes can be made to fit any body. They stock a mixture of masculine and feminine underwear for those with or without junk, and as the company grows bigger and are able to expand into other areas of androgynous fashion, they can only go from strength to strength.
Wickedmm lace pants.
Cover pic Alison Finch by Lucy Le Brocq