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The Subverting of Gender Through Fashion

Stereotypically gendered clothing has become a thing of the past; gender-fluid styles and fashion is the way forward. Society has taken important steps to make everyday fashion gender-neutral, but there is still a way to go.

World War One

Looking back at the history of gender-fluid fashion, there are many examples of subverting gender throughout the 20th century. Women’s fashion has changed significantly since World War One. Women needed more practical clothing for their new roles. Thousands of women workers were able to experience more masculine and comfortable clothing.

World War One fashion

Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties moved further, with mainstream fashion borrowing from male styles. The Eton crop became increasingly popular during this time, as well as wearing tailored jackets. Trousers, however, were only acceptable for sports. This was a change from the early 1900s where women were still required to wear ankle-length skirts and dresses. Although not gender-neutral as we know today, these fashion choices were a step in the right direction. It seemed that the fashion of the time also demonstrated the culture and how society was changing. Women gained the vote in 1928 and the fashion highlighted the gender role reversal.

Roaring Twenties

Bowie’s Influence

Moving away from the earlier part of the century, the 1960s and 1970s was a time of change. Women’s fashion became more masculine, men’s fashion included floral prints and bright colours. During the 1970s there seemed to be a shift in gender. Not only were the women experiencing the second wave of feminism, moving closer to equality, but this was a time of social change.

Many celebrities were embracing the change and being different. One particular person was David Bowie, the star-studded icon of the 70s and 80s. Bowie, who with this androgynous look blurred the lines of gender and almost pioneered the gender-fluid movement during this time. Bowie emulated so many different styles with his long hair, designer dresses, brilliant bodysuits, beautiful blouses, silk scarves, pantsuits. Both as a performer but also privately at home, Bowie wore those clothes because they felt right and was what he wanted.

David Bowie

Modern Fashion

In more recent times, famous faces such as Harry Styles and Cara Delevigne have subverted gender stereotypes, opting for more gender-fluid styles. Many red carpets have seen female stars sporting sensational suits.This includes Zendaya, who has rocked a suit more times than anyone can remember. Jaden Smith regularly wears feminine pieces like long skirts and tunic shirts – which has been greeted with so much positivity.

Unisex clothing isn’t a brand new concept, but more and more high street brands are including these types of styles in their range. The fashion brand Collusion is one modern example. Almost every piece of clothing is now labelled as unisex, perfect for anyone who wants to buy and to style however they like.


This transition from restrictive, gender expectational fashion to gender-neutral, free fashion is something to be excited about. But we can’t stop now. The society we live in doesn’t include two genders, even if mainstream fashion is still confined by that. There is still an expectation of who can wear what and how they should wear it. As soon as a child is born, there are already so many gender expectations, not decided by who they are or who they will be.

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