Many cultures throughout history have celebrated those who are gender non-conforming or non-binary. For generations, Native Americans have celebrated these “two-spirited” individuals and often put them in positions of power within the community because their duality of the male and female spirit made them unique. So, in the modern day world of fashion, how are non-binary identities being represented?
Growing up with gendered dichotomies, such as pink or blue baby clothing, princesses or pirates, trucks or dolls, subliminal messages are sent to children that they have to fit into one box or the other. This black and white mold gets broken with many new clothing lines emerging for children that promote a non-binary approach. Céline Dion is one of few celebrities who has taken on this movement with her gender-neutral clothing line partnering with Nununu, popular kids’ clothing line. Target has also joined the movement by incorporating gender-neutral kids’ clothing lines at their stores. These small steps start to raise children with a positive message of equality and inclusion that translates into how they interact with others.
As each generation grows up, they are influenced by fashion industries that tell them how to dress. This often comes across negatively as big corporate giants try to tell women to dress more feminine in dresses and men to dress more masculine in pants and suits. However, when idealized fashion giants like Gucci and Burberry are breaking these norms. Gucci’s 2016 and 2017 shows presented both male and female models dressed very similarly, with an overtone of gender-neutral apparel. Burberry conjoined their men’s and women’s fashion shows, emphasizing the unity of the two lines. While these brands are often out of touch with the average consumer, the power they have to set standards for the rest of the industry is tremendous. By emphasizing a new image of clothing in the non-binary realm, these big fashion companies are setting the standard for others in the fashion industry to follow.
Whether or not these brands set the tone for the rest of the industry, there are many other brands that have been dedicated to keeping their clothing gender neutral. The brand 69 mainly focuses on crafting high-quality denim products. They highlight the ambiguities of identity in their models and leave out all labels of gender completely. In a similar realm, Gender Free World describes themselves as “clothing without labels.” They set a distinctive standard of inclusion and have stated that “what we have in our pants” should not dictate what we can wear. Finally, the brand Toogood has established a holistic company with poetic visuals that highlight the quality of their products above all else. They do not restrict their clothing to any specific gender and allow their audiences to explore their website without gendered restrictions.
Non-binary fashion can even be seen all over campus as students choose to dress how they please, regardless of the norms established for their sex. Finding and expressing your authentic self is arguably the most important part of navigating college, and fashion can be a cornerstone of that process for many individuals who don’t want to fit into the rigid binary. The world of non-binary fashion is not new, and many individuals on our campus have found ways to make it their own.