Fashion is obsessed with the concept of gender, it can be defined and redefined. Clothing is part of the social context, being permanently influenced by all the problems of society. Until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gender differences were very evident in clothing. Even if the woman’s legs were not visible, the sculptural dress represented an element of distinction of the genre. For riding or sports, women dressed just like men. Things began to attenuate significantly with the socio-economic changes that took place in World War I, and people were freer to express their individual and free selves. The concept of androgyny comes from the Latin androgynous and represents a state between masculinity and femininity, as an escape from the limits that come with gender.
At present, men are fighting for gender equality, trying to raise awareness of these issues, and also fighting for the eradication of violence against women. Fashion sums up human individuality, therefore, the mentality of the near future must change for the better, so that the essence of fashion is no longer contradicted by concepts such as pink for girls, blue for boys.
The first person to contribute to the liberation of the woman was Coco Chanel, during the years 1910-1920. It is said that the flapper look started when Coco Chanel wore a men’s sweater one morning, which she accessorized with a belt. She offered the woman the deux-pieces suit and trousers, to the detriment of her corset, lace, and exhausting layers. The woman’s release from captivity gave her freedom of movement and self-confidence. By adopting a masculine androgynous figure, women were prepared for the independent roles they would acquire.
In the 1930s, Hollywood brought Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Katharine Hepburn to the forefront. These personalities were characterized by independence and non-compliance with conventional gender norms, androgynous tendencies, and repulsive attitudes towards society’s idea of femininity.
By the 1950s, men followed a restricted code for appearance, limited to angular design lines, neutral colors and bifurcated clothing (e.g., pants), wide silhouettes, durable fabrics and footwear, and simple hair and face care. The negative impact of this uniformity and compliance is that men hid aspects of their identity. If in the first half of the 1900s androgyny asserted itself in women, in the 1960s it turned to male androgyny. It began with the Peacock revolution, which consisted of a countercultural movement in London. Celebrities like David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and Marc Bolan, joined this revolution, demolishing the gender limitation of men.
In the 1980s, Prince embraced his feminism, even though he was heterosexual, to show that gender roles have nothing to do with sexuality. He wore heels, a thin mustache, and silk suits. Another iconic personality for this subject is Grace Jones. She had aggressive femininity, supported by her prominent features, short hair, and an imposing attitude: “I have a very strong masculine part, which I developed to protect my feminine side. If I want a diamond necklace, I can go buy a diamond necklace.”
In the ’90s, Kurt Cobain played with eyeliner, dressed in babydoll dresses, with retro sunglasses for women and crowns. This was a way of questioning the limitations imposed by society. Kurt Cobain represented a new variation of the heterosexual man, by directly rejecting machismo. Nirvana and the grunge aesthetic of the band emphasized the similarity between the sexes, showing that men can also cry in pain and wear babydoll dresses, without questioning their masculinity.
Dan Podaru develops several factors of gender mutations, which he presents in his book „Fashion semiotics. Gender transformation in contemporary fashion”.
First of all, a special factor is represented by the media, especially by fashion consumers. Publishers and other employees holding important decision-making positions in media institutions. These people, depending on their culture, education, and sexual orientation, can play the role of a filter for selecting the information they receive and pass on, selecting news and information according to their preferences and ideologies. Fashion journalists or editors have an important role in transforming a style into contemporary fashion, so their choice determines the success for both fashion designers and consumers. In addition to the media, it is worth mentioning the people in the entertainment industry, because, over time, they have significantly influenced genderless fashion. These people play the role of icons and dictate, intentionally or unintentionally, the future of fashion, having an impact on the audience.
Secondly, designers, fashion designers, stylists, fashion houses create fashion influenced by their tastes, lifestyle, and vision of sexuality. Thus, they influence the standards of beauty and style that they convey to the public.
Furthermore, profitability is a determining factor in the context of gender change. Profitability means the use of patterns and materials of the same kind for both women and men. This reduces spending by investing less in research and innovation.
The standardization of fashion and its stereotyping at the beginning of the 21st century, together with unisex fashion, influence the major changes in the future of contemporary fashion. Through all these aspects, the future of fashion is getting closer to gender-neutrality, because nowadays people need to define and express themselves in the way they feel inside and not live according to the rules related to gender, which are much more important than they were in the past. From Dan Podaru’s point of view, the transfer of men’s clothing and accessories in the women’s wardrobe, as well as aspects of the men’s lifestyle, is much more common than taking over the female elements in the men’s lifestyle or wardrobe. Women already adopt tuxedo-type suits, pieces from the men’s wardrobe, and cut their hair short, making this type of look a normality. Androgynous fashion has come a long way, but there are still many frontiers. Over time, women have found their individuality and liberation, and men, although they were so important in creating androgynous fashion, still have many stairs to climb. Fashion is constantly changing and evolving rapidly, expecting a future in which men increasingly adopt androgynous, feminine silhouettes, rich in prints, bold colors, pink skirts, and dresses.