Fashion changes almost constantly, making it difficult to predict what the next big craze will be and which styles will stand the test of time. Though they’re few and far between, some lucky trends manage to stick around — and gender-fluid fashion is one such trend.
What Is Gender-Fluid Clothing?
Gender-fluid clothing refers to any attire that doesn’t adhere to the binary of either men’s or women’s clothing. It often lacks traditionally masculine or feminine elements, making it appropriate for both men and women to wear. It is also inclusive of people who identify outside of the gender binary, including people who are nonbinary, genderfluid, bigender, or agender.
Fashion experts told Kala Herh at NBC News that “any piece of apparel can be gender-fluid if its wearer so chooses.” Traditionally feminine items like dresses and skirts, for example, can be considered gender-fluid — especially if they’re worn by someone who isn’t a woman.
Even still, there is a clear push for more explicitly inclusive clothing in the fashion industry. To that end, more people are exploring the world of gender-fluid fashion. Common characteristics and popular trends of gender-fluid attire include:
- Bags, purses, and backpacks;
- Jackets and blazers;
- Big hats, particularly athletic hats and dad hats;
- Tight-fitting clothing, particularly tops and shirts;
- Baggy and unstructured pants, including flare and bell-bottom styles;
- Oversized tee shirts;
- The use of traditionally gendered colors, such as pink and purple.
Of course, designers and devotees alike will continue to embrace this trend and discover new ways to help gender-fluid fashion evolve.
Why Is Gender-Fluid Clothing So Popular?
Originally confined to couture runways, high-fashion magazines, and designers’ ateliers, gender-fluid clothing is now a staple in everyday wardrobes. According to Phluid Project founder, Rob Smith, “56% of Generation Z consumers shop ‘outside their assigned gendered area.’” Many accessible clothing retailers offer gender-fluid options; some designers and retailers are focused exclusively on creating gender-fluid fashion. This accessibility likely explains, at least in part, why it’s become so popular in recent years.
What’s more, anyone can wear gender-fluid clothing, which means there’s a huge potential audience for it. Companies aren’t restricted to marketing certain products to men and others to women; they can market everything to everyone. With more possible customers, there’s simply a bigger chance a trend will take off.
However, this is more than just a numbers game. There are other, more significant factors at play, both in the fashion industry and society at large:
Changing Gender Norms
In the United States, attitudes about gender norms and identities are changing rapidly, and upholding traditional gender roles is not a priority. One survey found that over 40% of American adults believe that traditional gender roles and their binary labels are outdated. With this ongoing shift, more people may be open to doing things that are “atypical” for their gender, including wearing gender-fluid clothing.
Additionally, a growing number of people identify as a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth. A recent study discovered that 1.2 million Americans identify as nonbinary, making up 11% of the entire country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) adults. There is now a similarly increasing need for clothing that serves this population.
This also means that more designers and professionals in the fashion industry may be nonbinary or transgender themselves. With more transgender representation in the industry, there may be more designers focusing on producing gender-inclusive clothing.
Rising Body Inclusivity
There is an ongoing push to make the fashion industry more inclusive, particularly when it comes to body types. The fashion industry has come under scrutiny for using thin models, only catering to certain body types, and failing to serve customers whose bodies don’t look like that.
According to Kala Herh’s report for NBC News, to determine clothing sizes, “Most fashion brands will use a computer-generated formula based on traditional male and female proportions”. This approach to sizing excludes even more body types from fashion, including anyone whose body is not shaped in that way, transgender individuals looking for gender-affirming clothing, and anyone looking for clothes with a different fit.
Luckily, there’s been a slow but sure correction in this area, and gender-fluid fashion is part of it. Designers of gender-fluid clothing are rejecting typical clothing proportions and sizes to break from the gender binary. As a result, these collections are more body-inclusive than most traditionally gendered clothing.
Focusing on Consumers
The very philosophy of the fashion industry is also changing. Designers have long been the trendsetters of the fashion world, using their creations to dictate what would be fashionable for others to wear. Instead, designers and retailers are focusing on the needs and wishes of the people who will wear their clothing. When consumers are interested in gender fluidity, the clothes will follow suit.
Fashion design professor Andrew Groves has noticed the shift toward gender-fluid fashion in his students, claiming, “It has been driven in part by students not wishing to impose ideas on who or how their garments are worn, presenting them as ‘proposals,’ consciously moving away from the dated notion of the designer as an autocrat.” This ultimately relates to the idea that gender-fluid fashion is about the people who wear the clothes, rather than the people who make them.
Where Gender-Fluid Fashion Goes From Here
Like any other trend, it’s impossible to know exactly where gender-fluid fashion will go. Jessica Glasscock, a lecturer at Parsons School of Design, told Kala Herh, “I think this term is still under construction, much like the ‘unisex’ label was at the end of the 1960s.” People will continue to explore this term, as well as gender fluidity itself, to determine what it means and what fashion comes out of it.
In a piece for Vogue, Steff Yotka puts forth the argument that the future of retail fashion is completely free of gender. This includes not only the clothing itself, but also the way that clothing is sold to consumers, both online and in person. Such a development would put all consumers, regardless of their gender, at the forefront — which is what gender-fluid fashion is all about.
Tips for Watching Fashion Trends
No matter what the future holds for gender-fluid fashion, there are several things you can do to follow its journey:
- Read fashion magazines: Read fashion magazines, either digitally or in print to see what trends people are currently talking about. Popular publications include GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue.
- Watch fashion events: Soak up as much fashion as possible by watching key industry events, such as Fashion Week and runway shows. At these events, you’ll see the latest groundbreaking styles at the exact moment they make their debut.
- Look at celebrity styles: Celebrities and influencers are usually the first to popularize new trends. Look at the styles of multiple celebrities, including people you like and people who are already known for being stylish. Pay particularly close attention to any celebrities who have embraced gender-fluid fashion.
- Turn to social media: Follow designers, influencers, and other people involved in the fashion industry on social media. Look at known fashion hashtags. This way, you can get updates about what’s going on in the fashion world, almost in real-time. You can also follow influencers and people you may know who are interested in gender-fluid fashion.
- Study street fashion: Look at what people are wearing when you’re out and about. Trends are often inspired by what real people are wearing in their daily lives. You can do more research on anything that you find interesting or see a lot of.
- Go window shopping: Similarly, see what’s being sold by fashion retailers in their storefronts or online. This will give you a clear idea of what’s currently popular.
Finally, if you haven’t already, try out gender-fluid fashion yourself. By participating in this trend and making it your own, you can help shape the future of gender-fluid fashion. This will also help ensure that it isn’t just a moment, but an entire movement.