The fashion industry has gotten the term ‘androgyny’ all wrong from day 1. The definition of androgynous, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is as follows:
Unfortunately, the way that the fashion industry sees androgyny is women in men’s clothing, which is not what it is at all.
It’s supposed to be a mix and match of traditionally masculine and feminine clothing: all sorts of clothing on all sorts of people, a beautifully chaotic mess of “F that” to society.
Even if they’re having women in strictly masculine clothing, they should have men in strictly feminine clothing as well. Androgyny should not be synonymous with masculinity, but that is the way that it is presented today.
A quick google images search of the word “androgyny” shows a whole bunch of beautiful women in suits but there are no traditionally feminine clothing items like skirts and dresses in the mix. There are also close to no images of men that show up, only women.
Why are we so afraid of putting men in anything less than strictly masculine clothing? Even if an outfit is entirely masculine but has one feminine aspect, it automatically becomes a “girl’s outfit”.
Does masculinity really have to be this fragile?
This can also extend into problems for nonbinary people in terms of clothing they feel comfortable in. It’s much harder to find a gender nonconforming person who’d run to buy a skirt than it would be to find one who would always end up in the men’s section because “men’s clothing” is equated with androgyny.
The problem here is that we are forcing them to present more masculinely and perpetuating the binary, not allowing them to step outside of that in terms of their presentation. If androgynous clothing lines or stores designed their products with what androgyny actually means in mind, people who don’t feel entirely masculine or entirely feminine would be able to express that in clothing. Right now, people usually feel like they’re entire female once they have one small item of femme clothing on their body because femininity is greatly lacking within the typical androgynous sphere.
If somebody is wearing a suit but they put on heels and a necklace, it’s automatically a femme outfit but if somebody is wearing a dress and they put on a bowtie and a blazer, it’s still considered feminine.
In reality, both of these outfits are more androgynous than our typical perception of andro clothing which would be the suit with the bow tie and oxfords on a woman. This outfit should be considered masculine because as we’ve said above, androgyny should have aspects of masculinity and femininity.
I, personally, have been really liking dressing androgynously lately—or so I thought. My school recently instituted a uniform skirt for all girls attending and that really bothered me because my first thought was that it prevented me from presenting in an androgynous style. After taking a step back and thinking for a minute I realized that it doesn’t prevent me from dressing androgynously at all, it prevents me from dressing masculinely. Because I had them so inherently tied in my head, I was unable to fathom how such a traditionally femme piece of clothing could work into an androgynous style, but that’s entirely the point of androgyny.
You take fabulous feminine clothing and marvellous masculine clothing and mix them up into an adorable androgynous style.
All in all, androgyny isn’t just masculinity on females, it’s clothing designed for all genders on any person regardless of gender. I wish that the fashion industry would recognize this and step up their game, pushing boundaries of what androgynous clothing could mean if we let it represent what it’s supposed to represent.
Go out there and wear whatever YOU want, and don’t let the gender written on the tag restrict you.