In 1998 Sharon Stone rocked up to the Oscars wearing a silk Vera Wang long fishtail skirt with a white Gap shirt. For a red blooded male in the 90's, bursting through the chrysalis of his adolescence, Sharon Stone was simply, it. Sure there was Jennifer Aniston, there was Angelina Jolie, but Sharon Stone got her kit off.
Whilst the internet was still being cobbled together, Sharon Stone was the only commercial boobs a man had access to in the 90's without suffering the ignominy of surfing the top shelfs at his local newsagents. My point is, when Sharon Stone walked into the room you sat up straight. What Sharon Stone said would be carved into concrete slabs by paid scribes. What she did would be imitated relentlessly, and what she wore would be immortalised for decades to come.
This was 20 years ago. How far have we come with Gender neutral clothing since are fashion stores merely shades away from homogenising the men’s and women’s section?
One British store that has dispensed with these gender barriers are Gender Free World clothing. Based in Hove and founded in 2015, GFW design shirts in 4 block sizes, providing the antidote for issues of bust gap, wide hips and long bodies.
It's no longer boutique designers like GFW, or Radimo, Official Rebrand or Rebirth Garments becoming the bastions of gender fluidity. Fast-fashion retailers, such as Zara and ASOS, have launched their own gender-neutral clothing lines as well.
Activist and Trans model Munroe Bergdoff still thinks that the fashion industry is playing catch up. In an interview with Fash-ON Fash-OFF, the new podcast from I.D Magazine she says:
"I think the body image we're seeing a binary aesthetic. There’s no trans men in fashion for starters. Which is weird. But there are people that have that capacity Laith Ashley who is beautiful and eloquent. But there is an obsession with trans women. It's still rooted in the idea it being a weird concept that a man would want to relinquish his masculinity. We need to process the idea, a trans woman can be a woman and be masculine."
From a tailoring perspective it would be very difficult to design clothes that can adequately accommodate both men and women. It's also a very different art tailoring a lady for a suit than it is a man. Narrow waists, bust measurements, side boob, under boob, etc.
This polarising subject, and whilst one could look disparagingly on gender neutral clothing as an irreverent fad, you ignore the movements of youth at your peril. Look what happened to Levi's sticking to a denim model and not moving with the athleisure movement. Lost over 2 Billion in revenue in 2015 and have been playing catch up to Nike, Under Armour and Lululemon ever since.
You may think you're not into gender neutral clothing, chances are you're already wearing some. Those baggy joggers or jeans are possibly perfectly cut and engineered for either men or women. How do you think GAP went from parochial boutique to marquee name? They specifically targeted a mass market that were happy to wear shapeless oversized tee's and jeans to cater for the unisex demographic.
Do you own a man bag? It's considered the norm these days but that’s a far cry from the briefcase synonymous with city bankers of the 50's.
And what about when your girlfriend goes out to the shops and you raid her wardrobe and try on all her Alexander McQueen fur coats? Ok so not many, but you get my point. I hope.