Not limited by clothing

Gender neutral clothing allows for greater freedom and prevents unnecessary gender division.


| Cherri Yoon/THE CHIMES

Catherine Streng, Writer

Who likes cars? Men mostly. So when Toyota released a commercial in Japan, it was no surprise to see a topless model wearing only red panties and a woman’s blazer strut towards a sleek new car. So many commercials have naked women selling products, so this advertisement does not seem like anything new. After all, objectification of attractive models goes hand in hand with advertising these days. However, once the model in the commercial turns around to face the camera, the viewer discovers the topless model is actually a man.

Aside from his long hair and swaying stride, Eastern European model Stav Strashko appears feminine in the advertisement due to the clothes he wears. Traditionally, clothing has identified the gender of its wearer. Across a theater lobby a red felt hat with fruit, flowers and feathers indicates the female gender of the figure in the shadows. And it goes without saying that football helmets, knee pads and numbered jerseys clothe men almost exclusively. But many modern fashion designers seek to undermine established assumptions detailing which gender group can wears which items of clothing.

London designer Sara Weston launched a line of gender-neutral fashion last October. She decided to expand into unisex clothing beyond her menswear line after discovering that she had a significant percentage of female clientele. She describes her new womenswear line as “menswear tailoring cut for a woman.” Weston blames society’s “pressure to subscribe to gender norms as dictating identity and mainstream fashion,” in an interview in the Oct. 21 issue of the “London Guardian.” She also states that “This isn’t about sexuality — gender is something different.”

Historically in Western civilization, only females wear certain items of clothing such as dresses and skirts. However, skirts and dresses need not necessarily be feminine. Scottish men wears kilts as a dramatic and powerful symbol of their country. Middle Eastern men wear loose robes with flowing skirts much like kaftans called dishdashas or abayas.

Traditional Chinese wedding attire for men includes a long straight skirt that flows down to just above the ankles. Bhutanese men wear scarves of different colors to indicate their positions in government or aristocracy. Even Catholic clergy wear full length robes or gowns called cassocks as well as over-the-shoulder stoles. Interestingly, in the early 19th century even men were known to wear corsets to trim their waists.

On the flip side, the traditional costume of the Vietnamese woman includes wide legged pants and a tunic, an outer garment like a coat worn as part of a military uniform much like ancient Greek or Roman design. Middle Eastern women — and Western women — wear harem pants, women everywhere wear cowboy boots, hats, vests, and even shirts with ties as well as cargo pants and combat boots.

Society’s taste for clothing varies. What works for only women may change in the future and vise versa. In fact, it should change. People do not always necessarily fit into the box of stereotypical gender roles created by society. In which case, people should feel free to wear the clothes they desire and to express themselves. Fashion should offer unisex and gender-neutral clothing designs. People deciding on whatever clothes they wish to wear are legitimate choices and should not receive harsh criticism or social disapproval. Every person has the right to individually decide how they want to present themselves regardless of their anatomy.

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