Have you ever walked into a fashion store, feeling like the items sold, weren’t really for you? Taken a mountain of items to the dressing room only to realise, your boobs are too big or your hips too wide or your legs too long – or short?
So we compromise – many of us actually do, unless we have the financials to have our clothes tailored.
You are a victim of a both socially and industrially constructed set of norms on how bodies are supposed to look like.
The Fashion Industry anno 2019 has failed actual inclusion. But are we getting there?
My dreams for the fashion industry are also needs, faced by many more than yours truly. I chose the year 2025 as a target year, because quite honestly – I don’t want to wait any longer than that and neither should anyone else, who struggles with shopping clothes that fit both body and identity.
But there has got to be some realism and face it – an industry that has worked the men and women labels for God know how long, doesn’t shift their perspective overnight.
Should there be a third label – “Gender Neutral”? Or should the industry start designing clothes for humans and their variety of body shapes, rather than one-shape male or female? And just simply label it “clothes”?
I’ll try to dive in, showing some of the struggles, when you don’t fit the industry’s standard baking form, be it body shape or identity issued.
I might even make another blogpost, with pictures from dressing rooms to visually showcase those struggles, that many go through – it will not be pretty.
But let’s turn our gaze to the past for a second…
Those of us old enough will remember the adds from United Colors of Benetton in the 80’ies, where suddenly fashion was portrayed on skin darker than see-through-white. The scary thing is that it was nuveau and considered revolutionary. If you are not born in that time, it will probably sound a bit odd, as we are much more accustomed today with colour diversity in fashion adds (although, there is still some way to go).
But United Colours of Benetton was not first on the scene to be revolutionary.
Coco Chanel had her fight against the corset, which was already starting to lose popularity, and ultra-feminine wear in the 1920’ies, succeeding to finally get women OUT of the corset to what must have felt like freedom. Jeans slowly became female wear in the 30’ies and one by one the boundaries were pushed.
But in fact, we need to go back to 1851, to New York, where Elizabeth Miller started wearing trousers that were narrow at the ankles. This was praised and adopted by Amalia Bloomer, who was the editor of the very first female newspaper. Together, they started changing the scene, and women started following. Society, however, ridiculed them for daring to stand against the (constructed) norms of “proper” female wear. And so the “riot” died down, until Chanel took up the challenge in the 20’ies.
What Happened to Inclusion
So how is it, that a century – a CENTURY – later, fashion industry is still highly binary, pushing the stereotypical gender appearances – and, might I add, very misguided standard sizes and shapes?
Fashion industry and actual living people are definitly not in tune on what the average body is really like.
The odd thing is that fashion designers are starting to draw the gender out of their outfits, letting men walk down the catwalk in skirts and women in suit and tie (but do note that the average model does not really ressemble the body shapes, we are seeing in our every day lives). The female revolution has been going on for quite some time, so we don’t really frown upon women in suits or more androgynous wear. But a guy wearing a dress or skirt…oh no!
Why is that?
Any woman who has worn a skirt, will know that it gives a certain sense of freedom, especially in the summer. Back in the days, women wanted practical wear too, so they took the trousers in. Men should be allowed to do the same – without prejudice! And the skirt-wearing guys I’ve chatted with online enjoys the feeling of freedom – and they fucking rock the look too!
One guy actually gave a pretty practical reason for wearing skirts; his junk wasn’t being violated by rigid seams and tight pressures of fabric.
Come to think of it, ladies – imagine your skinny jeans (’cause men wear skinny jeans too) and fit in, say, a pair of socks. Stuff it real good down there, zip those pants (if you can) and try walking around, sitting, bending – you might feel a bit “tight”, but then you add an extra thought to this process – imagine that it’s actual living (and very sensitive) human tissue. Imagine how a camel toe would feel like, if YOU had junk.
Obviously, I myself have no idea how the average guy feels about the sensations of seams, but the beforementioned guy’s words started to make sense, once I did this little thought process.
Must be kind of as irritating and annoying (and hurtful) as especially big-breasted women feels about bras.
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I mentioned it before; the difference between the sizes/shapes in mainstream fashion stores does not ressemble how we actually look like. There are men with wide hips and women with broad shoulders.
Mainstream fashion runs with women’s standard shapes and men’s standard shapes. In the women section, we are now starting to see sub shapes like “petite”, “tall” and “big sizes” – so we are getting there(although only as far as physical shapes goes – you still have to work your way through hearts and puppies and “Fashionista”-prints, if you like me don’t relate to the highly feminine appearance).
I don’t know if this (sub-sizing) occurs in men’s fashion too – I’ve seen the term “muscle-fit” being used, so maybe it does occur.
But think about it, for a sec:
We only have two basic branches of the fashion tree right now as far as body shape goes: the female and the male.
Let me introduce you to an online store, I came across :
They have upped the game a bit – or should I say – a LOT. They, unlike mainstream fashion, do not work with male/female binary shape (and subsequently sizing) system. They work with three to four body shapes: A(Alex), B(Billie), C(Charlie) and D(Drew) – please note the gender neutral names. Yeah, I’m a fan!
Bigger busted women can buy a shirt, that fits their bust, WITHOUT looking like a goddamn tent. Men with wider hips can buy trousers, without slipping in legs that are too long or wide.
In all fairness, you COULD probably add a bigger variety of designs and items to the store, especially in the trouser section, but realisticly, unless we stop compromising on the fit of the clothes we buy in mainstream stores, this England based company, Genderfreeworld.com, does have limits.
It’s like any other retail company dependant on demands.
And demands will affect the prizing too. So far, I have not been able to afford to buy something – and quite honestly I’m sort of offended that I have to go outside the borders of my own country, online, to find clothes that not only fits physically, but also mentally.
So I too am compromising.
But the store is THERE – advocating for a different sizing system, that could change not only the fashion industry, but also the experience of trying to find clothes that fit. Regardless of shape and identity.
And here’s the odd part – I like to spend money on clothes and I like putting together items and see what goes well together, but I rarely do, because there is nothing to fucking buy!
I have started buying my clothes in men’s departments – because I might be able to adjust size-wise with a sowing machine – but it’s a bit harder to get rid of the frills and laces and hearts and butterflies that women’s fashion tends to be dazzled with. Not to mention the fact that I would have to learn how to sow in buttons, as most blouses and shirts are determined to show my cleavage – not happening, cupcake!
It’s cool if you like to wear it – but I don’t! Trouble is, it is a challenge to actually find affordable options outthere. And I am not the only assigned female at birth who feels that way.
In all honesty, I don’t care what the EF you call it – I’d just like to be able to buy clothes that match my body and my identity.
My Wishes for the Fashion Industry 2025
It’s YOU, I’m talking to!
H&M, Bestseller, and anyone else – fuck, let’s even add in the sports brands…
Which of YOU will have the courage to acknowledge – and ACT on – the fact, that humans do NOT come in narrowly defined standard sizes?
Which of YOU – no pun or sexism intended – will have the balls to truly embrace gender neutrality?
And by that, I’m not talking about the sorry ass attempts of making a shirt in some neutral colour and then label it “gender neutral”! Or making a “wuhuuu, look how cool and hip we are”– catwalk statement, that you don’t follow up on. For one, that shirt is STILL produced in the narrow standard body shape. Secondly, it takes a little more than a one time statement, to make an impact that lasts.
I’m talking about full on – no turning back – eradication of male/female sections, standard two-branch body shapes and departments. Not elimination of the options we do have now, because some DO like it – and they should continue to be able to buy and dress according to their identities.
I’m talking about realising and acting on the fact that it’s ultimately our body shapes and identities that make clothes suit us – not our genitals.
I’m talking skirts hanging side by side with ties and cargo pants (why is it that cargo pants are so… un-cargo in women’s fashion?).
I’m talking about as a customer – ALL customers – getting the fucking option to choose to wear clothes that frecking fits, physically AND mentally.
I’m talking about the responsibility of building body positivity, rather than pushing body dysmorphia. It’s YOUR responsibility too!
I’m talking about ACTUAL INCLUSION and EQUALITY.
Why is this even a debate in 2019?
WHICH OF YOU WILL BE THE NEXT GROUND BREAKING PIONEER???
If you have become curious about gender neutral clothing (whether it’s style or due to gender identity), body shapes in fashion….. here’s some other links for background, debate etc. I may not agree with everything, but it’s easier to form opinions if you have multiple sides to the matter. Some of these are focused on the female issues of standard sizing, but let’s not forget that men come in different sizes and shapes as well.
Beyond the Plus Sign article “Clothes Shopping for Transmasculine Folks”
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My name is Linda and I set my eyes on the world for the first time back in the summer of 1978.
In 2017, after decades of struggling with various mental issues and illnesses, I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, an autistic spectrum condition. My most dominant co-morbid illnesses are depression and anxiety.
Born in Copenhagen, living several places throughout Denmark in my life, I’m currently settled in Northern Jutland, in the rapidly growing city of Aalborg. Here I worked a handful of years as a manager in high performance environments, until a mental break down in 2017.
Rocking the Spectrum is not a knowledge base on autism per se, but rather a peak behind the scenes, showing the life of someone autistic – in the hopes that it will help conversations and understanding along elsewhere on this blue planet.
I am not a professional health worker and any views and statements must be viewed as personal opinions and experiences only.
My special interests are languages and codes, music, books, urban gardening, animals – and writing is my way of breathing.
Proceed into the blog with caution – I swear a lot. Don’t blame my parents – they HAVE tried to improve my behaviour!