9 Gender Fluid Fashion Trends From History To Bring Back Now — PHOTOS
From Katharine Hepburn donning her suits to male models marching in pussy bows down the Gucci runway, gender fluid fashion trends aren't exactly a new thing. Fashion and the people wearing it have blurred gender lines plenty of times before.
That said, there are certain gender fluid trends from history that we should seriously consider bringing back into our closets — not only for the aesthetic, but to pay homage to the freedoms they helped usher into the culture. Throughout the decades, clothes have inspired people to become more open-minded and forward thinking, and gender fluidity in clothing is just one aspect of that.
But which looks should we take from the past and reimagine for 2016? There are plenty that are still in circulation, but let's take a walk back into fashion history and see all of the possibilities. Below are nine gender fluid fashion trends from the past, and why they're still awesome today.
1. The Teddy Boy & Girl Look
During the 1950s, London experienced a Teddy Boy explosion, where the youth favored Edwardian-inspired silhouettes like tailored suits and slicked back quiff hairdos. According to Vice, "Youths had started to appear on British streets in 1951 in a style of dress partly inspired by the Edwardian dandy. A rejection of post-war greyscale drabness — demob suits and the like — it was a proudly eccentric style, and one that didn't tip its cap to the established order." The uniform? A drape jacket that resembled a zoot suit, with tailored pants, brogues, and a greased back quiff. The girls varied in this look by cuffing their pants and sometimes adding scarves around their necks, but the end result was the same: A frivolous dandy that was tired of scrimping.
2. The Women's Tuxedo
Yves Saint Laurent made the first women's tuxedo in 1966, and the classically male silhouette empowered the women that stepped out of their evening gowns and into their coat tails. According to Business Insider, the woman who wore it was "irreverent" and demanded, "If men can wear this, why can’t I?" The look went perfectly with the second-wave of feminism that took over that decade, but somewhat faded out of style shortly thereafter. Sure, the odd celeb wears a version of the sleek outfit every now and then on the red carpet, but why not opt for cuff links just as often as sequined gowns when it comes to fancy affairs?
3. Baby Doll Dresses
In the '90s, Kurt Cobain had a penchant for taking the stage in anything from Courtney Love's closet, including baby doll dresses and thrifted cupcake-like prom dresses. When he was questioned as to why he had a penchant for the traditionally feminine dress silhouette, his answer was a why-does-it-matter shoulder shrug. According to New York Magazine, "When Melody Maker asked him, in 1992, why he’d chosen to wear a white babydoll dress in the video for 'In Bloom,' he demurred. 'I really don’t know why. I like to wear dresses because they’re comfortable. If I could wear a sheet, I would. I don’t know what to say … if I said we do it to be subversive, then that would be a load of shit, because men in bands wearing dresses isn’t controversial anymore.'"
Considering Mick Jagger's Princess Diana collared dresses and David Bowie's silk frocks, Cobain might have been onto something. By embracing something so quintessentially "female" as a dress, men have the option to break out of their tough guy trope.
4. Crop Tops
The unisex style all started with designer Rudi Gernreich, who believed men and women could pull of the exact same styles, without any gender-influenced tweaks. Whether it was wearing mini skirts, cropped tanks, or bikini sets, he believed there shouldn't be a difference in style according to gender.
While this is a fan-favorite for many women everywhere, men seem to still get quite the backlash. For example, when Kid Cudi came on the Coachella stage in 2014 in an orange crop top, there was just as much pushback as there was approval, as Complex reported with a roundup of Twitter reactions.
The more we see guys decked out in belly-baring crops, the less scandalizing it will be, and the less prone we'll be to questioning everybody's sexual and gender affiliation when it comes to something as minor as clothes.
This 1960's piece might make it look like you're a couple that's just escaped out of prison, but the idea of the trend is what we're after and not the exact silhouette.
The piece actually has some exciting, gender fluid beginnings, ranging from male rock stars, female show queens, and future spaceship dwellers. According to the Los Angeles Times, "The onesie hit the runway in the 1960s when André Courrèges showed his Space Age jumpsuits in Paris. Soon, Cher, Abba and Elvis adapted the look to their stage wardrobes, while Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli and Bianca Jagger disco danced at Studio 54 in Halston's drapey, free-flowing one-piece styles."
Giving the jumpsuit a millennial spin could make it super chic for all sexes, where we ditch the burnt orange hue and Studio 64 collars and replace them with tapered pants and minimalist lines. In fact, according to Style Blazer, the jumpsuit could have already started its campaign for a comeback anyway, already appearing in men's closets.
In the 1960s, both men and women rocked ponchos, keeping in line with the hippie trend of borrowing from different cultures. Whether you threw yours over pants or a skirt it didn't matter — coziness would ensue regardless. Slate reported, "The poncho, of course, is hardly a new phenomenon. In the late '60s and early '70s, a ponchoed Clint Eastwood, swaggering through spaghetti westerns, elevated the look; Frank Zappa sang about issues of poncho authenticity in 'Camarillo Brillo' ("Is that a real poncho ... I mean Is that a Mexican poncho or is that a Sears poncho?"); and Susan Dey (as Laurie Partridge) popularized the poncho among teenage girls desperate to emulate her laid-back, sleepy-eyed beauty." While the trend easily worked on all genders, the easily swapped "his and hers" ponchos had a little more context to them other than just being a blanket you could wear.
According to The Smithsonian, "As the feminist movement gained steam and women fought for equal rights, their clothing became more androgynous. Men, meanwhile, discarded grey flannel suits—and the restrictive version of masculinity that came with them — by appropriating feminine garments." Jo Paoletti, author of Sex and Unisex: Fashion, Feminism, and the Sexual Revolution, argued that "Both genders were questioning the idea of gender as fixed." So whether you want to wear it as a stance for feminism and a direct challenge of gender norms, or just because you think it's hella cozy, let's bring this one back from the past.
7. The Beatnik Look
In the 1950s there was a subculture of disillusioned youth that wanted to reject the prosperity that the post-war brought and, instead, bury themselves in philosophy and poetry. Enter the beatniks, a group of people that favored simple black turtlenecks and cigarette pants, with berets, leotards, and reading glasses thrown in for good measure. AnOther Magazine explained the subgroup, "The post-war boom which flowed over the USA in the late 1950s brought with it more than simply a greater quality of life.
With money came materialism — a plague that members of the Beat movement was determined to withstand." Because of that, their style was bare minimum and simple, where both sexes opted for lots of black and slim silhouettes that let them blend in. "While in the mainstream, adolescents were donning billowing hourglass skirts in an echo of Christian Dior’s New Look, beatniks opted for black Why should we bring this back? Simply put, a minimalist, all-black outfit arguably never goes out of style.
While Gucci is leading the way in bringingneed a source for this vintage silhouettes into men's closets, but the simple hat is rife with history, from being a peasant's hat in the 1550s to a political revolutionary staple. It made a strong comeback in the 20th century, symbolizing different things in different decades, from being a metropolitan staple for all genders in the '20s to a revolutionary symbol in the '60s and '70s for the likes of Che Guevara and The Black Panthers, worn by both men and women. Bring the beret back to your hat rotation: Whether you choose to channel Parisians, beatniks, revolutionaries, or 16th century peasant is up to you.
9. Three-Piece Suits
While the look has long been wildly popular for decades when it came to men, three-piece suits also became popular in the '30s for women. Bold, opinionated female movie stars like Marlene Dietrich and Dorothy Mackaill loved them, buttoning themselves into vests and throwing ties around their necks during a time where women were ostracized for simply wearing pants.
Vice pointed out that in 1939, Vogue fashion editor Elizabeth Penrose spoke out against working women that would wear their pants outside of their workplace, calling them "slackers in slacks." With more than a handful of decades between us and the '30s, the three-piece suit would now look incredibly dapper on for, say, a Tuesday lunch meeting — no matter what gender you identify with.
Next time you go shopping, try to break away from your usual preferences and try out some of these time-transcending gender fluid suggestions. Who knows, you just might love them as much as your fashion forepeople did.
Images: Plaid Stallions (1); Yves Saint Laurent (1); The Face (1); Rollins-Joffe Productions (1); Super Simple (1)