Glass ceilings have been cracked, but now they have to be broken and gender stereotyping is one of the biggest causes of this glass ceiling, adding as a solution in avoidance to gender stereotyping is androgynous fashion. The word androgyny means having both masculine and feminine characteristics. Hence androgynous fashion is where one combines elements of masculine and feminine fashion in order to create an outfit. For example when someone pairs a skirt with a blazer, he/she picks out skirt from women’s wear and blazer from men’s wear and then add essence to the outfit using other elements like accessories, makeup, hair, etc. Often androgynous fashion is confused with unisex fashion and vice versa. Unisex is different from androgynous fashion. Unisex pieces are the ones designed such that they can be worn by both men and women whereas androgynous fashion refers to combining pieces designed for women with the ones designed for men and vice versa. Androgynous fashion is also often linked with LGBTQ community. In India, androgynous fashion has always existed in one form or the other. Dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization, the draping cloth as known as ‘dhoti’ was conventionally worn by men but was also worn by the women. The only difference was in the way of draping the ‘dhoti’. The fondness of wearing heavy and layered jewellery was also being seen in men and women since ancient times.
In early 1900’s a huge elevation was seen in androgynous fashion when Coco Chanel introduced trousers and blazers to women’s fashion. Coco Chanel was the first women to wear trousers and blazers and to commercialize them in women’s fashion. Wearing trousers and blazers back then felt like freedom to women. They were no longer bound to tight fitting clothes that only called attention to their bodies and did nothing for the comfort. There was a sense of equality in women when they wore same clothes as men. After early 1900’s androgynous fashion also found its place in Hollywood and ultimately in common people’s wardrobe. Peacock Revolution in 1960’s was another turning point for androgynous fashion in the fashion industry. Peacock Revolution redefined men’s fashion and blurred the line between genders in fashion. Before Peacock Revolution, men used to wear plain shirt, ties, pant suits and dressed in very conventional way. Designers began to accommodate styles which were not considered masculine like collarless jacket, slim fitting trousers and heeled boots rather than shoes in their template for a man’s suit. Embroidery and vividly printed shirts also became acceptable for everyday men’s wear. The 1960’s saw a huge shift in men’s fashion due to Peacock Revolution.
Androgynous fashion generally consists of open and loose silhouettes, boxy structures, deep and dark colours and fabrics like denim, corduroy, etc. Clothing items included are blazers; that define boxy structures, capes, hoods, skirts, shorts, and many more. Other examples of androgynous fashion are having long hair on one side and short hair on the other, having multiple piercings, etc. Celebrities like Michael Jackson, Jaden Smith, Cara Delevingne and Ranveer Singh play a major role in accepting and promoting androgynous fashion. Although androgynous fashion has existed for so long, our patriarchal society was not ready to openly accept it. After a lot of time and efforts from different designers and celebrities androgynous fashion is now commonly accepted and adapted by people. This can be seen in the work of many designers today. Designers like Rohit Bal and Anju Modi have beautifully combined androgynous fashion with ethnic wear in India. These gender neutral ethnic wear not only caught attention from audience but also got immense appreciation for this kind of innovation. Today there are many brands like Kallol Datta, NorBlack NorWhite, Anaam, and HUEMN which are successful retailers of androgynous fashion.
Androgynous fashion is a way and initiative to break the glass ceiling of gender stereotyping. Normalizing fashion also creates a sense of equality in people and helps them grow and evolve personally as well as socially.