By Olivia Feliz
Artwork by Lily Beasley
From birth, a stereotypical dress code is placed upon baby boys swaddled in light blues or girls in rosy pinks. Western cultural norms are related to gender, which is closely linked to appearance. However, in recent years of fashion, the line between male and female dress has progressively blurred.
Fashion is a form of self-expression. Every day, clothes are used as the first impression we make to the world. As a result, fashion has become an outlet to share ideas and mirror situations and has become a true art form. Each generation leaves its impact on the history of fashion by sewing its different struggles, ideas and aspirations into its clothing. So, in many ways, fashion today represents the current evolving ideas about gender.
The rapper Young Thug chose to appear on the cover of his album “No, My Name is JEFFERY” in a formidable skirted warrior dress, which many men would consider too feminine. In Calvin Klein’s Fall 2016 Global Campaign, he responded to media questions about his style statement by saying, “In my world, you can be a gangsta with a dress, or you can be a gangsta with baggy pants. I feel like there’s no such thing as gender.”
Gender-blend fashion has come into focus with the current culture largely because of social media, which encourages people to show who they are or how they would like to be seen to a large audience, inspiring others to embrace themselves in the same way. For example, there are a number of famous makeup influencers on YouTube who are men, such as James Charles or Jeffree Star.
In 2015, models of both genders walked for Saint Laurent in 3-inch heels, Gucci premiered sheer tops and lavalliere blouses in their fall men’s collection and Tom Browne dressed women in outrageously patterned 3-piece suits with matching top hats. That same year, gender-blending trends emerged in people’s everyday lifestyles as other designers saw the gender fluidity that had been happening on the runway and brought it to real people. As a result, modern fashion media is bringing new inspiration and validation to those who already adopt gender-blended trends.
Through their self-expression of fashion, celebrities are helping close the gap between gender norms in clothes and influencing everyday people to show who they are without any constraint of gender through their clothing. 2019’s fashion icons such as Billy Porter, Janelle Monáe, Harry Styles, and Billie Eilish are bringing conversations about gender to the world stage, potentially opening the minds of fans who may be familiar with strict gender-based constraints in fashion.
At the 2019 Oscars, Billy Porter wore a stunning Christian Siriano velvet black tuxedo dress, and the year before at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, Janelle Monáe combined different feminine and masculine looks into an eye-catching red suit with a gown-like train. Harry Styles has made countless appearances in colorful patterned or more feminine flared suits, and Billie Eilish has trademarked her baggy clothes and tracksuits.
From the runway to the red carpet to the streets, this fashion can be spotted almost anywhere, including on St. Mary’s students outside of class.
Since SMS is such a safe space for expression, we often do not notice that outside the school, others aren’t as comfortable with such progressive fashion style. In fact, Ana Albrecht (12), co-captain of the Mock Trial team, recalls her experience at the 2017 Mock Trial state competition: “Every girl on the St. Mary’s team had to wear skirt suits rather than pant suits.” Ms. Gardener, the former Mock Trial sponsor, explained “Your wardrobe helps you develop that seriousness around the role you play; that is why we suggested it because it was the sort of the traditional look of an attorney.”
Albrecht argued against wearing a skirt suit, feeling that she and many others had to sacrifice comfort to cater to those with more traditional values. She commented, “There were a couple of people we dealt with throughout the process of deciding outfits (which I might remind you is NOT the most important aspect of Mock Trial) who were just not aware that women can indeed wear pants professionally now.”
Pants are now the preferred choice of many girls. In fact, students have attended dances like winter formal and prom and other school events in pants and jumpsuits. Her freshman year, Lucy Nassif (10) wore pants and a velvet blazer to prom. As a girl who prefers pants over a dress, she felt excited about the outfit because she knew it was a piece in which she could have a good time and would feel comfortable. When asked about any worries about what others might have thought, Lucy said “I’ve never had a teacher or another student make comments … I knew people would be supportive of what I wore. I wasn’t afraid at all. I was actually pretty proud to wear the outfit because it felt like me and was a statement about how I feel.”
This begs the question: will the school ever say no to pants? What about at graduation? This year for her graduation, Claire Lee (12) plans to wear a jumpsuit instead of a traditional white dress. She explained: “Freshman year my mom told me that she saw a pretty wedding jumpsuit and thought I should look into them for graduation, and it immediately became my goal. I've never even really considered not wearing pants to graduation, this has always been the plan.”
Claire’s only concern was whether or not she would be allowed to wear a jumpsuit instead of a dress. To the question of attire for graduation, Dr. Steakley answered, “We simply ask that everyone respect the formality of the occasion and dress appropriately.”
For & By Students
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