Gender-fluid fashion also called “non-binary fashion” is nothing new. Fashion has always been used by cultures and times all over the world and throughout history to show gender and reflect their own ideas about gender. In the West, the idea that there are only two genders—man and woman—is starting to lose its hold as Gen Zers and millennials push against the limits that society has set. In fact, gender fluidity in fashion is becoming more popular and coming out of the shadows to be accepted by people of all genders.
We’re seeing more and more gender-fluid collections, which aren’t made for or marketed to a specific gender and don’t put any item, colour, print, pattern, fabric, etc., into gender bins based on its colour, print, pattern, or fabric. Blue is no longer just for boys, and pink is no longer just for girls. Anyone can wear any item and style it however they want, and there are no longer any rules based on gender.
Let’s take a quick look back at the West’s history with non-binary fashion and how it has changed over time to become certain trends today, as chosen by our fashion experts.
When gender fluidity preceded gender
In the history of Western fashion, there wasn’t always a difference between what men and women wore. In feudal times, most men and women from the same social class wore the same clothes. This was because the clothing was more about status than gender.
Gendered fashion didn’t start until society and the economy moved from a feudal system to a market system. Clothing was used to tell men and women apart. But even so, gendered fashion changes a lot as society’s ideas about gender roles change. For example, during the Renaissance in Europe, men wore lace collars, capes with gold embroidery, and long, flowing hair.
Men’s fashion in the West shows how men and women are different.
The “Bright Young Things” were a group of young socialites and aristocrats in England in the 1920s and 1930s who liked to dress in eccentric, opulent ways. They are an example of how fashion and gender roles have changed over time. Even though men’s fashion at the time was very uniform, these men remained a subculture of rebellious young people.
By the time the 1950s came around, men’s fashion had become very uniform, with most men wearing business suits with big cuts. But soon, the social movements of the 1960s began to reject established norms, including fashion.
Men of a new generation began to question the strict, binary rules of masculine behaviour. Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and other famous people liked wearing feminine fabrics, flamboyant prints, and feminine shapes. This opened the door to a whole new world of gender-fluid clothing.
From corsets to cargos, women’s fashion blurs gender lines.
During this time, women’s fashion was less about looking pretty and more about how it looked and worked. This reflected their new role in society. So, pants were no longer seen as a political statement of rebellion, but rather one of freedom and empowerment.
Before the fashion of the 1990s and 2000s became a “throwback” trend, it was a mix of masculine and feminine styles that were influenced by streetwear and music. The style of the 1990s was defined by things like midriff-flossing bras, loose cargo pants, low-rise jeans, bandanas, heavy jewellery, lip gloss, and more. Many of these trends are still in style today. Icons like Missy Elliot and Aaliyah broke the mould for urban women in a refreshing way. Their style and street sense are still copied today.
How you look is important, and fashion can help.
In the fashion media of 2022, gender-fluid people are shown all the time. But it’s important to note that gender fluidity isn’t just a fad; it’s a reality for many people, and people who don’t fit into one gender have always been around. The only thing that has changed is how much they are represented.
Gen Z is partly to blame for the fact that non-binary people are more visible than ever in the media today.
- 56 per cent of Gen Z people were “already shopping outside of their assigned gender area.” (Rob Smith, Phluid project founder, 2019)
- 41% of Gen Z respondents said they were neutral on the gender spectrum, and more than half said they were not straight. (Vice, 2021)
As fashion and society as a whole become more accepting of non-binary and gender-fluid self-expression, it’s important for brands and key fashion players to keep the momentum going. Already, brave people are speaking up for the quiet majority.
Top gender-fluid trends in 2022-23
Let’s look at some of the gender-fluid trends for spring 2023, which were put together by our fashion and data experts after they looked at a variety of collections from recent Fashion Weeks and consumer insights from social media.