A set of well-established cultural and social norms, apparently indisputable, set the way we dress. This fact is actual for most people, who conform with what the crowd does, accepting that skirts are for women, and ties are for men. However, many designers are increasingly making fashion genderless, to create unisex pieces and appreciated by both genders. The way we dress is like a business card we carry with us every day, the garments, colours, and styles we choose generally depend on our mood and how we want to show ourselves to others. We may often think that we have chosen a look that is too bold or does not conform to what social and cultural norms established. Yet these conventions, which at times seem indisputable, have undergone enormous changes throughout history.
A champion of style and opulence was certainly King Louis XIV, nicknamed the 'Sun King' for having presented himself at court wearing a completely golden outfit, as well as being the fulcrum of life in Versailles and all of France. During the Baroque, a typical male outfit consisted of a long coat with a waistcoat and breeches worn over long socks up to above the knee. An abundance of embroidery covered the entire attire, but Louis XIV gave massive attention to his shoes. Both men and women wore heeled slip-on shoes. It was common for men to wear shoes that look very feminine nowadays. In general, the nobles' beauty routine was unisex, powders, voluminous hair, and often styled with curls were a must.
STYLISH SOBRIETY - EMPIRE STYLE, VICTORIAN ERA AND DANDYISM
The women’s fashion of the nineteenth century instead saw a revival of the classic silhouettes, belonging to the Greco-Roman style. In France during the first empire, and in great Britain during the regency, wealthier women liked to wear much less pompous clothes than in previous years. The long and voluminous gowns were, for a short time, replaced by soft dresses that marked the natural shape of the body. These dresses had a deep neckline and a seam under the breasts, freeing the waist from any constriction. The favourite colour was white, and the dress had a few simple decorative lines embroidered in gold.
The light-heartedness and greater exposure of the body from Empire Style dresses, in Great Britain, was supplanted by the austere Victorian Eras style. Women returned to long gowns up to the feet and with long sleeves. Gloves and hats were essential accessories. Therefore, the only uncovered part of the body was the face. In contrast, men's fashion from the 17th century to the Victorian age moved closer to the silhouettes still favoured by men today. Long pants, shirt and waistcoat, were often a light colour, contrasting with the long brown, black or dark blue coat.
Another unforgettable style of English fashion is dandyism; this is a real lifestyle, as the pursuit of aestheticism is not just about clothing since it involves any dandy's daily activities. We remember the eccentric Beau Brummell as the first dandy in history and one of the most remarkable British Regency members. Brummell spent up to five hours a day dressing, daily polishing his boots with Champagne. However, it may seem somewhat bizarre that his outfit consisted of always similar clothes and the same colours. Hw wore a pair of high black leather boots, high-waisted beige pants, white shirt, a long two-tailed midnight blue coat and finally his beloved tie. This accessory was the highlight of the outfit, and it was not like the new tie, but it looked more like a foulard Brummell loved to tie differently, creating a real foulard craze.
THE GLAMOROUS ROARING TWENTIES
The particular choice of clothing preparation and the impeccable and time consuming dandy dressing table was an inspiration even in the 1920s. The Roaring Twenties saw the boom in makeup, sequins and all kinds of splendour for both genders. Among the most famous literary characters of the 1920s is Jay Gatsby, by many associated with the film counterpart Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Great Gatsby'. Precisely in this film, you can admire the sumptuous evening outfits of that decade, a parade of exquisite womenswear outfits adorned by sequins, feathers and small fluttering fringes. On the opposite, for the evening wear men opted for sober, yet elegant, black suits with a white shirt and bow tie. However, gentlemen tended to flaunt stylish outfits enjoying light colours and especially pastel tones. Leaving aside the United States' glitz, a vast revolution in fashion came from France, where Coco Chanel was the first woman wearing trousers. Not without criticism, Chanel slowly got her clients' attention, inspiring them to change their view about trousers as a taboo for women.
FLOWER POWER AND THE FLASHY 1980s Jumping to the 1960s, the British designer Mary Quant invented the mini skirt, thus creating one of the most memorable garments. In this decade, the Hippie counterculture began to come to life, which continued until the '70s. The Hippie style was colourful, bold, exotic-inspired and almost genderless. Men and women wore the same patterns depicted on long gipsy-style skirts, baggy pants, long shirts, and dresses. The Hippie style perfectly represents the desire of freedom, carefreeness, and anti-consumerism. Many Hippies love to create their unique hand-made accessories, and women showed their candour, abandoning makeup and sometimes adorning their natural hairstyle with just a flower crown. In the 1980s, however, the hair became fluffy and showy, as well as the clothes. These years represented the so-called supermodel era, where an athletic physique and flawless makeup were vital. Despite this, the style was sober and almost minimal in the working time, going to contrast the fashion of the free time, characterised by bright sporty outfits. Men and women loved fluorescent colours for tracksuits, tights, and leotards to show off during gymnastic moments like aerobics, the craze of the decade.
Gender-specific fashion has undergone huge changes over the decades, best representing what society and cultural norms and expectations demanded. Over time, these restrictions have become less severe, making people free to express their personality, always dividing between men's and women's fashion. The gender division is the last restriction that is still applied to clothing today. However, due to Covid-19, some fashion houses have decided to abandon the official Fashion Week calendar by preparing for collections never seen before. Some brands, including Gucci, have agreed to create genderless collections to free their brand identity from gender conventions. It is not only luxury brands that express interest in unisex fashion, in fact, but there are also excellent brands, less expensive, totally genderless. Among these stand out Riley Studio, Toogood, One DNA, and LaneFortyfive British brands that offer excellent genderless and environmentally friendly outfits. The news in the fashion world about gendered and genderless fashion seem many, and very interesting. So, dear fashion friends, keep an eye on your favourite brands.