Every trend in fashion is up for debate, so is fluid fashion. Enthusiasts call it a new phenomenon while critics disagree, for whom it is just another vintage revival. They argue that unisex fashion can be traced back to the times of European Renaissance (around 14th century) when clothing attire used to express social status. Take the case of upper noble class of the society, wherein both genders wore largely similar clothes such as lace collars, gold-embroidered capes etc. Even children, whether male or female, used to wear luxuriant fur or haired dresses. When Europeans switched to imperialism and colonised most parts of our planet, they came across various cultures having binary clothing norms. For them, these norms were non-conforming hence primitive and uncivilised and must be eradicated.Somehow, the primitiveness prevailed, and centuries later binary fashion became humungous and dominating. It ended up creating its own empire and rules. During the 19th and 20th centuries, many professional and social classes were born, and fashion began getting more segmented. In America of the 1950s and 60s, while the economic boom brought in formal business look with men wearing stylish suits and women adorning fancy dresses, the social movements made the fashion more vibrant – colourful, bold and expressive. By the last decade of the 20th century, fashion turned more casual and comfortable as was seen in loose cargos, baggy pants, low rise jeans and wide tops. The binary fashion continued unabated and with expanding consumerism it made more sense staying that way.
What Changed it All
With the turn of the millennium, social norms underwent major changes, with growing acceptance of gender neutrality being one of them. This paved way for genderless clothing, for which the growing demand got further fuelled by increased recognition of diverse gender identities. The recognition not only challenged traditional norms but also led to significant transformation in fashion design, marketing and consumption. The fluid fashion that emerged under these circumstances now challenges binary fashion as the styles designed in it, including even fashion accessories, can suit all genders. With growing awareness of sexuality, identity and freedom there is a greater acceptance of fluid fashion. Thus, it is not just a passing trend but a revolutionary one that even forced the British Fashion Council to announce in 2021 that the London Fashion Week would no longer have any separate segmentation of menswear and womenswear. The impact is now visible in other fashion weeks too, where gender-neutral fashion is being showcased in catwalks.
Over the last few decades, unisex collections have already been representing gender-fluid fashion in subtle form. As the social and fashion dynamics changed and fluid fashion showed increased acceptance, the unisex segment started coming of age. Fashion designers and brands are blurring the gender lines by creating unisex collections – garments with relaxed silhouettes, minimalistic styles and neutral colour palettes. The emphasis has been on creating fashion that can be worn by anyone irrespective of the gender. Brands like Adidas and Nordstrom offer unisex collections such as the most recent Lizzo’s Yitty – a gender-affirming shapewear, which was announced in March and launched this summer. Even in India, Being Human launched a peculiar collection ‘Blur’ catering to unisex segment. This shows how some fashion brands are giving importance to unisex clothing and emerging more adaptive to penetrating into the ideology of fluid fashion and its demands.
In addition to clothing, footwear too has been signalling the trend. More than a century ago, the old-fashioned Chuck Taylor All Star canvas shoe was supposedly the most inclusive shoe ever made. As of 2023, the owner of Converse Nike announced its Sabrina Ionescu unisex line for all hoopers. The line is gender-less performance and lifestyle assortment of merchandise and named after an American professional basketball player for the New York Liberty team of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Similarly, Vans brand has been selling same type of shoes to consumers even before gender-neutral fashion came in vogue.
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