Saturday, 21 July 2012

Lady looks like a dude (and some musings on the limitations of gender stereotypes on fashion)

I'm kind of obsessed with menswear and sometimes wish I were a man (just for a little while) so I could play around with the boundaries of male fashion and style. There are so few left for women - we have such scope, such freedom. Although, as I say when men lament not having this same freedom - the trade-off with centuries of subjugation isn't quite even. 

All the same, freedom is sometimes strangely limiting. I mean, if we can wear almost anything then how is anything at all new or interesting? It's like how a poem is so much more interesting if the poet has been limited in some way; you're so much more impressed by what they've done given the limitations. There's so much a woman can wear without too many sideways glances that it can sometimes be boring. Don't get me wrong, fashion itself will never bore me, but sometimes I wish for ways to push the envelope (tastefully) a little more. If I hadn't been lazy as a kid, I could have taken up sewing and maybe then I'd be able to satisfy my desire to try things that the world isn't already giving me.

Anyhoo, that was a slight tangent. The point being - sometimes I wish I was my own Ken to dress up. My brother lets me help him shop sometimes but he doesn't really need me (So stylish! Makes me proud) and my boyfriend also heeds my advice at times but both are far too conservative by my standards. I mean, don't they realise they're missing out?! Getting dressed is so much fun! I can't imagine following an endless formula of tee + jeans + hoodie/jacket. If I were a man I would take that envelope and drag it down the street after me! 

Take, for example, what I was wearing today. I was laughed at when I said I'd wear the exact same thing if I were a man. Which is crazy because this would only be the tip of my iceberg. I would rock suits and hats (Why is it so difficult to find men who can rock hats without looking like wankers these days?) on a normal day, for no reason other than looking awesome while slogging in the library is fun. I would play with gender stereotypes all over the place and court women's clothing stores. I would totally have a skort. And lace? Why don't men use lace? I'm sure there's a way to make that work, especially when decency allows for much more of the male form to be flashed.

I think one thing that really limits menswear is men themselves...and women. There's such an established idea of what is masculine that breaking out of that mould is nigh impossible, especially if the man in question is straight. Which is where women come in. It seems gay men have more freedom in dress because the LGBT culture is so much more understanding and embracing in general. You can dress how you wish without large amounts of ridicule and/or repulsion. If you are a straight man, however, and interested in fashion you might be limited by women and their opinion of you...and possible rejection for being too outlandish. I, personally, would have no issue being with, or seen with, a man who dresses more provocatively or out-of-the-ordinary. But I know most of my straight female friends would not agree with this sentiment. More frightening than the rejection by women, however, (seeing as how potential rejection by potential lovers is something everyone must face) is that of one's peers. As sexuality becomes more and more of a non-issue (and we all move on like reasonable human beings) it seems that gender roles or ideas, however, change and move on at a much slower pace. I come from a small town and I imagine that a guy dressing as I would have him would lead to much more drama than him being interested in other dudes (even if that still might raise a few brows). So what's the connection between sexuality and dress? There's none at all really (other than larger freedom and appreciation to fashion-forward gay men) but here's my point; if we can get past the idea that a "real man" has sex with lots of women (or one), then why is it so difficult for us to change our view on all the other things that we see as "masculine". 

I just really appreciate that no matter how different men and women are, they are also so similar. We all have very similar needs, wants and desires. We're all people at the end of the day. And gender? It's becoming, more and more, simply a difference in reproductive organs. 

Why can't we all just get along...and into each other's wardrobes?

PS. I know I always play with gendered modes of dress so the above might seem a tad hypocritical but I will point out that I always call them "traditionally" gendered modes in need of rethinking.

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