The “it” Generation

Photo Credit: Sarah Fitzgerald

Winter has finally arrived and with it gender-bending fashion is becoming a style staple for how we wrap up. It liberates gender stereotypes and sexuality.

Combining a male and female style aesthetic, androgynous fashion is giving way to a unified gender whose ambiguity defies social and psychological roles within society. A third gender has arrived and “it” is here to stay, (pun intended).

To put it in to context, stylist Louise Cassidy explains the current trend:

“I am a straight female, with a doting boyfriend and a keen appreciation for the female form. Experimentation is so prudish. The niche now is to be ‘blasé’ when it comes to his and hers.

“You love men, loathe boys, and lust after women not girls. I don’t question my sexuality for noticing an ample bosom, nor do I question my femininity for donning a crisp shirt with baggy jeans.

“The crossing between male and female stereotypes is arousing and has opened borders of non-specific sexuality. Androgyny simply allows you to have your cake and eat it in as many different flavours as you can fantasise. So why choose?”

The fashion reins have been loosening; Androgynous styling is continuing to dominate the collections of top fashion houses and the high street has been hot on their heels to follow.

Top Shop released their new AW14 collection; silk shirts, sharp tailored basics, wide legged tuxedos, crushed velvet collars and printed cigarette trousers were all staples of the eagerly anticipated collection.

COS, an independent line from the ever growing H&M group, prides itself on designing collections for the contemporary man and woman. There is uniformity in their androgynous collections, which demonstrate a quintessential retake of the wardrobe basics interchangeable between genders.

Major fashion houses like Helmut Lang and Armani have also featured uni-sex clothing in their recent collections.

While an androgynous aesthetic might be of the moment now, its popularity has remained an undercurrent within the history of fashion.

Emma Mullen is a fashion buyer and has been working in retail for six years; “I hate discussing trends because being trendy is not the same as having style. Style is transcendent of time, like when Coco Chanel designed the iconic Chanel suit, or when Katharine Hepburn became an unconventional icon with her wide legged trousers and oversized blazers. These women were not trying to set trends, they simply had style.”

The 1960’s were the climax of androgynous fashion. Glam rock introduced feather boas, hip hugging jeans, and lavish jewellery as integral items of effeminate dress. This revolutionised sexual and masculine stereotypes. In a stark contrast, models like Twiggy were changing the runways with boyish frames and short hair.

David Bowie in his free spirited reincarnation as Ziggy- hello spandex and glitter and the rise of Grace Jones and Prince paved the way for a new and undefined style, capitalising on their sexual ambiguity.

Padraig Murray is a fashion student at NCAD and outspoken member of the LGBT community. He believes fashion is more than clothes but a representation of the person and a reflection of the society we live in “as we get more liberal with our wardrobes, it seems to mirror society as a whole becoming more liberal”

“Traditional gender roles can be extremely narrow. As a homosexual, growing up I felt restricted to choose between masculinity or femininity, as the only acceptable social norm to follow. Androgyny has opened peoples minds, the LGBT community no longer feel like a misunderstood minority within society.”

“Some see androgyny as a ‘neutered’ nature or existence, having no strict aversion to either sex but masturbation is an androgynous act too, you are playing both roles within the sexual scenario. Would you consider that a neutered experience too? Androgyny open the gates for sexual experimentation and an open platform for self expression.” He said.

In 1994, Calvin Klein released their first gender neutral cologne, CK One. The face of the fragrance Jenny Shimizu became the poster girl for female androgyny with her boyish frame and shaved hair. The 1990’s also saw the arrival of the metro-sexual male as the boy band was born.

Elliot Sailors, Jana Knauer, Stella Tennant, Krisitna Salinovie, and Jamie Bochet are all models known for their androgynous appearances. Hitting the catwalks in 2010 model Patricia Arajo changed the face of androgynous modelling, becoming the first transgender model to break in to high fashion.

Since her arrival, catwalks in London, Milan, New York and Paris have been set alight with androgynous, transgender and cross dressing models. Paul Smith, Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gautier have introduced these models in to the mainstream, having them walk in their ready-to-wear collections.

The newest face of androgyny is Andrej Pejic, originally scouted as a girl his long blonde hair and delicate features have seen him in hot demand from all the largest fashion houses.

Today it seems sexual barriers barely exist and gender ambiguity is here to stay. Androgynous fashion is no longer a taboo but a fact of life.

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