From the flapper style of the ‘20s to the normcore of today, fashion has historically been at the forefront of changing societal attitudes. Because of its reflective quality, fashion is ever-changing. It reflects the social values of a given time period, with fashion trends at the forefront of movements and revolutions, echoing society’s cultural sentiments. This evolution has brought fashion to a pivotal and inspiring point today.
For centuries, clothing signified a person’s status, gender and wealth, revealing how society labeled and segregated itself based off of demographics. In the 19th century, aristocrats donned luxurious fabrics, women wore dresses and makeup and men dressed in pants. In the 1920s, these trends began to shift along with the political climate of the women’s suffrage movement, with women putting on pants and shortening their dresses in opposition to the misogynistic values and fashion rules of their society. The 1960s went beyond granting further fashion freedoms for women and introduced their liberation from both wealth-based and traditionally feminine clothing. While women started to dress themselves in suits, as seen in the Yves St. Laurent’s “Le Smoking,” men’s hair started to grow longer and pants fit tighter, and both genders adopted a more relaxed sense of style, allowing T-shirts and jeans to erode wealth and status based fashion.
Today’s fashion pushes this envelope even further, and every day is a new opportunity to rebel against societal values through fashion. We are coming into an age where women are unafraid to be bold with their fashion, wearing whatever they want, whether it be considered masculine or feminine, promiscuous or prudish, from Goodwill or a designer label. Fashion brands like NotEqual and TILLYandWILLIAM are joined by many others in creating gender neutral lines that allow for self-expression without boundaries. Clothing and beauty are ways to vocalize your independence from the boxes that society constructs. Men, like women, care about their appearance and are now experimenting with trends that were previously seen as too feminine for them to wear. Actor Jaden Smith reflects this, often donning skirts and dresses. Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière said of Jaden, “He represents a generation that has assimilated the codes of true freedom, one that is free of manifestos and questions about gender.” We are working our way toward acceptance of gender fluidity in fashion, just as we are in our everyday lives.
At NYU, students also embody boundary-breaking fashion by subverting the gender binary. For guys, this can be as simple as wearing makeup. One way LS freshman Max Ledesma expresses this is by wearing nail polish.
“I really don’t mind having nail polish on,” Ledesma said. “The first time I tried it, my friend put it on me and, instead of removing it, I just waited for it to wear off. Nail polish sparks conversation with people and gives me a little extra flair that I didn’t have before.”
Women also defy the gender binary. For example, LS freshman Simona Gemayel chooses to shop in the men’s department.
“I shop in the men’s section all the time because I find the designs cuter and more comfortable, rather than the stereotypical female florals and pastels,” Gemayel said.
Today’s fashion is at the forefront of individuality and self expression, as our generation continues to dress itself with the intention of reflecting who they are on the inside, rather than to impress others. Instead of allowing the world to tell us who we are, we are deciding to show them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 4 print edition.
Email Tyler Crews at [email protected]