Androgyny and Fashion: a make-up, break-up relationship

Androgyny is often identified as a new concept, but it has been a constant figure in fashion for decades, if not longer. Most recently the essence of the 90s is fully captured through the androdgynous grunge philosophy that allowed the youth’s rebellion against capitalism, social expectation and conformity. This modern revolution opened the doors, once again, to androgyny.

The grunge ideals allowed an exploration outside of gender norms and an escape from society’s boundaries. Fashion was no longer about machismo and effeminacy but about being yourself. Kurt Cobain himself, arguably the personification of grunge, often challenged society’s gender norms through his fashion; for instance when he performed wearing a dress. This was not seen as crossdressing or controversial, it was simply self-expression. Hints of androgyny were not only present in the grunge scene but also in popular cultural. Prince performed in makeup and extravagant costumes, Winona Ryder opted for a “boyish” look, whilst Will Smith wore crop-tops in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. They proved that it was possible to mix aspect of male and female fashion without stigma or labels. Androgyny revealed that if you disregarded gender norms, fashion was able to bloom in a much more creative and innovative art form.

Whereas androgynous style was admired by the masses and inspired many designers such as Alexander McQueen and Calvin Klein, it was rarely worn by the average person. Sadly, when the grunge era ended, social and gender norms reappeared strongly, and androgyny was labelled once more as a solely homosexual trend.

However, the 90s have made an immense comeback in the last two years, and by association so has grunge. This fashion rebirth is apparent through the growing popularity of famous old trends, such as chokers, distressed denim, flannel shirts, and of course, androgyny.

As we now live in a much more liberal society, is androgyny here to stay this time? Or is it simply part of the 90s trend? It has definitely become much more accessible, especially on the high street with Zara launching their first ever gender neutral clothing range and Topman’s recent advertising campaign features androgynous looking models. Additionally, through the media’s positive response towards Jaden Smith’s appearance in Louis Vuitton’s 2016 womenswear advertising campaign, it is clear that society has evolved and that we are ready to embrace androgyny.


Sally Galula

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