Androgynous fashion – the type of style that blurs the lines of sexist stereotyping and generalization. “Androgynous is a person who does not fit in gender categories of masculinity and feminity, culturally defined and detemined rules of how male and female should behave in the certain society and culture.” You may be able to recognize this form of fashion easily, but many people may look at an androgynous outfit and think the dresser is “unique,” like he or she is styling themselves this way to be “different.” Most of the time, the meaning behind this look is much more purposeful than that, designed to present the individual in ways that differ from the typical fashion preferences that separate the ideas of men’s clothing and women’s clothing.
When I think about the word “androgynous,” I feel shocked to recall how a large amount of people are unaware of the trend. I remember sending a photo of an outfit I wore to a group chat of 11 of my closest friends with the caption “this makes me feel androgynous” – meaning: it makes me feel less feminine than my tight, revealing outfits usually do. Out of 11, only one of those friends knew what I meant by the word. To me, this was shocking … how can so many people be unaware of such an iconic trend? But, the more I thought about the type of style that these outfits convey, the further I recognized that it was about more than just piecing together the clothes, but that androgynist people may be thinking a lot deeper than fashion.
Androgynist Style Icons
I was first introduced to androgynist expression by one of my all-time favourite style icons, Christie Tyler. If you haven’t heard of her (well then, you’re welcome), she is a fashion and interior blogger from New York that is typically known as “nycbambi,” being the name of her socials and specifically, her YouTube channel. Other than her love for neutrals and simplicity, Tyler is ultimately known for her androgynous looks, as she is inspired by mixing feminine pieces with an overall vibe of comfort and minimalism. Within her interview for Haati Chai, she exclaims, “I’ve honed in on that and also love that sort of androgynous look with oversized blazers, Levi’s, white t-shirts. That has come sort of the inspiration for my ‘brand’.” Additionally, on platforms including Husskie, Violet Grey, and Tyler’s own style blog, the word “androgynous” is found within the first few words of the women’s description and characterization. I have followed nycbambi for quite some time now, and what surprises me the most when I zone into this category of art and fashion is that I did not take a second to process how not only inspiring this distinct type of look is – but how important and ground-breaking the expression can be – until I found someone else who also portrays it, and until I heard the female talk about what inspires her to do so.
Billie Eilish, a 17-year-old singer, is not-so-slowly taking over the music industry. She is most known for three things: her pure talent (duh), her crazy amount of success at such a young age, and her tendency to dress in baggy clothing, which many people describe as “dressing like a boy.” The singer’s choice of clothing didn’t stick out to me much until I noticed that high-fashion brands including Louis Vuitton were designing custom clothes just for Billie that match the description of loose and boy-like. Her outfits started to become the topic of discussion when her name arose in conversation of those around me, and I even remember quite a few people associating this articulation with questions of her sexuality. Thinking back on these conversations now, I am amazed by the fact that so many people within this society, including myself, have completely missed the point. I mean, I guess our generation does have the label of missing the point on a lot of things but, this one really struck me. We have ignored a way of expression that fits so much criteria that we have been fighting for.
The Feminism of Androgynous Fashion
In a recent Calvin Klein advertisement, Billie explained the reasoning behind the way she dresses, “That’s why I wear big, baggy clothes … no one can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath.” Why, I found myself asking, has no one thought of this possibility? It really forced me to think more critically, to view the way our society perceives actions and choices in a way that complies with stereotypes and generalizations. When you really think about it, Billie is saying something about our world and the people in it with her choice of an androgynous-like style. She may be famous, talented, wealthy, and cool … but when it comes to fashion, she wants to be known and remembered for something more than just the body that she is trapped in. In an androgynous outfit, she is everything except the female figure. Her body is her own and no one else’s, keeping the vulnerability of sexualization and harsh criticism strayed away from her persona. Ultimately, dressing in a means of avoiding gender-identity grants the individual the ability of alternative possibilities when it comes to labels and impressions from others, making the input from the world around her detached from the harshness of societal pressures of femininity.
When it comes to my personal style of clothing, I am the complete opposite of both of these notable women. My typical outfits are everything associated with “feminine” and “girly” fashion. I am drawn to tight, black, see-through clothing that emphasize my figure and reveal my petite body. I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel most comfortable when I am dressed as such – but, after trying a more androgynous look for one night, I sure did notice the difference. On June 11th, 2019, I attended Billie’s concert in Toronto. Like everyone else there, I decided to dress to fit the vibe. I wore a long-sleeved, baggy, unflattering and unrevealing men’s shirt as a dress. I hated it. I felt uncomfortable and looking back at the photos of myself in this outfit, I can’t even get myself to post an Instagram photo of myself in this type of look. All in all, this situation allowed me insight onto myself. It pushed me to examine the ways I present my character with my choices of fashion, and how I truly feel beneath the clothes.
Androgyny is a type of style that is recognized as gender-neutral, being neither masculine nor feminine. It is a category of fashion that I am not quite in love with, but believe is extremely important. This type of dressing does so much more than avoid generalizing people on gender, but it also grants humans their personal freedom, as Billie demonstrates. It allows us as peers to disregard the body type and figure, and invites us to appreciate the actual person wearing the clothing. Androgynous dress as a form of art offers important social criticism– why do we associate identity so much with clothing?
I have decided to continue my trial with androgyny. Taking a step back from myself, I am able to understand that I want to be known for more than what my clothes reveal about me. When someone looks at me on the street, I would rather they be focused on my facial features, my vibe, my personality … thus eliminating the unnecessary amount of attention focused strictly on my female attributes. Like Billie, I want to be judged for my talents and characteristics, and I believe dressing in an androgynous manner can teach me a lot about self-love and respect on the way.