When I was talking to Kenny a while back, I asked her the question “So if clothes do not maketh the woman, what does?” And that actually got me thinking about the role of womanhood in fashion, or more so, of fashion in womanhood.
In 2016, we’re doing a lot of unlearning, and one of the things we’re unlearning is toxicity of gender roles, or really, gender in its entirety, and that conversation is something that is transcending very much into the fashion world.
With a fashion house like Gucci merging their men’s and womenswear fashion shows, and Zara launching a genderless clothing line, as well as the emergence of openly trans* models on the runways, we’re more and more redefining the gender binary within fashion in order to be more inclusive – not only with regards to race, but also gender.
That brings me back to my original question, because in society, really, clothing has been used as a signifier of personhood, and in particular, womanhood. But what exactly does that mean? If we had to extend beyond the scope of traditional women’s clothing, would that call my own womanhood into question?
I find my answer to be a resounding “no”, but I found it interesting to think about. I mean – how we dress indicates a certain perception we want people to perceive of us. Our clothing can showcase our interests, our attention to detail, our aesthetic – so naturally, we conflate attire to the person wearing it. But we’re coming to realise that it really isn’t that simple. Fashion choices are no longer an if-then statement – we’re breaking down a lot of
imaginary barriers around who can wear what and when/where. Yet, in that, how we choose to present that still intrigues me. I can be in (literal) men’s clothing yet I am still very much a woman in them.
I think that’s what we have to thank women like Coco Chanel and Katharine Hepburn for, because they revolutionised women in non-traditional clothing (which was basically just pants at the time – imagine) yet they still embraced their femininity. Katharine was essentially in a man’s clothing, yet was still undeniably a woman.
The point of the story is that I can wear my sneakers, or my heels; a men’s denim shirt or a skirt, and still undeniably know that I am a woman. My appearance adds into my experience as a woman, but it is not the be all and end all of it – and that, right there, is the crux.
So now I pose the question to you (and I would genuinely love your responses or insights): if clothes do not maketh the woman, what does?
Disclaimer: since I am a cis-hetero woman, I can only speak for myself and the experience of women similar to me. I don’t intend to be exclusionary – if anything, I want people with relevant knowledge to engage in the discussion ?