From Dresses to Pants: The Evolution of Gender and Fashion

Jamie Goldin

In Features Posted

People in a community tend to label individuals, and while many people believe these labels to be binary, exclusive, and permanent, in reality, societal labels over time can change and even morph into new ones.


The most common example of this ever-changing societal process is in the way we understand gender. Gender is not purely defined by our biological features, but rather by the culture in which we live. It is a fluid concept, and it adapts to the time and place, just as fashion does.


Fashion, throughout history, has played a significant role in defining one’s gender, and traditionally, there are strict silhouettes that correspond to one’s gender. It used to be a scandal for a woman to wear jeans or a man to wear a dress, but as time progresses and as our concept of gender becomes more flexible, these traditional male and female forms are beginning to mix and match.


In our current era, women have begun to break out of societal norms and have come to dress as they please. We see this in the streets of New York City, the classrooms of Sage Hill School, and the runways of Paris Fashion Week. Especially in the last decade, women have opted for cargo pants instead of a dress, for a button down shirt instead of a corset top, and for a pair of chunky sneakers instead of stiletto heels.

And this change is not just observed by women. There are plenty of men who have embraced tank tops and full length gowns with open arms. Pushing the boundaries of fashion and gender is not purely a female-led movement because both men and women are beginning to see how fashion does not have to define your gender, as it had just a couple decades ago.


This fairly recent shift in the fashion world for both men and women alters not only our binary conception of gender  but also the role fashion plays in society. Clothes no longer label an individual’s gender as fashion has taken on a new role as a means of self-expression and a source of confidence for men and women. Fashion is now a choice, not a societal obligation.


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