Why Do Gender Norms Matter in Fashion?

This past week Vogue magazine gave a preview of the December edition of their magazine, which has Harry Styles (a prominent musician). He is the first male to be on the cover of Vogue America.

In this photoshoot, he is wearing a Gucci dress. Many people took to social media to express how they disagree with how Harry Styles is wearing clothes that are “meant for women.” But suppose we are saying that people only can wear specific clothing because of the standard when you see a woman wearing a suit. In that case, there is usually no reaction to a woman wearing clothing initially made for a man. The reason for that is, we have evolved to where a woman is more okay with wearing clothing originated for men, and as a society, we have accepted it. It is not a societal norm for a man to see a straight male wearing female originated clothing. But why? Why can’t we move past the societal norms and let people express themselves without being judged?

In the era of social media, it seems everyone wants to fit one standard of beauty. As more and more time passes, we are seeing more and more people break stereotypical norms. For instance, take in the musician Ashe; she is mostly never seen wearing gender norm clothing. When she is out in the public eye, she is usually dressed in a suit or a blazer with a different bottom. She does take various forms of colors to make her outfits more “feminine” or overall fun.

Another example of this would be the singer Billie Eilish. She will almost always be wearing baggy clothing even though it’s not traditionally a norm. According to Seventeen.com, Billie Eilish revealed that she wears baggy clothes, so people won’t judge her or sexualize her.

Why is it that when men in the music industry wear women’s clothing, they are bashed for it? Allen Lowery, a sociology professor at Kenn state, says that “Fashion plays a major role in the conformity within a cultural group and the act of identifying as an individual within that group.” So, as I interpret that quote, I believe that people who break out of the standard norm are only embracing who they want to be instead of only having to be someone who sits in with the rest. Many people use fashion as a form of self-expression, a type of nonverbal communication. So, when a man wears female clothing, does it mean that he isn’t straight? No, many men in today’s age are okay with embracing what they genuinely want to adopt. Clothing does not have any gender or sexuality.

If the roles were reversed in our society, things would be different. Women would be critiqued for wearing dresses and skirts, but they are not. The only reason it “isn’t okay for men to dress “feminine” is that we are psychologically taught that at an early age.

Clothing doesn’t make the person, but the way they show themselves and want themselves viewed is a way of speech, and we shouldn’t judge people for the ways they want to be identified.