Evolution Of Gender-fluid clothing in India: Breaking stereotypes
Once upon a time, clothing was only differentiated on the basis of its purpose, stitch, utility and freedom of movement. Gender was never the basis of this differentiation. For instance, skirts were widely worn by both women and men. Gauzy wraps and loincloths for Egyptians or ornate military costumes for Aztecs: many ancient costumes were based around the idea of the skirt.
With time, clothing started becoming specific to men and women. Ever since then, this trend of gender based clothing never declined. Until the 21st century which began to witness the revolution of genderless clothing, once again.
Lately, people have been busting fashion stereotypes by opting for a gender neutral way. This way is what we commonly refer to as ‘Unisex Fashion’. A man wearing a long flared kurta or a woman wearing a tuxedo, unisex fashion has changed the way people shop and perceive fashion clothing. The concepts of masculinity and femininity no longer define the clothing people wear.
In the 21st century allocating genders to specific colours, prints, patterns or designs have been started being viewed as sexist and discriminatory. The idea of differentiating what a person should be wearing based on binary gender identity is gradually fading away.
But did you know India has had a long history of gender-neutral clothes? If you take a look at early Indian costumes and clothing over millennia, there is a large visibility of gender neutral fashion.
When it comes to traditional Indian outfits, Indian men and women still share kurtas, lungis, dhotis & salwars with ease. They are comfortable in bright, draped shawls, and they even wear embroidered mojaris.
However, prior to 2015, gender specific clothing was still the trend. It was only about what men and women were supposed to wear instead of what one wanted to wear. But with the uprising of the LGBTQ+ community, unisex fashion once again picked up pace in India.
The fashion industry in India eventually started adapting to unisex fashion with much more ease as people started getting familiarized to the global concept of clothing. Credits to Bollywood celebrities, Indian fashion designers and new age fashion bloggers for coming up with a fusion of men’s and women’s collections on the runway and the web.
Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh is one such celebrity who is championing the cause of fluidity. In 2016, Ranveer Singh wore septum ring and pussy bow blouse on L’Officiel cover – most powerful gender fluid statement from a male celebrity in India yet. By 2017, gender fluidity was trending on Instagram in India. By 2018, gender neutral statements were omnipresent on runways.
Although, women have been wearing and acing menswear for years. But it’s the men who are now becoming comfortable going beyond just the masculine now. It’s a testament to the changing gender norms in society, particularly among the younger generations.
Gender fluid isn’t just a phase in fashion, it’s a step toward an evolution. The shift that we see today in 2021 is about genderless fashion being worn for self-expression as opposed to as a part of one’s cultural identity.
As a result, an increasing number of Indian brands are emerging as gender-fluid clothing brands, challenging pre-existing notions regarding gender specific clothing in the fashion industry.