Before we dive into what cisnormativity looks like in fashion, what is cisnormativity?
Cisnormativity: The assumption that most humans are cisgender, or have a gender identity that matches their biological sex
Now, what does this look like in the fashion industry?
Fashion has been conventionally categorized into two main categories, womenswear and menswear, with very little overlap specifically released as unisex and/or androgynous clothing. While the end of this binary categorization may not be in sight, more and more people are becoming comfortable with shopping in both the men’s and women’s sections. We are collectively realizing that clothing does not strictly belong to any gender.
Even so, there is a deliberate lack of representation of gender non-conforming individuals, especially genderfluid, nonbinary, and trans people, that is inconsistent with their abundant existence. This also extends to people whose gender expression simply strays away from archaic cisgender norms.
People expressing their femininity and/or masculinity through their clothing does not always inherently relate to their gender identity. For example, we rarely see men in dresses in fashion ads, prints, and media. And when we do, it's rendered as a one-off cultural statement (usually when this is done the focal point of the press centers around the fact that men are wearing dresses rather than the design or aesthetic appeal of the dress itself, which leads to an entirely separate topic of conversation).
Our diversity in our gender expression should be accurately depicted and reflected in the fashion industry. This representation can be carried out through any of the 4 C's--clothing, community, culture, and customer experience.
In clothing, we can be more inclusive of gender through designing clothing, especially undergarments, that are made for gender nonconforming individuals
Some examples include:
- compression underwear
- packing underwear
- dresses w/o busts
Gender-affirming clothing, as well as, clothing that has different cuts and fits greatly improves people's relationship with clothing and can even improve their relationship with themselves. Clothing is a mode of personal creative expression. Wearing clothing that is aesthetically appealing and fits us well has a direct effect on our self-esteem. Moving away from cisnormativity allows us all to freely express ourselves through clothing without the limitations of dressing within the bounds of the gender binary.