On Teaching Fashion: Gender Neutral Design

Gender neutral design is making news again with Prada’s Spring 2015 Menswear  collection including remarks from the designer that  “…more and more, it feels instinctively right to translate the same idea for both genders.” Selfridges has also announced their new Agender project described as “a fashion exploration of the masculine, the feminine and the interplay…found in between.”



A previous Wornthrough.com article titled Gender Neutral Fashion discussed this topic back in 2012, including student’s views on gender roles regarding fashion history. For the past few years, we also have students at our university that are interested in designing gender neutral clothing. This year, an apparel design student named Billie Green, is creating a senior fashion collection inspired by his experience growing up in a family with a strong female role model. He is also interested in the “Free the Nipple” Campaign. Billie is making a leather bodice that will be molded onto a male mannequin but a female model will wear it in his fashion show. His goal is “to let women have a different perspective and feel like a man walking around without a shirt on and not be arrested.” Another apparel design student, Mary Beth Newton, is creating a collection of non-gender specific clothing. Her senior fashion collection inspiration is taken from her memories of playing sports as a youth with all the kids and then as she got older noticing that “they separated the boys and girls into different teams.” She hopes that people will feel they can be themselves regardless of gender and is making artistic, classic shapes that flatter any body type. The students have been advised to look at other designers working in this category of design including couture designer RadHourani who has been creating unisex collections on the Paris runway for a few seasons. Looking at his designs, one can see that the clothes are versatile so that a jacket can be worn in any direction regardless of gender or pattern making rules which has historically been right side over left for women and left side over right for men.

Ixchel Rosal, the Executive Director of Student Diversity Initiatives at UT Austin, spoke with me about this growing trend in gender neutral clothing. Rosal asked if it “is even important to determine if clothing is ultimately male or female since people want more room to express themselves” and also added that based on observations “this trend is a result of a slowly growing movement built on previous movements that addressed similar issues.” It is good to know that we have students today in our department that are helping to keep this conversation alive and adding to a movement in reimagining our apparel while challenging societal views to allow for all humans to freely express themselves with fashion. Are your students influenced by gender neutral design? Do you notice any other trends in your classroom? Please leave a comment. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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