Shopping on Both Sides of the Department Store

Writer: Soraya Rezal
Artist: Fletcher Aldous

“So, who wears the pants in your relationship?”.

Sure, that question may be valid during the mid-1500s but try asking me now and I may just flip you off (just kidding, maybe not). 

The phrase ‘wears the pants’ comes from a time of patriarchy when men would be the leaders of their families. Back then, pants were predominantly worn by men while skirts and dresses were worn by women. We’ve come a long way since then and I’m here to tell you now that fashion and gender don’t always have to go hand in hand. 

Growing up, I was always told to wear pretty dresses with matching ballet flats. I’d always agree to do so when deep down, I knew that all I wanted was to wear those cool pair of sneakers I saw at the store earlier that day. 

For my senior prom, I was so keen on wearing a suit but when I found out all the girls were planning to wear dresses, I decided to wear one too because I didn’t want to be the odd one out (I have a bad case of FOMO, can you tell?). To compensate, I wore a suit at my college graduation. The look pretty much resembled Harry Styles’ outfit in his Kiwi music video. I received a mix of reactions, some good and some I’d rather just ignore. What matters is that your girl finally pulled through – I decided to wear something that I genuinely wanted to wear!

Speaking of Harry Styles, it can be argued that the music industry has a huge influence on fashion. As much as I hate to admit it, celebrities and mainstream media have the power to influence the public to a certain degree. This includes people’s fashion choices. Take it from me, I’m always trying to look as cool as Billie Eilish (and always end up failing). Nowadays, people often associate androgynous fashion with celebrities like Jacob Elordi and Måneskin, but I think we tend to forget the people who embraced cross-dressing way before it was socially acceptable. Mick Jagger, Annie Lenox and David Bowie are some of the people that come to mind when I think of people who helped to pave the way for androgynous fashion. By normalising gender fluidity in fashion, these celebrities are changing the way people see androgynous fashion.

Luxury fashion brands as well as small businesses have also been releasing more gender neutral designs in recent years. I think it’s great that they are starting to be more inclusive, and I hope that they continue to produce gender neutral pieces for future collections as well instead of just doing it to keep up with the current trend. 

Last semester, I had the opportunity to interview an up-and-coming Malaysian fashion stylist, Zaym Zarif. He shared his experiences with androgynous fashion and the reactions he got when he wore a skirt to get his COVID-19 vaccination. Not only was he catcalled, but he was also a victim of online bullying when an ignorant stranger decided to secretly record his outfit and post the video on Instagram. During the interview, Zaym gave me a piece of advice that resonated with me. He said “no matter what you do, what you wear, you know yourself. Everything goes back to yourself and your heart”. Amen to that!

To wrap up, my hot take on androgynous fashion is this; fashion and clothing is one way you can express yourself, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all. You could identify as a woman, a man or non-binary, and it shouldn’t matter what types of clothing you choose to wear. My advice is that if you think something looks good on you then don’t be afraid to wear it and don’t forget to take some bomb ass OOTDs while you’re at it!

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