Breaking the Binary: A Brief History of Gender-Neutral Clothing. With the sudden influx of companies creating gender-neutral outfits, it’s a wonder how it all started. Gender-Neutral clothing has quite a long and complex history that dates back centuries. As time has evolved, there is more evidence of its positive impact on diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry.
At STUDIO EVA D, we pride ourselves in our timeless, gender-inclusive outfits and we are happy to give you an insight into why we do what we do and the reasons our designs are what they are.
Tunics and Kilts
In many ancient cultures, such as in Egypt, Rome and Greece, clothing was often gender-neutral. By using wool in the winter and linen in the summer, the Greeks crafted large rectangular pieces with a simple hole cut for the head called the ‘Tunic’, allowing comfort and freedom of movement to its wearer and were perfect for battles, hard labour and casual attire for festivities.
Outfits varied only slightly between men and women of different social classes and regions, with the inclusion of sashes and head scarves. These clothing ideas could also be found in ancient Rome and worn by a range of societal classes and crafted from natural materials such as wool, linen and silk.
As far back as the 16th century, the kilt has also been used as an example of gender-neutral clothing. The traditional garment is primarily associated with men in modern times, but there is evidence that women also wore kilts historically. It supposedly evolved from a similar outfit to that of a Tunic or Toga that was highly practical and was used by hunters because of its various uses and freedom of movement.
Bloomers of the 19th Century
During the Victorian era, gender roles became more rigidly defined and clothing became more gender-specific. However, there were some women who advocated for more practical clothing for both men and women. Bloomers were originally created as a form of women’s undergarments and designed to be a comfortable and practical alternative to the restrictive women’s fashions of the time.
They were a type of trouser underwear that was loose-fitting, comfortable garment usually made of linen and gathered at the ankle.
Named after women’s rights activist Amelia Jenks Bloomer, they were a symbol of the women’s suffrage movement and a symbol of their desire for greater freedom and independence.
Similar styles were worn by men as active and casual wear and were typically worn with knee-high socks and a blazer.
In the early 1900s, women’s fashion began to embrace more masculine elements, such as trousers and suits. By the 1920s, the “flapper” style challenged gender norms by featuring shorter hemlines, looser clothing, and a more androgynous look. Characteristically dynamic and made of airier and lighter fabrics, they were notorious for having incredible designs made of sequins and beads and a perfect way for women to embrace their self-expression.
Used as a symbol of women’s freedom and even heavily featured in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, these simple dresses were easily constructed at home and were a great opportunity for women to show parts of their bodies never seen before in the history of fashion.
The swinging ’60s and ’70s was a time that truly embraced unisex clothing. The Hippie culture boasted loose-fitted clothes that blurred gender boundaries.
One item commonly worn by musicians and artists of the time is the Kaftan.
Worn in many parts of the world such as the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, it is historically known to be worn by both men and women for centuries.
Today, the kaftan continues to be worn in many parts of the world, both as a traditional garment and as a fashion statement. Check out our own Unisex Caftan Mille Fleurs, its airy handcrafted flexible design is made from cotton fabric and a perfect garment for hot summer days or for layering.
Since this era of counterculture, designers have been inspired for decades by artists like David Bowie, who pioneered gender-inclusive fashion with his experimentation with gender roles and identities through his alter egos like Ziggy Stardust. His combination of masculine and feminine elements challenged gender norms and inspired later artists and celebrities like Prince, Annie Lennox, and more recently, Harry Styles. His influence on gender-neutral fashion has been significant and will continue to be felt for years to come.
In recent years, gender-neutral clothing has become more mainstream, with many brands offering gender-neutral collections. This trend has been driven in part by the LGBTQ+ movement and the push for greater inclusivity and acceptance of non-binary identities.
However, other factors such as the rise in social media influencers and celebrities have used their platforms to challenge gender norms on a worldwide scale. The increasing availability and normalisations from big brands that create unisex clothing have given consumers more chances to experiment with their outfits.
What makes this exposure even more important is the economic potential, as it has been proven to be a growing industry with a wider customer base. More notably, designers of gender-neutral clothing are creating much more versatile outfits for a wider range of people, meaning less need for separate collections and less waste and fewer resources used.
Gender-neutral clothing has been used throughout history to prioritise comfortability and practicality. Over time, it has been a symbol of inclusivity, creativity and the sledgehammer to break down gender stereotypes.
Here at STUDIO EVA D, we prioritise comfortability and inclusivity and are constantly finding ways to flow with the growing tide of gender inclusivity through our sustainable designs that last.
Wear what you love. Cherish it and it lasts a long time.
We love to keep our customers in the loop on new insights and products, subscribe to our free newsletter to receive the latest news on our projects, campaigns, discounts, and more!