Homogeneity is a more profound method of sinful pedestrianism in self-decoration, self-embodiment, self-love and loathing than anything else. Uniformity is the exact opposite of style, of fashion, of the soul. Why is it then that the male is masculine and the female is feminine? That stores have men's and women's sections? The synonymy of gender to presentation is like equalizing boxes to freedom. We are, as fluxing beings, not essentially any one thing. There is no core to the self but that we want to be of the self completely. And yet, homogeneity, borne from heteronormativity, is fungal in the fashion world, growing over each of us, making us all green and mossy, covering the nature which separates us and makes us remarkable. Twilighting as the he/him, she/her, they/them next to us in perpetuity, owning one's self is a rarity. Because the world we live in is machinated as far, far too straight.
Philosophical, metaphysical musings of the self dashed aside for a moment – let’s save the fashion-person’s existential crisis for later – what is “heteronormativity”? According to Oxford dictionary, “Heteronormative” means “denoting or relating to a worldview that promotes heterosexuality or preferred sexual orientation.” But it’s more than that. Heteronormativity is the feeling that traditional gender roles are the right ones, that there are distinctive genders and gender representations and any evidence that defies that logic is wrong or other. Nevermind the sense that lacks where all of ancient Greece and the Romans were gay, where Sappho lived unquietly as a lesbian, the heternormatvity the punctuates delineations of “who wears what” in the fashion world is in need of major remediation.
The gay and genderqueer sects of the world are responsible for much of fashion’s evolution, success, and canon. Gianni Versace – famous for his craving to beautify the body, embrace it, not hide it – was gay. Gay during an HIV crisis, gay and at time felt he had to hide it, gay and responsible for a loyal coven of those who believe in breathless beauty. He single handedly turned the world of fashion into the world of celebrity, status, and power that we see it as today. Tom Ford – filmmaker and fashion designer responsible for the creative direction of Saint Laurent, Gucci, and of course, Tom Ford. Alexander McQueen – lead designer for Givenchy and eponymous for his adoration of vitality and exaggeration in his clothing. Marc Jacob. Michael Kors. Gaultier. Karl Lagerfeld. Jimmy Choo. Oscar de la Renta. With this extensive list of LGBTQ+ fashion leaders, the acceptability of a style or fashion choice being labelled “too gay” or “too butch” is incriminating.
The Too Gay and Too Butch phenomenon is a direct assault of heternormativity. Where the queer have birthed the fashion zeitgeist, the straight have sought to delineate themselves, brew in their buying power, and then push queer people out of the visual narrative they created. Skirts are for women, jackets are for men. But if this were truly the case, why was Christian Louboutin exceedingly gifted at propping up the female body with the structure of his heels? Why did Saint Laurent start a revolution by having women wear tuxedos? We look at Prince, at Ezra Miller, at Billy Porter, and we see a self love and self knowledge that is unfairly controversial. For being “too gay”, for Kristen Stewart being “too butch”, vast portions of critics are so obsessed with sex that they forget the etymology of “fashion”. The very same critics who boast Coach as if we still ride horses to work or drink milk from cows instead of oats.
Heternormativity also pushed false narratives, most notably, the existence of gender. Mentioned at the start was the incomprehensible, but so very popular belief that men are masculine and women are feminine. With the masculine we associate power, strength, prowess, economics, all shown in shoulder and calf widening suits, ties that were invented to draw the eye towards their sex. The feminine is soft, dainty even, brightness, lightness, and frivolity, something like a sundress, heels, or a flouncing skirt. At least, in heteronormative standard. In appealing to the cis-het version of femininity and masculinity, we actively strip women of confidence and power by asserting they are frivolous beings, and strip men of emotional out put. This shows in the psychology of the clothing we assign to men and women, and we so often hear the phrase “all men dress the same” and “all women dress the same”.
Looking at the definitons of masculinity and femininity that are beyond the cis-het power dynamic, steeped in mysogny and the inaccurate thinking that women were made to attract men and men to attract women, the opportunity to use the body to create a being is so much greater. Each masculine and feminine are emotional, confident, strong, powerful, and soft. There are no limits in the definition of amorphous concepts made up to enforce a way of being and living that is antiquated, rooted in hatred, and only takes a portion of the population in mind. Gender does not exist, masculinity and femininity are not stable. And that is such a greater world. With these definitions, we can enter the world of androgyny, equalizing the masculine and feminine on our own bodies, or thoring the concepts away entirely.
We can even enter a world of intermixing. The jagged edges of a leather jacket with the airy jubilance of a long pleated skirt, all together with army boots or a decorative Derby or Monk. A suit pants and jacket with nothing underneath but a thin string of jewels. Men wearing dresses and lipstick without breaking boundaries, but living solidly in a new normal. Women wearing ties, Espadrilles, and cutting off their hair without being too lesbionic or labelled intimidating or unattractive, but rather a tour de force.