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What is gender-neutral clothing?

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Handmade, gender-neutral garment made from upcycled materials.

The modern view of fashion is evolving.

Perhaps the best example of this evolution is to look at the up-and-coming generation: Gen Z. Their upbringing has been far different than any other generation, with most gen-z’ers having access to the internet for most of their lives. With easy access to technology, same-sex marriage being legal, and gender fluid role models like Harry Styles, Timothée Chalamet, and Billie Eilish to look up to, they have grown up with an unprecedented sense of gender fluidity and acceptance.

"I think the internet plays the greatest role in the self-discovery process today," Tyler Ford, an agender writer, said. "Young people have more access to information and to other people than ever before. Marginalized folks are building communities and platforms online and are talking about their everyday experiences on public forums. I can't tell you how many times someone has written something and I think, Oh my God, that's a real thing? That's not just me? There's a name for this?"

"I think the internet plays the greatest role in the self-discovery process today... I can't tell you how many times someone has written something and I think, Oh my God, that's a real thing? That's not just me? There's a name for this?"

Gender fluidity is not a new concept, however, the idea of gender being a full spectrum has been around for as long as humans have. In 1955, “gender” was first introduced to differentiate between “male” and “female” social and cultural aspects, regardless of their biological sex. The term “unisex” was popularized in the ‘60’s. It was used to describe clothing that could be worn by either sex. Androgynous was the next term that became popular. It was first used in the 17th century (mainly in England), but rose to prominence again in the ‘70’s thanks to stars like David Bowie, Grace Jones, Prince, and Freddie Mercury blurring the lines of traditional gendered clothing.

The term “gender-neutral” was implemented semi-recently as an alternative to “unisex”. The idea behind using “gender-neutral” is to hold space for those within the LGBTQ community, as well as those outside of it. It’s a totally gender-inclusive term. Gen-z’ers aren’t the only ones who are embracing this wave of gender fluidity. Major clothing brands like Gap, H&M, Zara, Gucci - even Beyonce’s Ivy Park have all introduced gender-neutral collections.

Now that gender fluidity is becoming more and more main-stream, the way we talk about gender is evolving. Especially in fashion. In the fashion world, gender-neutral, genderless, and gender-inclusive are used interchangeably. However, some would argue that these terms have slightly different meanings. Philadelphia Fashion Incubator designer-in-residence Allie Pearce weighs in: “Someone once told me that when you say something is gender-neutral, you’re basically saying there is no gender at all, whereas when you phrase something as gender-inclusive, it means that it’s open to any gender.”

Handmade, gender-neutral garment made from upcycled materials.

Aside from verbiage, gender-neutral fashion has its problems. These problems are the catalyst for the conception of Crummy. They’re what I try to tackle everyday.

The first issue with gender-neutral clothing is affordability. Right now, gender-neutral clothing is still considered a “niche” concept in the fashion industry. So, brands can get away with pricing their garments at a higher price. This denies access to the masses. My driving force with Crummy is that, even though each piece is handmade by me, my prices are more affordable than the competition. I want everyone to feel seen.

The second issue is that gender-neutral lines have gotten a reputation for being “boring”. Currently, the gender-neutral clothing on the market is mostly neutral/earth tones, boxy shapes, and just generally not exciting. In my opinion, folks who deviate from the gender binary are some of the most expressive people out there. Therefore, they should have access to affordable and exciting clothes that make them feel sexy.

The last issue is lack of sustainably-made garments in the gender-inclusive world. Many of the bigger companies I listed out earlier that have gender-neutral collections (Gap, H&M, and Zara) are still guilty of contributing to the evils of the fast fashion industry. The smaller gender-neutral brands still don’t practice an ethical approach to making clothes. Crummy is a 1-woman operation. I source all of my materials from thrift shops (or secondhand materials gifted to me), including fabric, zippers, buttons, thread, you name it. Even my shipping materials are compostable. I want everyone who shops at Crummy to feel satisfied that they supported a sustainable business.

Feeling overwhelmed? Me too. Visit the Human Rights Campaign to help you navigate the gender-fluid world and walk away with a better understanding:

Handmade, gender-neutral garment made from upcycled materials.




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