Your Source for Feminist Discourse

Can Men Play Dress Up Too?: A Two-Part Discussion on the Influence of Men in the Fashion Industry (Part I)

What better way to start off my involvement with Shout Out than a two-part post on one of my favorite things to discuss: fashion? I can hardly think of one.

It is not revolutionary or productive for me to spend time arguing over whether there’s sexism in the fashion industry because the short answer there is unequivocally yes. Designers, models, magazine editors, and photographers are constantly being berated to change their ways and represent more diversity. And rightfully so. Chances are, even though I have a great love of high fashion, any criticism of the industry is an opinion I too share. Whether or not we acknowledge it, fashion plays a huge role in our everyday lives and is a pretty big reflection of larger societal values. Therefore, it’s very important for us to be critical of how all genders are represented in the fashion industry.

I want to spend some time discussing a particular facet of the fashion industry that I struggle with and can never seem to quite wrap my head around, which is the participation and influence of men. Not whether they should be able to participate (of course they should) but to what extent. Many fashion designers who are men have created some of the most beautiful, artful pieces of clothing for women I’ve ever seen. In fact, my personal favorite women’s fashion designer—well, he makes clothing for men as well—is a man named Marc Jacobs (I imagine you’ve probably heard of him). And plenty of women designers make beautiful clothing for men too. See, it goes both ways! I don’t think it’s impossible for the different genders to understand how to design clothing that fits several body types. Saying men can’t participate in making clothing for women is an awfully traditional line of thinking that encourages the idea that the fashion industry exists solely for women. I mean, can you imagine the uproar if we were to say only women can design clothes for women, and only men can design clothes for men? Wow! Where would I even begin to describe all the things wrong with that statement? Never mind the problem I have with labeling clothes as specifically for one certain gender. I’m a huge supporter of androgyny in fashion.

What I’m getting at is men should necessarily be a part of the fashion industry, absolutely. Fashion designers are artists just as painters, actors, and musicians are and they deserve to be treated as such. But I feel as if there are some circumstances where men fashion designers overstep some boundaries that perpetuate sexist ideals in the industry. I’m curious as to what you all think a situation such as this might look like? Tomorrow, I’m going to further the discussion with another post on my own ideas about when the fashion opinions of men go too far.

Stay tuned and let me know what you think!

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