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Unisex Fashion

Jenkinson, JK (2010) Unisex Fashion. In: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-8478-8859-4

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Abstract

Throughout history men and women’s dress has generally been clearly recognizably as either male or female, with specific garments or details defined as masculine or feminine. Society has largely dictated how men and women style themselves, with the deep-rooted societal perceptions of gender rarely being challenged. These norms also exist in the marketing and retailing of clothes and in gender specific detailing and construction. Departures from expected masculine or feminine dress have occurred throughout history in individuals or groups; as a political statement or reform, as a disguise to gain access to opportunities allowed to another gender, for practical purposes or as uniforms, as anti-fashion, for performance or simply out of personal preference. There is a rich history of the blurring of gender boundaries in fashionable dress, where elements of male and female dress are borrowed or combined. Examples include the Macaroni’s of mid-18th century Britain who adopted an elaborate feminine style that opposed the traditional male dress of the time, the androgynous silhouette of contemporary Japanese designers in the mid-1980s and the adoption of denim jeans by female teenagers in the 1950s. But it was in the mid-1960s that a new phenomena swept through Western fashion that offered not only a new way of dressing but also a new model for consuming fashion; Unisex. While early-20th century fashion had paved the way for a softening of sartorial gender rules, particularly for women, the Unisex movement suggested men and women wear the same styles, styled in the same way, purchased from the same shops.

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