Gender in clothing, clothing in gender, & Ciel PR

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Where does gender lie in clothing? Does it occur in the placing of a dart, or the curve of a seam? Does textile or colour determine who will wear a garment? I don’t think it does at all, but it seems that clothing, as it exists now, offers very few alternatives. In the contemporary western canon of garment wearing and production, it most often comes with a determined gender. To go against the prescribed gender of a garment is seen as an act of subversion. The physical qualities of a garment have no awareness of gender; it is an entirely social enforcement.

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To treat clothing in this way not only reduces gender down to two narrow poles, but it suggest that gender should determine ones visual identity. I would like to see clothing that is un-gendered, rather than “Unisex”, which suggests an intended wearer. Traditional archetypes of garment design remain unchanged but for small variations on cut, detail or fit. If clothing wishes to remain gendered, the archetypes cannot stray too far from their original state. They must retain their identifiable markers which can easily be read as belonging to one group or the other.


Clothing can determine gender, but I don’t think it should. Making and wearing garments which are made for a particular biological body shape makes all the sense in the world, but enforcing aggressive social rules on degrees of acceptability is an act of oppression. Gender does not determine visual identity in the same way it does not determine personality. I should like to see clothing which is about construction, material, shape, and how it relates to the body of the wearer – whoever they may be.


Chris Lorimer invited me to the Ciep PR showroom for the Spring/Summer 14/15 press day. I like the range of designers that Ciel represents because many of them work towards an androgynous or at least ambiguous look. I took a scout around and chose some pieces I decided could be un-gendered.



Author: Steven Park

I live in Auckland and am currently doing my Honours in Fine Arts at Elam. I run a design label called "6x4", where I make clothing, furniture, home-ware and other exciting things. Say hello if you see me walking around! Read More

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