Find Me Between the Lines: An Intro to the World of Genderqueer Fashion

When you don’t fit fashion’s gender norms, it’s difficult to find the clothes to express your style.

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To switch up the usual programming, I thought this week I’d spotlight genderqueer fashion and genderqueer identity, since they’re part of an important, thriving community of entrepreneurs, bloggers, and individuals who transcend fashion’s norms. Below, I’ve provided an intro to genderqueer fashion and the issues surrounding non-binary clothing.

What does “genderqueer” mean?

Being genderqueer in the broadest sense means not conforming to the traditional male/female binary, which dictate you can only be one or the other and that all other gender identities aren’t valid. 

For some people, “genderqueer” is an umbrella term for other non-binary identities, while to others it means something more specific. The dialogue about what it means to be genderqueer is ongoing and complex, and so there isn’t one way to be or dress genderqueer. That lack of a hard-and-fast definition is part of the beauty – and the complexity – of genderqueer fashion.

Genderqueer Fashion 101

Like genderqueer identity, genderqueer fashion (sometimes called non-binary fashion) doesn’t follow a strict template. It covers a whole spectrum of aesthetics, styles, and needs that correspond with an equally diverse array of gender identities and individuals. Genderqueer fashion bloggers will often label themselves as “masculine-of-center” or “feminine-of-center” to specify where their style tends to lean. They understand garments as not being female or male in themselves, but as elements of presenting, or expressing, a gender identity.

The Nonbinaryresource Tumblr, a blog written for and by non-binary people, puts this nicely: 

“For some folks, nonbinary fashion is all about the intermingling and mixture of traditionally gendered clothing; for others, it’s about achieving a gender-neutral presentation that minimizes traditionally gendered physical characteristics and features; for still more folks, it’s something else entirely.”

But, the downside is that most fashion companies fail to design well for genderqueer people, much less make them affordable enough for college students. One of the biggest issues, other than finding a safe, non-judgmental community within fashion, is finding styles that fit: Masculine women, for example, who like the look of men’s button-downs, can have trouble finding shirts that fit the shoulders, waist, and elbows correctly. Or take, for example, people who need formal wear but don’t like men’s or women’s suits. Women who identify as genderqueer or androgynous can also feel alienated when the most prevalent images of genderqueer or androgynous styles are of thin, white models and icons. And the list goes on.

Non-Binary Clothing Brands

Some entrepreneurs and companies have emerged to serve this market, though, such as the genderqueer maternity line ButchBaby, designed for masculine women who don’t want conventionally feminine maternity clothes. DapperQ serves up fashion content for trans and genderqueer people, as well as masculine-presenting women. Other companies include Sharpe Suiting and Butch Basix, though the prices are out of range for most students.

Final Thoughts

Genderqueer identity and fashion are far more complex than what I’ve covered here, which is a basic, basic summary. 

College Fashion tends to feature feminine styles, though we don’t prescribe them specifically for women, so I thought it’d be interesting to touch here on a community that isn’t acknowledged enough in fashion. Genderqueer people are one of many demographics who clearly want and deserve clothes that fit and flatter their bodies, yet the major companies out there haven’t responded to this demand. And I know that I at least need to work on creating looks for a wider range of aesthetics in my other column, so there’s more for me to think about.

Let’s talk about it!

Now it’s time for my favorite part of every post – the discussion. What did you think of this post? Do you identify as genderqueer or know someone who does? Do you have any tips for finding affordable, non-binary clothes or blogs? Let us know in the comments below!

9 thoughts on “Find Me Between the Lines: An Intro to the World of Genderqueer Fashion”

  1. this was super informative and thank you so much for writing it! i think it’s great that collegefashion is really branching out into topics that don’t depict the societal “norm” (heavy air quotes there).

    i’m cis so i don’t really hold any solid advice on this, but most of my friends who identify as genderqueer almost always shopped exclusively at thrift stores. clothes are affordable enough that you could modify them more cheaply, and i think the gender boxes in thrift stores are much less strict. i’ve definitely gone shopping in men’s sections in thrift stores as many times as in the women’s, but i feel less comfortable doing so in regular retailers. maybe that’s just me though?

    Reply
  2. Very interesting topic, i dont have much to say that all goes to fashion and body shape and how restriction sorround us all, for example a ciswomen who just happen to have a big blosson and can find good shirts or pettite guys who end up dressing in the kids section.
    I love japanesse street fashion for the reason that there seems to be a great freedom in terms of gender, but i guess thats only a “harajuku thing”

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    • I completely agree there are restrictions for every one. I have thighs that curve out at the top even though I’m relatively slim everywhere else; finding jeans to fit me leaves my self esteem battered 😛 most stores cater to the straight legged ladies! And as you stated above, many of my Friends complain the same about a big bust.
      So I cant even imagine how hard it would be for these individuals to find the clothing that best reflects them; As the fashion industry has had many many many years to perfect the ‘traditional women’s’ clothes and they are still failing!

      Reply
  3. LOVE! Please continue these articles! I love the menswear inspired, tomboy ones, and this is such an important thing to talk about!

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  4. (Mass)+(Space)=Matter: “A large group of people need to be given a space, so that they know that they matter”

    Thanks for writing this! Like any other part of society, fashion can reflect our culture’s inherent biases and values, so love how that CF is talking about how to make fashion more inclusive to everyone and helping to confront some assumptions we have about fashion.

    Hope to see more topics like these in the future!

    Reply

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