Clothes (Un)Make the (Wo)Man – Ungendering Fashion (2015)?Hazel Clark and Leena-Maija Rossi (In Barry, Ben & Andrew Reilly (eds.) (2020) Crossing Gender Boundaries: Fashion to Create, Disrupt, and Transcend. Intellect Books) Acknowledged by many as the year that the term ‘transgender’ fully entered American mainstream consciousness, 2015 marked a distinct cultural watershed. Models, media stars and activists were coming out with their transgender identities (Griggs 2015). At the same time, and without coincidence, the world of fashion took up the issue. Transgender models such as Lea T walked the runways, and Andreja Pejic was featured in the May issue of Vogue. Designers and brands also openly revealed a new gender consciousness, or even strove beyond gender dichotomy. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell (2015) crystallized the moment by writing for The Atlantic: ‘Indeed, unisex everything appears to be back with a vengeance’. Yet this was not merely the 1960s unisex revisited. The phenomenon encompassed, but also moved beyond, avant-gardist designers and high-fashion brands, and in the United States extended further than the ‘fashion center’ of New York City (Chrisman-Campbell 2015; Leach 2015). It came to the British high street when in March 2015, Selfridges in London opened its Agender department consisting of three floors (Selfridges 2015; Tsjeng 2015). Zara followed suit exactly one year later (Sharkey 2016). The New York Times Style Magazine published fashion spreads on gender-blending menswear, representing androgynous black models (New York Times, 2015). According to Harper’s Bazaar, among eighteen ‘fashion moments’ of 2015 were: Caitlyn Jenner appearing on the cover of the July issue of Vanity Fair, photographed by Annie Leibovitz; Kanye West’s two-gender ambiguous Yeezy collections; Rick Owens Spring 2016 collection, featuring models strapped together walking the runway, redolent of performances by Leigh Bowery; but also some distinctly binary-gendered examples. Therefore, we can ask whether in the third millennium, fashion can serve to make and unmake genders, and in what way this making and possible unmaking of genders affects the way sexuality is performed (Bain
2017). Gender and Sexuality, from Being to Doing For the less fashion informed or interested, the transformation of former Olympic athlete, and Kardashian father and step-father, Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn Jenner highlighted gender transitioning more widely. Laverne Cox, the trans actress who became a celebrity for her role in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black (2013–) (Carveth 2015) and had been nominated in 2014 for a Primetime Emmy Award as the first openly transgender person, was in 2015 named as one of the ‘Pioneers’ on TIMEmagazine’s list of the ‘100 most influential people’ (/). These examples, among others, identify the mid-2010s as marking a ‘paradigm shift’ connected to changes in conceptualizing gender, and corporeally living and doinggender (Butler 1990; Lloyd 2007; Zimmerman and West 1987) within, but also beyond, American society. This, in turn, was reflected in contemporary fashion.