Written by Jeanne Gachet
It is not uncommon to hear people say that queer people tend to be stylish.
But where does this come from?
Fashion has been an outlet for expression of gender euphoria, sexuality, and overall comfort in one’s own body and personality for the past centuries. Here is a quick overview of queer fashion history!
In the 18th century, queerness was perceived as a negative, immoral, anti-christian trait. Thus, people that did not fit the cis-hetero norm created secret dresscodes in order to recognize each other. Fashion was used as a secret language to connect with other non-heteronormative individuals in times of extreme societal oppression.
Queerness being intrinsically linked to feminism, the Roaring 20’s anti-patriarchal movements allowed for a shift in queer fashion. Cis women wore menswear as a rebellious statement against male dominance, and queer people started subcultures where people would feel comfortable cross-dressing. This originated in New York, notably due to the increase in the popularity of drag in LGBTQ+ communities.
During the 50’s and 60’s, women started to wear trousers as yet another form of rebellion against the patriarchal system. Men’s interest in fashion also started increasing. This era resulted in the rise of more androgynous, unisex fashion styles.
Queer fashion was particularly brought to the forefront in the 90’s. Queer designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier played a big part in this in two ways. Firstly, they dared to transcend the barely-accepted element of androgyny in fashion by making cross-dressing not only a fashion statement, but an haute-couture one. His corset dresses and skirts meant for men were revolting for most people, but revolutionary for most queer people. Secondly, queer designers of that decade were the first to put openly queer people on runways.
The 2000’s reveal a new, more fluid fashion movement. Designers are more free to play with gender by deconstructing it through fashion, overexaggerating it, or even fully disregarding its existence.
This evolution of fashion’s relationship with queerness shows how important it is as an outlet of self-expression. We went from it being used as a tool of solidarity to it shamelessly challenging everything society expects from certain genders and sexualities. Most importantly, what shines in this long history is the appropriation of fashion by queer people as an instrument of self-love and artistic expression.
Recent Gaultier ‘men-skirt’ collection