With legal marriage and LGBTQ culture hitting the mainstream, so much has changed in such a short amount of time. These days, gender is a bigger topic of discussion than “sexuality.” Young people are growing up in a world where the lines of traditional gender roles have been blurred to the point of no return. Like the rise of the army jacket during the Vietnam War, gender-neutral clothing is a direct response to the social issues we’re facing. Sometimes genderless clothing is just a T-shirt, and other times it’s a body harness over a jumpsuit paired with platform Crocs—either way, it’s the attitude of being true to yourself that makes it stylish. For those who fall in love with the garment rather than the gender, join me on this quick tour of Portland’s best gender-bending brands.
You can’t open a magazine, like a photo on Instagram, or listen to your favorite Cardi B song without hearing the names Balenciaga and Gucci. They are the fastest-growing brands in the designer clothing market because of their progressive take on the fashion industry. Creative directors Demna Gvasalia and Alessandro Michele have modernized their runway show by getting rid of separate looks for each gender, and showing one collection for all.
Recently, I was shopping on LA’s Rodeo Drive and was thrilled to walk into these high-fashion boutiques, because they refused to separate their clothing by gender. In Balenciaga I tried on an oversized funnel neck parka and an extra-large green leather fringe handbag, and at no time did I worry about what section of the store they were in. Though Rodeo Drive is a little out of reach for a Portlander’s day-to-day shopping, our local downtown Nordstrom has distribution in both brands. There you can see a large assortment of the most recent collection and make reservations for pieces to come.
You can’t talk about gender without talking about gender inequality, and one homegrown fashion brand is putting it on T-shirts. Created by three women—CEO Emma Mcilroy, COO Julia Parsley, and Creative Director Taralyn Thuot—Wildfang is a clothing store meant for anyone who wants to raid the men’s department and refuses to conform to the conventional female archetype. Wildfang has attracted the star power of gender-bending celebrities, like Evan Rachel Wood, Janelle Monáe, and Ellen Page. From jumpsuits, blazers, and their signature “Wild Feminist” T-shirts, there’s something for everybody in this store. My personal favorite is the army-green “Fight for Your Rights” bomber jacket, covered with appropriately themed women’s rights patches. And they’re not just another insincere brand capitalizing on social issues; the Wildfang team puts their money where their mouths are by donating thousands of dollars to charities like Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Joyful Heart, and the Tegan and Sara Foundation. In fact, proceeds from the entire Wild Feminist collection go to a different charity each month.
Being told “that’s for girls” didn’t stop me from playing with Barbie, and it’s not going to stop me from carrying a handbag. Drawing inspiration from leather subculture, Colty is known for leather harnesses, handbags, backpacks, moto-jackets, and small leather goods. Decked out in hues of pink, black, white, and nude, all pieces are gender-neutral and meant for everyday. A Colty harness looks great over your favorite pink cashmere sweater or button-up shirt. If nothing else, consider the Colty large tote bag offered in a variety of raw, vegetable-tanned leathers with a waxed finish. Whether you’re taking it to the office or concealing alcohol at the nude beach, the Colty tote is spacious with purposeful pockets. Though there isn’t currently a storefront, Colty does take special orders and offers free shipping through its website (coltypdx.com).
Have you checked out Moore yet? If not, do so immediately. Moore specializes in clothing brands of the future, with 90 percent of the collection being gender-neutral. I love this concept, and was eager to add a denim jacket and cheeky “Fuck Moore” T-shirt to my spring wardrobe. When you walk into Andrea Moore Beaulieu’s storefront you get an unconventional layout where clothing is merchandised by collection, not gender, and garments are produced right in front of you. At any time you can converse with Andrea about her upcoming collection or watch a garment go from fabric cut to sewing machine to the rack to your shopping bag.
These different brands remind us that there’s nothing more attractive than being true to who you are. Too often we desire to belong, or we’re so scared of rejection that we hold ourselves back. The reality is this: Style is an attitude that cannot be replicated from person to person. No matter where you fall within the LGBTQ community, find what makes you different and incorporate it into your everyday look.