What is Androgyny?
The term “androgyny” derives from the Greek words andros and gyne meaning male and female, suggesting a state intermediate between masculinity and femininity. Feminist Carolyn Heilbrun defined androgyny as ‘a condition under which the characteristics of the sexes and the human impulses expressed by men and women are not rigidly assigned.’ (144) Androgyny blurs the gender boundary and an androgynous being can possess both feminine and masculine traits. Androgyny may be used to refer to a one’s behavior or attitude having characteristics of both gender or refer to the ambiguous feeling one has about gender identity. Besides, though androgyny is frequently associated to same sex sexual orientation, according to Carolyn Heilbrun, the term androgyny itself does not imply homosexuality or bisexuality (144). Being androgynous may mean one’s refusal to be constrained and desire to experience new possibilities. As she noted, “androgyny suggests a spirit of reconciliation between the sexes; it suggests, further, a full range of experience open to individuals who may, as women, be aggressive, as men, tender.’ Androgyny deviates from normality for it transcends the duality of gender differences imposed by the society; putting on an androgynous look could show one’s intention to play with gender boundaries, which in turns shows the desire of breaking free from restraints imposed by the society (143-144).
Nowadays, the gender boundary in terms of clothing is becoming obscure. In twentieth century, the increasing independence of women came along with the emergence of the androgyny fashion style. Androgyny fashion plays with gender boundary, blurring the distinction between masculinity and femininity by adding elements that are associated with masculinity into women’s fashion, and vice versa. The androgynous style emerged in the 90s, during that time, women fashions became more ‘chic and casual’ and ‘semi-masculine’; various fashion designers like Calvin Klein promoted androgynous clothing and uni-sex look (Entwistle 171). In recent years, gender ambiguity in fashion is all the rage in the fashion’s world. Androgynous fashion can be seen frequently in shows and magazine covers, for example, we can see a lot of designers bringing tomboyish styles to the runway in 2013, as well as fashion designers have been attempting to put androgyny in men’s fashion (Singer).
Besides, in recent years, fashion brands began using androgynous models. One example is Andrej Pejic who is now gaining a huge success in the fashion world. He worked with top brands in fashion shows like he walked the runways for both men’s and women’s collections for designer Jean Paul Gaultier and the men’s shows for Marc Jacobs in Fall/ Winter Paris fashion show 2011. Daily Telegraph’s fashion director Hilary Alexander commented that Andrej Pejic has an obviously beautiful face and has the perfect figure for modeling high fashion looks, and that the success of Andrej Pejic might be ‘a reflection of the times’ when people are more accepting of transgender personalities (Hauck, “Andrej Pejic”). Echoing what Carolyn Heilbrun mentioned about androgyny, by playing with gender boundaries, Andrej Pejic is open to a full range of experience and creates a lot of new possibilities in the fashion world.
Heilbrun, Carolyn. “Further notes toward a recognition of androgyny”. Women’s Studies 2.2 (1974): 143-149.
Entwistle, Joanne. The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Modern Social Theory. Malden: Blackwell Publishers Inc, 2000.
Singer, Maya. ‘Are “feminine” looks the future of men’s fashion?’ BBC . 24 June 2013. 1 Apr 2014. < http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20130624-will-men-wear-skirts-and-lace>