Clothing as Symbols of Gender Qualities

There is a general expectation of what men and women should wear – the most traditional one is that men should wear trousers and women should wear dresses. Such expectation is instilled in our mind since young when we saw girls wear dresses and boys wear pants in cartoons, and when girls wear dresses to school and boys wear pants to school. We began to associate girls to a certain set of clothing while boys another set, and the association is reinforced over time to an extent that certain clothing actually symbolizes a certain gender in our mind; for example, trousers symbolizes male while dress symbolizes female in our mind. Just as Marjorie Garber exemplified, we are so used to associating trousers to men and dress to women that even when women wear pants, they will not go into a male washroom that has a door label of a figure wearing pants (14). Since young, we have learnt that the labels are not to be taken literally but should be understood by their connotations of gender.

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