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Students discuss gender stereotypes in clothing

September 28, 2023

Clothing and gender are two subjects that have long been associated with each other. Pink, ribbons and lace are often attached to femininity, while blue fabrics and a general disinterest in fashion are attached to masculinity.

But, has it always been this way?

The question has generated much discourse among Michigan State University students, including apparel and textiles sophomore Jack Kraushaar.

Kraushaar said he does not believe "pieces of fabric" have gender. However, when men explore fashion, he said, they are often labeled as "not masculine." Kraushaar said in recent years, he's seen men express themselves through fashion more.

"I feel a lot of people are branching out more," environmental biology and zoology freshman Phoebe Bosch said. "(They're) trying to break the binaries of clothing."

Environmental studies and sustainability freshman Reidun Johnson said clothing can put people into a box, especially pertaining to gender. Though they don't see a complete escape from gender binaries in clothing ever happening, Johnson said, they hope for a shift in societal views on the subject.

Kraushaar said people should treat fashion as an art form more than just an accessory.

"(It's) exploration of all different types of fashion for all different types of people," Kraushaar said. "That's the key to getting out of the straitjacket that society has ... put on everyone."

To aid this exploration and be more inclusive, Kraushaar said there should be clothing options catered to different body types instead of gender.

"My body is different from a lot of other men's," he said.

Kraushaar noted the societal pressure to wear clothes that fit into stereotypical gender identities can be a heavy burden. Instead of putting a label on fashion, he wants to be able to wear his clothes and just feel good in them.

Similarly, Bosch said people should wear what they want.

"It's a form of expression," they said. "Don't be afraid of other people's judgement. It's your body (and) you can feel free to wear whatever you want ... It's like decorating your body, like you would with a doll."

Bosch added high profile celebrities and fashion designers creating more "fluid" clothes that are interchangeable across genders would help normalize a more inclusive view of apparel.

Apparel and textile design sophomore Tristian Laney said he hopes for future in society where gender and clothing associations are obsolete.

"I think we just need to realize that at the end of the day, materials are just materials," Kraushaar said. "The people who matter don't care, and the people who care don't matter."

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