Billie Eilish in an article about androgynous fashion
Billie Eilish — an modern androgynous icon. (Image via Instagram)

A Beginner’s Field Guide to Androgynous Fashion

Finding your personal style is difficult enough within the confines of traditional masculine and feminine binaries — it’s even harder when trying out a more genderless style.

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Billie Eilish in an article about androgynous fashion

Finding your personal style is difficult enough within the confines of traditional masculine and feminine binaries — it’s even harder when trying out a more genderless style.

As we begin to understand gender outside of the traditional binary, more and more people are realizing different ways of expressing themselves in ways that are more reflective of their individual identity. A whole style has blossomed alongside this in the form of androgynous fashion. Unfortunately, finding your unique androgynous style can be less straightforward than with traditional masculine and feminine fashion.

What is (and isn’t) androgynous fashion?

You may be wondering what constitutes androgynous, and that’s normal; there are lots of different terms surrounding this topic, as there are different forms of resisting gender conventions, so let’s break down some of this terminology.

Androgyny refers to someone’s physical appearance or presentation and doesn’t necessarily correlate to a gender or sexual orientation, whereas nonbinary refers to someone’s gender identity. Because there isn’t an inherent correlation between gender and clothing, nonbinary isn’t a style of fashion.

Androgynous fashion is one that blurs the line between masculine and feminine, yet it is different than gender-bending or cross-dressing. Gender-bending in fashion disrupts certain gender roles and stereotypes, often by dressing up as characters of the opposite sex; cross-dressing is similar in this way, as people dress in the manner common to that of the opposite sex. This is also different than a transvestite, who cross-dresses for sexual pleasure.

Also, it’s worth noting that unisex does apply to fashion, but it is different than androgyny. Unisex refers to a particular article of clothing that both sexes can wear the item. While it can incorporate unisex pieces, androgyny is the style, whereas unisex is more for marketing purposes to categorize pieces of clothing.

To dress androgynously typically means to blend elements of feminine and masculine style into your outfits. If you’re a female, you may need to incorporate more of a masculine look — and vice versa — but keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be full-on cross-dressing (though if that’s your style, absolutely go for it)! Also keep in mind that this is a general guide, and ultimately, what you wear is up to you and whatever makes you feel good!

Elements of Androgynous Fashion

Many androgynous looks incorporate looser fits of jeans and shirts as opposed to figure-hugging styles that may indicate someone’s sex — so wearing pants like trousers or jeans with some room can be a great starting place. Some androgynous looks take this to the extreme; if you consider Billie Eilish’s androgynous style, she adopts lots of baggy T-shirts and pants to draw attention away from her figure.

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Another androgynous staple is a good button-up shirt. For women, a more structured button-up can immediately make an outfit look more masculine, while men may go for more relaxed materials. A good style tip here is to roll your sleeves to give a more relaxed and stylized look to your outfit.

Many androgynous men incorporate high heels, skirts and jewelry into their outfits, and makeup isn’t uncommon among androgynously-styled men; many androgynous women wear makeup as well, though it tends to be pretty natural and light in application, such as a little bit of foundation. And ladies, you don’t have to chop all of your hair off for this style; plenty of androgynous women have long hair!

For shoes, sneakers are a safe place to start as these tend not to be gender-specific; you can’t go wrong with a pair of Adidas, Converse or Vans. As you start to develop your style, you may find you want to incorporate other kinds of shoes, like high heels for men or a polished men’s dress shoe for women.

If you’re unsure about what kinds of colors to wear, I’d recommend starting with neutrals and expanding your color palette from there. It can be overwhelming to try to find both styles of clothes you like while also figuring out your preferred color palette; figuring out one at a time can help ease you into the style.

Shades of gray, white, brown and black are a classic and timeless palette anyway, and they’re easy to mix and match with. A monochrome look can still be a huge statement!

If you know neutrals aren’t your forte though, there are plenty of ways to use color in your outfits. If you need some style inspiration, Harry Styles is a master at mixing bold prints and bright colors.

Celebrity Inspiration

Speaking of style inspiration, sometimes it can be helpful to look at celebrity or influencer street styles to get an idea of what you like and don’t like. Many celebrities have adopted a more androgynous style: Check out the styles of Janelle Monae, Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Jaden Smith, Tilda Swinton, Ruby Rose, and Ezra Miller if you need some inspiration for your next androgynous look.

Where to find androgynous clothes

A frequent struggle among those with an androgynous style is finding the right fit of clothing for the look they’re going for, which can make developing an androgynous style more difficult for some.

A good place to start is by shopping the whole store; this means if you’re a woman who generally only gets your clothes in the ladies section, try looking through the men’s section, and vice versa. This can be helpful particularly when trying to find something like a collared shirt.

Many of these shirts made specifically for women have darting or other seaming intended to accommodate and accentuate the natural curves of the female body, while men’s shirts tend to be boxier. So next time you’re shopping for clothes, venture into other sections and clothing aisles.

Understandably, many people may feel uncomfortable shopping in other sections. If that’s the case, shopping online at your favorite stores can help ease that anxiety as you shop in different sections. Other brands like B Fox or Gender Free World make clothes specifically for androgynous style; depending on your budget, this can get pricey, but they often have items on sale, which can be good to look out for.

Developing your personal style can be daunting and time consuming, particularly for those with an androgynous style, so be patient with yourself as you find what you do and don’t like to wear. And remember that there are no rules here — androgyny is all about breaking those conventions anyway.

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