“Transgender clothing”?

By , September 15, 2010 8:06 pm
ACNE "transgender" models

The photo from both articles

I don’t expect much from the New York Daily News, but still… They’re reporting that “The Swedish clothing brand ACNE is launching a new collection aimed at transgender consumers.” Except the NY Daily News is reporting on a Vogue UK story, which actually says, “ACNE has joined forces with Candymagazine to launch a new collection targeted at transvestites and cross-dressers.” (Emphasis added.)

Being trans is not (necessarily) the same thing as being a transvestite or cross-dresser!

But my frustrations are a little deeper than that.

ACNE’s creative director said, “This collection is a playful collaboration and a celebration of diversity. It touches on ideas I have always played with when designing for Acne, the tension between male and female and what happens when you shift things around a bit. This project has been so much fun.” See, I think that’s awesome. Showing that “women’s” clothing or “men’s” clothing are arbitrary lines and not inherent or universal constants. But both articles imply that the clothing itself is aimed at fringe groups, and that no mainstream or ‘normal’ person would be interested in them.

And, of course, another article has this choice quote:

“I didn’t want this to be ‘unisex,’ in fact, I wanted exactly the opposite. I wanted to create a bit of gender confusion.  Instead of the usual unisex statement ‘for men and women,’ I want people to ask: ‘is this for men, or women?’  Well, this is for all the many types of men and women worldwide in the 21st century. It’s tranny shirts for everybody, something relevant and open-minded.” (Emphasis added)

One step forward, one step back? Again, putting forth androgynous clothing as a valid fashion choice is awesome. But it becomes a problem when “tranny” choices are presented to mean that any transgression of gender roles or binaries is a merging of gender roles and binaries. Being trans (or a transvestite, or a cross-dresser) can mean that an individual is inherently rejecting a binary gender choice.

Using myself as an example I present myself and am usually perceived as a cis woman. I’m – consciously, deliberately – making a choice to conform to a binary notion of gender. But I don’t have to be. I could go for a more androgynous look, and that wouldn’t make me any more or less trans.

It seems like Acne, and the articles covering the story, are pushing the sensationalist angle rather than celebrating a legitimately interesting decision to market androgynous clothing. Which is a shame, really, because the clothing itself looks interesting.

3 Responses to ““Transgender clothing”?”

  1. Ash says:

    I was disappointed that this ends up being such a negative thing, because I have actually thought about trans clothing lines in the past. When I shop in the men’s section of stores, it’s so hard to find clothes that fit because the shoulders are too broad, the legs too long, the hips too tight. Sometimes trans folks have different body shapes than cis folks, and the idea of an affirmative, by trans folks for trans folks clothing line would be awesome.

  2. Donald says:

    What exactly is transgender about the clothing depicted? It looks to me like a rehash of the boyish clothing for women fashion which surfaces every decade or so.

    Nothing wrong with that in itself but labelling it transgender to get media attention seems wrong.

    A real transgender clothing range would have styles modelled and looking good on both male and female body shapes.

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