For too long, popular swimwear has fallen into the mainstream gender binary. Where other areas of fashion have more of a history of offering more variety, fluidity, and androgyny within fashion, areas like swimwear have traditionally lagged behind.
Now, however, we’re starting to witness a changing of the tides. As fashion shifts towards inclusivity, swimwear is also undergoing a similar transition. At TomboyX, we’re proud to have a wide range of eco-friendly androgynous swimwear styles.
But what exactly does that look like? And how does it follow a long history of strides in androgynous fashion?
Let’s take a look!
A History of Androgyny In Fashion
Androgyny in fashion really isn’t anything new. While we tend to think of it as something quite modern, different expectations of gender and clothing have fluctuated greatly over centuries and cultures. It used to be quite common, for example, for men to wear wigs, ruffles, and high-heeled shoes.
The 1840s and Beyond
Around the 1840s, it became more commonplace for clothing to reflect something about the wearer in everyday life –– not just personality but class and gender, as well. Along the same vein, subversion of expected gender presentation could also be a form of self-expression.
The 1920s to 1930s
While wasp-waist styles dominated the end of the 19th century (which was when Vogue first debuted), this was subverted in the 1920s. With the Jazz Age, androgyny was actually quite mainstream in women’s fashion. “Boyish” figures were in, seen in the popular short bobs and slender, shapeless dresses.
Still, it was rather shocking to people in the 1930s when Marlene Dietrich was seen wearing a tuxedo –– something that makes her a fashion icon to this day. Throughout the next couple of decades, certain designers experimented with avant-garde, androgynous looks, including boxier shapes.
Among these were Coco Chanel, Pierre Cardin, André Courrèges, Vivienne Westwood, and later Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino, who helped popularize the large shoulder pads of the 80s. In the 1960s, Yves Saint Laurent created a more “feminine” tuxedo suit for women, “le smoking.” Jean Paul Gaultier debuted a collection of skirts for men in 1984.
The 1960s to the 1980s
Both the 60s and 80s were times of experimentation in gender presentation that coincided with cultural and social change. Hippies and punks saw similar styles of hair and dress across the gender spectrum. While members of the LGBTQ+ communities had been subverting gender norms in fashion long before, it was often celebrities who brought these styles to the forefront.
In the music world, Mick Jagger and David Bowie both stirred the pot by wearing Mr. Fish dresses, while Marc Bolan, Prince, and Jimi Hendrix sported platform shoes and sparkling, eye-catching styles that went against the norm. Then there was Grace Jones, who many admired for her balanced, confident, and stunning take on androgyny.
90s Grunge Influence
In the 90s, grunge also played a role in new ideas of gender expression. The decade saw people of all genders embracing flannel button-downs, combat boots, and jeans, while Kurt Cobain rocked long hair, eyeliner, and dresses on occasion.
Today, we see a similar spotlight being shed on androgynous fashion with, for example, Harry Styles wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue. While generating a lot of talk and discussion, this is generally seen as a step forward in favor of blurring the lines of what is acceptable for people of different identities to wear.
What Does Androgyny In Fashion Look Like Today?
There is no one way that androgyny presents itself in fashion today (that’s kind of the point). But it’s undoubtedly true that we are witnessing a new appreciation for gender non-conforming clothing.
Trying to follow rigid gender norms or seek approval from society seems to be less and less of a concern; instead, personal taste, comfort, and preferred cuts and styles are at the forefront of our fashion choices.
While diverse gender identities that fall outside of the traditional binary are nothing new, they are more at the forefront of our cultural consciousness than ever before. There’s more readily available gender-fluid or gender-neutral clothing (which is often described as “unisex” or “androgynous”).
While one way of embracing this is by combining clothing and accessories that were previously strictly confined to a certain gender, another is by sporting outfits that fall into that totally “neutral” category.
Why Is Androgyny In Swimsuits Important?
If you look at a lot of swimsuit styles, they typically can look even more gendered than other aspects of fashion –– which is weird, considering how functional they are supposed to be.
However, the first commercially available swimsuits at the beginning of the 20th century were actually fairly androgynous. If you compare the styles marketed towards men and women, they look remarkably similar –– form-fitting one-pieces, often with full coverage.
Pools and beaches, unfortunately, can often still feel like gender-segregated spaces. That’s why gender-neutral swimwear is important to make people feel their most comfortable when they’re trying to exercise, get some sun, or just have a good time with friends.
When you’re sporting swimwear, you might already feel a bit more exposed than usual. Having a swimsuit that you feel confident in is crucial to allow you to have a good time.
Androgyny Does Not Equal Plain
Sometimes, looking for androgynous fashion can seem like a bit of a bore. A lot of swimwear brands take the word “androgyny” or “non-binary” and opt for neutral colors like beige and gray, along with shapeless, unforgiving materials.
However, going for an androgynous look does not mean that you don’t want color or vitality. That’s a common misconception. Fortunately, more exciting styles are starting to hit the scene in recent years.
At TomboyX, we offer fits that are adaptable and inclusive without sacrificing personal style. A wide variety of colors and prints, as well as different cuts and styles of swimwear, allow for plenty of self-expression.
How Can You Incorporate Androgyny Into Swimwear?
Androgyny in swimwear can take many different forms. We offer a lot of variety in terms of cuts, styles, and amount of coverage while featuring freedom of style (that means colors and prints that are available across the board, no matter what shape or size a garment is).
Swim tops can mimic the silhouette of sports bras, and unisuits look like the classic singlet. Between board shorts, swim trunks, and one-piece swimsuits, there is something for everyone and every body type.
Swimwear and Activewear
Androgynous fashion has a long and fascinating history in humankind. There are certain areas where it has been more of a norm for longer –– suits and pantsuits in the workplace, for example, or sweatshirts and joggers as lounge and athletic wear. But other areas of fashion have been somewhat neglected when it comes to diversity and inclusion in gender expression –– namely, swimwear.
That’s why more light deserves to be shed on body-inclusive and androgynous swimsuit styles. We’re happy to be making strides in representing a variety of gender identities and expressions. If you’re looking for androgynous swimsuit pieces that look and feel great, check out some of our styles!