Melbourne, Australia. With a thriving culture, has become one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Renowned as the most liveable city across the globe, it is characterised by a dynamic, urban and metropolitan society. Splashes of colour adorn the cities walls, with street art as an expression of Melbourne’s urban character. The cobblestone laneways are characterised by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, transcending from a myriad of local cafes. The cityscape is a fusion of modern and heritage architecture and home to a thriving art scene. Contributing to a platform for Melbourne street style fashion.
Yet amidst the culturally diverse city, there is an ever-present image Melbourne has always possessed, it’s the ever evolving, yet never going, shade of black. This has become a signifier of Melbourne’s fundamental uniformity and is dispersed through a variety of style tribes. Black, the quintessential uniform portrays a unifying representation of the city’s image. Often associated with power and sophistication the absence of colour within the community is predominant. Enabling the morbid tone in such a vibrant city to become a staple in every Melburnians wardrobe. Black is commonly worn due to its versatility; given the diversity of ethnicities, lifestyles and social statuses, it is adaptable and multifunctional.
In the Trend Safari, the minimal black attire is worn amongst a variety of individuals. Upon reflection, patterns were seen to demonstrate a sense of uniformity. People were spotted in a range of style locations within Melbourne, such as: Chapel street, Bourke street, Docklands and the National Gallery of Victoria. The black outfits identified during the safari range from more corporate to casual styles. While Ashley, in the image below wears an A-line dress as work attire, others on the streets were spotted in more relaxed black outfits, ranging from denim, jeans, pleated skirts, leather jackets, checked tartan flannel shirts to accessories, such as bags, watches and sunglasses. The colour presents itself as a fundamental base for an array of purposes and occasions across both genders.
From observation, the emerging trend, gender fluidity has been identified upon the Trend Safari; highlighting the blurred barriers of both masculine and feminine dress. The integration of the apparel between genders is becoming an enlarging trend, contributing to a developing style tribe in Melbourne.
The demise of gender distinct wardrobes has become ever prominent. The limitations of women’s and men’s fashion in terms of clothing are suggestions conjured up by society and hereditarily passed on through means of conventions. Alluding to the modern day women, whom has become liberated through a sense of masculine power, she has become resilient to gender stereotypes and challenging societal, gender and typical aesthetic norms. As the text Paradoxes of Gender highlights “social statuses are carefully constructed through prescribed process of teaching, learning, emulation and enforcement”(Lorber 1994, p.17). Highlighting this ever-present idea of role reversal and morphing of traditional dress codes into a uni-sexed, undefined modern day wardrobe. Modern gender theory “separates biological sex differences from gender constructs”(Lorber 1994). Reinforcing the idea that although female and male bodies are physically different in terms of anatomy, what it means to be male or female is up for discussion as “gender is a construct, an idea, overlaid onto basic sex differences”(Lorber 1994).The Melbourne trend safari suggests the introduction of the concept of the new aged gender fluid woman. Fluidity, “it’s like water, something that doesn’t have one form or shape. It’s a way of identifying that allows many different ways of being” (O’Callaghan 2015, para.16). With women wavering between the two sexes with no-binary identity, some days appearing predominantly masculine and other feminine.
The separation of these gender barriers in apparel was identified amongst women in Melbourne. Patterns were recognised where women were commonly seen in styles of clothing with the indication of masculine features. These notions of dressing parallel and become an expression of the ever-growing social movement of female independence. Elements of inner strength and confidence are portrayed outwardly, in both the individual, garments itself and the styling of clothes.
In figure 5, the juxtaposition between the delicacy and the lightweight fabric of the shirt, against the hard wearing, grunge style overalls are an exemplifier of this. The connotations of denim were once classified to be most commonly associated with the male working class. The durability of the cloth identifies a labouring lifestyle, suited towards the harsh and tough conditions of the time. The fabric has however been integrated into the modern female wardrobe. While the cut and fit still remains predominantly masculine, elements within the garment are adapted towards the female body. Signifiers of this include the light wash of the denim and the thin shoulder strap suited for the narrower and more delicate body structure. Her boots, while are high heeled are also combined with grey patterned work style socks. Likewise, in figure 6, the classic white shirt and boxy silhouette references the masculine fit and cut of apparel. The laced, corset like front fastening contrasts the rough ripped jeans. Furthermore, her footwear in figure 7 references the male Monk double strap shoe, which historically functions as a work style and protective shoe. Patterns observed indicate that the style of Melbourne dressing no longer takes bias towards one gender.
Similarities between figure 8 and figure 9 show the cohesion between both male and female styles. The common features of style, cut and fit portray the gender fluidity of outfits. The colour scheme surpasses the gender barriers of what was conventionally and traditionally used to identify male and female, as the sky blue tone is interchangeably suitable on both the subject’s shirt. Despite their biologically inherent differences, their outfits are gender fluid.
While female stereotypes are blurring, the pressures of hypermasculinity for males who do not identify themselves with according behaviour are also beginning to decline. Increasingly, “hegemonic masculinity has encompassed notions of femininity”( Levi 2013, p.13).This behaviour has been reiterated through the feminisation of men in heterosexual males. These men are characterised by their self-awareness of their appearance and as a result becoming better groomed. During our research on the streets of Melbourne, the feminisation of men was identified. Through interviews conducted it was discovered that men are increasingly investing more effort, money and resources into their appearance than ever before taking on what was once classified as feminine traits.
In the Melbourne Trend Safari, fashion styles were observed and analysed. The presence of uniformity in Melbourne was identified in the fundamental colour of black. Moreover, the blurring of gender stereotypes enables people to use dress as an expression of their gender identity. The female innovator and early adopter are becoming increasingly empowered, through embracing notions of masculinity and an undefined ambiguous silhouette. Likewise, the feminisation of men has lead to the demise of the hyper masculine male. Therefore, contributing to the concept of gender fluid fashion.
By: Melissa Dimakis & Vivian Chan
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