Athens- 400 BCE, the magisterial bodies had the task of figuring out what women could and couldn’t wear, their name roughly translated in English as ‘Controllers of women’.
It works out well for the prejudiced, male-chauvinist and gendered society, to tell a woman that she is not attractive. All this to only bellow her as silly and trivial, when she does in fact rub on some blush; to make herself feel better. It’s a cycle that can only end when the stigma associated with everything female ends.
Gender norms have changed with time, cultures, geographical boundaries and people. Fluidity is the only thing constant about gender. The word cross-dressing prevails because we’ve normalized particular ensembles for specific genders.
Cross-dressing is the art of wearing the clothes of the sex or the gender, one doesn’t identify with. In this age old Patriarchal society where men consider power, dominance and bureaucracy their prerogative, women embraced cross-dressing with the purpose of disguise and self-expression.
While each human society throughout history has documented a desirable set of norms and expectations, based on a person’s biological sex, Debora Sampson was believed to be the first woman in history, to be dressed up in the fashion of a man. She in the name of Robert shirtliff served in the army during the American revolutionary war. It’s incredible how more than 200 years ago, that this woman wanted to make a difference, so she becomes this cross-dressing badass who fought for the country. However, not all women had reasons of great impact as hers, some women assimilated cross-dressing to gain access to economic independence as well as the freedom to travel, risking little of what they had.
Often called Power dressing; the idea brackets power, strength and superior social status and a movement forward for the female in the society. Although the same can’t be averred for their male counterparts, as men who dress as women have automatically seemed to have lost respect. The ideology of JD institute is to empower apparel, fashion and design, to spread awareness that ideas and art have no boundaries. The only variable that exists ,exists in our heads only.
Until a few years back, even before US was covered in anti cross-dressing laws, in the mid 19th and 20th century, governments were concerned with the approach of its citizens towards style and fashion. Reason being, clothing has always been an indicator of class, wealth and distinction. Laws were formed not specifically to prevent people from dressing across gender norms rather limiting luxury and extravagance, only to the elite.
The first cross dressing law during the mid 19th century in US was the start of an undulation of public decency laws. Laws that criminalized public nudity, indecent exposure, lewd acts and immoral performances were brought to action. It was also inclusive of performers who dressed in drags and transgender people who wore gender bending outfits. It was later in the 20th century that these laws saw a new dawn as cities started to surge and rapidly reorient. Police officials during this time started to lay raids on LGBTQ hangouts, in order to harass arrest and discriminate against the congregating patrons. It wasn’t until enlightenment took a new slant at attitudes and through careful activism of LGBTQ communities, unnecessary laws were uprooted and discarded for good.
While restrictive laws still exist around the world, like Uganda banning mini- skirts or the widely covered and infamous burkha ban in France, people like Jaden smith, Jean Paul Gaultier and Alessandro Michele continue to “Represent a generation that has assimilated the codes of true freedom, one that is free of manifestos and questions about gender”.
One thing that we’ve learnt from these unwarranted and undesired confirmations in history and even today is that some rules are often meant to be broken, in order to restore new requited ones. Although we’re told that it’s what on the inside that matters, it seems people have a lot of anxiety about what covers our outsides and if that aligns with the so called societal norms.
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