In July, I checked out the women’s assortment at Tokio 7, one of my favorite consignment stores in the city, where I admired a crocheted Chloé coat and a purple Anglomania blouse that’s so ’80s in the best way. Shopping online, I also recently acquired a bandana-print Dion Lee tank and a patent By Far shoulder bag. I’ve also been eyeing a Chopova skirt. The amount of womenswear saved on my wish list keeps growing. It seems after a serious dry spell of shopping and being unable to find something that feels like me, I’ve finally found my fashion mojo again. While much of my closet still tilts masculine—it’s hard to break a habit that I’ve been conditioned into—there’s something about incorporating feminine pinks or purples, or more body-conscious silhouettes, that just feels right. The solution was in front of me this whole time, just in a different area of the store.
Widening my gender shopping scope hasn’t come without its hurdles, however. For one, the sizing is all very different: I’ve had to quickly learn what my waist and top sizes translate into women’s sizes. Sadly, there is no handy conversion chart to determine this (though someone should make this!). It took me a lot of trying and experimenting to determine my women’s size (turns out, I’m roughly a 12.) I’ve learned men’s shoes are always 1.5 sizes bigger than women’s—meaning my men’s 10 is actually an 11.5 women’s. Another hurdle? Even when the clothes do fit, they often don’t fit fit. Women’s pants, for instance, may fit the waist, but have a smaller crotch area and often are a no-go as a result. But on the whole, buying women’s tops and coats has been a total breeze. Accessories, too, are always a surefire bet, and they’re an easy way to dip your toes into the idea of genderless dressing.
As this shift is happening industry wide, these hurdles may get smaller with time. Physical retail stores like Dover Street Market and Browns East are now rethinking their layouts and de-gendering their floor spaces, organizing product by brand or color versus sex. Online retailers like Ssense or Farfetch also feature the same products in both their men’s and women’s tabs, allowing consumers to freely shop between the two. On a larger scale, brands are also designing with a more genderless consumer in mind. Dion Lee, Telfar, and Ludovic de Saint Sernin all do unisex clothes that are well-cut and can lean towards a more masculine or feminine aesthetic, depending on the wearer. Skirts are also being embraced by all genders, and labels like Chopova Lowena are styling them on men, women, and nonbinary folks. Sex, it seems, no longer matters in the quest to look chic.
Personally, I’ve learned that all my preconceived notions—that women would judge me for shopping in their section, that people would stare at me in disgust if I wore a women’s piece out in public—were all wrong. In fact, nobody has even batted an eyelash at me, even as I’ve traipsed down the street in my new purse or blouse. And maybe that’s because I’m in New York, where anything goes. There’s a certain privilege that comes with dressing up how you want in New York, and how in other parts of the world, this experimentation is less accepted and could even be seen as a dangerous act. This freedom has helped me embrace my pull towards femininity. 29 years later, what I wear is starting to make me feel like myself again.