Women’s streetwear fashion may be the new talk of the town, however, as female consumers, we have to ask ourselves: Is Streetwear really ready for women?
Fashion is seeing a revolution, all the well-tailored clothing with avant-garde silhouettes is slowly being replaced by looser, boxier fits and on the center of it all, streetwear reigns proud. Haute couture specialists like Givenchy have started parading more casual streetwear down their runways and brands like Yeezy, that specialize in such clothing, have become mainstream. Perhaps it’s a sign of changing times and the realignment of what ‘luxury’ truly means. However, the truth remains that streetwear is a heavily male-dominated niche.
Although streetwear has only recently captured mainstream attention, it is in no way a new fashion style. In fact, it is not even a trend, it is a subculture in itself. The early adopters of this style took inspiration from thrift stores, work uniforms, skater style, and sportswear, and added hints of musical influence from the genres of reggae, punk, and hip-hop. It rose as a counterculture aesthetic that referenced music, sports, clubbing, and community. Iconic women like Aaliyah and Neneh Cherry were rocking streetwear out and about before this style even had a name. And now, figures like Billie Eilish are carrying that fashion legacy.
Streetwear was originally made for men and catered only to them. Women thus had to scour male clothing stores if they wanted to take part in this fashion movement. In “The Female Economy,” a 2009 Harvard Business Review article by Michael J Silverstein and Kate Sayre, it states that “Globally, women control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. Their $13 trillion in total yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion in the same period. In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined.” And ignoring the needs of this large consumer base would not have been the wisest choice by fashion brands.
There is definitely more availability of streetwear outfit options for women today. However, even now, there are still a few brands that only offer options for men. On top of that, some brands that do carry options for women follow a ‘shrink it and pink it’ policy- they release the exact same items in a smaller size and more traditionally ‘feminine’ colors without modifying the clothes to be more fitted to a woman’s body. Although streetwear erased the lines of race, it hasn’t managed to erase the lines of gender- most streetwear sneaker brands didn’t even offer smaller sizes until very recently!
Over twenty years ago, X-Girl became one of the first major brands to sell streetwear clothing designed to fit women’s bodies. They carried pants that were still baggy at the bottom but were made to fit better around the waist. They offered t-shirts that still had the signature streetwear loose fit but didn’t need to be cut or tucked in alongside wide a-line dresses. Today, brands like Fenty and Stussy follow a similar model. Others appeal to women simply by offering smaller sizes or unisex designs.
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