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Quackcast 649 - Gendered clothing

Ozoneocean at 12:00AM, Aug. 22, 2023

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When you're drawing people in a webcomic one of the common ways to indicate gender is by outfits, but why are clothes gendered at all and is that a constant?

Gendered clothing clothing is influenced by many things like fashion, history, custom, occupation, class, culture, and religion, and much less so practicality or biology, contrary to popular belief. All these things have gendered components that have an influence on the clothes people wear and the way they present themselves. There are no constants in gendered clothing, the idea that men have short hair and wear trousers and women have long hair and wear dresses for example was thought to be a constant in the 20th century but that was utter nonsense since even IN the 20th century there were plenty of examples of people doing the opposite with mainstream styles all over the world, let alone all throughout history.

What we associate with “masculine styles” and “Feminine styles” are also a nonsense because that always changes and is different all over the world, it only applies here and now. People LOVE to rationalise based on current styles and pretend it applies more universally but that's just foolish to anyone who looks at world history. For example the current “masculine” style is for men to be drab, dull and modest in their styles, with clothes that are only dark, bulky and hide the shape of the form, but we know from little more than 150 years ago this was strikingly different, and 200, 250, and 300 years ago it was even more striking!

But we don't have to look that far back for an example! There's the modern myth of the “hair band”. The term is now used to describe flashy heavy rock bands from the 1980s in order to separate them from other musical styles and create the myth that they were unusual. While the truth is far more interesting: “hair band” was a term used at the time to describe British “New Wave” bands like Flock of Seagulls who mainly liked short hair with a long fringe over the eyes. In the 1980s Heavy Metal took over as one of the most popular commercial music styles and this was completely driven by bands that had flashy “glam” stage clothes (the name comes from 1970s glam rock, a different genre). Their popularity influenced all other rock bands. Contrary to modern belief, all rock bands dressed in flashy glam clothes, most especially every single heavy metal band, and all had long hair almost without exception. They were never “hair bands” because ALL metal bands looked like that. The modern myth is simply driven by our need to rationalise what we see now and somehow apply it to history.

We do the same thing when we look back at the long haired men with their high heels and gold capes from the past and question their sexuality, while characters like Buffalo Bill Cody who were the epitome of American masculinity commonly wore thigh high leather boots, leather outfits with fringes, long wavy hair, and a slouch hat! Women in the past have never been limited only to dresses and skirts, there have always been examples of them wearing trousers throughout history. Even gender neutral clothing is nothing at all new: a famous version was the proposed simple suit consisting of a black jacket and trousers for men and women just after the French revolution!

Ironically all of us in the Quackcast have designed our characters with heavily gendered outfits! How do you go with gendered fashions?

This week Gunwallace has given us a theme inspired by Eye Hand Voice - A miles high wall of sound that snakes over the landscape and reaches up to the heavens! Gunwallace builds this tune brick by brick till it blocks out the sun, it’s a mighty effort. Layered with synth sounds and a driving beat

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Some inspiration from Tantz's newspost -

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plymayer at 11:10PM, Aug. 24, 2023

Never been known for fashion. Often have a hard time dressing my characters (especially the ladies). Sometimes resort to women's magazines or department store advertisements. In any case, I've personally been wearing pretty much the same thing since the 70s.

Ozoneocean at 2:09AM, Aug. 23, 2023

@Bravo- I recall one story about mistaken impracticality: It was the idea the buttons were sewn on the big turn back cuffs of the 18th century coats in order to stop people wiping their noses on their cleaves. The reality was they were just part of a long history of fashion that continues unabated to this day and will still bee around after we're all dead XD. Buttons on cuffs started out as a semi-practical thing much earlier... in the 15th century it was popular to have jackets with holes in the shoulders to put your arms through and leave the rest of the sleeve hanging, but in the 16th century that evolved into sleeves with a cut along one edge that could be sealed with buttons. From there jackets would always have a thing about decorative ways of opening cuffs and turning them back... by the 17th late century that evolved into giant stylised turnback cuffs with huge buttons that were non-fuctional... From then on that all started to shrink. Today's suit cuff buttons come from there.

Ozoneocean at 12:31AM, Aug. 23, 2023

@Andreas- that's very unique! Did you know that the Fedora and the "Trilby" were both named after female characters that wore them? Both from plays. Weird coincidence. Also they were the same hat, just one was British and one was American. (people incorrectly think a narrow brim fedora is called a Trilby, this is WRONG, narrow brim hats came out in the late 50s whereas Trilbies and fedoras both came out in the early 20th Century, both the same hat style with brims of every size).

Ozoneocean at 12:22AM, Aug. 23, 2023

@Bravo, those would be observations, just like today. These are people are are relatively ignorant (about the clothes) speculating on the purposes of things. I've read them myself. As I said in the notes practicality (and impracticality) was rarely ever a factor the look of clothing. It always a huge factor in speculation about it though because we try and use it as a logical tool to understand it- which is a natural impulse but it's completely wrong.

bravo1102 at 12:04AM, Aug. 23, 2023

There are period sources stating that perspective from all sides; the rich, the poor as well as other commentators . So there are lots of perspectives that agree about the intended impracticality of the clothing of those of high status to emphasize their high status.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 8:59AM, Aug. 22, 2023

Well the most noteworthily gender-conscious part of Molly Lusc's outift is her hat. Instead of wearing the classic private eye hat that is the fedora, which probably even more in recent decade then in the 20th century has become recogniced as a men's hat (well, at least by social media political busybodies anyway), she wears this fictional hat called the Meridiana - which means sundial in italian - that is very a rare, but very widely recogniced women's hat where she lives. It was marketed as a classless hat, which might be why it never quite caught on, becoming a hat that only women with a peculiar taste in it would wear. Molly being one of them.

PaulEberhardt at 6:41AM, Aug. 22, 2023

Bravo kind of reminded me of something that a woman named Esther Vilar wrote in the early 70s ( She was later beaten up in a ladies' room by radical feminists for writing it.) Among other things, she theorised that women's clothes are purposefully impractical and men's clothes tend to have more pockets and are generally easier to move around in, because that's womens' subversive influence on society dropping a broad hint who is supposed to do all the work to feed the family (i.e. especially the woman) and who is the boss in said union, dealing out the rewards (i.e. sex) according to how well the husband-slave does his job. Just in case you're wondering: I've never said I agree with any of it, but what makes "The Manipulated Man" worth reading anyway is the way it is guaranteed to make you think outside of your comfort zone, especially about gender issues.

Tantz_Aerine at 6:28AM, Aug. 22, 2023

Love that portrait of the Duck's royal ancestor. XD

Ozoneocean at 5:06AM, Aug. 22, 2023

In may countries male and female doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff wear almost exactly the same outfits depending on their role.

Ozoneocean at 5:03AM, Aug. 22, 2023

@marcorossi - Yes but the thing is that gendered differences in clothing have little to do with the clothing, rather it's a result of layered factors... just sating "culture" is too broad a way of looking at it. It's logical for a sci-fi world to be able to get rid of gendered differences because those factors can be changed: occupation, fashion and custom are the overriding influences for a lot of gendered clothing, eg.police and military uniforms. Most of the renaming differences are there for nothing but nod to custom, usually it just comes down to different hats, but even then often there are no gendered differences.

Ozoneocean at 4:44AM, Aug. 22, 2023

It's like the way the poor victim of a huge misfortune looks at the wealthy and sees a vast conspiracy, that the wealthy planned and schemed and deliberately enacted it to keep them down and crush them... When in reality the wealthy are NEVER that intelligent, rather they're simply in a position to take advantage of things that happen and they don't care about the fall out and who suffers. They don't even think about them.

Ozoneocean at 4:39AM, Aug. 22, 2023

@Bravo - that's more of a perspective. The outfits of the rich can be impractical because they can afford to emphasise style over practicality. The purpose isn't to say "look at my hugely wide skirts! I don't need to work so I can have a dress that's 10 feet wide and a wig that's 2 feet tall! Hahahaha!" It's more that they WANT to have that kind of extravagance because fashion is all about two things: Fitting in with the popular styles and having the very best version of it- which means you take things to the extreme if you are able to. It doesn't show that you can afford to be impractical, it shows that you can afford to take things as far as everybody wants to- even the poor. You heels can be super high, your hat super wide etc. A poor person might look at that and just see impracticality, but a rich person would look at that and see no-impracticality what so ever because there is none in their position. It's all perspective.

bravo1102 at 3:26AM, Aug. 22, 2023

One thing that cuts across cultures is that high class clothing of the very wealthy was often purposely designed to be completely impractical for any kind of labor to emphasize the high status of the wearer.

marcorossi at 2:24AM, Aug. 22, 2023

While it is true that the specific gendered rules (e.g. man:short hair, women: long hair) are culturally determined, all cultures that I know of have some sort of gendered dress code. Gender-blindness is a very recent ideal (which is not to say that it is wrong, it is correct, but IMHO we have to acknowledge that we have to go against pretty strong tendencies to reach gender blindness). PS: in my sci-fi comic I decided that most female characters will wear culottes. Culottes are cool.

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