- Tracey Joan Adler
The Rise of Genderless Lingerie
© Velaska Victoria for KissKill
Breaking down the barriers of gender norms, genderless lingerie and underwear brands offer empowerment and inclusivity for all individuals, even within the most intimate spaces.
The underwear industry has traditionally catered to conventions of femininity and masculinity. But the rise of genderless brands shows potential for empowering any and all genders - even within private and intimate spaces. Clothing wasn’t always gendered. An article on BBC sheds light on how gender-neutral or genderless clothing can be traced back to traditional Māhū people in Native Hawaiian and Tahitian cultures who pushed the boundaries of gender through their attire and self-expression. Nowadays, genderless fashion refers to clothing designed with fluidity in mind. The colours, textures, and materials are not inherently feminine or masculine, but are instead meant to be worn by anyone across the gender spectrum. We see it in fashion houses like Gucci and Balenciaga blending menswear and womenswear collections into one, and fashion retailers being influenced to create pieces that suit individuals regardless of gender. Yet this rise of genderless clothing is not only limited to outerwear. A closer look at progressive lingerie and underwear brands will show how going beyond the gender binary can empower individuals even in the most personal and private areas of their lives.
© SJech and Ethan Brivik for KissKill
The importance of genderless lingerie and intimates
Intimates have been traditionally marketed with a gendered perspective — from the macho masculinity of men’s boxers and briefs to the ultra-feminine and sexualised lingerie marketed towards women. But when lingerie brands challenge these established norms of the industry, they can appeal to a wider and more diverse range of customers. For instance, the lingerie brands featured by Pretty Me are expanding the definition of feminine expression through a wider catalogue of styles and silhouettes. Whereas the sexiness in lingerie used to be equated to just bold and revealing cutouts, women whose tastes are on the modest side due to personal and cultural values are given more choices. There are now cover-ups, one-piece structures, rompers, and dresses, which come in more colours than simply black or red, too. This is an important step towards making women feel more comfortable and confident in their own skin, regardless of their preferences. But women are not the only consumers of lingerie; it’s essential that this type of empowerment can be felt across all genders, too. Aside from redefining forms of gendered expression through styling and aesthetics, Retail Gazette notes a push for ditching gender-related labels altogether, especially amid the rise of gender non-conforming identities and pronouns. The article also cites a study by student affinity network UNiDAYS, where it was reported that 79% of Generation Z consumers often buy clothes labelled as opposite to the gender they identify with. Ultimately, this means that genderless lingerie brands can help promote inclusivity and make consumers who are trans, nonbinary, or cis but simply gender non-conforming to feel less excluded and alienated — down to what they wear in the most intimate moments of their lives. With that being said, we rounded up a few brands that are confronting the gendered industry through non-gendered lingerie and underwear collections.
Lingerie brands promoting gender inclusivity
Carmen Liu Lingerie
Based in London, this eponymous brand is owned by Carmen Liu, who designs lingerie with transgender and nonbinary people in mind. As a transgender woman herself, Liu’s collection focuses on moving beyond binaries through tucking/flattening underwear, unisex briefs and thongs, and bras and bralettes with comfortable sizing options.
Many transgender people affirm and express their identities through fashion, and underwear is a foundation for this creative outlet. But Australian brand Kisskill also seeks to dismantle heteronormativity by allowing cisgender men to shop freely and feel sexy through lingerie, too. Aside from offering mesh bodysuits, embroidered underwear, and lace pieces for all genders, their in-store fitting rooms make for a safe and positive shopping experience.
While the brand Albâge is based in Japan, its lingerie collections blend Asian and European aesthetics with intricate lace and silk as its design signature. The idea for a gender-inclusive brand is said to have come from the owner’s own experiences as someone who identifies as bisexual. With high-quality sheer and natural materials, Albâge’s lingerie pieces are stylish even when worn visibly and not merely as undergarments.
Despite the prejudice that still exists towards genders and identities that stray away from the
heteronormative binary, the rise of genderless intimates offers a glimpse of hope for a more inclusive and accepting fashion industry. And as embraced in a previous article on ’Defying Gender Biases’, empowering people to dress in the way they want is an important step towards overcoming gender norms not just in fashion, but across all cultures and societies.