Gender and Subversion

In highlighting difference, incongruity becomes another way of suggesting that things are not as they seem. Cross-dressing disguises one’s sexual identity and presents an outer appearance that does not match the inner reality of one’s sexual self.

By the 1920s the facade of femininity had cracked under the weight of bejeweled androgyny and yet a shadow of doubt still hovered over any women wearing ‘masculine’ styles for anything other than sport and certain work activities. After all, women surely dressed to attract men and how could they possibly do that in trousers?

Trousers symbolized male authority and any woman adopting them was therefore viewed as over-assertive and unfeminine.

Of course, if women could subvert so called masculine traits by adapting and adopting masculine fashions, then it was also possible for men to procure feminine styles for themselves, and, as the century progressed, the cries of ‘gender confusions’ by media and academic commenters became increasingly loud.


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