First of all, and I know I’m showing my age, but the wedding industry is vastly different than it was 27 years ago when I got married. Those of you of a certain age know what I’m talking about. I’m not saying it’s bad, just lots more to navigate. It’s still wondrous and amazing to think about your baby getting married though! But I digress.

Today, after continuing the search for wedding attire, I’m thinking about fitting rooms. (this will make sense in a minute, I promise.) For those of us who fit into standardized gender roles, trying on clothes is fairly straight forward. Find an outfit, go to the dressing room. Didn’t fit? Return to the area within close proximity to the dressing room or at least on the same floor to find something else. So what about our friends who don’t fit the standardized gender roles? What about the person who identifies as female and feels more comfortable in masculine presenting clothing? Maybe at a department store she can take mens clothes into the women’s fitting room (not always the most comfortable thing to do) but at a store dedicated to men’s clothing? Are there gender neutral fitting rooms? Will she be welcomed as a customer? What about someone who identifies as masculine and prefers feminine presenting clothing?

The other day as we were looking for clothes for this wedding, we went shopping with someone who identifies as female and prefers masculine presenting clothes. We were at a larger department store, so dressing rooms were divided by gender. I thought nothing of it. Usually when we shop we go to one or two smaller stores where there is one dressing area for everyone. It wasn’t until she chose her clothes that I realized our predicament. Where was she going to try them on? In the men’s dressing room (not!)? The women’s dressing room was located on another floor so in the end we trudged upstairs with several pairs of pants and shirts so she could try them on. Fortunately, one of her selections fit so we didn’t have to repeat the process. The whole experience was frustrating and I was embarrassed that I didn’t realize sooner what a challenge this woman faces every time she goes into a larger store.

What’s the answer? Gender neutral dressing rooms? In my experience, some smaller stores already do this. What about the larger stores where mens clothing and womens clothing are divided by floor? I’m pretty sure that my female identifying friends who enjoy clothes from the mens section would not feel comfortable trying them on in a mens dressing room, nor would the male identifying customers feel comfortable with them there. Maybe a gender neutral dressing room on every floor?

I wonder, though, if we could think beyond the dressing room to the actual clothes themselves. Here’s the radical thought of the day; why must we label clothing as “mens” or “womens” in the first place? What would happen if stores divided clothing by purpose rather than gender? Wouldn’t it be the most wonderful act of inclusion to have a section of dressier clothes, a section of casual clothing, a section of athletic clothing and so on that anyone of any gender or body type could choose from? Then let’s go a step further, and use body inclusive sizing… what?! Just imagine it, a store where clothing sizes reflect measurements instead of random numbers, where a size 32/34 means size 32/34 no matter the design or brand.

There is so much these days that separates us, and so much potential here for inclusion. Aren’t we stronger together? I have noticed recently that there has been a little bit of a shift towards gender inclusivity in fashion. I’ve included links to a few shops in case you’re interested. If you know of others we haven’t listed, please let us know. We hope that the list grows and grows until everywhere we go to shop is a safe, welcoming space for everyone.


thanks for being here,

Ellin (she/her)

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A few resources for Gender Inclusive Clothing

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