As an AFAB non-binary person, semi-androgynous fashion is at the core of how I present myself to the world, especially as I become more comfortable with my own identity. As a Zoomer who discovered emo culture in high school and never left that phase, starched button-down shirts and loafers feel just as fake for me as dresses with heels. So for any androgynous-leaning person out there who wants their wardrobe to reflect their identity and be stylish, here are five androgynous looks that are compatible with alternative fashion.
When in doubt, go for oversized.
I doubt this is new information, but an oversized sweater can go a long way. The large boxy shape will obscure any curves that make you uncomfortable, but the drape has a slightly feminine feel that creates balance. I’m pretty sure this sweater is the most expensive piece of clothing I own other than my winter coat, but it’s well worth the price for a look that’s both comfortable and editorial. Pair with leggings and skinny jeans to keep your look streamlined. If a wool sweater is rarely weather-appropriate where you live, you can get the same effect with an oversized t-shirt.
Elevate oversized with longline items.
Is a cloak one of the most impractical things I own? Yes. Is it one of my favorite items of clothing? Also yes. I am a huge fan of long sweaters and hoodies, as they have the same effect as regular oversized items but with a lot more flair. Since I generally rotate through five pairs of skinny jeans and two pairs of shoes, statement items on top are the heart of my style. Besides, this way I get to run around pretending that I’m an Assassin’s Creed villain when I’m actually a just a YouTube groupie who’s bold enough to wear two merch items from the same person at once.
Go for contrast with business dress.
Watch and Band Apple
Formalwear is always difficult, but what I focus on is contrast. I try to have equal numbers of feminine-coded items — like this sheer shirt and the fitted pants — and masculine-coded items — like the tie, boxier blazer, and sneakers. If I’m planning for a more conservative setting, such as a board meeting for work, I’ll ditch the tie and switch out the sneakers for a pair of Dr. Martens, but I don’t even own a pair of dress shoes and it hasn’t caused a problem yet.
I find that business clothing is as much about how you wear it as the items themselves. I was raised on the very traditional “open blazer when sitting, buttoned blazer while standing,” but a lot of my blazers don’t look good closed and I don’t think anyone cares in 2020. Also, buy pants with pockets! I wasn’t thinking when I got these pocketless ones; now I can’t put my left hand in my pocket to look Extremely Cool with my oversized watch.
You can do the same thing with any layers.
(Yes, I did thoroughly disinfect the bathroom countertop after having shoes up there, pandemic and all.)
A great jacket can go a really long way. This one is relatively big on me with a unisex cut that completely flattens me out without wearing a binder, so I really like pairing it with softer items including this sheer top that I thrifted back when I was still dressing more femininely. It also has deep pockets. I’ve cuffed my pants, of course, as I’m a good gay. You’ve got to have hot ankles.
You also may have noticed that I tend to go for monochrome with one accent color, which isn’t actually intentional — it’s just that 80% of my pants are black and the two pairs of shoes I wear are black and white. It’s the emo kid in me that never died, but I also find it helpful to pull attention up to the items of clothing I’m most excited about rather than the curves on my bottom half that I don’t love.
You can do a lot with styling.
First order of business: big accessories. My first Apple Watch was a hand-me-down from my dad, who replaced his thinking it couldn’t be fixed (it could, and was!). That watch was the from the “Men’s” Series 1 with a 42 mm face, and though I originally found it heavy and clunky, it quickly became a staple as I started to explore my gender expression. I finally replaced that watch in September, and I went with the larger 44 mm face without hesitation; it’s nearly the size of my wrist, and I love it.
Along the same lines, large headphones, large rings, and large backpacks are all favorites. Yes, the link between small, dainty, and feminine is stupid, but I find myself working to avoid those things anyway.
I also have several of these twill shirts and I love them dearly. I always wear them exactly like this — sleeves rolled up, top three buttons open — and it’s a staple look for me. Keeping the sleeves rolled up is primarily practical as it prevents the “wearing my boyfriend’s shirt” look of having sleeves that are too long. Plus, having rolled sleeves means I can access my watch more easily.
Also, it lets me show off the half-sleeve that is a key part of my alt-gay look (see above).
Keeping the shirt open is a function of the fact that I spend my entire life in Calvin Klein bralettes and therefore can create the illusion of open-binding without the effort. This is body-type reliant, of course, but in general, playing around with how I wear button downs has made them more comfortable for me.
Those are the five basic principles I follow for androgynous alt fashion. Generally, the key is contrast — between fits, styles, and gender norms — but this is of course based on my own style, body type, and perception of gender. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable in whatever you end up with and feel comfortable trying new things until you figure that out.
Brow Pencil Anastasia Beverly Hills, Brow Gel Benefit Cosmetics, Primer Smashbox, Foundation Urban Decay, Contour Sephora Collection, Highlight Sephora Collection and Anastasia Beverly Hills, Eyeliner Anastasia Beverly Hills, Setting Spray Urban Decay
I generally go for face, brows, and liner, which means a lot of products for a look that’s relatively simple. I contour my face to look a bit more angular (but avoid a nose that looks “snatched,” because I’m not European) and define the brows. The eyeliner adds a more graphic element that feels important to me to avoid the “feminine natural” look, but this is highly up to personal taste, and is, of course, unnecessary. I don’t wear makeup most days, pre- and post-COVID, but this is the default for days when I do.