The Aesthetics of Mainstream Androgyny: A Feminist Analysis of a Fashion Trend

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Since 2010, androgyny has entered the mainstream to become one of the most
widespread trends in Western fashion. Contemporary androgynous fashion is generally
regarded as giving a new positive visibility to alternative identities, and signalling their
wider acceptance. But what is its significance for our understanding of gender relations
and living configurations of gender and sexuality? And how does it affect ordinary
people's relationship with style in everyday life?

Combining feminist theory and an aesthetics that contrasts Kantian notions of beauty to
bridge matters of ideology and affect, my research investigates the sociological
implications of this phenomenon.

My thesis explores in what ways the new androgyny, apparently harmless and even
radical, paradoxically reinforces traditional gender roles, and legitimatises particular
kinds of femininity over others also in terms of class, sexuality and ethnicity. It
interrogates whether this trend, and by extension contemporary mainstream fashion in
general, can oppose traditional values, and investigates the relationship between the
aesthetic sphere and socio-cultural inequality. In response to classical theories of
fashion, and filling a gap in contemporary ones, my study also focuses on social class,
now often overlooked, in the analysis of style.

These questions are examined from a twofold perspective: first I investigate
representation to identify ideological patterns of legitimation and de-legitimation arising
from fashion intermediaries' portrayal of the trend. I then look at how this visual
material becomes an object of affective engagement, and analyse emotional responses
to the aesthetics. To do this, I employ a mixture of traditional methods, such as
semiotics and discourse analysis, and experimental ones, like the collection of creative
ethnographic data.

I explore the particular aesthetics associated with the androgyny trend and consider how
it is configured by the different fashion intermediaries, what its presence online entails,
and what is its relationship with the wider public and their everyday negotiations of
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Goldsmiths University of London
Award date1 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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