Thursday, 27 August 2015


From Madonna’s cone bra and Gaga’s meat dress through to J-Lo in that green Versace dress, there are some outfits that transcend fashion trends and become a part of culture in their own right. Instantly recognisable, these outfits go beyond aesthetics and tell the story of an icon. The same can be said of the now-infamous white lingerie and corset worn by Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair to announce her gender-reassignment surgery. The image immediately took the Internet by storm and Jenner’s newly-launched Twitter account gained a record number of followers (1 million in just 4 hours), beating the likes of Justin Bieber and Barack Obama. For this reason, it seems unsurprising that a few money-hungry websites quickly replicated the costume and popped it online just in time for Halloween, retailing at $74.99.

The iconic Vanity Fair cover
There are countless problems with the decision to reduce the outfit to a Halloween prop, the first of which is the marketing. On the website the costume is listed in the “Humorous” category and marketed at both men and women, although the outfit is modelled by a man – strongly reinforcing the stereotype that wearing female-gendered clothing is still something that straight men do on special occasions to take the piss. The next problem is the most blindingly evident problem – it mocks trans identities, reducing them to a mere costume, a cheap Halloween joke.

Although there is dispute over whether Caitlyn Jenner can claim to be a spokesperson for trans rights, it is impossible to deny the impact she has had on mainstream media. I Am Cait, a docuseries following her post-transition life was hugely successful in its first week attracting 2.7 million viewers, but most importantly it gives the star the opportunity to occasionally deflect the attention onto her badass team of transgender friends. Amongst these women are performance artist Zackary Drucker, actress Candis Cayne and activist Jen Richards, all of whom join Caitlyn on a road trip to visit GLAAD (an LGBTQ charity) to hear the stories of underprivileged trans teens. Although Caitlyn is quite obviously a trans woman with privilege (much has been made of the fact that one show sees her trying to decide which designer dress to wear), it is difficult to dispute that she is using her voice wisely and redirecting the attention to the issues of trans women and trans women of colour.

Performance artist Jen Richards, one of the stars of I Am Cait

Essentially, this year is one which has been huge for trans visibility and LGBTQ rights. High-profile stars such as Miley Cyrus are shining the spotlight on gender-fluid artists and, after years of fighting, gay marriage has finally been legalised across America. The unfortunate Caitlyn costume incident is a sad reminder that there will also be soulless companies attempting to make a quick buck on trans identities the minute they become profitable. Despite the efforts of designers to break down the notion of gendered clothing and the work of trans activists to humanise trans men and women, it seems that outdated notions of gender still exist. Will there be one straight bloke in America that parades around in Caitlyn’s corset after a few whiskies this Halloween? Yes. The only reassurance is that the media and the majority of the rational public can clearly see that the joke will be on him.

The offending costume

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