Story at a glance

  • Artist Harry Styles posed for the December cover of Vogue in dresses and skirts.
  • The gender-bending fashion choice provoked criticism from some conservative figures, including Candace Owens.
  • Fans came to Styles’s defense and LGBTQ+ advocates applauded the nontraditional clothing.

Harry Styles wore a dress and some people are upset about it. 

The stills from the artist’s photoshoot for the cover of the December edition of Vogue magazine weren’t very shocking to those who are familiar with the former One Direction member. 

 

Styles has become something of a fashion icon since his boy band days, often sporting bold looks on the red carpet. 


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“I like playing dress-up in general,” Styles told Vogue, crediting stylist Harry Lambert for his fashion-forward reputation. “He just has fun with clothing, and that’s kind of where I’ve got it from. He doesn’t take it too seriously, which means I don’t take it too seriously.”

His critics, however, do take it seriously. On Twitter, conservative commentator Candace Owens called it "an outright attack."

Styles’s fans — and even non-Styles fans — quickly came to his defense, noting that remark adopted a narrow-minded view of masculinity and what is appropriate for men and women to wear or look like. 

Owens only doubled down after she was criticized for the comment, backed by the likes of Ben Shapiro and a handful of others on social media. But in his interview, Styles told Vogue that a good outfit was armor enough against the barbs. 


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“I think if you get something that you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit,” he told Vogue. “Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with. What’s really exciting is that all of these lines are just kind of crumbling away. When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play. I’ll go in shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes thinking they’re amazing. It’s like anything—anytime you’re putting barriers up in your own life, you’re just limiting yourself. There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never really thought too much about what it means—it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”

Even if he doesn’t think much about what he wears, the star’s choices are significant. LGBTQ+ advocates applauded the fashion choice featured on one of the world’s largest platforms for fashion as a win for greater acceptance of gender fluidity. Still others pointed out that it took a cisgender, heterosexual white man to make this statement. 

"Am I happy to see Harry be celebrated for openly flouting gendered fashion norms? Yes. Do trans femmes of color receive praise for doing the same thing every day? No," wrote author and activist Alok Menon on Instagram. 

Vogue has featured transgender models on its covers before, but only in recent years have those barriers started to come down: Vogue Paris featured Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio as its first transgender model in 2017, and Vogue Mexico and British Vogue featured an Indigenous “muxe” —indigenous transgender women who mix gay male and feminine identities — woman for the first time in 2019, while Vogue Spain and India featured Indya Moore as their first transgender cover model just this year. 


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Published on Nov 16, 2020