Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Fine Arts

Degree Level





McMahon, Bree

Committee Member/Reader

Maxwell Lane, Marty

Committee Member/Second Reader

Youngblood, Joshua

Committee Member/Third Reader

Sakon, Josh


Over time, we have molded, convoluted, transformed, and eradicated day-to-day wearable clothing. Whether through media-based imagery, practicality, or trend cycles, clothing has become ever-changing and representative of who we are and how we chose to express ourselves. However, in some ways power structures (schools, businesses, corporations) have exploited this expression and implemented guidelines for expressing yourself through this medium. Creating societal, gendered dress codes allows systems of power to reinforce control of individuals. Judith Butler states in her book Gender Trouble that “male” and “female” are socially constructed categories. She argued that notions of universal womanhood reinforce the binary upon which gender oppression depends. Gender becomes a performance, a set of repetitive gestures replicating and enacting the gender binary (p.137). Butler’s argument accurately describes how gendered concepts, like girls wearing dresses, repeat and reinforce social rules predetermined by various media. In other words, this is described as “styles of the flesh” which refers to gender performance, ultimately leading to how gendered styles are roles to play and identities to wear.

My thesis centers around clothing-based systemic stereotypes forced upon women and nonbinary individuals through the traditional media canon and visual communication. I seek to create an inclusive space for clothing without barriers, breaking down “working spaces.” For example, schools, corporations, and governmental institutions have created and enforced dress codes among individuals. I seek to answer the question, how might life-centered design bridge the gap between gendered clothing systems and institutional spaces? This investigation targets non- binary and female-identifying individuals from ages 14-20 with an emphasis on institutional dress codes. This age range captures the specific time in youth when individual expression and autonomy become the main interest; however, it is faced with some of the most rigid institutionalized regulations. Targeting this age range allows room for these individuals to challenge restrictions of expression and demonstrate the damaging effect that dress codes have left on developing non-binary and female-identifying individuals.


Gendered Clothing, Life-Centered Design, Non-binary design, campaign design, dress codes