A review of gender-neutral fashion in Netflix’s “The Sandman” and “The Umbrella Academy.”
Queer fashion in the media has come into its own in recent years, especially as society has become more open about gender identity. Recently, there are several characters in television and film who express this through clothing alone. It’s great to see this level of representation in popular media because it normalizes this level of gender expression.
A good example is the Netflix comic book adaptation “The Sandman”. In the comic series of the same name, the character is portrayed as gender-fluid, and the duo is portrayed by actor Mason Alexander Park (“The Legend of Vox Machina”). While Park gives an incredible performance as the character, what sets his character apart from others is his attire. For the most part, the character spends the show dressed in either all black or all white, which usually completely contrasts with the beauty of their red gown (which is literally a giant statue of themselves). . Their style also includes a pair of golden earrings and a heart necklace, directly mirrored by their funny personality. After all, the character is anthropomorphic of lust, sexuality, and…desire.
Another example is the character of Victor Hargreaves in the show “Umbrella Academy”. After actor Elliott Page came out as transgender in 2020, his character was rewritten in the third season and also came out as trans in Love Tribute. When it comes to how the character expresses himself, his fashion choices are more subdued than the previous example. After his exit, Hargreaves spent most of the rest of the season wearing a white shirt under a black jacket. Victor has always been a very soft-spoken and relatively shy character in “Umbrella Academy,” so his fashion choices may not be an expression of his queerness, but an extension of his personality. Regardless, I still believe this is an example of queer character fashion, where their wardrobe doesn’t necessarily coincide with their queerness.
Some more examples of camp from “Umbrella Academy” are the fashion choices for character Klaus Hargreaves, as played by Robert Sheehan. The character’s clothing changes throughout the show, but often shows how he expresses himself. There’s even a funny moment in the first season when his sister asks Alison if she’s wearing one of her old dresses. One of the outfits she wears in season three is a Stevie Nicks-esque black getup and black hat; Also, the character’s long hair adds beauty. But lively, he is seen wearing a blue suede jacket, sunglasses, and striped pants (no shirt, though). Throughout the show, we can see him in earrings and nails, and feather boas in the first episodes. Klaus as a character is more energetic than the aforementioned Victor, so the fact that his costume design is more exaggerated helps accentuate his dialogue and the overall ambiguity of the character’s gender expression.
In short, a character’s costume design can add a lot to their personality, sexuality, and gender identity. As seen in these examples, they can be subtle to luxurious and rich, but they are important. As mentioned earlier, this level of representation in the media normalizes gender expression and may be taken as a sign to fully embrace their gender if their target audience does not. Living in your own skin and being comfortable is something everyone should do. If anything, these characters and their fashion decisions can teach others to do the same, no matter how cute they choose to be.