Date of Thesis



The use of clothing reinforces gender roles culturally assigned to men and women by emphasizing individuals' biological sex and encouraging them to behave in specific ways based on their sex. However, individuals can manipulate their clothing to challenge the gender roles assigned to them. 20th century Gabrielle Coco Chanel and 21st century Alexander McQueen are two designers who have freed women from binding and restricted clothing, which set women as objects and not as strong assets with knowledgeable contributions. I use various studies of semiology and sociology through a gender theory and linguistic standpoint to understand the signs found within these artists' designs and how they have liberated or restricted gender stereotypes. My thesis attempts to analyze how the designs of Chanel and McQueen challenge gender stereotypes through different signs within their historical contexts. The historical time periods in which the fashion garments were created will be used in this framework to examine how the time period influenced Chanel and McQueen's signs. My thesis solidifies the importance of recognizing fashion as a device that can be manipulated and molded as a means to break through gender boundaries. I draw a comparison between the two designers methods of liberation of gender norms and argue that by observing the liberation of gender stereotypes from two different eras there has been an evolution. This will allow me to provide an overview of the evolution of gender stereotypes from one historical context to the other and will permit me to propose an answer as to where we are revolving around the question of gender today.


Semiotics, Semiology, Fashion, Coco Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Gender theory, Fashion theory, Judith Butler, Roland Barthes, Signs

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration


Markets, Innovation & Design

First Advisor

Philippe Dubois