Highlighting the Beauty of Being You by Vincent Williams Jr

Clothing is wearable art that can tell thousands of stories without a single word being spoken. As knitters, crocheters, and fiber artists, we have the power to proliferate possibility and infuse our most authentic story into our creations stitch by stitch. Whether intentional or unintentional, decisions chosen when crafting a handmade creation compose all of the little puzzle pieces that influence the larger-picture and story called fashion.

A teal handknit scarf is knotted at the top of a Black man's brow with locs peeking out the top.

[Melodia Shawl by Janina Kallio]

Makers have a special connection to fashion because every fiber industry role can influence dominant styles or trends within the culture - yarn companies creating fresh yarn, manufacturers bringing new bases/fiber blends to life, independent dyers cooking up beautiful colorways, designers engineering ingenious pattern constructions, notions makers offering elevated tools, and the knitters and crocheters working up their interpretation of designs. Fashion should serve as a vehicle that encapsulates this expansive imagery of self-expression yet this same exploration of expression is immediately assigned to and confined within one gender of the traditional binary from birth.

A bearded Black man is shown wearing a handknit teal scarf tied around his head with locs peeking out the top and a small smile on his face.

[Melodia Shawl by Janina Kallio]

Taking a look at something as simple as color, today we can observe the heavy marketing standard of pink for girls, blue for boys. The trend shifted from the functionality of all young children being clothed in calf-to-ankle-length, white cotton dresses that were easily washed and bleached to “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls.” (Callahan, para. 17) “The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” (Maglaty, 2011, para. 7). And around World War II, the inverse color pairing was deemed standard as a result of Americans’ preferences being interpreted by manufacturers and retailers after retail became the main clothing source over handmade garments.

Color, like many aspects of our maker experience, should not fall victim to gender constrictions. Degendering fashion is not meant to eliminate gender, but to create an expansive palette of paints or abundant pantry of ingredients that empower fiber artists with the opportunity to create the truest reflection of their vision. If I could go back and speak to the decisions I’ve heard makers avoid, I’d say “the textures of single-ply shawls and single-ply chunky knit cardigans are not exclusively dainty; lace stitches are not inherently only feminine; cables are not reserved for only fishermen; crewneck, boatneck, and v-necks are available to all bodies with necks; long, flowy, silhouettes or bishop sleeves can be fly on any body; reverse stockinette, in-the-round for 13 inches isn’t hell… well, that actually does sound a little tiring and tedious, ha. All in all, we get to choose to include the elements that we are drawn to in our crafting process - so don’t allow your creativity to become stifled by marketed gender stereotypes.

As a designer, I often choose to use adjectives like graphic, bold, subtle, sinuous, grand, delicate, rugged, earthy, airy, warm, or cozy to describe design elements in contrast to masculine and feminine because the definition of masculine and feminine can be so drastically different from person to person and culture to culture. Equally as often, I reinforce that neither feminine or masculine should be categorized as good or bad with one being assigned more value. The subliminal, and not so subliminal, presentation of ‘masculine equals good and feminine equals bad’ that is woven through literature, music, art, television, etc. enables the vitriol and violence people experience when dressed differently than the confines of their society’s established gender norms. So seeing the conscientious integration of gender-neutral pattern writing into our norm is very powerful and affirming.

A close cropped image of a Black man with locs wearing a bright yellow handknit raglan sweater.

[Knitstalgia Sweater by Vincent Williams Jr]


I am so excited to experience the Frames Collection with all of you. To see patterns free of gender restrictions without sacrificing fit and polished finishes. I want makers to get to a place of truly understanding their body, what kind of ease/fit makes them most confident, and feeling empowered to mix and match design elements from the options a designer provides in patterns. A designer’s responsibility to empower fiber artists by providing them the freedom to modify and customize a project with accessible raglan/yoke depths, adjustable armscyes, and multiple torso shaping options is really daunting, but attainable.

My goal and hope for the fiber industry is a continued shifting of how makers connect with designs from what fashion has traditionally marketed as their options toward understanding what design elements reflect their style, resonate with their confidence, and provide them the opportunity of authentic storytelling and self-expression.


A Black male knitter, crocheter and educator wears a handknit happy yellow raglan sweater, tucked back behind tropical palm leaves.

[Knitstalgia Sweater by Vincent Williams Jr]


By Vincent Williams Jr, crochet/knitwear designer, and instructor
Photographer, Model & Stylist: Vincent Williams Jr - IG @visuvios_crafts


Callahan, C. R. History of children’s clothing. Retrieved from: http://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/fashion-history-eras/history-childrens-clothing

Maglaty, J. (2011, April 7). When did girls start wearing pink? Smithsonian. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/?no-ist

1 comment

  • I found this article to be absolutely pitch perfect in every sense. If only Earth’s population could read and understand Vincent Williams’ clear, concise but profound ideals on design. Keep playing the message until everyone hears it.

    J. M. Baker on

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