Yesterday, FashionofGlee.com updated with a post on the sweater-vest Blaine is wearing in “It’s Time.” Of note? While it’s, as usual, Brooks Brothers, but it’s from the women’s department. I chortled; fandom, quoting Kurt Hummel, said in unison, “fashion has no gender”; and then everyone went back to gawping over the price of the thing.
But, while hardly a significant data point (we’ll get to why in a second) in some of the arguments I’ve advanced about Blaine, it’s a really, really fun one to discuss, and I might as well do it here.
First, why it doesn’t matter: Extradiegetically, it’s irrelevant. As clever and sneaky as Glee‘s costume department often is narratively (see: Kurt and the hanky code), I’m pretty sure this was a case of wardrobe grabbing something that would fit an actor and was consistent with the character’s look. End of discussion.
On the other hand, if we want to be Watsonian about it, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Kurt, of course, has not only said “fashion has no gender,” but often wears items from the women’s department or items that are not feminine but likely to be perceived as such in Lima, such as the kilt he wore to prom. Kurt does not choose these pieces in order to be perceived as a female, but he makes little effort to hide the femininity of them. Sure, a sweater dress becomes a “form-fitting knee-length sweater,” but clingy and curvy remains clingy and curvy.
Need an example? Think back to the outfit he’s wearing during the masturbation conversation in 3.05 — with that leopard print sweater and the shy, breathy, and deliberate questions about whether Blaine wants to rip his clothes off, Kurt is actually dressed like a sex kitten. And when it’s not about clingy and curvy, there’s the wardrobe phase that seems explicitly built around feminine modesty.
Blaine, on the other hand, wears traditionally masculine clothes. He may wear them with a wink, or a queer twist, but much like the decor of his bedroom, his clothes are all about classic masculinity, even if the current modern reception of them, and his body language and sense of self aren’t necessarily. And Kurt’s feminine clothes, or perceived as feminine clothes, aren’t something Blaine’s naturally comfortable with. Remember prom? That, however, very probably had less to do with gender and more to do with concern over attracting attention that may be hostile.
But all of this leads us to: How did Blaine, who is concerned with fitting in and displaying a masculine sensibility, wind up with that women’s sweater-vest?
Because my gut says that if Kurt was going to buy him a piece from the women’s department as a gift (and I don’t think Kurt would, I think he knows that might be uncomfortable for Blaine), I think he’d probably go for something outrageous. If he’s going to cross that line, which is a more challenging one for his boyfriend, I feel like he’s going to make that worth it, as opposed to another sweater-vest just like so many of Blaine’s other sweater-vests. Which means Blaine bought that thing for himself.
Now, this is where I have to digress and say I shop in Not My Department all the time. And I’m an adult, queer woman in NYC, and it often makes me super tense that I’ll get called out on it or be told I am doing something that is inappropriate in some way, even though I know better. I know this is not everyone’s experience who shops out of their department, but it’s some people’s, mine included. Now, Blaine is a teenager, in Lima, perceived as male (and I do think men are viewed as suspect more for breaking gender boundaries in this way than women are), and may have some gender issues. Leaving aside whether there is a Brooks Brothers in Lima (there is certainly one in proximity to Westerville), I’m pretty sure Blaine didn’t just walk into the store and decide to browse all the sweater-vests regardless of gender.
So maybe it was mis-shelved and Blaine didn’t notice? And no one at the register said anything snide when they noticed? Or if they did say something, perhaps Blaine just blurted about shopping for a sister that doesn’t exist? Or maybe it was mail order and Blaine browses the women’s sweaters because, like stuff in the boys department, he knows he’s slight enough for them to fit? Or maybe Blaine does have some gender identity stuff going on and likes to browse female clothes in relation to that? That sweater would be quite the find for someone trying to serve two sets of gender expectations — one external and one internal — that don’t overlap comfortably at all.
Much like what I had to say about 4.01 as a whole, the matter of this clothing item could mean any one of a dozen things, all of them fairly irrelevant outside of a Watsonian perspective and fanfiction plot bunnies.
That said, as much as I’ve already noted that I don’t think there’s a single, clear, easily supportable theory on just what Blaine’s feelings about Wade/Unique are right now, the fact that Blaine was policing this person’s gender, and telling them not to rock the boat, while wearing a woman’s sweater is deeply interesting and harks back to the many passing themes that always seem to come up around Blaine Anderson, and underscore why, I think, so many fans find him so irksome.
Blaine gets away with a lot, often by, as Kurt would say, just being “handsome and good.” For people that can’t, or don’t wish to pass, regardless of the categories in question, it can be galling.