What Exactly Does Gap Mean by “Dress Normal?”

Gap’s newest fall campaign is urging its clientele to “Dress Normal.” A tagline like that is pretty vague and kind of confusing, considering many of us use clothing as a way to express ourselves. “Normal” doesn’t exactly inspire originality. And it isn’t a word one would use to describe the unique, exquisite personal styles of the campaign’s spokesmodels—Zosia Mamet, Elisabeth Moss, Michael K. Williams, and Anjelica Huston. So what is up with this new slogan?

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Gap’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, Seth Farbman states, “There’s certainly a long tradition at Gap that people come first and that the clothes are there to make you feel like your best self, and we’ve been unapologetic about that for years. ‘Dress Normal’ is a reinforcement of that idea. We wanted it absolutely to be a provocation—what does ‘Dress Normal’ mean to each individual?”

The tagline “Dress Normal” makes me think of all those times as a teenager when I tried leaving the house wearing ripped-to-shreds jeans and those terrible tank tops that laced up on the side; my mom would stop me at the door, saying, “go back and dress normally.” “Dress Normal,” has that same, accusatory tone I can’t seem to shake off. I just wish the slogan was phrased in a different way (i.e. “Dress However Makes You Feel Good”). I feel like Gap is selling itself short by encouraging this so-called “normal” way of dressing. Why can’t we look and feel extraordinary?

I shop at Gap a few times a year because their sales are awesome, and I like their generous selection of comfy, soft clothes that feel like pajamas. Gap is my go-to whenever I need a new chambray button-up, or perfectly-fitted blazer. It’s no Top Shop; I never come out with spiked heels and plastic tube-tops, but I always feel good about what I buy, and maybe that’s what Gap means by “normal.”

Then there’s the theory that Gap is riffing off the rise of the normcore movement, an anti-high-fashion trend which W magazine described as “a mix of true slob and thoughtful nerd dressing.” Epitomized by the era of Seinfeld, “normcore” basically means wearing solid prints and acting like you don’t care about clothes.

But somehow I don’t buy that explanation. Gap’s new fall collection is actually the opposite of normcore’s sartorial apathy. Those loud plaid button ups and olive green turtle necks are the essence of everything I love about autumn. And really, they’re anything BUT “normal.”

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