I had been working on this list on and off for a few months, and had put it aside until Autostraddle released their list of the “15 Best Fashion Magazines & Blogs, Hand-Picked For Queers.” “Doh!” I said, “I need to finish mine!” Then I promptly dropped this list once again, until Jezebel posted about a new London-based bespoke tailoring outfit called The Butch Clothing Company, which claims to be the “first clothing line for butch women.” “Double doh!” I cried out. (None of the photographs of suits, shirts, etc., on the site right now are actually garments made by The Butch Clothing Company, because they are just getting off the ground. See the Guardian essay for a photo of BCC founder Shaz Riley in a sharp suit of her own making. Commenters also usefully pointed out that there are queer women also designing in the United States, such as Dykes in the City and Rigged Out/fitters, with clothes running toward the casual.)
So here you have it, Threadbared’s Haphazard List of Queer Fashion or Style Blogs, Finally Published Due to Peer Pressure & Imminent Departure. I leave with my girlfriend in a few days for London (conferences as well as fun times), so I expect that new posts on my end will be sporadic at best for the next few weeks. Meanwhile, feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.
If you’re in need of sartorial prompts (or just pretties), there’s lots of blogs to choose from. Tumblr hosts an enormous number of image-heavy blogs, including dapperqueers (here’s their link list), tomboyfemmes, fuckyeahfemmes, hipsterdykes, androstyle (“blogging androgynous, queer, LGBT+, and eccentric fashion and more”), Sappho’s Closet (featuring many an O.G. riot grrrl and queercore lady), fuckyeahtashatilberg (“fan photo page for the beautiful and openly gay model tasha tilberg”), girlsinsuits and many more. That said, be aware that a certain sartorial sameness often emerges from some of these collections (e.g., skinny jeans, bandannas, and over-sized plaid shirts), and there may be only so many photographs of famous people (who may or may not be queer wearing skinny jeans, bandannas, and over-sized plaid shirts) a person can take.
Moving away from skinny jeans and plaids, who wants to recreate some amazing men’s fashions from ’60s film stills or snapshots of ’30s bohemians, or ’70s musicians? Nerd Boyfriend does. There is also, for fun, the now-infamous Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber, which we started to discuss in the comments to my post on Teresa Cheng’s zine Dykes and Their Hair. (And which should by rights be called Lesbians Whom Justin Beiber Looks Like, considering.) And, featuring lots and lots of outfit photographs and occasionally her beloved tomboy, Fit for a Femme asks, “Ever wonder what, exactly, lesbians are hiding in those closets of theirs? Lucky for you, this femme publicly chronicles her daily wardrobe choices, working hard to fight femme invisibility one outfit at a time.”
There are also a good number of more text-heavy blogs targeted toward fashionable femmes and sartorial butches, blogs that by necessity deal with what it means to “look,” “feel,” or “be” feminine, masculine, some genderqueer iteration of these, or neither. (I put these states in quotes because there is no easy slide from one to the other.) There is, of course, Bevin Branlandingham’s Queer Fat Femme which regularly features smart commentary on fat and femme and its sartorial politics (and the occasional nod to butch fashions); Sublime Femme, composed by an anonymous “high femme queer theorist who appreciates dapper butches, classic pin-up girls, and a good Manhattan;” and The Femme’s Guide to Absolutely Everything.
There are also butch and transmasculine style blogs like Butch Style, Sartorial Butch and Dapper Q, offering style advice for those inclined to don a good suit and some hand-crafted leather shoes. DapperQ even hosts a whole series of videos, such as “How to Tailor A Men’s Shirt.” Others butch or transmasculine blogs, while less style-focused, nonetheless venture thoughtful notes on gender presentations and emotional attachments to certain garments as signifiers of selfhood, or not self-hood, such as How To Be Butch (excerpted in an earlier post on professionalization’s regulatory demands), Can I Help You, Sir? (“Are Those Boy Shoes?”), Yondergen (“On Masculinity“), and Dear Diaspora, which published this moving meditation on the function of certain items as a sort of armor for facing the world:
My boots are giving out.
In some ways they look better than ever. The leather is scuffed, a history written in the patterns of wear — still sleek where the cuffs of my pants cover it, rough at the toe-tips, almost worn off. The laces are an olive drab replacement pair I bought a few years ago, when the originals got too frayed to tie proper knots. For months and months I saved the old laces, that tangled fistful of dirty string.
Inside, they’re falling apart. The lining, torn years ago, is almost gone, and the guts, ridges of cardboard and plastic, are starting to poke out. Sometimes I have to try a few times to get my foot to slide over the mess just right, holding it in place instead of pushing it, sharply, into my heel.
I got these boots when I was sixteen, just barely. Hanukkah present. I requested them. This was six months after I figured out I was a lesbian and boots were in order. My dad gave them to me, and I felt dizzy when I saw them in the box. They were new then, all smooth leather, gleaming black, never worn, never even touched. They scared the shit out of me. For weeks they sat in my room, just sat there on display, because I was too scared to wear them. I was too even put them on. My friends would come over to watch The L Word and admire them, cajole me. “You’re scared of your boots?” I was petrified.
I would have died of embarrassment then trying to pronounce a word like butch. All I knew was that I wanted motorcycle boots, tattoos, a leather jacket, a knife in my pocket. There were stories that tugged at my heart in ways I didn’t understand, and I remember saying, helplessly, when asked again why I didn’t have a crush on some butch or androgynous dyke, “I like girls. I just like girls.” There were no words then, no labels, only aches, a choir of little voices I halfway wanted to snuff out.
The boots were the first thing — I hadn’t even cut my hair — and once I finally put them on, they never came off. I looked at them, at me, big black boots on my feet, and for the first time in my life, I looked right. I made sense to myself.
New to the scene is The Ironing Board Collective, featuring Michelle Tea, Michael Braithwaite, Leo Plass, Page McBee, and others, writing about their obsessions with fashion with heavy emphasis so far on style icons and shopping suggestions. CLASS is an also newish blog by a queer and trans person of color, Wu Tsang, who is particularly interested in the intersection between trans and immigrant politics, as well as the politics of nightlife — which of course must involve acts of dressing up (or down). Of fashion, Wu writes:
above all fashion is costume. it’s the INDUSTRY of costume – so what better prism to think about race/class/gender? fashion is the direct link between appearance and money. fashion is in bad taste – admittedly a guilty indulgence within say activist intellectual artist circles for example. so this contradiction is deeply pleasurable for me to say the least – if not queer, radical etc. it’s in the street, it works, it belongs to everyone. it challenges me to think about femininity in terms of construction of materials around bodies. it’s feminine but not anti-feminist. feminine, as in a spectacular fabulous thing we can create and rule and there is no opposite counterpart to it. it’s powerful whether we like it or not so why not engage with it riiiight?
The Boulevardier, composed cheekily by a young “mansy” who herein combines his love of anarchy and fashion, promises to ponder “the perfect blueprint for what a radical mansy should wear when tending to the community garden on your La-La-Land project, fixing a roof on your dilapidated punk house, building a seditious greenhouse or just generally building more lofts to cram more anarchists into your Casa del Squalor.” How can I resist a blog that astutely observes, “For fashion, masculinity is defined in extreme situations such as war or natural disasters, the army utilizes these situations to engender masculinity with the credo ‘always be prepared’ and this is then implemented across the boards as the only acceptable garb. Poor radical mansies! Even they fall into this game when they dress like they’re in the Indie Army or they are sporting the L.L. Bean’s post apocalypse line.” I love the sartorial and political inspirations taken from anarchists and radicals of days of yore, I love the serious exhortations that radicals find new ways of wearing their politics. I can’t stop pulling quotes; here’s a last one from the first entry by the Boulevardier:
[L]et us consider exactly what it means to be a male-identified radical in 2008. While radicals of the past might have gotten away with adherence to a hyper masculinity (for example Jerry Rubin, Abby Hoffman or Bobby Seale) the contemporary radical presumably has vanquished the specters of patriarchy and homophobia and in doing so embraced a pangendered, feminist, queer or queer-positive identity. This, of course, is the appropriate standard to which radical men are held in this day and age, but are we living up? That is the truly the question of the moment and I think most critics will answer with a resounding no. From anarcha-feminists to queer anarchists to anarchist people of color, most theorists argue that there is still a big problem with the way radical men conceptualize their masculinity.
This is a very complex question and fashion doesn’t have all the answers of course, but it is an important tool, and one that has a lot to offer radical politics. Fashion is the most community oriented art form. It deals exclusively with the way you are perceived by your fellow community and those outside your community. Since anarchism is the politic of community, fashion is one of the most important anarchist expressions.
Ignoring fashion can be detrimental as well. Like it or not, there is no such thing as an absence of fashion. Everything we wear or don’t wear communicates a fashion message and it is up to us to decipher that meaning and make sure it is what we want to say. In the case of men’s fashion, this message has been encoded in the language of patriarchy, nationalism and racism for so long that what may seem implicit or natural is actually constructed in the highest degree. If we ignore these messages we run the risk of looking vulgar and performing bad fashion, something that no matter how radical your politics are will always set the teeth on edge and churn the stomache.
On questions of queer aesthetics, the Denver-based radical art collective Free Boutique puts together some truly amazing collaborations and events, and the Fake Sartorialist‘s artfully transmogrified parodies of the “street style” photograph (a wholesomely gamine Parisienne, for instance, might be given a vicious bird’s head and another decade’s quaint notions of futural fashions) queers for us our sense of time, space, and the suddenly unfamiliar bodies that occupy both.
Of course, I cannot praise enough Julia Caron’s A L’Allure Garconniere, a thoughtfully smart and imminently accessible source for “critical fashion lovers,” and Good Morning Midnight, for the goth girl who reads feminist theory. I’ve also mentioned our love for the following two blogs previously, the tragically neglected What’s Her Tights, addressed to “Queer Fashion, Radical Politics” (whatever, graduate school!), and Joon Oluchi Lee’s lipstickeater, featuring strange and moving meditations on queer femininities and girlboy bodies, masochism and tight jeans. Joony, you’re forever in our girl gang!