Because women, in general, are assailed at every turn with feminine fashion images and opportunities for style consumerism, femme lesbians naturally have more fashion resources than butches do. It’s tough to find good butch fashion advice, and even tougher to find images of butch women in mainstream fashion media. So what’s a fashion-forward, or at least fashion-leaning, butch to do?
Here are six of tips of my own and some of my favorite fashion resources I like to share with the butches I know and love. Please share your own tips and resources in the comments.
Tip #1 – Support your chest. I’m a big admirer of butch breasts and I realize that different women have different degrees of comfort with their own. However, all but the tiniest chests need to be supported. I’m not suggesting that you bind if you don’t want to. And, I’m certainly not suggesting you go all lacy and underwired. I’m just saying that if your sports bra has lost it’s spring, it’s going to look like you’ve lost your spring, too. Good support will help you stand up straight and present. It will also help your shirts lie smoother.
Tip #2 – Get things altered. This is crucial. No butch wants to look like she’s wearing her big brother’s clothes, or that she’s bigger than she is. If you’re not handy with a sewing kit, poke around until you find a good, fast, inexpensive alterations person and make friends with them. Have shirt and jacket sleeves shortened, pants taken in at the waist, the boxiness taken out of suit jackets, and things hemmed. I’m short, and I’ve had a lifetime of hemming, so I know how it hurts to have to figure an additional $15-20 into the cost a pair of pants so they can be hemmed. However, the payoff is huge, and you won’t look like you or your clothes are.
Tip #3 – Consider vintage. There are great quality vintage clothes out there, in specialty shops and in hospice thrift stores. These clothes are cheaper than new (so alterations won’t sting as much) and over the past generations, people have gotten bigger. The same principals that make vintage dresses more scarce for femmes over a size 10, make men’s vintage fashions more accessible for modern butch women. Once you have a feeling for your style, there are tons of great things available on eBay.
Tip #4 – Know your measurements. Know your actual sleeve length, your inseam, your waist and chest measurement, and your collar size. This will make shopping online (especially for vintage) less of a gamble. Also, you’ll be able to stop buying dress shirts in S,M, or L, and will get a much better fit.
Tip #5 – Look to the guys. I don’t mean the guys next to you at work in Dockers and a polo shirt. Look around. Check out the fashion blogs (links below). There is a wide variety of men’s styles out there, many of them suitable for butch women. This is true of clothes, accessories, and hair styles. Check out the hair styles in this group of models (if only these guys were girls – swoon). Thanks to Jak & Jil and Director Justin Wu for sharing this video.
Tip #6 – Have a game plan. I remember sitting in a lesbian bar, having a drink with a friend, when a butch walked in. She was about 30, with cropped hair bleached white. Her jeans were slung around her hips and held up with a heavily studded belt. She was wearing an open short-sleeved western shirt over a ribbed white undershirt, and sneakers. I nudged my friend and said, “Check her out”. My friend scanned her up and down and said to me, “Smokin’ hot now, but how’s that going to look when she’s over 40?” Think about it and make a game plan for yourself. It’s better to get a little more tailored, a little more eccentric, a little more dapper as time goes on.
Here are some of my favorite online butch fashion resources, both queer and mainstream:
The Sartorialist‘s Scott Schuman photographs fashion. There are several new posts each weekday. Lots of men’s fashion, much of it quirky. This is a great resource for individuality, details, texture, and color. Good stuff for butches buried in the archives. Keep scrolling.
Dapper Q – With a tagline like “Transgressing Men’s Fashion,” you know it’s going to be interesting. Lots of good butch-centric fashion here, including how-to videos on styling your hair, altering a dress shirt, and more.
Jak & Jil – From crazy runway fashion to great street shots, this blog has both men’s and women’s fashions. Again, keep scrolling.
Fit for a Femme – This blogger, a Bay Area ex-pat now on the other coast, offers her own fashion shoots, often featuring her butch sweetheart.
Nerd Boyfriend features a different vintage fashion photo every day with suggested resources for recreating the look. So darn cool.
The Fashionisto is a men’s fashion blog. Ironically, many of the male models on this site look more feminine than the butches I know.
The Sartorial Butch is exactly what it says: “A peek into the closet and mind of a slightly narcissistic yet always well dressed homo”. Check it out.
For conversations and thoughts about being butch, dressing butch, and the experiences of queers and butches, you might try clicking in on Butch Wonders, although the writer recently went on sabatical, there’s a lot of good stuff in the archives.