By: Emily Yakashiro
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Transcript for Video
Hey folks, I’m Emily, the founder and Editor of theclosetfeminist.ca
Today I want to talk about fashion for trans-masculine women, masculine-identified women, and butch clothes for anyone who is outside the gender binary.
As you know from the last Closet Feminist video, I’m kind of obsessive when it comes to mainstream, widely available, fashion magazines. Something that I see very, very rarely are fashion spreads or editorials that feature clothing that would be useful or appropriate to those who are interested in butch fashion.
Major fashion magazines like Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, InStyle, and Lucky, focus almost entirely on more femme looks, which is great for those of us who self-identify with that particular style, but not-so-great for folks who aren’t as they’re left with practically no inspiration from major/mainstream fashion sources.
When magazines do feature editorials that could be considered even remotely inspired by butch fashion and style, they’re variations on a theme–strong-shouldered suits, blazers, or coats in a more formal cut or style, like this one from the November 2012 issue of Elle Canada starring model Yasmin Warsame [pictured above].
It is worth noting that spreads with potentially-butch clothing are usually only offered in winter and fall seasons, leaving fans of this style with nothing seasonal to wear for spring and summer months according to what is shown in editorials.
Another thing I have noticed is that spreads featuring clothing and outfits which are passably butch is that there is at least one or two shots of something that seems rather at odds with butch style at large.
For example, overall, this spread could be considered relatively butch inspired. However, there are a few shots which show a lot of décolletage, which, last time I checked, is not exactly a cornerstone of butch dressing.
Another example of this trend is from this spread from the April 2013 issue of Elle Canada, starring model Erin Macdonald [pictured below].
You see these sharp suits and versions of le smoking popularized in part by icons like Marlene Dietrich, Eileen Gray, and even Frida Kahlo– all celebrities past known for their own preference for more butch-inspired outfits. This reference is even hinted at with the entirely black and white fashion photography seen in this spread.
This seems pretty good, however, we can once again see that prominent décolletage being shown as a strong feature of the styling in this editorial.
It kind of seems like there is rarely a cohesive, consistent vision shown in fashion spreads that would meet the unique needs, interests, and styles of butch-identified people. It would also seem that even as editorials approach something thoroughly recognizable as “butch,” they shy away–or rather entirely ignore this particular style of dressing.
On this note, Alyssa Garrison reminds us in an article [“Unbinding Binaries: Using Clothing to Unlock the Door of Gender Identity”] in issue 13 of WORN Fashion Journal that,
“The fashion world purports to celebrate self-expression and individuality, yet the by-products and ideas of fashion really only exist for two kinds of people.”
It’s not like there’s a lack of style inspiration when it comes to butch style. Fashion magazines of course rely heavily on celebrity culture, and if you add that into the mix, there are plenty of celebs who lean towards this style to consider for inspiration.
Stars like Patti Smith, Pink, Janelle Monae, and Chan Marshall are all known for their sartorial choices that often (if not always) represent butch fashions and tastes.
Celebrity style is important, indeed. In the most recent issue of Bitch Magazine, Keph Senett pens a short article on “The Boom in Butch Clothing” highlighting the importance of celebrity endorsements in the case of Wildfang, a new clothing store based in Portland that sells “tomboy”-style clothes.
It’s not as if a butch fashion-centered editorial is entirely impossible or beyond imagining. We see that now with all the wonderful butch fashion blogs that exist, and if you read Senett’s article, you’ll learn that business for butch fashion is booming.
Interestingly, the best example I have seen in recent years of an editorial in a major fashion magazine featuring butch style comes from the August 2009 issue of Teen Vogue of all places [picture above].
This spread is remarkable in my opinion for a few reasons:
- There isn’t a power suit, blazer, or other formal clothes to be found. All the outfits shown are fun and casual, unlike the other spreads we looked at before.
- The outfits shown could work easily for all seasons.
- This spread is in a youth-oriented magazine! Where the grown-up Vogue may be stumbling, it’s younger sibling was picking up the slack back in the day.
- The clothes shown are all worn with flat shoes or brogues; the shots we saw earlier from the other editorials were worn with stilettos or pumps, which aren’t usually considered staples for most butch wardrobes
So to all you major magazines out there: the ground work is laid out. If you have your doubts, look to indie publications like Bitch and WORN Journal for inspiration, or even hit replay on this video. My end message is this: I dare you to leave your homophobia and transphobia behind you, and to take the plunge and try an all-butch editorial, the results could be really cool, compelling, and of course, super-stylish.
More Thoughts on Butch Fashion
“Unbinding Binaries: Using Clothing to Unlock the Door of Gender Identity” by Alyssa Garirson in Issue 13 of WORN Fashion Journal
“Suit Up: The Boom in Butch Fashion,” by Keph Senett in Bitch Summer 2013
“Fashioning an Identity,” by Zoe Whittall in Fashion September 2013
“Top 7 Style Blogs for The Aesthetically Oriented Queer” by Gabrielle on Autostraddle
Butch Fashion Blogs we <3
Lesbian A La Mode
Esther Quek’s tumblr