1971: “What Gay Women Wear” [Part 2]

continued from my last post….

Susan Walsh agrees with the women’s liberation analysis that consumerism oppresses women.  To counter this in her own life, she wears a lot of hand-me-downs, supplemented with Salvation Army buys, and even rips off a little something from a chain store once in awhile.

Jilly Bray (photo left) [Ed.: photo forthcoming, I haven’t scanned it yet] sees it differently.  She digs shopping for clothes.  “I shop in Europe a lot,” she says.  “Here I go to Abercrombie’s and Brooks Brothers.  But I’ll pick up odds and ends at a dime store too.”  Jill agrees with her sisters that pants are more comfortable for whatever you’re doing.  “I don’t have any skirts,” Jill announces rather proudly, “and I don’t intend to wear them my whole life.

By no means do all Jill’s friends share her no-skirt dictum.  Michelle Yeoman, for instance, a leather craftsman and a part owner of Goblin’s Market, a San Francisco boutique says: “I don’t mind wearing a dress on social occasions or in the summer when it’s hot.”

About dressing for her job, Susan Walsh says: “I refinish some antiques, and when we have some rich people coming around my boss wants me to wear a dress.  I object for two reasons.  One, I’m not comfortable refinishing furniture in a dress.  Two– a political reason– wearing a dress implies the uniform of opressed women.  A dress shows your legs; you wear it to attract men and I don’t want to.  I told my boss I didn’t want to have to worry about my dress flying up and he said, ‘I personally find it delightful to have a woman’s dress fly up.’  I asked him, “Do you find it delightful to have a man’s pants fall down?”

Clothes are politics.

Gay women aren’t interested in attracting men and they don’t dig the sidewalk comments a short skirt often draws.  Nancy says, “I feel conspicuous, vulnerable, flirtatious in a skirt.  When I’m out in public I try to be as inconspicuous as possible.”

Susan Ellard agrees that her clothes are likely to be baggier when she’s out delivering mail than when she’s visiting with friends.

By this logic the Midi and the gaucho should appeal to gay women.  Almost everyone we talked to said they loved the look, but no one actually owned either one.

Wanda is famous among her friends for her Girl Scout Uniform.  When she wears a dress she likes “something as a-sexual as possible.  Sort of a Catholic girl’s school uniform like jumpers and sweaters. I’m not ready to dress like I’m out there in the world being fucked over.  Women would approve of the way I dress more than men.”

That’s what it’s all about for gay women.  It has long been said that women dress for each other– competitively– but what do they wear to attract each other?

For Susan Walsh “getting all dyked up” means her shiny boots and “Salvation Army-tailored, snazzy, comfortable clothes.”

Dixie used to wear her hair short but now lets it frame her face at jawbone length.  “Long hair has a softening effect on the features.  I don’t like to see a woman who wants to look like a man.  I hate Frisco jeans and I hate capri outfits too.  A woman looks best as herself without trying to look like some dumb man.”

To be continued…

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