Les Masculines, 1922

I feel terrible for forgetting where I got this image.  It was recently, too.  So I apologize to whomever I took this from for not crediting you.

This is from the French fashion periodical Gazette du Bon Ton (Currently there is an exhibit at Kent University Museum, ending May 30, 2010).

What I love is that the women have adopted riding clothes as their masculine-styled costume.  This makes sense.  Since the 18th century, women’s riding habits had been the first type of clothing to consistently borrow from male costume.  These women in 1922 would have been shocking, but not nearly as shocking as if they had worn everyday male dress.

Gazette du Bon Ton, 1922

Dapper

The bouncer at Cubbyhole last night had a hand-made badge reading “Dapper not butch.”  I think that the lesbian community (specifically the non-femme) is in the process of co-opting the word dapper.  For example.

I’m using this post to highlight one of my favorite books, Women in Pants by Catherine Smith and Cynthia Greig.  It’s chock full of fascinating, beautiful, and downright sexy photographs of “manly maidens, cowgirls, and other renegades.”

This woman is dapper, don’t you think?

Group of women having a smoke, gelatin silver print, c. 1896

I like that she is in full masculine garb  but retained her soft poufed hair.

Pockets and Lesbians

Cabinet Card c. 1890, collection of Catharine Smith

In “Idle Hands and Empty Pockets,” published in Volume 35 of Dress,  historian Hannah Carlson discusses the gender-bending power of hands in the pockets.  In the eighteenth century, for example, a man with his hands in his pockets projected a certain air of effeminacy to his contemporaries.  Conversely, when women cross-dressed (as in the photo above), they stuck their hands deep into their trouser pockets to signify masculinity.  This makes sense when we remember that women didn’t really have pockets in which they could rest their hands until the mid-20th century.

I just want to note that the women in the photograph above were probably not lesbians.  Female cross-dressing was largely separate from Victorian ideas about sexuality.

I think we still read pocketed hands as masculine, even though women have been wearing pants for over fifty years now.  Interesting, huh?

Irina Lazareanu and Freja Beha Erichsen in Elle, May 2008

Elle. May 2008

I spent much of my two years in the Costume Studies MA at NYU flipping through 80 years of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, so I can tell you with absolute certainty that the big fashion mags don’t give queers even a cursory glance.  Sure, an occasional nod for bringing trucker hats and boy’s suits for girls to The Fashion Community, but that’s about it.

That is what makes this image so astonishing.  Two women.  Hot queer women.  In a fashion spread.  Kissing. And enjoying it.

Bravo to Elle, it’s about f$%*ing time.  Now let’s get some articles on queer fashion.  Perhaps they should take a cue from DapperQ.

Versace, 1981

Long before lesbian imagery was accepted in pop culture, fashion photographers published in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar got away with publishing suggestive photographs of women together. Who was the photographer who denied that there was any lesbian implication, he just wanted to be able to photograph two dresses at the same time?

This image is from a March 1981 Versace advertising campaign.  I got it from a New York Times video slideshow on Richard Avedon.   The International Center of Photography in Manhattan will have an exhibit of Avedon’s work on display from May 15-Sept 6, 2009.

Photographed by Richard Avedon

Photographed by Richard Avedon

What Gay Women Wear, 1971 Images

As promised, here are the two photos that went along with the article from Rags 1971.

Gay Girl 1971

Jill Bray, gay girl in 1971

Gay girl 1971 with her dog

Susan Walsh, furniture refinisher and gay girl

The girl in the hat has a pretty groovy look, don’t you think?

I searched for all the women online to see if any were still around. The only one I was able to find information about was Wanda Van Dusen, who committed suicide in 1995.

If you have information about any of these women, please let me know. A retrospective interview would be a most amazing project.

1971: “What Gay Women Wear” [Part 3, final]

Continued from last post…

“A lot of gay women,” says Michelle, “would like to change, but they don’t know what to do.  They don’t know how to dress in the first place, so they go down to Macy’s and buy a pantsuit.  Ugh.  I like a woman to look natural.  Her clothes should suit who she is and how she feels.”

For her part, Susan Ellard doesn’t dig “anything that makes women look weak– frills, flimsy fabric, high heels she can’t walk in.”  Feminine (or at least what the word has come to mean) is a negative concept.  “It’s been used against me too much,” Susan explains.  “Like: ‘Why can’t you be more feminine?'”

To Dixie, feminine is “like some super-Nellie queen posing and drooping.  That’s not what a woman is.  It’s just what he thinks a woman is.”

The new emphasis on womanliness makes it increasingly difficult for gay women to recognize each other, a source of frustration.

“You just can’t tell who’s gay anymore,” Jill laments, “It used to be you could tell a dyke by her hair.  A lot of European gay people wear pinkie rings.”  Jill keeps her hair short and likes short hair on other women.

“There ought to be a law,” says Susan Walsh, “that gay people have to identify themselves in some way.”

Wanda is doing her part.  She wears her Odd Fellows button just about everywhere. ~~