Femme Eye for the Butch Gui

TheSartorialist.com features women’s and men’s fashion shot on the street. The photographer has a great eye for androgyny.

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 #4Know 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.

Butch-femme holiday fashion on FitforaFemme.com

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.

The Handsome Butch, with a tumblr of her own, is a contributor to DapperQ and the butch style blog, Qwear. You can follow Handsome on twitter, too, @handsomebutches.

I like these two men’s fashion blogs, especially for the rich details – shoes to covet and bags to carry: Style Salvage and Street Etiquette.

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.

16 responses to “Femme Eye for the Butch Gui

  1. I heart this post. I hope you’ll do more on this topic.

  2. I dig this post. I agree with all of the tips, ESPECIALLY #6. One thing that makes me cringe a little bit is seeing 40- or 50-something butches running around in Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle. I guess that’s because one of my style icons is George Clooney, and I can’t imagine seeing him in something so … frat boyish, I guess. I think age-appropriate style is so important.

    I’ve been thinking about doing a similar post lately because I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in the number of searches that lead to my blog that are clothing/style-related. I don’t claim to be an expert, but we can always share what we know. I’ll certainly link to this post here.

    Thanks for the mention, too!

  3. I’m replying here to your Clooney Crowdsourcing over on Twitter because I feel like I would use approximately 23 tweets to express myself.

    For me, the appeal of Clooney (and some others, but mostly him) is that I like more than just his appearance. He certainly pulls off his look effortlessly, and I tend to be attracted to more classic looks like his. But his entire energy grabs my attention, and I admire it like whoa. I like his charisma and charm, and I like the way he carries himself with complete confidence. He’s serious, but doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has a way with the ladies, but he also seems to be quite the man’s man, too. So yeah, I pay attention to him, because he has a lot of qualities I find attractive in a masculine being and hope to somewhat emulate myself.

    • Just before I headed off to bed, I received a message from the butch in my life who said this:

      “Tell G that I’ve seen George Clooney on The Daily Show many times and he seems like one of the nicest guys around. I never cared one way or the other about him until seeing him on the show. Indeed, a lady’s man and a man’s man. Oh, and the voice – WOW. Plus, Jon Stewart tells him that he’s “a handsome, handsome man”.

      I just hope we never run into him. I’m afraid I’ll lose her forever.

  4. I agree also, and thank you for the shout-out! Being still somewhat close to frat boy age, I have been known to wear a short sleeve button up and sneakers. However! I have never, ever worn Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle. That was over in high school. Sorry butches. Also I just can’t get behind studded belts. I don’t know why. More apologies.

    I appreciate the additional resources. I’m constantly developing/reinventing my style. In fact, I was thinking about my hair just today…Perhaps I need a single fashion role model, like G. That might calm me down a bit with the reinvention!

  5. This is outstanding, forward-thinking advice – consider me a big fan! In so many ways these tips are parallel to the mysterious sartorial ways and cardinal rules of the femme, but decidedly butch. So honored to be included in your list of resources, which reminds me I’ve got a post to write about breaking out of style ruts!



  6. Love it! I love it when femmes take an interest in what we boiz look like!
    Nothing sexier than that…

  7. So… funny! my GF and I were just talking about this stuff the other night! HAH! Great minds… I must say however, the Geo Clooney thing eludes me. Maybe because I model some of my style after the great style & suits from the 1940’s and 50’s. I look to the Sartorialist quite often for ideas and I am able to find accessories in the vintage stores quite often. But the big thing is the alterations. Men’s suits are built beautifully, but if you don’t have them altered they look like you’re playing house and wearing your Dad’s cast-offs. For years (1980-90) I wore women’s suits (DK, Ralph Lauren, Barry Bricken) but they don’t make them like that any more… SAD BUT TRUE. Love butch style. Love clothes. Love you!

  8. Oh… also… the haircut thing? A great haircut is absolutely the most important style statement that a butch woman can make. Hands down. And the attention paid to the upkeep of said haircut is VERY important. Find a good/great stylist and make a standing appointment for every 5 or 6 weeks. Take time to discuss with them what you want and bring pictures of what you like. Do not keep going to a stylist who does not listen to you. You will never get the h/c you want if they don’t listen. Invest in your personal grooming.

    AND NOW SHOES… shoes are an investment. Buying shoes that are “in style” is a bad investment. Buying shoes that have “stood” the test of fashion time, is a good investment. Frye is making great looking oxfords for women that have male styling. I have several pair now and I love them! The first thing I look at after I meet someone is their shoes. They are the window to the style soul. A well dressed butch woman wears good shoes.

    That’s all for now! Love you! Love the blog! Love shoes!

  9. Thanks for the mention… and for introducing me to menstrual cup origami.

  10. Harrison: I didn’t mean that I have a problem with that look (or those brands); I might have been a little bit flip with that. I just cringe at the lack of age-appropriate decisions made by all sexes and genders. Depending on the occasion and the season, I certainly still choose short-sleeve button-ups, sneakers, etc. For me, I just don’t want to look like that 36-year-old who is trying to look like I’m 22.

    BigBrainGirl: One of the reasons I like Clooney so much is because he seems to exude the same attention to his style as some of my favorite actors from bygone days like Cary Grant, Sean Connery, Steve McQueen, etc. Plus YES to your comments about haircuts and shoes.

  11. This post is all sorts of awesome the whole way through. I had to comment though because I’m so incredibly in agreement with you on #1. Thank you for listing that! Mind you, I make bras (and hopefully binders soon) for a living, so I am admittedly biased. Still, at least for anyone with large breasts, clothes fit a lot better and you’re not going to have shoulder/back pain if you’ve got a basic bra that fits, both of which are sexy things.

    • Oh M, you can’t tell us you make bras and binders for boiz, and NOT tell us more info about how to buy them! Bras really are a tricky situation for us boiz…

      • Didn’t want to shamelessly self promote, but always happy to talk when asked. 🙂 Unfortunately, it’s only relevant to people who can get to Chicago or Milwaukee.
        I do custom bras and swimsuits mostly, which makes working in what can be an unpleasant industry more manageable. That way everyone can actually get something that both fits and conforms with their own sense of style. I’m working on a new binder design right now that will hopefully go to mass production, but it’s just a prototype now. Probably also relevant: I just finished a design for stand-to-pee packing underwear, and am in the middle of working with a factory to get it mass produced. At the moment I just have the handmade prototypes of those for sale at the local feminist sex toy shop. (In Packers colors, because, well, it is Wisconsin.)
        If anyone’s in the area and wants to check it out I’m renegadelingerie.com (I just opened a month ago, so sorry about the rather sparse portfolio.)

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