It’s never looked better to live on the boundaries of gender.
While high fashion has long had its fair share of openly gay designers (think Jason Wu or Michael Kors), it’s arguably been much more difficult for ordinary queer folks to easily find clothes that embody gender variance. Western beauty standards, with their petite female-bodied models and chiseled cismale spokespeople, haven’t changed all that much. But in recent years, a new trend has emerged: gender-bending designers and consumers are making their pressence known on the screen and in the streets.
The burgeoning world of gender queer fashion comes thanks in no small part to a few prominent queer folks like Isis King, whose claim to fame was being the first transgender model and fashion designer on America’s Next Top Model; and Brittney Griner, the WNBA’s star rookie who’s contracted by Nike to promote the company’s menswear. Websites like the popular Dapper Q, Genderqueer Fashionista, and The Boi’s Department have become one of the most popular spaces online for queer women who want to transgress the world of men’s fashion. We’re now in an era where the queer cuties of the world can legitimately say that they’re here, they’re queer, and they look damn good.
It’s an important endeavor, and it’s often an expensive one, too. "Our fabric is the highest quality that we can get," Ivette González-Alé, co-founder of Marimacho, told Colorlines. "We work with a no-sweat, women-owned factory in the garment district. When you’re not paying the true value of a piece, someone else is paying for it."
Here’s a look at how a handful of indie fashion designers are challenging gender norms and keeping the queer community cute in the process.
Marimacho: Classic Clothing, Radical Style.
Ever walk into a store, spot the cutest jacket/dress/pants in the section that doesn’t match your state-assigned gender, and realize that it’s two (or three) sizes too big (or small)? That’s just one of the problems that Brooklyn-based designers Crystal González-Alé and Ivette González-Alé are trying to fix with Marimacho. "I thought of the idea in college because that’s the time that I started to think critically about my gender presentation," Crystal told Colorlines. "Clothing plays such an important part of it. We want to be able to give that to our community: something that fits well and looks great." In addition to offering their own line of classic clothing for gender non-conforming cuties, they also do custom tailoring.
Photos by Bex Wade
Photo by DeAngela Cooks
Chrysalis Lingerie for Transgender Women
Chrysalis launched in early 2013 with a mission based both in ideology and practicality. Its very existence counters the misrepresentation of trans women as merely sexualized objects. But it’s also working to fill the basic need of finding attractive underwear to fit a physical body that finally matches its owner. The line’s bras are made to fit custom full-cup inserts and its panties can "tuck, hold, and smooth out for the perfect seamless look," according to its co-founder Cy Lauz.
Play Out: Gender Neutral Underwear
Trans folks aren’t the only ones in the queer community living with constant underwear anxieties. Earlier this year the good folks at lady-friendly Autostraddle surveyed their lesbian, butch-identified, and gender queer readers to see if they’re able to find underpants that affirm their gender. More often than not, the answer was "no." Find a good pair of form-fitting drawers in the women’s department of your local Target and you’re likely to see that they’re filled with lace and flowers. Treck over to the men’s section and you’ll find boxer briefs with crotch pouches that are way too big. An answer? Play Out, whose gender neutral undies are cute and shapely.
Photos by Lisa Iancin, aLIas Photography
Saint Harridan: Stylish Suits for Masculine-of-Center Women
Get up. Suit up. Show up. Those six little words embody Saint Harridan’s ambitious mission to make high-quality tailored suits for masculine-identified women. Buoyed by the support of over a thousand supporters on Kickstarter, the Oakland-based company makes one-of-a-kind shirts, jackets, trousers and vests.
This eco-friendly company was started by 30-year-old Kristen Poe and 27-year-old Petra Dean in Ithaca, N.Y. "We started the Cotton Bow Tie Company because we felt that there was a place in the world for fresh, extra-fashion-forward ties that were well made, priced affordably, and designed with gorgeous queer ladies in mind," they told Dapper Q back in April.