August 30, 2012

La La Lady Lovin - Lesbian Chic!

The fashion authority that is Style.com is, quite honestly, an essential in my life. Each season, I can rely on them to not only have the best runway images from each of the world's many, many fashion shows - but they can also be trusted to bring in some very critical thought on the pervasive societal issues in fashion, er - maybe. The latest installment of this, the question on everyone's minds ('cause, I mean, they're everywhere) - "Is Lesbian chic here to stay?" To which I can only say, god - I hope so! To think, I'm in this season, but out the next? Am I to trade in my sexual orientation once resort hits the racks?!

I've rounded up some of my favorite lesbian chic essentials - you know, boots, pomade for your faux hawk... You don't want to lag on this trend, ladies!


1. Warby Parker Everett, $95. 2. Lee "Saw" Shirt, $170. 3. Murray's Pomade, $2.29. 4. Black Leather Biker Jacket, $300. 5. Brooke Skinny Tie, $42.  6. Loake Burford Brogue, $330. 7. Mason Pearson Rake Comb, $30. 8. Filson Twill Computer Bag 9. There are a whole ton of other lesbian chic essentials at Babeland.com, but I wanted to keep this safe for work.

But, seriously - Style.com's major misstep is only part of an overwhelming conversation, at least for me, on the incredible lack of queer representation in the fashion industry. Besides the fact that it's horribly patronizing to reduce an entire demographic of people to a stereotype of combat boots and cropped coifs, the suggestion that appropriating that characturized (and dismissive) style for the sake of a trend? Baffling. It seems as though the relevancy of lesbians - or at least, the presumption of what it means to categorize a sexual orientation into a single aesthetic (which, obviously, I don't quite fit into - so I might need to make some adjustments on my own presentation) - comes up about every 10 years or so. It's not a new conversation, but to bill it as suddenly en vogue because Jenna Lyons "ditched" (style.com's word, not mine) her husband and found herself in a sapphic relationship, is just, well, kind of condescending - and in opposition to the actually quite diverse, queer representations of gay women working in the fashion industry - and all without the desire, or consciousness, to be on trend. Oh, and then there's the suggestion that women in fashion are so hard up for a date, but it's okay, because there's one final frontier - lesbianism! (At least until next season.)

Despite this weird, ineffective attempt at being progressive with a trend story, the truth is that there are not many representations of visibly queer people women in fashion -- only further proved by the example of Rihanna (who, much to my chagrin, does not identify as a lesbian) as a paradigm of lesbian chic and the fact that Style.com referred to Jenna Lyons so overtly without actually naming her, (perhaps because it's still taboo to discuss, or because J. Crew is an advertiser). It's a truism of the industry I work in and love that I often quarrel with, as I so often feel like an outsider in a world that bills itself as gay friendly - and frequently is anything but, at least for lesbians. I mean, maybe I'm alone in this, but I haven't been able to get a hold of the seven gay women profiled in London to get their feedback.

PS, If Style.com were a girl, I would probably not hit on her. I probably wouldn't even send her a "wink" on OkCupid. Just sayin'.
Original article after the jump.




46 comments:

  1. Ummm wow. No words for that tacky article...

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  2. Right on. So incredibly frustrated with this silliness. Maybe if they actually talked to some lesbians they would realize what they're saying makes no sense? But then, there would have to actually be out/acknowledged lesbians in the fashion community, which there are not even enough to make an example for this article! (Imagine-- might that be because of attitudes like this?). Bluurgh, all I ever want is for mainstream fashion media to acknowledge/support/feature queer ladies and then we get this ridiculousness, that makes my sexuality sound about as important as neon accessories.

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  3. HA! This makes me laugh (but in a good way). I'm a lady lover, but I don't think anyone would describe my style as "lesbian chic." Just chic, I hope. But if you're a lesbian who also happens to be a good dresser, does that mean you're lesbian chic? I think it should!


    Sarah's Real Life (my lesbian chic style blog)

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  4. Oh lordy. I cannot believe some of the shit that gets said in the name of fashion. Really have no idea how that piece got past any kind of editor. Never understood why sexuality has anything to do with appearance or style. Anyone who buys into that crap needs to get a few more gay and lesbian friends. Well said lady
    xxx

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  5. i'm gay, too, in case that got lost somewhere in my rant. i think as far as style.com is concerned, the idea of femme identity or presentation is completely elusive.

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  6. Eloquent yet fierce as always, Ms Mason

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  7. Nicolette, great piece. What strikes me most, though, is how you could replace "queer" or "lesbian" with "plus" or (the dreaded) "curvy" and it would still hold together. There are few representatives of non-thin women in fashion, and "every 10 years or so" the fashion industry "discovers" plus or curvy women (even though we represent fully half of American women at any given time). And every few years there's a "new" curvy model that's lauded as amazingly beautiful (Robin Lawley, Crystal Renn, Tara Lynn, Barbara Brickner, Kate Dillon, Emme, et al), as if beauty could be reduced to a size.

    Plus, honestly? "Lesbian chic"? Offensive, no?

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  8. Adeola Naomi AderemiAugust 30, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    Great piece!

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  9. Yes, I picked up on that :) So you know where I'm coming from! I'm not totally sure what the point of the style.com article was...I hope they were trying to be funny and just didn't pull it off well. I don't really find it offensive, just a little odd.

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  10. I love that you actually took the time to talk about this. At first I was put off by the title since I identify with the lgbt community/am attracted to females but I like your point of view. I feel like it's belittling in a way to make how lesbians typically dress into some sort of "trend". I understand that the intention is to play on what people usually call menswear but if you ask me it was a poor choice of words. But then again, the fashion industry is constantly inappropriately and horribly appropriating things (various cultures for instance) so I guess I can't say I'm surprised.

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  11. I am proud of you Nikki, your ever loving Dad

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  12. whenever they say we are "so & so" friendly they always refer to the stereotypes..they never rise above or go beyond...this is the kind of article i enjoy and admire because it is honest ..i won't say it is brave because you don't need to be brave to call an ace an ace..the voices exist and they are getting heard..love ya!

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  13. LOVE YOUR BLOG! :)

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  14. Oh my God, your dad is the sweetest thing!

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  15. So, my intent is not to blatantly offend or show privilege here (so if I do, I already apologize because this is not my area of expertise AT ALL) - I'm also praying I just don't sound super dumb.

    Would this "trend" be valid if this wasn't about a sexual orientation (because lesbian encompasses a variety of presentations), but rather say a "butch" look? Because aren't there studs that have a style similar to your "lesbian style" round up? (although i'll add that most of the ones I know are black, so there wouldn't be much use for that hair product or comb :])

    I'm not disputing that this original piece is dumb, because it is in a very obvious way. I guess I'm wondering if you were to attempt to improve it, (not of the point of the blog, i know) would that be an appropriate way to go about it? and is it appropriation to push a butch/stud/ag aesthetic by using Rhianna or Rita Ora as an example?

    I know this is all over the place, but I just wanted to pick your brain further. Love your work.

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  16. Thanks for your response Ariel. It doesn't sound privilege ridden, at all, but rather - honest and thoughtful.

    What maybe isn't coming across in my post is that the first paragraph and the collage are a parody of the original Style.com piece. The collage is based on their depiction of "lesbian chic," which is certainly derivative (and reductive) of butch/ag/stud styles and aesthetics. The round-up/collage I made is meant to be a tongue in cheek response to the Style.com piece, as if you can "buy into" an identity or culture (if we can call a sexual orientation that) just by picking up a few of this season's staples.

    And, yes - I think dubbing Rihanna as an example IS appropriative - but only because people like Maya Singer (the writer for Style), are dubbing the aesthetic as "lesbian." I don't think that Rihanna (or her stylist) are being appropriative, however, because the idea of "dressing like a lesbian" is fucking absurd. There's no one way that queer people dress; there is no one overwhelming "trend" among queer people.

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  17. Also, obviously - this stereotyping comes from the fact that people like Maya Singer (and people in general, but I don't want to be too presumptuous) only recognize people with gender variant presentation as being visibly queer.

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  18. just one of the many ways that the fashion industry displays its overwhelming privilege (and ignorance). :)

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  19. I'm incredibly lucky to be your daughter.

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  20. honestly, i think i would find it less absurd/offensive/weird if it was just about menswear and fashion inspiration, but then the writer threw in lines like, "perhaps it means that in an industry stuffed with attractive young
    women, a few more of them may start dating each other. (Seriously:
    trying to catch a straight man in fashion is like trying to catch a
    rainbow.)"

    I mean....

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  21. I got the parody part and it made me chuckle softly. I guess I was just wondering about the conversation about beyond that point and if there is a way to discuss the styles/aesthetics of a subculture (can't think of a better word right now) within a minority group (or a minority group period) that wouldn't be completely offensive and ridiculous like the Style.com one you're mocking.

    More importantly, are you suggesting Rih Rih doesn't dress herself?! *feigns shock and horror*

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  22. I completely agree -- I think similar critique can be applied to the way that the fashion industry deals with and appropriates most "niche" or minority groups.

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  23. I think that if the goal is to "improve" the fashion, or to discuss how a minority group may be influencing mass culture, it has to come from within the group itself - not from some outside, disconnected authority. But, the piece isn't just talking about fashion - it's also referring to literal sexual orientation as a trend, (i.e. "perhaps it means that in an industry stuffed with attractive young
    women, a few more of them may start dating each other. (Seriously:
    trying to catch a straight man in fashion is like trying to catch a
    rainbow,)" and this is insanely problematic.

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  24. That's another point that hadn't occured to me, but you're right. Visibility (invisibility?) is totally not apart of this trend rundown and that seems like such a basic oversight. Has there been any feedback from the author or the website about the piece?

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  25. It just clicked for me. Thanks, Nicolette for your patience.

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  26. Style.com doesn't care about my lil blog :)

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  27. Um I don't like women I would ROCK most of this stuff. What does this say about my married (in love with my hubby) ass?

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  28. Nothing, because the idea of "dressing like a lesbian" is absurd :)

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  29. This is so ridiculous. How is it that people can continue to live in this world and think it's okay to write pieces like this? If they wanted to cover this supposed trend, why wouldn't they discuss masculine or androgynous dressing, instead of calling it "lesbian chic"?? Freaking rude.

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  30. Totally agree! My wife and I are totally fashion victims... but we don't see any representation of us in the fashion world. Well, I guess that there are not many gay women in the public scene in general, it doesn't matter the field or circle.

    http://theslowpace.wordpress.com

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  31. thanks for this post, nicole. it sums up exactly what I was trying to put into words.

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  32. I was so confused when I read the first section of this article and I all ready to get incensed before I continue reading. You're so right. To reduce and entire population down to a "trend" is abhorent and offensive. Being queer is an identity not a trend, and frankly, I'm surprised there hasn't been more backlash. For shame style.com!

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  33. This makes me think back to when a couple of girls I knew came out as being lesbian or even bisexual and they were told that they were only taking part of a fad that they would grow out of. The original article seems to be implying the same: That lesbianism is a fad to embrace, then put on a shelf soon enough. It's so fucking silly! Plus, I know maybe one lesbian who dresses and looks like the stereotype.

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  34. Thank you for this post, there are some really great points here! Just to add a little something: there is more than a little fetishization going on in the original piece that I find really unsettling. In addition to the comments about catching a rainbow (kind of funny language they chose for this particular sentence, no?) the author is commodifying a sexual identity--a very specific manifestation of a queer female identity. Female bodies, specifically in the image accompanying the piece, are being relegated to prescribed, sexualized roles--on display for other's pleasure (or so it seems from the tone of the Style piece) rather than a manifestation of their own desires.


    -Rachel
    www.thecuratorial.com

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  35. Wow, lesbians are visible in the mainstream fashion media AND menswear/androgyny is a growing trend! Let's slap those together and write ... this piece? I think they might have been trying to say something about how sneakers are replacing heels amongst the most chic plus Jenna Lyons (isn't she Jenna not Jenny?) might have left her husband for a woman (maybe really she did; I am not intimate with fashion gossip) and somehow that constitutes a trend? There is material for a trend piece here, but they sure didn't nail it. And that thing about dating was just INCREDIBLY STUPID.

    No point in my ranting more here except to wish that there was more intelligent fashion writing in the world. And maybe you could write something about boyishness/androgyny if you wanted. I love menswear style for myself but it is next to impossible to find it cut for curvy/busty women.

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  36. the tone of the article is what gets me... it implies that these "lovely lesbians" are just *dabbling* in the fashionable art of lady-loving because it's JUST SO CHIC!
    uhg... at least it made me laugh.

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  38. Wow! Fascinating article, brave approach and way to break it down. I am not a lesbian, but have been attracted to androgynous fashion since I can remember and idolizing Prince n Madonna! Always fearing what I'm wearing is going to make me look "gay"! Love u Nicolette!

    Www.thickdaddys.blogspot.com

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