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 presence 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.
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 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.
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 genderqueer 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
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, affordable, and designed with gorgeous queer ladies in mind,”they told Dapper Q back in April.
…as I was walking through the bus station an interfering busybody asked me why I needed a cane, at my age. ‘It was a car accident,’ I said, which usually shuts people up, but not her.
‘You shouldn’t use it, you should try to manage without it. It’s obvious you don’t really need it.’
I just walked on and ignored her, but I was shaking. It might seem as if I don’t need it, walking along on flat ground, but I need it if I have to stand still, and I really need it for stairs and broken ground, and I never know from one minute to another if I’m going to be the way I am today or the way I was yesterday, when I could barely put any weight on my leg at all.
‘See, you’re walking really fast now, you don’t need it at all,’ she called after me.
I stopped and turned around. I could feel my cheeks burning. The bus station was full of people. ‘Nobody would pretend to be a cripple! Nobody would use a stick they didn’t need! You should be ashamed of yourself for thinking that I would. If I could walk without it I’d break it in half across your back and run off singing. You have no right to talk to me like that, to talk to anyone like that. Who made you queen of the world when I wasn’t looking? Why do you imagine I would go out with a stick I don’t need—to try to steal your sympathy? I don’t want your sympathy, that’s the last thing I want. I just want to mind my own business, which is what you should have been doing.’
Jo Walton, Among Others (via se-smith)
When I first started using my cane, an anon asked me why I deserved it. Not even why I needed it, but why I deserved it.
THE FACT I CANNOT CUDDLE MY FRIENDS OVER THE INTERNET PISSES ME OFF BYE
when people try to speak on the behalf of entire fandoms
A new report shows that women in New York City are 30 percent more likely to die in childbirth than they were just 12 years ago, with black women facing a maternal mortality rate of 79 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 10 per 100,000 live births for white women. Furthermore, infant mortality rates among black women nearly triple that of white women.
C. Nicole Mason, the executive director of the Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest and author of the report, told us that the spike in the maternal mortality rate among African American women in poor communities is largely based on three factors: Poor prenatal and postpartum care, higher rates of c-sections and most significantly, other health factors, like obesity. In fact, Mason said, 40 percent of women who die from “maternal related complications” are overweight. In short, though, Mason said it’s an issue of access. “We really need to think about how women in poor communities are treated from the time they become pregnant until they deliver, and whether they’re getting the health care they deserve,” she said.
The report, published by the New York Women’s Foundation, also found that at 32 percent, Brooklyn has the highest rate of new HIV diagnosis among women. Black women comprise a startling 64.6 percent of new HIV diagnoses, followed by Latinas at 27.8 percent. Ana Oliveira, the foundation’s president, told the Daily News that the statistics were “very troubling,” and called for a “community-based effort in which we bring together fundamental services.”
Despite conditions for women being most dismal in Brooklyn and the Bronx, the report also said that economic disparities are “most pronounced in Manhattan.” Which borough is overall best for women? Staten Island. With lower than average poverty and unemployment rates, the island also has the lowest levels of public assistance and highest median family income.
Further information from the New York Women’s Foundation report available here.