Skip to main content
Lesbian Fashion

Jun 6, 2024

Lesbian Fashion: Outfits, Challenges, and Representation

Finnegan Shepard Founder of Both&

Fashion is a powerful form of self-expression, reflecting individual identities and personal styles. For lesbians, clothing can carry even more weight, as a significant part of expressing their sexual orientation and finding community. This blog post explores various aspects of lesbian fashion, from masc outfits to wedding attire, and delves into the challenges and media representation trends. We'll also look at top brands, and common accessories and footwear choices in the lesbian community.

Before we get into all of these topics though, we wanted to take a moment to talk about lesbian fashion from a more philosophical, psychological, and emotional lens. So without further ado…

 

What Even is Lesbian Fashion?

I transitioned in 2019. Before that, the world predominantly read me as a lesbian, which was never an identity I strongly identified with, but one that I learned to make a home in, given that it was what the world assumed of me. So to reflect on lesbian fashion is an interesting position for me–on the one hand, I very much empathize with the process, feelings, and intuitions that I’ve heard many lesbians talk about, and on the other hand I feel a bit like an imposter or outsider. Regardless, it’s worth exploring these common themes.

First off, it’s interesting to ask the question of what defines lesbian style as ‘lesbian.’ In blunt terms, lesbian is a descriptor of sexuality. One can argue that gender shouldn’t have anything to do with fashion either, but the reality is that historically, style, fashion, and fit have very much developed through a binary lens. But what does sexuality have to do with it? Presumably, fashion as it relates to sexuality is also passed, secondarily, through a kind of gendered lens. In simple terms, we have signalled to others our sexuality (at times) by playing with the binary and presentation through both coded and explicit signals.

As gender queer identities have become more and more a part of the cultural lexicon, I’ve noticed less use (anecdotally) of terms like ‘butch’ or ‘femme’, which used to be more common terms to delineate style/identity/presentation within the lesbian community. Instead, there is an ascribed presumption that anyone who is dressing in a more masc way may be gender queer or nonbinary, rather than their fashion being a representation of sexuality by itself.

But of course, lesbian fashion is absolutely a thing, and exists separate from/within a more gender-expansive world. So how do we define it? How do you–if you are here reading this–navigate it in a way that feels true to you?

 

Masc Lesbian Outfits

Model Madi, sitting on the floor against a door, in franklin long sleeve and denim jeans

Masc lesbian outfits often emphasize a more androgynous or masculine style, blending comfort with a strong sense of identity. These outfits can range from casual to formal, but they all share a common theme of breaking away from traditional feminine fashion norms. Historically, this style was more associated with the word ‘butch.’ Today, while butch is still in use, another word has come to the forefront of culture: masc. Below, we list some of the most common examples of masc lesbian outfits:

Casual Wear

Flannels and Button-ups: Flannel shirts and button-ups are staples in the masc lesbian wardrobe. They offer a versatile look that can be dressed up or down and provide a relaxed yet stylish vibe. From a fit perspective, flannels tend to be a fav amongst lesbians because they often have a boxier (rather than rectangular) shape.

Jeans and Cargo Pants: Durable and practical, jeans and cargo pants are popular for their comfort and ruggedness. Paired with a simple t-shirt or tank top, they create a classic, laid-back look. (You can get Both& jeans here, and cargos here.)

Jean Jackets and Hoodies: For cooler weather, jean jackets and hoodies are go-to items. They add an extra layer of warmth without compromising on style, and both tend to (like flannels) have a boxy shape. (You can get the Both& jean jacket here, and the hoody here).

Different lesbian, masc-leaning outfits, featuring beanie, hoody, cargo pants and cargo shorts

Formal Wear

Suits and Blazers: Masc lesbians often gravitate towards suits and blazers for formal occasions. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to find ready to wear suits and blazers that fit in the way masc lesbians want, so many folks in the community end up getting tailored pieces. Tailored suits can be very sharp, but of course are pricey.

Ties and Bowties: Accessories like ties and bowties add a personal touch to formal outfits. They can range from classic black to bold patterns, allowing for individual expression.

Footwear

Boots and Sneakers: Boots, such as Doc Martens, and sneakers, like Converse or Vans, are common choices. They offer both style and practicality, suitable for various occasions.

 

Lesbian Outfits at Weddings

Whether it’s your wedding or you are attending someone else’s wedding, finding the right outfit can feel overwhelming. The significance of the event puts extra weight on your presentation, and for many lesbians there can be a tension between how they prefer to dress day to day and the expectation of a much more formal (and potentially more femme) presentation at a wedding. Some lesbians take the opportunity (and enjoy) wearing a traditional bridal gown for a wedding, regardless of how they dress day to day. Other’s opt for tuxedos, three piece suits, or non traditional dresses. A brand that specializes in making masculine formal wear is Kirrin Finch.

 

Challenges of Finding Good Clothing for Lesbians

Finding clothing that fits both style and body can be challenging for lesbians. The fashion industry has historically catered to heteronormative standards, often neglecting the diverse needs of the LGBTQ+ community. This is especially the case when it comes to fit patterns–lesbians often find themselves in the same position as nonbinary or transmasc folks, who want a masculine silhouette but don’t fit well into cis men’s clothing. This is because of body proportion–for instance, torso length relative to hip width. To address this issue requires a new fit system, which until recently simply didn’t exist. To learn more about the creation of the first masc fit and sizing system, we recommend you explore this resource.

 

Current Media Trends for Representation of Lesbians

Media representation plays a crucial role in shaping societal perceptions and providing visibility for marginalized communities. In recent years, there has been a positive shift towards more inclusive and diverse representation of lesbians in media.

Television and Film

Inclusive Storylines: Shows like "The L Word," "Orange is the New Black," and "Gentleman Jack" have brought lesbian stories to the forefront, showcasing diverse characters and relationships.

Authentic Representation: Increasingly, lesbian characters are portrayed with depth and authenticity, moving away from stereotypical or tokenized roles. This trend helps normalize lesbian identities and provides viewers with relatable role models. In the recent film ‘Love Lies Bleeding’, the main characters are lesbian, but that is not the focus of the movie, it is simply a fact of their being. In a way it is sad that this is revolutionary, but we seem to only now be getting to a place where diverse sexual orientations can be a norm, or baseline in a story, rather than the focus of the story.

Social Media

Influencers and Activists: Social media platforms have empowered lesbian influencers and activists to share their styles and stories, creating a sense of community and visibility. Figures like Hayley Kiyoko, King Princess, and Samira Wiley use their platforms to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and representation.

Hashtags and Movements: Hashtags like #LesbianFashion and #LGBTQStyle have become popular, allowing users to explore and share fashion inspiration within the community.

 

Common Accessories and Footwear for Lesbians

Accessories and footwear are essential components of any outfit, providing the finishing touches that express personal style and identity. For lesbians, these items can be both practical and symbolic.

Accessories

Hats and Beanies: Hats, such as snapbacks, beanies, and fedoras, are popular choices that add flair and individuality to an outfit. They also serve practical purposes, like protecting from the sun or keeping warm.

Jewelry: From minimalist pieces to bold statement jewelry, accessories like rings, necklaces, and bracelets can reflect personal tastes and significant symbols, such as pride flags or meaningful charms.

Belts and Suspenders: Belts and suspenders are functional and stylish, often used to add a touch of personality to outfits. They can also be practical for ensuring a better fit.

Footwear

Boots: Boots, especially combat or work boots, are a common choice for their durability and style. Brands like Doc Martens and Timberland are favorites for their iconic looks and comfort.

Sneakers: Sneakers are versatile and comfortable, making them a staple in many wardrobes. Brands like Converse, Vans, and Adidas offer a range of styles that can be dressed up or down.

Loafers and Dress Shoes: For more formal occasions, loafers and dress shoes provide a polished look. These options are perfect for pairing with suits or more dressy attire.

 

Conclusion

Lesbian fashion is as diverse and dynamic as the community itself. From masc lesbian outfits to wedding attire, the challenges of finding good clothing, media representation, and common accessories and footwear, there are many aspects to explore and celebrate. As society continues to progress towards greater inclusivity and acceptance, it’s essential to recognize and support the unique fashion needs and expressions of lesbians, fostering a world where everyone can confidently and authentically express themselves through style. As we explored at the beginning of this post, we are living in an interesting time in which there is a large overlap between how gender queer or nonbinary folks dress and are ‘read’ in culture and the space that lesbians have historically taken up. There are of course people who identify as both gender queer and as lesbians, but for those who identify as cisgender, lesbian, and like to dress in a more masc way, the landscape has altered. One of the pros of this shift is that there are now far more options–for instance, a large portion of Both&’s customer base are lesbians, who find the masc fit in our stylish, high quality basics that they’ve always been looking for.