Butch Style

Papermag’s Drag Kings
September 3, 2010, 3:59 pm
Filed under: articles, clothing | Tags: , ,

Do you want to see a whole bunch of attractive women bend some gender? What a silly question. Of course you do. Papermag has an absolutely fantastic piece up with 14 women from the fashion and entertainment industries dressing in drag and posing for the camera. The list includes a wide gender spectrum from queer hearthrob Jenny Shimizu to actress Gretchen Mol and designer Rachel Roy. The article also includes some great thoughts from the participants on gender presentation and their own masculinity. Ronson Crow, an LA artist, said about dressing as a man, “I’m fascinated with dressing up and how it can play into the power of gender stereotypes and relationships.”

And as if that weren’t enough for a great read, the piece also lists the clothing that each model is wearing. Linda Fargo up at the top there is wearing a jacket ($400) and watch from Diesel, a shirt by American Apparel ($20), Levi’s jeans ($128), and a vintage bandanna ($12) and belt ($75).

It’s all a stylish little butch’s heart could ask for. Go read.


How to Fit a Suit
September 2, 2010, 9:58 am
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The suit is classic and timeless, and a well-fitting suit can help you feel your best and give you confidence in your appearance. It can also be a necessity for a butch working in a formal office setting or going to a friend’s wedding. Unfortunately, buying a suit can be especially difficult for us butches. Some of us have to deal with large chests and wide hips that suit designers did not have in mind. And most of us never had the experience of wearing a suit growing up so it’s hard to know where to even begin. I’ve done some research to come up with a guide for those buying their first suit, and I’m hoping it will help.

To get a general idea for your size, you can measure yourself. Alternately, when you hit the store – if you are comfortable with it – the salesperson will be able to measure you and suggest suits for your body type. There are many different cuts, especially in the jacket – box-shaped, tapering, hourglass, slim, wide, etc – so try on as many as you can get your hands on. As for fabric, you probably want to look at wool for your first suit. Worsted wool, which is midweight and very durable, is a classic suit choice and good for most climates. Heavier wool is good for winter but won’t make a year-round suit. Linen is nice in the summer or in warmer climates, but it wrinkles easily.

You might be lucky enough to find a suit that fits you perfectly, but more than likely you won’t. This is where the tailor comes in – and this is an expected part of buying a suit. A lot of places that sell suits will have an in-house tailor or one that visits regularly. If they don’t, ask them (or friends!) for recommendations or check out DapperQ’s map to find a queer-friendly tailor near you. Some aspects of your suit’s fit are easy – and cheap – to alter, and some are near impossible. Here are some things that you want to look for when trying on a suit, and how easy they might be to alter if they’re not perfect.


The jacket itself should be long enough to cover your butt when your arms are relaxed, but you should be able to grab the bottom edge with your fingers. Alternately, you can measure the length to one inch below your crotch – your actual crotch, not that of your pants. The sleeves should just cover your wristbone. A too-long jacket in either area is one of the easiest things for a tailor to fix. It’s also possible, in some cases, to lengthen a jacket’s hem, assuming that there is enough fabric in the existing hem and that the jacket does not have rounded corners.


The jacket’s shoulders should sit flat and fit your shoulder without extending beyond it. They should also not be too snug – you shouldn’t feel tightness or pulling on your upper arms. When your arms are relaxed, your upper arm should be directly in the center of the sleeve. If it is pushing on the front, back, or outside of the sleeve you will get wrinkles. Shoulder width is very difficult and intensive to change, so this is one of the top priorities in buying a suit off the rack. Likewise, the way your arm hangs in the sleeve is exceptionally difficult to alter. Some suits have shoulder pads and some don’t – it’s entirely a matter of personal preference. Shoulder pads can help you look more masculine, if that’s what you’re after. But don’t go overboard.


You should be able to button the front buttons easily and without creasing the suit in the back or around the buttons. If the lapels pull open when the suit is buttoned, it’s too small around your torso. On the other hand, you don’t want it too loose – look for no more than 3 inches (or a clenched fist) between the top button and your torso. You also don’t want a jacket that’s stretched over your butt. If you’re trying on a jacket with no vents and it’s too tight in the butt region, try on a jacket with a vent or two. The fit around the torso can be altered – to an extent. A competent tailor will be able to bring in the waist or make the entire body slimmer.


The back of the collar should end at the middle of your neck and shouldn’t pull away from the back of your neck. If you find excess fabric below the back of the collar, a tailor can pull this up under the collar.


Generally, you want your trousers to be comfortable. They should fit like any other pair of pants around the waist. They should fit snugly but fall straight down with no creasing. The bottom of the trouser should fall on your shoe with a slight break. Pants are, again, easy to shorten and possible to lengthen depending on the availability of extra fabric in the hem.  Most suit pants have cuffs around 1″, but you can wear the pants sans-cuff as well.


You should be able to move around easily in your suit. Swing your arms around. Crouch down, sit on a chair. Take a look at the suit in all positions, and make sure you can stick your arm out enough to shake someone’s hand without the jacket sleeve creeping up to your bicep.

The Butch Clothing Company: Stylish Suits for Every Butch
June 30, 2010, 10:03 am
Filed under: articles | Tags: , , , ,
Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian

If you haven’t already heard, the holy grail of butch fashion just opened up in England. Shaz Riley, a self-identified butch woman and newcomer to the fashion scene, recently started a company catering to the clothing needs of her butch sisters. The Butch Clothing Company, based in Brighton, makes classic men’s suits, shirts, and trousers, but cuts them to fit a woman’s body – specifically, each client’s body.


I had the chance to interview Shaz about her new business. She talked to me about her current and future goals, inspirations, and even how those of us not lucky enough to live in Brighton might get our hands on a custom-made suit.


How long have you been working in fashion, and what got you involved?
I have only been in the fashion industry for this past 12 months. The idea for the company and consequent training and company formation was born from the vision I had had for many years to create a bespoke clothing company for Butch women. The House of Butch we like to say!


How did you get the idea to start the Butch Clothing Company?
The idea was purely born from my own experience. I know, being a butch all my life, how difficult it is to safely, enjoyably and successfully purchase a suit that fits perfectly.


What makes your clothing unique?
We have taken classic male fashions, styles and designs and stayed true to them, because that’s what Butch women want As I always say, we aren’t reinventing the wheel. But through a process of deconstruction and then reconstruction we have worked out how to fit a suit perfectly to any butch women no matter their height or weight.


How has the response been, from the lesbian community and otherwise?
Well there have been a couple of negative – dare I say rude – comments about me (which I find actually very amusing), but I have to say the rest of the world has embraced the idea , the company and me. As a company we are thrilled and excited by the positive responses from every corner of the globe, from well wishers and perspective buyers.


What are your future plans and goals for your company?
We hope to continue to grow as a global company while remaining  committed to our responsible business practice and our partnership with our ethical manufacturer. We are committed to developing a world wide client database. As for  our designs, we will consistently offer stylish, classic bespoke suits of the highest quality. And who knows, we may even consider a casual range for The BCC brand. Wouldn’t that be cool!


How would you describe your personal style?
I have many styles from casual to formal. I have an eclectic taste. I have however, having entered into a very loving relationship and given up smoking in the last 2.5 years put on considerable weight which I am currently in the process of dropping. Ask me the same question in 6 months!


Is there any hope of buying your clothing for women not in the UK?
Yes, we are very happy to consider overseas clients. What we intend to do is catalogue the interest around the world and try and map out where the main interest is. In the USA, for example, we have alot of interest in New York. So when we have a list of clients stateside in NY or willing to travel there, we will arrange a consultation room and offer the same service we do in Brighton. Clients will pre book an appointment, and we will charge an upfront reservation fee to ensure the clients will keep their appointments. Then we will meet; discuss the clients design; choose the fabrics, linings and detailing; and then measure up for the suit. When the suit is ready we will return for the final fitting.

How To: Cook With Your Car
June 22, 2010, 9:34 am
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The way to any woman’s heart is through her car engine. Er, stomach. Whatever. Either way, you can woo your lady or save time during your commute by cooking with your car. Yes, with. Not in, or on, or near, but in fact by using the heat that your car produces from driving.

The key is to discover the temperatures of the various metal bits under your car’s hood, which you can do by poking around after a drive. Then, match these up with your usual recipes – the hotter parts of the engine perhaps for red meat, the cooler parts for fish or for slow-cooking recipes. And the final ingredient is aluminum foil. Lots of aluminum foil. Enough foil to wrap the hell out of your food, and then wrap it again, and then wrap it some more for fun, and finally wrap it to make sure it’s firmly wedged against the closed car hood.

Ok, so it’s not terribly practical. But it would certainly be fun to try on a road trip, and imagine showing up to work every morning and taking out some freshly cooked bacon and toast.

Read more about it here, or buy the authoritative guide on the subject: Manifold Destiny

How To: Tailor Men’s Shirts
June 12, 2010, 11:54 am
Filed under: articles, clothing | Tags: , , ,

Are you a little bit country and a little bit DIY? Are you better than I am at sewing? Then DapperQ has a great video tutorial for you. Unfortunately, many of us want to wear men’s shirts but they tend to not fit right on our bodies. So this video will show you some of the easiest tricks to make sure those great new button-downs make you look great.

Go watch!

Clothing for Short Folks
May 28, 2010, 12:32 pm
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Hudson’s Guide has a really great section on finding shorter and smaller clothing. It’s written for FTM guys, but it’s also a great resource for women trying to find the perfect fit in mens’ clothing. Here’s an excerpt on fitting dress shirts:

Sizing in shirts
Most men’s shirts that are simply labeled “small” (but don’t necessarily have specific measurements listed on the package or label) usually are around the ballpark of a 14-14.5 inch collar, a 34-36 inch chest, and a “regular” sleeve length of 32-33 inches. “Short” sleeve lengths of 30-31 are sometimes available. Of course, the exact measurements of a men’s size “small” will vary among manufacturers– you might find that some brands of small are larger or cut differently than others.

Men’s dress shirts will be typically be sized with specific measurements for neck circumference and sleeve length, with the neck measurement listed first. The chest/waist size ratio of most dress shirts is determined by the manufacturer to be in proportion to the neck size. This can be a challenge in fitting for guys who are short and heavy. Dress shirts can be found in “regular” fit, as well as “athletic” or “trim” fit (with a slight taper toward the waist, for those with broader shoulders and a thin waistline) and “full cut” for those who need a little more room around the middle.

Getting the right fit
Keep in mind that some stores may have their own special fit charts and size tips. This is particularly good to check when shopping online or through catalogs. It’s always a good idea to consult sizing charts, ask questions if you are unsure, and find out the return policy in case something doesn’t fit as you hoped.

Clothes are designed with different cuts and styles that flatter some body types and not others– just because a shirt or pair of pants is made with your measurements doesn’t mean it is going to look good on you! Try clothes on to be sure. This is especially true if you are trying to find clothes to take emphasis away from wide hips or narrow shoulders. …

Finally, don’t forget the option of alterations by a tailor or by someone you know with sewing skills. If you are just a little shorter than the average sized pant length available in your area, pants can be easily hemmed to the correct length. Sleeves can also be shortened, though for a good dress shirt you might want to check a short man’s specialty store to obtain a better overall fit.

Go read the whole thing!

How To: Keep Your Polo Collar from Flopping Around
May 14, 2010, 9:55 am
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My polo shirt collars look like crap. They’re all curly and floppy because I buy cheap polos and I’ve never done anything to keep them otherwise. Here are the three solutions I’ve found to this problem:

1) Once you’ve washed your shirt either hang it up right away or throw it in the dryer for 5 or 10 minutes and then hang it up. When you hang it, smooth it out and make sure the collar is nice and flat. Once it dries, it should stay pointy. If this doesn’t work …

2) Iron it. Flip the collar up and spray either some starch (for a stiffer collar) or sizing (for a crisp but maleable collar), both of which you should be able to find and your local grocery or drug store. Then put a towel over the collar – you don’t want the iron directly on the shirt – and iron those points flat. Un-pop the collar and you’re set. Or …

3) Use a collar stay. Yes, there are a couple of companies that actually sell stick-on collar stays for polo shirts. I’d only recommend this if you wear your polos to work or you don’t mind people giggling about your dorky collar stays.