A New Meaning for Lesbian Chic

Niki Cutler is the mastermind behind Dykes in the City, a
clothing line for lesbians, by lesbians. Cutler said she thinks that butch and
femme still exists and that femmes are a strong part of the community
— their personal style included.

"Perhaps [butch/femme] exists in my fashion because I would like to
offer to our community what I believe would be fashionably representative of
myself (a boi) and the woman that I date (a femme)," she wrote via email.
"Of course there are many facets of gender, and trust me, my fierce femme
friends have opened my eyes to be less stereotypical in characteristics of
gender. I have learned many a lesson. But I like to be challenged and put in my
place."

Cutler’s designs are largely for a modern butch crowd:
tuxedo-style button-downs, work shirts, ribbed tank tops and beanies, all
emblazoned with the DITC logo. But there are a few skirts in the collection, as
well, catering to femmes — or perhaps the butches who love them.

Fashion from DITC

"I think society looks for ways to categorize groups of human beings,
and perhaps historically dykes had more important things on their plates than
purchasing high fashion," Cutler said. "They were busy paving the way
for the future generations to take the next steps within the dyke culture, some
of those steps being arts and fashion. I think as time goes on, the stereotype
of lesbians not being into fashion will fade away because of these companies
that are producing the hottest trends in all of fashion, not just dyke
fashion."

Increasingly, fashion that purposely reads as
"butch" (or, perhaps, "lesbian") is being marketed directly
toward lesbians. Shot at Love
contestant Dani Campbell‘s clothing
line Futch will include clothing cut in a more "aggressive" style.
Other lesbian-owned and operated clothing lines include Rigged Outfitters, a
New York company currently in the process of relocating to San Francisco, that
features tuxedo shirts printed with tattoo-inspired designs and the words ladykiller and outlaw.

"Dykes are really trendsetters in fashion, and I try very hard to
locate the next trend and provide it for the people," Cutler said.
"Regardless, I think there is something to be said about taking fashion
and putting some sort of meaning behind it.”

Femmes might be more inspired by the likes of Beth Ditto,
the frontwoman of the Gossip who likes to rifle through racks at thrift stores
and recreate dresses and tunics to her liking. She recently told Nylon magazine she is writing her own
"style guide," and that fashion to her has always been about
"punk."

Beth Ditto

"In elementary school, I was the only kid in class who
knew who Todd Oldham was," said Ditto. "When you’re my size or you
don’t have a lot of money, one reason punk is so appealing is because it tells
you that you don’t have to have anything to be somebody. You can wear your
mom’s nightgown to school and be awesome — that’s where fashion comes
from. Whenever I meet designers now, they’re always coming from the same
place."

She also said she was inspired by political movements as
fashion movements. "Look at the Black Panthers and Riot Grrrl and the
feminists of the ’70s not wearing bras — those are fashion statements. But
I mean, I also enjoy it. I am a woman who likes to get dressed up."

As a queer rock star who performs on an international stage,
Ditto has an opportunity to "dress up" on a regular basis and show
off her style. Instead of viewing fashion as something shallow that has nothing
to do with her performance, she uses it to represent herself. In turn, she’s
respected for the way she presents herself as much as she is for her booming,
soulful vocals.

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