I’ve dealt with more than a few challenges in planning my wedding, not least of which includes a father who still thinks everything should cost what it did in 1976 and my own pathological inability to make any decision without first thoroughly considering countless other options that I already know deep down I am not going to choose anyway.
My fiancée and I visited 12 different venues before we eventually selected the first one we saw – a month later. I tried on no fewer than 20 wedding dresses in search of a style that did not exist on this planet until I found a great seamstress who’s currently busy customizing my gown to my heart’s content. I’ve exchanged 53 emails with my invitation maker. Each of my five bridesmaids had a very different idea of what she wanted to wear and I somehow managed to get them all into the same soft pink dress that I love. After months of staring blissfully at my beautiful engagement ring, I’ve recently discovered that I can’t fit a wedding band on my short finger with my rock, so I have to have my e-ring modified slightly before my big day. But, all of these challenges – sticking to a budget, finding the perfect dress, coercing my bridesmaids into submission – pale in comparison to this: finding formalwear for women who don’t wear dresses.
Custom suit for the broom?
The easiest way to get menswear that is cut for lady parts is to have it custom made. Not surprisingly, it is also the most expensive option. However, buying a custom outfit for my fiancée has turned out to be not quite as pricy as I feared – and worth every penny because she looks super hot. If you’re the one getting married, I’d say investing in a custom suit or tux is the way to go. You’ll look and feel better in something that fits just right. Plus, unlike a poufy wedding dress, a custom suit is something you’ll wear again. If you’re on a budget, consider getting just one piece custom made. Maybe you can buy pants and a vest off the rack and then have jacket designed to match them.
All that said, finding a custom clothier who is willing and able to design a suit for a woman is easier said than done. You need to choose someone who you feel comfortable with because this person will be making the most important outfit of your life (and also measuring the circumference of your thighs). My suggestion would be to go into the shop and explain that you’re looking for a custom wedding suit for a butch lesbian. If the staff looks confused or scared, move along – there will be someone else who gets it. If the tailor seems like he or she might be up for the job, ask how many suits they’ve made for women and ask to see photos. Designing a suit is not rocket science, I’ll admit, but making clothing for women’s bodies is just different than making it for men’s bodies. Unless you want to be somebody’s guinea pig, find a suit maker who has experience working with women.
But what about the wedding party?
If you have the cash to go custom all the way, your problems are solved. You’ll be able to get formalwear for everyone in your wedding that is just as masculine or feminine as she would like it to be and fits her like a glove. But, even if a bespoke suit for the broom is in your budget, you can’t really ask your non-dress-wearing attendants to drop four figures on a custom outfit for your wedding.
Just last night, my sister could not understand why my fiancée and I are having such a hard time dressing our “broomspeople,” which include one adorable gay man, one feminine straight woman and three hot lesbians who each fall on a different point of the spectrum between butch and femme. So, my well-meaning sister googled our problem and the first thing that popped up was a column I wrote about lesbian bridal parties last year – ironic, funny and definitely proved my point to my sister.
When I wrote that column, I wasn’t even engaged. My fiancée and several close friends prefer menswear. I also happen to have a lesbian mother who I’ll call soft butch (she says she looks like she’s in drag when she wears a dress – and she’s not entirely wrong). So, at that time, I wasn’t unfamiliar with the challenges of finding stylish clothing for women who prefer masculine or androgynous looks.
However, now that I am in the trenches – scouring the Internet to find outfits for my fiancée’s diverse group of attendants – I feel it is my duty to share with you some things I’ve learned and some options you might consider if you are facing similar gay wedding formalwear predicaments.
I want each of my fiancée’s broomspeople to feel happy and attractive in their outfits, and in the gay community that means allowing them to be as butch or femme as they would be any other night. At the same time, I also want some degree of cohesion, not because I want them to look like Siamese twins, but because they are our special people and I want them to stand out from the crowd. I also don’t want them to go broke buying an outfit for my wedding.
After a lot of back and forth, I think we’ve finally come up with a plan. Our best man will wear a rented tuxedo because, well, he’s a man and won’t face the fit issues the girls would if they tried renting a suit. The one darling straight girl in my fiancée’s party will wear the same frilly dress my bridesmaids are wearing. Who cares that she is on the “other side” of the wedding? We’re getting married, and the way I see it we’re all one big happy family now.
Our other three broomswomen don’t fit neatly into a dress or tuxedo box (and I wouldn’t have it any other way). So, we’ve asked them to purchase the same black pants and jackets. Then, I’m giving them free reign to complete their looks in whatever way they feel most comfortable and attractive. If they’d like to wear a tie and wingtips, great. If they feel happier in a feminine shell and heels, wonderful. I think in the end, the look will be cohesive, but not so matchy matchy that our girls (and boy!) lose all sense of individuality.
So where the heck do you buy this stuff?
Coming up for a vision for a wedding party that spans the butch/femme spectrum is not impossible, but then you have to find a place to buy the damn stuff. I dream of the day when gay women can just waltz into a shop like the thousands that sell wedding gowns and bridesmaids dresses and be greeted by a friendly salesperson ready to show them all kinds of options – lady suits and tuxedos for people with curves in different colors, fabrics and styles. But until that day, we’re on our own, so here are some options I can recommend – and readers, I hope you’ll share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.
Fortunately, menswear for women is having a major moment in fashion, so some of the stuff you previously would have to had search far and wide for is now available at major retailers. I’m partial to J. Crew because I think the company’s rad president Jenna Lyons (who is dating a woman) is secretly designing J. Crew clothing lesbians in mind. I think this J. Crew suit is a universally flattering option and not too businessy looking.
I also love these Banana Republic skinny tuxedo pants. They are the perfect solution for lesbian wedding parties because they can be worn with heels as show or with more masculine shoes. You can pair them with a classic tuxedo jacket for a formal menswear look that actually fits a woman’s body or opt for a ruffled shirt for the girls in your party who like a look that is part butch and part femme.
You’ll find tuxedo jackets for women at just about every single store in the world right now, which is great news for us. You can get white ones, black ones, sparkly ones, and ones with tails. They are everywhere. This sequin-trimmed Michael Kors jacket would be right at home at an evening wedding. It’s formal without being stuffy.
There are also a few online retailers that cater specifically to women looking for menswear. Let’s all patronize them so they succeed and lead other designers to take a risk on us. HerTuxedo.com offers a small selection of tuxedos tailored specifically for women (yay!).
DapperQ is a cool site dedicated to exploring issues related to women who prefer men’s fashion – and it offers all kinds of inspiration and resources. It was on DapperQ that I discovered Kreuzbach10, a company making men’s shirt for women. At last, no more dress shirts that are too big in the shoulders and pinch at the boobs!
I hope I’ve been able to offer a little bit of help to all of your out there searching for formalwear for lesbians. This is one column where your feedback would be really valuable. If you found a suit maker in your town who’s great at dressing women, let us know. If you know a site where lesbians can order menswear that fits their bodies, tell us about it. And if you’ve got photos of boyish lesbians dressed to the nines at your own wedding, share them with us!