Reader Request: A Touch of Butch

Reader Lianne wrote with this challenge:

I’m a long-time jeans-and-t-shirt type who’s always thought that style was something exclusively for very girly women, with the goal of looking feminine or cute; I associated it with a very traditional view of femininity, and with being or acting heterosexual. I’m not straight, and my taste is a little on the butch side, so I figured style wasn’t for me. (Nothing wrong with feminine, cute or heterosexual of course, just not my thing.)

Thanks in no small part to your blog, I’ve started to realize that style can just be about dressing in clothes that make you look and feel amazing, whatever your idea of amazing is. I’m acquiring more interesting pieces that I love and flatter my body, and developing a sense of my own style.

But when it comes to moving beyond tops and into the realm of outfits, I’m lost. The go-to items you and many other fashionistas rely on seem to be mostly very feminine – skirts, cute heels or ballet flats, necklaces, scarves. I’m happy to be female and look female (which is lucky, since I’m petite and feminine in build and would have a rough time pulling off a man’s style), but such specifically feminine articles don’t appeal for me (though they look lovely on many people – I’m not proposing a war against femininity!).

Do you have any suggestions for how to move beyond black dress pants and a blazer without going full-on girly or taking up cross-dressing? I realize this might be rather far out of your realm of interest, but I’ve found your comments on reclaiming femininity interesting and open-minded, so I’d love to hear what you think about UN-femininity even if you don’t have any tips. I know I’m not the only one – there are a lot of people, both straight and queer who, for a wide range of reasons, prefer their style just a little more androgynous.

I asked Lianne to clarify the difference between “butch” and “androgynous,” and we agreed that the former is mostly neutral or masculine elements with a feel of masculine toughness but not necessarily concealing physical gender, while the latter combines explicitly masculine and feminine elements and sometimes obscures physical markers of gender.* And since Lianne described herself as “a little butch” and my own stylistic knowledge skews pretty femme, I made a few suggestions that are probably equal parts butch and androgyny, by our agreed-upon definitions. Here’s what I told her!

Brands to try

Updated to add: In the past few years a number of amazing brands have emerged that cater to women with butch style leanings. The ones on my radar include:

Haute Butchย – everything from bow ties and cufflinks to vests, tees, and button-fronts. Also includes prom and wedding wear.

Saint Harridanย – custom shirts and suits, plus crowd-funded ready-to-wear pieces

Wildfang – great suiting along with jeans, joggers, button-fronts, jackets and more

Androgyny – fab button-fronts in plaids and solids, designed for bodies with curves but not tight or fitted

Also check DapperQ’s amazing list of stores.

BRIGHT PANTS

Vibrantly colored pants scare just about everyone, but since skirts aren’t an option and there’s only so much you can do with a selection of gray, black, and brown slacks, I think tracking down some colorful trousers could work. If bright yellows and greens scare you, try rust, navy, or aubergine to start. Both Land’s End and Old Navy typically stock chinos in a few fun shades.

VESTS

The world of vests has exploded over the past few seasons, and the offerings continue to grow. Many stores are starting to cut vests low to accommodate breasts and some nip in nicely at the waist, but if you prefer a boxier look there are plenty of versions that have a traditional menswear vibe. A sassy, fitted vest over a button-down shirt and sharp slacks looks contemporary and cool. Some good sources for vests: ModCloth, Etsy, and Anthropologie.

FLUEVOGS AND TRIPPENS

Both of these brands are fantastically expensive, but both also make comfortable, gender-neutral shoes that have edge and interest. Fluevog has an entire unisex section with some gorgeously designed shoes, but a few of their women-specific styles are also dynamite. Trippen is a German company and their wares are a bit hard to track down here in the States, but well worth it. (PedShoes sells ’em.) Comfy, funky, and amazingly well made, many offerings are unisex.

FUNKY RINGS

With every passing season, rings seem to get bigger and bolder. Although the multiple-finger styles and enormous chunks of metal are more “tough” than “androgynous,” I think adding a few prime pieces could be a great way to liven up otherwise tame ensembles. People say that after your face, the observing eye travels to your hands. Put something awesome on your fingers, why don’t you? Shopbop and Etsy are both great sources.

PATTERNS

A world of solids can become staid and dull, and adding a few patterns is a great way to enliven androgynous ensembles. Florals, watercolor pastels, and animal prints all read femme, but houndstooth, plaid, some geometrics, and many dark-colored paisleys are more neutral. Blouses and shirts are the easiest pieces, and I’ve gotta put in a plug for the thrift stores here. Nearly ALL of my printed items were thrifted, and secondhand shops of all types are print goldmines, in my opinion!

Most of these suggestions could be implemented for work or casual looks, I think, and most can be done on a budget. OK, maybe not the shoes, but all the others.

This is, undoubtedly, just the tip of the androgynous iceberg! Are you a fan of gender-neutral dressing? What are your favorite techniques and key pieces? How do you keep your looks from falling flat or getting repetitive? Any other brands, looks, or sources of inspiration you could recommend to Lianne or others hoping to spruce up their butch looks?

Images courtesy Old Navy (green pants), ย  ModCloth (vest, plaid shirt, and ring), John Fluevog (shoes), Amazon (wide-leg pants), and

*Neither Lianne nor I are gender studies experts, but we needed some definitions to create the parameters of our discussion. You may disagree with those definitions, but please assume positive intent. This blog is not a scholarly work, nothing in this post is meant to be assumptive or insulting, and even if none of these stylistic suggestions appeal to you, they may to others.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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  • To me Ellen Page is a perfect example of how to rock the butch look without coming off too lumberjack/ Malboro man look-a-like.

    • Jen

      I totally agree! Ellen Page always looks so fun and put together no matter what the situation is. I am always drawn to Ellen DeGeneres as well. As a busy mom, I think her stylings are perfect for my on-the-go lifestyle. Outfits like both Ellens are great for those days when I can’t be skirt/dress-bound. Plus, I’m not much of a skirt/dress girl anyhow. Just for those days at work (I’m in a school) where I’m presenting to staff or parents. Otherwise I’m running around the building too much to venture down that road. But at the same time, I don’t want to always wear a button-down blouse and chinos. Great tips today Sal!

  • Well, my number one tip would be — look at men that you think are stylish, and take elements or even just broad inspiration from their style. I do that.

    My sense of “butch” as opposed to “androgynous” dressing is similar to yours — butch takes stylistic elements that are very definitively menswear and consciously exaggerates them, while also transforming pieces to closely fit the female body and make female form obvious. When I have seen people styling butch with a lot of intention, there’s often a vintagey element as well, and they’re walking a thin line between daywear and costume. In addition to some of Sal’s suggestions, button down shirts, altered suiting pieces, pinstripes, chalk stripes, and menswear details like ties and hats play into the style.

    If you didn’t want to play around with office-man daywear, your other option is to look at rock stars. They do a lot of self-conscious tweaking of clothing norms and wear clothes in unusual ways. Someone like, say, Jack White, strikes me as using traditional menswear almost as costume, which is a model for you using those pieces in the same way. Actually a bunch of the guys featured in this article have great but not traditional man-style that you could steal elements of.

  • ParisGrrl

    I love this thread–style is for everyone, and it’s possible to develop great style while not going the “girly” route. There’s an interesting article at http://www.autostraddle.com/top-10-lesbian-fashion-style-icons/
    that might give you some inspiration. Or look at someone classic like Marlene Dietrich in her fabulous suits. Look for great fabrics and styles that celebrate your shape, and that make you feel confident. Find accessories that speak to you, perhaps ties instead of scarves, a bright colored pocket square in your blazer pocket, a fedora or bowler hat, or a great piece of jewelry that isn’t feminine per se, but that you are drawn to. If you’re comfortable wearing more feminine pieces like scoop-neck knit Ts, adding those to an otherwise masculine-looking ensemble can look terrific. And if you’re feeling adventurous, check out more unusual cuts of pants…from the skinny pant to the edgy new harem designs, there are plenty of ways to be fashionable and still comfortable in your clothing and your own skin.

  • Hm. I know a lot of people who self-identify as butch who deliberately create a masculine, v-shaped silhouette with their clothing – I can’t speak for them, of course, but I can cite sources ๐Ÿ˜€ Either way, this presents its own fitting conundrums for many builds – I really recommend the DapperQ how-to section to people who haven’t found it yet.

    (I’ve been a fairly androgynous dresser for a cis chick with a boyfriend, but now that I’m sewing there’re skirts all over the place in my wardrobe because they’re so easy and I live in a hot climate, so I’m rapidly losing cred in this discussion. I like the sobriety and lack of display in traditional menswear, but I think it’s worth nothing that plenty of men don’t wear traditional menswear, especially young men. And menswear definitely goes in waves too – consider the extremely boxy torso of the early 1990s, compared to the skinny jeans of today. I probably see as many men in scarves as women, in my very college college town.)

  • There are so many options! Menswear style cardigans are an easy in, as are simple striped shirts, hats, ties and even just a distinct haircut. Loafers are also a comfortable but nice shoe choice.

    I’m not sure if I feel quite comfortable going into my thoughts on things like gender, style, “butchness,” “queerness,” androgyny etc. here. Except possibly to say that it seems to me that “androgynous style” is more female bodied people wearing menswear and still being allowed to look like female bodied people than actual androgyny.

    There are also tons of queer style blogs. It’s interesting that style blogging worlds don’t intersect so that Already Pretty is in a distinct realm from queer style blogs. They’re about the same things: body acceptance and comfort with a physical expression of who you are. But, even a Google search for “queer style blogs” brings up a pretty good list. Another quick list would be this blog post.

  • lyrebirdgully

    Lianne, I agree with Cynthia about getting inspiration from the style of others- both male and female, The Sartorialist is very strong on androgynous street looks; although he features lots of high heels, there are good numbers of women in pants and flat shoes in his photos if you search the archives.[Of course, if you imagine the high heels away when you look at some of these photos with heels, you will see even more steal-able outfits.]
    I’m partial myself to the Teddy Girl look of post-war England- what do you think?
    http://www.hintmag.com/blog/labels/Teddy%20Girl.html
    http://www.enjoy-your-style.com/teddy-girls.html
    http://community.livejournal.com/stylishandsassy/11906.html#cutid1

  • Amanda

    Using the word “cross dressing” informs the idea that gender is binary. It really makes light of the women and who despite their best efforts do not feel comfortable in “women’s” clothing.

    • Colleen

      Even on a continuum there are the extreme ends and one can “cross” from one to the other, skipping all the gray areas in the middle. I think people who are drawn to cross dressing by definition enjoy a more drastic transformation than someone aiming for “butch” or “androgynous.” Thus I don’t take issue with this definition. I also think that Sally made it clear that these terms worked for the discussion at hand but may not be the “ideal” ones.

  • Fer

    @Lianne: most of my friends have already pointed out that my personal style is a mix of girly and butchy (i.e., sometimes I dress in a very feminine way, but other times I really like to dress almost like a man). I don’t know why is it so, but it’s true: sometimes I want to wear nothing more than skirts, dresses and heels, and other times I feel like a tomboy, and want to dress accordingly. and like yourself, I’m also petite and feminine in build.

    when I’m feeling more “masculine” (let’s put it this way), there are some pieces that help me put in the mood while still feeling stylish. they are:

    * ties: nothing makes me feel more “cocky” than a tie. I just love it, and I miss them a lot when it’s summer (when it’s usually too hot to wear them). they can be worn with button down shirts, t-shirts, sweaters, vests… the list goes on. if you want to get some ideas, here are my own outfits wearing them: http://modaforademoda.blogspot.com/search/label/gravata

    * chucks: I love sneakers in general, but chucks always feel a little androginous to me. I like to mix them with dresses and skirts when I don’t want to be too girly, and they’re my go-to shoes when I’m feeling a little boyish. in this post, I cite some of my previous favorite looks featuring chucks: http://modaforademoda.blogspot.com/2011/02/15022011.html

    * hats: hats can be very feminine or super butch; it all depends on the model you choose, and what you wear them with. panamas, fedoras, and even beanies are some of my choices for when I’m feeling androgynous.

    and I have to agree with reader Cynthia: look for inspiration in men you feel are well dressed, and adopt the elements in their styles you feel will look good on you. my favorite site to do so is http://nerdboyfriend.com/; it’s definitely among my favorite style sites on the internet (alongside with Already Pretty, of course;))

    @Sally: sorry for so many links in this comment, but I hope they will help Lianne, since this is a subject that has interested me for a long time, too.

  • Susan
  • What a great question. I look stupid in menswear, but I love it on other women. I think I’d do a bit of shopping in the mens section (or boys section, if you’re very petite) of a few thrift stores to get a feel for what pieces would work.

  • Metal, Leather and cow boy boots make an outfit tough to me. Shirts that have an athletic cut sleeve and are fitted seem to accentuate my shoulders and biceps (I’ve worked hard to get them)… muscles mean butch to me.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome topic. I personally think the boyish/manish style choice is really cool and sexy, whatever your orientation. I’m a straight, petite woman who very comfortably wears boys and mens items–my glasses, my watch, etc. I like it. I feel good in it. It’s all about fit, really. The only other thing I’ll add is that just the other day I was in the audience for a presentation and one of the presenters–pretty clearly butch–was wearing a button down and jeans, but the color of her shirt was just *glorious* on her, and orange-peachy tone that made her look unbelievable. There is DEFINITELY a whole world of stylistic flair waiting to be discovered that is well outside the realm of “girly” or “hetero-feminine”. Have fun discovering, Lianne!

  • Jo

    I’m another jeans-and-t-shirt girl, one that’s pretty darn curvy (I wear a 38DDD), and so nothing I wear is ever going to look androgynous. But I’ve sort of “styled up” my jeans and a t-shirt over the last few years, buying jeans that fit better and t-shirts with necklines that are more flattering (scoop-necks, mostly). I find that using that as a base layer, wearing comfortable but well-tended shoes, and then adding on blazers, bright and funky scarves, or slim-fitting cardigans really makes a difference. I think of it as “Angelina Jolie casual,” body-conscious and put-together, but not girly. Cool and tough.

    I’m still working out what this might mean in terms of a work wardrobe, but for being a grad student and volunteer, it means I feel a lot more stylish than I did a few years ago, when my jeans and t-shirt were much more unisex. Really enjoying the suggestions on here to expand my thought-patterns!

  • Jessie

    My two cents: watch what gay men wear. Not everything will be applicable, obviously, but queer masculinity is queer masculinity and you can pick up some interesting things. In fact, I’ve just realized that a gay colleague of mine and my genderqueer partner wear a lot of the same items of clothing: well-fitted straight-leg jeans, Western shirts, interesting boots (cowboy, lace-up), statement glasses, hip-length jackets with plenty of buckles and detailing, layered cardigans.

    The hard part, usually, is either A) finding women’s clothing in men’s style or B) adjusting the fit of men’s clothing to flatter your body. The project is kind of opposite from what most feminine women prioritize–for instance, my partner often looks for a layer like a vest or jacket that will obscure her waist to create a more masculine silhouette (whereas I am always wrapping and belting my sweaters to emphasize mine). For dress clothes, it can be worth getting things tailored to your specific body, if you’re willing to spend the money. But men’s clothes are always in the details anyway. Once you have a well-fitted base, there are a million items like boots, belt buckles, glasses or sunglasses, scarves, watches, jackets, etc. that will fit even a petite female body.

    Good luck! I’m always happy to see more visibly gender-non-normative people in the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I have several good friends who are lesbians, and through them many lesbian acquaintances. The more “butch” ladies I know who are into style are incredibly fashionable! Another thing I would add to the list would be hats! I know some people aren’t “hat people”, myself included, but I’m starting to have fun trying out hats. My friend Katie who is a lesbian is always wearing a fedora or flat cap and she has so many different colors and styles! They add a stylish edge to whatever she’s wearing that day!

  • As Lianne says and Sally preaches — style is what makes you feel amazing. I love that. What a great exchange and it is a huge kudos to the tone of your blog that this thread has developed in this way!

  • Lianne

    Thanks so much Sal and commenters for all the great suggestions!

    And apologies to Amanda for offending with my use of the word cross-dressing – I thought it applicable in this case since I’m talking about someone (me) who specifically identifies and is identified by others as female, wearing (or not wearing) clothes that most people would identify as gendered male. I didn’t intend to make light of trans or gender-queer women, just to talk about dressing in a world that does mostly treat gender as binary.

  • my first tip is to pay attention to what reads as butch where you live – here in Berkeley/Oakland, all of the pictured clothes read as femme…

    the advice to check out guys’ styles you like and visit queer style sites is great – thank you to all who gave links, i’ll be checkin’ em out!

    I find it’s useful to divide a total look up into the elements of: hair, makeup, accessories, fit, and color/texture palette. You can play around with which elements are more femme, which are more butch, and you will eventually hit on the right balance for you. Don’t forget hair and makeup, in our culture these are biggies for signaling ‘which gender’.

    For example, you could have long, flowing hair, mascara and lipstick and groomed brows, worn with men’s flannel trousers, high heels, and a sheer silk blouse. Just the one ‘butch’ element makes it kinda edgy but you’ll still ‘look like a girl’. Wear the same top and trousers with short hair, clean face, and doc martens and the look gets a lot tougher. As another example, a men’s cardigan, tee, and jeans will look more butch with a loose, boxy fit, but more feminine if the items fit snugly and the cardigan is belted at the waist. And of course, this all varies depending on how stereotypically femme or butch your physical body looks.

    oh, and i almost forgot! Angie at You Look Fab loves to play around with menswear looks in her daily outfits – go here:

    http://youlookfab.com/category/angies-outfits/

    hope this helps! heehee, i always like mixing up people’s preconceived notions – have fun! steph

  • Erin

    This is a tremendously interesting topic! Thanks to Lianne for introducing it, and my hat tips for Sal for tackling it with great thoughtfulness.

    I think the devil is in the details for this fashion strategy. Luxe fabrics — silks, wools — and subtle patterns — herringbone, stripes — suggest sophistication and trend toward formality (versus casual dressing). I think what keeps a lot of butch styles (and this is coming from a straight gal, so consider the source) looking less polished are casual elements — oversized/careless fit, basic knits, heavy shoes. Little things like cuffs, collars, sleeve length, buttons, and necklines, I think, can “chic up” a look w/o getting too girly.

  • What a great topic. I go through menswear-inspired phases regularly. I sometimes buy men’s fashion magazines like Men’s Vogue, Arena or Esquire – especially their spring or autumn fashion issues – to find inspiration. The New York Times’ men’s fashion issues are inspiring, too. A lot of times it comes down to taking what you have and styling it in a “masculine” (whatever that means) way; men often layer differently, for example. I join others in recommending streetstyle sites (The Sartorialist is great for menswear) to see examples of the way some very stylish men combine textures, prints and colours – it is striking how differently men do this compared to women!

    I actually buy a fair amount of men’s clothing for myself. Men’s t-shirts and knitwear are great for boyish bodies; they are more streamlined and never too short in the torso or sleeves. The styles tend to be simpler and the colours and textures more interesting. I have recently fallen in love with menswear from All Saints. And even if you are on the curvier side, you might find something that works for you; just be bold and try things on.

  • Sal

    As always, you amazing folks are contributing such fabulous insights and resources to this discussion. Thank you all!

  • Domitilla

    my first comment ever on a blog (excuse my mistakes, I’m italian ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) !
    I’m a straight girl living in a very “LGBTQ-friendly” city for the italian standard (witch is not exactly the best place in Europe for LGBTQ people). I happen to have lots of gay friends, and they often describe my style as very “queer” even if I wear lots of skirts, dresses, floral patterns etc…
    Reading Lianne request made me think about a gorgeous lesbian woman that I know who has an amazing style, witch I can’t actually label as “butch”. She’s not femme, that’s for sure, but she usually wears outfits with a gorgeous mix of feminine, tough and masculine. The only way I can describe her outfits is something gender neutral, almost androgynous, with a touch of unexpected “girly” in it. For example, she often wears tops in shiny or silky fabrics but she manages to make them look not feminine by choosing simple cuts, neutral but interesting colors that flatter her skin tone (like grays, taupe etc…) and matching them with more boy-ish clothes such as blazers, leather jackets, jeans or trouser with interesting details such as studs or zippers etc…she even manages to wear heels without looking girly.
    Overall I noticed that she wears clothes with a very “straight” or “geometric” cut, a neutral but not boring palette, very interesting accessories such as rings, necklaces and bracelets with a very “sharp” design.
    I ditto the other commenters who said to try to be inspired by people around you, men or women, gay or straight, and I might add to try an haircut that suits your face. Many of the most stylish “butch” or androgynous women that i know or have seen around have gorgeous short haircuts with something original such as bangs, strategically placed highlights, a side a little bit longer that the other etc…

  • Claire

    Love this topic! Although I have a several lovely skirts and dresses in my wardrobe, I am a pants girl at heart. I adore androgyny and feel very lucky to have a mixed body shape (inverted triangle/slight hourglass) that can go either way. I sometimes steal from my husband’s closet, as he has great ties/hats/shirts (usually that I bought him!) And I’m usually pleasantly surprised by the positive response when I wear this a kind of “female dandy” look (you can find a lot of web-inspiration when googling this term).

  • rb

    I thought how Angie over at youlookfab styled Fernanda recently was very masculine/feminine, but also very stylish at the same time. Maybe go check out those photos?

    Also, recently on What Not To Wear they had a contestant for whom skirts and dresses were out of the question, and they came up with some great looks for her. This was aired within the last month. Try TLC’s website for photos of that?

  • nicky

    Look at the blog Tomboy Style for classic looks.

  • Mari-san

    As my two cents, I’d like to add that “borrowed from the boys” trends are coming up right now! Suspenders (my favorite), vests, ties (neck- and bow-), and various other traditionally “menswear” items are now being marketed on both sides of the table. I love the look of traditionally men’s style being subverted to fit women and be sexy and fashionable! It also proves that you can be “dressy” (to use the term loosely) without actually wearing a dress OR denying your femininity. (Not to push buttons!)

  • j

    Nice post!! I really enjoy this blog but is not a fan of stereotypical feminine clothing such as skirts, high heels and flimsy fabrics. But neither am I butch – just want clothes that are both practical and stylish. Clothes that cover the body and allows for movement, but still looks dressed-up and stylish on women – I’d love another post on that topic!

  • GlamaRuth

    I love tuxedo style blazers (J Crew makes them occasionally, and often in petite) worn with flat front dress pants (current favorite, modern boot trouser from Gap), but instead of a blouse, worn with a cool patterned or graphic T, almost always from Threadless, where everything is made for both “male” and “female” fits. If you are petite but not too busty, you can snag great blazer deals in the boys’ section or most department or thrift stores. Leather cuffs (Hayden Harnett has some great ones on sale right now) or harnesses (like from Zana Bayne of Garbage Dress or Audi of Audra Jean on Etsy – google ’em) also add sharp style that can be read tough-feminine or decorated-masculine. Besides Fluevogs, I’d hunt ebay or Etsy for vintage black label (pre-1978) Frye Campus or Harness boots – they were originally designed for men but adopted by women, and are way better made – and less money – than the modern ones (my Black Cherry Campus boots are older than I am and still kicking, and I’m from the mid-seventies myself!). They ground anything you wear them with. Also, find a copy of Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Style. It is the guide par exellence for masculine style, but it one of my favorite design books regardless of gender. Play dress up and have a good time!

  • Great recommendations! Love the wide leg pants and Fluevogs always make a statement. I’d add cydwoq shoes to the list too.

  • pope suburban

    One of my fashion heroes is a friend who used to identify as female-to-male transgender, and who recently decided that maybe that wasn’t accurate and she would rather take an approach like Lianne’s. And she always looks fabulous! The vests, plaid shirts and Fluevogs shown here made me think of her, and that says that you were right-on in recommending them. She also wears suspenders a lot, and they’re really great for a retro, men’s-tailoring element in any outfit. I’ve seen her layer dark tights under shorts, as was on trend, but it never looked very “girly” because she paired it with serious stompin’ boots; that’s a pretty adventurous look, but it turned out so darn well I had to mention it. I think this post is an awesome start for anyone interested in that style, because it’s where my friend started and I can’t say enough good things about where she went with it. It looks fabulous and it has really been great for her comfort level because she’s able to incorporate all the different parts of herself into her appearance.

  • Thanks for the shout out, tiny junco.

    Great post and comments! I think Ellen Degeneres has incredible style. Her fashion stylist does an impeccable job in my book and I’d love to meet her/him.

    I’ve dressed clients who want to look deliberately butch, and loved every minute of it. We were completely on the same wavelength from the start which made things easy. We did half our shopping in menswear departments actually. We mixed up sleek men’s trousers, belts and shirts/knits with fun layers and jackets from the ladieswear area. The accessories were also great: wristbands, big watches, hats and crossbody bags.

  • Another Erin

    While I appreciate the positive intention, I’ve got to agree with tiny junco that the majority of those clothes are, IMHO, quite femme – no butch/androgyne I know would be caught dead in pants with that many pleats or that much flare!

    I’m a heteroflexible andro-butch gal who gets almost all of my wardrobe from thrift stores and the curb, and I do just fine. I’ve got a pretty eclectic mix of men’s and women’s clothes, and unlike many other self-described masculine women I don’t have a problem with skirts or dresses. I wear both regularly, in fact, but as I am often mistaken for a cross-dressing male (largely due to the fact that I’m unshaven and rather hirsute, with very prominent eyebrows), I figure this doesn’t take me out of the self-identifying-as-andro category. My standbys seem to be bootcut Levi’s, pearl-buttoned vintage plaid button-ups, striped t-shirts, twill pants from Banana Republic or H&M (via the secondhand store, of course!) & corduroys. When I dress on the girlier side I stick to simple cotton sundresses or solid-colored skirts with clean lines and opaque stockings. More than being committed to a particularly gendered style, I guess I’ve just got an aversion to excessive frills and embellishments, and anything uncomfortable. I love my Birkenstock oxfords, desert boots, & Onitsuya Tiger sneakers. I’ve got a lot of coats: pea, toggle-buttoned, corduroy, you name it – I own both a woolen Sami parka from arctic Finland & a trashy made-in-China polyester fleece (which is surprisingly cute despite the unforgiving description) number given to me by a friend who outgrew it. This might be a digression, but the only thing that really governs my wardrobe is economy and sustainability, which is to say that I don’t buy many things new. My diet is vegan, but my wardrobe consists of plenty of secondhand wool, leather, and silk items because I personally feel like it’s more sustainable to re-use items that are already in the world than create a demand for new ones.

    Oh, and I would totally wear the first pair of pants pictured above, and in fact have a remarkably similar pair in sage green.

  • Shaye

    Patterned pants? Striped/plaid/checked pants definitely skew away from feminine. This goes toward the menswear suggestion, but I think it works in more casual fabrics as well.

  • andrea

    As a few other people have mentioned, I think the best ways to be stylie AND butch/andro are 1) awesome shoes (killer boots, preferably, or check the sartorialist’s photos of men for ideas on how to style loafers and other men’s footwear staples) — if you’re open to more fitted clothing, I find jeans tucked into a badass pair of boots incredibly sexy on women; 2) great accessories (supple leather crossbody bags, a great watch, fedoras, cashmere scarves, tailored coats/jackets, etc.); and 3) COLOR. So many butch women I know shy away from color, and it’s such a bummer. I love the way my brother uses a wide range of color (pale pink, deep green, cobalt, plum, red-orange) and looks both stylish and masculine.

    As someone above mentioned, a great haircut and judicious use of a little bit of styling cream doesn’t hurt either!

  • I LOVE this post. I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been addressed in the awesome comments but I think that the Belgian designers (and Scandinavian) address androgyny in the chicest way. Though my shape (very hourglass) dictates my style more than my philosophy or attitude, if I could wear anything and look equally attractive (as I define it), I’d be in those designs.

  • Sadie

    If you wanted to take butch style to its ultimate…there’s the Butch Clothing Company in the UK. All that tradition of British tailoring applied to masculine clothes cut for the female body and the butch aesthetic.

    http://www.thebutchclothingcompany.co.uk/

    • Sal

      How COOL! Thanks for sharing that link/resource, Sadie!

  • Sonja

    Some style-ideas that have not been mentioned and might be considered: safari-look inspired by menswear, the newspaper-boy look, and the exaggerated British style by the Spanish company El ganso. They make (usually striped) menswear in gaudy, loud colours and also have a some pieces for women. They are not cheap, though.
    And has anybody mentioned oxford-shoes? I wanted to have a pair of those since I’ve seen a gorgeous androgynous woman wear them, long before they became cool for women and were readily available everywear.
    I absolutely second the search for style idols. I personally admire Katherine Hepburn (it seems I’ll always find a way for alluding to her, no matter what topic we’re talking about…), Annie Hall and Marlene Dietrich. When it comes to androgynous looks, many people mention Tilda Swinton and Charlotte Gainsbourg as well.
    Also I would like to add that I’m straight but sometimes mistaken for a lesbian because I wear my hair very, very short and tend towards an androgynous look with more pants than skirts. But yesterday a woman who was interested told me: No, actually you don’t look gay because you’re wearing makeup. It seems that this is a kind of limit that you might consider if you’re not only interested in dressing androgynously but would also like to make a statement about your preferences. But I’m by no means an expert, so take this with a pinch of salt.

  • Lauren

    I just wanted to say I love your blog and how inclusive you are of the LGBT community when addressing certain topics!! I’m a femme lesbian who dresses somewhat girly so I don’t have the same problem as the OP. But I love the suggestions you gave! The vests and plaid are great lesbian staples! You’re spot on ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Lally

    yes yes yes. This is the post I’ve been waiting for. I feel like over the last couple years I’ve been building up the confidence to dress how I want, which is somewhere flipping between Ellen and Portia de Rossi. The thing is I wasn’t sure how to translate that fashion style into tangible outfits I could wear to work/out/etc. Building outfits has never been my strong point and I was worried if I did it “wrong” I’d be view by coworkers and friends as slightly manish. Which isn’t a bad thing, just not necessarily what I’m going for.

    This blog post and comments are a great guide map to getting a new wardrobe started. Thanks so much. =)

  • Rae

    I think that a key issue here is what *kind* of masculine wardrobe elements someone butch is attracted to. For me, I identify my style as somewhat “tomboy-is,” which I feel is completely different than “menswear-inspired” (which is what I personally feel the apove looks project, with the exception of the shoes). Men have a wide range of fashion personalities, just like women. Are you attracted to a James Dean aesthetic? Surfer Dude? Skater? Rapper? Dandy? Funk Urbanite DJ Partier? They don’t all wear vests and slacks. ๐Ÿ˜‰