women dressed in menswear

Swinging London 1966.
Carnaby Street fashion designers in London, before heading off to Florence - Jeff Marks, Liz Gold, Warren Gold (centre) and Jackie Benton, 9th October 1966. Photo by J. R. Watkin

anonymous asked:

Hi Emily! If you're okay with it, can you explain what femme and butch looks like? Before, I thought femme just meant feminine and butch just means masculine. Reading your post helped me understand what femme is a bit more, but I'm still confused on what butch is. Is it just shaved heads, shorts and t shirts? Or is there a certain Look? And also what is high and the opposite of high? Is high femme/butch just ultra femme/butch? Does that mean you can be low-key femme/butch? Thanks!


okay, so it’s hard to define what femme and butch mean for someone else, but considering I’m a megawatt high femme and my girlfriend is somewhere at the intersection of soft and dapper butch (with some punk touches thrown in), she and I should be able to give you a pretty good, if personal, answer. 

So, this is @pyrrhiccomedy talking: “Emily’s already talked about how femme isn’t just about dressing ‘feminine;’ there’s something self-aware about it. You know what the expectations are when someone sees a woman dressing in a way that emphasizes her femininity, and you play with that. Either by subverting it somehow, or taking it to an extreme that’s outside the boundaries of ordinary feminine fashion.

“I think being butch is similar. I know what people think when they see a woman who dresses ‘like a man,’ whether that’s with a shaved head or a button-up shirt. When it’s a straight woman, the assumption is that she doesn’t care about how she looks; or that she doesn’t know how to dress herself. A lot of times, unkindly, women who wear ‘menswear’ are assumed to be unattractive. Because if we could be conventionally attractive, why would we choose to be otherwise?

“For me…listen, I just like how I look in men’s clothes. And I feel like an awkward dork in ‘girly’ clothes. But I don’t think that’s what makes me butch. Butch is more considered than that. I think the biggest thing about being butch is that it says flatly to men: “I’m not here for you.” It’s a challenge. I am not dressing to appeal to YOU. I am dressing to appeal to other women. WOMEN find this hot. Anyone who sees me walking down the street can see that I DO care about my appearance and I DO know how to dress myself. I’m wearing punk trousers, chrome oxfords, and a bright red button up shirt. I have blue hair! I’m inviting attention: it’s just not MALE attention. In fact, I am inviting men to look at me and have the conscious, unavoidable thought that I DON’T WANT THEM.

“And that I could steal their girl.

“So a butch look could be a lot of things. It can be a dapper men’s business look. It can be an aggressive tomboy look. There’s the “stone butch” look, where you wear jeans, a wifebeater, great biceps and a scowl. But whatever it is, it’s something that’s visibly associated with men. And taking it, and wearing it, as a woman, is inherently confrontational. You’re saying, “This isn’t yours. I can wear this and look better than you do in it. And if YOU don’t like it, I don’t give a fuck. It’s not for you.”

back to Emily:

Sure you can be low-key femme or butch. I mean, for me, “femme” is something I do extremely intentionally. I have been known to plan outfits literal seasons in advance. But some girls like being feminine and also like sleeping in in the mornings, and to that I say, well played. At the end of the day though, I think the difference between “dressing girly” and femme, or “dressing like a tomboy” and butch is that it’s intentional. More than that, it’s confrontational. You’re consciously considering people’s expectations and how you can subvert or challenge them. 

here’s a brief (and incomplete) cultural taxonomy, since you seem a little stymied by the lingo!

femme - a queer woman who purposefully dresses in such a feminine way that it challenges cultural norms. 

high femme - that but more. sometimes can even approach costume. the point (for me) is to reach a point of feminine style that actively alienates men. 

hard femme - much like high femme, but instead of looking like an untouchable space goddess, you look like you might knife a man with what’s in your very fetching bag. think leather, spikes, studs and dangerously-heeled combat boots. 

butch - a queer woman who purposefully dresses in such a masculine way that it challenges cultural norms. 

soft butch - this is like “low-key butch”; most of the lesbians you see on television are this. think Ellen DeGeneres, Mel and Sue from The Great British Bakeoff, most of the the cast of the L-Word, you know the type. they wear blazers.

dapper butch - you know what dapper means. like that, but on a woman. 

tomboy butch - this is what people usually think of when they think of “butch”. jerseys, snapbacks, cargo shorts. they wear their keys on the outside of their clothes. justin bieber dresses like one of these. 

hard butch - it’s hard to pin a specific fashion aesthetic on “hard butch”. this may be because I have a difficult time looking at enough google images to put together a style theory without becoming completely twitterpated, but something I’ve heard from the hard butches I’ve known is that it’s often less about fashion than it is about physique. the fashion choices that you do see are not just about alienating men, they’re about actively repelling them. 

bear in mind that these are not hard and fast rules, and that there are as many ways to be femme or butch as there are women, but these are some queer genres that you may wish to peruse.