Archives for category: fashion

My lady and I went to the theatre this past week  – actually, we went to the theatre about 10 times since I’m working in the Hollywood Fringe Festival and there are 250 shows happening… – but this particular instance was part of our week long 8-year-anniversary happenings. We saw the tour of ‘War Horse’ (the play that inspired the movie) which was incredible. Truly astounding. The life-size horse puppets were some of the most awesome stagecraft I’ve ever seen, and even folks who don’t enjoy theatre would love how epic this show is.

But I digress – because this was a fancier outing for us, we both fancied ourselves up to go out, and I took the opportunity to wear a brand new tie I picked up recently that has been patiently awaiting an outing. I paired it (as usual) with a black shirt and black vest and black jacket, because the tie is a few brilliant stripes of lime and emerald green and white and the gay man in me likes to have a pop of color.

green is my favorite color.

I don’t know if it was the relatively older crowd at the show, or the predominance of families attending, or just that I haven’t been out in “high society” in while, but I garnered more looks and stares than usual, and within about twenty minutes of waiting in the will-call line, I felt thoroughly shy about my attire.  There is something about hearing little kids think you’re a dude, and then hearing their parents telling them that no, you’re not a man, and then the kids always ask “well why is she dressed like a boy?” that I never get comfortable with.

If kids ask me directly, I say it’s because I like the clothes whether or not they’re for boys or girls. Unless it’s a question coming from a pre-teen boy, that usually satisfies. If kids ask me if I’m a boy or girl, I usually ask them to guess, and then I ask them the question right back. This usually elicits giggles and ends the conversation well.

But it’s that weird hushed parental tone that I hate. It reminds me of some dark memories of my parents’ friends commenting on my “tomboy” look as a little kid. It cuts right to my core and brings up all my insecurity, and it all overflows onto my tie. Because without the tie, you can just be a woman in a blazer. Innocuous and possibly fashion-challenged, but not threatening. With the tie, you’re butch. (Well, unless you’re wearing like a cocktail tuxedo jacket and stilettos, or something…. I should say, with the tie and the short hair and the cocky stance and the gf on your arm, you’re butch.)

Some ties, however, wouldn’t get that much attention. My favorite purple plaid skinny tie never makes me feel weird. Somehow it goes under the radar a little more. But I love this new tie. I love how bright it is. I love how when I tie the Full Windsor the stripes on the knot are perfectly perpendicular to each other.

It’s just another one of my ties. I don’t know why it makes me shy. (This is on the verge of becoming a weird/bad Dar Williams song.)  These triggers are so random, I guess, and this one snuck up on me.  And now I’m about to go don yet another tie, the dark gray one with tiny orange circles, that I wear as part of my costume for the Fringe, which will not make me insecure because I can always pretend that I’m “playing a character”. Still working on playing myself.



I’m working on this idea of “branding” myself – making sure that all my professional ducks are in a row, so to speak. It’s part of the overall work an actor has to do out here – make sure your look is current, cast-able, and really tells the people hiring you about your personality and the parts you can play. I have a little bit of multiple personality disorder with this, though, because I’ve lived so many different possible brands – musical theater, glbt theater, New York theater, New York film and tv, clown school, vaudeville performance, LA theater, LA film and tv…  each of these categories could dictate a style, a feeling, and a persona I already possess that I could emphasize to potential producers.

In trying out new brands, I’ve gone through a lot of clothes. I think I’m honing in on my look. (For you new readers, the backstory to this is that since I lost 40 pounds I’ve had to purchase an entirely new wardrobe and learn to dress myself with some sort of style again, since “baggy tee shirt and jeans” doesn’t really suit me these days.)

Here’s the current favorite look:

Subtle Striped Shirt. Subtle Plaid Vest. Solid Black Tie.

The shirt has a blue and grey stripe to it, the vest is dark grey with a subtle plaid, and the tie is just solid black. I hate tucking shirts in, and this one is thin and well cut so it doesn’t billow under the vest.

Dark Grey Oxfords

These oxfords are my new every-day shoes.

I’m working the “sexy professor” look. It’s an extension of what I’ve always called “grandpa chic.” I pair this outfit with dark jeans that actually fit me well and my gray tweed jacket with the elbow patches.

The Coach today said he liked it, and what’s more, I love it.  And I haven’t really loved my clothes since I was 16 and wore a different pair of suspenders every day. So I’m headed in the right direction, I think.

After a whirlwind weekend spent in panicked shopping, I finally settled on what to wear to my first ever office holiday party. It doesn’t get any more corporate, or conservative, than the office I temp in, and since I’m angling for them to hire me for real I’ve been ridiculously nervous about my gender presentation.  I walk the line with them – not wearing a full suit and tie, per se, but I’ll definitely display the blazer and pants from the men’s section, and I wear the most masculine women’s pinstripe suits I could find (which pretty much pass, to my discerning eye).

The holiday party is a different animal, however, since it’s fancy. Suit and tie required fancy. Beverly Hills Country Club fancy. Which means all the office women will be in their best cocktail motif. And me? I was worried I was going to be stuck wearing my same 9-5 workaday suit, since all my most fancy duds are very, very, very butch. Tie and suspender combo butch. And I’m still working up to that point with this office.

However! I’ve been saved by the androgynous choice of all ages, which I am dubbing the casual tuxedo look. Pair a tux jacket (dinner jacket, no tails) with a fancy-ish or tux shirt, leave off the tie, and shine up your shoes. I’m still looking for the right accessories – a good silver pendant woud be nice, but here’s what I’ve found:

armani exchange. 40% off. saved my life.

Behold the Sequin Shirt, from Armani Exchange. I was losing steam on Sunday, striking out on all the affordable tuxedo shirt fronts, and then my gf found this one in the least-likely-to-be-on-sale-or-ever-be-affordable store ever.

Let’s take a closer look.

tiny shiny sequins.

Never did I think I’d wear ANYTHING sequined (unless, of course, I was workin’ it with my drag-queen self). But these are actually so subtle while still adding that shiny flair, they’re really great, and I LOVE the covered placket. And the shirt fits me well in the torso – I am taking it to the tailor today to have the sleeves shortened a bit and the shoulders taken in. Once it’s all done and pressed I will be pretty and shiny and still butch.

I’m going to pair it with:

H&M one-button tux jacket.

Because I buy my jackets a bit small, so they fit snug in the shoulders and across the back, I rarely button them (I rarely can, but most folks don’t notice). That way the sequins will dazzle all the way down. Add some good black trousers and the right silver accessories and I think I might just pull it off. My gf will be in high-cocktail dress with the best of them.

Hi all –

There’s a darker post coming, based on where my head and identity have been these past few days. To take my mind off things, however, I’ve taken to trolling the webs to collect some style ideas that make me pine, which I will showcase here.

Two things – as I’ve battled with weight and gender presentation, I’ve learned that 1) I don’t do well with cheap clothes. I spent years purchasing mens shirts and ties from places like Ross and Marshalls, and while you can sometimes find amazing stuff there, I’m such a specific size and build that usually it doesn’t fit me well enough to be worth it. I’d rather spend a little more on some good quality clothes that will last, and well made items can withstand a little tailoring if I choose to make them fit better. Which I usually do. And 2) trousers and pants are too difficult to buy online. There’s just no way of knowing how they’ll sit on your hips, so I’m sticking with shirts, outerwear, and accessories for this list.

I’ve been coveting a lot of Calvin Klein lately – I discovered their slim-fit cuts tend to work with my now-slimmer body better than most. In particular:

textured henley hoodie

For the weekends, or when you need an extra layer under a blazer and the college sweatshirt won’t cut it. Alternatively:

wool blend hoodie sweater

I love this one, particularly how long it is – when you’re almost 6′, you need some torso length. It might look weird with a bigger chest, though.

Same for these shirts:

graphic roll-up shirt

mini-houndstooth shirt

I always roll my sleeves up, unless I’m wearing the shirt under another layer. I find especially if I have a shirt that doesn’t quite fit my shoulders, rolling the sleeves up a bit gives a better impression of fit. I also love the dark buttons on the second one, and while usually I avoid shirts with pockets because of the bosom, with this kind of casual shirt I make an exception. Read the rest of this entry »

Something terrible has happened. Something I didn’t see coming. Something I should have considered, back on that day in the early summer when I was casually strolling through the outlet mall, looking for slim-cut menswear and sunglasses.

Cut to the chase: apparently, I carry a purse. Now, I don’t think it’s a purse. My gf doesn’t call it a purse. My coworker once called it my “cool satchel”. But in the women’s restrooms of the American Southwest, it has been proven to be none other than that bastion of femininity, the purse.

I found my current (very loved) purse bag at a Calvin Klein outlet, in the men’s accessory section.  Thrilled at my luck! This bag was the miniature of my trusty army green messenger! The one I bought on the streets of the East Village during my butch-in-New-York years! The one with the broken zipper and peeling insides, which was too big for a simple night out!


NOT a purse.

I had been looking for a bag to fit only my smart phone (I swear, these things are like Get Smart’s shoe phone) my wallet, my keys, and my sunglasses.  Why don’t you just use your pockets, I hear all the butches out there saying?  Well… and I’ve written about this before, but, the thing is, I wear… women’s jeans now. I mean, they don’t LOOK like women’s jeans. They just look like jeans that fit me, you know? They’re not girly or tight or weirdly patterned or anything. They just don’t give me that blocky-hips-penis-bulge thing.  And when you’ve recently lost 40 pounds, you want to be able to see it past the fake bulge. (There’s a time and a place for a fake bulge, or a real bulge, but this post is not it.) And women’s jeans don’t really have pockets, because (as I needed my gf to point out) women carry purses.

Anyway, back to the purse bag.  So I found my perfect, tiny, masculine (I thought) messenger, just big enough for said items. And I’ve been carrying it almost daily ever since, casually slung across my blazer/vest combos and good to go.

This past week for the holiday, however, my men’s accessory world was blown wide open, right along with my gay-self-defense-dar.  That’s the sixth sense us queers develop when we feel our safety is in question, most often employed when entering bathrooms of the proper (cis- or otherwise defined) gender and when holding hands or displaying affection with our significant people in public.

My gf’s parents – all three of them – moved to New Mexico in the past year. New Mexico remains the state where I have felt the most unsafe of any place in this country that I have traveled. Not that anything has ever happened to me in New Mexico, but I have never received more stares, sneers, or emphasized “Ma’am”s anywhere else, including freakier places like Arizona or Nebraska. I’ve had mothers pull their young daughters away from me in New Mexico. And, most of all, I’ve been told I was in the wrong bathroom every. single. time. I tried to pee in New Mexico.

But not this past week.  Even though I peed probably 25 times or more all across the Southern and Northern parts of the state. Not when I’m wearing my tiny man bag. Because it looks like a purse.

Now, the rest of my appearance was most assuredly masculine. Same spikey hair. Same men’s blazer/sweater combo. True, I’ve never passed from the front (due to the pretty eyes) but from behind, my six foot frame gets sir’d all over the place. In Vegas last month I even had a man from the bar chase me into the ladies waiting area just to “keep a bro from messin’”. But with my little bag across my shoulders, I have apparently stepped into the unspoken world of feminine agreement.  I have made myself harmless, non-threatening, just another dowdy woman with short hair and no makeup.

One would think I would either a) relish the safety of my sudden stealth or b) chuck the purse as far from me as possible to regain my manly composure. I’m surprised at myself, and a little bit proud, to realize that even if some people think it’s a purse, I don’t really care. I like my bag. It holds my stuff. The younger, angrier me would have been up in arms about the ridiculousness of gender oppression, yadda yadda. The younger, more insecure me would have immediately felt like I was doing something wrong in the butch universe, and reverted to a wallet with a chain. But the current me, the me that’s trying to figure out my own style, the me that’s choosing clothes and experiences because they’re right for me and not because “I’m supposed to”, this me likes where I’m headed. Purse or no.  So I guess I lied earlier – it’s not so terrible. It’s an uplifting realization – the journey is actually getting me somewhere.

Something I’ve been learning in the last six months: What makes an outfit? Where is the line drawn between simply dressing, and dressing well? What seems to be the keys to style?

Robert Henri says in The Art Spirit, and I’m paraphrasing badly here, that beauty is in the form and function of a thing made well.  I’ve come to believe that an outfit is no different than a Swedish-designed chair or new luxury car. A thing made well is a thing made with care, and time, and probably effort.

It takes effort to “look good”, whether that be through gelling up your faux-hawk just so, choosing the silver watch instead of the brown leather watch since you’re wearing black boots today, or deciding to add another layer just for color. The femmier-ones among us know how much effort it takes to put on makeup every day and shave and pluck and all sorts of other nonsense.

I struggle with this effort on a daily basis. The grooming stuff I’ve got a handle on – it’s the clothing part that’s still a bit up in the air. (Damn seasonal changes.)  It takes a lot of pre-planning for me to see beyond the limitations of “not-dirty-tee-shirt” and “not-dirty-jeans”.  God forbid it if I owned more than three pair of shoes.  And I know there are quite a few fashion-savvy butches out there, but for the rest of us, I’ve made a little cheat sheet.

  1.  A tee shirt and jeans is not an outfit. Add a hat and a watch and it can be.
  2.  A cardigan over a tee shirt is probably not an outfit, but if you layer two shirts under the cardigan, then it is.
  3.  There are few looks that can’t be improved by the right blazer. A black blazer makes any outfit sharp.
  4. A belt, a watch, a chunky bracelet, a hat, and good sneakers: accessories always look dashing.
  5. A white tee shirt under a button down ranks a ten on the masculinity scale. Make it a tee that gives a splash of color and you’re metrosexual. Lose the tee and add a blazer or vest for a more feminine twist. Layer two tees with soft colors under the button down for that J. Crew look.
  6. You can pull off almost any shoes, as long as they’re in good condition. Save the dusty vintage kicks for actual vintage shoes, and learn about shoe polish.
  7. On that note: Men’s vintage oxfords look amazing with almost any outfit. I’ve seen femmes pair them with baby-doll dresses. Look for ones that still have a good shine and aren’t too broken down on the soles.
  8. A graphic tee shirt and jeans worn with an open suit vest will catch you a lot of compliments, and you’ll look like an 80s teenage dream king.
  9. Never wear a belt AND suspenders. And always try for suspenders with braces. Learn to sew the buttons on your trousers yourself. It’s good be a handibutch.
  10. Colored or patterned socks can really finish a look. I only wore argyle socks for years (before they came back into style) and called myself “grandpa-chic”. Leave the white sport socks for the gym.

I can certainly name more, but these are the notes that are getting me through right now. Have any other quick, style-setting fixes you can share?