The Miraculous Masculinity of Gladys Bentley

Gladys Bentley: blues singer, tuxedo wearer and lady lover. In the words of Saidiya Hartman in her book Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, “Bentley was abundant flesh, art in motion.”1 In the words of Bentley herself, from 1952 when she had left the stage and all that came with it, “a big, successful star – andContinue reading “The Miraculous Masculinity of Gladys Bentley”

Suffragette Fashion and the Lesbian Threat

The Suffragettes: the name given by the press to the women’s suffrage movement in the UK. Though intended to be derogatory, was claimed and used by the movement itself and organisations such as the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The Suffragettes have, rightly, gone down in history – their actions and campaigns were instrumentalContinue reading “Suffragette Fashion and the Lesbian Threat”

Depicting Sappho: the Creation of the Original Lesbian Look

Sappho – the original lesbian. At least, this is how we within the LGBTQ community think of her today, with the words sapphic and lesbian originating from her name and home island of Lesbos. Yet, her identity and the desires expressed in her poems have been debated for thousands of years. Homophobia, and more specificallyContinue reading “Depicting Sappho: the Creation of the Original Lesbian Look”

Leather Jackets, Army Boots: 1980s Rebel Dyke Fashion

The Rebel Dykes were the forgotten lesbian punks of 1980s London, whose lives have been documented by members of the community in an upcoming film as well as a history project. The term “Rebel Dykes” was made up by the filmmakers, but it encapsulates the ferocity, the difference and the unashamed lesbian-ness of various communities,Continue reading “Leather Jackets, Army Boots: 1980s Rebel Dyke Fashion”

Was the 1920s Monocle Really a Lesbian Symbol?

Lesbians in the interwar period used fashion codes in order to recognise each other and form communities – at least, that’s what it looks like to us, a hundred years later. However, the fashion reality of lesbians in the 1920s and 30s wasn’t quite so black and white. Items such as the monocle seem toContinue reading “Was the 1920s Monocle Really a Lesbian Symbol?”

Mabel Hampton, Lillian Foster, and Mid-Century Black Butch/Femme

Mabel Hampton and Lillian Foster have left a material, tangible legacy in a way that cannot be said of many in the lesbian communities of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. This is especially true when it comes to Black lesbians, and Black butch/femme lesbians (or butch/fem, stud/fem, etc); verbal histories slip away easily, and marginalisedContinue reading “Mabel Hampton, Lillian Foster, and Mid-Century Black Butch/Femme”

From Anne Lister’s Closet: Gentlemen’s Accessories as Lesbian Fashion

This is the second post about Anne Lister on Dressing Dykes. To find out more about her through the lens of her always-black clothing, as well as my argument for calling her a lesbian long before the term was in the popular vernacular, look at ‘From Anne Lister’s Closet: The LBD (Lesbian Black Dress).’ ThisContinue reading “From Anne Lister’s Closet: Gentlemen’s Accessories as Lesbian Fashion”

Two White Dresses: The Fashion of Lesbian Weddings

Legal marriages between women may be new in many countries, but lesbian marriage in all but law has existed for hundreds of years. I say lesbian because this blog focuses on the specific clothing experiences of lesbians; I do recognise, however, that most women historically would not have had this terminology, and that many womenContinue reading “Two White Dresses: The Fashion of Lesbian Weddings”

Fashion History was Never Straight: Madge Garland, Dorothy Todd and Vogue

When we consider the ‘staples’ of fashion history, there are a few things that may come to mind: Dior’s ‘New Look’ from 1947; supermodels and designers, Kate Moss and Chanel; decade-based fashion history – the 1960s, the 1830s, the 1770s… and, from the beginning of the 20th century, Vogue magazine. At first and traditionally allContinue reading “Fashion History was Never Straight: Madge Garland, Dorothy Todd and Vogue”

Black Feminism and Lesbian Fashion (The Material is Political)

One of the principles of second-wave feminism was the concept that “the personal is political.” This meant that the lives of oppressed people are as political and as attention-worthy as governmental politics. The material conditions of people’s lives are vital to analyse if we are to understand our various positions in the world, the thingsContinue reading “Black Feminism and Lesbian Fashion (The Material is Political)”