Ah, summer! Season of snorkeling, lemonade, and butch anxiety about what to wear to the pool. If you feel like sporting a regular ol' swimsuit, but want something a little more conservative than the bikinis lining the racks at Macy's, check out Speedos
. They tend to be comfier, sleeker, and provide more coverage than most bathing suits. They even offer suits
that look like conventional swimsuits with bike shorts sewn on.
But if you're like many butches (including me), something that
form-fitting makes you look like this guy
, but with bigger breasts and less hair. If so, your options are less obvious. A good standby formula for a butch in the water = shorts + boob coverage + shirt. I'll discuss each component separately, and you can mix and match as you like. (And of course, you should always wear sunscreen
, even if your shoulders are covered.)
COMPONENT #1: SHORTSBoardshorts
are long (at or a little past the knees, usually 21"-22"), lightweight shorts that come in a variety of brands and colors. Some of my favorites are Hurley's Puerto Rico Board Shorts
(pictured at right), Quiksilver's Cypher Alpha Board Shorts
(pictured below), and Quiksilver's Slightly Choppy Boardshorts
You'll find boardshorts in the men's section of department stores, Pacific Sunwear
, and online retailers like Zappo's
. Some brands make women's board shorts
, but these tend to be far
shorter than men's, presumably because it's more important for women to show off their bodies than to reap such trivial benefits as coverage and functionality.
can double as swim shorts, and often have more coverage and lining. My favorite are Brooks men's Infiniti Notch Shorts
. This style has full lining--thin, built-in bike shorts under the regular shorts. There's no need to wear underwear or a swimsuit under them, and no one underwater gets a glimpse of more butch than they bargained for. Plenty of other running shorts come with built-in lining, too, though usually it's underwear-style rather than bike-short-style. Check out your local running store for ideas (Nike, and North Face often have cool styles).
Standard men's swim trunks
can also be a good, cheap option, as this post
from Butch and Pregnant suggests. Standard men's trunks are lightweight, dry fast, and have mesh lining. Note that unlike boardshorts, you shouldn't wear swim trunks to the mall. Also, make sure to get a pair with a drawstring. Since most ladies have bigger hips than guys, you may have to buy a baggier size than your waist requires. A drawstring will ensure that you don't expose yourself to that cute lifeguard you've been eyeing--well, not unless she asks
COMPONENT #2: BOOB COVERAGE
Swimsuit or bikini top: This option is pretty straightforward, right? Buy a swimsuit or a bikini and, assuming you don't want to wear it on its own, you can use it as the "boob coverage" component of the BW Swimming Formula.
Next option: Sports bra
. Or, to many butches, "bra." (First, a sidenote
: other bloggers, such as A Stranger in this Place
and the Sartorial Butch
, have written eloquently and humorously about butch bra shopping. My everyday bra preferences are slightly different from theirs, but I'll save that TMI post for later.) As you probably know, sports bras by brands such as Nike and Champion come in sizes of the S/M/XL variety. If these suit you, great! If they're not perfect you might want to look into bras that come in actual numbered sizes
(more on this, too, in a later post). One great place to buy sports bras is Title Nine
, an athletic clothing chain for women with a great selection and a rating system to help you find a sports bra with the amount of support you want. Moving Comfort
is my favorite brand, and I particularly like their Fiona
" sounds like a cocktail made from vodka, a twist of lime, and a splash of water from the bartender's fish tank. Basically, these creations are like swimsuits that end at your belly button. Though I dislike nearly all tankinis
that word gives me an eye twitch), a few--like this one
(pictured at right)--aren't too bad. And if there's enough coverage built in, you can wear just a tankini and shorts--no other shirt necessary.
COMPONENT #3: SHIRT
A tank top
over one of the "boob coverage" options I listed above is a good bet if it's extra hot or you want to look casual. If you're feeling saucy, go for something with attitude, and/or a little queer pride. Note that a tank top itself does not constitute "boob coverage." You may not think your smallish breasts merit coverage, but if you are over the age of 12, I assure you that they do. Your fellow swimmers should not be able to discern the water temperature by glancing at your chest.
Next, a regular cotton T-shirt is always a decent choice, and I'm guessing your closet is chock full of 'em. The downsides are that they feel wet and heavy while swimming and take a while to dry (you can pack another one to throw on afterwards). Also, make sure the shirt is darker than your boob coverage du jour; it's not uber-classy to showcase your sports bra through a wet tee. Since chlorine and salt water can cause fading, don't wear a favorite to the beach unless you're prepared to relegate it to sleepwear status at the end of the summer.
Now, a story: One day, a tank top and a T-shirt met in a forest. They decided they loved each other very, very much. Soon, they made a baby. That baby's name was muscle shirt
. Muscle shirts offer more coverage than tank tops, on which the arm holes are sometimes too large. One tip about muscle shirts: in public, don't wear one you "made" by cutting the sleeves off one of your T-shirts. Such creations are appropriate only in one's own home, while running on secluded trails, and at the home of one's DGF ( with the DGF's consent). And if you decide to buy a new muscle shirt, why not choose one that shows your butch pride
are cool-looking, sold in lots of different places, and come in hundreds of colors and styles--both men's and women's. (I was pleased to see that Butch Style
and the Sartorial Butch
have endorsed rash guards--so you know you'll be in good company!) Unless the water is especially cold, I recommend a short-sleeved rash guard. They're made of thicker material than T-shirts--usually lycra, nylon, and/or polyester, kind of like the top half of a wet suit. A quick Googling suggests that despite the thickness, you should probably wear something
underneath, such as a bikini top or a sports bra.
So, fellow butches, when in doubt about swimwear, remember that shorts + boob coverage + shirt = happy butch. And trust me on the sunscreen
You asked for it, you're getting it. More--yes, more--pictures of butches in suit vests, looking hot! Thanks to those of you who sent pictures. Feel free to send in more. Think of it as one big fashion collaboration among butches!
Here we have a vest worn by JB. The vest is black, shirt is white, and the tie (though it's hard to see here) is maroon with a subtle plaid pattern. Nice. And the glasses are a dapper touch, too!
Who's the dashing, purple-clad figure to the right, you ask? It's yours truly, in the same shirt-and-tie combo that I'm wearing here
, but with a black suit vest (Stafford, bought new on eBay, $30 or so). I wore this ensemble to the wedding I mentioned in my previous post, and received several compliments.
I received this picture with a note asking if I'd be willing to post a pic of a self-described "femme" in a suit vest. My answer: heck yes! (I never understood why people have librarian fantasies, but it's starting to make a little more sense now.) This is Joni McClain, a photographer with Love and Light Images whose work you can also see at this link
Next up is A, who had this waistcoat (that's what the Brits call vests, my fellow Yankees--classy, huh?) made for a wedding she attended. She writes that you can choose your fabric and send measurements to this site
for a custom job. A also advises: "If you have a relatively large bust (as i do) then best to get the ladies fit." I've got to say, a custom-made vest sounds pretty good to me!
Lastly but far from least-ly is one of your favorite celesbians and mine, the hot and hilarious Julie Goldman. (Julie didn't send this in herself--I snagged it from Grace the Spot
.) Super cute, right? It's also a good example of how faux-messy hair can look awesome with a tidy, put-together outfit.
There you have it, ladies and gents--five more ways that you can cut a dashing figure at work, at weddings, on the dance floor, or out on a date with this versatile and underused article of clothing.
I admit it: I don't always look forward to weddings--especially straight ones. For one, it makes me think about my own wedding to my DXH--which, while it was a joyous and terrifically fun occasion, now makes me a little sad to think about. For another, straight weddings often include a hefty dose of gender inequality. My brother's wedding included something in the vows about how the man was the head of the household and the woman should obey him. (When they recited this at the rehearsal, I chortled audibly and then started giggling... the pastor was not amused.) Straight weddings also make me think, of course, about how the right to enter holy matrimony was one of the manifold civil rights plucked away from me as soon as I came out.
So when I went to the (straight) wedding of two friends yesterday, I was happy and excited for them, but not 100 percent looking forward to the event itself. Boy, was I surprised.
For one, their vows weren't just about their commitment to each other, but to their community. They talked about their commitment to sustainability, and to marriage equality--yes, in their vows. I was touched. At the brunch the next day, I went up to the bride (a pretty close friend of mine) and thanked her for including that. She said that they decided they couldn't take part in the state-sanctioned version of marriage without making a conscious commitment to changing the institution itself. How cool is that?!
Other factors made the wedding great, too: a casual, garden-y atmosphere, excellent wine, tasty (local, organic, sustainable) food, good music, at least eight or ten other gay folks, and the chance to dance with my DGF (we were both in ties, a dapper duo). The whole thing was very mindful and very fun. I was talking to another thirtysomething (straight) couple there, and they got married right out of college and had a very traditional wedding. As far as they had known, that's how weddings were, and they didn't venture too far outside the box because it didn't occur to them. It made me think about how much of weddings--and other parts of life--we take for granted, when with a little mindfulness and creativity, we could completely transform them.
I just had an interaction with a work acquaintance and learned that she has a new boyfriend. She talked about him a little, and it occurred to me that he and my DGF have quite a bit in common. I suggested we go on a double date sometime, and my acquaintance said that that might not be a good idea. I couldn't figure out why, so I looked at her quizzically, and then she stared at the floor and started saying something about how her boyfriend "is coming around," but doesn't think that gay people should be able to adopt kids, and that he would probably be "pretty awkward" about going out with us. (We don't have kids; this was her way of saying, "There's no way he wants to hang out with gay people.")
Personally, I think she should drag the boyfriend--kicking and screaming, if necessary--into 2011 and go out with us anyway. But maybe it would have been unpleasant. In a way, my acquaintance's honesty was refreshing. I think most people would have said, "Oh, sure..." and then kept being conveniently unavailable. I was fairly silent in response, and the quieter I was, the more my acquaintance talked: first about how no one is perfect, about how she's getting older and had to widen the dating pool, and then analogizing between her boyfriend and her mom, who is apparently also "pretty liberal" but "really awkward" about gay stuff. What was I supposed to say? She can date whomever she wants. But I'm not going to give her a bye and say it's no problem. It is.
My friend B and I have often talked about the fact that most of the friends I've made since coming out are gay. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I've noticed that most of my lesbian friends hang out mostly with other lesbian couples, too, and I've made a concerted effort to hang out with more straight people because I don't want my sexuality to be the only sculptor of my social world. But my experience this afternoon certainly encapsulates one mechanism behind homophily
, doesn't it? By hanging out with people who accept and/or relate to our "lifestyle" (don't you hate
the word "lifestyle" used in reference to queer sexuality?), we avoid all sorts of potential--sometimes microscopic--hurts, slights, and awkwardness. Anyhow: in this case, it's their loss.
<--- Apropos of nothing, k.d. lang looks on with dashing skepticism.
I was talking with a friend today about open relationships. He and his partner are in one, and have been for most of ten years. This got me to wondering... What do you, dear readers, think about open relationships? Would you like to be in one? (Or are you in one and find it ideal?) Take this poll!
...And of course, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section. I know many several gay male couples with ongoing open relationships, but it seems to be much less common for lesbian couples. Has this been your experience? Why would or wouldn't you want one? What do you think would make an open relationship work (or fail)?
Five Incredibly Basic Butch Fashion Guidelines
- Do not tuck in your T-shirt.
- Do not wear socks with your sandals.
- Always wear a belt with pants that have belt loops. If your belt is brown, your shoes should also be brown. Black shoes, black belt.
- Do not get a flat top or a mullet, even if you're an old-school butch.
- No pleated pants. Really.
(You can find a few more great basic tips here
.)Five Great Gifts For the Butch in Your Life
1. Tickets to see a favorite play, musician, or sports team
2. A couples massage.
3. A personalized tie
4. Cuff links (I especially like the typewriter key ones
5. Boxers, especially sexy ones (but only if you're sleeping with her, OR plan to, OR it's a wedding/bachelorette/honeymoon gift for her and her partner)
(The Sartorial Butch had some great ideas in this post
.)Five Ways to Make a Regular Evening Romantic
(hint: none of this should involve televisions, cell phones, computers, iPads, etc. Digital screens are a romance-killer--well, MOST of the time...)
Five Awesome Butchy Comedians You Should Know About
- Buy your girl's favorite kind of ice cream or dessert and surprise her with it while you put on her favorite music.
- Turn off the TV and announce, "It's sexy time!" (Especially if you're not the one who usually initiates sex.)
- Take turns reading chapters of a book, or magazine articles, to each other (ideally the listener gives a foot massage to the reader at the same time).
- Bake cookies together, then stay up late and eat them with milk.
- Do something creative together, or something that requires problem-solving. Drawing, painting, putting together a puzzle, playing with clay (think of that scene from "Ghost"--possibilities abound!)
Five Best Responses to Being Told You're in the Wrong Bathroom
- Tig Notaro
- Deanne Smith
- Julie Goldman
- Kelli Dunham
- Sabrina Matthews
- Say to the person: "No way--YOU'RE really a man? Geez, you totally pass."
- Say, "Sorry, but the men's room was full. Hey, mind if I use this sink as a urinal?"
- Lift up your shirt to show your bra (my DGF has actually done this).
- If the person does that annoying exaggerated look at the door to make sure she's in the women's room, just say, "Yeah, you're in the right place. And so am I." (My friend C has done this.)
- Ignore the person while doing a little dance and singing, "Man, I feel like a woman."
A few of you have sent in pics of yourself rocking suit vests. As promised, here they are! (And if you want to be added, just let me know and I'll include you in this post.)
First up, here's Cris in a textured mahogany vest sporting a pin instead of a tie. She notes that she usually wears pins or brooches in place of ties these days, and also that suit vests can be a good choice for job interviews.
Next, here's Alyson Cheney, an aspiring model from Washington. She's wearing what appears to be some kind of women's jacket/vest thing, but she butches it up with a tie and an attitude and looks great!
Third, here's Bren, author of the butch-femme blog Buzz Cuts and Bustiers
(photo by Jess Orlando). Bren says her favorite way to wear a suit vest is "with an untucked button-up shirt, dark jeans, sneakers, and a skinny tie."
Last but certainly not least: here's Whitney, who wore this outfit to a birthday party at a wine bar a few days ago. I love the dark vest/dark shirt combo, and can think of a huge range of ties that would match the outfit, too.
And as a bonus, here's a photo of dyke fashion maven k.d. lang looking good (um, as usual) in a suit vest. (BTW, if you haven't heard her recent album, Sing it Loud
, get it! It's awesome! Here's the video
for the first song on the album. It's kind of weird, and--toward the end--pretty hot.)
There you have it, folks. Suit vests and music for a happy Wednesday!
This is me, far more dressed up for work on Friday than was necessary, but it was *really* fun to wear this. As you can see, I had on a grey men's suit vest (Goodwill, $15), a grey-and-white striped shirt (Nordstrom Rack, $30), a green paisley tie (Ross, $20), and--in addition to the black watch that I mentioned in a previous post--a matching leather wrap from Urban Outfitters. With this outfit, I didn't wear suit pants. Instead, to convey an "I'm-dressing-up-whimsically" tone, I wore grey cords and green Converse high tops. So fun. I love men's suit vests, and although I only own one, I plan to use the summer weddings I'm attending to excuse the purchase of a couple others.
(For the weddings, of course, I'll make sure that the suit vest and patnts match.) Never sported a suit vest and want to give it a try? Here are ten fashion tips for happy vesting:
I'd love it if YOU would send me the pictures of you or your friends sporting suit vests, and I'll post them on the blog! What's your favorite suit vest look?
- If you're wearing the suit vest casually, as I was on Friday, don't tuck in your shirt. Yeah, it'll extend past your vest; that's part of the look.
- If you're going for anything beyond a casual look, tuck in your shirt.
- Leave the bottom button of your vest unbuttoned.
- Don't worry about wearing a jacket with it. You can if you want, but especially in the summer, and especially if you present as female, you can easily get away with going jacketless.
- Do something fun with colors. Whether it's a casual or formal occasion, add at least two matching splashes of color. For example, I threw in the leather wrap and green Converse to match my tie. If I had just worn a green paisley tie but everything else was grey or black, the tie wouldn't "pop" as much, and might even look kind of random.
- Make sure the suit vest is big enough to accommodate breasts, hips, etc.
- The vest doesn't have to be a neutral color, though they're more versatile.
- If your vest has a pattern, your tie should probably not have one.
- If you're going for "dapper," try a four-in-hand knot, generously loosened. You might even consider adding a driver's cap.
- Even if you usually wear a T-shirt under your dress shirts (as I do), you might consider going without it for this look, to prevent the vest from creating a bulky appearance.
Last week, I mentioned
that my Fourth of July would be dyketastic. The plan was that me, my DGF (dear girlfriend), my DXH (dear ex-husband), his
DGF, and R & J (a very nice butch-femme lesbian couple) would go backpacking. My acquiescence to the plan was a Big Deal, as I have zero desire to camp. Yes, this makes me a bad lesbian. My objections to camping are fivefold:
- Camping requires sleeping outside on the ground, an activity I can understand in some situations (e.g., war; homelessness), but not when there are perfectly good B&Bs within driving distance that are positively brimming with toilet paper and clean linens.
- Tents offer scant protection from riffraff (e.g., bears, serial killers).
- I love being clean. For me, part of hiking's joy is getting gloriously muddy and sweaty and tired, then coming home and taking a shower and curling up with a novel, a glass of cold beer, and a goodly amount of artificial light. The last thing I want to do after a hike is crawl into a tiny enclosure with another sweaty person and sleep on the ground.
- Camping requires an additional set of household items. Frequently, these items are not only expensive, but inferior to the ones I already possess, such as cups, pans, a stove, and overhead shelter.
- The number of espresso beverages attainable while camping are, to say the least, woefully limited.
My DXH loves camping, and tried (without success) to persuade me to camp while we were married. My DGF also loves camping. Now that they are friends and we all hang out happily, it was only a matter of time before they conspired to drag me into the wilderness.
Now, let's be clear: I like nature. Indeed, I spend quite a bit of time in it. But I also like bookstores and coffee shops, and I don't feel compelled to sleep
in either of those places. They are places for visiting, not temporarily relocating, and I feel that forests occupy the same category.
Anyhow, the DXH and DGF persuaded me to try a one-night backpacking trip. I was secretly hoping to like it enough to do it in the future, because it would make me seem dashingly rugged while providing me with new excuses to go to REI. Also, I wanted to use my pocket knife.
Loading heaps of our belongings into giant backpacks for a one-night stay felt a little absurd, but as we scaled the two-mile uphill trail to the campsite, I found myself enjoying it. We arrived and set up camp. (Admittedly, I had a short "OMG WTF my life is so strange" moment upon pitching a tent ten feet from my ex-husband's, but then I realized how awesome it is that he and I are such good friends, that the disparate parts of my life are so integrated, and BLAH BLAH BLAH.)
My DXH's DGF consulted a map and suggested we hike to the nearest body of water. The farthest I'd previously hiked was six miles, and this would add up to nine or ten, but--butch that I am--I stayed silent and tried to exude "I'm cool with whatever, 'cause I'm so tough" vibes.
A mile into the hike, the back of my neck began to itch. After another half mile, my thighs itched. Then my arms and face. Two miles in, my throat started to feel funny, and another half mile later, I asked my DGF to examine the back of my neck--which, it turned out, had sprouted giant hives. Meanwhile, R (the butch in the aforementioned butch-femme duo) was having other allergic reactions: sneezing, congestion, and a swollen face. (My DXH commented that two out of three butch lesbians were apparently allergic to local flora.) I had never had a reaction like that, and--truth be told--I was a little worried. But going back at that point seemed silly, since we were nearly there. I grew increasingly miserable. Little hives sprouted on my arms and I itched all over. I quietly braced myself for anaphylaxis. (R had an EpiPen, so I was semi-confident that death was not imminent.)
Eventually, we passed a campsite and accepted Benadryl from some kind strangers. R and I still felt lousy, but at least our symptoms stopped getting worse. When we reached the water's edge, I sat and reflected upon several important things, namely: (1) how in God's name would I hike four more miles? and: (2) would I finally get to use my pocket knife?
Meanwhile, my DGF had approached the water. She stepped in with one foot, then--in response to its chill, turned around quickly and started to run back to shore. Only... she didn't get far. She was suddenly limping, then her calf gave out.
Luckily, one of my DXH's DGF's talents is medical expertise, and she quickly determined that it was a muscle tear.
My girlfriend was no longer ambulatory, and we were four miles from our campsite. This, I thought, did not bode well.
It soon became clear that my DGF wouldn't be hiking back to the campsite. The map showed a parking lot a mile and a half away. We figured we'd try to hitch a ride to my car, drop my DGF there, hike back up to the campsite, then I'd pack our stuff and hike back down and drive home. (Admittedly, this prospect had perks: I'd get to be super butch AND not have to deal with the actual "camping" part of camping.)
The six of us made our way toward the parking lot. R and J ran up ahead to begin assessing the generosity of strangers. But they soon returned with an armed federal ranger. The ranger asked my DGF lots of questions and made notes on a pad of paper. He also shared the freeze-dried ice cream that R had cleverly brought along. My DGF flirted shamelessly with the ranger (in her defense, he was
in uniform), who seemed startled and flattered at the attention he was garnering from our little group (half of which, I'll remind you, was butch lesbians). Our
ranger called another ranger, who arrived in a white ATV. My DGF and I got in, but the others weren't allowed to come (some nonsense about "seatbelts"). We said our goodbyes, then my DGF and I peppered Ranger #2 with questions as he drove us back to our campsite: Why did he have two giant guns in a locked cage next to the passenger seat? (A: "Because you never know who you'll be dealing with.") Was the pay reasonable? (A: "We get paid in sunsets.") Had he ever seen a mountain lion? (A: No, and he sounded sad about it.) What was the most dangerous situation he'd ever been in? (A: Raiding illegal marijuana fields.) Did people ever try to live in the woods permanently? (A: Yes.) Who does that? (A: "Crazy people.")
At the campsite, Ranger #2 told my DGF to stay in the car, and told me to pack up fast while he "checked out" nearby campsites.
As I have mentioned, I am not much of a camper. I hadn't broken down a tent in at least 12 years. Picture a stereotypical prissy gay man trying to break down a tent. Then double his confusion and give him a pocket knife, a small hammer, and some zip-off cargo pants. That was me. I managed to get the task done with only one serious injury (a large cut/blood blister on my left thumb). When the ranger returned, we loaded in the bags and he drove us back to my car.
On the drive home, my DGF and I stopped at an excellent Italian restaurant. We were dirty, sweaty, and my DGF couldn't walk, but we had a great meal and spent a lot of it laughing. It occurred to both of us that my DGF's injury may have saved me from midnight anaphylaxis, and also that it was a little pathetic that two butch lesbians couldn't make it through a one-night camping trip. So there you have it, friends: I tried camping.
"Dyketastic?" Maybe not. But I've concluded that camping isn't half bad--as long as it doesn't involve sleeping on the ground, and it ends with some great Italian food, a drive home, and a nice, hot shower.
Kelli and her partner, Cheryl. Pic from http://sydlondonphotography.com/2011/01/06/kelli-dunham-and-cheryl-burke/
Some of you know Kelli Dunham
personally, and others of you--like me--know her only through her amazing, hilarious comedy. (If you don't know her stuff, check out some clips here
Earlier this month, Kelli's partner, Cheryl, died of cancer. (This would be bad enough in itself, but Kelli's previous partner died of cancer, too. Can you imagine??) This page
was put up by some of Kelli's friends to help her get through the next rough bit of life. If you've ever laughed at one of her awesome stand-up gigs, I encourage you to give $5 or $10. Think of it as buying Kelli a virtual beer.
I'm going to buy Kelli a virtual pastrami sandwich, cream soda, and pretzels right now. And Kelli, if you're reading this: we love you.