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: SHORTS
Boardshorts 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.
Workout/running shorts 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 you to...
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 model.
"Tankini" 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 (ugh--just typing 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?
Rash guards 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)?
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