How many times have you wished you could find a men's shirt that accommodated your sports-bra-clad breasts? Or that you could find a men's-style suit jacket that didn't make you look like a Pop Warner football player? Or that men's pants offered a little more room in the hip region and a little less in the nether region?
Oooh, butches. 2013 is going to be OUR year. Clothing companies are opening that cater to butch women, trans men, and other masculine-of-center folks. I'm going to profile three of the biggies (in the US):
Photo courtesy of Zel Anders; copyright Trish Tunney
To my knowledge, Tomboy Tailors is the only butch/MOC clothing company with a permanent store you can visit. Scheduled to open Feb. 2 (at 50 Post St. in San Francisco, CA), Tomboy Tailors was founded by Zel Anders, a longtime Bay Area butch who was tired of negative experiences at men's clothing stores--even in one of the most progressive areas of the country. "I knew that if I was having these unpleasant shopping experiences, then other butch lesbians and trans-masculine individuals must be having the same experience," Anders says. "It is high time to move the world forward on this issue." Inspired partly by her dapper butch role model, the late legal aid attorney Tanya Neiman, that's exactly what Anders did.
Photo courtesy of Tomboy Tailors
Anders was kind enough to meet with me when I visited SF recently. She has a broad smile and a bold, infectious optimism. She told me, "I want Tomboy Tailors to be well-known and respected... for making beautiful made-to-measure suits for butch lesbians, trans-masculine individuals... I hope that Tomboy Tailors will be helping to break barriers on what is perceived to be appropriate for women to wear."
Tomboy Tailors offers suits, shirts, ties, pants, and shoes (they recently contracted with multiple companies, including Allen Edmonds, to make their shoes--you can check them out on TT's Pinterest page). If their models' clothing is any indication, Tomboy Tailors is going to be totally game-changing, particularly for professional butches who can spring for tailor-made clothes. Like them on Facebook or join their mailing list to stay up to date (P.S. Full disclosure: I'm honored to say that TT is a Butch Wonders sponsor!)
You might have heard of Saint Harridan from their Kickstarter campaign, which attracted over 1000 backers to reach their goal!
Armed with funds, the company will soon begin work on its first suit line, expected to re-open for pre-orders soon. Meanwhile, you can apply to be a model and see whether your city is on Saint Harridan's pop-up tour (meaning that they'll hang out a shingle for 4-5 days in a particular city and measure people for suits).
In choosing a company name, founder Mary Going eschewed words like "butch," "stud," or "boi," fearing that they might sound exclusionary. Instead, according to the SH website, she settled on "Saint" (meaning the patron of a movement) and "Harridan" (a "reclaimed" word that has sometimes been used as a slur to refer to a "mannish" woman). I'm stoked to see what kinds of clothing SH will roll out. Check out their website and Facebook page.
Bernadette Coveney Smith was working in the wedding industry (helping queer couples navigate a straight wedding world) when she noticed that something was missing. "Where do these lesbians and transmen buy beautifully tailored suits and tuxes if they don't want to wear a wedding dress?" Coveney Smith asked herself. "In terms of butch wedding attire... too often, she'll be drowning in a man's suit with too-wide shoulders or too-long sleeves. Men's suits aren't made for breasts... you end [up] with suits that are too big in some places but too small across the chest, so the jacket or vest is pulling. A butch should look every bit as handsome as her bride is beautiful but it's unfortunately not always the case." So, she founded Fourteen.
If Fourteen has its way, handsome butches will soon become the norm--and not just at weddings. Fourteen currently offers tuxes and formal suits, but plans to expand into a variety of areas, including swimwear and binder undershirts (for which they already have designs). Coveney Smith says that after that, Fourteen plans to "evolve to casual clothing followed by queer maternity clothes." Additionally, Fourteen's clothes are all made in the United States.
You can read more about Fourteen on their website or peruse Fourteen's Facebook page for updates. (P.S. Full disclosure: I'm proud to say that Fourteen is a Butch Wonders sponsor, too!)