Culture

Guardian Column: Straight Women in Baggy Clothes Are Appropriating Lesbian Culture

Katharine Hepburn
"Unisex" clothing styles are ruining everything.

A lesbian columnist wrote a piece in the Guardian complaining that the straight women who wear less-than-feminine clothing are “appropriating” lesbian culture and making it too hard for lesbians to tell who the other lesbians are.

The columnist, named Sophie Wilkinson, describes the trend of what she calls “unisex style” as a new thing, blaming the “high-street ubiquity of unisex outfitters such as American Apparel and Uniqlo and the androgynous cuts of Scandinavian shops like Cos.”

“What was once a queer-owned style has shifted to the mainstream, being appropriated by straight women to the point that it’s now impossible to infer a sexual orientation from the way a woman dresses,” Wilkinson writes in a piece titled “Butch chic: how the gender-neutral trend has ruined my wardrobe.”

According to Wilkinson, examples of this “butch chic” style include printed T-shirts, “skirts without peplums or lace,” torn vests “riot grrrl boots,” and, in general, outfits where “functionality takes precedence.”

Now, Wilkinson is right to say that lots of straight women have these kinds of items in their closets — I know I certainly do — but she’s wrong to say that that’s something new. Androgynous styles have been around a while: Giant flannels in the ’90s. Middle-school wannabees (myself included/especially) in the ’00s who walked around wearing ties in an attempt to look as cool as Avril Lavigne. Or, if you want to take it way back: Katharine Hepburn in a suit.

Still, it’s clear that she’s convinced there used to be some kind of “butch” golden age, one that she deeply longs to have back:

“It’s nice to fall, accidentally, into fashion, but I also miss the exclusivity of what we wore . . . I’m a bit proud of looking like a ‘dyke in those jeans,’” she writes.

Oh — but don’t worry, straight women who don’t want to wear lace and flowers every day. She is kind enough to clarify that she believes we’re allowed to pick out our own clothes:

“Obviously it’s fine. I’m not one to tell straight women to dress straight,” she writes.

Um — cool?

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