When I first encountered “tomboy femme” a few years ago on this very website, I felt immediately drawn to it. I didn’t really know how to describe what I wanted to wear on my body but tomboy femme was exactly it. For me, it looks like chambray button-ups, black skinny jeans, beat-up leather lace-up boots, thin gold necklaces and stud earrings and a really good shade of lipstick. It looks like ripped “boyfriend” jeans and a gray tank with a long rainbow-beaded necklace. It’s a jean jacket in the fall and lots of sleeveless button-up shirts in the summer. And it’s wearing my two tomboy femme shirts every other day tbh. I’m still defining “tomboy femme” style for myself but it gets exponentially harder to find inspiration when all I see is fashion for white, thin bodies. I’m a fat tomboy femme of color and I deserve cute outfits!
Thankfully I’ve found inspiration from some fellow queer babes on the Instagram. They have created outfits and ensembles so effortlessly cool and variant in style, that I hope to achieve it one day. I’ve found inspiration from: Buzzfeed Producer Jazzmyne Robbins, poet Sonia Guiñansaca, stylist and former Autostraddle Fashion/Style Editor Lydia Okello, queer plus size blogger Maggie McGill, and fashion designer, stylist and blogger Isabell Decker.
They all have their own definition of style, with elements of tomboy femme flavor, and some of them have created their own hashtags to document their unique tastes. For example, Guiñansaca began #PapiFemme five years ago because they needed a language for their fashion, which they didn’t get from the “white/ binary/ American/ thin /mainstream world.”
They told me what Papi Femme means to them via email:
“When I tried to find language that encompassed gender non-conforminess it was too academic, too white, too rigid. I wanted to give language to my gender non-conforming self, language made for this brown/latinx/ migrant body. Papi is a term of endearment, femme is something I’ve always identified as. So then #PapiFemme became. PapiFemme is language I gave myself to exist, and my fashion is a hybrid of Papi and femme. Over the past 5 years it is a term I’ve pushed on social media, and it has resonated with so many gender non-conforming Latinx folks. I see it being picked up and when I go through the hashtag there are so many interpretation of what it means, it looks different for each person; it can be high femme or tomboy or something totally new. At the core, it is specifically for Latinx folks that are femme & gender non-conforming. And the fashion that goes with it: it is bold, it is colorful, it is thick eyebrows, it is tattoos, it is thick thighs, it’s is patterns on button-ups from thrift store, it is skirts sewed by mami, it is tote bags from conferences, and… everything yet imagined and still on budget.”
For Okello, they use #tombabe to tag their photos. They say they prefer the gender ambiguity of tombabe over tomboy because it feels less limiting. They explained to me how they define tombabe:
“For me, tombabe is a muddled mix of traditionally ‘femme’ elements with lots of ‘tomboy’ or youthful masculinity (in a traditionally prescribed way) sprinkled in it. A style that is androgynous leaning to a femme expression. It’s a space that felt neglected in traditional binaries of fashion, especially queer fashion. At least, that’s what it means to me. It can mean whatever people want it for them, and it’s been interesting to watch the tag grow.”
These queer humans might not identify exactly as “tomboy femme” but what they wear speaks to my tomboy femme sensibilities so I have used inspiration from their outfits to create a whole build-your-own tomboy femme wardrobe. Almost all the links below are in a range of women’s plus sizes, except one duster which is from the men’s section and the shoes and accessories. Feel free to peruse the collages below and mix-n-match to fit your own imagination. Let’s take a look!
Your Everyday Tomboy Femme Looks
Based on my findings, the key to an everyday tomboy femme look is a complimentary shirt / jacket pairing. I mean, I think that’s true for queer styles across the spectrum — it’s just our truth. In a tomboy femme aesthetic, I think this style lends itself to having fun with pops of color, jewelry, and prints!
Get yourself some button-ups that doesn’t have a boob gap! Solid colors are a must and then add fun prints to the mix. The mock-neck shirt would look really good with a duster jacket below, just saying. I realized that everything I suggested here are button-ups so I’m gonna add a pro tip I got from Laneia: get yourself a good white t-shirt. Preferably a v-neck and then pair it with a jacket and it’s an Outfit.
Jackets Are Gay
I didn’t even realize that dusters were an option until I saw Lydia and Sonia do it?? It’s a game-changer for me, y’all. I thought I was too short to rock one but you know what, fuck it. It’s the fall and I can’t wait to rock that burnt orange duster at the top left, ok. If you don’t already have an over-sized denim jacket, I think it’s time to get one, babe. You need it to complete the look! I bet you can find one at a thrift store right this moment. I feel like blazers are always gonna be a classic, final touch so finding one that can be versatile but still feels fresh is always a good option. The leather jacket is straddling into hard femme territory but I think tomboy femmes can work it too depending on how you style the outfit.
Say Yes to the Dress
I don’t really wear dresses except for special occasions but these queer humans have changed my mind on my idea of dresses. I’ve realized that wearing a dress doesn’t have to be all the way high femme, it can be somewhere in the middle, somewhere that seems more like myself. Add simple jewelry or fun accessories and you’ve got A Look.
These dresses are simple and clean and lend themselves well to adding layers! Not to mention, they look super comfy. It’s hard out here looking for dresses that aren’t floral or frilly or have weird ruffles or a deep neckline so I’ll take something with more straight lines.
I might’ve been selfish here and didn’t stray too much from jewelry that I prefer to wear. I think a solid gold necklace goes with literally everything you own and you can just decide if you want a statement piece or a more subtle necklace. Gold earrings and a chunky bracelet feel minimalist yet chic and can dress up anything and add a femme touch to more andro or masculine clothes.
Outfits Inspired by Fancy Pants
Are you as tired of wearing jeans as I am? Well, look there are so many options to choose from! My problem with pants is that I’m short and I always feel like Too Much if I stray from a solid denim or black. I think that might be a fatphobic society telling me that I’m sloppy because I want to wear stretchy, soft pants or that I’ll draw too much bad attention for wearing prints. It’s not true! Don’t be afraid of patterns or loud colors on pants. You’ll have so much more fun. And to complete the look from head to toe, step into the perfect pair of shoes.
On the Run
Trousers, joggers, flowy pants: you can wear them all!
Kick It Up
I’ve been wearing sandals for months now but I’m so ready for the fall temperatures. This is where a tomboy femme can really shine. God, let’s give it up for lace-up and chelsea boots. They single-handedly make us look 10x hotter and gayer. If boots aren’t your thing, white sneakers pair well with so many outfits and adds a more tomboy feel.
What’s your tomboy femme style like? What are your favorite staples in your tomboy femme wardrobe? Let me know in the comments!