Queer Your Wedding Wardrobe: For Shorties And Butch Bridesmaids

The 5’4 Club Gets Invited to a Wedding

By Kristen

Somehow I founded the 5’4 Club. Practically all of my friends are 5’4. This is weird! My roomie? 5’4. My former classmates in Vancouver? 5’4. My new friends in Montreal? 5’4. Did we meet pants shopping? At a cut-off point for a roller coaster? In the front row of a class photo? These are all legitimate questions.

You kind of just understand people when you have the same stature. If we’re cooking at my house, someone will grab the step-stool since we all know no one can reach the flour on the top shelf. If we go to the gym, no one has to readjust the machines. If we go thrifting together, we know which sections of the friperie to skip. It is a completely random/illogical club to be in, but it’s also pretty sweet.

My girlfriend is also part of the 5’4 Club. And neither of us really knows what to do.

You need to be this tall to join my club.

See, the other part of this 5’4 Club was bonding over being the shorter partner in our relationships. Most of my friends, straight or queer, ended up having a partner taller than them. Even my roomie who says, “Apparently I have a thing for short guys,” still dates dudes that are taller than her. (5’6 may be short in guy world, but it’s still taller than 5’4.) We shared the same experience of leaning against our exes’ shoulders or chins in heels.

When my girlfriend and I started dating, everyday things became surprising. She’d greet me at the door saying, “Weird, normally I’d be looking up.” Or going in for a hug, “Holy crap I can rest my chin on your shoulder!” It’s interesting to be on the exact same level as someone for once. Two words: perfect spooning.

But we got invited to a wedding. A wedding where we’re going to dress up and be seen together as a couple. A couple of lesbians. I’ve never had a date for a wedding before and it has become somewhat worrisome.

Seriously, now… wtf are we doing?

You’d think there would be more important matters to stress about. Do they know you’re gay? How am I supposed to remember all of their names? What do you wear to a wedding? How matchy is too matchy? What if it’s too hot? How many exes will be in attendance? Nope, none of those came up. We’re both comfortable in our sexuality and used to making our own sartorial choices. If someone wants to wear pants. So be it. If someone wants to wear a skirt. She can if she wants to. But dressing up all fancy-like does bring up one issue.

We looked at the invitation on the fridge, looked down at our feet and turned to each other. “So, do you know which shoes you want to wear?”

Even though 5’4 is average height in North America and we were both bound to date someone of average height or shorter eventually, the chance to be tall had never come up before. We’ve always been comfortable being The Short One. We enjoy being the same height. But when it comes down to it, neither of us has been The Tall One in Heels. Should I put on my stilts of awkwardness and rest my chin on her head? (Yes, some of my shoes are that tall.) Or should I ask her to tower over me and I’ll go back to cuddling onto my partner’s shoulder? Of all the issues that come up when looking at identity and femme-inity and queerness, it’s funny that stature even comes into play.

It seems like everyone thinks about it from time to time:

Foot scratch dance! Not to be mistaken for footsy

b/c i’m 5’10, i’m always the taller one. because i’m me, i’m always the less-butch one. and so I always feel like Nicole Kidman. – Riese

My gf and I are both used to being the tall ones! I went to a wedding with her and we both giggled about that as well. – Ali

…..guys what? i loved that my ex and i were the same height IT’S THE MOST ADORABLE. I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT IT. EMBRACE IT Y’ALL. – Unconvincingly Anonymous

Now I realize how lucky I am to be three inches shorter than my gf, because when I wear heels we’re eye-level. Haha. You guys laugh about being taller, I just think it’s funny to be the same height. – Hansen

I think tall femme/short butch couples look really hot. Especially when everyone’s all gussied up. Unfortunately that’s never going to be a part of my life since I’m only 5’4″ and a pretty gigantic wimp about wearing super high heels. Such is life. – Lizz

my gf is five inches taller than me and she prefers not to wear heels (she’s 5’11) so it’s always a strange experience when we go out because i finally get to be (almost) as tall as she is. almost. – Hannah

you guys are making me feel heteronormative because i’m 5’7″ and the butchy one and my ideal girl is 5 feet tall and super super femme and i like to hold doors for her and fix things and build shelves and stuff and she wears dresses and heels and looks gorgeous all the time / i am a walking stereotype – Kate

Really now, I’m probably just going to wear whichever shoes don’t need repairing, regardless of their height. It’s not even a problem, just something to think about when I receive a text like this, “I have to admit I am enjoying not being ‘the short one’ but I certainly won’t mind if you heel it up.” How do you queerettes feel?


Your Friend Wants You to Wear a Dress: Advice for Butches as Bridesmaids

By Lizz

For some it’s a moment of joy, for others a dreaded fear looming overhead: being asked to be a bridesmaid. If you’re a femme girl this is enough of a challenge. Not only do you have to buy an expensive dress you might not like in a color that makes you look sallow, you have to entertain the bride and keep her calm. You might even have to drink a gross sugary cocktail at a Chip ‘N Dales.

On the other hand, for genderqueer and butch folks, just the act of showing up in clothing can be extremely complicated and emotionally draining. Talking to a bride about your feelings regarding gender-roles, clothing, patriarchy, weddings and a whole host of other feelings is made even more complicated by the fact that she’s, well, a bride. Those getting married tend to have a boatload of planning and stress on their plates and sometimes can overlook other’s feelings. And yes, in the worst sort of way, it can really come down to The Dress.

Vanessa already talked supportive dates and partners through the ordeal, but what’s an androgynous, soft butch, hard butch, metro, genderqueer, bi-gendered, gender-neutral, gender-free gal/guy/boi/individual to do? Well for starters, take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.

1. Take Stock of Yourself
Before you say anything to anyone, you need to start by reflecting within yourself. First, think about your relationship with the idea of being referred to as a bridesmaid and/or wearing a dress. If you are a trans man or strongly masculine genderqueer person, you’re very likely going to have a problem with both of these things. On the other hand, that line my be blurrier for others. Perhaps you’re okay with being called a bridesmaid but not with wearing a dress (or vice versa).

If you’re unsure what is acceptable/comfortable for you in terms of formalwear (as it can be quite different from casual clothing) think about picking up Vogue and GQ magazines. Flip through and rip out things you would feel okay wearing. Do so even if it’s only one element of an outfit. This will help you zoom in on your clothing comfort zone. Maybe you really will only feel comfortable in traditional menswear. Maybe you feel okay wearing traditional women’s clothing such as flowy pants/blouses but not actually wearing a dress. Maybe you’d like to wear something that takes elements from all over the place and is wholly non-traditional. Regardless, solidify in your mind where your preferences lie. What is okay for you and what isn’t.

2. Take Stock of Your Relationship with the Bride
Go ahead and take a good hard look at your relationship with the bride. If the bride is a close friend of yours and you’ve been masculine of center for a while, chances are she isn’t expecting you to wear a dress anyways. While you shouldn’t count on this, it is something to ease your mind. It’s also very likely that for a really close friend you’re going to absolutely want to be in their wedding. Weddings are as much about the community as they are about the individual, and being in the bridal party of your best friend can be quite memorable.

However, I know that many people have compartmentalized lives or may have only recently begun preferring masculine of center clothing. In this case you’ll want to think about your relationship with the bride. How much does your friendship mean to you both and how comfortable are you speaking with the bride about your gender presentation/sexuality/fashion feelings. If the dress situation comes down to an ultimatum, you’ll want to know where you already stand about being in this friend’s wedding.

Finally, sometimes bridal party invitations are out of courtesy (perhaps you used to be close but no longer are) or out of obligation (you invited her to be your bridesmaid 20 years ago when you were femme). Perhaps it’s the groom you’re close with. The bride might feel very strongly that she wants her bridesmaids to be uniform and, in actuality, not care very much if this makes you uncomfortable. Unless you are desperate to be a bridesmaid, or you’re fairly certain she won’t care if you don’t wear a dress, in this situation I suggest you politely decline her invitation.

3. Come up With Some Specific Alternatives
Before you go off texting your friend that you would rather die a thousand deaths than wear a dress, maybe you should come up with some alternatives. Remember how you went through Vogue and GQ and figured out what kind of formalwear you felt comfortable in? Go back to that stuff. Would you be comfortable wearing what the groomsmen are wearing? What about slacks, a vest and the groomsmen’s coordinating tie? Perhaps high waisted wide leg pants and a blouse that matches the bridesmaids. How would you feel about standing on the same side as the groom? If you already know what dress the bride has chosen, you might even consider calling the shop. They may have encountered similar situations and have coordinating non-dress outfits. Remember, it is not only queer folks who often don’t want to wear cocktail dresses. Many women refuse and many mother-of-the-bride styles take this in to consideration. Whatever you decide, be sure to come up with a couple of options that are acceptable to you.

4. Talk to the Bride
Well yes. This is the hardest part. Sure there are those of us for whom words come easy and a simple phone call of “hey, I don’t wear dresses, cool?” will work. Unfortunately for many of us it isn’t that straightforward (no pun intended). Plan to talk with the bride either on the phone or in person. Although you might be nervous about having to say words aloud, it’s much more polite to deal with these sort of things directly. Plus, you avoid the anxious period as you await her response.

Keep in mind that the way you talk with someone is going to be extremely dependent on both your relationship with them and also their comfort level with queer issues. The way your sister responds to you is going to be very different from the way your cousin or high school best friend responds. Someone who knows a lot of queer people is also going to respond differently from someone for whom you’re the only queermo they know.

Think about being confident, strong and getting to the point. Don’t forget that bride may not quite get what you mean right away. She might think you don’t want to wear a dress rather than that you don’t wear dresses. Be upbeat and friendly while making sure your language and tone are extremely clear. Most importantly, always always always thank the bride like she’s doing you a favor. Even though we know that dressing as you see fit should be a given, many brides will see this as granting you a favor. In the end, it might be best to let them think that.

When I need to have a serious talk with someone I sometimes write up a little script. Here’s are some examples:

You: I’m so happy you asked me to be in your wedding, but I’m really not comfortable wearing dresses. How would you feel if I wore something else that coordinated?
Bride: Meep! I didn’t even think about that. Obviously you can wear something else. Is what the boys are wearing okay?
You: Yup, that sounds great. Just let me know what color to buy my tie in. Thanks so much, this means a lot to me.

You: I’m so happy you asked me to be in your wedding but I’m really not comfortable wearing dresses. How would you feel if I wore something else that coordinated?
Bride: Oh jeez, you always think you’re going to look fat. I promise you’ll look fine and the dress I picked is super cute.
You: It’s not that, it’s that my gender identity is such that I do not wear dresses under any circumstances anymore.
Bride: Um… I guess I didn’t realize since you wore a dress the last time I saw you. Um… yeah of course we can work something out. It wouldn’t be my wedding without my college synchronized diving partner.
You: Thanks so much, this means a lot to me.

You: I’m so happy you asked me to be be in your wedding but I’m really not comfortable wearing dresses. How would you feel if I wore something else that coordinated?
Bride: Ugh I knew you were going to be like this. You know it’s my day. I don’t understand why you always have to be the center of attention.
You: I’m not trying to make a big deal out of this, I just don’t wear dresses anymore. What if I wore what the groomsmen were wearing?
Bride: Fine. But then you have to stand on the boys side too.
You: That sounds like a good compromise. Thanks so much, this means a lot to me.

You: I’m so happy that you asked me to be in your wedding and even took the time to find coordinating menswear for me.
Bride: Yeah no problem. I don’t think I’ve seen you in a dress in 20 years.
You: How would you feel about referring to me as a bridesmate instead of a bridesmaid? It just feels more consistent with my gender identity.
Bride: Seems a little trivial to me, but sure. If that’s what you want I’ll do my best.
You: Thanks so much, it’s really important to me.

Talking to anyone about your gender/sexuality can be really hard and talking about weddings is hard. Together, it’s the perfect storm of scary awful hardness. Still, you have to do it. It might be really awkward, you might end up having to gracefully bow out of the wedding. Who knows, the bride might end up changing her whole plan to let everyone wear what they want! Regardless, your number one priority should be standing your ground, being true to yourself and celebrating in style.

Via: BKLYN Boihood

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  1. I feel like my three favorite genres of fluffy guilty pleasure internet reading material just came together majestically as one: wedding coverage, advice columns, and autostraddle! Perfect, even though I’m comfortable in a dress and have no prospects to be a bridesmate (good one).

    • I’ve heard about a lady in Sydney who is designing “man-style” shirts for women, and if the business gets started she’ll be shipping internationally.. Sounds promising

  2. Going to a wedding in Poland next month and I’m worried about trying to find men’s formal wear that will fit me. Has anyone had any experience with the formal wear in Topman? It doesn’t help that I’m 5″nothing.

    • A butch friend of mine has recommended Topman to me for small-sized menswear. She’s fairly short, though also much less curvy than I am, so I don’t know if that translates to all body types.

    • Compared to other men stores, Topman has rather small sizes – but I am not sure if they work on all women’s figures…

      I hope you find something!

    • The problem I have with Topman is that it’s designed for people who are tall (I’m barely 5’2″), so the blazers don’t work at all. The shoulders stick out too much, the arms are way too long, the length goes practically to my knees…I just get self-conscious when I try them on because I look like I’m in my dad’s clothing. Personally, I always turn to the boys section. J. Crew and Brooks Brothers have great boy clothes and I would go to them if I found myself in need of formalwear. Their quality is also far superior to Topman but the prices will probably be similar. What I have to do is buy a top from the boys section, but get my pants from the men’s section thanks to my hips. I don’t know if you’ll have that problem. Just try on lots of different things and see what works for you.

      Good luck!

  3. I love to wear dresses and heels but I vowed never to be a bridesmaid ever again. So I don’t have to worry. But still, I really like this article!

    Also, 5’3 club is now accepting new members. Please submit a 1000 word essay on being 5’3 or make a small donation to Autostraddle in the next 12 hours. Membership is filling up fast so don’t wait, act now!

  4. Pingback: Crushable Debate: Bridesmaids Vs. Bachelorette

  5. I’m 5’3″, I’m resigned to pretty much always being the short one (I can’t even use the peep hole thingy in my door because it’s too high)

  6. I would love to see a queer wedding guide, or androgynous formal wear article. It’s emotionally draining and I feel super alone in this department!

  7. I am so tall and all my girlfriends have always been shorter and all my friends are even shorter still, and I kinda developed a complex about it. All I want is a my-size girlfriend FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE. And I always feel kind of pressured into being more butch/toppy/assertive than I actually am because I’m the tall one.

    So what I’m saying is, will someone please start the 5’10” club with me?

    • I’m 5’10 and I also have a lot of feelings about this, worse because I really like wearing heels. I kind of like being the one who can reach tall things etc, but I’d like to be the little spoon occasionally, and being significantly taller than a butch girl is somehow especially awkward.

    • This reminds me of Wendy Williams who rocks the hell out of 3-4 inch heels and is damn proud of it. I think she’s around 5’10” or 5’11”,

    • I will totally join Club 5’10”! I have mostly come to terms with it, but some days I feel like a baby giraffe, too tall and awkward and tangling up my own legs.

  8. my (straight) best friend is LITERALLY the best and has already had a discussion with her SISTER about me being able to choose my wedding gear outside of a dress to be her maid of honor in the far future when she gets married. BUT THESE CONVO GUIDES ARE SUPER HELPFUL, AWESOME JOB!!

  9. I read a post similar to this on a blog that I follow. It was all about advice for butches as bridesmaids, too.

  10. this is only tangentially related, but how are people going with the emotional aspects of being involved in people’s wedding parties? like i am happy for my friends and the last one i was involved in was joyous, but sometimes i get flashes of anger toward my friends for not thinking of how they are doing this thing and asking me to be in it and smiling about an institution that i as a person don’t have access to. and i think about how they call themselves progressive and allies but somehow when it comes to their wedding they don’t even think about queer issues at all. like the last one i was in they said they weren’t mentioning sexual orientation (they made a very veiled reference to it in a letter they sent to their guests – but very veiled) because they didn’t want to upset their parents. and i wanted to shout at them that if they cared about queers the way they say they do then they should be willing to upset their parents, just a little. sigh.

    • I dunno, other people’s weddings are seriously not about me or my (queer) issues. I would appreciate them acknowledging that I might not be super comfortable at a wedding *before* the wedding, but during it, it’s about them!

      I get where you’re coming from, though.

    • I’m with you, dizzy. My sister who thinks gay is a sin got engaged in June, and at times I find myself thinking about it in terms of “my straight sister is going to be marrying her straight boyfriend”… It’s kind of hard not to be resentful. So I don’t really have a solution.

  11. ” It wouldn’t be my wedding without my college synchronized diving partner.”

    Oh my god. Laughed so hard.

    I want to be able to say this one day. New life goal.

    Of course, I have to learn to swim first.

  12. I am loving these wedding articles!

    Lizz briefly mentioned Chip N Dales… can we have an article about how to survive a (Straight) Bachelorette Party? I’ve already attended one and it was horrible (thankfully no male strippers). I’d love to know some tips for getting through it because I know I’ll be faced with more in the future!

    • ask them if they want to go to the gay bar for a drag show. most straight girls seem to looove going to the gay bar. i mean, it sort of sucks because there are always at least 2 giant groups of straight girls wearing penis tiaras at the bar but maybe that is a solution?

  13. I’m only 161cm (5’3) (woohoo shorties unite!) but my girlfriend is 153cm tall (5’1) (woohoo for even shorter shorties!). I can see eye-to-eye with her when she’s in heels, but once for a formal event we both went in heels (my first time in heels in 4 years!).

    I think the big question is not so much height-related, but who can survive an entire wedding and reception in heels for longer haha!

  14. All these wedding articles are so relevant to my life right now-
    My cousin’s wedding is next month, and I’m in the bridal party. I agreed to wear the dress, but I am so not thrilled with the one she picked. There are ruffles, guys. Fucking actual ruffles.
    Also this wedding is adding way more drama to my life than I wanted. Why is it that when straight chicks get married, they are capable of going from normally reasonable human beings to these awful creatures that expect you to make multiple trips out of state (even though you’re broke as fuck and they know it), buy awful dresses, and do their bidding?
    Not to mention think they’re allowed to make important life decisions for you like, who you should be dating (the queer friend that you knew was moving to her city, and they both needed housemates), what your sex life should be like (yes, this actually happened), oh, and also who she expects you to dance with at the wedding. I don’t care how supportive you claim to be of me, if you can’t respect my feelings and decisions about my life, you don’t get to call yourself supportive.

    TLDR; weddings are way too drama-filled, and I’m fed up with the whole process.

    • Aaaand almost none of that related to this article. I apparently just have a lot of feelings about this whole having to be in a wedding thing

      • It’s OK. Let it all out! LOL Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with many weddings myself, and I won’t be having one myself. Weddings really do strange things to people, don’t they?

  15. okay but real talk: why is it that one partner has to be the heels-wearing femme-y one and the other can’t? obviously that’s what some people want and that’s awesome. but why can’t both ladies wear heels? or neither? it feels like (the first part of) this article is kind of reinforcing the idea that all lesbian relationships have to fit the butch-femme dynamic.

    i still love you guys though.

  16. My father is 6′ (1.83m), my brother is 6′ 2″ (1.88m). In her youth, before her back problems, my mother was 5′ 6″ (1.68m)… and I have other tall relatives, male and female. So what did I get? 5 feet 3 inches (1.60m). Which puts me just a little taller than my grandmother. Damn you genetics! LOL A bit off topic, I know, but… the average height for a man is 5′ 10″ (1.78m). So, yeah, 5′ 6″ would be short for a guy. Annnywaaaay. I know it’s silly, but… I’ve always thought that one of the advantages of being gay was that I wouldn’t end up with someone who was a lot taller than me, because most of the women I’ve come into contact with are no taller than 5′ 6″. I’ve never liked that idea of having to look up to my partner’s face. Luckily, my girlfriend is only an inch taller than me. (I hope I got the metric numbers right for our European Autostraddlers! :) )

    As for the dress part… ugh. I’ve never liked them, was forced to wear them as a child because, of course, my mother is of the firm belief that little girls should wear dresses and have long hair. :( One of my oldest friends asked me to be her maid of honor, and insisted that I wear a dress. I respected her wishes because she’s a good friend and it was her wedding. That was the last time I’ve worn one, and thank god I will never wear one again. It was the most uncomfortable, embarrassing experience I’ve ever had. I felt like an alien. And having to stand up there in front of all those people… thank goodness they were all looking at her! The advantage to being 32… no one can make me wear a dress, and I can keep my hair as short as I want! And I do mean short, like make old ladies think they’ve walked into the wrong restroom, short! LOL

  17. I’M 5’8, I Love being tall and I want to be taller idk why, also clothes are so expensive when you’re tall which sucks …I love taller girls too, it’s a rare because most girls I end up dating are shorter than me. I have never been to a wedding so i’m clueless as what to wear, maybe i’ll dress like Janelle Monae!

  18. Ugh I dread weddings so much. I’ll come if I can wear a shirt and some tidy jeans and boots. Do not ask me to be in the bridal party. Please.
    I will wear a dress to one wedding only…my own.

  19. Real life conversation with sibling: “I’ll do much better if it’s not pink or purple.” Response: “Don’t worry, I’m thinking more coral.”
    Wikipedia: “The color coral pink is displayed at right, a pinkish color.”

    I have 10 months to figure this out . . . I’m thinking soft gray suit with coral accessories . . . at least for the reception.

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