Queer Your Wedding Wardrobe: The Fashion Doctor Is In

Oh weddings. Those glamorous celebrations of love, religion and typically — thanks to thousands of years of tradition and law — heterosexuality. Even though it’s not your day, going to a wedding as a queer can feel like all eyes are on you. What if the groom’s aunt keeps trying to make you dance with her son? What do you do if you’re a bridesmaid who has no idea how to walk in heels? How do you gussy up and still manage feel like yourself? We’ve read your formspring questions, sympathized and rounded up ten very fashionable grrrls and bois who’ve survived a wedding or two (or, in Robin’s case, 300 in the past 10 years) and even figured out how to have fun. Think of them as your own personal queer fairygodpeople, here to turn your beaters into bowties for just one night.


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SHOES. OHMYGOD, SHOES.

By Carly

If you’re not accustomed to wearing dress shoes, the task of dressing for a wedding or other fancy event can be a bit terrifying. Occasionally you can get away with wearing kicks to a wedding. I did it once and my friend called me “Ellen” for the next three. But sneakers with dress clothes can look sloppy if done incorrectly and aren’t appropriate all the time anyway. Which means you’re going to have to learn to like shoes. Dress shoes. Sounds scary, right?

But here’s the thing — years ago I would only wear sneakers, but once I got into dressy shoes I got ADDICTED. Right now is a particularly spectacular time for dressy shoes, let me tell you. I lean more towards the andorgynous/masculine-of-center side of things, and I’ve actually become more enthused by dress shoes than by kicks.

There are a few things to consider first. One: will you be outside at all? If you’re going to be outside or in grass or anything potentially messy, and you’re not looking to ruin a nice new pair of shoes, then I’d steer clear of suede. Another thing I always try to pay attention to is proportions. If you’re wearing baggy pants with narrow dress shoes, you’re going to probably look ridiculous. Baggy pants work better with kicks, dressier boots or chukkas. Something with a little width to it. If your pants are slimmer-fitting, you can get away with almost anything proportionally-speaking.

PRO TIP: Swap out the boring ol’ laces that your shoes came with with some fun brightly-colored ones (added bonus if the color you get matches whatever your lovely significant other is wearing!). But for the love of god, don’t get sneaker laces! Get dressy laces! Jeez.

Another important thing to consider is socks. If it’s warm out or if you’ll be seeing your ankles at all, go with tiny low socks that make it look like you’re not wearing socks at all and a little bit of Band-Aid Friction Block Stick to keep the blisters away.

In cooler weather I recommend really fun socks. No need to match them to your shoes, just please just don’t wear all-white.

In the interest of your feet, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite places to find dressy shoes, in a wide range of prices:

Aldo is a good place to go for reasonably priced shoes that aren’t ugly or going to fall apart after wearing them once. I have these and I highly recommend them for spring/summer events with a navy pant. It’s all about the brightly colored soles.

If you want to go really crazy, just go to Barney’s Co-Op.

Pro tip: anything by Mark McNairy is going to be ace.

If you have normal lady-sized feet (I wear an 11 so I wear mens shoes all the time) you can get some fun stuff at Steve Madden. Like slippies. If I could pull off slippies I would, srsly. They also have fun oxfords.

Asos, my new favorite online store, has cute shoes as well, and they have free shipping & returns!

Cole Haan has some really fun stuff. So fun that I’m not allowed to go in there anymore. They took the offset laces and brightly colored soles thing and ran with it, with excellent results:

If the wedding isn’t super formal you can probably get away with some Clark’s Desert Boots or some leather chukkas. If it’s near a body of water or is really chill you can probably get away with boat shoes.

PRO TIP: The trick to pulling off being the only (or one of the only) ladies at a wedding wearing menswear is to wear it better than every man there. Wear it with confidence, make sure everything fits correctly and get some killer shoes and you’ll be getting more compliments on your outfit than the bride.

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Queering the Dress

By Gabrielle

Formalwear is definitely more complicated for women on the masculine spectrum, but let me assure you: those of us on the feminine end of the spectrum have clothing crises of our own. I’m actually kind of famous for my clothing crises. When it comes to getting dressed up for a wedding, my biggest issue has always been figuring out the best way to rock a dress without sacrificing my queer visibility.

via: fuckyeahfemme.tumblr.com

On the one hand, we shouldn’t care what other people think, but on the other hand, it’s really important to me to be visible. I don’t like how people treat me when they think I’m straight, and without the context of a lady date, people tend to just assume I’m some sort of “alternative” straight girl. One time, at a lesbian wedding, the mother of one of the brides whispered conspiratorially to me about “those gays,” thinking I played for her team because of my quaint yellow dress and makeup.

The bottom line here is that you can wear the gayest dress in the world (think 100% organic woven kale), but to the untrained eye you still don’t look queer. These tips should make you look “edgy” enough so that when you start talking about your girlfriend, the response will be, “I knew there was something different about you!” rather than, “You’re gay? But you have such feminine facial features!” (That has actually been said to me.)

my twin sister bought me this gay vintage betsy johnson dress and i’m never taking it off. note the exposed zipper

Stripes and smallish polka dots are quintessential queer patterns and details like buttons and exposed zippers can be key. Asymmetrical shapes, like good asymmetrical haircuts, are definitely indicative of an alternative lifestyle. Sometimes it can be hard to find formalwear with these elements, but I promise you that a little time spent browsing thrift shops or Etsy will be rewarded. Leave some room in your budget for tailoring and get that shit to fit you just right. Some good style eras for queerish dresses are the 90s — think grunge slip dresses — and 50s/60s for pinup. Mod’s also a good look to go for because mod dresses usually have a dropped waistline that I somehow find way gayer than a baby doll waistline. Of course, it doesn’t have to be actual vintage; you can find vintage-inspired dresses pretty much anywhere cute things are sold. I personally have a weakness for dresses from Topshop, but my bank account isn’t into it.

Another good route to go is to just get a really simple dress and rely on your accessories to do the queering. Try a collar necklace!

Also: earrings with feathers, long necklaces with large, unexpected pendants, headpieces, giant bows, unpolished gemstones and big weirdo cocktail rings are all queer in my book. Don’t overdo it with the accessories though. Pick one or two and go with that.

Finally, there are some queer parts of your queer body that you may or may not want to show, depending on the crowd. Tattoos are sexy and look queer — especially in a dress — but maybe you don’t want your grandma to know you have them. Likewise, maybe you have a lot of body hair and aren’t sure what to do with it for the wedding. Nothing says “I eat pussy” like hairy legs and pits but, just as with tattoos, people will probably comment. It depends what you are comfortable with! My body hair is my favorite dyke signifier, so while I don’t get rid of it for special occasions, I do trim my armpit hair so that it doesn’t stick out while my arms are down.

Even the most well-intentioned people can accidentally misstep and most people will stare at things they aren’t familiar with, so you’re going to need a thick skin. But that’s the case with being visible in general! At least no one’s awkward brother will try to hit on you. And if he does, that’s his problem, not yours.

Special thanks to Mimi L for professional femme-input.

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Staying Cool While Looking Hot

By Juanita

“Wedding season” falls between May and September primarily because people want to take advantage of the nice weather, right? Not necessarily. There are many traditions (Roman mythology, the harvest) and practical reasons (guests have more travel flexibility) in addition to weather driving the popularity of summer weddings. After all, what constitutes “nice wedding weather” is relative, especially for MOCs who are subjected to wearing layer upon layer of formal wedding attire in the heat.

The good news is that MOCs can stay cool while still being appropriately and fashionably dressed. There has been a trend in menswear toward more casual, creative wedding attire, meaning you can ditch the heavy fabrics, cummerbunds and even jackets and incorporate more of your own unique personal style. Menswear blog Handlebar recently collaborated with the Grunion Run Groomsmen shop to create a lookbook of stylish modern groomsmen ensembles. These looks can work for MOC brides, grooms and guests as well.

According to Vogue, the key to casual wedding attire is to select looks that are “fitted but classically referenced so as not to look too street.” Try vest/tie/shirt combos, suspenders/tie/shirt combos, or go tie-less with a dashing tuxedo inspired shirt. Brides and grooms can also simply add a killer, head-turning investment accessory, such as an Italian ceramic bow-tie by Cor Sine Labe Doli, that they will have for a lifetime.

If you’re a stickler for tradition, remember you can still achieve a classic look in lighter weight fabrics, such as linen and seersucker. I usually refer dapperQ readers to GQ’s Summer Wedding Survival Guide and Summer Wedding Primer for really awesome inspiration.

via: bklynboihood.tumblr.com

Lastly, I know the liquor is free, but drink some agua fresca for goodness sake!

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76 Comments

  1. I am so tired of hearing about what I am “supposed” to wear as a dyke. It’s just as oppressive as hearing about what I am “supposed” to look like as a female-bodied femme from the mainstream media–only somehow it feels like a greater violation coming from other queers. I got over my punk phase in high school; I don’t need to wear exposed zippers and giant tacky jewelry to signal my otherness. I live queer by who I date and love and it doesn’t fucking matter what kind of shoes I put on in the morning. I’ve had just about enough of equating appearance with sexuality and minority group membership.

    • THIS. If the ‘queering my femme look’ tips had been in a specific post with that title wouldn’t have prickled. But let me tell you, I just got VERY PRICKLY.

      Queer = edgy? I thought I was just doing me. Granted, I have an alternative haircut, septum piercing, tattoos and my fair share or plaid shirts, but I get called hipster more than dyke. And that’s cool. (I mean, hipsters blow harder than a job but you know what I mean).

      Queer signifiers are one thing, but conflating fashion style with sexy time preference seems another way to divide us up…

    • I think it’s a little disingenuous to claim that the point of this article is “telling you what you’re supposed to wear.” The question that this is explicitly trying to help with is “How do you gussy up and still manage feel like yourself?” Even though it’s not your thing, some people *do* want to find a way to signal aspects of themselves through what they wear — not necessarily to prove that they fit in or whatever, but because it’s how they like to look or because it’s a good way to meet other likeminded people who might not have picked up on it if you blended in a little more. In overwhelmingly straight contexts, it can be especially nice to figure out a way to connect with a little bit of queer community. The traditions that signal queer community exist, whether or not they interest you, and they can be very convenient.

      It’s also the case that wedding-wear can be especially difficult — most people don’t have to deal with it that often, and the guidelines tend to be stricter than they are in other contexts. Women who don’t do dresses also have to do some extra work to figure out a look that works for them. Tossing out some very practical ideas — and I think it’s clear that they are ideas, rather than mandates — seems about as benign as it gets.

      • It’s totally everyone’s prerogative to wear things that signify who they are. If for you that’s wearing wild jewelry and menswear, far be it from me to tell you what you should and should not like. But statements like “Stripes and smallish polka dots are quintessential queer patterns” trouble me because they are essentially normative. (Also, I’ve never heard of that before; if so, I guess I really am dressing “quintessentially queer” by aping the J.Crew catalog.) I had no problem with the first and third sections of the article but the second reads to me as the author’s personal taste being pushed as universal queer signifiers and I don’t think that’s accurate or fair.

        • I think stripe and mini polka-dots are queer because they allude to the 1950s and are hyper femme. I often find that hyper femmeness is just as great of a queer signifier– at least to other queers– as dapper masculinity.

          • Putting it that way makes a lot more sense. Perhaps it was the wording that bothered me with regard to the patterns. When you explain why you think these patterns are more queer than others the concept seems more valid.

        • I can agree with the part about the patterns. I mean, I get that a lot of queers wear a lot of stripes, but honestly who isn’t wearing stripes? I appreciate style tips and generalizations about attire for events, but I felt like some of this was reaching a bit far.

          PS: I am in love with the first part about shoes…very useful stuff without being pushy!!!

        • I am having a lot of feelings about this. I clicked on this article because – while I don’t have a lot of investment in how others read my sexual orientation – I am really bored with my current wardrobe and looking for new ideas. The “polka dots and stripes are queer” part came off as a directive, and because of that rubbed me the wrong way. I am as guilty of these sorts of pronouncements as well – a few weeks ago I caught myself saying something about Justin Bieber looking like a lesbian. Which may be true, but he looks like a specific type of lesbian, and there are lots of other lesbian styles that aren’t Bieberish.

          The main questions the article raises for me are: Who gets to decide what looks queer? What if someone’s desires are queer but their personal style doesn’t look like what other people think of as queer? Also what about gaydar, how does it work, is it a part of queer style?

    • Subcultures have been signified by styles of appearance for basically the entirety of human history and probably will continue to be forever. If anyone wants to fight that, good luck! Meanwhile some people like this phenomenon and find that they prefer the way their lives go when other people read them as belonging to whatever subculture they belong to, hence this article.

    • i totally get the feeling of not liking to be told what to look like as a dyke. appearance-policing is THE WORST and i can relate. i’m legitimately curious about what part of this post made you feel like you were being oppressed, though. you should wear exactly what you want and what makes you feel the most like you and i want to know how we can make a place where everyone feels like that’s okay.

    • I understand your frustration. But a lot of people DO care about being visibly queer and that is not a bad thing and can be really powerful and awesome. No one is telling you what you’re “supposed” to wear, just giving advice to people who value personal queer visibility.

    • Well, whether we like it or not, sub and counter cultures have throughout history (as someone else mentioned below) been associated with certain styles of dress. From hippie, to hip-hop, to hipster, these once anything-but-mainstream groups became pretty mainstream, especially with respect to style. But call any Brooklyn hipster a hipster, and they’ll probably have the same reaction as you.

      Additionally, writing for a queer fashion blog, I know firsthand that some queers do seek fashion advice. Our site is bombarded with questions about what to wear to weddings, proms, etc. There’s a serious lack of examples in the media of us participating in these types of events, many people feel alienated by hetero-normative wedding magazines, others do not have the family and social support that some straight couples get when going to pick out formal attire, and still others are discouraged by sales people that give you the evil eye and are less than helpful. All of this, and how do you manage to stay true to your style? Or, what if all this and you don’t have a style because you live in sweatpants but now you have to get dressed up without looking like a Disney character?

    • this is absurd. as others have stated, many subcultures have ways of dress that signify their belonging to a particular group, not only to each other, but to society in general. dress is not only a form of self expression but can relay many messages about who and what you are, what your beliefs are, and what your place is in society. believe it or not, there are many queer signifiers that are recognizable to people gay and straight. many people want to know what those are and how they can incorporate them into their dress. this article is not for you, so don’t shit all over it because it doesn’t pertain to you. hell this article doesn’t even pertain to me, because i’m pretty trendy and admittedly i can look gender normative and so called “straight” in my dress. i’m not going to be offended over people wanting fashion tips and shopping resources on how to queer up their clothing.

    • Personally I wouldn’t wear any of the suggested attire in this article, because it’s not my style, and in no way I’ve felt oppressed while reading it? These are suggestions, stuff you could wear if you wanted to, not what you absolutely SHOULD wear or else you’re not cool enough or queer enough. I don’t think the writers ever want anyone to feel like that on this site.

  2. I totally understand where you’re coming from. Totally valid and zippers and, honestly, I don’t think zippers and shoes will keep grannies from making you dance with their great-grand-son.

    However, in this case, no one is telling you to dress a certain way. They’re just saying that if you happen to live queer and you ALSO want it to show through your style, here are some things you CAN wear.

    Keep doing you!!

    • Or I could keep on wearing what I want and feeling like that’s *already showing my queer lifestyle* because, as Gabrielle herself admits, “The bottom line here is that you can wear the gayest dress in the world (think 100% organic woven kale), but to the untrained eye you still don’t look queer.” So what is exactly that I’m showing by adopting her personal style?

      • You SHOULD wear what you want because you clearly aren’t looking to be told what to wear. And that’s great! To find your personal style isn’t an easy thing for everyone. However, gay wedding wear and queering my look and topics of this nature are some of the most searched and requested topics! But I understand you felt it was done in an oppressive way so I’m not sure what I can say to defend these writers expect that I’m sure they had only the best intentions.

      • discourse! i love it! personally i’m with jill here. upon my first jaunt out to university i got myself an “alternative lifestyle haircut” and tried out many tips for dressing for femme queer visibility. and i hated it, i didn’t feel like myself, i certainly didn’t feel like part of a community so i’m growing my hair out and sent a pile of things to friends and value village. the end. i think that’s what comments are for, you know for us to get to tell our sides. i liked this article when i read it and i LOVED when we all starting talking about our take on it (with a few potentially mudslingy exceptions)

    • […]no one is telling you to dress a certain way. They’re just saying that if you happen to live queer and you ALSO want it to show through your style, here are some things you CAN wear.

      This!

      A lot of these comments make it seem like the writers proposed a queer wedding uniform or something. They didn’t!

      The wedding series is supposed to provide style suggestions for people who aren’t sure what to wear to formal events/weddings. That’s it. If you already know what to wear and are comfortable in formal attire then that’s really great! I’m also jealous that you’ll never know the pain of running to the mall to buy an outfit the night before a wedding and being totally clueless.

    • I LEARNED THIS ONE YESTERDAY! (I’m french ok shut up)

      My gf said that last night and I thought she’d said “lace is out” and I got all confused-faced on her because all I was wearing were lacy things.

      Thought yall would appreciate this fun tidbit. Carry on.

  3. Hello friends! I’m the one who put this article together and I just wanted to pop in and say that, just like carly’s advice on picking out fancy shoes and juanita’s ideas about how to stay cool, gabrielle’s take on queering a dress is only one of 39085023. i know that personally, i wouldn’t be caught dead in a polka dotted dress, but that doesn’t make me any less queer or gabrielle any less smashing in her polka dotted frock.

    this isn’t the queer style bible, it’s a fun attempt to try to get some discussion going about how to dress for occasions that usually come with their own (often heteronormative and gender-based) style rules.

  4. I liked this article for what it offered, because, like Gabrielle, being visible is important to me since “I don’t like how people treat me when they think I’m straight.” As a queer lady who is often in a dress, I like hearing how others (particularly queers who wear dresses) signal their queerness. I felt myself nodding in recognition at pretty much all of the things Gabrielle said about queering her dress look, because I tend to rock a lot of that stuff, too.
    I am kind of a vintage dress fanatic (because I’m a fashion history weirdo and also appreciate the quality materials and intricate construction that was a lot more common before the mass production of today), and mostly wear ones from the mid-60s all the way back to the 1910s, or, you know, the period “when ladies were still ladies.” So I’ve done a lot of experimenting with how to queer such looks (especially when I had long hair!), because yeah, hyperfemininity tends to look really queer, but it’s a specifically recognizable type of hyperfemininity from the age of the post-WWII/nuclear family era housewife. An Edwardian day dress? Not so much; can potentially just make me look like a hipster, a period dresser, or an eccentric straight lady if I wear it improperly. Basically my rule has become: look in the mirror at my outfit and ask whether anyone could possibly confuse me for a “proper lady”. If the answer is no, I’m good. If the answer is yes, then I have to mess that shit up somehow. Put on bold jewelry, slather on some really loud eye makeup or dark and juicy lipstick, switch into some really vibrant or flashy shoes, totally mess with my hair–whatever. I find that I am usually read as queer by other queers even when my asymmetric haircut has grown out and isn’t looking as homofresh, even when I’m not quite feeling up for putting 100% into my bitchydykestride, etc. Since I’m femme, you know, straight men will be straight men, but I think I scare a lot of them off, too, in the process of doing something which I attempt in an effort to up my visibility.
    So yeah. This is good stuff. I always love to hear about how others queer their outfits which might otherwise “look straight”, because my fashion sense isn’t necessarily always Really Gay on its own, and I appreciate that sort of discussion. The point is to help us identify one another, yeah?

    • This.

      If this is not an example of “you do you,” I don’t know what is.

      Here is how I queer my outfit when wearing items that usually found in the women’s section, I tend to place my hand the pocket of my very adorable lady friend and we skip with glee in homo-sex-u-all bliss.

      Not to say that the lady friend is an accessory but she helps 😉 When I’m alone accessories help so much with the queering, so much that I’m too gay to function.

    • girl, yes! thank you for articulating how you queer up what could be perceived as a normative outfit. i think by describing the methods you use to do it and the response you get from others because of the messages from your dress, you’ve illustrated the point of this article and why others would want to “queer up” their own clothing. not to mention your style sounds pretty effing cool and very creative. from one fashion history nerd to another, work it!

  5. A. Haters gon’ hate.

    B. I went to a wedding last weekend and I wish this had been around (and I had had more money) beforehand. I mean, I still looked awesome, but I overheated even in just a sports bra, undershirt, shirt, and tie on the top half and ended up in the yard outside, flat on my back in the grass, somewhat intoxicated, drunk dialing my roommate because IT WAS TOO WARM AND CROWDED AND I COULDN’T STAND IT ANYMORE. (also relatives).

    C. Good article, I’m the kind of person who really does need these fashion suggestions.

    • B. is so going to be my reaction this weekend, except it’s a birthday party not a wedding, but drunk and freaking out because it’s too warm and crowded and I can’t stand it anymore is spot on

    • So do I. I’ve been forbidden by my straight girl friends (and my ex-boyfriend, the last guy I dated before I came out who “totally saw it coming”) to wear outfits that weren’t pre-approved by either of them because of my deadly lack of outfit creativity.

      • dapperQ here! We get loads of question re where to find masculine dress shoes for small feet.

        (1) Start with a search on Shop Style using search terms like “wingtips” “monk straps” or “oxfords.” You can then narrow your search by size and gender. I just did one using “women’s wingtips” and found 20 decent pairs in size “5” ranging from $800+ (Prada) to $38 (Born Ibis).

        (2) $$$$- $$$: Prada and Cole Haan offer some investment menswear inspired shoes. We are fans of Cole Haan’s Breslyn Monkstrap, Alisa Oxford, and Lunar Grand Wingtip. Shop off season for sales. Sometimes, Ralph Lauren and J.Crew carry good monk strap and oxford shoes.

        (3) $-$$: Aldo, Steve Madden, Bass, and Dr. Martens have great menswear inspired dress shoes, such as Dr. Martens’ Bennet or Bass’ Ely-2. Etienne Aigner’s “Kalani” may also work if they are still available.

    • Check out Frye. The website has some men’s style shoes in the women’s section. I have the James wingtips, and they are my go to fancy shoes when I am dressing MOC. Also, Crewcuts sometimes has a good, but limited, dress shoe selection.

    • what dapperq said!!

      but also jcrew’s crewcuts. kids’ shoes in a size 4, depending on the brand, can be as large as a women’s 8 (my girlfriend bought a pair of ladies’ 7 bright-soled oxford cole haan knockoffs at target [they were $18, btw, go get ’em] and a pair of sz 4 boys sneakers in the same trip). at crewcuts you’ll pay what you pay for growed person clothes but the quality is the same as the adult lines. same rule applies at lands end and eddie bauer, though their kids shoes are doofy.

      ps jcrew crewcuts girls’ section has motherfucking GLITTER AND OR LEOPARD CHUKKAS and NAVY POLKA DOT OXFORDS oh god.

  6. Hey, what femme doesn’t love a friend alerting them that their photo has been used in an article? Also hey, the photo of me looking fabulous in my backyard kiddie pool doesn’t seem applicable to a wedding article. Were you just so smitten you had to use it?

    Best,
    Alysia Angel

    P.S. Photo was taken by Dante Mandala

  7. “The trick to pulling off being the only (or one of the only) ladies at a wedding wearing menswear is to wear it better than every man there. Wear it with confidence, make sure everything fits correctly and get some killer shoes and you’ll be getting more compliments on your outfit than the bride.”

    This is essentially my pro-tip everytime I decide to go out dressed a little dapper. Excuse me, het-dudes, but I can wear a vest/tie/trillby better than you. That is all.

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