Rosie O’Donnell In Blazers, 1992 – 1999

As you may know, a blazer is how power lesbians and power-lesbian-adjacent humans radiate their power. Lesbians have been blazing trails in the fashion fields of blazers since the beginning of time, as established in the scholarly work 12 Monumental Moments In Lesbian Blazer-Wearing History (Bernard, 2013), which studied prominent blazers as worn by blazer hotshots including Melissa Etheridge, kd Lang and the author. The limited sample size analyzed for that study did not offer the author a chance to zoom in on the specific blazer history of a single subject, but luckily for us all (and for academia) that time has now arrived. The single subject we will be approaching in this work is the one and only Rosie O’Donnell, star of The Flintstones.

The ’90s have been established as a key moment when lesbian fashion and fashion-fashion collided spectacularly. While it remains true that every blazer is a little bit gay (Honey Boo Boo, 2012), the oversized-blazer trend of the ’90s was slightly more gay than the aggressively shoulder-padded blazers of the ’80s and the cropped, boxy, and often very shiny blazers of the ’00s.

I have been a consistent appreciator of Rosie O’Donnell‘s since the ’90s and have always found her to be warm, smart and funny in person. She has also consistently been a target of lesbophobia, most recently from the actual former president of the united states. Over the past year,  I’ve been delighted to witness a cross-generational resurgence in Rosie O’Donnell celebration as the world flocks to her very popular TikTok account and anticipates her upcoming guest spot on The L Word: Generation Q.

Rosie is an interesting subject for fashion analysis because she very much prefers casual-wear whenever possible and once wrote in Elle Magazine, “the truth is, I have no fashion sense—never did.” Unfortunately, when you are famous you have to pick a look and wear nice clothing to events. Fortunately for a lesbian, you could usually just throw on an enormous blazer. Let us begin with this paper I am submitting for peer review.


March 1992. Celebrity Ski Blazer

Rosie O'Donnell during 1992 VH1's Celebrity Ski in Squaw Valley, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Rosie O’Donnell during 1992 VH1’s Celebrity Ski in Squaw Valley, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Ah, to be a guest at VH1’s 1992 “Celebrity Ski” event in Squaw Valley, California, which apparently involved relaxing days on the slopes with other celebrities and evenings in what looks like a hotel conference room where the audience was treated to the sweet sweet sounds of Kenny G and Smokey Robinson. Also in attendance was our very own Rosie O’Donnell, who had been working at VH1 since becoming a VJ in 1988 and then hosting a comedy show called “Stand Up Spotlight.” This blazer tells you everything you need to know but are not yet able to say: “I am gay and I am prepared for long Canadian winters.”

June 1992: Completely Innocent Blazer Ensemble

Rosie O'Donnell (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Rosie O’Donnell (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

For the premiere of A League Of Their Own, Rosie chose a traditional look that my Social Studies teacher would’ve definitely worn to an evening event in the school auditorium, but Rosie pulls it off with absolute panache. Somehow white blazers seem less gay than other types of blazers, but still this outfit subtly suggests “this was a compromise between a dress and what I actually wanted to wear.” She repeated the unassuming ensemble for the 1993 premiere of Sleepless in Seattle.

June 1992: A League Of Her Own Blazer

Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell (Photo by Kevin Mazur Archive/WireImage)

This oversized black blazer with gold embroidered fleur-de-lis was undoubtedly one of Rosie O’Donnell’s most beloved blazers of the ’90s, and she wore it to several events, including the after-party of the premiere of A League of Their Own with new bestie Madonna. This blazer says “I may be a lesbian who isn’t allowed to come out yet, but I am also a Catholic Saint of France and Madonna is holding my hand.”

August 1992: Wild Animal Blazer

Rosie O'Donnell (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Rosie O’Donnell (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

This Blazer was a Choice, this overall presentation was a Look, and she wore it to host the 1992 Emmys. Recently The Hollywood Reporter did a piece lamenting a time “before an army of Hollywood designers glammed up TV’s Big Night” when “talent was eager to show off individual flair” and Rosie’s velvet pants, leopard-print blazer and matching cap were a prominent feature of the piece celebrating celeb’s “wackier takes on fashion.”

On the other side of the coin, Entertainment Weekly slandered this blazer by referring to it as “leopard print PJs” in which Rosie “looked like she’d rolled out of bed and onto the red carpet.” Homophobia at its finest. I would excuse this judgement had it been made in 1992, but it was unfortunately made in 2012, at which point Rosie was already out and therefore protected by the Lesbians Can Wear PJs as Pants Rule.

October 1992: Politically Active Blazer

Rosie O'Donnell during "A River Runs Through It" Los Angeles Premiere at Academy Theater in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Rosie O’Donnell during “A River Runs Through It” Los Angeles Premiere at Academy Theater in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

You’re interested in rocking the vote in the direction of the Clinton/Gore ticket and you’ve been invited to the Los Angeles premiere of the Brad Pitt film “A River Runs Through It.” What do you do? You simply put on a blazer and a Clinton-Gore hat for a Tomboy Look that absolutely Works for me. This shiny black blazer is too long in the arms but that’s okay, you do not fear a cuff. Yes you are wearing khakis and a t-shirt and a literal baseball cap to a movie premiere. But it’s okay, it was a casual movie premiere: Jodi Foster was swallowed by a sweater and a man on her way to the theater, Melissa Etheridge did a Canadian tuxedo and Catherine Keener only wore half a shirt. What we were all doing that year was our best.

August 1993. Swallow Me Blazer

165644 05: Comedienne Rosie O''Donnell attends the Cirque Du Soleil August 1, 1993 in Chicago, IL. The acclaimed circus show has forged an alliance against AIDS with Elizabeth Taylor and will donate the proceeds from tonight's performance to the Howard Brown Health Center and Chicago House. (Photo by Barry King/Liaison)

165644 05: Comedienne Rosie O”Donnell attends the Cirque Du Soleil August 1, 1993 in Chicago, IL. The acclaimed circus show has forged an alliance against AIDS with Elizabeth Taylor and will donate the proceeds from tonight’s performance to the Howard Brown Health Center and Chicago House. (Photo by Barry King/Liaison)

Did anyone iron this camel-colored linen blazer? Probably not, but that’s okay, because I believe that is what we call “rumpled” and it reflects a casual lesbian lifestyle in which one cannot be fussed with such things.

March 1994: Duster-Blazer-Gown

Nick Park Holding His Oscar with Presenter Rosie O'Donnell

Nick Park Holding His Oscar with Presenter Rosie O’Donnell (Photo by © Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

This blazer says “I am the real deal from head to toe and although this bra is sucking my ribcage out of my torso, my boobs look amazing.”

June 1994: All That Glitters Is Not Gold Blazer

Rosie O'Donnell and Bebe Neuwirth during 48th Annual Tony Awards

Rosie O’Donnell and Bebe Neuwirth during 48th Annual Tony Awards at Marriot Marquis Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

This is probably the most heterosexual blazer in the series. Although it is glittery, that does not automatically make it queer. This is your Very Hot Divorced Aunt showing up to your wedding in a Long Island Sheraton wearing jewelry she bought on her good-for-nothing ex’s credit card after learning he’d been cheating on her. She looks like a million bucks!

September 1995: Is It Okay to Look Gay at a Gay Movie Premiere Blazer

Rosie O'Donnell during "To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, New York, United States

Rosie O’Donnell during “To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

We were mixing a lot of neutrals and doing a lot of shopping at The Gap in 1995 and furthermore it was a wild time for hats. Rosie’s vibe is often along the lines of “okay fine I’ll dress up for this,” and I relate to that vibe and probably wore this same outfit when I went to see Too Wong Fu Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar.

September 1995: Mama’s Silk Pajamas Blazer

Rosie O'Donnell during 47th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, United State

Rosie O’Donnell during 47th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

The tint of her sunglasses matches the tint of her suit! Tonight we celebrate her first-ever Primetime Emmy Award nomination, for her self-titled HBO comedy special! She accessorized with a small Poloroid picture of her recently adopted son.

June 1996: The Custom Blazer

Talk show host Rosie O'Donnell on her show in New York City.

Talk show host Rosie O’Donnell on her show in New York City. 6/21/1996 Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Rosie’s daytime talk show launched in 1996, and she often spoke on her show of how hard it was to find clothes she liked in her size. Within a few months the show assigned her a personal designer, Dale Richards. who aimed to “make O’Donnell look like a typical career woman.” Richards told WWD that there was a dearth of structured options out there for women over a size 14 and “to carry a TV show, you shouldn’t have soft swing coat things, especially with her personality.”  So Richards designed her suits, each inspired by specific suits from labels like Chanel, Escada and Gucci; and worked with a tailor to create the final, entirely hand-tailored and highly-detailed looks. She looked fucking fantastic every day.

September 1996: Cruising Blazer

Tom Cruise and Rosie O'Donnell

Tom Cruise and Rosie O’Donnell during 11th Annual American Cinematheque Moving Picture Ball Honoring Tom Cruise at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

When Rosie O’Donnell came out in 2002, many people were surprised due to her oft-stated infatuation with erstwhile Scientologist Tom Cruise. She specified: “I said I wanted him to mow my lawn and bring me a lemonade, I never said I wanted to blow him.”

December 1996: Bette Porter Power Collar

Actresses Rita Moreno, Mary Tyler Moore and comedian Rosie O''Donnell sit together at the New York Women in Film and Television luncheon at the New York Hilton

Actresses Rita Moreno, Mary Tyler Moore and comedian Rosie O”Donnell sit together at the New York Women in Film and Television luncheon at the New York Hilton and Towers December 17, 1996 in New York City. The NYWIFT celebrated their eighteenth year by presenting the 1996 MUSE award for Outstanding Vision and Achievement at their annual gala luncheon. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Liaison)

She came, she saw, she SPLAYED THE COLLAR.

March 1997: Ecru Blazer With Collar Detailing and Emmy Accents

New York City 24th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards Rosie O' Donnell

3/21/97 New York City 24th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards Rosie O’ Donnell CR: RON GALELLA at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

The gayest thing about this blazer is that Rosie O”Donnell cried in public while wearing it, as she accepted the Emmy for Best Daytime Talk Show Host. Crying in public is queer.

May 1998: Shiny Pastel Pinstripe Blazer

Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah Winfrey (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

This glimmering cotton-candy-pink ensemble complimented the gold in Rosie’s first Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host, for which she tied with Oprah Winfrey. It was a big year for satin and shimmering concepts in general and we all coped with that in our own ways.

April 1998: K’s Choice Blazer

Rosie O'Donnell in tuxedo

Rosie O’ Donnell during The 11th Annual Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards at UCLA Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

To host the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, Rosie wore an oversized button-up shirt and Adidas track pants. But this promotional photograph obscures this eventual choice, outfitting Rosie O’Donnell in her Katherine Hepburn Best. Rosie opened the awards by announcing, “Welcome to the 11th annual Kids Choice Awards, the time when Hollywood’s biggest stars put away the tuxedos and makeup and put on the sneakers and slime because this is the big night where KIDS RULE!!!!!!!!!!!” (WILD APPLAUSE) (ROSIE SCREAMS) (THE CHILDREN SCREAM LOUDER)

December 1998: Blue Velvet Blazer

Rosie in a velvet blazer and a loudspeaker

Rosie O’Donnell’s “For All Kids Foundation” Awards Gala. (photo by Diane Freed)

Richards liked to dress Rosie “mainly in velvet, with full-legged pants paired with shells and shirts” for “evening-wear.” The thing about a velvet blazer is that it has a vaguely magical vibe, and is somehow both fancy and nap-appropriate. Also spotted at this event: Mary Tyler Moore wearing a silver spacesuit and Barbara Walters carting her Rosie doll. Also Hillary Clinton and Bill Gates were there? 1998!

July 1999: Blazer With Baby

Rosie O'Donnell, Julie Andrews, and guest during Summer Gala Benefit Bash for the Bay Street Theatre

Rosie O’Donnell, Julie Andrews, and guest during Summer Gala Benefit Bash for the Bay Street Theatre – July 10, 1999 at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Whereas Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, is consistently pictured in a red robe with a blue mantle in all iterations of the “Madonna With Child” art motif, here we see a variation on that theme. Rather than colors intended to signify the earth and an empress-like divinity, we see an unassuming sand-colored pantsuit intended to signify an easy fashion choice for an evening theater benefit in lush Sag Harbor, New York. However, consistent with later depictions of the Madonna with Child, this photograph does “express a more tender, intimate moment between a mother and her child [and Julie Andrews].” There is no better place to end this case study than right here, as we see all forces collide into one divine, transcendent moment, inspiring all of us to live as if we, too, were surrounded by angels, saints and lesbians [in Blazers].

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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2885 articles for us.

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