Style Thief: Couples Formal Attire Part Two – Celebrity Couples

Welcome back to Style Thief, where I steal the clothes off queer style icons’ backs. Metaphorically, that is. I’ll try figure out just exactly what makes queer style icons tick by breaking down their look into itty bitty bite size pieces. I get a lot of questions about how to look like different celebrities/characters, so I’m finally tackling the question “How the hell do I dress like that?”

Header by Rory Midhani

This week on Style Thief we’re continuing our dive into the fabulous world of formal couples styles! Instead of looking at individual looks, we’re stripping down dynamic duos.

It’s wedding season and DOMA just got struck down so you know you’re about to attend a dozen engagement parties and weddings. If you’re fortunate enough to have made your way out of the singles table, then you might just be trying to coordinate outfits with your lady friend. While it’s, of course, totally okay to each wear whatever the heck you want, sometimes it’s fun and refreshing to coordinate your outfits. I mean, just think of the pictures!

It’s hard enough to put together cohesive outfit alone, let alone with with your significant other. There are no rules for lesbians the way there are for straight couples. You can’t just say, “hints of the color scheme of her dress in his tie.” Well, you can if you’re rocking a traditional butch-femme look, but for many couples that’s not their personal style. You have to find a balance where you like the way your outfits look together, but you avoid twinning out or looking like cheesy prom dates.

Last edition of Style Thief we took a look at the perfectly coordinated outfits of lezzie TV couples. This week we pop back into the real world and examine real life girl-girl couples. Without a costuming department (but surely with the help of a stylist) these women don’t have the luxury of a perfectly framed scene showing off their coordinating shoes, but they do have genuine love! Love, my friends, is what really ties these outfits together.

Sara Gilbert and Linda Perry

One thing couples often lose sight of is that it really is okay for both partners to wear pants. Sara Gilbert and Linda Perry do to nearly every red carpet they attend! I know we’re the reckless queers taking down the patriarchy, but even we can occasionally find ourselves stuck in a butch-femme/pants-skirt dichotomy. This can be especially frustrating if you and your partner are both center of center.

Some people might try to tell you that for a formal event you should wear a dress regardless of your preferences. While this is a particularly difficult situation if you are genderqueer or butch, this pressure is also extreme for very femme women. The assumption can be that because you wear dresses sometimes you’ll want to wear a dress for the event. That is total BS. Many women, regardless of their gender presentation or sexual orientation, wear pants for formal events and you shouldn’t let anyone make you think this makes you less femme. On the contrary, there are many extremely femme and center of center ways to wear pants.

You can do like Sara and opt for heels or metallic pants. While her skinny pants are undoubtedly a more femme cut, the gold color and shine make them feel more formal. If heels aren’t your thing, many traditional women’s dress pants, such as Linda’s, are a great option too. You can make pants more femme by pairing them with a flowy shirt like Sara, or more androgynous by going for a boxier blazer like Linda.

Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi

Is there any more classic a couple than Ellen and Portia? For some couples, a suit for one partner and a dress for the other is what makes you both most comfortable. This is totally awesome and there are still so many ways to coordinate adorable couples looks. I love Ellen and Portia’s look because while their colors and shapes differ, they bring their outfit together by combining similar textures. The sheen of Ellen’s silk-blend suit and even the gloss of the leather lapels compliments Portia’s satin dress. Additionally, Ellen opts for a suit color in almost a navy shade of black that looks nice next to Portia without being too matchy-matchy.

Lindsay Lohan and Sam Ronson

Some nights I wake up around 3am in a cold sweat still upset that Lindsay Lohan and Sam Ronson broke up. They had some seriously good couples looks. One look they regularly shared was a black and tan or black and gold style. The couple may have fallen into this pattern as the black and gold accentuate both Lindsay’s natural red roots and Sam’s light skin, however, they’re an excellent combination for anyone.

Black and gold are a great combination because, besides looking completely excellent together, they look classy year-round. You might opt for more golden-orange shades in the fall, but swap those out for light beige or tan shades in the spring and summer.

Additionally, the variety of shades and shine of gold and tan clothing allows for flexibility for an ambiguously formal event. You’ll notice that individually Lindsay’s outfits are dressier than Sam’s. Still, side by side, they present an overall look that it somewhere in the middle. A gold dress can dress up your partner’s plain black sweater, or her tan sweater can dress down your black cocktail dress. Gold and black are a great option when you’re not exactly sure how formal you need to be dressed or where the night might take you.

Wanda and Alex Sykes

Wanda Sykes and her wife Alex walk a whole lot of red carpets together. What I like about the two of them is that they aren’t bound by “You wear the suit and I wear the dress” kinds of rules. Often these sorts of roles are natural, but other times they can start to feel restrictive. That’s why I love Wanda and Alex’s looks so much. While both tend to the femme of center, they alternate wearing dresses, suits and everything between.

I also like how Wanda and Alex are so openly committed to sequin. I feel like this means they understand me on some deep level.

Beth Ditto and Kristen Ogata

You also don’t need to feel like every set of outfits you wear together needs to be something to stress over. Beth Ditto and Kristen Ogata keep things classic and simple, pairing Kristen’s suit with Beth’s cocktail dress. While Beth’s shoes do bring out the grey in Kristen’s jacket, the two bring many solo elements to the table as well. Beth’s bright orange pop-of-color clutch is not overtly tied in with Kristen’s outfit, she’s merely holding it because it accents her belt and hair (and probably to hold her cell phone). Similarly, Kristen’s blue tie adds character to the outfit, but there is no element within Beth’s look that picks up on those cool colors. Regardless, it totally still works.

One thing worth noting is that Beth and Kristen do a great job of wearing similar toned blacks. One of the easiest ways to look haphazard is by wearing blacks that clash with each other. Sometimes this might just mean getting ready in the same room and choosing which black pants to wear carefully. Other time this might mean a trek out to the mall together. That might seem like an awful lot of effort, but keep in mind that because  wearing black gives you so much freedom in your accessories, it might be worth the effort. A little bit of thoughtful coordination goes a long way.

The takeaway here is that if there’s a bow tie you desperately want to wear, or even a crazy jacket, there’s no reason you can’t wear whatever you want and still look wonderful standing with your beau.

You can’t always expect that you and your date are going to be a perfectly matched pair of fashion royalty. People are busy, colors clash, accessories are lost or loose or hated. You might, plain and simple, have completely different styles. But special occasions are special because they come just once and a while. Picking outfits together doesn’t mean you have to turn into the dreaded twin lesbians or even siblings in a family portrait. It just means you get to think about each other more. Which is probably what you want to do anyways.

If there’s a queer style icon you’d like to see stripped down in Style Thief, send me an ASS messageask on my tumblr, or tweet me @Ohheyitslizz

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Lizz is a consumer, lover and writer of all things pop culture and the Fashion/Style Editor at She is also full time medical student at Brown University in Providence, RI. You can find her on the twitter, the tumblr or even on the instagram.

Lizz has written 261 articles for us.


  1. Damn! So much style in one post! Love it!
    Now all I need is someone to walk the red carpet with me.
    Maybe I should just buy a Buffy cardboard standee… :D

  2. “The assumption can be that because you wear dresses sometimes you’ll want to wear a dress for the event. That is total BS. Many women, regardless of their gender presentation or sexual orientation, wear pants for formal events and you shouldn’t let anyone make you think this makes you less femme.”

    Thank you for this! I always feel a(n internal) pressure to wear dresses since sometimes I like to be femme, but I really identify as genderqueer and love the androgynous look (even though it never looks androgynous on my t&a). I’m also bi, and when I was with my bf there was even more pressure to be femme… but sometimes he had to just deal with me wearing a suite and tie. :)

  3. There’s no way to edit comments right? I want to clarify when I say “be femme” I mean “present femme.” Yay semantics!

  4. Beth Ditto is so awesome there are just no words. I remember being a teenager and shocked that she would expose so much skin/body hair and wear things that clung to her belly, and now it’s like YOU ARE EVERYTHING I WANT TO BE OMG #feministfeels

    Ahem. This was a really well put together style guide! I loved the range of gender presentations <3

  5. yep, this is totes brils, just need to find a girlfriend so i can apply it. *cries in a corner*

  6. I’m really glad that I’m not the only one who is still not over Lindsay & Sam breaking up. We could’ve had it AAAAALLL.

  7. Ahhh yes, I love these. I have a question though, slightly off topic. I’m centerish to butch in my everyday life, because I can’t stand impractical or overly embellished clothing while working, and mens clothes are sturdy and look good on me. However, when I have the time and occasion to get all fancy, I LOVE slinky, sexy dresses and make-up and the whole nine yards. I mean, men’s formalwear just as impractical and looks awesome and tempting too, but I already have dresses. What do I say when people express surprise/shock/gender policing over seeing me in a dress? I sometimes think that a man wearing a slinky dress would go over with less fuss in my particular homonormative group of friends. It makes me feel obligated to perform my masculinity, and I hate it!

    • I don’t know the answer, I have kind of a similar problem. I’m High Femme, but I also sometimes gotta do shit, yanno? And as much as I avoid wearing pants, every so often it’s gonna happen.

      Last time I was helping our family friend Les with his calf branding, I was in Wranglers and boots and a work shirt, because the fuck else am I supposed to wear in said situation? And I do get it- It’s odd to see me dressed that way, and it’s not a look I particularly like on myself, it’s just practical. But I could have done without the damn attitude all day, or trying to take a picture of me all butched out.


      I mean basically all I do is just joke about it, because okay, if my super cowboi ex/friend showed up in a dress and heels, I’d probably die. Because people are people, and we’re all creatures of habit.

      That being said, don’t EVER feel you have to perform a certain way. Just hold your head high and be all, “Yes, I agree, this dress looks so good on me IT CAUSES PHYSICAL PAIN TO ONLOOKERS.”

  8. Wanda Sykes and her wife Alex are so cute! I love that they switch it up with suits and dresses.

  9. I can’t approve of Linda Perry and Sara Gilbert because I am still completely heartbroken over Gilbert and Ali Adler’s break up. I saw a clip of Sara Gilbert on her little talk show thing in which she breaks into tears over it and it’s just ridiculously horrible. Plus they have those adorable kids together…gahh.
    Although, I am ALL over Alex and Wanda Sykes and Ellen and Portia. How can they be so fucking perfect?

  10. On a slightly relevant note, I had a nightmare Ellen and Portia broke up. I woke up genuinely freaked out and then said to myself “It’s okay. That was just a dream.”

  11. Sara Gilbert is one of my style icons. I love how she isn’t overtly femme or masculine but seems to strike a nice balance between the two.

  12. Genderqueer doesn’t necessarily entail a butch presentation; just wanted to put that out there.

  13. OMG My second fav thing abt having a GF is the dressing! Can you say “Barbie Fetish” much? (Of course, I also shaved my Barbie’s head…)

Comments are closed.