Tomboy Fashion According to Young Adult Novels I Read In The ’80s and ’90s

This post would not exist without the amazing ’80s and ’90s YA Novel treasure trove Cliqueypizza, where I found most of these book covers.

Today I texted my girlfriend “I look like Ramona Quimby today.” She texted back, “That is not unusual.” Now I present “tomboy fashion according to young adult novels.”

Look #1: Scruffy tights, leotard, sideways snapback

You bet your ass you haven’t seen ballerinas like this before! See that sassy bitch with the hole in her tights and that sideways baseball cap who just wants to go home and hang out in a tree? The best way to add a little rough-and-tumble to any outfit is to scrape the knee a little bit. This is tricky in tights as a hole can quickly become a vicious run, but I’m sure you’ll figure something out.

Look #2: Sweatshirt, jeans and a pair of sneaks

This is a classic tomboy look. It’s comfortable and utilitarian, and perfect for when you are dreaming about living in a treehouse, wrangling a menagerie of household pets who are trying to eat you, or starting a small business with a budding fashionista named Claudia Kishi. Plus you can wear this outfit several days in a row without being too obvious about it. Just watch out for grass stains!

Look #3: Authentic Baseball Jersey, baggy light jeans, fierce attitude

I don’t remember the plot of this book, but I’m gonna guess it’s about Kristy being upset that one of her girlfriends is going out with a dude. Regardless, Kristy is the luckiest girl in the world because she has a baseball jersey! I wanted one so bad. That’s the actual definition of “baller.”

Look #4: Big-ass t-shirt

Look this one is simple: a giant t-shirt. Then go to sleep, you’ve got pajamas on!

Look #5: Ramona Forever

Ramona Quimby’s summer style was on point. She’s got a graphic tee, orange sneaks that match her shorts, and the same haircut as me. But what really makes the outfit is her confidence and smile. The smile says “yeah I’m the best-dressed girl in this house of mirrors, what’s it to you?”

Look #6: Casual Dress and Longstockings

Raised by pirates and friends with animals, Pippi Longstocking was an innovative homemaker and a fashion pioneer, able to lift horses in loafers.

Look #7: Red Hoodie, Jeans

Harriet the Spy is super-busy spying on things and being the coolest girl in school, as well as sporting the classic Ramona Quimby ‘do. She kept it classic and simple, not attracting attention and flying under the radar, which is a useful skill to have as a budding lesbian.

Look #8: Surly Lesbian in Leather

Lesbians in small towns who have secret relationships with allegedly straight girls are heroes to us all, but they must protect their tender vulnerable hearts in “don’t fuck with me” gear, like leather jackets. And um, red scarves that blow in the wind.

Look #9: Red Sweatshirt & Jeans

YA tomboys6

This is the most popular look of all the looks sported in all the books I read, which must mean that it was the coolest look. If you want to radiate that “I’m on a spy mission / I hate my family / “I started a small business with Fashion Icon Claudia Kishi” vibe, then you cannot go wrong with a red sweatshirt — NOT A HOODIE, JUST A SWEATSHIRT — and jeans. Cold? No problem — just throw on a classic white turtleneck underneath your sweatshirt (not a hoodie) and you’ll be warm enough to steal Bart’s baseball bat and Mallory’s heart. Who doesn’t love a nice old-fashioned turtleneck, am I right?

Look #10: Overalls

YA tomboys10

If your #1 Fashion Icon is Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, then have I got the thing for you: OVERALLS. You can keep your good luck charm and a note from your BFF close to your chest and go get yourself into some trouble.

Well, if you read this entire post, then I think you’re ready to enter the world of fashion!

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3183 articles for us.


  1. I love current middle grade lit and all the exciting things happening therein, but the 80s and 90s were definitely an awesome time to be a youngin and read lots of Apple paperbacks. This is great, Riese.

  2. I dressed like Harriet from age 8-18. This post just made me so nostalgic for my slow tree-climbing days of reading, eating grilled cheese and riding my bike in circles in the suburbs.

  3. I actually rode my bike regularly on the real Klickitat Street in SE Portland when I was the same age as RQ and reading her books — constantly on the lookout for Ribsy, Henry Higgin’s dog lol.

    Soooo this post was wonderful; thank you.
    Too bad you left out a pic of your RQ outfit today; not too late! :^D

  4. HARRIET THE SPY MY FAVOURITE BABY DYKE! I spent about a delusional two years or so around the age of 12 being half me / half Harriet.

  5. Very few things make me happier than a Dicey Tillerman reference.

    Or that part in HP where the fact that Voldemort places no value in tales for children and the oppressed contributes to his downfall.

    Three cheers for clothing for happiness and the downfall of patriarchy!!

    • Having last read the Dicey’s Song books as a kid, I only JUST realized that her last name is Tillerman, like tiller, because she is the person everyone relies on to steer the family in the right direction, PLUS she loves sailing

      BRB have to go re-read those

  6. “She kept it classic and simple, not attracting attention and flying under the radar, which is a useful skill to have as a budding lesbian.”


  7. Oh lawd 90’s me was a little baseball playing ballerina who refused to throw underhand and wore all of the looks down to the composition note except for Look #6.
    Do I get extra points for the fact my overalls had a rainbow tab for the velcro pocket? xD

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