The fashion industry remains oversaturated with messages telling consumers what kind of bodies are most valuable, seen and desirable in society—and many queer-identified people don’t fit into its traditional Western beauty standards. From fluid gender identity, wonderfully jiggly thighs, melanin, or the inability or desire to conform, many of us are outsiders to mainstream fashion. Inherently political, the industry often makes statements that stand in line with cis and heteronormative politics of privilege and worth, and these messages are only subconsciously perceptible, especially to LGBTQs, as we have existed unrepresented for so long. Left subversively oppressed and excluded, the only detectable evidence of this underrepresentation is our intrinsic sense of “otherness,” self-judgement and continued social subjugation.
The amazing thing about fashion as a political tool, however, is that the community can flip it upside down to work for us. In the last decade, there has been a huge emergence of talented queers skillfully using fashion for social change, and who have built a full-service multidisciplinary network designed to challenge accepted ideas of beauty and identity. Thanks to their efforts, the industry is becoming home to gender non-conforming models; various designers and retailers are now producing androgynous and non-binary wears that fit our atypical bodies and identities; and tomboy style has even be-come a societal phenomenon in pop culture. Public opinion seems to be following suit in some circumstances, extending inclusion to LGBTQ and gender non-conforming persons into public policy.
A lot of this is due to the fearless designers, bloggers, curators and influencers who are creating more accessible styles for the evolving and forward-thinking fashion fans that make up the LGBTQ community. These 11 individuals are among those making sure that personal style is less rigid, more expressive and avidly accessible to those who deserve to be served in style.
A Dapper Chick: Blogger and Stylist
Sara Geffrard credits her fierce sense of flair to watching her dapper uncle getting gussied up for a night out of the town while growing up. The creator of the popular androgynous-themed style site A Dapper Chick was inspired by the way he put together color patterns and explored new trends, something Geffrard’s tried to emulate since, with no regard to what women “should” wear.
“I hope that we see gender removed from fashion,” Geffrard said. “All labels removed. I hope that I don’t have to go to the men’s section, just that I can go into a store and buy a shirt. I know people of all gender identities who shop in the women’s and men’s departments. It’s about whatever fits your personality.”
Geffrard recently expanded A Dapper Chick to include a community called The Dapper Chicks, through which she hopes to champion causes like women’s equality, bullying and breast cancer. “It’s important to build community because there is so much hate and judgment in the world,” she said. “For women and LGBTQ folks to be able to come together in love and support is very gratifying.”
Geffrard said that despite the heteronormativity of the fashion industry, she has noticed some positive movement into inclusivity over time. “It’s a slow progression,” she said, “but hopefully, within the next 10 years we can see this change.”
Bindle and Keep: Suit Designer and Influencer
“The experience of having my first suit made was what brought me to tailoring,” Tutera told GO.
At Bindle and Keep, Tutera works alongside owner Daniel Friedman to create custom suits for non-gender conforming people. The bespoke brand was the focus of the 2016 HBO documentary “Suited” with Tutera as the star, and the film delivered a powerful message of self-love, acceptance and living bravely in one’s own skin.
“Having something custom-made for my body and, to some extent, my identity was transformative and helped me start truly situating myself in my body and identity,” Tutera said. “I knew there had to be a way to queer the tailoring process so that all bodies and identities could have access to this service in a more affirming and affordable manner.”
Appearing in “Suited” meant that Tutera’s work at Bindle and Keep would make him an advocate for the community in a significantly more public way.
“I didn’t have a sense of the wide-reaching meaning this kind of tailoring would have, both to the LGBTQ community and beyond,” Tutera said. “My only vision was to make my clients feel seen and heard, and from the start, I decided if I could do that for even a handful of folks while also putting them in a pair of pants or a shirt that made them feel like themselves, that alone would be my contribution.”