Two weeks ago I had the pleasure to be invited to DapperQ’s iD Fashion Show at Brooklyn Museum, during New York Fashion Week. DapperQ is an empowering website which curates style for the fashion-forward masculine presenting women and trans-identified individuals. This was DapperQ’s third fashion show and I can say it was subversive, breath-taking and pure style love – in short: a full success. Now, many amazing people have written about their highlight’s about the fashion show, which you can find here or here or here, and of course I could easily follow suit in a hymn of praise about the life-giving suits by The Tailory or the fierce red ensemble by Sharpe Suiting and not to forget that dress Alex Berg wore by Chromat which caused me style envy that cannot be put in words. Instead I have decided to do a little break down why style and fashion shows like iD are crucial for queer self-healing.
I try to keep the pathos down, but I feel strongly about this topic, so please excuse some of the seemingly deep language.
Some of my fellow queer and feminist activists might roll their eyes when it comes to style: it is just fashion, how can this possibly be relevant to our well-being or even a radical political act? Well, I am very glad you asked.
When I entered the stunning Beaux-Arts Court at the Brooklyn Museum I felt like coming home (yes, you spotted the pathos): surrounded by all these amazing humans that were enjoying themselves, their sense of style, taking over and queering a museum, a place that normally functions as a symbol of hegemonic approval. And there they were in all their radical queerness: all ages, all body shapes, Femmes, Studs, Butches, anything in-between and outside of the binary, pro-black, defying paradigms of ableism – celebrating our own fashion.
Let me tell you a bit about my own story, which I think most of us can relate to in one way or another since we all grew up in a world where confidence and self-love are rarely taught qualities. It is a story of alienation and invisibility. When I was growing up, I loathed the way I looked. I thought I was too chubby, too clumsy, looking at the people in the media, the ideal, and just wishing that I could be like them. Especially when puberty hit me, and trust me, it did hit me hard, I felt so uncomfortable: uncomfortable with my femininity, uncomfortable with my romantic emotions, uncomfortable with my body. I felt if I could only be skinny and tall, I would finally fit in and everything would dissolve into sweet nothingness. The path to self-acceptance started when I came out at the first year of university, which allowed me to reclaim and embrace my femininity and was followed by moving to a place where my curves were appreciated and my sexual orientation was considered not a “big deal”.
Still, I didn’t feel home in my body or comfortable to style myself the way I wanted to, because let’s keep it real: the presentation of Femmes in LGBT and queer environments is in most cases close to non-existing. (Don’t you worry, I am already working on a ‘why do we think adopting misogynist notions of anti-femininity in queer spaces is cool’ post.) In general, people assume that for Femmes it is easier, because hey, there are so many straight feminine people on the runway, so shouldn’t that be sufficient? The answer is simply no! No, it is not sufficient. We do not feel part of an industry that reproduces oppression, that polices bodies in all its aspects, that is not queer nor subversive or critical, that appropriates and dismisses as it sees fit – or as the capitalist maximise-profit-equation dictates and that produces its goods in a way that pushes local and global inequality forward. That’s said I am very well aware that as a white-passing cis-size 14 that more often than not is disbelieved to be queer because of her presentation, I am not the epitome of marginalised under-representation. If I tilt my head, squeeze my eyes tightly and use a lot of imagination I can spot one or two people in the mainstream that I can relate to but for me it is not about mirroring one individual, hence that token-activism that some of the major brands have now discovered for themselves, is doing pretty much nothing for me. Yes, I want to see bodies like mine on the runway, but I more so want to see people in fashion that represent my friends, my family, people that I wish I could ask out on a date and people that give me all that femme power inspiration. I want to see fashion that is political and understands and reflects intersectionality. DapperQ’s iD gave me all that. Not only did I, as an individual and observer, feel appreciated for my own eccentric femmehood, but I saw so much femmelicious inspiration, dapper queer masculinity and gender-bending extraordinaires on the runway that it’ll keep me warm through all those cold heteronormative days. It was an event that displayed fashion and style as a form of resistance. The designers and models challenged status quo from racial inequalities to gender binaries. It was queer fashion for queer people.
I think in a nutshell the reason why I fell so deeply in love with the fashion show was that everyone seemed to have the same mind-set: queer resistance is superfluous if it caters just to a small elite of LGBT people. If I may borrow from bell hooks, it cannot only tackle homophobia and transphobia but needs to include the fight against imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
So what is the conclusion? Style gives me life and it is my way of expressing my self-love. It is source of empowerment, so I want more queer style around me. DapperQ or more so the executive producer and fellow power Femme Anita Dolce Vita has shown us how it is done. So Berlin, London, all my other lovely queer communities, let’s connect, brainstorm, network, fundraise, create and build more queer fashion alternatives! For the people in the Bay Area, you are in luck: Next week you can enjoy another great queer fashion show QFW in Oakland.
My queer fam, let’s build together the most stylish rebellion this world has seen. Expressing your own style and loving yourself is in our confidence-crumbling society one of the most subversive acts possible.