Masculinity is often accepted as the gold standard example of radical transgressive style, particularly for bodies assigned female at birth (AFAB). AFAB individuals who dress feminine are often dismissed as normative and conforming to oppressive mainstream fashion rules. Furthermore, femmes, both cis and trans, are sometimes accused of lacking any real agency to consciously decide to wear lipstick, heels, fake eyelashes, and skirts as a means of communicating power and authority. The argument is that we have been indoctrinated to wear these oppressive artifacts and that, try as we might, the meaning behind said artifacts cannot be transcended.
However, perpetuating the belief that Western masculine style is superior to feminine style is in and of itself oppressive. (After all, masculinity is a social construct that varies across cultures. There are indeed cultures where makeup is considered masculine.) Dressing feminine can be just as much a middle finger to restrictive norms as dressing masculine. Femme fashion is radical and deserves space in the queer style narrative because it challenges the racial, ethnic, cultural, age, and size beauty norms set forth by the fashion industry.
From a purely style perspective, femme fashion is incredibly cleaver in the way in which it draws outside of the lines, incorporating unexpected combinations of colors, textures, and patterns to subvert normative standards. My new column "Femme Odd Couples” will explore uncommon dynamic duos and how they can inspire a femme’s closet. For my first piece, I will showcase the wondrous love affair between leopard print and plaid, a love affair that redefines “neutrals.”
Whether you’re going casual or business professional, preppy or hipster, or with a little or a lot of power clashing pattern, leopard print + plaid is an unexpected combo that matches (trust me, it matches!) and turns heads.