I think we have all experienced the looks, the stares, and the questions involved in shopping in a part of the store associated with people of another gender. Fellow customers judge your presence in their department, and they question your motives, but it doesn’t stop there. Sales representatives inquire who the items are intended for, making the check-out a most uncomfortable experience when you’re in line with some very loud-speaking conservatives.
The good news is that the groans and cries of suit lovers across the world have been heard. The reply? Tomboy Tailors. This specialty boutique is located in Crocker Galleria in San Francisco, CA. Their goal? To help you.
Like children to Build-a-Bear, the warm lighting and soft jazz music welcomes individuals to make their dream ensembles a reality. Decorated with the rich warmth of classical design and the crispness of the modern aesthetic, Tomboy Tailors welcomes individuals of all expressions to explore their style needs without the awkwardness and discomfort that is associated with shopping in gendered stores.
Zel Anders, founder of Tomboy Tailors was gracious enough to meet up with me, show me around the store, and to share her motivations behind creating Tomboy Tailors. After having experienced poor customer service one too many times in men’s stores, Zel Anders set out to give individuals a safe place to go to acquire their fashion needs; a service that many have taken advantage of since Tomboy Tailor’s opening in February of this year. The racks in the store are full of waistcoats, jackets, and dress shirts waiting for their eager owners to come claim them. Since her interview with the Huffington Post, which stated that nearly 150 suits have been created by the Tomboy Tailors for their customers, Zel has now seen too many suits leave their doors to count! (A recent email suggests that they are now struggling to keep up with the large demand for the Tomboy Tailor menswear!)
Each article of clothing is custom-made or “made-to-measure” to the individual’s body, eliminating the excess or stressed fabric, loose collars, and ill fitting sleeves that so many of us have experienced whilst attempting to shop in the men’s section. With over a thousand gorgeous, imported textiles to choose from, one need only know their heart’s desire and the Tomboy Tailors will take it from there. It is no wonder to those of us in the menswear fashion community why this company is doing so well. Who wouldn’t want a vest, shirt, sports coat, and pants made specifically for their body?! Suits that fit like gloves is what Qwear heaven must look like.One customer even ventured from Australia to possess a one-of-a-kind creation. Tomboy Tailors also offers a service called Cut, Make, & Trim where the customer need only buy the fabric from the store and they send it off to partnered companies where the items will be made.
On a more personal level, Zel Anders has been wearing menswear for five decades now and said, “I just feel more comfortable in it, having not been able to fit into most womenswear since I was fourteen when I was 5’10” and had really long arms. I’ve been wearing menswear a really long time. I just…love bow ties.” If you’re like me, you’d be curious to know what this dapper individual’s first piece of menswear was…you’d never guess by Zel’s soft spoken manner that her first purchase was a silk turquoise and silver paisley smoking jacket!
Since opening, Zel says that she’s been gathering much more attention than she is used to. “I’m definitely being recognized a lot. You know it’s weird… my wife and I have gone out to dinner twice in the last week and both times people have come up and said ‘love what you’re doing’, it’s really sweet but it’s also strange.”
For the future Zel is making “plans for growing” but is playing them close to the vest. However she was willing to share her plan to publish a photo book of dapper individuals looking their best. For now, keep a look out for more of Tomboy Tailors works by subscribing to their email list to hear of new events and stores hopefully showing up in a city near you.
Also, check out Kay Bryant, MacArthur fellow, who stopped by Tomboy Tailors the same day as me to pick up this outfit she wore to accept an award from none other than President Obama!
Ashleigh Bingham better known as “Bing, ”creator of I Dream of Dapper, is a dapperwear Tumblr style icon. She contributed to popularizing the long-haired "queer pomp" and is known for her daring pattern mixing, complimentary rich colors, lapel pins, wild thrift finds, variety in neckwear (featured in her "50 Days of Dapper" project), & ability to write about Harry Styles. In the past, Bing has contributed to Autostraddle, and has been featured on DapperQ, S Moda, Hudson, Buzzfeed, and included in the top 10 of a national menswear online competition. With a tendency to mix fashion with satire, Bing aims to explore fashion as a tool for self-expression rather than an industry. By day, Bing works with the Women’s & Gender Studies program at Ball State University where she is also working toward a Doctorate of Education.