Whether you’re just coming to terms with your sexual orientation or have long been a card-carrying lesbian who is struggling with their personal style, this lesbian style guide is for you. Here, we’ll cover some of the basics of lesbian fashion and explain a few enduring trends.
Types Of Lesbian Fashion Trends
Since time immemorial, fashion has been an important aspect of lesbian culture.
In the 19th century, at a time when women were held to rigid standards, some women would don male clothing to present and pass as men. In the 1950s, when secret queer bars started cropping up and more lesbians adopted butch-femme roles, butches would differentiate themselves with masculine working-class aesthetics – think t-shirts, jeans, and short hair. The 80s up to the 2000s saw lesbian fashion evolve into something more definitive and easily recognizable. This era birthed stereotypical signifiers like flannel, button-up shirts, denim or leather jackets, and heavy boots to name a few.
But lesbian style is as varied as the community itself. We’ve moved way past the rigid butch/femme-only roles and the “tomboy” stereotypes. Today, lesbians encompass a wide range of gender identities and expressions. As such, you have terms like high femme lipstick lesbian, futch chapstick lesbian, stone butches, cottagecore lesbians, sporty tomboy lesbians, etc.
Femme Lesbian Style
Femme lesbians and queer women typically like to present in a more “feminine” way. This means wearing longer or more feminine hair, form-fitting or flowy dresses, skirts, and feminine-cut tops and pants. Femme lesbians also tend to enjoy wearing makeup, thus the term “lipstick lesbian”.
In 2021, some of the popular trends among femme-presenting women include fringed bags, white 60s-inspired gogo boots, folksy tapestry coats, and a spot of bright yellow or blue in an otherwise monochromatic outfit.
Unfortunately, because femme lesbians present more feminine, they can often feel invisible in the queer community and may not be taken seriously as queer women. As such, some femme lesbians like to add certain elements to their style to signal their queerness. While these accessories and style choices don’t necessarily belong exclusively to queer people, they’re things that a lot of queer people have incorporated into their wardrobes. This can include:
- Piercings and wild, quirky earrings: There is a recent trend on TikTok called “lesbian earrings”. Essentially, they’re loud and quirky earrings made from things like tiny tarot cards, miniature succulent pots, or even teeny SPAM cans.
- Combat boots or Doc Martens: Docs don’t belong to lesbians, but the hardy, utilitarian boots do have a solid lesbian fanbase.
- Denim jackets with loads of pins: The Riot Girl era of the 90s was a time when young activists would wear their activism on their jackets, donning eye-catching statement pins and patches.
- Statement t-shirts and totes: Again, not an exclusively queer fashion choice, but a choice popular among queer folks nonetheless. If you want to be loud and proud about your queerness or any other important aspect of your identity, shout it out with a graphic tee or tote bag.
- Practical accessories: They say you can tell a woman is a lesbian by the way they keep their keys. One of the most enduring lesbian stereotypes is that of the practical, down-to-earth tomboy. The type who keeps their keys and a Swiss Army knife hanging from their belt loop with a carabiner.
In recent years, fashion has become more “gender neutral” or “gender fluid”. As more and more folks realize that clothes don’t necessarily have gender, the lines of what is considered a “femme” or a “butch” outfit or piece of clothing continue to blur. For example, in 2021, some major fashion trends for women include 80s-inspired oversized “boyfriend” jackets as well as suits and jumpsuits in soft pastel tones.
If you’re looking for a femme lesbian fashion icon to look to for inspo, consider singer Lauren Jauregui, actress Sarah Paulson, model Cara Delevingne, musician St. Vincent, and actress Amandla Stenberg.
Butch Lesbian Style
Whereas femme lesbian fashion is characterized by all things feminine, butch lesbian fashion celebrates masculinity. In a New York Times piece on butch lesbians, “butch” is described as “an aesthetic” that also conveys “an attitude and energy”. Butchness is both about gender and sexuality, but it is also hard to define so squarely. As former Olympic swimmer and model Casey Legler puts it, “[Butches] exist in this realm of masculinity that has nothing to do with cis men — that’s the part only we [butches] know how to talk about”.
So what looks and styles can be considered quintessentially butch? Short, masculine haircuts are one. A butch or a stud (a butch person of color) also tends to favor menswear – whether it be a casual t-shirt-jeans-sneakers combo, a plain white button-down shirt and jeans, or a dapper suit and tie accented with a handsome pair of brogues.
There is a misconception that butch lesbian fashion isn’t as “put together” or stylish as femme fashion. But this assumption is tied to ideas of how a woman should and should not dress. And part and parcel of the butch identity, ultimately, is about rejecting what is traditionally feminine.
While butch lesbian fashion is so much more than just menswear on a woman’s body, it’s safe to say that trends in butch fashion borrow from trends in men’s fashion. In 2021, butch lesbian fashion can lead towards utility wear, nautical-inspired pieces, bomber jackets, wide-cut trousers, and Bermuda shorts. Neon, chunky sneakers are also big among masculine-presenting folks these days. And in terms of general fashion trends in 2021, we have 70s and 80s-inspired looks, pastel tones, and floral prints.
Butch lesbian fashion icons include actor and comedian Lea DeLaria, model Jenny Shimizu, musician JD Samson, and actor Roberta Colindrez.
Futch, Stem, or Chapstick Lesbian Style
If you think of gender identity and expression as a spectrum, with feminine on one end and masculine on another, the chapstick lesbian would be smack dab in the center. Chapstick lesbians are also called “futch”, which comes from combining the words “femme” and “butch”, or “stem”, which comes from the words “stud” and “femme”.
The stem style is much harder to define than butch and femme styles because futch lesbians straddle that line between masculine and feminine. They’re also quite diverse in the sense that some stem lesbians are more comfortable presenting androgynously, having a genderless or gender-neutral style of dress. Meanwhile, other stem lesbians may feel comfortable alternating between somewhat masculine and feminine styles or even mixing styles from both ends together.
On top of this, “genderless” fashion has been on the rise in the past few years, with more and more people comfortable trying on clothes and styles not typically associated with their particular orientation/gender identity/expression. For example, actor and rapper Jaden Smith made a lot of noise a few years ago for having a proclivity for wearing skirts and long dresses. Singer Harry Styles has also been placed into the spotlight lately for adopting a dandyish style and incorporating things like lace, florals, and glitter into his outfits.
With that being said, there are some fashion traits that are typical of futch or stem lesbians:
- Stem lesbians like wearing menswear or menswear-inspired clothes while still keeping some feminine traits, like their body shape, maintaining long hair, wearing makeup, and using feminine accessories.
- Stem lesbians tend to enjoy mixing masculine tops with feminine bottoms (button-down shirts with skinny jeans) and vice versa (a strappy sports bra with baggy joggers).
- Stem or futch lesbians use minimal makeup and keeping low-maintenance hair and nails compared to femme lesbians.
- Stem or futch lesbians tend to favor comfort and practicality and comfort over style.
Cottagecore Lesbian Fashion
Around early 2020, the term “cottagecore” took off in lesbian spaces online, like on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. The term describes a person who wants to escape city life and start anew on a Western farm.
More than just a style, cottagecore is a whole movement. The cottagecore aesthetic is characterized by rustic and cozy home interiors, which include things like ceramics, embroidery, old books, flowers, and basically the inside of Miss Honey’s little cottage in Matilda.
According to The Advocate, the cottagecore movement is a “response to people being dissatisfied with their hectic, crowded lives in cities or suburbs, and the feelings of burnout that come with it. Tired of the minimalist aesthetic that’s dominated interior design in the last ten years, they’re decorating their apartments with potted plants and porcelain teacups, and taking comfort in old-fashioned hobbies like arts & crafts and baking”.
Cottagecore fashion includes things like linen dresses with floral or plaid prints, long prairie frocks, quilted jackets, knitted sweaters, sun hats, garden boots, mary janes, lacy collars, rattan baskets – you get the picture. Some cottagecore lesbians are also into fantasy elements like goblins and fairies.
Vegan, Sustainable, Hippie Lesbian Fashion
There is a long-standing stereotype that lesbians are more inclined to become vegans. After all, many lesbian people have an inclination towards counterculture and activism. It makes sense, as lesbian people know first-hand what it’s like to be oppressed, be different from the mainstream, and fight for a place in society.
The whole vegan/sustainable-living/hippie lesbian look is defined by their political values. Vegans don’t consume or purchase anything made out of or by animals, and that principle extends beyond their diets. As such, most hardcore vegans will avoid wearing anything with leather, suede, animal skin, fur, feathers, and certain kinds of wool.
Many vegans believe that veganism is also better for the environment, and thus adhere to the lifestyle out of a conscious effort to live more sustainably. As such, many eco-conscious vegans are also proponents of recycled fabrics, upcycled and thrifted clothing, vintage fashion, and using natural fabrics with no or minimal artificial dyes.
Like many of the other styles on this list, vegan/hippie fashion is marred with certain stereotypes, from dreadlocks and dungarees to burlap and Birkenstocks. But thanks to modern innovations, sustainable, eco-conscious clothing can now look a lot like regular clothing, blurring the lines of what counts as “hippie” sustainable style.
Witchy/Goth Lesbian Fashion
“Queerness and witchcraft have long been bedfellows”, writes Amelia Abraham in an article about how witchcraft has become a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community. After all, in a religious, patriarchal society, witches are considered symbols of the “other”. Anyone (especially women) who refused to follow societal norms was considered a witch and exiled from mainstream society.
While witchcraft, goth culture, and the macabre have all been considered peculiar and niche countercultures, thanks to the internet, we’re seeing more and more people learn about and connect with others who are interested in the occult. For some, it’s a way of channeling their frustrations with feeling like they don’t fit in into something tangible and fun. For others, it’s about political resistance. And for others, it’s about connecting with the folk magic of their ancestors.
So what does witchy lesbian fashion look like? Some witchy folks like wearing crystal necklaces, tapestry coats, and animal bone talismans. Others adhere to the goth/punk look of all-black clothing, paper-white makeup, and black lipstick and eyeliner.
Dark Academia Lesbian Fashion
Popular among Gen Zs (especially on TikTok) Dark Academia fashion is like the Preppy look’s more sophisticated, less spirited older sister. Fans of this look are usually into literature, the arts, architecture, history, Greek mythology, and, well, academia in general.
The style is characterized by classic, timeless pieces, from tailored trousers to tweed blazers to pleated skirts to brogues or loafers. Dark Academia lesbians tend to wear more monochromatic looks or neutral, earth tones like brown, beige, cream, grey, navy, and brick red. The fabrics are usually more upscale, like wool and cashmere, and outfits are accented with minimalist, classic jewelry like gold necklaces, brooches, and smart watches.
5 Queer-Owned Clothing Brands For Lesbians
If you’re ready to switch up your style, consider shopping from these queer-owned brands. Not only will you be shopping from a brand that is familiar with the queer-specific challenges of finding your personal style, but you’ll also be supporting folks in your community!
Kirrin Finch sells “conscientious menswear-inspired apparel” that lets queer women and non-binary folks feel confident and comfortable in who they are. They have products like casual button-ups, stylish chinos, and sharp suits – perfect for those who want to express a more tomboy fashion.
According to Kirrin Finch co-founder Kelly Moffat, the brand was created to “fill the gap for gender-defying fashion by creating menswear-inspired apparel designed to fit a range of bodies”.
Stuzo Clothing is a woman-owned, black-owned gender-free streetwear clothing company based in LA. According to their website, Stuzo is for “the non-conforming and brave at heart” and this is evident in the bold, colorful jumpsuits, snarky statement shirts, and unique jackets that they sell. Stylish celebrities like Ruby Rose, Lena Waithe, and Tiffany Haddish have all been seen rocking Stuzo.
Inclusive, sustainable fashion is at the core of queer-run clothing business Wildfang. On a “mission to rethink gender norms and how they show up in fashion”, Wildfang aims to “embrace our masculine, our feminine, and our-everything-in-between”.
Some of their bestselling products include the utility wear-inspired Essential Coverall jumpsuit, which comes in a range of colors and prints, as well as a sleek double-breasted blazer that actually has pockets and a cool lining detail that reminds wearers that “You f*cking got this!”
Probably one of the most popular queer-owned and -run fashion houses in 2021, Telfar Clemens’ brand is best known for its affordable but oh so chic shopping tote. Everyone from Zoe Kravitz to Dua Lipa has been seen sporting a Telfar.
Chromat sells ”future-forward bodywear” for all shapes and sizes. For queer people – especially plus-size queer people – finding comfortable and flattering underwear, activewear, and swimwear can be a challenge. Chromat aims to be the answer to that problem. This brand offers items like swimwear made specifically for trans bodies and a special type of breathable and shape-shifting sports bra.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a lesbian looking to update your wardrobe, we hope this guide helps you find the perfect style.
The queer community is always changing and evolving, so we’ve tried to make this guide as inclusive as possible. But don’t stop here! There are so many other brands out there that cater to lesbians and can help you find a new look or refresh your current style.
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Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.