FEMININE LEANING/HIGH FEMME

Many women in the LGBTQIA+ community also adopt a feminine aesthetic, which historically has been referred to as “femme.” When asked about the outfits or styles displayed here, many of the individuals used the terms “femme” or “high-femme” to describe their style, showing a connection to the traditional butch-femme dichotomy. Some of these women also related that they knew they did not appear “overtly gay” or “lesbian,” but any other aesthetic did not feel right to them.

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Gold dress

Owner – Kaitlyn, bisexual or pansexual, woman, 31, lives in Iowa

c. 2010s

“I really like fun, kind of loud stuff. I really like vintage. I like very high, highly feminine stuff, mm. I think everything that I've pulled out to talk about is a dress or a cardigan. I like stuff that's really pretty, or that somebody's grandma would have worn when she was like 20, very hyper-feminine, stylized.” – personal interview with Kaitlyn, October 16, 2017

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Black and gold pantsuit, black belt

Owner – Emma, queer lesbian, woman, 30, lives in Iowa

c. 2010s

“Fashion is purely performative and fashion is the most tangible visible aspect of identity. It seems like a superficial thing, but it’s not because it is the most powerful way that individual people have to communicate who they are to everybody else. That's what makes fashion powerful, and there are ways that I want to present to the world and then there are barriers that prevent me from performing, dressing in the way that I would always like to. But, I guess that I would say just kind of in a nutshell, I consider myself, "Femme." – personal interview with Emma, November 4, 2017

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High heel lace up boot

Owner – Emma, queer lesbian, woman, 30, lives in Iowa

c. 2010s

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Black dress with rhinestone waistline

Owner – Lyadonna, bi-sexual, woman, 32, lives in Iowa

c. 2010s

Lyadonna frequently wore this little black dress to her local gay bar and related, “Oh yeah, yeah, River Wild was a drag king that I got friendly with because of this dress. It’s my lucky dress.” – personal interview with Lyadonna, October 5, 2017

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White lace dress and boa

Owner – Kaitlyn, bisexual or pansexual, woman, 31, lives in Iowa

c. 2010s

“I don't, dress like a lesbian, because I don't have any steel-toed boots, I don't have any like, I don't have a leather jacket, I don't have any of these like practical, anarchistic looks going on.” – personal interview with Kaitlyn, October 16, 2017

“I just like kind of over-the-top theatrical stuff and I think probably if that does tie into my sexuality at all it's because, entertainers and the theatrical industry has been a really safe space for LGBTQ people, whether open or not and they've traditionally had a lot more influence in that realm, as people, even if they couldn't necessarily like, do so openly.” – personal interview with Kaitlyn, October 16, 2017

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Black pant, flower print top, sweater, blue scarf, glasses, pink flats

Owner – Emma, queer lesbian, woman, 30, lives in Iowa

c. 2010s

“I have always read as straight. People, even other queer people, read me as straight and so I have found that it doesn't particularly matter how I perform my gender or my identity. I am read as a straight woman, so I had to say out loud “I'm gay,” or “I’m a lesbian” or I'll talk about my girlfriend, and I'll have to be like very explicit. “No, we have a joint checking account, it's a partnership, we're together, at night get in the same bed.” I've had to be really vocal. I've gone through phases in my life, where I've tried to display my sexual orientation in a physical way, you know everyone always talks about, the baby dyke’s first hair cut type of thing. I didn't have any sort of attraction to, I didn't want to butch up in anyway. Any attempt I've made to butch-it-up, is just like confusing for me and the people around me. I gave up with that, and so at this point, I have a lot to say, kind of about like, femme identity. I just have to say out loud a lot that I'm gay.” – personal interview with Emma, November 4, 2017

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Pink flats

Owner – Emma, queer lesbian, woman, 30, lives in Iowa

c. 2010s