Sew Queer: femme dandy formalwear

Sew Queer is a series exploring the intersections of sewing and queer identity. To participate, use the hashtag #sewqueer or visit @sewqueer on instagram. To learn more, visit the intro post.

This fall, I had a wedding to go to. Weddings are, broadly, a mixed bag for queer people. Excluded from the legal right to marry for so long (and still in so many places), we might find the celebration of a legal and social right that is out of our grasp trying. For those of us interested in figuring out ways of being that break with misogynist traditions of heterosexual monogamy, too, weddings can seem retrograde. If you, like me, are spinsterish and demisexual — that is, I’ve decided to live without a spouse or cohabiting romantic partner in my life and I experience attractive very rarely — the whole idea of marriage can be baffling.

On the other hand, as an emotional person who sometimes finds it difficult to express my feelings, socially sanctioned occasions to be affectionate and weepy get my approval every time. And weddings, of course, are an excellent excuse for some fancy fripperies.

I originally considered making a velvet dress, but the fabric I had in mind got less appealing on repeat visits to the fabric store. Luckily, one of my sewing mottoes is that life is the occasion. That is, if you have a special fabric in your stash or an exciting project in mind, you shouldn’t wait for just the right occasion to stitch it up. Rather, take pleasure in the making itself, in the conjuring up out of imagination and textile something fabulous, in challenging yourself with new techniques or approaches. Enjoy the practice of sewing, not just the end result.

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Life is the occasion meant that I already had in my wardrobe a tulle and wool tartan Alexander McQueen-inspired kilt skirt just waiting for the right formal shirt. I picked up my Cashmerette Harrison pattern and made a tuxedo shirt — check out my post on how to do it yourself!

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Putting all these items and influences together embodied femme dandy for me, a direct repurposing of the masculine-coded kilt and tuxedo shirt, with the flair of tulle and the drama of sky-high metallic heels. More than that, though, this whole outfit is full of the things I love about sewing: the tactile pleasures of many-textured textiles, the intellectual challenge of pattern hacking and problem solving, the satisfaction of trial and error (and error, and error, in the case of this skirt) eventually resulting in something pleasing, and even the self-care of allowing myself mistakes, of loving something imperfect.

It’s also really fun to dance and get sweaty and a little tipsy in.

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Check out my Harrison Tuxedo Shirt pattern hack, or visit more Sew Queer posts!

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