Sew Queer: The High Femme Dress

Femmeness is not always easy to define. For folks not in the know, it’s often even harder to see. For some, femme is an identity, for others a way of presenting, for others a way of understanding emotions and sensations as they connect our bodies to the world. I think of femme not as being feminine, but as a relationship to femininity: a way of interpreting all those things deemed feminine, of picking them up and putting them on and discarding them, of giving them wry and earnest and daring twists, of claiming them and calling them your own. Femme is thoughtful; femme is deliberate; femme is fundamentally queer.

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Though the word itself is increasingly commodified (like everything in this world), femme is not equivalent to feminine and, in my opinion, femme is not available to everyone. Femme is for folks deemed insufficiently female by this homophobic, transphobic, sexist world for our orientations, our loves, our bodies, our pleasures. Femme is for the queers, the dykes, the fags, the non-binary and genderqueer and trans folks upon whose shoulders the demands of cis-hetero gender norms fit ill. Femme is a demand for respect; femme is a reclaiming; femme is playful and hard and tender; femme is rejecting those things that don’t fit and treasuring those that do; femme is a way of valuing all those soft, sweet things the world eats up but doesn’t respect.

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For some, femme comes with companions: lazy femme or femme dandy or tomboy femme; hard femme or soft femme; high femme or stone femme or femme daddy. For me, more accustomed to the sort of bare-faced, comfortably-shod land of the lazy femme or the be-velveted and androgynous space of the femme dandy, making this dress for myself felt like a welcome and fun tiptoe into the land of the high femme, that sphere where makeup collections are vast and shoes are high and skirts are big. (I’ll admit I only got partway there, the allure of my new copper Birkenstocks winning out over heels).

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This fabulous lipstick print fabric is from the Kaufman Bouffants and Broken Hearts collection. The lipsticks, all in shades of pink, come in metallic tubes so the dress glints in the sunshine. While I don’t often enjoy wearing a full face of makeup, I frequently will wear lipstick alone, and my collection includes just about every shade of pink I can get my hands on.

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The dress is largely self-drafted, using my bodice sloper with a deep sweetheart neckline and adjustable straps and a simple gathered skirt. I adore the neckline and how much of my collarbones, arms, and upper chest it shows, the way the bodice hugs my body snugly, and the fullness of the skirt, gathered just about as tight as I could.

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The back has a lovely wide dip. To avoid breaking up the pattern, I inserted a side rather than back zip. While I’m wearing a strapless bra here, I also tried to place the straps so they’d play nice with my bras, many of which have fairly wide-set straps.

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While one of my projects recently has been to give myself space to sew for my androgyny, it remains important to remind myself of the fun — of the exuberance and fullness and lush decadence — of my femmeness as well.

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8 thoughts on “Sew Queer: The High Femme Dress

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  1. Thank you for your definition of Femme – very educational for me! And love the dress. I think metallic Birks are the perfect match!

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  2. ❤️❤️❤️ yes!! This is everything I wish I could write. I love my queer femme non binary identity. I love your expression of femme-ness. And your self drafting skills are truly amazing.

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  3. Beautiful dress and beautiful post! I’m especially impressed that it is self-drafted. The back bodice is perfection – great job on pattern placement and the choice to do a side zip… it’s looks great!

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    1. Thank you! The pattern placement took me two tries because it turns out the print isn’t on-grain! I’m glad I re-did it, though, as I think it would have been too glaringly obvious.

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