The Butch’s Guide to Tailoring

Gather ’round, my butch brethren, for I come to you today to discuss an important, yet often neglected person in the lives of masculine-of-center queers: the tailor.

Some of you younger dykes might think that tailoring is an old-timey skill that only Amish people or RPG characters care about nowadays. (Sidenote: the first Google search result for “tailoring” is, disturbingly, a link to a World of Warcraft page; I weep for the future.) But for those among us who aren’t statuesque models that can just “wear it off the rack,” a tailor is the last line of defense between you and an embarrassingly ill-fitting outfit.

You might be thinking, “So what if my clothes don’t fit perfectly? This crazy blue and green space marble will keep a-turnin’ anyway.” This is true (or at least I think it is, but it’s been a long time since I’ve taken physics or geography or astrology or whatever class you learn that Earth stuff in). But let me ask you this, Mr. Smarty-Butch: do you really want to go on a first date looking like you borrowed your dad’s suit? Do you want to go to a job interview with your jacket sleeves flopping all around like Dopey of Seven Dwarves fame? Unless your date is a clown or you’re applying for the position of Chief Clowning Officer, the answer is no.

Now you might be thinking, “OK, enough with the clown jokes already; I get it. But Bren, having stuff tailored is expensive and I’m a poor performance artist/bike messager/community organizer/independent queer blogger!” I feel ya, homeslice. That’s why, unless you’re rich and have already donated to every known charity, I don’t advocate tailoring your entire wardrobe. With most everyday casual wear, you can get away with things not fitting perfectly. Shirt sleeves can be rolled up, jeans can be cuffed, and tees can be baggy. Once you get into the area of more expensive and/or dressier clothing, however, it may be Tailor Time.

So maybe you’ve finally accepted that your new suit jacket could use some customization. What should a consumer butch be considering while typing “alterations” into Yelp? Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a tailor:

1.) Price. Think about how the cost and quality of the item you want tailored. If it’s a pair of $15 pants from Old Navy, you’ll be fine taking it to the dry cleaners down the street. If it’s a $500 suit from Bloomingdale’s, you need to find a more high-end shop. You gotta treat your threads right, buddy. I mean, you wouldn’t take the Queen of England to Denny’s for dinner (or maybe you would, I guess, depending on how you feel about the British monarchy), right? So never take your expensive clothing to a cheap tailor.

2.) What needs to be done. Make sure you actually know what part of your item you want altered, and how, before you get to the tailor. Walking in and just saying, “This jacket doesn’t fit right; can you fix it?” is obnoxious and makes you look like you don’t know your ass from your elbow. Saying something like, “I’d like the sleeves shortened a couple of inches” sounds much worldlier and will make the whole measuring/price-quoting process go more quickly. And if the tailor tries to suggest “taking in the waist” or “tightening the chest,” beware – he’s trying to turn your menswear into womenswear. Don’t let him dictate your style. Remember: you’re the boss here.

3.) Queer-friendliness. This is the scary part. While a tailor that specializes in menswear is probably your best bet craftmanship-wise, walking into a cis-male-centric space as a non cismale-bodied person can be an extremely intimidating experience. Any butch who’s ever been given the side-eye or treated with outward hostility in the mens’ department or a barbershop or a restroom knows exactly what I’m talking about. I recommend doing a lot of research beforehand. Look online for queer-friendly tailors in your area or just ask your MOC community members where they get their duds done.

If that doesn’t produce any leads, find the nicest-looking shop you can and deploy the age-old BAF method: Bring A Femme. It’s no secret that many a butch has been saved from rude sales associates and drunken meatheads by the wiles of a fierce and fearless femme. “Keep your head down and stay out of trouble” is a basic tenet of butch survival, but femmes? Man, femmes will stand there, armed crossed and eyes flashing, and call bullshit ‘bullshit’ right to its face. We love ’em for it.

Hopefully, I’ve inspired some of you to go forth and get fitted. If you have any questions or think of something tailor-related that I forgot to offer my sage advice on, hit me up in the comments.

I’d like to close this post with a little shameless bragging about my new, freshly-tailored sport coat. It’s a tweed herringbone jacket from Rugby by Ralph Lauren, and it has elbow patches. Elbow patches are the shit. Observe:


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About Bren

I'm a self-identified butch lesbian geek Masshole with a passion for comic books, action figures, queer issues, flannel, and pretty ladies. Oh, and comments. I love me some comments (hint, hint).

13 thoughts on “The Butch’s Guide to Tailoring

  1. Awesome post! I am just beginning to realize that I don’t have to pass on an item of clothing just because it almost-but-not-quite fits me. Tailors can help! Any recommendations for Boston-area tailors?

  2. I am the BAF for my Loves to shop Butch, and like the the blog says I will run interference for her, however I have not nor will I try to put her into feminine clothes. She a) would be totally uncomfortable and b) I love her just the way she is. She is comfortable in her own skin and with a good tailor we will get her clothes fitting just a little better.

    Fem in South Carolina

  3. For the most random reason I came across this blog entry, and though it is from October I had to comment. It makes me so thankful to hear a girl who is butch (or stud whichever you prefer) take true pride in appearance. Your thoughts (and jokes) are very well stated and your tips are phenominal. I see girls constantly in nothing but tore up baggy jeans and a tshirt so big they could fit me in there with them. So it does my heart good to hear this attention to detail. I am (well I think I am) one of those fierce femmes you talk about, which by the way your description of made me want to jump for joy, and I very much appreciate pointing out that sometimes this world can still be a little scary for those that are gay, and though you butch girls are tough as nails, sometimes it’s good to have a femme wingman. Hey we are nurturers for a reason ;). So thank you for listening to my ramble of thanks and appreciation.
    P.S. Yes elbow patches are the sh*t 🙂

    • Hey, thanks so much for your kind words, Rebecca! If I’ve managed to make a femme jump for joy, then I’ve done my duty. 😉 I also want to thank you for being one of those Fierce Femmes. You ladies are seriously lifelines; I really don’t think many of us could have survived this long without your support. Much love (and elbow patches) for you!

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