‘But you hated these clothes!’ The complicated history of ‘lesbian fashion’

‘But you hated these clothes!’ The complicated history of ‘lesbian fashion’

From a 17th century Swedish queen to drag king Stormé DeLarverie, a new book charts the myriad styles of women-loving women through the ages

‘When it comes to lesbians, clothes can really shape our place in the world,” says the fashion historian Eleanor Medhurst. “They can let us be recognised by others in our community, or allow us to be hidden to the world at large.”

She takes the example of Christina, Queen of Sweden in the 17th century. While Christina’s sexuality remains ambiguous, there is evidence she felt romantically towards women. Her clothing choices still speak to some lesbians today, Medhurst included, in the way that she toyed with stereotypes. “She would play with gender through her self-presentation,” says Medhurst. “She was often, throughout her life, mixing masculine and feminine clothes,” wearing men’s shoes, shirts and vests, as well as elaborate women’s gowns and skirts.

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