Fashion and identity as statement
Many lesbian and gay people have used clothing and fashion as a means of self expression, as a political or cultural statement, to create a new identity or to show membership of the LG community or sector of the community.
The Women's Liberation Movement led many lesbian feminists to reject traditional feminine clothes.
This was a rejection of both feminine dress, and a move away from the butch/femme roles and identities of the 1960s and earlier.
Dungarees were de rigeur for lesbians in the early 80s. There was a strong social pressure to conform, not only in dress but in other aspects of appearance such as not removing body or facial hair, rejecting bras, make-up and heeled shoes, and keeping hairstyles short. Ties and waistcoats were popular accessories.
More recently, lesbians have been less constrained by rigid dress code and have, on suitable occasions, embraced the opportunity to dress up in frocks once more. With an emphasis on style, rather than uniform.
Fashion has long been associated with dressing up to go out. Like everyone else, gay people have worn clothes both to fit in with, and stand out from, the crowd.
What people wore to go out to clubs and bars has continually changed through the decades.
Up to and during the 1960s, men always dressed smartly in suits. The introduction of tee shirts and denim was embraced by gays and lesbians alongside heterosexuals in the late 60s and 70s, although it was less usual for women to wear trousers than nowadays.
Clubbing more recently has been very influenced by fashion. The freedom to be openly gay has allowed people to express themselves. Arts and fashion students have often lead fashion in gay clubs.
Gay men and women have worn clothing associated with the opposite sex as a way of exploring or expressing their identity. The use of drag has now become more mainstream with characters such as Lily Savage appearing on television, but in the past was not always socially accepted. In addition, particularly the gay men’s club scene has attracted many transvestites who have found a more liberal and accepting environment.
The type of clothing that many gay women rejected, has become the alternative wardrobe for many gay, as well as straight, men.
Clothing has been used as a means of identification as being gay, and to indicate 'sub-sections' of the gay community – bears, leather, clones, camp etc.