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What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear: The Slide Show 1976

In September, 2012, I - Liza - took a trip to The Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City to delve into my own collections. I was looking specifically for my 1976 slide show, What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. I found it, and brought the slides home to digitize. 

The online magazine Dapper Q, which had interviewed me about Dyke Clothing, had requested some of the slideshow images, should I ever find them, so I sent some along for them to publish HERE

In my interview about What the Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear in dapperQ, I mentioned that the slides from my traveling slideshow were at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in NYC. Since then, I visited the Archives and borrowed my slides to digitize them.

In 1975 and 1976, I took pictures at various events and places around the country to show to women-only audiences. While I had permission to show the slides in this context, never in my wildest dreams, in the mid 1970s, could I have imagined the internet, or websites like dapperQ. So, I have selected a few images to share in this context, choosing only the women who have given permission or who are famous, or whose identity I think won’t be recognized after all these years. Photos by Liza Cowan unless stated.

 

Alix Dobkin circa 1975 wearing t shirt from women's bookstore Lammas. Photo ©Liza Cowan
Alix Dobkin in a t-shirt from Lammas, a women’s bookstore in Washington, DC. We had all just gotten new haircuts and were happy to show them off.

 

 

Alix Dobkin, 1975. Photo ©Liza Cowan
Alix Dobkin in vest and striped shirt. This was taken on Amtrak, travelling from DC to NYC. Alix is wearing one of the buttons I created, “A You’re An Amazon,” the first line of one of her most popular songs, “Amazon ABC.”

 

 

Alix Dobkin wearing various feminist t-shirts. 1975. Photos ©Liza Cowan
T-shirt collage, featuring Alix Dobkin. Lammas was a women’s bookstore in Washington, DC. “The Future Is Female” - the slogan for New York City’s first women’s bookstore Labyris Books. Amazon Expedition. I can’t remember what this shirt was for, but there was a popular anthology of the same name, published in 1973 by Times Change Press, edited by Bertha Harris, Jil Johnston, Esther Newton, Jane O’Wyatt and Phillis Birkby. I am Woman, a shirt we found at some five and dime store, probably a take off from the famous song by Helen Reddy. Note the props.

 

 

Amy and Phranc at concert in LA. 1975. Photo ©Liza Cowan
Amy and Phranc taken at an Alix Dobkin concert in LA. This concert took place the week after the What The Well Dressed Dyke slideshow made it’s debut at the Lesbian History Exploration outside Los Angeles. In an interview in The Advocate, July 22, 1986, Phranc said: “…then I saw the slide presentation by Liza Cowan [at the Lesbian History Exploration] on ‘What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear.’ It was great: all these women in 3-piece suits. They showed a slide of Liza shaving her head and I thought, ‘This is great.’ ‘I went home and got a total buzz-cut, and just loved it.” Note that Amy is wearing the “A You’re An Amazon button and Phranc is wearing another one of my buttons, “I like Older Women.”

 

 

Liza-and-penny-on-wall-photo-by-alix-dobkin
Liza Cowan and Penny House, posing for the slideshow. I am wearing my favorite wool vest, tie, jeans and green Converse sneakers. Penny is wearing wool sailor pants, a vest and tie, and Frye boots. Photo by Alix Dobkin.

 

Liza-getting-a-shave-photo-by-Alix-Dobkin
Liza Getting her head shaved. Our neighbor, friend, and riding instructor, Dorethea, had a haircutting salon. She was puzzled and amused when I asked her to shave my head. Photo by Alix Dobkin.

 

Louise-and-liza-2-photo-by-alix-dobkin
Louise Fishman and Liza. Louise wearing the now-stereotypical flannel shirt, Liza wearing, again, my favorite wool vest, a bandana with women’s symbols on my neck, and, again, the “A You’re An Amazon” and “I like Older Women” buttons. Photo by Alix Dobkin.

 

Three-piece-suit-by-morgan-photo-%C2%A9Liza-Cowan
Three piece suit by Lesbian designer, Morgan, at a fashion show/tea party she hosted to present her collection.

 

 

Val, wearing vest, tie and jacket. Going to a dance. Photo ©Liza Cowan
V in three piece ensemble at a women’s dance.
title card from slideshow What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. ©Liza Cowan 1975
Title card from slideshow. Liza self-portrait.




DYKE A Quarterly, no. 5. Fall, 1977. Back Cover

 

DAQ back cover no 5 1977 photo ©Irene Young


DYKE A Quarterly No. 5, Back Cover, Photo by Irene Young. 1977 @Tomato Publications. T-shirt design by Jymme Golden.

 

Women's T-Shirts in DYKE A Quarterly. Send us a photo* of yourself to be used in a photo essay on T-Shirts in DYKE #7, Lesbian Media.

This issue will feature essays, interviews, resource lists and graphics on different forms of Lesbians communications: magazines, newspapers, letters, posters, buttons, fliers, video, films. We are looking for articles and news for this issue

DYKE pays for everything it prints. Remember we will always print non-theme related articles, so don't hesitate to send other work,

A subscription to DYKE, A  Quarterly costs $8.00 for four issues. A single copy costs $2.25 in women's and gay stores. $275 by mail. Please address all correspondence, submissions and make checks payable to: Tomato Publications, 70 Barrow Street, New York, NY 10014.

*Sent us a photo of yourself or a friend, or a group of friends wearing your favorite woman-made T shirts. If you know, please tell us who designed the shirt, when it was made, what the event, place, group or idea that it describes, and any other information you consider relevant. The photo should be clear, black and white. We won't be able to return  photos. No slides please. Thank you.

Photo by Irene Young

 

Typewriter marks end of original story


We proposed an issue on Lesbian media. It was going to be issue No. 7. The magazine folded before we could publish it, which is a great shame. Irene Young took these amazing photographs so at least we have this stunning graphic.

 

Xx DYKE A QUARTERLY flier womens buttons photo irene young 

Inside front cover, DYKE A Quarterly No 5. 1977. Photo by Irene Young. @Tomato Publications


Side Trip: Alice Austen in LIFE Magazine, 1951

Just a few months before she died, Alice Austen made her second appearance in LIFE Magazine.

Alice Austen Day Life MagazineAlice Austen Day. Life Magazine, October 29, 1951

"Alice Austen, America's first great woman photographer, had been rescued from the poorhouse and oblivion by the sale of her superb collections of pictures (LIFE, Sept. 24). But until this month the 85-year-old artist had never had a public showing of her work. On Oct. 7, however, the Staten Island Historical Society, custodian of her photographs, celebrated "Alice Austen Day". More than 300 of Miss Austen's old and new friends crowded into the museum to look at her pictures and say hello to her once more. Miss Austen herself was an hour late. Worn out by a television appearance two days earlier, she at first refused to come. But her friends convinced her that she would enjoy herself, and enjoy herself she did. There were speeches and orchids and gifts and refreshments, but above all, there were friends. Some, like Mrs. Charles Barton had posed for her in the old days on Staten Island. Others, like Coapes Brinley of the Staten Island Historical Society, helped win recognition for her work. Miss Gertrude Tate, her closest friend, had lived with her for 27 years at the Austen home until the two ladies lost their money and the home was sold.

The old lady in the wheelchair knew how to get the most out of every moment, although she mostly wept when Mrs. Barton bent over to kiss her hand. As the newspaper and magazine cameras recorded the afternoon, Photographer Alice Austen said proudly, "I'd be taking those pictures myself if I were 100 years younger." When the pictures and the refreshments were over, she went back to the private nursing home where she now lives, a little tired by the festivities but glad that she had lived to see Alice Austen Day."

Alice Austen and trude in LIFE MAG 1951Alice and Trude, now Mrs. Charles Barton, donned corset covers and petticoats and posed for this wicked picture taken 60 years ago on Staten Island. Alice Austen, LIFE Magazine 1951


Alice Austen, Deeply Moved Mrs. Barton, LIFE Magazine 1951Deeply Moved, Alice Austen bites her lips as old friend Mrs. Barton impulsively kisses her hand. Mrs. Barton now lives in New Jersey but visits Alice often.


Alice Austen and Gertrude Tate, 1951, LIFE MagazineHIGHLY PLEASED, Alice Austen beams up at Gertrude Tate, who lived in Austen home, took trips to Europe with her, nursed her during arthritis attacks.

For more on Alice Austen see HERE  and also visit the Alice Austen House Museum Website


DYKE A Quarterly No 3, p.2. Contents, Masthead

Dyke No 3 p 2DYKE A Quarterly, No. 3 p. 2. Photo by  Phoebe Quill, woman sitting on sacks of mail, reading DYKE No. 2

(contents are linked to articles as they appear in this online archive)

3. Criticism, Feedback, Changes

    by Liza and Penny

5. Letters

    by some readers

13. Making A Backpack

    by Cherrie Cox

21. They're Your Teeth, How Long Will You Keep Them?

    by Christine Stanley, DDS

23. Coming Out On Celluloid

    by Janet Meyers

26. Windsong

    by Myra Quadrangle

28. Non Mean Mom

    by NoY Doublex

29. Response to Non Mean Mom

    by Penny and Liza

32. In Order Of A Name Change

30. Nesting

    by Liza Cowan

34. Photographs

    by Alice Austen

44. Emotional Life Insurance Policy

    by Janet Meyers

46. Reviews

 

Dyke a quarterly,DYKE No 3, for contents page

Editors: Penny House and Liza Cowan

Contributing Editor: Janet Meyers

Tyepset by: OBU Typesetters

Printed by: Tower Press, a Lesbian print shop

DYKE  #3 Fall 1976. DYKE is published quarterly by Tomato Publications LTD, 70 Barrow St. New York, NY 10014.

Subscriptions: $8.00 per year. $16.00 overseas. $15 to institutionally funded groups, single copy $2.25 by mail, $2.25 in women's stores. Free on request to women in prison and mental institutions.

DYKE pays for all articles & Graphics that it prints.

Copyright © 1976, New York. All rights reserved.

Cover: photo by Alice Austen, design by Liza Cowan

errata: we apologize for misspelling Cris Williamson's name last issue

 


FLIER: Lesbian Buttons in DYKE A Quarterly

Pile of advertising political fliers for DYKE A  Quarterly www.dykeaquarterly.com ©
Women's Buttons In DYKE A Quarterly, flier. Photos by Irene Young. Design probably by Mati Munoz for an issue  of DAQ that never came out. Companion to the flier and back cover, Lesbian T-Shirts In DYKE A Quarterly. For the proposed but never realized issue on Lesbians and Media.

Attributions will be coming soon.Click on photo for higher resolution photo so you can read text.  If you have any information or histories of thes buttons, please let us know.


DYKE A Quarterly, No. 1: What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear

DYKE A QUARTERLY No 1 p 20

DYKE A QUARTERLY No 1 p 21

DYKE A QUARTERLY No 1 p 22_3

DYKE A QUARTERLY No 1 p 23

DYKE A QUARTERLY No 1 p 24

DYKE A QUARTERLY No 1 p 25What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. DYKE  A Quarterly No. 1, pages 20-25

 

 

Abridged text in grey italics, comments in black. Click to enlarge page to read it in full.

What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear

By Liza Cowan

 When I was co-editing COWRIE I wrote a series called, “What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear.”  The quotations her are taken from that series.

 

OPPRESSION

“Women have been forced to dress as objects since the invention of patriarchy. Do you object to my saying that women are forced to wear certain clothing? I know some women will say that no one Is forced to wear anything. If women go along with these social/fashion customs, there are just stupid. But this is not true. If you don’t dress the way you are supposed to, you are a social outcast. If you function in mainstream culture you may be fired from your job, kicked out of school, ridiculed by our ‘peers’ and family. It takes great courage to defy your class and sex taboos.” (February 1974)

 

Sometimes I forget how different we’re looking these days. My eye has become so accustomed to our short cropped hair, baggy work trousers, vests, boots ad our direct stares. The other day Alix and I went up to town to pick up Adrian at school. It was the first time we had been there since school opened. Adrian usually comes and goes on the school bus. Her class wasn’t quite finished when we arrived, so we hung out in the hall. Several classes were on their way to the cafeteria, and every kid in that hall stared at us as if we had three eyes, and they were not merely curious. Lots of them were hostile, especially the little boys.

 

Ordinarily we would have let the boys know that it was past due time for them to be castrated. Especially me. I hate little boys and I love to make scenes. However, we were in Adrian’s school. She’s five years old and has no choice about where to live or go to school. We know how heavy the other children in that rural public school could make it for her. At least in the city there are bound to be other children whose parents are weird, but here in the country everyone is pretty much the same except for the Lesbians, and Adrian is the only child in our Dyke community. Clearly nobody in that school had ever seen the likes of us, two stompin’ Dykes, trained in the streets of New York City. So we had to act like “Mommie and Aunt Liza” (or whoever I was saying I was that day.) We were wearing the wrong costumes to play that part. It’s way past time when we might want to pass at Adrian’s school. We’d never be able to pull it off, anyway. The last time we put on Ladies clothes Alix looked like Jan Morris. I guess our solution at school is to keep a low profile and hope for the best.

The following is commentary by Liza Cowan, written for this archive in 2011

Thirty five years later, I'm amazed by how much has changed yet so much has stayed the same.

Clothing

When I wrote these essays in the mid seventies, I didn't have the vocabulary to write cultural  theory about clothing. I hadn't been to college yet, but more than that, cultural studies didn't really enter the academy until the late seventies.  The idea of reading clothing as text was barely developed, and an interest in clothing was considered feminine i.e. devalued.  It's no wonder that my theory was simultaneously rudimentary and passionate. That said, I'm proud that my colleagues and I understood that examining clothing in the context of power was a worthy endeavor. We believed the feminist credo: the personal is political. Our readers, for the most part, found our interest in clothing superficial, classist and apolitical. 


From Our Right To Love, Ginny Vida, ed on DYKE A Quarterly, fashion, home decorating

From Our Right To Love, Ginny Vida, Ed. 1978

"This visually enticing quarterly magazine abuses valuable news space by filling it with trite meanderings on such superficial subjects as dyke fashions and interior decorating. Lacking political analysis(even of dyke separatism) or the talents to express the written word, DYKE, fortunately still a baby in the lesbian publishing world, unfortuneately displays the temperment of a spoiled brat"



These days there are some excellent  blogs about clothing and theory. For example, see Worn Out, a scholarly and beautiful blog. Universities offer cross disciplinary classes and conferences on the politics of fashion. We wer just ahead of our time.  

Daily Life Of a little Dyke family in rural New York circa 1975

Alix Dobkin, her daughter, Adrian, and I were living on a farm in the tiny hamlet of Preston Hollow, Schoharie County, New York. Partly back-to-the-land, partly Lesbian Separatist, we had  moved there from New York City in 1974 with another Lesbian couple.  There were a few other Lesbians who lived somewhat nearby. Penny lived there in the summers. We were the only Dykes with a child. We were the only Jews. None of our neighbors were even divorced. We were in a new territory without much of a map.  We were terrified that our neighbors would be vicious. The first time it snowed I cried. We had never lived outside of New York City.

We did try to be good neighbors; we kept our place tidy, waved to folks on the road and chatted with people at the hamlet's one market and post office. It turned out that the neighbors liked us well enough. They thought we were strange, but likable. They cared less that we were Lesbians, and more that we kept our property tidy and we were friendly, so word got out that we were OK. Or OK enough for them to be neighborly. We were Lesbians, but we were their  Lesbians. Some became friends.

At age five, Alix's daughter Adrian was in kindergarten. Maybe first grade. She took the bus from Preston Hollow to Middleburg every day. It was a 45 minute ride. None of the other parents knew usexcept by town gossip.  Sociable by nature, Adrian nevertheless only made friends with a few of the children who lived down the road.

Adrian remembers that her teachers singled her out to be mean to, and the other children, but for a few, were not allowd to play with her. But it wasn't only the rural parents - the ones from the city could be just as bad. It was, in fact, a city friend's mom who was the most homophobic and vile to little Adrian, who came home one after one weekend in the city with her Dad, crying, "Andrea's mom says we can't play anymore because you are hobos."

"What??"

"Hobos. Andrea's mom says you're hobos and I can't play with Andrea?"

"Do you know what a Hobo is?

"No, but she thinks you're bad."

It took us a few minutes but we figured out that we were homos. Homos. We explained to Adrian that homo was a word for same sex couples like us. And that Andrea's mom was an idiot. But our theories and explanations didn't make Adrian's life any easier for her. She longed to be treated as if she were normal. Her moms were happliy not normal. All The choices were fraught with consequences.

In a year or so Adrian moved to New York city with her dad, then subesequently they moved to Woodstock, NY an hour's drive south of us, soon followed by Alix, then by me. We had separated as a family, but only in the traditional heteronormative sense. In the Lesbian sense we remained very much an enlarged and engaged family. And Woodstock was full of weirdos: artists, hippies, musicians...so being a Hobo wasn't such a big deal.

Adrian grew up into a wonderful woman: smart, talented, kind, beautiful. She has a terrific family; a husband, three gorgeous kids, doting Grandmas Alix and Nancy down the road, and a bevy of faithful long - term friends. She's the best.

The comment about little boys: I was being dramatic. I hated how boys were raised with the assumption of gender power and it showed all over their bodies, their posture, their clothing, their play. Castration? We lived in farm country, and it was an easy metaphor. It was a castration of the Phallus=symbolic in the Lacanian, theoretical sense, not the actual body. Castration in fact? No. Of course not. I was angry - not delusional.

 

Continue reading "DYKE A Quarterly, No. 1: What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear" »


DYKE A Quarterly, No. 1 Dyke Salad

DYKE A QUARTERLY No 1 p 69
DYKE A Quarterly, No. 1 p. 69 Dyke Salad

 

These were random thoughts and ideas. Little bits tossed together. Dyke was published by Tomato Publications so the vegetable theme was there. Why Tomato Publications? Because some survey we read said that the tomato was women's favorite vegetable, although technically it's a fruit. And fruit is a word used to describe queers so it all fit together.

 

No. 1 was the only issue with this feature.

 

DYKE A QUARTERLY lauren bacall Theoni Aldredge 1975 We loved women in men's suits. So we had to include this image - probably from  Rona Barrett Gossip - of Theoni Aldredge accepting the 1974 Oscar for The Great Gatsby. It was a huge thrill to see a woman in a suit, a tuxedo, at such a public event. Lesbian or not, the subversiveness in itself was a queer event.

Although Aldredge was the costume designer for the film and got the Oscar, the men's suits in The Great Gatsby were designed by Ralph Lauren, whose clothing Liza had written about in the first of her series, "What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear" in Cowrie Magazine. She called Lauren's little boutique at Bloomingdales "The Eat Your Heart Out Blazer Dyke Boutique"

 

Helmut Newton, Le Smoking, in DYKE, A Quarterly 1975
Helmut Newton, Le Smoking

Helmut Newton, Le Smoking, French Vogue 1975

This photo by Helmut Newton came out in French Vogue the same year as this issue of DYKE, 1975. Le Smoking, features a tuxedo by Yves Saint Laurent. We cut it out and framed it, not realizing just how famous the photo, or the photographer, would become. For us it was Haute Dyke, despite the fact that we figured the model probably wasn't actually a Dyke - and the fact that the stylist had dressed her in high heels, which you can't see in this image, but kind of ruined the effect, for us at least.

 

Saint Laurent and Ralph Lauren didn't invent women in tuxedos though. They just copied some high profile, high style women-loving women like Marlene Deitrich, Josephine Baker

Josephine baker in tuxedo Josephine Baker in Tuxedo. Sudio Piaz.

 

And others, less famous, but whose images were taken by well known photographers like this one by Brassai.

Brassai, le monocle, young female invert, 1932 Brassai. Young invert at Le Monocle, Paris 1932

 

We were inspired by all of these women.