I don't know. I think it's worth more. I don't say anyone should purchase from the company that changed the meaning of Amazon from warrior women to vulture capitalists, but it's rather amusing to see back issues turn up in venues like this.
First issues should be worth more, as indeed this one seems to be. Here we have an asking price of $28.00
dapperQ: transgressing men's fashion is a website/blog about what in the old days we'd have called Dyke fashion. These days there are a whole slew of new words and attitudes applied to clothing and self presentation, most of them having to do with newish ways that people are using gender rather than sex to describe who women are and the ways they go about their business.
I, Liza, am not a big fan of these new descriptors. My apporach is more traditionally radical feminist, or LesbianFeminist. Women are women, - men are men, and the rest is culture. I've encountered as much opposition as support on this issue.
Queer "newspeak" describes Lesbians as "boi" "masculine of center" and "transmasculine." I've seen this all over the place, from fashion blogs to Harvard professors. It rankles me. In the following interview, I got to explain why.
Thanks to dapperQ and editor Anita Dolce Vita for reaching out to me for an interview and then for publishing the words I wrote even though they often critique the very words dapperQ uses to describe itself and its readers. Kudos, mes amies.
DYKE, A Quarterly, a magazine of lesbian culture and analysis that included articles such as “What the Well-Dressed Dyke Will Wear,” was created by Liza Cowan and Penny House in 1975 and ran for six issues. We recently read Qwear’s interview with Cowan and were floored that dapperQ had not yet published a post about DYKE, considering DYKE’s goal of expanding the definition of what it meant to be a “woman,” including in areas of dress and behavior. After taking a look at some issues of DYKE, as well as reading some of DYKE’s fan and hate mail, we decided to have a chat with Cowan to learn more about her venture.
dapperQ: You once said of DYKE, “Our readers, for the most part, found our interest in clothing superficial, classist and apolitical.” dapperQ has received some similar criticism. Can you expand upon why it was and still is important to explore this topic within the context of sexual orientation and gender identity?
Cowan: Many of the readers of DYKE, A Quarterly, which was published in the 1970’s, did not think of fashion as a system of codes to be deciphered, or as a text that could be read. They imagined that clothing didn’t matter, and that, even worse than not mattering, an interest in fashion was only for the upper classes and only for women who had nothing better to do in their lives than to go shopping. Very few people at that time were interpreting the meanings [of] fashion. Fashion Studies did not enter the academic curriculum in the US until the 1980’s when the field of Cultural Studies was first introduced. These days you can get a PhD in fashion studies. I don’t mean fashion design, but the study of the meaning and history of clothing.
Fashion is political. What we wear signifies who we are in terms of our socio-economic class, age, culture, ethnicity, historical time, geographical location, sex, and gender. If we are native to a culture, that is, if we were brought up in that culture, we know how to read and to obey the rules of fashion, but we don’t usually know how to analyze or articulate them. Lesbians are among those folks who live in multiple worlds simultaneously, and often have to navigate two or more sets [of] codes. Isn’t that fascinating and important? I think so.
Rather than follow or even break rules willy-nilly, I think we can do a much better job of making personal and collective statements if we understand what is expected of us and why. We can learn to read the codes. Then we can choose to obey, bend or break the rules with more purpose, imagination and clarity.
dapperQ: In your interview with Qwear, you mentioned that many of your readers may have identified as genderqueer or transmasculine today, but that, while our language has expanded, the fashion aesthetic is similar. At dapperQ, we recognize the rich diversity of our community and understand that how we identify impacts how we perceive, interact, and experience the world. Keeping the vast array of unique experiences in mind, we consciously made the decision to bridge what our founder calls the “transgenderational gap” by focusing on some common ground: fashion. Do you feel that DYKE would have included a wider audience had this new language been available to you back then?
Cowan: Cowrie Magazine – and later DYKE A Quarterly (the two magazines I edited, for which I wrote “What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear “) were written by for and about Lesbians. It is true that I told Qwear that I supposed that many of us were genderqueer in those days, but what I meant – and I apologize for the linguistic slippage – was that in those days many Lesbians crisscrossed traditional boundaries of “male” and “female” fashion and grooming codes. I did not mean that my readers thought of themselves as anything but women. I did notsay that “our language has expanded” because, in fact, I don’t think it has, unless “expanded” means being more confusing and more constricting.
Gender, in my linguistic universe, is a set of behaviors and expectations that are given, forced, inscribed onto female and male bodies. One of my favorite theorists, Lierre Keith, puts it this way: “Gender is not a binary; it’s a hierarchy- global in its reach, sadistic in its practice, murderous in its conclusion, just like race, just like class.”
I don’t like or use the terminology that is so popular these days: transmasculine, genderqueer, masculine-of-center, boi, etc. These are all words and phrases that obscure the fact that women and men are trained by patriarchy to live in constricting, life-denying, soul -sucking, yettotally made-up categorical boxes. It obscures the fact that men, as a class under patriarchy, created these conditions, and that men, as a class under patriarchy, benefit from that pervasive world-view.
Far from expanding our world view, the language of transmasculine etc. has, in my opinion, shrunk it. One of the goals of feminism, certainly of Lesbian Feminism, is to make the category of woman bigger, not smaller. Phrases like transmasculine or masculine of center suggest thatwoman, as a category, is not large enough, or expansive enough, or elastic enough, to encompass a full range of behaviors, aesthetics, expressions and attitudes.
On the contrary, I believe that whatever a woman does is womanly. If she wears a suit and tie and sports a mustache – she is womanly. If she wields a blowtorch, she is womanly. If she drives a 16 wheeler, she is womanly. If she runs a government, she is womanly. She may not be “feminine” according to the socially constructed, restrictive gender rules of our contemporary dominant culture, but she’s womanly. To call a woman who identifies as a womantransmasculine or boi or masculine of center is to deny scope and breadth and depth to the category of woman. These words serve to claim as “masculine” the behaviors, occupations, attitudes, fashions and grooming styles that are not only liberating to women, but that women can enjoy, do enjoy, and should be able to enjoy as women.
The traditional Lesbian category of Butch is different from transmasculine or masculine. The traditional Butch Lesbian knows full well that she is female. Her way of expressing her Butch womanliness has an honorable history of its own.
DYKE A Quarterly would not have invited a “larger” audience even if other folks were using “new” language. Our intended audience was always women-identified-women: Lesbians and Dykes (terms we used interchangeably). These days, we have altered our scope somewhat by allowing male scholars [to] access our archival materials.
dapperQ: In your 1970s article, “What the Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear,” you stated, “I am confident that there will begin to evolve a true Dyke fashion, just as Dyke music and theater is already beginning to appear.” Today, there exists many blogs about queer, lesbian, dyke, butch, and trans style. In what ways do you think that our fashion has changed? Remained the same? Progressed?
Cowan: When I was writing “What the Well-Dressed Dyke Will Wear” back in the mid-70’s, I was confident that when women wore “men’s” clothing we were doing so not to look like men, not to be read as masculine, but to look like Dykes. We did it to honor our Lesbian foremothers who had dressed in “men’s” clothing. We did it so we would recognize each other. We did it to defy the constricting rules of femininity, and we did it to break free from the confining and degrading nature of “feminine” garments. I don’t think that young Lesbians are dressing much differently these days than we did in the ‘70s. They are just giving it different descriptors, different names. Also it seems to me that on the whole, young Lesbians are less fascinated by, and less interested in honoring their Lesbian foremothers than we were in the 1970’s. I hope I’m wrong. I hope the young Dykes of today are reading their history, because it’s fascinating and important. Then again, the Dykes of the 70’s are now the foremothers of today’s younger generations, and there seems to be some new interest in what we did and who we were, which pleases me.
I don’t see anything particularly interesting or unusually imaginative happening in Lesbian fashions. Alas, we have not evolved our own unique style. I’m not really surprised. Sad, maybe, but not surprised. “Men’s” suits? By now I find them a bit trite as an idea, though they may be charming to view, and I certainly understand the impulse. “Ladies” garments? Also not terribly inspiring as Lesbo wear, although I do love to wear a string of fake pearls to political demonstrations. I can’t believe that Lesbians wear high heels. In my day you wore shoes you could run away in. At my age – 63- I’m more driven by comfort than by style, but I do wish there were more imaginative ranges of style for everyone, including straight folks.
dapperQ: In 1976, you created a slideshow of images documenting lesbian fashion that is now at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in NYC. Can you tell us more about these images?
Cowan: I made the slide show “What the Well-Dressed Dyke Will Wear” for the Lesbian History Exploration in 1976. That was a wonderful gathering of Lesbians held outside Los Angeles featuring presentations by a variety of women including Tee Corrine, Judy Grahan, Jan Oxenburg, Elizabeth Kennedy and Madeline Davis, Alix Dobkin, Elsa Gidlow, Phranc, Margie Adam, Alice Bloch, and other scholars, artists, and activists.
The slideshow is now at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, NY. I will go there later this year to digitize my collections, which are housed there, including the slide show, so stay tuned for it to show up online.
I prepared for the slideshow by taking photos of images in books of Lesbians from a particular section of Lesbian History…women like Gertrude Stein, Radclyffe Hall, Margaret Anderson, Djuna Barnes, Natalie Clifford Barney, Sylvia Beach, Alice B. Toklas, Romaine Brooks, Janet Flanner, Renee Vivien and more. I can’t really remember now because I haven’t seen the slides since the 1980’s. I relied heavily on photos taken by the legendary Lesbian photographer Berenice Abbott.
Then I took photos of contemporary Lesbians, mainly in NYC, where I was living at the time. I created the categories of fashion expression, “DYKE Schlepp” and “DYKE finery,” and set about going to every event I could find at the time. DYKE Schlep is, as it sounds, our everyday clothing: jeans and t-shirts, pea coats, work boots, sneakers and Frye boots. Pretty much an upcycled workman/folkie look. DYKE Finery included the outfits we wore to mostly evening events: jeans, suspenders, blazers, ties sometimes, Frye boots, wing tip shoes sometimes. And there was a section on hair. We tended to wear our hair short, sometimes the very bold shaved their heads. I did once, just to see what it was like, and so I could document it for the slide show. The difference between Schlepp and Finery was not huge, as I recall. I also included categories of Lesbian accessories, like Feminist/Lesbian political buttons and the ever-present bandana/kerchief, which was tied in many different ways. As I travelled around the country, I continued to add slides and would include them in subsequent presentations around the US.
The last section of the slide show was about the evolution of style of a few Lesbian friends, showing how their looks had changed as they went from girlhood to adulthood. I made slides from the photos in their photo albums and then photographed the women as they were at the time I was putting together the presentation. Most had gone through a period of being heterosexual, which made the whole thing both interesting and hilarious to my audiences. I think only one woman had been a Dyke her whole life, but even she had a marriage of “convenience,” which she had documented and was in the show.
dapperQ: DYKE, A Quarterly is currently archived at the Museum Of Modern Art Library in NYC. Can you tell our readers a little bit about the archives and how they can support it?
Cowan: One evening in 2010, Penny House, co-editor of DYKE A Quarterly, went out to dinner with her friend Milan Hughston, Chief Of the Library and Museum Archives at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Their conversation got around to DYKE, and Hughston expressed an eagerness to have the magazine be part of the collections at MOMA. Penny and I discussed this at length, since our original intention was to have the magazine seen only by women. We decided that since the collection was historical, not contemporary, we owed it to scholars to make the materials available for research. And, because I am an artist, I actually jumped up and down at the idea of being included in any collection at MOMA. Seriously, what an honor.
Fortunately we had managed to keep a lot of the collateral materials from the magazine: some letters, including hate mail – mostly about class and fashion – layout sheets, notes, doodles, ads, fliers and whatnot. We had to have them all appraised for museum acquisition. Meanwhile,The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe College, asked to have our collection. Ultimately, after discussions with both MOMA and Schlesinger, we decided that MOMA would get copies of the magazine, which is what they wanted, and The Schlesinger would get copies and the rest of the materials. In addition, copies of the magazine are available at the Labadie Collections at the University of Michigan and at The Lesbian Herstory Archives.
Scholars can make appointments at any of these Libraries to do research. If anyone wants to support an archive, my suggestion is to give money or time to The Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, NY, which is seriously underfunded, or to other Gay/Lesbian archives around the US and around the world.
DYKE A Quarterly archive is also available online at www.dykeaquarterly.com, which is a work in progress.
Autostraddle, the website of "news, entertainment, opinion and girl-on-girl culture" posted an article on historic Lesbian Magazines as part of their ongoing series, The Way We Were. The article is titled Our Legacy: Six Lesbian Magazines from The Then Before Now. DYKE A Quarterly was among the six, and we are honored to be in the company of Vice Versa (June 1947-February 1948), The Ladder, (1956-1972), The Furies (1972-1973), Azelia: A Magazine by Third World Lesbians (1977-1983), and Hot Wire
See the Autostraddle article HERE
Here's what they said about DYKE:
"In 1975, Liza Cowan and Penny House -- best friends since the age of four -- launched DYKE magazine. They were in their mid-twenties, living in New York, and wanted to be part of the burgeoning cultural conversation around lesbianism, and lesbian separatism in particular. Most lesbian separatists believed that the best way to live was completely without men altogether, and that women should band together and form their own self-nurturing communities free of ties to the patriarchal world. If you hate men, like me and Julie Goldman, then you probably think this is a pretty bang-up idea. Of course, it was more functional in theory than in practice and certain elements of the philosophy would be considered highly problematic — and often transphobic, racist or elitist — today.
The magazine made it through six issues before having to close, and now Liza and Penny have posted a great deal of DYKE's archives online. Material included articles on "theoretical politics, live events, place, current and past history, media, fashions, music, home economics, literature, animal lore, health, applied sciences and gossip." Basically, it's like an amazing lesbian tumblr + livejournal, but in print and for the 70's — which is why it's so fascinating. The writing in DYKE is relatively personal and the writers are relatively inexperienced (their only "big name" is Alix Dobkin). You won't find polemics from Audre Lourde or Adrienne Rich in DYKE, but you'll find the closest thing you can to reading the diary of, basically, middle-class white lesbian separatists in the mid-70's — complete with the angry lesbian commenters!"
December 24, 1975
Thanks for sending Tangents. I've xeroxed 2 copies for my White Mare files. We here at 3 Maple Farm liked the book "Beebo Brinker" the best of al the Beebo books. And we named our 4 wheel drive Ford Beebo Bronco.
Alix and I would love to share a flier for your mailing - her for her new album "Living With Lesbians" and for "Lavender Jane Loves Women" and me for DYKE. Is this OK & how light is light enough. What pound paper?
Happy New Year,
Dear Liza....Honey, will you forgive me if I cannot tell form this note from you what I even said to you and I cannot find a copy of the letter...I am back up to 300 or more letters each week and with 80 miles a day trip and the ful time job...I am kinda out of it...also, have been working out the 300 contracts (memorandum of agreement) that must be completed by the writers whose work is being reprinted in the three LADDER anthologies that DIANA PRESS will be publishing soon..and theworld is a JUMBLE. ..Please either QUOTE back to me my statements OR return my letter WITH THIS NOTE TOO PLEASE...and I'll quickly shoot a reply to you...I don't know a damned thing about weitht of paper but I will send you a sample...as soon as your letter gets back to me I'll have my samples for you...they are on the way from Reno...I ran out here of the one that is perfect for a sample (right weight and size)...But yes, OF COURSE you can share a flier...with Alix....whose music I have of course...anyone else whose wok is pertinent...(that is the only requirement)
It was as the publisher of Naiad Press, that she had asked me to contribue an adversising mailer for a packet she would be sending out. I don't remember the context of the mailing. But we did meet up later that year in Los Angeles at The Lesbian History Exploration.
Read more about Barbara Grier :
Barbara had two articles in this issue, as Gene Damon. Reader At Large and Together-Toward a Common Goal
Naiad Press Event, 2012. source
Dykes lead the way connecting the dots between Patriarchy and Climate Change. Earth Changes we sometimes called them. Here is a redone and ever so slightly annotated pull quote from Separatist Symposim, response by Liza Cowan.
Published in 1978.
"Men have decided that there is a terrible shortage of energy, that it is a crisis.
There is no shortage of energy. The sun can give us an abundance of never-ending energy and there are probably at least twenty-five other simple, organic solutions to the 'energy problem' that women would probably utilize in about fifteen seconds.
Rather than explore these possibilities, men prefer to fight each other for the money, power and domination that comes with scrambling for oil, threatening our health and lives with nuclear power plants, spilling wastes into the waters and throwing junk into outer space. It is clearly an S&M power game that they would prefer to play to the end of their days."
Dyke, A Quarterly No. 6, Summer 1978, Separatist Symposium p. 32
The original page:
A few weeks ago I approached the blog, Dyke Duds, (which has since changed its name to Qwear ) to interview me about What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear, the series of essays I wrote for Cowrie Magazine and DYKE, A Quarterly. I thought that the young readers of that blog would be interested in what I had written decades earlier. I hope they were.
Sonia Oram, the editor of Dyke Duds/Qwear, edited my original answers so the version that appeared in Dyke Duds was a bit shorter. She has space considerations that I do not, so I've decided to run my orginal answers.
Big thanks to Sonia for being interested in what this old Dyke had to say about clothing way back when.
Q: What topics in fashion did you cover in DYKE A Quarterly?
A: My column was called What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear, and it started in another, smaller, Lesbian magazine I published called Cowrie, which ran from 1973 to 1974. I had just come out the year before, at age 20, and had started to dress like my Lesbian peers. I wanted to know why we dressed as we did, and what were the social and political implications. Mind you, this was decades before fashion, or even culture theory, was considered worthy of study as an academic discipline. Now you can get a PhD in fashion theory. In those days, it was considered trivial. I knew it wasn’t and that clothing carried a message. I wanted to decipher it. My inspiration was James Laver, the only historian I knew of who was interested in the meaning of clothing in terms of social status.
In the seven part series, I covered general observations, history of Lesbian clothing - including ancient amazons- contemporary Lesbian clothing designers, hair and shoes. In every one, I was trying to decipher the political and social consequences and meanings of our clothing choices.
In addition to writing about Dyke clothing for my magazines, I produced a slide show, also called What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. I made this for the Lesbian History Exploration, a conference that took place in California in 1975. I spent a couple of months taking my camera to Lesbian events, photographing what the women were wearing. I also used photos from biographies of famous Lesbians like Gertrude Stein, Radclyffe Hall, and others of that era, to show the evolution of that genre of Lesbian Style. The slide show is at the Lesbian Herstory Archive in NYC.
My main theory was that contemporary Lesbians didn’t want to look like men - as we were constantly accused of trying to do - but we wanted to look like Dykes and other women-loving-women to invoke the styles of at least some of our foremothers. We wanted to honor our history and to wear clothes that would signal our identity to other Lesbians. It had nothing to do with wanting to look like men.
Why did our foremothers, some of them, dress in men’s clothing? Because of the power and freedom that men’s clothing both symbolized and allowed. Through the ages men have dressed for freedom, for comfort and for power. Women have been forced to dress as second- class citizens and sexual objects. From shoes to corsets, our clothing has confined and constricted us. Lesbians didn’t want to look like men…we wanted to be free, to catch the eye of other women and to mark ourselves as off- limits to men. That’s what I believe to this day.
[I highly suggest reading Esther Newton's classic 1984 essay, "The Mythic Mannish Lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and The New Woman" from the journal Signs, Vol. 9 No. 4, The Lesbian Issue. HERE]
Clothing, in addition to being necessary, is about power and class. It always has been. Clothing is deeply symbolic. That is my interest. Writing about clothing was always an intellectual pursuit. I was not interested, or able, to tell women what to wear or where to shop, or what accessories to buy. I wanted to explore the meaning. Always the meaning.
In the first article I mused over why I wanted to look Dykey.
“The clothes I wear help me to know my own power. So does being a lesbian. I love the way I look. I love the way other lesbians look. I’m learning to rid myself of all straight patriarchal values and build my own world. So it’s a combination of clothes and attitude that make a woman identifiable as a lesbian.”
In the second article, I wrote about Morgan Zale and her partner Laura, who designed and made clothes for Lesbians in New York City.
The third article was about ancient Amazon clothing, not just because Lesbians of my generation were obsessed with Amazons as role models, but to find inspiration for contemporary clothing possibilities.
The fourth article was more general history. For this article I went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Costume Institute to talk to head curator, Stella Blum, although the article is not an actual interview. This was before Diana Vreeland made the Costume Institute the hugely popular hit-generating department it became.
Quoting Stella Blum,
“ ‘It took the vicissitudes of World War 1, which forced women into the male world and in turn permitted them activities and freedoms previously denied them, to reduce their costumes to functional simplicity and put a male cast to their appearance. Towards equality with men and to resemble them, in the 1920’s women flattened their bosoms and hips and cut their hair.’ ”
This is me, Liza:
“We know that men, the patriarchal rulers, take what is best for themselves, at least materially, including clothes. So, to dress in “men’s” clothes is not to imitate men (who wants to be a man!) but to wear what is least oppressive. When World War II was over, and women were no longer needed to support the country, the fashion market was flooded with incredible gowns, full draperies and lush fabrics. During the war, materials were severely rationed. This is usually the reason given for the simpler clothes during the war, and for the return of the luxurious post-war fashions. But I know the real reason to ensure that, once again, women would be forced to resume their roles in the all-consuming patriarchal culture.”
The seventh article was about hair, including a short history of hair styles. Hair, like everything else, has social meaning.
“ Melba Tolliver, a black newscaster for ABC-TV, was not allowed to wear her hair in an afro. The network deemed it too militant. It was too threatening. It’s easier to get a job with long hair, or very neatly coiffed short hair worn with appropriate makeup and clothing. It is much safer to pass as a straight woman than to look like a Dyke.
Q: How have you seen these styles evolved and can you draw parallels between the 1970’s Dyke world and the styles you see on Dyke Duds today?
A: Today we have an intellectual phenomenon termed “transmasculinity,” which I think is bullsh*t, and is thoughtlessly applied to Lesbian style. It has muddled the thinking of many an otherwise intelligent woman, and I grieve.
Whatever clothing a woman wears is feminine, womanly. If I wear something, it is woman’s clothing, because it is mine and I’m a woman, even if it is a suit and tie. A man wearing a dress is wearing man’s clothing, because it is his. I do not think that any item of clothing itself is masculine or feminine, or male or female, except as a symbol of power or powerlessness. So while a style may co-opt, or translate, or borrow even, the article of clothing itself has no sex or gender. The meaning resides in the viewer as well as the wearer. I will never be transmasculine or anything masculine. As a woman, everything I do is womanly.
The styles I see on Dyke Duds are not that hugely different from what we’d see on Lesbians in the 70’s…perhaps a bit more preppy. Looking over your posts, it seems the women and clothing you feature would slip into any of our events pretty successfully without looking like time travelers. Is it just that the 70’s are fashionable again?
The Dykes I wrote about in the 70’s consciously tried not to overplay their clothing. I used to get mad at women for refusing to dress up for events, because I believed that we owed it to ourselves to show up looking great for each other. What you’d see mostly were jeans, t-shirts or button-down shirts. T-shirts with screen printing by dykes for events or venues were popular.
Frye boots, work boots, converse sneakers were in fashion. Sensible shoes. Shoes you could run away in. There were always lots and lots of bandanas, tied around the neck or the head mostly. In my slide show I divided the Lesbian look into two sections, “Dyke Schlep” and “Dyke finery.” They weren’t that terribly different, frankly. Blazers and vests were popular. For a while, it was out of fashion to wear a bra, no matter how big your breasts were, so vests were a good and stylish way to cover up.
The other accessories that you’d always see were buttons - political buttons. I had a business making them, so I was always aware of them, but they were very popular for decorating clothing and bags. I think of them as little billboards.
Q: Where did you shop for clothes?
A: I really don’t know where other Lesbians went shopping. I mainly went to thrift stores and to army-navy stores, which was where you could get jeans and work clothes. There weren’t the zillion brands of jeans available now. You could get Wranglers, Levi’s and Carharts. That’s all I remember. Some jeans were made for women, with zippers on the side. I loved wool sailor pants, the kind with lots of buttons. You could find those used, along with pea coats, at army navy stores. I bet they don’t even have army navy stores any more. It’s also where you’d get denim work shirts and bandanas and sensible shoes.
I’d sometimes cruise Bloomingdales looking for clothes, but mainly because that’s where I’d shopped as a kid, and was familiar with it. I’d sometimes shop in the men’s department, which was kind of scandalous, but amusing. Sometimes I’d get cast offs from my father or brothers. My very favorite suede vest was a gift from my dad’s closet. I got some ties from him too. He was puzzled, but generous.
Q: Can you tell me more about the fashion magazine image?
A: The photo shoot you refer to was for our very first publicity flier. My partner, Penny House, and I had read fashion magazines ever since we were young girls. We both came from upper middle class families in New York City, where fashion -and the fashion industry - was part of the air we breathed. We had one school chum who moved to England and became one of the world’s first supermodels in the 60’s, and other friends whose parents were photographers, fashion editors, or were featured in magazines like Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, and the like.
We thought it would be hysterically funny to do a photo shoot of Dykes as a fashion image. You know, Dykes - the famously “ugly” and badly dressed. We found a Lesbian photographer who had access to a fashion photography studio. Her dad owned it and she was one of his assistants. Her name was Michelle, but I don’t know her last name. I’m hoping that one day she will contact us and let us know who she is.
So Penny and I gathered a couple of women to join us in the shoot. The now-famous singer, Alix Dobkin, was my girlfriend, so of course she came. And Penny’s tall model-esqe friend Val came too. And the photographer’s girlfriend, Deborah Glick, who is now a New York State Assemblymember, was in the shoot as well.
Alix and I were wearing jeans. I had just shaved my head and was wearing a bandana and a blue work shirt…the kind I’d loved since I was a “folkie” teen. Blue work shirts were emblematic of 60’s folkies, as were bandanas. Laborers outfits, appropriated by middle class kids, up trended again by a subcategory of Dykes who had grown up as beats and folkies.
Penny, Alix and I are all wearing vests. Alix and Penny’s were traditional, woolen “men’s” vests, which we used to buy at thrift stores. Mine was blue cotton with tiny white flowers on it… a kind of a vestigial hippy item. Val had on gorgeous tall leather boots with a folded over top. I have no idea where they came from. Alix and I were wearing workmen’s boots and shoes, another leftie/folkie appropriation - that was quite popular. Debbie and Penny seem to be wearing Frye boots, which were all the rage.
I don’t know about Penny’s white scarf. It is typically her style, but was not something you’d see all the time. And we all had short hair. I was bald, but you can’t see that.
More than anything, though, it is our posture that says “We’re Dykes!” Ladies just did not stand like that; hands on hips, standing squarely on two feet, balanced and ready, staring straight at the camera with no smiles. It would never be unusual to see a group of men with this body language, but a group of women? Highly unusual, and only could be read as Lesbian.
To juxtapose this on the seamless paper and studio lighting?? Hysterical, right? We thought so, anyway.
We picked this image from dozens – some of which are viewable on the DYKE A Quarterly website here. Using Letraset press-on letters, I designed our flier, and we sent it out. On the back was the copy describing our project. We had maybe 100 printed at a print shop, and sent them out. Very few exist anymore. If you own an original it is highly collectible. I don’t even have an extra copy to donate to the DYKE A Quarterly collection at the library of The Museum Of Modern Art in NYC.
I just found this. It is from the original contact sheet from the photoshoot for the DYKE IS OUT flier. You can see the seamless roll and lights.
The finished product:
Now available as a magnet. Shop HERE
In issue No. 4 we broke form to publish a poster instead of a magazine. Along with the gorgeous 4-color poster, designed by Debbie Drechsler and printed by Tower Press, we sent a magazinelette, envelope sized, with letters and responses. Our readers were baffled.
NOTE FROM THE ARTIST
I was halfway through college, studying graphic design, when I started doing drawings for the New Women's Times, the feminist paper in Rochester, N.Y. It wasn't a conscious decision - I still don't know what I was thinking when I called them, but within six months, I developed a strong feminist consciousness, declared myself a Lesbian and left school. Now, I do odd jobs to make money and spend as much time as possible trying to visually describe what it means to be a feminist Lesbian.
Doing a poster to celebrate DYKE magazine's first anniversary felt as natural as doing more personal drawings. Basically, I wanted to say that any and all of us can be Lesbians, and are. Also, I wanted to show the real strong pride that we should all feel about ourselves.
Debbie Drechsler is still working as an illustrator. See her website HERE
More about our decision to change format HERE