"Maybe I’ll start a fly and broke tumblr or something."
July 3, 2014 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Fat-Booty Butch Buys A Suit On A Budget.
I’m a brown dyke living in the Bronx, working 40 hours a week at an non-profit arts center. I’m finally with it enough to pay all my bills on time, if at all. I’ve got a roof over my head and some change in my savings account. I’m not complaining. It’s been worse for me but fuck, just having a job feels like a blessing sometimes. Living in this city makes it feel like I’m scraping by with every penny just to live. My play money is tight and I don’t know how to sew. I wear clothes until they’ve given up on life and I’m not ashamed. I often wonder how regular people buy new clothes all the time. Clothes in the hood and at super-low discount shops never seem to last very long. Fancy clothes cost so much, like why isn’t everyone just running around in cloth diapers? What is someone like me supposed to do when they need to look good in real life?

Bronx-bred, writer, spoken word artist and director Gabrielle Rivera writes about her experience buying a suit.
posted by Lexica (26 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I think she looks fresh ta death.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:26 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

She looks good in a 3 piece suit. Also, Autostraddle.com is a great name for a website!
posted by cell divide at 3:36 PM on July 3, 2014

I was worried at the start. I think suits are kind of tough in any circumstances. But, damn, that looks great! Maria must be a fantastic tailor but it's the confidence and smile that completely nails it.
posted by amanda at 3:47 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh good God, this is exactly what I'm going through now.

I have a freakin' sweet new haircut. I have been listening to too much Janelle Monáe. I keep looking at my usual jeans-and-nerdy-t-shirt combo and going "Yeah, okay, you can keep wearing your sweet-ass Vans, but you're goddamned 37, you gotta quit dressin' like you're still that 20-year-old babyqueer."

But am I going to find anything I can afford and look good in? Hell no. Head to the fat lady stores, and they're all "tribal" prints and maxidresses and nothing dandy about them. Head to the men's stores, and I get treated like I'm married to an incompetent douche who can't even buy a white shirt without needing a woman's touch.

I once tried to buy a pair of jeans at Marks & Spencers. They were happy to sell them to me, but I wanted to try them on first.

I said "Can I try these on?"
They said "You have to go down to the Women's section to try them on."
"But they're Men's jeans. There's no one in the changing rooms right now. And the Women's section is three stories down."
"No, you have to go downstairs to try them on."

Of course, there's a big old queue at the Women's changing rooms, because old ladies need their sweater sets or something, so I give up, go up to the counter, say "I was going to buy these, but they're Men's jeans and I am not waiting for the Women's changing rooms," and flounce out the door, trying to hide my flushed cheeks of rage.

So it's not like there's a Burlington Coat Factory near me. I'm going to have to throw down serious cash for something that looks nice and fits. But I ain't got time for that.

So it's t-shirts and jeans for me again. Except for when I want to be femmey, then there's this sweet A-line dress I got which is one part Wednesday Addams and one part Courtney Love and I am alllllllll over that.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:53 PM on July 3, 2014 [11 favorites]

As a former New Yorker, I was just left wondering why she didn't consider Syms?
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:58 PM on July 3, 2014

She looks great in her suit, it's weird how people got flustered when she wanted to use the changing room though.
posted by arcticseal at 4:30 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Syms doesn't exist anymore.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:35 PM on July 3, 2014

I would totally read a Fly, Butch and Broke tumblr. Like for serious. Someone get on that.
posted by desjardins at 4:45 PM on July 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

Unless the changing room is one big room where everyone tries on clothes together (like at that one women's store in São Paulo, and like no men's suit place in the entire US), who cares what gender the person in the next stall is? Good grief. I bought some shirts at Eddie Bauer the other day and the changing rooms were just a line of closets, no separation by gender at all. From the voices you could tell that there were all sorts of people to either side, but since the doors lock and you are alone, who cares?

You'd think that these places would be selling enough suits to women and people on the genderqueer spectrum that they'd either just have generic dressing rooms or at least have one or two set aside.

The piece is also a good reminder to me that if you have an identity that requires dressing differently from your day to day (whether in drag or whatever), that has financial implications as well as the identity stuff. It's expensive enough having one set of clothes.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:01 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

because old ladies need their sweater sets or something

To be fair, they probably want to feel like they're rocking the everliving fuck out of that sweater set every bit as much as you and your jeans.
posted by angerbot at 6:37 PM on July 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

Damn, she looks good! Loved reading this. Thanks for posting.
posted by missmary6 at 6:38 PM on July 3, 2014

To be fair, they probably want to feel like they're rocking the everliving fuck out of that sweater set every bit as much as you and your jeans.

The old lady set at M & S are shopping to quite specifically not rock. They are there to Elgar the shit out that cardy.
posted by srboisvert at 6:39 PM on July 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

oh for fuck's sake, they wouldn't let her use an empty dressing room in the menswear section... how unfair and stupid is that? MY HUSBAND comes into dressing rooms at shops to hand me sizes over the door / see stuff that I'm trying on! I've seen other husbands / partners / male SOs do this as well. So either this is just more cis white privilege on our part (which wouldn't shock me but ugh, ugh! so gross!) or they're being homophobic jerks, which is also gross, or else Boulder is just weird (what else is new?) but SERIOUSLY?
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:39 PM on July 3, 2014

I love this. Thanks for the post.
posted by librarina at 9:52 PM on July 3, 2014

If the store is worried about her possibly getting sexually harassed by dudes in the men's changing room, I can totally understand that logic.

Good for her on the suit finding though, I have a friend who has sizing issues of her own (she's under 5 feet tall, so men's departments can't even deal) and orders suits from freaking Hong Kong.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:57 PM on July 3, 2014

This is such a great article, thanks for posting it.

On the subject of changing rooms, probably every one of my gender-alternative friends has a story about being kicked out of one set of changing rooms or the other in various clothing stores. It's weird and offensive but it happens a lot, unfortunately.
posted by fight or flight at 2:56 AM on July 4, 2014

Somebody needs a lesson in how to sell clothing since presumably that's what they are employed to do. It would be perfectly kosher to accompany the customer to the fitting room area and run interference if necessary. I'm sure they fetch other sizes for other guests in there. They need a refresher in sales craft. If it were my store, they would need a new job.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:02 AM on July 4, 2014

Maybe I’ll start a fly and broke tumblr or something.

Yes, do it! Great blog post, thanks for passing this along.
posted by salvia at 8:18 AM on July 4, 2014

Thanks for posting this great article.

I found this one by the same writer and it's amazing -- in fact, it's brought tears to my eyes. Fat-Booty Butch Wears Leggings — Confuses World, Confronts Self.

I get emotional about clothing and queer visibility, at the moment even more than usual, because I'm coming out as genderqueer. After twenty years feeling like I was doing girlhood/womanhood wrong and twelve worrying that I was doing lesbianism/bisexuality/queerness wrong, I asked people to call me "they" instead of "she" and immediately started feeling like I'm doing nonbinariness wrong instead. (Thanks, brain.) I'm really lucky in the people I have around me and I hope one day just dressing myself will cease to be a mighty sump of horror, but I'm not quite there yet. These pieces are really good to read today, thank you.

(I'm also white and acknowledge that there are race issues in the linked pieces that work very differently for me -- I don't want to gloss over those while writing here about my personal experiences.)
posted by daisyk at 8:28 AM on July 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

oh for fuck's sake, they wouldn't let her use an empty dressing room in the menswear section... how unfair and stupid is that?

As someone who freaks out in dressing rooms, and not being able to glean much about the local, I am okay with this "gender policing".

I never feel as exposed in public as I do in dressing rooms (and that includes the urinal), but that might have to do with the fact the doors (if, indeed, there are doors) aren't very door like. And there mirrors! And billowing curtains!

But she found a suit, and I am aware that despite the fact that generations of men have fought against the requirement to wear suits, some plenty of women wear them, and wear them well (Hannah Gadsby springs to mind), so I guess: good for her.
posted by Mezentian at 9:24 AM on July 4, 2014

Yeah, a fair chunk of dressing rooms have enough uh, ways to peek in.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:01 AM on July 4, 2014

And the author is not stupid and was willing to take the risk that some creeper dude would be able to peek in. Why is it the salesperson's job to police that? To deny agency?
posted by desjardins at 10:29 AM on July 4, 2014

To deny agency?

To cover the company's ass against lawsuit.

Get sued into the ground & one can't serve customers.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2014

Why is it the salesperson's job to police that? To deny agency?

To minimise risk, and enforce policy (at minimum wage, I assume).

Why can't said person walk a few hundred metres extra to use the appropriate facilities?

It could also be they were concerned that she might interfere with kids, or whatever. Is it popular with kids? Would women be okay with a guy just ducking into their change rooms?

My experience is no, they would not.

Her agency isn't the problem. It's all the other people whose "safe spaces" are being impinged by her presence. Lawsuits or not.
posted by Mezentian at 10:47 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Katemonkey, can I recommend Primark? I guess it's kind of like the Burlington Coat Factory of the UK (I have never been in a Burlington Coat Factory or heard anything about them other than TFA) in that everyone there is sort of having a horrible time, but the horrible time everyone is having induces a blessed and welcome what-the-fuckness. Also, Primark make mens suits with weirdly short arms, I don't know why, but it makes them fit women's frames relatively well. And they have literally 4 patterns for trousers, so if you find some that fit you will never have to try anything on again because you can just get anything in the same size and fit. Pretty much the same goes for shirts. Some of their suits are horrid in that I'm-an-eighteen-year-old-estate-agent kind of a way, but some of them are actually quite nice. They do pretty good tweeds. People always bring up ethics when you mention Primark, but the nasty truth is that there are no ethically produced clothing lines on the high street, and Primark are actually a tiny, tiny bit better than most because there has been so much scrutiny on them. They were the only clothing manufacturer to compensate employees' families after the Bangladesh factory collapse. Which, I am sure the families would rather they were still alive, but it's better than the no fucks at all most of the brands have given. You could donate the difference between a Primark jacket and an M&S jacket to a worker's rights/women's development/microfinance charity and a lot more of the money would get to garment manufacture workers than if you bought the M&S suit. So yeah, Primark. Also Topman, who are relaxed about gender pretty much on principle, but they cater to a narrower range of body types and are less good for jeans. In conclusion: Primark. But bring headphones and audiobooks and block out as much as possible of the swirling sea of people and clothes and queues and clothes and people and drowning and anger and brightly-coloured towels.
posted by Acheman at 3:22 AM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Syms doesn't exist anymore.

That makes me profoundly sad. My first suit came from the Syms in Tarrytown.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:12 PM on July 5, 2014

« Older Fresh Air or Times Square?   |   None of the many men I spoke to had mentioned her... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments