What Well Dressed Dykes Wore in the 70s

Feature photo (right): Phranc at the LA women’s center. Photo by Liza Cowan.

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 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 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.”

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 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 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 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. 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.

Mme. B. at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, wearing a t-shirt by TwoLip Art and a hat of her own creation. Mme. B ran the crafts fair at the Festival for a few years.

Three piece suit by Lesbian designer, Morgan, at a fashion show/tea party she hosted to present her collection.

V in three piece ensemble at a women’s dance.

Title card from slideshow. Liza self-portrait.

White Mare Buttons by Liza Cowan . More about them here and here.

Liza Cowan is an artist, blogger, rabble rouser and seller of cool things at www.smallequals.com. She was the co-editor and publisher of Cowrie Magazine and DYKE A Quarterly, both in the 1970’s. She has a Masters Degree in Anthropology from The Graduate Faculty at The New School University, and works as a photographer, painter and propagandist. Liza has blogged for five years at www.seesaw.typepad.com and edits the DYKE, A Quarterly Online Annotated Archive at www.dykeaquarterly.com.  In her spare time she is raising two teenage daughters.

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  • Lifelong leather & uniform fetish aside, my gals & I all dressed better than this. Ike jackets, fatigues, tux coats and lace, gorgeous thick flannels and pewter or brass belt buckles, rugged boots, luxurious gauze for summer…I could go on… Must be a matter of taste.

  • Actually, lesbians in the 70s were frequently intellectuals with enormous concern with things of importance, i.e. the environment, justice, politics, philosophy. They didn't really focus on clothes, fashion, vanity or things of a trivial nature. They certainly didn't speak to each other in the most vulgar possible terms, or get fooled by liars purporting to care for their rights while denying the killing of our planet and destruction of our rights..

  • I forgot overalls, very important. We were forever fixing things…some of us are still.

  • We were creative. Anyone remember that? Taking ravaged jeans, and cannibalizing them for clothing projects. Bleaching till the perfect midnight, robin's egg or powder blue are achieved, then infusing the deep color purple to introduce the perfect twilght indigo/periwinkle blend. Then you get busy adorning the borders with Aztec trim, or maybe Spanish lace. Perhaps the music you're listening to inspires looping chenille macrame or textured brocade into the lining. I haven't even broached the silk embroidery plateau yet. I wonder who the fuck I'm even writing this for…

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