A Dapper Metamorphosis in Wonderland

*Feature image via Autostraddle

It took a Halloween costume to make me realize I could be dapper–that I didn’t have to be femme just because I’m a curvy-bodied person. Last October I noticed, rather by accident, I had nearly all the accoutrements for a Mad Hatter ensemble.

The prospect was subconsciously fascinating because my great-great-something grandfather was reputed to have had mad hatter’s disease. It didn’t appeal to me as a macabre joke, but rather as a way for me to channel a masculine energy I didn’t previously know I possessed. The same energy made me run to show my dad when I tied my first necktie some weeks later. When I looked in the mirror dressed as the Mad Hatter I saw myself transformed into the dapper butchy grrrl I never dared to think I was.

Dapper Metamorphosis 1

via the-unfeminine-female.tumblr.com

I thought I had to own femme because my body hadn’t conformed to androgynous proportions since I was a kid, but I kept qualifying femme with other terms without any combination ever feeling like me. Ultimately, I found myself excusing my gender out of existence. Not only had I not seen many images of or had first-hand encounters with curvacious people doing dapper, I also have a tendency to initially adopt qualities that I am attracted to. Queer femmes often make me lose utter track of how to breathe, but I can finally trust I can love them without feeling the need to become them.

Dapper Metamorphosis  2

via lesfemmes.tumblr.com

I have previously come out as a genderqueer femme, arguing:

“Gender is a spectrum of performativity that materializes through actions and stylizations; a spectrum that only gains gendered meaning through culture. If there is no essential connection between femaleness/femininity/femme-ness, if the connection is all fabricated and assumed by culture, why can’t their connection also be queer?”

I still believe in asking this question and that making femme visible as a genderqueer and queer identity is important. I feel some loss that this issue of visibility is no longer a directly personal project for me, but I won’t forget what I metamorphosed through to learn about myself.

The question also implies that it is culture that defines the curvy body as primarily female/feminine/femme, a connection that can therefore be bent, blended, and countered in a multitude of ways.

Dapper Metamorphosis 3via homosensuous.tumblr.com

For me, being dapper redefines the contours of my body as mine and as something I a view as beautiful because I finally feel comfortable in it. I want other curvy-bodied people to feel like being dapper is a valid mode of being for their bodies. Furthermore, I want to discuss the cultural assumptions that so often define dapper bodies as non-curvy, and why those assumptions bring about the invisibility of curvy dapperQs.

dapper Metamorphosis 5That’s me, dapper fancy free!

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  • yes, yes! Thank you so much for this, I spent years being femme and not in a good/awesome/empowered way because I was told so often that I won’t be able to pull of butch or androgynous because of my curves. A couple years ago I said “fuck it” and have been a dapper butch ever since and feel much more ownership over my body and my identity then I ever have before.

  • E.E. Ottoman– thanks for sharing your experience! We need to find ways to connect as curvy dapperQs to increase our visibility to each other and to the community, and giving each other affirmation is one way to do that.

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