Piggybacking off our “Dapper on A Dime“, we asked some other dapperQs how they swag on a budget. Here’s what Gabrielle Rivera, Nuyorican writer, poet and filmmaker, had to offer re dressing for less:
In a word: shopping sucks. Especially if you don’t have an abundance of monetary fundage and/or the “perfect clothes-fitting body,” shit can get real, quick. I totally get it. For years, my mom and I would have screaming matches/bouts of fuming silence anytime we went clothes shopping for me. Nothing fit cuz I was born round and never blossomed out of my “baby fat.” Every article of clothing made me want to melt into nothingness. Dresses caused vomit to rise in my throat. Men’s clothing didn’t flatter my body. Pointy shoes brought on palpitations. There weren’t any style guides for dapperQs back then.
But I’m grown now, figured out a style for my thick, homolicious on a budget ass. I’ve been asked to share it with you. Let’s start with some shopping basics. It’s always best to have a sidekick, but if you’re a solo dolo ninja, then that’s cool too. Know what works for your body type, have your stats, and be ready an unforgiving defensive line outside of your home field, i.e. bitchy sales clerks. Put your game face on, memorize your plays and let’s do this.
You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about…they’re just clothes, right? What stats? Memorize plays? What is happening?? Look, the clothes you wear either make you feel triumphant or push you into corners of the bar trying to hide from everyone you think is cooler than you. You need to be armed with the knowledge of your body’s measurements, comfort zones and best colors. It’s like anything else. If clothing is your enemy, study that scumbag until you know its every move.
First Things First
1) What is your favorite outfit? Figure that out and put that bitch on. Stand in front of a mirror. Twirl, sashay, wop it out, strut, crip walk and/or Dougie in front of your mirror. Ask yourself, “What about this outfit makes me feel so fucking fly?” Take notes on your response because this is what you’ll need to know when you go out into the world to find another fly ass outfit.
2) What to consider: Fit. Cut. Actual Size. Comfort. Make. Brand name. Price. Longevity. “Hell Yeah” colors. “Hell No” colors. Accessorize like a Motherf*cker.
Start with Denim
Me: I’m 5’2, at any given point somewhere between sizes 8-16, cup size between C & DD, no ass, no patience for or desire to wear high-heeled shoes, and most of the time my funds to go shopping have already gone into my beer drinking and student loan payment. I know this about myself. I know that women’s jeans make me feel kinda strange – like I’m in some 1990s fly-girl video – and men’s jeans, if not the right fit, make me feel like Bob the Builder. I don’t want to feel any of those things.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the best jeans for me are black, short in length, straight legged, with a more relaxed fit in the thigh and a non-elastic waistline. That elastic shit stretches and then it’s like you have jeans with a hula-hoop top, anyway… But since I know what I’m looking for, I also know when to strip off a pair of jeans in a fitting room and move the fuck on. Free yourself for the magic pair just waiting to be found. I discovered mine at Hot Topic.
Yes, goddammit, I said Hot Topic. Listen, I go in there dodge all the raver pacifiers, emo Elmo T-shirts, and jail bait sales chicks, and go straight for their undisturbed pile of black jeans.
Brand: Social Collusion
Price: $30 bucks or less
Durability: I’ve got three pairs and I wear them to death. No annoying rips along the inseam/thigh area. The fading is minimal with good detergent.
Sizing: Men’s. This is where knowing your numbers comes in handy. I’m short so my jeans length needs to be at a 30”, but I’m roundy in the middle so the waist fluctuates from 30” – 38”.
Hot Topic is not the only or the most ideal place to shop, but when you find a place that has what you need, don’t be afraid to suck it up and shop there. Also, armed with the right numbers, you can go into other stores and see if their numbers equal your needs. For me, I know for sure that my denim digits in Hot Topic are NOT AT ALL THE SAME at the GAP, American Eagle, or insert name of fancy hipster boutique here. This will frustrate you, but it is also empowering. Fuck those stores that don’t fit your body.
V.I.M. – if you live in the hood, you know your V.I.M. If you don’t, take a trip to Fordham road in the Bronx or look up their other locations online. They have a wide array of jeans and timberland boots for decent prices. Also, they’ve got killer t-shirts and button downs. But watch out, their shirts are definitely for the large and in charge urban male.
Zumiez – A skater type shop located at a mall or computer screen near you. They’ve got dope shorts and Ts.
*A note on shorts: They look better when they don’t go below the middle of your calf. Better if, at most, an inch above the middle of the calf, especially if you’re short like me. And for a more professional, dapper-gay-boy-chic look, try to keep your length right above the knee.
Dickies – For a comfortable classic fit in pants and shorts, Dickies is always a good place to start. They sell Dickie’s everywhere! And the pockets….
Urban Outfitters – If you’ve got a slimmer waist and smaller hips, then this is a good spot. Cool T-shirts and accessories though.
For more awesome queer information on choosing the right jeans, check out dapperQ’s Jeans 101.
Yeah, so, Gabrielle ain’t playin’ around. Dapper even in the woods at Autostraddle’s A-Camp with Katrina Casino
Let’s talk T-shirts.
If you wear Masculine of Center (gotta love fancy queer phrases) clothing, odds are you have an astounding array of graphic Ts. Let’s cut to the quick on this: many of them probably don’t flatter your bod as well as they should. Tips for finding out if you’re drowning in a t-shirt:
1) Does the graphic on the font cover the entire area of the T-shirt?
2) Is the shirt more than 2 sizes too large? (Whether this is on purpose or not isn’t the issue, btw.)
3) Is the shirt stained or have holes or covered in the filth of last week’s laundry?
Graphic Ts – The design should not overwhelm your entire body, especially for large breasted or round bellied folks. It’s just not the most flattering. I’ve seen pictures of myself in said Ts where I look like a sandwich billboard. All of the things about my body that I think I’m covering up are actually put directly into the forefront. If you need the huge graphic, ease up on the colors or vice versa. If you don’t look good in orange, then having a giant orange on your T-shirt isn’t a good idea, feel me?
*Quick Tips for big breasts in a t-shirt: Make sure you’re wearing the right bra, if you wear bras, that is. If you do the sports bra thing, then you’re good to go for now. For those who wear bras that come with straps and cups, make sure your cup is big enough for your boobs. Extra boob jiggle under a tight t-shirt can be unflattering. I’m guilty of it sometimes and I hate it. Get your breasts measured at a Victoria’s Secret or at a queermo friendly place, like the Bra Whisperer. And, if that’s way too invasive for ya, call one of your bros over, pull out some beer and measuring tape and measure them yourself. Know your size and for the quick bra hit and run, go to a department store like Macy’s or Target. Yeah, you might hate those places, but they’ve got variety in colors, shapes and sizes, and they won’t drain your wallet the way a fancy lingerie boutique might.
Back to Graphic Ts – So now that your boobs look good under your shirt, make sure the shirt fits right. If you’re already a little husky, anything too large is going to make you look and possibly feel even larger. If that’s what you’re going for then do it up and rock that XXXXL Kid Robot T. But if not, try to not go past one size bigger; Try to stick with what fits and still allows you to breathe.
Start Small: Go to fucking Old Navy. Their men’s t-shirts are soft, cheap, and for some reason fit body types like mine perfectly. They don’t all say Old Navy on them, btw. There are hidden cool ones if you look, and, like I said, this is mainly for sizing purposes. If at Old Navy you realize that a Men’s Medium T makes you look like some hot shit, note it, add it to your list. (Remember that at specialty boutiques, sometimes sizes are way smaller.)
Also, let’s even step away from graphic T’s and delve into V-necks, which I feel accentuate most body types quite nicely. V-necks don’t want to steal the attention away from you. Often they comes in basic colors that you can mix and match with multiple outfits. If you’ve got banging boobs n don’t mind showing them off a little, they’re perfect! If that’s not your deal, throw a tank on underneath and get layered. V.I.M. often has packs of Ralph Lauren V-Necks, 3 for $14.99.
*Cheap Trick: Need something spiffier than a T-shirt but don’t have the cash for something killer at Marimacho? Try the junior male section at T.J. Maxx. First, the junior boys section in almost every store can be fucking amazing when it comes to masculine of center clothing for women, especially if you’re short, round and nerdy. Butm at T.J. Maxx they have 2-in-1 Blue Guru button down/v-neck sweater vests for under $25.99.
You have to be willing to dig, dive and dodge other dykes for good and inexpensive clothing. I’ve found perfectly tailored suits at the Salvation Army, awesome sneakers & cargos at Beacon’s Closet, and sick t-shirts at the damn wretched outdoor malls in anytown USA. Just looking is important, and like I said earlier, it’s always best to have a shopping buddy. A real one, not the person you wanna make sex with, but someone who adores you as a friend and wants you to look your best.
Also, I don’t want to offend anyone’s ethical shopping practices. Maybe bargain basement warehouses or mall-based chains make your angry protest juices tingle. I totally get that. You’re blessed if you have a seamstress/stylist friend that can tailor an entire wardrobe using free-range thread and dye-free cotton. Seriously, I’m jealous. But some of us don’t have access to ethically made clothes or the budget for them. These are just some little tips I’ve picked up that have kept me clothed, feeling good, and far from broke.
Final Cheap Trick: If you and a close friend have a similar body type, raid each others closets, try shit on, and trade.
Last Words: TRY ON EVERYTHING. If it matches your sizes, stats, whatever, try the fucking thing on. It’ll be the one thing you say “Oh hell no, that won’t fit” that makes you look dapper as hell.