*All images by Miki Vargas Photography
As usual, I was doing research on the dapper community, just scrolling along forums and Facebook pages looking for dapperGold. That’s when I found a dapper pin-stripped suit wearing, perfect posture, best tie-tier ever, shining with a happy smile catching my eye. AND they were offering educational classes on “How to dress the modern man/masculine woman with traditional vintage clothing, and helping to build a sharper image, with confidence.” My inner dapperGeek mind exploded. You mean, I can take a class on how to be more dapper?!?! Yes, and the person to do it: none other than the original Dapper Dyke Vivian herself.
I was SO excited, I contacted her right away and landed a one-on-one chat:
Natalie Yvette Coblentz: Tell me EVERYTHING about yourself and your classes!!!
Dapper Dyke Vivian: People know me as Dapper Dyke © (aka Vivian Escalante). I was an activist during the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, marching in the streets of West Hollywood and for the Long Beach Gay Pride Parade. I established DYKES ON BIKES when we had no visibility back in 1994. We now lead the parades!
During this same time, I also created the first ever organization for WomenMoto-cyclists in Southern California. Between 1998-2008, I organized the Dyke March-Los Angeles, but then moved it to GirlsTown/Silver Lake for adequate visibility. As a pioneer in many different areas, I continue to pave the way for LGBT’s everywhere, including through vintage fashion.
As dapper dandy has moved to the forefront of fashion in our community, I strive to elevate traditional vintage style for the dapper and queer dandy community with Dapper Dyke© since 2009. In 2010, I began my practicums with “To Windsor or Knot” and in 2011 I launched “Tie Bars to Tie Clips” at both Butch Voices Portland and Los Angeles. I am also the commentator in Chained!, a documentary on key-chains and wallet chains, produced by Betsy Kalin of Itchy Bee Productions. Chained! was screened at Outfest in Los Angeles, San Francisco’s LGBT Film Festival, and throughout the United States and abroad.
NYC: I saw that you are giving classes on how to be dapper. What do these classes entail?
DDV: The Practicums help each attendee introduce a sense of identity that inspires them to think and act in accordance with the values and responsibilities of becoming a Dapper Dyke ©. Each session is always different, depending on the needs of each attendee. At the Butch-Voices Portland, many attendees wanted to know more about how to care for hats. I then elaborated on some of the most common styles, and what they are made of: felt vs. mink and how to care for such hats. They also experienced the importance on how to properly wear your trousers: at your waist or belly button. I had them all role their sleeve shirts down, tuck in their shirts, and wear their trousers where they should be worn, and in minutes, you can see the transition of confidence. This is one of many reasons I enjoy educating on the traditional style of vintage fashion for masculine women and men alike.
NYC: Tell us more! What’s the set up?
DDV: It’s best without tables, as everyone gathers in a bit of a circle. Doesn’t matter the set-up, as long as I can have the ability to have everyone interact, to help one one another and boost their self esteem. By the end of their session, they walk out proudly and with a bit of clarity on how they can become a better person, by looking and feeling gentleman-like, with confidence.
NYC: How long do they run?
DDV: The practicums average an hour thru an hour and half, which is just enough time to get through many things to share: tying knots, colour coordinating, tailor tips, and for everyone to work together preparing for a new perspective on life.
NYC: Where are these practicums located?
DDV: Butch Voices Portland and Los Angeles, Vintage Playclothes, other vintage shops, and just recently at a community educational location in Boyle Heights educating “Holiday Etiquette 2014.”
NYC: When did you come up with the idea?
DDV: This is not and idea, this is a way of life, which is on a grander scale. I wanted to share with others how they can look and feel confident, if they only knew some of the traditional etiquette…and I’m here for them.
NYC: This is all so fascinating! How long have you been doing this?
DDV: It all began sometime in 2007-8, and established in 2009. I was always the outcast – I was the only Dapper Dyke © when attending events within the lesbian community. But, I felt strong and confident and few received me with kindness. Others were unsure on what to say, since at the time, dapper and dandy dykes where not as common as they are today.
NYC: Why is this so important to you?
DDV: Because it’s my lifestyle. Yet, important to help others understand, that if you’re going to talk like a duck, you should very well walk like a duck. I witness many in suits, yet they are missing the etiquette that will bring them confidence. In my opinion, we have lost the traditions being handed-down and taught by our elders.
NYC: How do you think your classes have affected the community?
DDV: Everyone walks away feeling so new and excited to begin their new lifestyle. They continue to support Dapper Dyke © knowing they will ALWAYS walk away with more information – a gift and a Pocket Guide to help them along the way.
NYC: How does your idea play a part in the community?
DDV: You wake up in the morning, you get cleaned up and you put on your jeans, sneakers a tee shirt and you’re ready to begin your day. But, with loving oneself, you will take the time to put on pressed shirts, wear trousers that fit, ponder which socks to wear with which shoes…. this is because you care about yourself, and how you will be seen in the social light, with pride, dignity and respect. This is how I hope we can come together in many communities.
NYC: What is your favorite success story?
DDV: During Butch Voices-L.A., I had women coming up to me that where not able to attend the Practicum. They looked at me and asked how they can look better. I asked them to tuck their shirts in, and in the future to purchase shirts that fit, pick up their pants close to their belly button, and feel comfortable. They expressed that it felt odd, and I asked them to just wear it that way for the rest of the day/night and let me know how they feel. They wrote to me, expressing how much better they felt, how much taller they also felt, and they could feel the confidence. It is the best satisfaction…helping others to look and feel better about themselves.
NYC: What are your clients/students most interested in learning?
DDV: How to wear their clothes and why it’s important to wear clothes that fit. Even with everyone wearing clothes that fit correctly, they need to establish their very own style for their own personal identity. I will help them with etiquette and build their confidence and provide information about where to shop, how to care for their clothes, and information on how to find a tailor. Many of the stores I mention will also give a special discount by mentioning Dapper Dyke ©, and that too, makes a huge difference.
NYC: Dapper Dyke Vivian, what does being “dapper” mean to you?
DDV: Always having dress clothes ready to wear. I have very few so-called casual clothes such as sweat pants/shirts. I do have two pair or workout clothes, for exactly that, working out, and not to wear out to dinner/lunch or a social event. I am well groomed from having my hair cut, nails clean, even manicured every 5-6 weeks. Shirts all pressed, trousers pressed, and ready to wear. Shoes shined, jackets clean, hats dusted, accessories to choose from, just enough good fragrance. Feeling positive and happy at all time. I am humbled, which makes it a pleasure to help others.
NYC: I’m sure you have a Mission, Vision, and Goal. What are they?
DDV: Building a sharper image, with confidence!
Educating on how to dress the modern man/masculine women with traditional vintage clothing and helping to build a sharper image, with confidence, from casual bedtime wear to formal award winning attire. Vintage clothing is the core of our focus, and we are going to supply information on what to wear, how to wear it, where to find it and most importantly, how to care for your vintage items.
To continue to offer fun and informative practicums: from tying various neckties to tutorials on which vintage stores to shop, how to find a good tailor that you can trust with your dapper clothing, how to store your vintage clothing and simple ways to pack for your vacation. We also have a Pocket Guide to carry with you with helpful hits when attending that wine tasting, or that formal dinner, and note pages for additional information you picked up along the way. Dressing well, and being well mannered go hand-in-hand, and we are here to help you accomplish that.
Continue to offer my services as a Vintage Fashion Stylist for masculine women and men. Continued growth for Dapper Dyke © merchandise, and that Dapper Dyke © becomes a household name for a dapper lifestyle. Watching the industry change from no more casual Fridays, and perhaps replace it with dress-up Fridays and having many gather for more social events, and with poise and etiquette. Continue to be Dapper EVERYDAY!….so join me.
NYC: WOW! Thank you so much for sharing all this information with our readers.