Welcome back to Hi Femme!, dapperQ’s sibling visibility project celebrating the incredible contributions that stylish femmes make to the queer fashion landscape. For this edition, we’re featuring Rachel Jayson, a musician and educator in Boston, MA. She is the violist in two art-rock bands: Jaggery and Walter Sickert & the ARmy of BRoken TOys (currently nominated for two 2016 Boston Music Awards). She teaches music and conducts two award winning orchestras at a public high school outside of Boston. You can also find her slinging funky footwear at John Fluevog Shoes or designing and making her own clothing creations in her spare time.
Hi Femme: Can you talk a bit about how you define queer femme style and what makes it transgressive?
Rachel: I think queer femme style is about exaggerating traditionally “feminine” style elements and subverting expectations at the same time. People expect little floral prints; I wear giant ones. People expect outfits that only have a one or two colors; I wear tons all at once. People expect bow ties and vests on masculine bodies; I wear them with fishnets, heels, and lipstick.
Hi Femme: How would you describe your personal style?
Rachel: I would describe my style as bright and eclectic. I focus on large patterns and saturated colors, combined with silhouettes that compliment or manipulate my hourglass shape. I love asymmetry, unusual gathering, sculptural hair styles, and taking up lots of visual space.
As a femme queer woman, I struggle with being invisible because I’m not immediately read as queer. I can use my bold style choices to push boundaries of mainstream fashion and signal that my views are also not “mainstream”. As a curvy girl, my body is hyper-sexualized by society. I use volume, layers, and structural garments to highlight or de-emphasize parts of my body. Especially when I’m in the classroom, I’ve had to find a balance on the thin line between feminine and sexy. Also, I’m enjoying the challenge of adapting my style as my silhouette rapidly changes (I’m currently 5 months pregnant). I’m ready to smash all sorts of expectations of what moms are supposed to look like as my wife and I start our tiny queer family. As a Black woman in predominantly non-POC spaces, I constantly carry the cautionary saying that “you have to be twice as good to get half as far.” This applies to appearance and presentation. Every time I leave the house, I make sure to look my best, both for my own personal expression and because I know my presences carries the unfair weight of being criticized more heavily because of my race.
Hi Femme: Who are your fashion icon(s)?
My fashion icons are people whom I admire for their confidence and use of communication through textural gestures. I rarely strive to directly emulate them but instead I draw inspiration from their creativity and pleasing aesthetics. [Some of Rachel’s favorites below:]
There are also a bunch of design houses and companies that I love: Chromat, Engineered Garments, Grass Fields, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, anything Dior made in the 1950s, Charles James.
Hi Femme: What item in your style arsenal can you not live without?
Rachel: How can I choose just one?! Here is my shortlist: Turtlenecks and colorful tights. I tend to favor a fitted silhouette over showing more skin and I use both of these items as saturated backgrounds for my outfits and to tame revealing garments. A great belt. My waistline is my most distinctive curve and it makes and appearance in almost every outfit thanks to an arsenal of mid-section cinchers. Killer shoes. You can make actual trash look intentional with the right pair of shoes. I’ve got many pairs of colorful weird ones thanks to my tenure at John Fluevog, and nothing is more fun than starting your outfit at the bottom and building up.
Hi Femme: Where can our readers find more of your music and style?