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 Shannon Weber. Shannon teaches women’s and gender studies at Wellesley College, with a focus on LGBTQ studies. She writes on a range of topics related to queer and trans politics, activism, and history, and she’s particularly excited about the work she’s doing on femme (in)visibility and femmes fighting back against femmephobia and oppressive assumptions about what it means to be or look queer! She’s proud to be an adopted Bostonian and has also lived in California and the northwest (and Salt Lake City, UT for a year as a child). She and her partner are parents to a dogchild, Francesca, and a cat, Olivia. When she’s not living that academic life, Shannon loves going on road trips, marching in the streets for justice, exploring witchy spirituality, and singing along to Florence Welch in the shower. *All Photos by Ray Bernoff.
Hi Femme: Can you talk a bit about how you define queer femme style and what makes it transgressive?
Shannon: Queer femme style, to me, is about owning and embracing how I loved to play dress-up as a kid, how I’ve always loved pink and dresses, and how I’d feel stifled and inauthentic if I tried to “tone down” my leanings toward femme-inine things, which I did try to do in college, when I first started identifying as queer, because there was an assumption that to be queer is to be masculine and/or androgynous, and often to be white and thin. Queer femme style for me has also meant wearing clothes that actually look good on my body as a fatshionista with curves and boobs and hips. Vintage dresses look great on my body type and I’ve just grown so impatient with anything that doesn’t make me feel both powerful and comfy that I haven’t worn jeans in a few years. Queer femme style and the body positivity movement go hand in hand for me, as I’ve seen so many femmes being radical and fat and taking up space. And it’s transgressive in so many ways. Firstly, anyone of any gender identity can “do” queer femme style. For me, as a queer woman who isn’t attracted to men and who is typically read as straight, embodying a type of femme-ininity that is 110% not for the male gaze is tremendously powerful. I’m doing this because it’s what makes me happy and feel on top, and I can get on the train and be completely oblivious to the men around me and be checking out how amazing and sexy some other person’s lipstick is all while rocking my own lipstick and dress. Femininity is so devalued in our society (insert shameless plug for any of Julia Serano’s work here!), both in straight and queer worlds, unfortunately, so saying “fuck you, femme is not frail, femme is powerful, femme is radiant, femme is sacred” is tremendously empowering for me. Femininity is also something that is tremendously revered in my spiritual path, too, which (witch?) has been very rewarding and healing for me. And there are so many ways to embody femme versus being limited to the hegemonic standards of beauty that feminists have critiqued for so long. But to bring it full circle, I want to be able to show other queers a photo of myself from when I was small and wearing a pink frilly nightgown and be able to have everyone laugh and go, “Baby femme!” in the same way that queers smile and nod knowingly when they share photos of themselves looking gender non-conforming as a kid. Because we’re all part of these communities.
Hi Femme: How would you describe your personal style?
Shannon: My personal style is definitely witchy, turned up or down depending on setting. I like to think I incorporate modern edginess with city chic, but femme-ified, so that I can carry a Kate Spade bag while wearing my nose ring and bright matte lipstick and leopard print cat eye glasses. In the colder months I do wear a fair amount of black, usually with a pop of color. Almost everything I own is some form of cotton and/or rayon – I just have to be comfortable. And even though I alluded to Kate Spade, it’s also important to me to keep it affordable. I carry my working-class roots with me wherever I go and still have serious money scarcity feelings. I have so many items from Target and Torrid. In terms of my “signature” look, there are always dangly earrings. Bold dangly earrings and matte lipstick.
Hi Femme: Who are your fashion icon(s)?
Shannon: My fashion icons are people in the body positivity movement like Gabi Gregg (who is also a fellow Mount Holyoke alumna – shoutout to Mohos everywhere!). Michelle Obama for her ultimate grace and poise and gorgeous sense for chic yet bold sartorial choices. And… 90s witches?
Hi Femme: What item in your style arsenal can you not live without?
Shannon: I can’t live without my lipstick, and I also can’t live without leggings when it gets cold, because let’s be real – those are the only pants I wear. Yes, leggings are so pants, especially with tunic tops. And boots in the autumn! Ah, autumn. Whoops, that was three.