by Jess Torres
I’m Jess Torres. Some people know me as The Girl in a Bow Tie. I’m a huge nerd by degree (aka an audio engineer), lover of nostalgia and dandy fashion, and a romantic at heart. One of the things I am most passionate about is the transformative power of attire, utilizing my wardrobe as a means of expression, creativity, authenticity, and even time travel — finding delight in the details of a well-executed outfit.
As a Miami native, growing up in the nineties, I lived in a world that didn’t reflect back to me what I felt on the inside. For decades, I got dressed every morning to make myself appear more palatable as a woman — always struggling with the disparity of what was on the inside versus the outside. It has only been in the last handful of years that I have really embraced a style that is an authentic expression of myself, confidently, without the need to conform to gender norms.
A few years ago, I created my own bow tie line, Atticus Atlas, drawing inspiration for my pieces from nostalgic film, art, and music. Outside of haberdashery — I am a model, actor, singer-songwriter, filmmaker, event producer, and novice tap dancer. I’m also incredibly proud to say that I have recently joined the dapperQ team to assist in producing the NYFW Queer Fashion Show. While the show has been postponed from 2020 to 2021, I look forward to helping create that special evening in the future.
dapperQ originally reached out to me about doing 7 Days of Dapper before the pandemic. At the time, I was away working on a film and was excited to put it together when I returned. One week later the city shut down. Given the circumstances, this from ivial and futile to create, not to mention impossible given the restrictions. And so I put it on the back-burner in the hopes of things returning to some semblance of normal soon.
And then, about a week ago, it hit me — why wait?? Not having anyone or anything to dress up for hasn’t stopped me from doing it. Strange perhaps, but true. I have continued to dress up for most of my days. Sometimes to go out for a walk around the park, others to simply read and relax. I’ve made an event of making dinner and “going to a movie” or “gardening” (aka watering my plants). Doing this is one of the ways that I’ve continued to find joy and structure in my days at a time when both of those things are a bit elusive.
In the last few years, I have tried to be a more conscientious shopper, filling my closet with items from queer-owned business and vintage shops when possible, while avoiding fast fashion. That being said, I have done my best to make the pieces that fall into the latter category last. But I get it, being able to afford to shop in that way isn’t always possible — and wasn’t for me for a long time.
Before we jump in, I just want to briefly acknowledge that what’s happening right now is/has been really challenging for all of us (some of us certainly more so than others). I’m no exception and there have been days that are really hard and scary and sad but my intention for creating this is to share a little joy and inspiration with you. Everything written below is with a playful spirit and light heart. You’ll have to excuse my overly verbose nature. I haven’t seen or talked with many humans in months.
LOOK #1: An Afternoon at “The Library”
I could spend hours just wandering around a library, finding a quiet corner or spot on the floor between the rows of books to read in. I chose this outfit to “go to the library” because, well, it felt cozy and “bookish.” Plaids, tweeds, and elbow patches feel like they go hand in hand with all things literary. If I could share one fashion rule, it would be to break all of them — there’s nothing more fun than pattern and fabric mixing which is what I did here. I paired the Carolina blue herringbone trousers, a white/blue gingham flannel, a navy/white pinstripe waistcoat, and a charcoal and black herringbone flat cap. I took my cup of tea and the books “I checked out” to sit in my building’s stairwell — the quietest spot I could find that’s NOT in my apartment, to do some light reading. Side note: Finding footwear that is masculine of center has always posed a challenge, much less a vegan option, which is why I was so excited to stumble upon the queer-owned company Tomboy Toes. They offer a nice variety of formal and semi-formal oxfords. Highly recommend.
Plaid wool blazer – Zara; Herringbone Trousers and navy pinstripe waistcoat – Banana Republic; Derby Oxfords – Tomboy Toes; Wool Herringbone flat cap – Vintage (belonged to my dad); “Grey Gardens” bow tie – Atticus Atlas
LOOK #2: Gardening
I never thought I’d utter these words, but I love gardening. :::pushes glasses up::: There it is, I said it. I joined a community garden in my neighborhood a little over a year ago, and I can say with complete certainty that it is one of the best things I’ve done for myself in New York. It’s so nice to have a peaceful sanctuary to go to in the middle of a metropolis when I want to get my hands dirty and find a little bit of peace. Unfortunately, the community gardens have closed due to COVID-19…but that wasn’t gonna stop me from living out my gardening dreams this spring. I’ve made quite the event of “Watering Wednesdays” at home.
If one WERE going to the garden, this would be the perfect outfit. Just because you’re getting your hands dirty, doesn’t mean you can’t still be dapper. There are plenty of clothes that are functional AND fashionable. One thing I won’t leave home without when gardening is my straw fedora. The brim provides a fair amount of sun protection and the material is breathable on those hot summer days. I went with my favorite denim shirt because, while a bit heavy, it can take a beating–and I paired it with mustard cotton chinos for a pop of color, tying it all together with a complimentary neckerchief and un-bee-lievably cute patterned socks (Yep. I’m a sucker for Dad jokes and puns). While I don’t recommend gardening in socks alone, I figured I could ditch the shoes on this one.
P.S. Don’t forget your sweat rag!
Denim shirt – Vintage thrift store find; Mustard chinos – Old Navy; Striped Denim Waistcoat – Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply; Navy & gold bee socks – Target; Neckerchief – Vintage; Straw fedora – JJ Hat Center; Handkerchief (aka sweat rag) – generic (you can find one of these at a place like Michael’s Craft Store); Vintage bronze watch – Mathey-Tissot
LOOK #3: Cocktail Hour
Beginning earlier and earlier these days…am I right? This 2-piece suit from Banana Republic is a perfect casual option that can be dressed up or down transitioning seamlessly from the office to the bar. Or in my case — my desk to my kitchen. The upturned lapel of the blazer is a modern twist on an old classic (or shall we say, an Old Fashioned — get it? Because it’s called Cocktail Hour? Nope? Just me? Well, I’m here all week, folx) and suspenders are always a fun surprise when you lose the jacket. Don’t forget the bow tie!
Windowpane suit – Banana Republic; Tassel loafers – Dr. Scholl’s (believe it or not) via Nordstrom Rack; Suspenders – Buffalo Exchange
LOOK #4: Sunday Stroll
It’s taken me a long time to build my wardrobe to what it is today, not always being able to afford my champagne and caviar taste on a bargain table wine and pizza budget, which is why I’m particularly proud of my one bespoke suit. Having it made was one of the most special experiences of my sartorial life. I went to a wonderful local tailor named Varun Gandhi at Born To Tailor when I was in need of a suit for my wedding and couldn’t be happier with the beautiful three-piece we built. When I’m wearing this for a more formal event, I keep the other details a bit more subdued, but it’s fun to pair a classic look like this with unexpected pops of color the way I did here. A colorful checkered shirt is the perfect bold statement piece for spring and summer. Throw in a colorful bow tie and other lively accessories for an unsuspecting twist.
The great thing about a three-piece suit is that you can wear each piece on its own, mixing and matching with other things in your closet. So while it can be an initial expensive investment, you can get so much wear out of it. *A Note: Whilst I am only wearing a mask in one of these photos, I observed social distancing rules and removed it safely and briefly for this shoot. In other words, don’t leave your mask at home…
Bespoke three-piece suit – Born To Tailor; Pink and blue checked button-up – Kirrin Finch; Vegan brogue oxfords – BC Footwear via Moo Shoes; Straw fedora – JJ Hat Center; “Royal Tenenbaums” bow tie & pocket square – Atticus Atlas; Socks – Bombas; Steampunk pocket watch – Etsy
LOOK #5: Hobby Day (AKA Follow Your Bliss)
Living in a tenement, with original hardwood floors built in the mid 1800s, doesn’t even allow for walking in my apartment with shoes on — let alone tap dancing — without driving my poor downstairs neighbor completely nuts. But, as my good friend Marcus Aurelius says, “the impediment to action advances action.” Or more simply put — the obstacle is the way — I needed wood but not wood that was not nailed to my apartment floors. So, after a quick visit to my local hardware store (thanks, essential workers!) and a little ingenuity involving an old yoga mat and some construction glue, I had myself a tap dancing platform.
The perfect companion for an outdoor class in the brisk spring air was my Kirrin Finch oxford shirt. I get A LOT of mileage out of this very comfortable button-up, rolling the sleeves and pairing it with black jeans like I have here, or a pair of dress pants and a jacket for a more formal look. Have I mentioned one of my favorite features of Kirrin Finch’s button-up’s? No boob gap! I really can’t say enough wonderful things about this small queer-owned company. Their pieces are a bit pricey, but the quality is top notch and you’ll have a cherished item that’s built to last in your wardrobe for years to come.
“Keller” gray oxford shirt – Kirrin Finch; Waistcoat – H&M; Black skinny jeans and polka dot socks – Banana Republic; Black oxford boots – Nordstrom; Tap shoes – Capezio; Skinny tie – Vintage Hot Topic (lol); Mother of pearl/brass tie clip – Antiques on Sutton in Asheville, NC; “Mr. Paxton” Black Fedora – Goorin Bros.
LOOK #6: Working from Home
Like a lot of the country, I have found myself unemployed as a result of COVID-19. As a freelance audio engineer and artist, the work completely stopped when social distancing started. Initially this sent me into quite the existential spiral. I’m used to occasionally working from home, but what do you do when there’s no work to speak of? Honestly, I’m still figuring that out on a daily basis.
All of this down time has had an interesting effect — it made me really want to work again, but in a different capacity. So I’ve decided to pick back up on some of my less profitable but soul-filling side projects. One of them being my bow tie line, Atticus Atlas. It’s been a while since I’ve had time to dedicate to this venture but I’m excited to report that I’ve been busy at work creating a new line of ties that I hope to release soon. This has also opened me up to a number of other creative projects that I hope to get off the ground once things settle. While it’s strange, scary, and uncertain — I’m trying to look at this time as a creative incubation period.
While some business folx have opted for the mullet (business on the top, party on the bottom) during this time, I’ve gone a different route. Don’t get me wrong, sweatpants — or better yet, NO pants — is certainly a valid option. In fact, it must be an absolute thrill to sit in on a Zoom work call and have no one be the wiser about what’s going on on your bottom half. But since I don’t have a job to speak of these days…sweatpants would be a slippery slope that I just don’t belong on right now. Which is why I’ve opted for these olive chinos most days, another favorite from my friends over at Kirrin Finch. They’re comfortable and have pockets that actually fit a phone and wallet, unlike most women’s pants I’ve encountered. I love everything about them. Especially the little detail on the back pockets. Paired with a patterned button-up, tweed waistcoat, wide-brim fedora and oxfords — this is a comfortable and casual look that’s great for a “day at the office.”
Brown tweed herringbone waistcoat – BDG; Olive chinos – Kirrin Finch; Horseshoe button-up – Banana Republic; Joan & David Italian oxfords – Ritual Vintage Clothing; Brown canvas fedora – Goorin Bros; “Hawking” bow tie – Atticus Atlas; Socks – Target; Pocket compass – W. Ottway
LOOK #7: A Night At the Opera
Going to the opera has long been on my New York City bucket list — and I had planned to check it off in 2020. While I have high hopes that performance venues and theatres will reopen before the year is up, it’s looking pretty bleak. Which is why I was thrilled to see that The Met was offering free streaming.
I projected the show in the courtyard of my apartment building and dressed (slash drank) appropriately for the occasion. I couldn’t have been more excited to have an excuse to wear two of my absolute favorite pieces in my wardrobe — a tuxedo jacket with tails and my top hat! Having just finished watching Season 1 of Gentleman Jack (stop reading and watch immediately if you haven’t seen it yet), I was doubly excited to channel my inner Anne Lister [nerd alert]. When I bought the tails a few years back it felt like a silly splurge, but every time I wear it it makes me feel empowered. Don’t be intimidated by a piece like this or save it for the “right” occasion — life is the occasion sometimes. Pairs nicely with a full-bodied red. Just sayin’.
Tuxedo jacket with tails – Denim & Supply by Ralph Lauren; Seersucker trousers – Banana Republic; White spread collar dress shirt – Kirrin Finch; Patent (vegan) leather oxfords – Anne Klein; Burgundy gold speckled socks – Bombas; “Colette” bow tie – Atticus Atlas
I hope this piece inspires you to create these little moments amidst the uncertainty swirling around us, if even just once. Fold up those sweatpants for an afternoon, throw on your favorite outfit and see where the day takes you (at home, or from a socially appropriate distance, of course). I look forward to seeing you on the other side.