The Dyke Days Of Summer
A complete breakdown of the challenges of sapphic summer fashion.
The Female Gays is a monthly column about the culture of queer women, including but not limited to horny doritos ads, Jojo's Siwa's Disney trauma, Tiffany "New York" Pollard's queer TV show, the most recent straight actresses to play gay, lesbian Super Mario characters, and Cate Blanchett.
In a relentlessly misogynistic, homophobic world, queer women navigate an abundance of horrors on a daily basis, 365 days a year. But, fortunately, some of our problems are seasonal. Like pollen allergies and figuring out how to still look gay when you can’t wear flannel, combat boots, or 900 rings on one hand (heat = swelling!). Summer has always been a particularly challenging season for sapphic style. You can’t wear leather or layers or black. Have you ever dragged a Doc through sand? And you’re definitely going to run into your ex, so you have to look good—despite your river of boob sweat and throbbing sausage fingers.
If you look at The Hottest Lesbian Outfits for 2023 (a definitive list by which all us lesbians obviously live and die), it’s nothing but blazers, long pants, work boots, beanies, SWEATERS—and this was published in May! It’s actually difficult for us queers to envision a world in which we don’t dress like fun, slutty lumberjacks. I know what you’re thinking, “Sarah, you’re beautiful but it’s reductive to assume all lesbians dress one way.” And you’re right, I’m stunning, and queer women can dress however they want, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a struggle to find summer styles that scream gay—outside of Target’s limited-edition “Live, Laugh, Lesbian” tee, of course.
“Clothes and accessories have been used in so many ways to signal identity,” lesbian fashion historian Eleanor Medhurst told Highsnobiety. Medhurst studies how lesbians have used fashion to signal queerness throughout history, starting with violets they’d pin to their lapels in the early 20th century—a reference to the flower in the writings of Sappho. A few decades later, lesbians started wearing pinky rings to signal they were queer. Some femmes carried black patent-leather handbags. It wasn’t until the ‘70s, during the queer and women’s liberation movements, that lesbian feminists started wearing things like jeans, overalls, and work boots.
Boots that don’t exactly cut seamlessly through the hot, sticky summer air. Docs or Timberlands will lead to swamp foot. Sure, there’s Birkenstocks, another signature lesbian shoe, but nothing is worse than ‘stock sweat. Plus, by the end of the summer your footprint is fossilized inside the shoe’s sole for the rest of eternity.
Summer also means aggressively gendered swimwear. Queer women, especially those on the more masc or butch scale, and gender non-conforming queers have a hard time finding a bathing suit that doesn’t trigger their body dysmorphia. Uber-feminine styles make it hard to maintain your butch daddy persona while slamming White Claws at Riis. And not everyone feels comfortable in a SKIMS micro thong thinner than dental floss. There’s always the trusty sports-bra-as-a-bikini-top, but I feel like we should’ve evolved beyond this by now.
Baggy clothes also become a challenge. Lesbians have to forgo their emotional support flannels—like Linus giving up his blanket. While there are lots of options for masc queers when it comes to shorts, some of us like to hide the fact that we look like Powder underneath our clothes. I guess it is a good time to swap the flannel for a palm frond-print Wildfang button-down. But that only helps the funky button-down dykes.
So how do we maintain our sapphic swagger in the summer without looking like Justin Bobby from The Hills during a day at the beach? Some lesbians are wearing kitschy earrings, made of everything from playing cards to tiny Spam cans, to signal they’re gay. If you’re not into jewelry, maybe a bandana? Otherwise, just rip the sleeves off your Live, Laugh, Lesbian tee and call it a day. Because Doc Season might be over, but Cutoff Season has just begun.