Jennifer Post had a bad case of the butch blues. It began when she and her wife moved from the East Coast to image-obsessed L.A. Back home, she always kept her hair nondescript and product-free. Fashion was an alien concept — she was happiest in her uniform of plaid shirts, Levi’s and weather-worn sneakers. “I guess I used to look kinda like Billie Jean King after a match, minus the skirt,” says Post, an attorney known to her friends as “JP.”
Arriving in L.A. was something of a culture shock, to say the least. Among the sharp-dressing, L Word–era lesbians of West Hollywood, Post felt self-conscious. Dorky even. Her non-hairstyle and oversize Bermuda shorts just weren’t cutting it anymore. After six months at the bottom of the L.A. fashion food chain, Post, 42, decided it was time for a change. She posted an ad on the “Women for Women” section of Craigslist, asking for help unleashing her inner dandy.
Enter QueerStyleLA, a collective of queer gals with a flair for vintage designer fashions — Kat McIver covers “logistics” and Kristen Tribby specializes in “gender styling.” Together their goal is to help people express their queer identity through their attire — whether they be gay, butch, femme, trans or even straight. Queerness, according to them, has less to do with sexuality and gender, and more to do with attitude.
“Queer is about changing the status quo, not adhering to mainstream culture,” says Tribby, a 29-year-old socially conscious femme with a penchant for antique accessories and polka-dot blouses. “When we style someone, we ask them, ‘Who are you?’ Then we take that and queer it to your gender. Queer it to what it is you want to be.”
When Tribby met up with Post at her home in Venice, her first step was to rummage through the closet. What she found disturbed her. “JP’s clearly butch, but I saw some lacy items, things she said she needed for Christmas parties and weddings. I said, ‘My dear, this is horrible, you don’t have to do this!’ ” After banishing the flounce (along with the flannel), Tribby took Post shopping. They went to Kenneth Cole and bought a pair of Fluevog-like shoes, de rigueur for voguish butches. The shoes only went down to a women’s size 10, so they improvised with insoles. “If you’re going to put a woman in a hot suit, you can’t then go and pair it with a pair of stubby Nine Wests,” reasoned Tribby. “The fashion industry needs to catch on that not all women out there want to be strapped in high heels all the time.”
Then they followed up with a visit to Nordstrom, where they browsed the men’s suit department. For Post, it was a liberating experience. “For me, it was always kind of a big taboo to go to the suit section, but Kristen broke that boundary right down,” she says. “She told me, ‘Of course, you can wear men’s suits.’ Sometimes you just need permission like that.” At first, the Nordstrom salesman was a little perplexed by his new lady client — until, Post says, it became clear she was going to be spending “a boatload of money.”
In the space of a few weeks, Post was transformed from démodé to dapper. The gay guys at her law firm said she looked like Al Pacino and told her she was ready to “rock the boulevard” with them. She went to L.A. Fashion Week in March with Tribby and caused quite a commotion in her brand-new pinstriped chocolate Ben Sherman suit (tailored), purple plaid shirt and Gucci sunglasses. “Laurie Pike [fashion writer and former editor of LA.com] came up to me and said I was the best-dressed lawyer she had ever met,” says Post, who says her confidence has grown tenfold since her style overhaul. “I’ve never had so many compliments in all my life.”
As for Tribby, she knows her company will be compared to the Bravo series that made a star of Carson Kressley. “[Queer Eye] broke ground, for sure,” she says, “but they didn’t take into account people’s economic status, and they typically didn’t do gay guys, dykes or trans folks. That’s what we’re doing — helping all the queers feel good in their own skin.”