In the Press
A sample of interviews & features
A sample of interviews & features
Introducing: Butch Clothing Company
Filed Under: Gay Gay Gay Fashion Smashion Business Blitz
There’s no need for butch lesbians to shop at the mens store because there’s finally a clothing company just for them: the Butch Clothing Company.
The company has been 25 years in the making for owner Shaz Riley, but now that dream has become a reality. She says of her new business:
“All those years of having to wear men’s clothes will be behind me now. BCC will make a lot of butch women happy. If they have ever had to put up with negativity from people because of being butch, my clothes will give them the confidence to hold their heads up high.”
The BCC is based out of Brighton, England and will be focusing primarily on formal wear. However, they will also be selling shirts, shorts and pants.
Doesn’t sound like a bad idea, actually.
What do U think???
When you’re planning your wedding, everyone knows that once you book the venue and plunk down the deposit, your date becomes official. All of those little details that you’ve loosely examined and laid out in the form of a dream tied to a budget start to come together and, suddenly, it’s really happening. This is exactly where I’m at right now, and I have been completely into checking out what all the other gay folks tying the knot are wearing for inspiration.
Openly gay fashion writer and editor Melanie Rickey recently wed her beautiful girlfriend Mary Portas (of the BBC2 series Mary, Queen Of Shops) posted photos of them trotting the streets in their wedding day garb with the caption, “It’s true what they say about your wedding day being the best of your life.” I pretty much died when she told me that designer Antonio Berardi custom-designed both dresses, drawing inspiration from his SS10 show dresses.
Don’t let her femme-on-femme decision scare you away if that’s not for you. “I think what two women choose to wear for their wedding is very personal,” Rickey said. “We chose something that reflected our personal style, and as Mary is in the public eye with a fashion background, and I am a fashion editor we are quite evolved on a style level. Other gay women should do what feels right. I am happy to offer fashion/style advice! Each case is totally individual.”
If your budget doesn’t allow for world famous designers and you’ve been pulling your hair out trying to find a suit that works for you like my girlfriend, check this out: The Butch Clothing Company. I was tipped off to this business by a couple of different folks and I think that you’ll be as impressed as I was. It’s high time someone took the initiative and designed a label exclusively for the butches; I hope it’s the first of many!
I can’t tell you how many discussions my girlfriend and I have had about her anxiety over the upcoming suit shopping for our big day because, honestly and unfortunately, you never know what sort of experience you may be walking into when you’re forced to shop in the men’s department for your formal wear.
Designer Shaz Riley puts it best by saying, “Butches don’t want to be or look like men; we just don’t want to wear female clothing,” an opinion I’m sure many the queer can agree upon. The stuff isn’t cheap, but it’s custom and accessible, as everything in her collection is available online.
I have been looking and debating and my choice is inevitably going to come from Nordstrom or J.Crew because, if I shop there, I will still look like a bride but not like a cupcake. I won’t give anything away by posting my top picks at the moment but if you’re like me and want something a bit less traditional but still want to look like you’re getting married, these are two of the best options I have found.
The Butch Clothing Company is a dream she has harboured for a quarter century. “All those years of having to wear men’s clothes will be behind me now. BCC will make a lot of butch women happy. If they have ever had to put up with negativity from people because of being butch, my clothes will give them the confidence to hold their heads up high.”
When I meet her she is resplendent in one of her designs, a single-breasted charcoal suit, white shirt and purple tie, her spiky hair gelled to the nines, and reeking of aftershave. “Butches don’t want to be or look like men; we just don’t want to wear female clothing,” Riley says.
BCC is based in Brighton, with consultation rooms in the Lanes. It offers bespoke handmade clothing. There will be shorts, trousers and T-shirts, but the main focus is on formal wear (with civil partnerships in mind). Riley pledges to meet and measure each customer personally. Prices start from £240 for a suit, £75 for cotton shirts and £110 for waistcoats.
“Whatever you do to a man’s suit, a woman does not look right in it,” says Riley. “Men need loads more room in the crotch.” Darts on jackets are also out, she says, because they define the waist and accentuate the breasts. Then there is the bad attitude she has faced in the past when shopping for clothes.
“I went to one department store with my (femme) partner to get kitted out for our civil partnership and when the assistant realised I was a woman his attitude changed.”
BCC is providing the outfits for Riley’s wedding next spring, including matching suits for herself, her best person and the head usher. Her bride will be shopping elsewhere.
Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian
‘7-10 pieces of advice and tips from you for butch brides who are selecting their tux for their wedding. Items such as buying vs. renting, styles, finding the right style and fit, what to ask a tailor, etc. Tips to give our readers a starting off point for when they start searching. Also, if you could send a headshot or photo that we can run with the piece, that would be terrific. ‘
1. Wedding attire is not restricted to a tuxedo. You will be investing a lot of money in this suit for your wedding day. Think also of other ideas for a suit. Something you can wear after the big day
2. If you do choose a suit as opposed to a Tux think about the colour that works with your already stylish wardrobe! Think about how you would wear the suit post wedding with other elements in your closet. Think of wearing the jacket with a pair of jeans whilst taking your new wife to dinner, think of wearing the trousers to work with a nice crisp shirt, think of wearing the waistcoat (vest) with your shorts in the hot summer sun. Mix it up, enjoy it, use it!
3. When picking a tuxedo look at magazines, look on line, get some ideas of styles you like, after all you have to wear it! Decide if you want black/ white/ cream maybe you want black pants and a cream jacket. There are many options, consider these choices BEFORE you contact your tailor this way you have a starting point for your consultation.
4. If at all possible, buy your suit don’t rent it. A well made suit will last you 15 years and would be tailored so it could be let out should you pop on a few pounds over the years or better still shed a few pounds! The initial out lay is heavy but considering the future use it is indeed an investment
5. If using a bespoke tailor who will make the perfect suit for you, remember that this is not ‘off the peg’. The suit will ‘fit’ you correctly. There is an art to wearing a bespoke garment. Be aware that all the excess fabric in a store bought suit is gone. It may feel a little restrictive at first but will soon form to your body
6. The process of having a suit made is exactly that, here at The BCC we offer face to face consultations in person and via video Skype for our many overseas clients. Both are equally successful but remember the art of this process means that after the consultation were you are measured and you choose the fabric and design of your suit, once made some 7-9 wks later, first fitting must happen. This is where you try on your garment for the first time. Do not be upset if it doesn’t fit perfectly at this stage. A large percentage of suits need alterations and sometimes remakes at first fitting. Sometimes it may take 2-3 fittings to perfect the fit and create the correct measurement profile
7. Always consider a handmade shirt to match your suit. Nothing looks cooler than a butch in cufflinks. However it is rare for a butch woman to find a shirt with a double cuff that fits her body shape and indeed her arm length. It’s a luxury but it’s an incredible feeling to have a shirt that fits like a glove and the excitement off cufflinks to match!
8. Remember a decent tailor will lead your initial consultation for you, they will ask you to suggest colours you like, they will show you styles of collars, jacket fronts, pockets, vents etc. Basically all the design elements needed to create the perfect suit. Of course these are things we know nothing about when we start our quest for the suit for the biggest day of our lives!
9. Make sure the tailor has an extensive fabric and lining selection don’t be afraid to see all they have. Take your time, do not be rushed. A consultation could easily last 2-3 hours
10. Be sure to wear a suit or jacket and trousers you already own to the consultation. These may not be a perfect fit but they work as a great guide for fit of your made to measure suit!
Most of all enjoy the experience & wear the suit ….Always!
For further information for your wedding day attire please contact email@example.com
A dark and stormy day in New York City seemed like the perfect setting for my first meeting with Shaz Riley, owner of The Butch Clothing Company. Discovering she had travel plans for client consultations in NYC, I quickly let her know that I thought it would be a great time for the two of us to meet and talk about how her suits have helped change the lives of women in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Shaz agreed.
As many of you are surely aware, life as an individual who doesn’t want to wear the kind of clothing that society has assigned to them can be more than a struggle. I’ll never forget the day I walked into Marshalls to buy men’s shirts, only to be laughed at by another customer. (I refrained from channeling my inner Rugby player by tackling him into the tie rack – wouldn’t want to ruin accessories that have been so perfectly pressed). Its experiences like these, ones that often stain our fashion and fitting memories that make individuals like Shaz and businesses such as The Butch Clothing Company resonate even more deeply with the queer community.
Brushing myself off from the rain and standing in a beautiful Manhattan hotel lobby, I saw Shaz walk out of the elevators perfectly put together. Donning a three-piece suit, which I later found out she had worn on her wedding day, and smiling through her light blue eyes, she exuded a kind of warmth that could make even the most blistery day seem a little bit cozier. I was surprised then, when I discovered that Shaz had worked in the corporate world for most of her life before starting The Butch Clothing Company just two years before.
Sadly, it was a very tragic event that forced Shaz to step back and reconsider her career path, which ultimately launched her leap into entrepreneurship. Her father had passed away, marking the loss of both of her parents at a relatively young age. It was then that Shaz decided she wanted to do something different with her life. That reflection, combined with an opportunity to take time and test out the idea of creating custom clothing, was the turning point of Shaz’ new found venture.
The next ten months were spent in the research and development phase, where Shaz took the time and energy to test out prototypes to ensure that both the fit and design of her suits would work for female-bodied individuals. Now, two years later, with fabric swatch books and sample suits in hand, Shaz spends hours with clients making sure they are able to create the perfect suit together.
As Shaz explains the design process over a perfectly cooked grilled cheese sandwich, I began to fantasize about participating in the process involved in acquiring a three-piece suit of my own. Traveling from the UK to New York to meet with clients, Shaz books a large room in a hotel to hold her consultations, each of which takes three hours.
Though seemingly lengthy, the design and measurement process is a very comprehensive one. Looking at the details of her suit, I can understand why. As she was telling me about the custom options her clientele has, Shaz leaned over and showed me how the stitching on the first buttonhole of her jacket sleeve matched the fabric lining on the inside of the jacket and the back of her vest. As a self-proclaimed design-geek, I couldn’t help but drool over her superb attention to detail. The intricacies of quality and design didn’t end there. Choose the number of buttons, type of color, fabric lining and bespoke shirt cuffs that you like best and Shaz will work her beautiful butch magic to make your suit dreams come true. Not a color palette connoisseur? Not a problem. Shaz comes well equipped with color advice for every style and skin tone.
I was falling in love with the business and the woman behind it. And can I really be blamed? Outside of my love for her use of words like “holiday” and “brilliant” that may render your view of me as somewhat cliché, Shaz’ passion behind creating a positive and valuable experience for each of her clients was omnipresent. Just like many of us, she has encountered the close-minded sales clerk who is more interested in stroking their homophobic ego than filling their commission-based wallet. She can empathize with us and with that comes the determination to make the process as comfortable, engaging and fun as possible. So it wasn’t surprising that an hour and a half into our conversation, a woman showed up (in a dark suit and fabulous pink tie) who has been waiting for over a year to have Shaz come to the US and fit her with a suit. In fact, just moments later I found myself surrounded by butch woman donning classic cuts and colorful ties. It felt a little like a femme’s Manhattan fantasy. I just needed a fancy cocktail to make the scene complete. If one of them had been wearing suspenders, I probably would have skipped my trip back to Boston all together.
So as I wrap up this article and remember the attention to detail that graced the three-piece suit Shaz sported on that gloomy day in Manhattan, I have visions of meeting up with her in Boston sometime in the future to indulge in the experience myself. In fact, I even have the color scheme picked out. I’m thinking a black suit with turquoise lining would be perfect. Maybe I can even find some cufflinks to match… but only if Shaz approves of the color combo, of course.
What about you? What would your perfect suit look like?
Written by Ashley Lucas