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"Medhurst’s history of lesbian fashion opens the closet on the details and meanings of clothes through the ages for any style-conscious sapphics "

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

This history of lesbian fashion is written in a way which is both detailed and accessible, as satisfying to the casual reader as to the academic. With case studies of lesbians and ‘lesbian-adjacent’ figures that readers will likely be varyingly familiar with, including Sappho’s tunics and violets, to Anne Lister’s hats (comparing how the character is presented in the Gentleman Jack television show in a top hat, to how the historical figure likely dressed from her diaries, in bonnet and lace) to the drag kings and ‘impersonators’ of European performers in the 1920s, to the DYKE slogan cut-off vests we might enjoy seeing at parades and protests today. 

I love the way Medhurst writes about her topic, with evident passion, curiosity and care. She is alive to the reality of the lesbians wearing the clothes, using their fashions to understand more about the people as individuals (as well as being intrigued and delighted by the clothes themselves). 

Lesbians are, almost by their nature, doubly excluded from historical archives, but it’s a treat to see lesbian history through diaries, love letters, and personal belongings, which all feel like particularly lesbian ways to record a life. Medhurst has rigorously displayed an otherwise hidden history, while also remaining open and fluid to the possibilities of different interpretations and subjectivity. It’s all the more powerful as a lesbian document for its inclusion of non-binary and trans interpretations, and for highlighting the similarities and differences of ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ presentations.

As Medhurst puts it, this is a history of lesbian fashion which opens the closet, and what a gorgeous closet it is. I feel like carrying this book will be the perfect lesbian accessory! Peek it out from your choice of practical bum bag, slogan tote, quirky purse or suit pocket. 

Lily Lindon

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