INTERVIEW: Shifting the Myths About Tomboy Dressing

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Kirrin Finch is a conscientious clothing company, founded by Brooklyn-based couple Laura Moffat and Kelly Sanders Moffat, that have found the secret sauce for the growing demand in tomboy fashion: create timeless, menswear-inspired apparel that can fit a range of women’s bodies. Simple right? Not really.

The inspiration for the business was born out of their own frustration at being unable to find clothes that fit their own style.

“As women who tend to gravitate towards button-up shirts and bow ties, we often found ourselves envying the clothes in the men’s section, yet were frustrated because we knew they wouldn’t fit,” says Kelly.

After countless fittings trying to decipher a wide range of women’s body types that would become their sizes 2-16, and having just been successfully funded on Kickstarter, the duo is now ready to take orders…and have an interview.

What is the common perception of/myths about (what’s the best name queer dressing? Gender neutral? Tomboy? Lesbian? Wait, are those all separate types of dressing too???)

Kelly: Words are certainly tricky. Not surprisingly, defining this style of clothing is no different, especially because it brings gender identity into play. But I absolutely think there are several types of subcategories within this area of fashion. Although the words used to describe them may not be perfect, they are attempts at helping people understand what it is you are discussing.

People’s bodies are different, even when they identify within the traditional gender binaries. Look at the rise in brands catering to the plus size market and more niche fashion. So I think gender neutral fashion works for people looking for more a less form fitting style, but it lacks options for people who want a more form fitting look.

Laura: First off queer fashion, androgynous fashion, tomboy style and menswear-inspired, gender-neutral/unisex all mean slightly different things. I think lately gender-neutral has been getting a lot of press, because Selfridges created floors that did not separate clothes into men’s or women’s. Then obviously Zara just released its gender-neutral line.

There is a movement towards gender not being an important thing to point out, and I think fashion is trying to capture that trend. But I have a real problem with a lot of the clothes that fall into this style, because they tend to be clothes that are rather shapeless and baggy because they are designed to fit different body types, or so do not really fit anyone! I think fit and design are two different things. I think we should aspire to fit many different body types really well, and the designs can be similar.

 

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Talk about some female icons who brought this type of fashion to the forefront and who today makes it legit.

Kelly: Historically I think of people like Katherine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich and Diane Keaton…these women, and many others, really pushed the boundaries for what woman were “supposed” to wear. Two more current females who I feel present themselves in an authentic way are Abby Wambach and Ellen Degeneres. Not only do I think they have great style, but they are also incredibly positive role models for other females who want to break down gender barriers and live authentically.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of courage to break away from the mold if you are in the spotlight, I but I think the person in a small town who decides to wear something “non-traditional” is just as powerful.

Laura: Although Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn rocked trousers before the 30’s, it really wasn’t until the 70’s that menswear inspired fashion came into prominence. I credit this to “Annie Hall” where Diane Keaton’s menswear-clad character donned bowler hats, vests, wide ties and button-up shirts. No longer was the androgynous look only associated with women with assertive and mannish persona, like Dietrech and Hepburn.

Ellen Page has been seen rocking beautiful tuxedos. Some of the US women’s soccer team like Abby Wamback and Megan Rapinoe have awesome style. What is great is that is cool for a women to wear a more masculine suit these days and I think we are seeing a lot more of that from celebrities. People were going crazy over Kate Winslet in that shoot for L’Uuomo Vogue -I mean she looked amazing!

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Image: Kirrin Finch

Is gender neutral dressing a trend? (Cough) you better answer this one right.

Kelly: People have been breaking the “rules” about what they can and can’t wear for ages. I think as an industry, the fashion world has finally caught up to societies’ need to break down the strict rules that gender binary plays within how people dress. Hopefully the support from this new found “acceptance” of gender neutral/androgynous fashion will continue to push that envelope further to reduce the stigma associated with how people dress. Regardless of how the industry reacts, the amazing thing about fashion trends, is that you’ll find people who were wearing that style before it was “on trend” and you’ll still find people rocking after it is long gone. Because for them it’s just a way of life.

Laura: I am somewhat torn about the latest trend toward gender-neutral fashion. It’s great that we are being more open and accepting about breaking gender boundaries in fashion, but I think it is important to recognize that for many of us, this is not a trend. We have always had this style. I think what is really important is that there are many different options for all the different types of people out there, whether you are gay, straight, trans, tall, slim, busty, etc. And that people are accepting of whatever people want to wear. So for me, it is more about getting more options and having broad public acceptance.

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Kirrin Finch founders, Laura and Kelly Moffat

How important is how we present ourselves to the world in terms of dress. What does it say about us?

Kelly: Clothing is one of the first things people use to non-verbally communicate with others about who they are, and how they want to present themselves. From the colors you choose, to the styles you rock, you’ve already started a conversation with the people around you by what you put on for the day. So when people cannot find options that allow themselves to dress in a way that makes them feel comfortable, it prevents them from showing the world their authentic self. Hopefully society will continue to become more open-minded about how people can and should dress.

Laura: I think how you dress is the outside expression of your inner self. It the way you express yourself to the world and tell them who you are. So when the shopping experience is tiring and demotivating, you are left feeling that you are not quite the person you want the outside world to see. It challenges your identity as a person because it doesn’t allow you to express your true self. At Kirrin Finch, we want to give people more options so they can have the freedom to express their true selves, finally matching their inside personality with their outside style.

Check out the video below to learn more about Kirrin Finch.