Lesbian style : designing a lesbian fashion collection : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment for the degree of Master of Design, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Lesbian style and expression is an area of fashion which is underrepresented in the fashion industry as well as in the teachings of fashion. Fashion as an industry is overwhelmingly viewed as a gay man’s domain as men make up a majority of creative director positions in western fashion houses and many of fashion’s most influential figures are openly gay men (Pike 2016). Lesbians by comparison are associated primarily with being unfashionable – and more harshly in accordance with heterosexist feminine standards – ugly (Karaminas 2013). Through this research project, I explore how style is utilised and influenced by the lesbian experience and propose that, despite stereotypes, lesbian style goes beyond Birkenstocks and dungarees and can be used as an influence for subversive contemporary design. This research is made up of two components – an analysis of lesbian style history in the 20th century cumulating in the 1980’s, followed by an exploration of 80’s club and subcultural styles. There is a particular focus on the design practices of Vivienne Westwood, Walter Van Beirendonck and Elsa Schiaparelli. This analysis acts as the primary focus for the second component: a design practice outcome of five fashion looks using a bricolage and historic revivalist methodology inspired by 80’s subcultural style. The design outcome aims to showcase how clothing can be designed with specific lesbian coding.
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Fashion design, Lesbians, Clothing, History, 20th century, Nineteen eighties, Subculture