Unsuitable: A History of Lesbian Fashion

Eleanor Medhurst

Publishing Soon: 1st June 2024

Clothes are central to lesbian history, and lesbians are central to fashion history. The way we dress can help us show who we are, or hide ourselves; make us into a community, or make us stand out from the crowd. Yet ‘lesbian fashion’ is often strangely overlooked. Without this story of self-expression, what are we missing about the culture and status of queer women?

The lesbian past is slippery: it has often been deliberately hidden, edited or left unrecorded. Unsuitable restores to style history and queer history the fascinating, ever-changing tale of modern lesbian dress, from top hats to violet tiaras. This story spans centuries and countries, from ‘Gentleman Jack’ in nineteenth-century Yorkshire and Queen Christina of seventeenth-century Sweden, to Paris modernism, genderqueer Berlin, butch/femme bar culture and 1980s activists, via drag kings, the Suffragettes, the Harlem Renaissance and the power of slogan tees. This book is a kaleidoscope of the margins and the mainstream, celebrating trans lesbian histories, Black lesbian histories, and histories of gender- nonconformity.

You don’t have to be queer or fashionable to be enthralled by this hidden history of minority identity. In Unsuitable, Eleanor Medhurst lights it up for the world to see, in all its finery.

Media Reviews

‘An absolutely fascinating study of lesbian clothing, in all its unpredictable variety, over continents and centuries.’ – Emma Donoghue, author of ‘Room’; ‘The Pull of the Stars’ and ‘Passions Between Women’

‘A charming, enlightening and inspiring history of a too-often overlooked identity.’ – Paul Baker, author of ‘Camp!’, ‘Outrageous!’ and ‘Fabulosa!’

‘A wonderful, celebratory and joyously queer insight into lesbian fashion–I loved it.’ – Tasha Suri, award-winning author of the ‘Burning Kingdoms’ trilogy

‘Whether it’s Japanese Bluestockings or stage actresses in Georgian London, Eleanor Medhurst brings hidden worlds to life in her positively engrossing book.’ – Cameron Esposito, standup comic, host of Queery and author of ‘Save Yourself’

‘An affectionate and informative history, deeply researched and bursting at the seams with interesting facts about the lives and styles of queer women from the past.’ – Diarmuid Hester, author of ‘Wrong’ and ‘Nothing Ever Just Disappears’

‘A wonderful, long overdue celebration of often neglected histories. It reminds us of the power of dress to shape our place in the world.’ – Kate Strasdin, author of ‘The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes’

‘A rare exploration of the nuanced history of lesbian fashion.’ – Clare Hunter, author of ‘Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle’