TV Article

Butch Patrol

The L Word redefines lesbian fashion

There's lesbian chic (how else to explain that Britney-Madonna smooch?), and then there are chic lesbians. Really. Combating the notion that our sapphic sisters wear flannel, sport mullets, and believe tool belts are about form and function, the comely cast of Showtime's new series The L Word live their glam lives in sleek fashions by Dior, Gaultier, and Marc Jacobs. And with Charlize Theron going dumpy as a lesbian serial killer in Monster and Saturday Night Live's distaff Queer Eye parody featuring a not-so-fab five bellowing such advice as ''Let your garden grow!'' (and they didn't mean the peonies), it's high time someone took lesbian chic back to the closet.

The clothes ''definitely [reflect] the L.A. scene,'' says The L Word's costume designer, Cynthia Summers, who hit lesbian nightclubs in Vancouver and L.A. for wardrobe research. ''We can't stereotype, and if we can remember they are girls -- and some of them can be girlier than others and still be lesbians -- that's fine.'' Reflecting that range, Summers puts art-world honcho Bette (Jennifer Beals) in tailored suits and Gucci pumps, while writer Alice (Leisha Hailey) gets girlie dresses, and sleep-around hairdresser Shane (Katherine Moennig) sports an edgy rock & roll look.

But will The L Word's fab wardrobe have the same impact as that other show about women, sex, and a city? ''I think any woman would be interested in seeing how other women dress,'' says Beals. Still, don't expect lesbians to view the drama as reason to storm Dolce & Gabbana. ''Are [lesbians] going to watch Jennifer Beals slip into lingerie and run out to buy some?'' says guest star (and new wife of Melissa Etheridge) Tammy Lynn Michaels. ''I doubt it. But they're certainly going to enjoy watching Jennifer Beals slip into lingerie.''

As for other fashion notes, Summers says the characters' ensembles will evolve as the season progresses, with plans for looser, more vintage-inspired looks. But there's one accessory you probably won't see that often, to the heartbreak of those fiending for the next Fendi-baguette craze. ''Lesbians don't carry purses,'' she cracks.

Originally posted Feb 13, 2004 Published in issue #751 Feb 13, 2004 Order article reprints