Why Queer Girl Bands Were What My 15-Year-Old Self Needed

I can easily picture my nine-year-old self, receiving my first iPod Nano and scrolling through iTunes with my dad and adding all of his top artists to my collection and fully understanding that those artists would change my life. I remember hearing "No Cars Go" by Arcade Fire for the first time in this setting and for my entire life to change in those five minutes. I remember a few years earlier listening to my first Bowie song ("Space Oddity," if you were curious) in my music class in third grade and immediately learning all of the lyrics that night. I remember my first concert that was my idol at the time, Paul McCartney, I remember taking over three years of listening to Radiohead nonstop, from age 12 to 15, to finally like the band and soon fall in love and drive for 12 hours just to see them live. I'm ten again, and I'm riding the school bus and showing my friends all my top artists on my iPod, and I say in fifth-grade lingo that I really only listen to male musicians because the female ones just "weren't that good." Now, I look back ten years later, not surprised by this statement but also curious if the ten years leading up to my sexual epiphany as a lesbian would have gone any differently if I idolized Tori Amos instead of The Beatles. Do I blame my father for only perpetrating typical white male artists into my music taste, or do I just blame the heteropatriarchal system that music typically succumbs to? 

Fortunately, a combination of simply growing up upon one semester at university and taking far too many queer studies courses forced me to step outside myself, view my past experiences, and realize how heavily they were affected by the heteropatriarchy. When I was 15, Modest Mouse, Radiohead, and Keaton Henson dictated my feelings; I played The Smiths when I was head-over-heels for some indie sad boy; I sobbed over Jeff Buckley and Band of Horses when those indie sad boys wouldn't notice me. Wonderful music, yes, but memories that only make me cringe, as I was not my real self. After my ten-year-long committed relationship with music, I've come to realize that music inherently forms identity, so instead of blaming the comfort of the closet and my conservative hometown, I could blame what I was listening to. All men, all singing about heterosexual relationships, whining about their sad boy-feelings when that one girl rejected him or, heaven forbid, broke his heart.

Most of the music I immersed myself with created this mainstream narrative of straight girl falls for boy and boy breaks her heart, or boy gets heartbroken by girl and falls into a life-long crisis, or girl and boy live happily together in the comfort of their heterosexual worlds.  My closeted self only wanted to live inside these songs, and my current self only wonders what I would have wanted if this narrative was queered. Artists like Sufjan Stevens broke these boundaries with his gay content, but never did I actually articulate this, or even worse, listen to female artists and think Gee, I can relate to this woman singing about loving other women. Did it all change when I broadened my music vocabulary to include girl bands, and (here's a shocker) queer girl* bands?

*Girl not necessarily the applicable identity for all of the artists I mention, like Stephanie Knipe of Adult Mom

No definitive realization exists in this narrative, just as the idea of a singular coming out moment is absolute bullshit for most. It may have begun with me finding out Annie Clarke of St. Vincent and Romy of The xx are both queer, or when my Riot Grrrl obsession sprouted and all I could think was that these lead gals have got to be gay, at least in some sense. Listening to female-identified artists and seeing them sing about things other than being romantically involved with men was the first step in my musical revelation, as I placed myself in these female artists' shoes and felt what life would be like without the dependence of men for the first time. Before I even discovered queer artists, I, at times, would imagine these ladies to be singing to other ladies, even if they identified as straight. Upon my first ever (and downright frightening) crush on a girl when I was 17, I took these songs and queered them to fit my own experiences. Karen O's Crush Songs was the soundtrack to this crush, btw. 

I'm grateful for finally discovering queer artists at a time when I felt pretty secure in my identity, as it legitimized my feelings through the power of other lived experiences. However, as so much of the music I listen to today now fits under this category, I can only imagine what it would have done for me if it had been there for me when I was 15 and deep in the closet, pining over that one boy and playing Damien Rice's "Delicate" on repeat when things went awry. I can only imagine what bands like Snail Mail would have done for me when I was just 15, where Lindsey proudly sings about teenage heartache in their newest song, or when Stephanie Knipe of Adult Mom sings about the scary parts of realizing that maybe, just maybe, liking girls isn't a one-time thing in "Told Ya So". I would have loved to use Waxahatchee's "Sparks Fly" to soundtrack the moments I can see myself falling for someone rather than Mac DeMarco's "Let My Baby Stay," I'd rather listen to all of The Internet's Ego Death in the highs and lows of my relationships instead of Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlanticism, and I wish I had Julien Baker's all-too-real songs on being queer to get me through the pains of being a 15-year-old girl who had no clue who she was at the time. Where queer voices typically remain unheard, these artists, among many others, make them visible, even if it is done through indie or DIY means. Even more significantly, these voices hopefully impact those teenage girls who have the struggle of being forced to question the legitimacy of their crushes and who hopefully find solace through discovering the right music for that certain time in their lives.

While I typically say how it does not necessarily matter when these moments of realization occur, as all experiences are only a product of that certain individual, having queer artists to look up to, to have crushes on, or to depend on to make some of the adolescent brain mush make a little more sense is only what I wish I had in my years of fraudulent boy crushes and attempting to fit in with typical standards of girlhood. There seems to be an understanding that our music tastes may just be a reflection of our identities, but what if our identities aren't fully formed? Do we depend on the music we already have to shape them, even if this music doesn't match our true selves? To my 15-year-old self: I wish you could see five years into the future, because maybe songs like Modest Mouse's "Little Motel" are not your anthems, and instead of diving into the worlds of straight songs about their inevitable heartbreak only because you felt that they spoke for you, dive into the worlds of queer artists. They might just speak to you and with you instead.

Listen to the playlist below for my favorite artists, all including queer women (or nonbinary folks) who love other women and sing about doing just that.


Are you interested in seeing more music-related posts on this blog, including playlists, personal essays, or concert/album reviews? If so, please let me know! I am attempting to expand my blog to other pursuits than just style, and I wanna make sure I'm doing it in a way that everyone wants to see.

twitter | instagram | facebook | tumblr | personal portfolio


Madrid Made Me Wear My Weirdest Outfit Yet

And I truly thought I couldn't get any weirder.

It's been two weeks since I've left Spain, and I'm going through two distinct emotional whirl winds. One that is, what I like to call, PED (or Post Europe Depression), which I have witnessed every single time I've returned to America after being anywhere in Europe for over four days, which is also seen here and here. PED is really going to hit hard when I live in Stockholm for four months this fall and have to unwillingly return to the states come December. The second journey is one that is focused on style, of course, because being in a foreign country for some time that carries a completely different fashion sense than your own can challenge everything you once imagined to be true. This obviously happened when I was in France for two whole weeks last year, obviously happened when I was still trying to find myself when I was a mere 16-year-old and I went to London, Paris, and Florence in the span of 10 days. These all make sense, as those regions all carry distinctive styles that are a obviously a product of that region.

But Spain? Really??

Spain seems to nail literally everything but personal style, and also knowing how to sleep during normal hours. This isn't saying that Spain is an unfashionable country, but it's really just an observation that it's not their priority. Yes, we have beautiful Spanish clothing and shoe brands like Paloma Wool and About Arianne and the best style icons like Maria Bernad, all originating from Barcelona. But I didn't even step foot into this city, and everywhere else, including Madrid, really could care less about style. To be quite honest, the most stylish people I saw were French tourists and exchange students from Scandinavia and, not to brag, myself, only because I actually put far too much effort into the clothes I put on my body. Was it to overcompensate for the lack of style inspiration? Maybe. What I do know is that I tried a lot of things that fell outside the norm for me whilst on this trip. One being the concept of napping, which is something I will never understand as I always feel like a truck just ran into me the minute I wake up from a mid-day sleep. But that didn't stop me on this trip! The other is how I approached style—I usually try to get a general grasp of a new city's style and mold it to fit my own personal style, but that wasn't the case in Madrid. In Granada, I did tend to fall into this sleepy summer aesthetic that screams Granada and Call Me by Your Name, but in Madrid, I, to put in the simplest of terms, did whatever the fuck I wanted with my style. I didn't feel that I fit into their regional style, so instead of whining about it, I just created my own rules. And this made me go over the edge in some ways, especially with one particular outfit in mind. See below.

Dress is vintage, from Antoinette in Brooklyn. Jeans are vintage Levi's, from a (wonderful) vintage shop in Granada. Turtleneck by Madewell. Shoes by Zara (similar here).

You probably recognize that infamous dress, as I wore it practically once a week near the end of last summer, sometimes alone, sometimes with jeans, sometimes with shorts. But all in the summer. Yes, spring is already here and we should be able to don summer styles freely with zero obstacles, but the weather has obviously proven itself to be a huge one! This isn't limited to the states, it was also a hinderance in Spain. It typically gets no warmer than 50 in March in Madrid, so I was forced to somehow transform this obviously-summer dress into a winter one. When I was packing for this trip, my friend told me she was bringing a single dress, just in case. Without even thinking, I stuffed this one in my suitcase because it's actually way more versatile than it looks, and I really didn't know what to expect of a) the weather or, even more significantly, b) the style of Spain. Upon my decision to go completely off the rails with my style decisions, I pulled this baby out of my tiny suitcase and spent some time figuring out how I could create my weirdest outfit yet with what I hardly had. I would typically pair it with one of my pairs of blue vintage Levi's, but the single pair I brought was far from wearable, as sweat and wear of the past few days practically destroyed them until their next wash. So I scanned my options of pants and immediately decided to wear the pair I had just bought, which was a beige (or khaki??) pair of Levi's 501s that I couldn't say no to, because whenever I find a pair of vintage Levi's that fit me, I feel obligated to purchase them. That could've been the outfit, but I also felt obligated to wear a turtleneck under everything, as it was still too cold to go out sans layers. And to make matters even worse, I decided to finish the 'fit with the most extra pair of shoes I own, aka these red boots that make for excellent looks and loads of foot cramps if you happen to wear them all day walking around the city of Madrid.

And that, my friends, is how I managed to defy Madrid's style and also somehow end up wearing all of my strangest sartorial decisions in one outfit. They key here is, however, that although I look like a walking catastrophe, I felt like the complete opposite. Is it because it truly defines my chaotic nature? Maybe. Just maybe.

Photo taken by Maddie.


Granada is the City of my European Summer Dreams

Even when it's only March.

To all my travel-lovers: do you ever wonder exactly why you love traveling? Is it the cultural immersion? The history? Maybe just the food and drink aspect?

Although tapas and vino sound like the best reason to visit Spain, for me, there's a huge factor that keeps me coming back to new places like this one. Just like fashion, traveling to new cultures has transformative effects. So if you were to ask me why I would drop my entire life and responsibilities and travel, I would answer with this: living in a foreign country for just a few days has the ability to make the impossible possible. It's got powers that make dreams come true! Sounds cheesy, yes, but let me explain:

If I'm feeling a lil' blue, I always turn to fashion to up my mood and transform into something better that only style can fix. Its healing powers are why I constantly fix this one part of my life if all else is falling apart. Or simply, if I wish to embody a certain feeling that can only be performed through fashion, I do the same. Lately, this has been me with an easy breezy summer, one that is obviously nowhere to be found based on cold temps and far too many responsibilities but is surprisingly easy to produce with the clothes I put on my body. This longing for summer for 16 months straight is where travel comes in, especially Granada. Being in this town for only three days, even when it's been raining and chilly for 80% of the time, makes me feel just like I'm in summer, but particularly my '80s summer dream that I've been dreaming of nonstop ever since I watched Call Me by Your Name for the first time (then again and again for four more times, plus the book twice). Was I in Italy? Nope. Was it summer? Definitely not, as it poured rain for two out of the three days I was there, and it never reached over 55 degrees. But did I feel like I was living in that European summer dream that I immediately travel to when I hear the first notes of Hallelujah Junction, aka the opening song of the aforementioned film, which I also watched on the plane ride way there? Absolutely.

The minute I was placed in Granada I saw several orange trees on every street corner, and I immediately thought of those infamous peach trees that instantly allude to a sweet summer. Walking through the tight alleyways that acted as roads and looking at bright but faded buildings and noticing sleepy streets one minute and lively ones the next transferred me to a place of zero responsibilities, of summer siestas (which happen year-round in Spain, btw), and of a summer love that can transcend all other romances. Did I fall in love in Granada? Absolutely not, I was there for three days. But could I fall in love in the way that summer romances go if I lived there? Maybe, maybe not, but I know I did fall in love with the town. Shouldn't that be enough?

Throughout my summer fantasy, I realized it would be even more effective if I dressed the part. Sounds easy, no? Well actually, no—as I mentioned earlier, it was raining and nowhere near summer temps. If only I could wear denim-cutoffs and breezy button-ups with espadrille slides, or maybe even ditch the shoes altogether. But the strange March weather (the friend I was visiting said it never rains) hindered on my summer dreams, making me have several fashion-related mental breakdowns. But alas, they were cured when I decided to work in summer (and CMBYN)-esque vibes into my looks that were typically covered with a rain jacket and consisted of pants instead of shorts. For exhibit A we have...

Button-down by Urban Outfitters (similar here). Strapless top (under button-down) by Tobi. Levi's are vintage, from The Break. Shoes by Veja, in collaboration with Madewell. Leather jacket and raincoat not shown, but definitely needed to keep me warm and dry when the sun wasn't out for ten minutes when this photo was taken.

I attempted to style my favorite button-down at the moment, aka one coming from the men's section and that has nude sketches, because why not, in a way I had never done before—completely unbuttoned, tied at the waist, and with a taupe tube top that I typically wear alone or under a blazer, not under button-downs. Even sans pants, I already felt like I fit into a Spanish summer, and if it were feasible, I would slip on my Levi's cutoffs and call it a day. The no shoes were intentional. But to fit with the weather, I slipped on full-length Levi's, aka the next best thing to the desired shorts, and my newest (and now deemed favorite) sneakers from Veja, which is a 100% sustainable sneaker company based in Paris. Felt like a perfect compromise with the weather, as I would still wear full-length Levi's in the summer, and these Vejas perfectly match those unmistakeable shoes Armie Hammer constantly wears in the film. Me standing under this orange tree is resembling of Elio picking a few peaches right before the scene (if you've watched the movie, you should know what I'm talking about).

Shirt bought from an Angel Olsen show last December that are (unfortunately) unavailable. Pants are vintage, also from The Break. Jacket by Madewell. Shoes by Veja. Sunglasses by Lisa Says Gah.

On this day, the sun was actually out all day long. I took this weather to my advantage and pulled on breezy trousers in the most perfect shade of dusty green with a tee displaying a photo of Angel Olsen. For a look perfect for Elio (or Yorkie from San Junipero), I used my newest denim jacket, a staple I will never stop buying more of, as my (only!) layer, and that was it. No neck scarf, no extravagant jewelry, nothing. And that's what summer should be about—straightforward and simple, accessories not needed. I felt like I had just gotten off of a bike in Crema, ready to grab a drink or bite of food, which I actually did right after these photos were taken, sitting outside on the cobble-stone streets facing the beautiful city of Granada. Surreal is an understatement.

Will I ever stop talking about Call Me by Your Name on this blog? The answer is unknown. But I do know that even when summer is full-blown come this May, I'll never be able to have this feeling unless I'm in the European summer city of my dreams. Until next time, Granada.

First photo taken by me, other photos taken by Averie and Maddie.


These Scandinavian Instagram Style Icons Are Really Onto Something

Forget about Paris and Milan.

Photo is of Nora Fazel, taken from her personal blog

Here's a poll I'd like to impose on you all:

Do you think style is meant to be completely personal, void of social and cultural influence? Or is it truly a product of the culture you're from?

As I don't have time to conduct actual research, we'll just go off of what I think: the latter, obviously. I constantly say how personal style is essential to our beings, but after some thought, isn't our style always a result of the culture we're raised in? This explains why the styles of certain regions are so vastly different: classic chic in Paris, bold and flashy in Seoul, dark and structured in Berlin. This can't be an isolated event; regional styles are, in fact, a product of that region. Common sense, no?

Then I think of where I'm from, a suburb north of Atlanta that holds zero personal style except for white teenagers wearing Vineyard Vines like it's defining of Southern culture even though it originates from Massachusetts. Obviously, I don't fit this culture—I wore things that would be seen in NYC or Paris when I lived in the South for 18 years. So is style a product of our culture? The answer is blurry, especially when you're not a fan of your original culture and would gladly like to disassociate from it, which I have attempted by both physically leaving the area for good and dressing unlike my fellow Georgians. This distaste in my hometown's style forced me to find another home to pull style inspiration from, resulting in, as I said earlier, NYC and Parisian styles. Were these cultures ones I simply wished to belong to, making the argument that style is a cultural product even truer? Possibly. All that can be said for now is that style and culture are not isolated, and some cultures really know what they're doing.

My younger self would immediately flock to Paris or London to find style inspiration, as I assumed these were deemed the most fashionable cities in the world. But these cities are like a grain of sand on a stretch of beach; so much more is out there. Even just in Europe. Maybe that entire region of Scandinavia that people always seem to forget about is enticing. Maybe more than enticing, maybe enticing enough for me to actually go. Which I am planning on doing! Next fall. Stockholm, Sweden. I never imagined myself deciding to study somewhere like that, just as I never imagined the region to hold a really cool style that seems to be a product of how the region is doing as a whole. Apparently Norway is the happiest country in the world, which is evident in many ways, including how everyone looks damn good. My interest in this area sprouted with my addiction to the Norwegian show SKAM, which I just recently finished rewatching, one year later. People tell me I'd fit right into any city of these three countries because I look just like every white blonde who resides in them, but I think it transcends looks—something far deeper about Scandinavia was calling my name. Apart from study abroad, this led me into an Instagram hole of Scandinavian style icons. I'm pretty sure I followed about 20 new accounts, realized that Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm Fashion Week do exist, and that Pernille Teisbaek is Danish. Scandinavians are immensely proud of their culture, and not in that gross American way; they actually have something to be proud of. And it definitely shows in their style.

Maren Schia from Oslo, Norway; photo from her Instagram

Exhibit A is Norwegian Maren Schia, a name that appears often on Who What Wear and also has the art of dressing down. She should be titled an expert, a world champ. Her 'fits are out of this world, ranging from belted Canadian tuxedoes to corduroy pantsuits to ones exploding in color and interesting layers, like the one above. She brings everything we like to see from the main four fashion weeks and heightens it to her personal taste, making everything she posts on her IG well-crafted and oh-so-intentional. She puts the personal in personal style, yet still has a style that's so similar to every fashion queen from Oslo. Remember that poll I asked you guys to answer in the beginning? She's the one that proves both answers to be true.

Nora Fazel from Stockholm, Sweden; photo from her Instagram

Swedish Nora Fazel's caption for the above photo is Always looking like a 12 y old boy who stole a cigarette from his mom and I don't really mind, do you?, and this statement describes Fazel's aesthetic entirely: one who simply does not mind how other people think of her. Yet she definitely cares to an extent, at least for herself, when she brings an effortlessly cool style to her Instagram, making Stockholm look like a place only fit for girls who know how to take cool outfit selfies while carelessly holding an almost-burnt out cigarette, while also posting things like memes and artful nudes. Also, she doesn't groom her body hair like every other American seems to because she transcends typical heteropatriarchal standards

Fanny Ekstrand from Stockholm, Sweden; photo from her Instagram

Swedish Fanny Ekstrand resides from the same place as Nora but brings a completely different look to the table. While still following that same carefree attitude, she goes for a more is more approach, but in a sense that doesn't copy aesthetics like Gucci and instead comes from a very personal place. She tends to stray away from style norms, so instead she wears red tights with cowboy boots and calls it fashion. Most importantly, she's weird as hell and brings this essence to her sartorial choices, making her style more interesting than any Manhattan blogger. 

Rebecca Vera Stahnke from Copenhagen, Denmark; photo from her Instagram

Danish Rebecca Vera Stahnke seems to follow the lyrics of "girls just wanna have fun" very closely with her style, making sure to put a dash of her own personal touch and a load of fun to every outfit she puts on. She's a big fan of making her looks obviously match a certain color scheme, and she usually makes it clear that style isn't a job for her; it's more like a hobby that comes way too easily to her. Her candid photos make her look like she's having a blast 24/7, and maybe she really is; do Danes really have more fun? 

Because we're already so obsessed with hygge, we should continue with this Scandinavian obsession and follow what they're doing with style. After we nail their styles down, maybe we can start with other parts of their culture. I'm very interested in making fika a tradition in the states.