From Winona to Rayanne: When Everybody Looked Like a Lesbian

As a cold front creeps over Chicago, lesbians shamelessly break out their now-trendy flannel shirts while onlookers ask the age-old question:

What came first–lesbian or ’90s fashion?

The era of the Candy Raver, grunge, and the Furby gave rise to the fashionable lesbian who could finally don carpenter jeans without fear, thanks to her heterosexual counterpart.

The grossly-underappreciated Faux Lesbian may have stolen a thing or two from the real dyke’s closet, but her overwhelming presence in ’90s pop culture icon made it possible for her homosisters to lez it up unnoticed.  Let’s face it–in the ’90s, everybody looked like a lesbian.

Taylor Hanson, 1997

But where have all the Faux Lesbians gone?  Perhaps they’ve been folded into the hipster scene.  Perhaps they’ve evolved into real dykes who strut the decks of Olivia Cruise ships in their stylish attire.  Perhaps they’re still out there, waiting to break out the old nose piercings once they’re back in style.

As I mourn the loss of these women who made teenage me feel all funny inside, I bring you a Friday Flashback: Faux Lesbians of the ’90s.

Winona Ryder: The Perpetual Outsider
Before her shoplifting escapade in 2001, Winona Ryder captured the hearts of Sylvia Plath-reading Generation Xers as closetcase Jo March in the film adaptation of Little Women and brooding Susana in Girl, Interrupted.  Though Winona dated Johnny Depp in the ’90s, her haircut inspired the Dyke Spikes.

Darlene: The Dyke Fashion Template
Lesbians held their breath as the beloved tomboy of Roseanne grew up to be brooding poet and animal rights activist.  But when Darlene got pregnant on a Disney World vacation and decided to marry the daddy, the character’s heterosexual future was solidified.  Despite this unfortunate twist, Darlene still gets credit for getting knocked up in one of the gayest places ever and creating the Lesbian Lumberjack Look with her giant cardigans and plaid button-downs.

Lisa Loeb: The Original Hipster Dyke
With her baby doll dresses and sentimental lyrics, Lisa Loeb reminded everyone of that ex-girlfriend who just kept coming back. Though no one responded to Loeb’s plea to “Stay,” her granny glasses became a Faux Lesbian staple.  In 2006, Loeb documented her pursuit of Mr. Right in the reality series, Number One Single, but the series didn’t result in romance.  Perhaps this Faux Lesbian was batting for the wrong team after all.

Rayanne: Instigator of the Television Womance
As the BFF of misery chick Angela Chase on  My So-Called Life, Rayanne put the woman in womance.  Borrowing fashion tips from grunge, Rayanne wore mismatched patterns, layered flannel shirts over tank tops, and inspired the Lesbian Bleach Streaks often paired with the Winona-inspired Dyke Spikes.

Xena, Warrior Princess: Origin of the Tribal Tattoo

The armor-wearing heroine of Xena: Warrior Princess showed lesbians how to kick ass, squeal, and get in touch with their Amazonian roots.   Her “sidekick” Gabrielle escaped village life and a boring fiancé to tag along on Xena’s adventures.  Though Xena and Gabrielle never said the L word, the show had enough Saphic subtext to tide the lesbians over until Buffy‘s fourth season.

Daria: The No-Frills Cynic

Bespectacled and plain, Daria took sensible shoes to a new level of chic without batting for the girls’ team, although her friendship with combat boot-wearing Jane suggested something more.

Sinead O’Connor: The On Again/Off Again Lesbian
Who could forget the image of Sinead O’Connor’s bald head in the music video for “Nothing Compares 2U?”  O’Connor initially shaved her head as a statement against traditional views of women, inspiring lesbians everywhere to reach for the clippers.  As for Sinead’s Faux Lesbian status, she came out in a Curve magazine interview in 2000, only to retract the statement soon after.   In 2005 she told Entertainment Weekly,  “I’m three-quarters heterosexual, a quarter gay. I lean a bit more towards the hairy blokes.”


About Malic White

After surviving a childhood in musical theatre, Malic White appreciates hyperbole and maintains a strict regimen of diva worship. At 5'2", he scours thrifts stores and Chicago sidewalks for anything that might be Malic-sized. His writings will cover glam rock, zombie fashion, the art of cheapskatery, and whatever the angsty teen boys are wearing these days.

One comment

  1. hollyhilgenberg

    These are like the best parts of the 90’s. I applaud you for finding the missing link.

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