Creating Conversations Through Blogging

Laura Kanaplue grew up in Nyack, NY and currently lives in Brooklyn with her wife Kate, and their dog, Business. She recently graduated with a Masters in Social Work and is heading across the pond with Kate to start a new adventure in London. Laura started the blog, “Girl In A Bow Tie” in 2011, to showcase women wearing men's fashion and accessories. The blog continues to be an inspiration for dapper women across the globe.


WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START THE BLOG

I love fashion. I think it's fun to explore what other people are doing, and wearing, which is why I really love blogging. It's not just about me, and what I'm doing, it's about what other people who dress similar to me are doing, and where they're shopping, and getting their clothes. At first the blog was just about showcasing celebrity women in suits, and bow ties, and now it has turned into something bigger. It is more about building a community.

I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about people who dress the way I do. I'd love for it not necessarily to become more mainstream, but I'd love to talk with people about it. Conversation is so powerful and I think once we start having a dialogue, whether it's helping one person or one million, we will see more acceptance in terms of how people dress and express themselves.

CONGRATS ON YOUR RECENT WEDDING. HOW DOES IT FEEL?

Getting married was truly amazing. It was the first time I got to feel comfortable around my parents wearing a bow tie and how I present myself. In the past, it's been a struggle with them understanding the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. They were so overjoyed that I was marrying someone who was so wonderful, and that I finally found someone who was not only my partner, but my best friend, and my lover, and someone who truly gets me. Now all those things that they didn't get and maybe still don't get, have faded away and it's really wonderful. 

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WOMEN WITH SHORT HAIR WHO WEARS MORE MASCULINE STYLE CLOTHES?

People are too afraid to ask and then just have an assumption about your gender identity, or your sexual orientation. Strangers will often ask, "Are you a girl or a boy?" I was in a grocery store up by my school and I'm literally just looking for a snack and a man turned to me and just said, "Are you a girl or a boy?" And I said, "Well, why does that matter?" And he said, "Well, you have short hair." And I said, "Well, a lot of people have short hair and a lot of people have long hair." And he clearly didn't want to have that conversation. And I was maybe a little bit angry, but also laughing on the inside also because I wanted to say, "Do you know what school is right down the street? It's a social work school, and I'm about to social-work you." But, I just said, "Well, if you wanna have a conversation about this, I'm more than glad to discuss short hair, and clothing, and identity with you." And he said, "No, no, no. I don't even wanna get into this." And I said, "Okay. Well, I just want to let you know that that's really not a conversation starter. If you want more information, you normally just shouldn't ask strangers that question." And he just walked away.

I think the power of feeling like you can be yourself is just kind of educating people in that way. And whether they're confused or wanna ask questions, it's putting that out there whether you're at a grocery store, or you're doing a fashion shoot, or you're on the runway, or you're a musician, or whatever you're doing. It just shows that it's not just, girls wear pink and boys wear blue.

HOW HAS CLOTHING IMPACTED YOUR PERSONAL IDENTITY AND EXPRESSION?

I live in New York City and I feel very lucky and fortunate that I can dress the way that I want to. I remember, being super young and always wanting short hair, and wanting to dress like my brothers. I used to wear ties as a kid, and suspenders, and blazers and just really be out there.  When you're young there's no fear.

Once I got older I felt pressured to be what people classically, or society sees as feminine. I grew my hair out, and I wore makeup, and I can look those pictures and say, "Wow, I looked beautiful." I'm sure that sometimes I felt really beautiful and awesome, but I didn't 100% feel myself.  Today, I'm okay with being a BOI, or androgynous or a Tomboy, all of those are identities I'm okay with and I welcome. For a long time I was not okay with those things. I thought it was pigeon-holing me to something that I was scared of. I wanted them to know who I was without the clothing, but then, I thought, "Wait this is awesome. I can be me and be fashionable and feel excited about it."

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE FINDING CLOTHES THAT FIT YOUR STYLE AND YOUR BODY?

I am fortunate enough that as far as men's tops go, I can fit in an extra-small or a small. But it took me lots of time to really figure out what I wanted and where I could shop for that. It's been difficult to, not necessarily find it, but feel comfortable going to those stores and shopping in the men's section and feeling like I was welcome regardless of whatever the people working there thought my gender was, and just having fun shopping.

I have a suit that's beautiful. It's a J Crew suit but it's from the women's section and it has what most women or people who dress like me dislike, it has the boob darts. It has a little bit of femininity in it that makes me think I should just sell it and buy a different one because there's still a little bit of it that I'm not 100% about.

My biggest difficulty is that they don't make a lot of women's shoes that really work with my style, especially fancy shoes, oxfords and wing-tips and stuff like that. 

I've been lucky enough to shop at certain places where I feel comfortable enough in pants, but I still have a big issue with women's pants where the pocket is so small. "Oh, it's cool. I can fit a penny in here. Half my knuckles just get a chapstick out and okay, great."  It's like, "Where am I supposed to put my keys? I'm a lesbian. I don't hold a bag."

But I've found some things that work for me and I know that's not the case for everyone. Everyone has different bodies. Everyone is different. And I try to stress that a lot.  If a friend or a person reaches out on my blog, I tell them, "This is what's worked for me." And I tell them about other blogs with people who might have a different body size than me, because they might have better suggestions.

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO SERVE AS A ROLE MODEL FOR PEOPLE?

I am passionate about LGBT youth and being able to be a role model for them.  I think that's really what I was missing when I was younger, as I didn't see people on TV who looked like me. And the only person I felt like I could emulate was Shane from the L Word, and she was clearly a horrible person on the inside. I thought, "Okay. So she's androgynous, and androgyny is out there and people are starting to see this as a high-fashion type of thing," but as a character and a storyline, she's not the greatest person. 

But I think it's great that things are coming out that's not just high-fashion. We're super-lucky to have Tegan and Sara who are in the spotlight. I think there's so much more that needs to be done, in a way that educates people.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE SEARCHING FOR A SIMILAR “DAPPER” LOOK TO YOU

People often ask me where I am shopping. I try to stress that everyone's body is different. I get a lot of younger people asking, "I really wanna wear a suit to prom but number one, I can't afford a suit and I'm not gonna rent a tux. What would you suggest?" I understand that is super big because you're going to an event where you're going to be seen by a lot of people. I wore a dress to prom and I brought a boy. I had no idea that I could not wear a dress to prom. I would just suggest what feels comfortable and if that's not a suit, if it's a pair of pants that fits in the dress code, whatever your prom makes you wear or if they allow you to wear sneakers, like sneakers are comfortable and it's not threatening. I suggest whatever their level of being comfortable is and finding that. But I know that's so difficult. It took me forever.

I remember when I moved to New York City is when I felt comfortable enough to let that out because I wasn't living under my parent's roof anymore. I lived alone and I still felt uncomfortable. I thought, "What are people gonna say?" I didn't want be mis-gendered. It was hard. I moved to the city when I was 24 and now I'm 30. It took a long time. But now they're are so many blogs and resources that people can look at and go to and think, "Oh, I may not feel comfortable wearing Oxfords but I really like heels. But I wanna wear a suit." It's out there and it exists. It just might be a little bit hard to find it in a magazine or on television or in a movie, but it's getting there and that's what exciting.

HOW DO YOU THINK THINGS ARE CHANGING IN TERMS OF ACCEPTANCE TOWARDS DIFFERENT GENDER IDENTITIES AND EXPRESSIONS?

I definitely think things are changing slowly, especially now with access to social media. It started with Friendster and then MySpace and then Facebook. And now it becoming just more of a public thing with Instagram and Tumblr, and finding other blogs and spaces that people can express themselves, whether it's behind the screen or in front of someone's face. People are able to share how they feel and slowly I've seen it change and it's wonderful. I'm really hoping for it to continue especially in the media and in fashion.

I was actually invited to come speak to the gay-straight alliance at my high-school two years ago. I was honored to be there and it was great to see all these kids, whether they were gay or bi, or trans or gender queer, or straight, feeling comfortable in their own skin.