“Fashion reminds me that I’m free”: 9 LGBTQ+ people on what fashion means to them


As London Pride returns to the streets of the capital after a you-know-what-induced hiatus, Stylist spoke to members of the LGBTQ+ community about what fashion – and self-expression – means to them.  

In 1972, the LGBTQ+ community and its allies took to the streets of London for the capital’s first-ever Pride protest. The event, which was attended by around 200-500 people, was heavily policed – but that didn’t stop protestors from taking to the streets.

Fast-forward 50 years and London has just hosted its quinquagenarian Pride, with an estimated 1 million people – including representatives from more than 400 LGBTQ+ community groups – taking to the streets this weekend to stand in solidarity with the queer community. London mayor Sadiq Khan’s office has touted it as the biggest London Pride ever.

Anybody who had the pleasure of being in or around central London yesterday will have seen the sea of dancing rainbows, clouds of glitter and high-octane sartorial shimmer that the LGBTQ+ community, and its allies, were sporting as a nod to the rainbow shades of the queer flag.

It’s not all rainbows, glitter and shimmer, though. Navigating the minefield of simmering tensions between the police and the queer community, the regressive attacks on the trans community and the current government’s voting record on LGBTQ+ rights, means that identifying as a queer person in today’s world isn’t always easy. It’s made even harder by trying to establish your own visual identity, of which fashion is a key part. 

1 million people took to the streets during London Pride 2022.

Gender norms and outdated and prescriptive attitudes to fashion have made it difficult for members of the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate who they are, and how they wish to present themselves. That’s precisely why Pride, and the chance to see other members of the LGBTQ+ community standing strong in their truths, having fun and being proud, is so important. Being queer is about being unapologetically yourself, whatever that looks like. Half a century after LGBTQ+ people marched through the capital for the first London Pride, Stylist speaks to members of the queer community about what fashion – and, in turn, self-expression – means to them.  

Tully, 17

What fashion means to the LGBTQ+ community

“Fashion has always meant a lot to me since I was little. I used to cry when my mum used to make me shop in the girls section and as I grew up, I started dressing more androgynously and I cut my hair short and wearing more masculine clothes because it makes me feel more comfortable in who I am.”

Joel, 25

What fashion means to the LGBTQ+ community

“Fashion to me is the embodiment and personification of my personality. It’s who I want to represent, me as I am and my persona. For me, it’s a conduit of showing who I am on the inside and showing it on the outside.”

Hannah, 17

What fashion means to the LGBTQ+ community

“Fashion means a lot to me, because it means I can express myself based on how I feel during the day. It makes me feel comfortable with who I am without having to think about the judgment of others.”

Jacky, 26

What fashion means to the LGBTQ+ community

“Because I’m non binary, clothes can be hard. I use fashion now as a way to feel more comfortable in my body and the more comfortable you feel the more you can express yourself and have fun.”

Samantha, 36

What fashion means to the LGBTQ+ community

“Fashion means to me wild expression, colourfulness, oddly, nudity, and it allows me to show different parts of my personality. I love the way it allows me to be who I am.”

Drew, 26

What fashion means to the LGBTQ+ community

“The more you love yourself and the more comfortable you feel, the more you can wear whatever you want to wear. When I was younger, I stopped myself from wearing certain things, but as I came out, I learned to become proud of who I am and within that, wearing what I want to wear.”

Lily, 17 

What fashion means to the LGBTQ+ community

“To be honest, fashion helps me express myself in so many ways. Today, for example, I feel more feminine so I can wear something that reflects that. Other days, I can feel much more masculine and I wear something that reflects that. Either way, it can also intermingle and change and that’s why fashion is so important to me, so that I can express myself.”

Grace, 21

What fashion means to the LGBTQ+ community

“The way the fashion industry is now, it’s much easier for us to express ourselves and be proud of who we are, but it definitely wasn’t always like that. It’s grown and become better with time.”

Mycke, 28

What fashion means to the LGBTQ+ community

“Fashion is a way to build an armour, almost like a protection from the world. It enables us to influence the way people see us by how we present ourselves. This is a special day that we can be ourselves and Pride is so important to show everyone what we’re about. To let the armour come down for a day.”

Images: courtesy of Grace Bristo.

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