Jane Barnes, How to dress like scary and femmy dykes

Some lesbian herstory from Jane Barnes

How to Dress Like a Scary Dyke

She said, Wear my leather jacket, a looser
sweater. Take off that lipstick,
don’t fuss with your hair. Wear
jeans and boots. That ought to do it.

I still had stockings stuffed like
seaweed in packages, and nylon pants
that made my crotch itch without desire.

I still had black high heels
I bought to make me look all business,
but I couldn’t get to the business
of not dressing for men.

She told me what they’d like,
those scary dykes.
I took these notes.
Wanted to learn real bad.


How to Dress like a Femmy Dyke

Go with a perm or a duck tail
— low maintenance.
Heavy on the eye paint, a little hard.
Blood-red lips. Develop a swagger
in your fuck-me shoes, or wear
expensive cowboy boots, the kind
that go with gypsy clothes.

Get three holes in one ear
and pour on the gold.
Use tons of Yes, the new perfume.
Wear fifties coats with shoulder pads.
If you get a little plump,
just pile on the frills.

Go to Prelude and order Kaluha with cream,
or cream with anything.
Dance up a storm.
And if a scary dyke looks too long at you,
start picking the polish off your nails
or burst into tears and
beg her to take you home.


Jane Barnes is an American lesbian bisexual (sorry) poet, the author of Extremes, a poetry collection.

7 thoughts on “Jane Barnes, How to dress like scary and femmy dykes

  1. …and nylon pants
    that made my crotch itch without desire

    its in the eyes, in the mind and not in the clothes…that which makes the crotch itch and want with desire.

  2. I like the way she talks about lesbian desire through fashion because it draws attention to the fact that we lesbians do have fashions!

  3. it’s not possible for me to be a lesbian AND a bisexual; it’s far too greedy and takes up too much ink. I’m of two minds and therefore I have much in common with everybody. I gobbled up the Colette role model books early on. I think I blushed as I read them. Aw! I was just twenty-three. Call me bipartisan! And thanks for all the love.

  4. Hello from NYC on the 11th 9/11. We here see the new tallest building, but always the two towers. I used to orient myself by the twin towers from 14th street at sixth, and put them in a poem, and then… We have only the day… And the other day I went swimming with four friends… In a pool near the beach…prosperity comes as a surprise. And we here are tramatized, look for suspicious bundles on the subway, nobodys healed despite the healing we have all worked to have. The skin of my arms is solid gooseflesh and I hear jackhammers building ..written from Astoria, Queens, jane

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