Being a tomboy doesn't have to mean dressing like your boyfriend. It can, of course, but there's a whole lot more to it.
And nobody understands the ins and outs of tomboy chic quite like Lizzie Garrett, who wrote "Tomboy Style" as a guide to the subject. Here, Garrett discusses her top tomboy style icons (unsurprisingly, Jane Birkin is among her all-time faves) and the wardrobe staples no tomboy should be without.
What was the initial inspiration, or concept, for the website?
"I had a blog called DESIGNwatcher, and I was covering lifestyle for magazines like Bon Appetit and fashion for the Los Angeles Times. And I grew up as a total tomboy, playing boy's little league—the total stereotype. I was reading fashion blogs like the Sartorialist, Garance Dore, what have you, and I noticed the word 'tomboy' coming up—you know, 'this girl is so tomboy-chic,' or 'this girl has great tomboy style'—and it kind of made me scratch my head, because, growing up, I remember going to high school and thinking, 'I need to tone it down a little.' I thought of it as an embarrassing thing. All of a sudden the word became less pejorative and more about cool girls. I realized, 'Oh, this is totally me.' It's never how I would have described my style, and yet it totally was.
"So, I started the blog as a digital inspiration board to flesh out the idea—what makes a tomboy stylish, who are the icons, what designers are doing this really well. The blog has grown from there. It just poured out of me, especially in the beginning. It's fun to look back at tastemakers and style icons through this lens of the tomboy. It felt natural, and took off quickly. I didn't promote it, it just happened organically."
Could you give a few examples of tomboy style icons?
"There are so many different ones, but the people I gravitate toward are those that really balance the feminine and the masculine. I think Jane Birkin does that really well, with the tousled hair, the T-shirt...it's a self-confident, adventurous attitude. She's the one I gravitate to most."
What about quintessential tomboy brands?
"The sort of obvious one is J.Crew. I think what Jenna Lyons has done for that brand has been really incredible. There's also Rag & Bone, Boy by Band of Outsiders, even YSL in the '60s and '70s with the smoking jacket, which let women wear pantsuits and tuxedos in a really sophisticated way for the first time. You can go back to Chanel, of course, and Paris in the '30s. A lot of the brands ebb and flow between more masculine and feminine. The trend has come in and out of fashion in different eras, and right now, we're experiencing a high point, so to speak, of women dressing in a tomboy-chic way. But who knows, it might fall out of favor in the next season or it might never go out of style again."
What does being a tomboy mean today?
"It goes much further than this simple notion of wearing boy's or men's clothing. What really identifies a tomboy is an inherent sense of confidence and rebelliousness or adventure…you know, the idea that you won't be limited by a societal idea of what you should dress like or be like. I think, in the most heady example, that's what a tomboy is. But you can also just throw on a pair of jeans a T-shirt."
Can you give an example of a tomboy wardrobe staple?
"It all depends on the kind of tomboy you are. In the book, I give seven types—[from] the sophisticate who's wearing the YSL smoking jacket to the naturalist who prefers bare feet and is more of a Huck Finn tomboy. In terms of one staple in your closet, of course it depends on who you are, but I live in L.A., which is really dressed down. It's really the city of $100 T-shirts. But I think a great-looking T-shirt and a great-fitting pair of denim is essential, and basically what I wear every day."
How do you suggest incorporating more feminine touches into a tomboy wardrobe?
"Tomboy style is about being sophisticated and mature, and being feminine at the same time. For example, if I'm wearing a dress, which I do often, I'll wear it with my husband's watch, to downplay it a bit. If I'm wearing jeans and boots and a blazer, maybe I'll wear high heels or more jewelry. It's just about finding that balance."