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Do Sturdy Gals Have “Tomboy Style?”

Credited on Tomboy Style as “Photo of Vassar students playing touch football in front of Chicago Hall (1960s) via Vassar College’s flickr archive, found thanks to Mariah at Quite Continental.”

I just discovered a blog, Tomboy StyleLizzie Garrett Mettler, a freelance writer and contributor to the Los Angeles Time, chronicles women who dress in a certain way. For example:

Credited on Tomboy Style as photo of French sailor Florence Arthaud, winner of the 1990 Route du Rhum (transatlantic single-handed yacht race), by Jean Guichard, 1982.

Someone with Tomboy Style, in my iconography, dresses like a Sturdy Gal, but cool. Tomboys use the strength inherent in Sturdy to make sure a Gal never gets misused. They are comfortable in their skin, albeit a skin with extra-credit earning eye for design.

The photo at top is of women at Vassar in the early 60’s. My aunt, who provides me much of the inspiration here for Sturdy Gal style, graduated from Vassar in the late 50’s and went on to raise 3 boys, ski fast, ride bicycles through France, and put up her own boat-patterned wallpaper. The blog cheers me, rather a lot.

*Found via Cup of Jo. Alice at Summer is a Verb, a Sturdy Gal par excellence, bore witness here this morning. I do love data that confirms a hypothesis. Otherwise known as great minds think alike.

29 Responses

  1. Such an interesting perspective, it’s always so fascinating to look at these archetypes because so many intersect in millions of ways. I dress so plainly during the day and dress up for occasions so I guess I might be considered a part time tomboy dresser (although I probably wear way too much pink to qualify). Great post Lisa!

    xo Mary Jo

  2. I love this blog – I stumbled upon it a few months ago and check back often for the latest finds.

  3. Florence looks more BCBG than tomboy to me; tend not to think of tomboys as wearing little bow-tied bikini bottoms. But I might be out of touch. Tomboy is favoured (but not owned) by a certain subset of lesbians here, aka “boi style”.

  4. Two American icons comes to mind, one with emphasis on the “Tomboy” and one with emphasis on “Style.” Martha Gellhorn wasn’t so much a Tomboy as she just did what the boys did and often did it better. The second is Slim Keith, ften the recipient of “Best Dressed” award by Vogue, she was more on the style end, but like Gellhorn could be seen with a rifle resting against her shoulderblade. In fact, BOTH of them went hunting with Hemingway! And other things, but we won’t mention that…

  5. I think “tomboy” when done well, is very sexy and feminine. I think I’ve dressed that way my whole life, and have only really realized it recently. Curious what you think “tomboy” jewelry would be?

  6. tomboy jewelry: women wearing men’s watches or large leather or metal wristbands. sexy!

    another “tomboy” fashion icon comes to mind: Fran Liebowitz

  7. @Claire-

    Two really fantastic suggestions, thank you. I’m thinking of getting Slim Keith on Tomboy Style soon!

    Thanks for posting this!

    -LGM, Tomboy Style

  8. My grandmother went to Vassar – and I had to suffer through visiting the stone-silent campus when I was 12, such a relief to cross a school off at such a young age!
    Anyway, she was not a tomboy, but my mom other grandmother who went to Stanford could be called a tomboy in only the best sense of the word.

  9. This is so interesting! The tom boy girls I knew growing up (for several years) in a Long Island suburb consisting of a mix of middle and working class families were scruffy and got dirty playing hard and climbing trees. I was one. Girls like the ones pictured above and Sturdy Gals, based on how you’ve described them, would have been called preppies there. The Tom Boy/Sturdy style shown here communicates power and confidence; the tom boys and many other girls I knew from that town, myself included, lacked confidence. We were intimidated by the preppy girls!

    Then I moved to another town that was 85% Jewish and experienced a completely different dynamic. There were no preppies like the ones in the previous town but there was a definite style evoking power and confidence. These new girls were also intimidatinga and there were a lot more of them!

    But by then I’d figured out that my version of Tom Boy wasn’t a style that was going places and I wanted to go places.

    So interesting to see Tom Boy style turn up here in a completely different context! These Tom Boys are definitely going places, it’s obvious.

    I wonder if you can claim confidence through style or if the confidence has to be there in the first place for the style to come through.

  10. I just discovered Tomboy Style today myself! I’ve been a tomboy all my life, and proud of it! Maybe that’s why I relate so well to your Sturdy Gal?

  11. hi lisa,

    i just recently discovered this blog too and you know i’m a tomboy, i’ve been one my whole life. i LOVE her blog and i personally think tomboys can be v sexy. nice that someone else agrees.


  12. That top photo just makes me happy. If “tomboy” = doing good things and looking good while doing them, count me in.

    I had fun clicking back on your archived links here, Sturdy Gal.

  13. Need to check the blog out – interesting post Lisa – feel I could be a bit “sturdy girl” in my styling ! X

  14. I’m really glad you posted this. I myself have tomboy style and might subscribe to Lizzie’s blog!

    One thing I’ve wondered about Sturdy Gals is: the intersection btn style, identity, gender and sexuality. For example, do your SG fashion guidelines apply to sturdy lesbians or other queer women? What if we don’t want to wear high heels?

    Or what about straight women who are super tomboyish and just feel way more comfortable (ie, like themselves) in pants and loafers?

    Is it absolutely necessary to learn how to wear a dress and heels?

  15. With 5 brothers I was a tomboy, climbing trees, playing ball, etc. I grew out of that phase as I had to set an example as the eldest!

    Love the image!!

    Come and join my amazing Giveaway from Tracy Porter!

    Art by Karena

  16. I could never be described as such, mores the pity but I do sail or used to, we always went round Scotland and the isles with my dad.
    Oh and the Beverly Hills Hotel is so much fun, kitsch and fabulous.
    We were at the Post Ranch on the three darkest days I think I’ve ever seen in California, sunshine would have helped a lot.

  17. Zan – How terrible, really, that it ever was a bad thing. There’s that Dar Williams song, When I Was A Boy, that made me cry like crazy the first time I heard it.

    Mary Jo – Thank you. I think there are no neat and tidy corners in all this. We all look around for what we like and pick bits and pieces like magpies.

    Jan – That you do.

    Jen – Oh good! I felt such a sense of recognition when I saw it that I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it before.

    Duchesse – It’s the headwrap:).

    Patsy – Yes she is.

  18. Mise – Well, bring your girls to California. We have a Disneyland down south, and wine, alternative culture, and San Francisco up north:).

    Claire – I agree with Lizzie – great suggestions.

    Kathy – I wear a men’s Rolex Cellini. Also most anything from

    Linda G. – I always want to ask Fran where she gets her shirts:).

    Lizzie – You are welcome.

    That’s Not My Age – If I remember, you are right. Jane has been featured.

  19. Kiki – Stanford is a great place for tomboys. I think frisbee is featured in the Tomboy Olympics.

    Allie – Oh. My. God! You are so right.

    Susan – I believe that confidence can be built using style as a scaffolding. I certainly did that in my professional career. It was iterative – get good outfit, feel good, do well, feel better, get paid more, get better clothes:).

    Billie – Yes! I think the Sturdy Gal is absolutely one sort of Tomboy.

    Janet – You are a Tomboy Style Star, in my book.

    Legallyblondemel – Glad you liked some of my archives. I realize I’ve now been at this for over two years. Crikey.

  20. Mary Anne – I agree.

    Sarah – I hope you like the blog!

    Danielle – Unless your job or your social function (which is a kind of job) require it, I think there’s no reason whatever to learn how to wear a dress and heels – unless, and big caveat here, unless the knowledge would bolster your confidence or get rid of old fears. As far as the intersection of gender and sexuality, with style, I am writing from one cultural perspective. I would imagine that the code is different among queer women, and men, but I am not quite sure how the differences manifest. I also observe that gay culture is undergoing a lot of change, at the moment, so would hesitate to make a statement. Perhaps some others can chime in.

    Karena – Sounds to me like you set those brothers a good example of Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better:).

    Tabitha – I can quite imagine you on a sailboat. Sunshine should never be underestimated.

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