Fashion From 'The L Word' and Why These Women Are Still So Important 5 Years After the Finale
In 2004, Showtime produced something pretty special: The L Word . The epic television show that ran for six seasons brought us the first portrayal of lesbian, bisexual and transgender female characters on mainstream television — and not as some kind of slapstick comedy, either. It was touching, dramatic, intense and sexy. And it was what a lot of us needed to get through closeted days and the fear of the never being accepted.
Like any TV show, it wasn't perfect. The L Word often fell short when it came to depictions of race and toward its final season, it had a tendency to opt for the bizarre and jaw-dropping when it was totally unnecessary. But in the five years since its finale, it's still the most influential show of its kind. As Dazed writer Jossie Thaddeus-Johns writes, "The main strength of The L Word was breaking the boundaries of writing all this stuff down, becoming iconic for lesbian and bi women everywhere."
Among its many fortes, The L Word did a lot in terms of fashion. I don't just mean that the characters often looked cute, and that that was a good thing. I mean that each of them taught us something about the relevance and importance of fashion — and the ways in which we can become more ourselves by using the wonderful outlet that is clothing. So here are the leading ladies of The L Word, and a few of the many lessons they instilled.
Image: Naomi Kaltman/Showtime
At the end of the day — no matter how many hearts she broke or ladies she screwed over — Shane was actually one of the most level-headed characters of the show. She was a good friend. She always kept a secret. She knew how to step up and be there for people. And she took androgynous fashion to new levels. Velvet blazers, tartan skinny jeans and converse were her forte.
In the space of six seasons, we saw a shy Midwestern girl in leggings and a denim mini skirt transform into the theatrical, pixie-esque babe we all loved to hate. Jenny showed us that dramatic fashion can be really fun to play with, be it a multi-layer pearl necklace, a massive cupcake-style dress, lace on leather or thigh-high, lace-up boots.
Bette often got a bad rap. She cheated (on Tina and Jodie) and could come off as excessively egocentric and pretentious. But beneath the facade was a woman afraid of feeling, afraid of commitment and afraid of herself. If there’s one thing you can’t deny, though, is that she made work-wear sexy. Whether Bette was wearing a pant suit, a pencil dress or a slightly more flowery, sheer top, she always looked strong, powerful, ambitious and intriguing.
Our quintessential girly-girl, Alice perfected frilly dresses, jacquard textures, pink skirts and sparkly things. Jenny referred to her (or to Alice’s alter ego in Lez Girls, if you will) as a fashion victim — but she wasn’t anything of the sort. Alice showed time and time again that it’s ok to be super femme, and that it doesn’t make you any less strong, bold or respectable.
It would be impossible to peg Tina to one fashion genre, but that’s kind of the point. Through her versatile choices — that ranged from business suits to pastel dresses to plunge-neck evening wear — she showed us that we don’t have to be just one thing. As people, we don’t always have to fit some kind of box.
Tasha’s fashion choices lived somewhere between tomboy and power woman — and time and time again she looked sleek, elegant and wonderfully minimalistic. Whether she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, or a waistcoat and work pants, Tasha was eye-catching and showed the beauty in opting for less in-your-face choices.
You’ve got to hand it to Helena. She truly evolved from the spoiled brat who’d had everything handed to her on a silver platter (literally) to a co-business owner and genuine hard worker (OK, so granted she did steal a shit ton of money, too). With her financial transformation also came a fashion one. But the biggest lesson to take away from Miss Peabody is that you don’t need to spend thousands to look incredible.
Oh Dana, we still miss you. The show was never quite the same after your sudden and unfortunate passing. There was something about Dana that was just fun and silly and wonderful. And a big part of that was down to her effortless fashion. She never seemed to be trying too hard. She just did her own thing, and it always worked.
As a trans man, Max’s time on The L Word is filled with heart-wrenching moments, the battle to be accepted amongst the gay and lesbian communities and a transition that makes us feel and cry and love him all the more every episode. Watching Max evolve from the “butch” lesbian he thinks he has to be, to the guy he actually feels he is, is pretty wonderful. Along the way, he shows us how much a difference dressing the way we want to makes when it comes to feeling the way we want to.
There’s something really special about Jodi, and this manifests itself in her fashion time and time again. Her choices (when she’s not dressing for work meetings) tend to consist of slouchy jeans with heels, khaki-colored jackets and loose-fitting, but somehow silhouette-enhancing tank tops. She shows how sometimes the most basic items can look artistic, fun and sexy.
Carmen de la Pica Morales
Our favorite Latina beauty often opted for belly shirts, tight jeans and comfortably cozy hoodies. But at the end of the day — no matter what she wore — her choices proved that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel sexy. And that showing a little skin doesn’t equate to being unclassy or whatever other absurd notions surround more revealing women’s fashion.
Oh, Phillis. You were the most endearing, closeted lesbian television has ever seen. She proved that women — no matter their age — can always be beautiful and sexy and great. Despite being middle-aged, and often surrounded by older ladies who were under the impression that being over 50 means no more fun fashion ever, Phillis wore the best outfits, blending in the sexy with the elegant.
Papi brought street-wear to the high-street in The L Word and it was brilliant. We’re seeing a lot more of this style these days, through bloggers like Nadia Aboulhosn and awesome brands like City of Savages. But Papi did it way before. Whether she was accessorizing with hoop earrings or a fedora, she looked stunning every single moment.
Bette’s big sister Kit had serious glam factor. The successful musician turned cafe business owner could rock the glittery, the sparkly and the bedazzled. And what’s better, she was a totally unafraid of wearing bodycons and form-fitting fashion, whether she was slender or slightly fuller-figured. Kit, we love you.