Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-10-17
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



BUSINESS Button Brigade trying to come to the rescue
by Liz Baudler

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Where does one go for a good button-up shirt?

For the recently out Katie Cooper, this question proved frustratingly difficult to answer. "Really, the only buttons-up that fit me OK, not even really that well, are little boys' [shirts]," Cooper explained. " I went shopping, and I literally came up short at every store. At one, I felt uncomfortable being in the men's department. The women's department didn't really have anything. It's all like with the darts and a little more flowy, if you will. So I naturally navigated to the men's department, and there was like nothing that fit me. It swallowed me whole. They're not made to accomodate curves or a chest."

It wasn't just her. "After talking to some friends, we were kind of in the same boat," she recalled. "Like, hey, where do you shop, I'm trying to find some more button-ups I can wear, and they were like, 'beats me.'"

With the help of the whole LGBTQ community, Cooper hopes to solve the perennial button-up problem for once and for all. The Button Brigade is a clothing company—backed by a Kickstarter campaign—that promises stylish, short-sleeve gender-neutral shirts across gender and body size. On the campaign page, shirt schematics advertise "no chest darts," "no gaps" when it comes to buttons, "easy tuck" and "better fit for curves," all common pitfalls when it comes to button-up shirts not designed to accommodate an androgynous style.

Memphis-based Cooper is a graphic designer, not a fashion designer, but that's where the Windy City connection emerges. "Literally, everything is in Chicago. My fabric source is in Chicago, they're getting produced in Chicago, my pattern maker is there, and also someone who helped me digitize my pattern," she said.

Cooper's location also inspired her to solve her button-up dilemma via Kickstarter. "There's nothing here that resembles gender neutral clothing besides T-shirts," she said. "I'm just trying to make it more accessible, and kind of be a role model to other LGBTQ people who will maybe want to start their own small business. At the end of the day, it's just trying to encourage people that you can dress the way you want to dress, and you can live in the South and be yourself."

Ten percent of the profits from Button Brigade's first run will go towards OutMemphis to support senior programs. Cooper hopes to do an interview project with the Southern LGBTQ elders about their lives. "I want people who are buying these shirts to see where that money's going," said Cooper, who wants the company's donations to benefit specific projects.

Yet, she admitted that her location might also be a drawback when it comes to getting the project up and running. "It's been hard raising the dollars to get this funded, being in the South," Cooper said. "I grew up in small-town Kentucky, and I went to a Christian university. All of my outer circles are more conservative, and I've kind of like exhausted efforts in my personal circles."

She also is very cognizant that the community she's trying to serve may be the least positioned to buy her product. "I think as the business grows and I can put in larger runs I'd love to bring the cost down," Cooper said. "I kind of hate the fact that someone who could really benefit from this project can't afford it. It's been my biggest struggle, because I'm fully aware of it being it hard on some people's wallets, especially for a marginalized group of people. When I first started out, I was like, 'oh my gosh, all of this stuff is so expensive, I'm going to make a shirt that's cheap!' But getting into it, I'm not Old Navy, so it's hard to get the costs down. They're being made in the States and they're a small batch production. They're getting manufactured, but they're definitely not mass-produced, and that drives the costs up."

She's critical of mainstream companies' attempts to create gender-neutral clothing lines, most of which are still focused on kids. "I think it helps in some aspects, people getting used to the idea of gender neutral clothing, but as far as them actually putting some effort behind it, I think they're just slapping a label on it, calling it progressive. I don't think it's doing anyone any good," Cooper said.

And her shirts promise to be significantly different in style than the mainstream idea of a gender neutral shirt. "A problem I've seen with other companies is just taking menswear and marketing it as a baggier look and trying to pull it off, but it's still not a tailored, professional appeal," Cooper said, recalling her yet another experience with a disappointing button-up, this one too baggy. "I'm trying to look fresh, I'm not trying to look like a potato sack."

Cooper's not averse to trying to do more, eventually. "If everything's successful, I would like my next line to be long-sleeved shirts," she said. "Long sleeves are not hard to do because you're just adding to the sleeves. As far as everything else, that's a little more on the back-burner. It's really just going to depend on funding. Pants would be way down the road. I really want to tackle just one thing first and like make it perfect, rather than half-ass a lot of things.

At its final hours, The Button Brigade's Kickstarter is just under $20,000—and the company needs $27,000. Even if failure is a possibility, it won't dampen Cooper's enthusiasm.

"I'm not giving up. It's less of a failure and more of just research," she said. "I've gotten a ton of positive feedback, I sent out a survey on how I can improve the product, and I'm probably doing a relaunch down the road, still this year."

A retooled Kickstarter would likely involved a scaled-back project—less fabrics, for instance—more geared towards creating the brand's first run, and perhaps even a one-day incentive with a shirt sold at cost to help those who might not otherwise be able to afford to donate.

"Ultimately, my main goal is to create conversations about gender neutral clothing, and just providing a shirt for someone that makes them feel like themselves," said Cooper.

The Button Brigade's Kickstarter can be found at or . It is open until 12 p.m. on Thursday, April 19.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Tamale Sepp starts a new chapter 2018-10-17 - Internationally renowned comedian and interdisciplinary performer Tamale Sepp has relocated to the East Coast after serving up 16 years of comedy, performance art, ...

Gay News

Two spaces celebrate access to artists with disabilities 2018-10-17 - Accessibility has many shades of meaning in the arts, far beyond the question of "Is this work that people can understand?" For artists ...

Gay News

A Cradle Song Part One 2018-10-17 - A Cradle Song debuts in the Windy City Times as the new holiday classic. Filled with travail and woe, warmth and great joy, ...

Gay News

Arts in the Dark Halloween Parade to light up State St. Oct. 20 2018-10-17 - Arts in the Dark, the magical nighttime Halloween procession, will march down State Street for the first time, Saturday, October 20 from 6 ...

Gay News

Lesbian Erasure, Part One: Defining Lesbianism 2018-10-16 - [Author's note: for the purposes of space, except for brief references, this article focuses on lesbian couplings in the U.S.] Lesbians exist. ...

Gay News

WORLD Another bakery case, Austrian marriage, Mapplethorpe situation 2018-10-16 - Britain's highest court ruled that a Northern Irish bakery's refusal to make a cake bearing a pro-gay slogan was not discriminatory in a ...

Gay News

Twelve Chicago-based LGBTQ+ performing arts organizations to perform together 2018-10-13 - CHICAGO, October 11, 2018 — Chicago Gay Men's Chorus celebrates 35 years of making music with their upcoming holiday show 35th Anniversary Holiday ...

Gay News

Sisters In Cinema Campaigns to Build Media Arts Center In South Shore 2018-10-12 - Chicago - October 9, 2018 - The Chicago-based non-profit Sisters in Cinema has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the rehab and buildout of ...

Gay News

'Art for Life' gears up for annual auction 2018-10-10 - For years, the Chicago branch of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS ( DIFFA ), an organization composed of architecture and interior design professionals, ...

Gay News

Martha Wash, dance-floor diva talks Chicago musical, new CD 2018-10-10 - Even those who may not heard Martha Wash's name have certainly heard her voice. From the dance classic "It's Raining Men" ( recorded ...


Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.