Monday, January 28, 2013

Every Girl’s Gotta Have One: A Gay Best Friend

Homecoming with Danny senior year

New Years Eve with Danny

In 8th grade I was already a savvy shopper. And returner. Every salesgirl at the Limited knew me by name. I was probably stored somewhere deep in their database for all the buying and returning I did. The mall was my favorite extracurricular activity, after synchronized swimming. When other teens were meeting to hang out and smoke, I was actually accomplishing something. I had that place mapped. Little did I know that I was about to meet the person that would change my fashion sense and life forever.

It was my first day of high school and there he was, Daniel Datzer, bounding down the hallway after homeroom in long athletic strides, wearing an Izod shirt, khakis and Tretorn tennis shoes.

I was making my way to my first period, Ms. Niggemeyer's biology class.Thanks to her alphabetical placement of students, Daniel Datzer sat down next to me, Keli Daniels, with his Lands’ End catalog and his worn-out edition of The Preppy Handbook. I knew I'd met my match. We became fast friends. He was my constant companion, confidant, and date to prom and homecoming.

When we should have been memorizing frog and cadaver body parts, we were exchanging notes and elaborate high-fashion illustrations, hidden inside The Preppy Handbook.

 We used that handbook not so much as a bible but as a guide, the rules of which we were just as anxious to follow as we were to break.

We nicknamed ourselves Kiki and Wynn and rode buses downtown and to the east side of Milwaukee to explore old thrift shops and army-navy stores. We bought hats, angora cardigans, coats, ties, brooches and vintage dresses.

I painted barrettes and made grosgrain-ribbon headbands, while Danny cut up oversized T-shirts and converted them into dresses for me. We stole his mother Ethel's pearls, along with her champagne. Then we took our style creations out for a spin at a gay bar or two in downtown Milwaukee. On the occasions when I could actually get past the discriminating bouncer, we drank water and danced all night!

Then there was the time we got pulled over late at night in the rain after switching license plates from my Karmann Ghia to his Dodge Dart Swinger. We had to fill out a card with our name, address, DL# and a description of what we were wearing?! The officer let us go with a warning but we were told that the cards would remain on file. To this day we still don’t know what that was all about.

We didn’t always get it right, but God knows we tried. There were the turquoise blue parachute pants I rocked, the pink and bright green duck shoes we both wore, the asymmetrical bob his boyfriend Dirk gave me, Danny’s Flock of Seagulls red dye job that highlighted his green loafers and black leather pants from Bigsby and Kruthers in Chicago. He also gave me the advice that proportionately my body didn’t work well with a purse. Hmnnnn. Like I said, we strayed from the rule book a bit.

During a time filled with angst and change and sometimes confusion, Danny and I had each other, and fashion was our way of expressing ourselves and communicating to the world who we were and who we hoped to be.

Today my style equation still reflects those times and those basics. And I find myself gravitating toward those great tailored pieces to anchor my wardrobe. Danny and I are lucky enough to be in each other’s lives shopping and sharing our ideas even now.

Recently, while shopping with Danny I discovered a few items worth mentioning: The updated Jackie cardigan at J. Crew teamed here monocromatically with their pencil skirt and the polka-dot sequin top, shown layered with their classic white blouse. Another current favorite find is the updated loafer. This one is the Braxton with grosgrain trim from Banana Republic.

Jackie cardigan and pencil skirt, both at J.Crew stores, sale plus 50% off

Online and in J.Crew stores, on sale plus 40 or 50% off

                                               The Braxton loafer at Banana Republic stores only

So who in your life has been your biggest fashion influence? I’d love to know.


  1. Well you are Bella! This is fantastic, and I must say, even though I thought you were insane growing up, with the closet covered with the Calorie galorie and tear out pictures of outfits everywhere, I understand and appreciate it now.
    Excellent posts, keep em coming

  2. Well..... What can I say?.... From the looks of that second selection, 'lots n lots of spots and dots', my work here isn't quite finished? Ohhhhhh darling.... You do nail it with soignée skirt and sweater set! Kudos!! See you at Barneys!!!

  3. I don't know if they were my biggest fashion influences but I had TWO gay best friends!! David & Rick! Rick and I went to two Spring Flings together and I can tell you what I wore to one of them. I had a shocking pink shirt with a white peter pan collar and a pink and white striped neck tie. Worn with a black pencil mini skirt and black tights. It is actually the best of the 80s!! Thanks for bringing back the memories!!

  4. *pouts* I always wanted a gay best friend. :( But as it was once told to be in reguards to plus sized fashion..."If you can't hide it, decorate it!"

    1. Miss Amy I do believe that a few gay men would jump at the chance!! XX

  5. This is the conversation we ended up having on Facebook!!

    Richard Winfrey I love it! We had your back! But you always looked dazzling anyway, so it was easy for us to take credit for it! We just weren't around eachother long enough! I enjoyed those times we shared! Good memories! XO
    4 hours ago · Unlike · 2

    David Leidholdt Indeed, I so remember that time you (Shannon) was modeling in Dearborn and Rick and I got into the act. I had this great stone washed black and red jack and black pants that used to pin the legs so they would be pegged. I loved that outfit. I also remember all the girls of Cranbrook theatre school with their cut off Flashdance sweatshirts... You all where so HOT! Good times indeed!
    9 minutes ago · Unlike · 2

  6. In response to Shannon Burwell's comment: I remember when Shannon and I went to that first spring fling (No one but Shannon knew I was gay, so people just assumed we were a couple) and I remember that outfit with the tie, it was perfect for dancing and we loved to dance. I don't know what happened, but Shannon and I started dancing like Fred and Ginger (and we didn't really take any time to rehearse) but, we had every step down and somehow we moved in perfect synchronization. We won a dance contest that night and it was a dinner for two at a mexican restaurant! Shannon always looked so "put together" and it seemed effortless (bitch). One of the dances Shannon attended she wore this beautiful backless gown (I don't think i attended that dance with her (but I might have...I've slept alot since then) but I do remember her modelling the dress for me and we discussed the perfect way to accessorize the gown. Shannon wore a long set of pearls that were knotted and fell down her back. Stunning. I also remember sewing her a small purse with a micro thin strap to go with the delicate lines of the gown (I had ironed the fabric for the purse to imitate a seashell pattern and it matched the dress beautifully). Gosh we were so beautiful then and we made everyone wish they were us! Great times

  7. Shannon, David and Rick, Thanks for the great comments and specifics! I am not surprised that Shannon could whip out a winning dance number! Rock on you Guys! And where is that purse now!

  8. OMG!!! Rick!! I forgot about winning the dance contest! I wish I still had the purse. Wow. The backless dress I think you are referring to is when I went to prom with Joel. I still have that picture and have been meaning to post it on FB. I also remember the portrait you made of me for Portrait of Jennie. I still have it. You made me look beautiful!

    1. OH my God! ok, now I'm means so much to me to know that you still have that. So much. You meant so much to me Shannon and I always think about the times we had. I didn't make you look beautiful, you are beautiful! You made my day!