Atlanta’s Gentlewoman Clothing Dresses to Impress

by Conswella Bennett
Wednesday Jun 19, 2013

The clothes may make the man, but when it comes to women, baggy men’s suits just won’t do. So when well-known Atlanta lesbian Tina Laster Crittenden decided to launch Gentlewoman Clothing, she did so simply because she needed a good suit.

The suits in a store’s women’s department, no matter who the well-known designers were, just wouldn’t do -- the jackets were not quite long enough or the pants were too low on the butt. Although Crittenden is a lesbian she doesn’t wear men’s suits, with their long jacket sleeves and baggy pants not meant for a woman’s curves.

Men’s suits and even most women’s suits "just wasn’t a good look for me," Crittenden said. So, in 2006 she began decided to end her search for that elusive, perfect-fitting pantsuit. True to her nature, Crittenden knew what she wanted in a suit and wasted no time making it happen.

And if clothes make the person, then there was no question about the name of her clothing line, the name would simply embody the demeanor of Crittenden and her friend’s philosophy about how women should be treated: gently.

"My friends and I pride ourselves on how we treat women," Crittenden said of the reasoning behind the Gentlewoman Clothing name. "We used to say we’re just gentle women." Most have assumed the name Gentlewoman Clothing is a play off the term, gentlemen, but it is not.

Suits have always been a part of Crittenden’s wardrobe. Although most people reserve a good suit for important, special occasions or professional events, she has been sporting pantsuits since she was 18. Back in the day, she was the only one in her circle of friends who wore suits.

"Suits, it was just the look that I desired," she recalled. Donning a suit with bold bow ties or neckties is still her preference today. Besides feeding her need for a nice-fitting, stylish suit, she noticed that there were other women besides her who were in need of a good suit -- one made just for them.

During services at an inclusive church she regularly attended, Crittenden noticed some women wearing unflattering suits, and it was mostly because the fits just weren’t right.

"When I thought about Gentlewoman Clothing, it was a need not just for me personally, not just in the (LGBT) community but a real need," Crittenden said. Wasting no time, she began securing money and developing designs for different suits, saying, "I feel women can look like women in a suit."

But there was just one problem: Crittenden couldn’t draw or sketch. To get her designs from her head onto a sketch pad, she enlisted the help of a friend who could sketch out the designs of the suits that she liked.

Once she had sketches, she was able to get a suit made. Crittenden’s inability to sew didn’t stop her either. She found a manufacturer to make her made-to-measure suits. The first suit didn’t come out quite as she had envisioned.

"When I got the suit back, it had some small issues, but over the years I’ve been able to pinpoint the things to get it the way I want the suits to be," she said.

She has surrounded herself with a good team of people including her wife and partner, Angela Laster Crittenden, to make Gentlewoman Clothing a success and to put out a good product.

"With Gentlewoman Clothing, I don’t want to exclude anyone," she said of her suits, that are for all types of women, feminine, straight or dominant. You can rock a Gentlewoman suit with a bow tie, necktie or corsage, she added.

Gentlewoman Clothing offers top quality tailored two-piece, three-piece, leisure, double breasted suits and tuxedos. Crittenden is also hoping to start making shirts. Just like men’s suits, men’s shirts are also longer in the arms and just not made for a woman’s body. This is another opportunity for her to fulfill her dream.

The Gentlewoman suits can be purchased online. Customers choose the suit type, select their fabric, input their measurements, pay, and in about five weeks they will receive their made-to-measure suit.

More women are beginning to find out about Gentlewoman Clothing. So far, Crittenden’s clientele have been mostly lesbians in their mid-thirties and older.

"Very seldom do I see younger women with suits on," she noted. "I was probably one of the unique ones at the age of 18 wearing suits. "It’s just a phase they are in."


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