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Perfect Fit

Gender-neutral clothing line launches in Memphis.

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Shirts don't have to be for either men or women.

Button Brigade, a gender-neutral clothing line launching in Memphis, makes shirts that are "somewhere in the middle." Founded by Katie Cooper, the line offers short-sleeved button-up shirts designed to accommodate anyone.

"Seeing a need and meeting a need," is what Cooper said led her to form the business.

"I wear button-ups all the time, and having to shop for one is an absolute nightmare," she said. "It was really discouraging, and I was like, 'surely, I'm not the only one with this problem.'"

After chats with friends, who were also having a hard time finding button-ups, Cooper realized there was a shared struggle in the LGBTQ community to find androgenous, button-up shirts that fit just right. That's when she had the idea to create shirts that she said are "somewhere in the middle" and designed to work for everyone.

Based on body measurements, and a men's sizing chart with a few alterations, the shirts range from XS to 4XL and are meant to be "size inclusive."

Different from most button-ups, Button Brigade shirts are made with 10 buttons instead of the standard seven. Cooper said this is so that people don't to have to worry about "awkward" chest and waist gapping. Made for narrower shoulders, the shirts are also less "boxy" with a slight taper on the side to help with curves.

Shirts by Button Brigade. - BUTTON BRIGADE
  • Button Brigade
  • Shirts by Button Brigade.

"It's not like the most innovative thing," Cooper said. "It's just minor changes that make them fit better. It's not rocket science."

As for style, Button Brigade offers solid shirts as well as ones patterned with stripes, birds, and pineapples.

Beyond providing proper-fitting shirts, Cooper said another goal of the business is to help change the perception of the LGBTQ community in the South.

Cooper plans to give back a portion of the Button Brigade's profits to LGBTQ projects and initiatives in Memphis. The first beneficiary, OUTMemphis, is slated to receive 10 percent of the profits from the first line of shirts.

Details for the project haven't been confirmed yet, but Cooper said in some way she, along with OUTMemphis, will work to tell the organization's story, as well as the stories of those it has impacted.

But, in order to get the Button Brigade up and running and produce the first line of shirts, Cooper needs $27,000. To raise the money, Cooper is using the online platform Kickstarter, where people can donate money and get a shirt or other rewards in return. So far, almost $6,000 has been raised.

Once production wraps in August, six different shirts will be available on the Button Brigade website for about $110.

"I just wanted to make something to make a person feel okay about themselves, better about themselves, and more confident," Cooper said. "Because more times than not, they're already getting push back.

"So, if you can wear a shirt one day that makes you feel better and not care about what other people think, then, good, I've achieved my goal," Cooper said.

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