By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Mar 24, 2004 at 5:45 AM

{image1}"We're tricking people into talking about certain issues," says Katinka Hooijer about her new line of all-frill, feminist T-shirts.

Her business -- co-owned with Milwaukee artist and designer Kate Cullen -- is called LadyLike WonderWear and so far it's a collection of commanding T-shirts frosted with one-liners about female bikers, the vocation of waitressing, breasts and more.

"We want to challenge gender stereotypes, but not in an aggressive way. We still want to be cute and sexy and fun," says Hooijer, a UWM instructor who teaches classes revolving around pop culture, human rights and women's issues.

The front of one shirt addresses the ridiculous wage for food and drink servers and reads "Service with a smile...For only $2.50 an hour!" At the same time, the three-fourth-sleeved T is a three-way between fashion, feminism and irony. It comes in valentine-sweet shades of pink and red and features the image of a smiling, buxom, Nordic waitress oh-so-eager to serve the frothy beer in hand.

Another T deflates breast implants. "Cheaper and safer...the bosom lift" reads the copy across the cleavage, with a drawing of a woman demonstrating an exercise to increase cup size that's quite possibly the same as Margaret's "We must, we must, we must increase our bust" from Judy Blume's preteen classic, "Are You there God It's Me Margaret?"

The back of the shirt reads "rubber, glass, ivory, olive oil, petroleum, jelly, paraffin, silicon, saline, soy" which are some of the substances used by plastic surgeons to augment breasts.

A capped-sleeve T-shirt revs up the shafted "biker broad" -- Hooijer says very little has been written about chick cyclists -- and reads "The Milwaukee Vibrator." This shirt is also available for men.

All of LadyLike's shirts come with a conversation card, described as a "60-second sound bite" of information about the shirt's message so the wearer is ready with a quick comeback when someone asks about it.

For example, the "Biker Broads" card reads: "... these women represent a new breed of biker babe and prove that dames prefer straddling a bike to being draped over it like a cheap piece of lingerie."

The T-shirts range in price from $19.95 to $24.95 and are limited editions with only a few hundred to a couple thousand printed of each.

LadyLike WonderWear launched after Hooijer and Cullen shared a similar sickness of seeing the same shirts in malls that perpetuated female stereotypes like those reading "Princess" and "Porn star." So last summer, after the two women met while Hooijer was waitressing at Izumi's restaurant, they decided to start a business.

"A lot of our ideas are not very 'ladylike' but we want to change what that expression means," says Cullen, 27. "We also want people to be really aware of what they're wearing on their chest."

"I wanted to get involved in a creative project and make things that included feminist issues and political activism," says Hooijer, 35, who completed her coursework for a PhD in cultural anthropology but opted to focus on LadyLike instead of her dissertation.

LadyLike WonderWear is committed to nurturing a new product every few months, and may expand to include other fashion items in the future. Upcoming T-shirts may include messages about beauty pageants, breastfeeding and female pirates. "You learned about guy pirates in fourth and fifth grade, but not girl pirates," says Hooijer, who was formerly the curator for the Feminists for Fornications sensual assault shows.

The public is encouraged to submit shirt slogan ideas via their Web site,

Cullen and Hooijer say their shirts also perpetuate women's oral history. Because they feature avant-garde messages, they generate questions from others and in turn encourage women to converse about important feminist issues.

"People still think feminism is a bad word. Many still equate it to man-hating," says Hooijer. "We are even conflicted about it because the word is also construed as elitist and most of our topics definitely have working-class appeal, like biker broads, waitressing and porn."

LadyLike WonderWear T-shirts are available at the Riverwest Coop, Spa Roma Urban Day Spa, UPROC, Jackpot and on their Web site.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.