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Clothes Really Don’t Make the Woman

Badly DressedI really used to look like an idiot. I’m not talking about back when I looked male (or more accurately, more male than I do now), but when I first started out in my transition. What brought this to mind was something a friend said about an acquaintance of hers. “It takes her 4 hours to get ready just to go to the grocery store! Then she’s the only one there who looks like they just came from a formal ball and she wonders why people stare.” I laughed at first, but then thought about it and concluded, yeah, that was so me not really all that long ago. My friend was able to admit the same about herself, so I began thinking that this would be a great topic to write about and maybe have a few laughs.

The very first time I ventured out past the backyard and into public was a Buffalo Belles meeting. I wore a black mini with white embroidery, a chiffon lace black top, and large hole pattern tights you would expect to see at Hot Topic. Oh, and heels of course. I accessorized with a big beaded necklace and enough Cover Girl to fill in every pore to the top and finish it with a half inch of powder. I was pretty happy with the way I looked. When I arrived, I felt like I fit right in. I did actually, but this was mainly because the majority of the membership consisted of cross-dressers, most of whom had only dressed for meetings at the super-duper secret location. If anything I was way underdressed for sitting in a dimly lit, well curtained room. It really kind of set the tone for the months to come.

For some reason, I, and probably you if you are trans, completely failed to open my eyes and look at what the women around me were wearing in day to day life. Somehow I was blind to the fact that the other women at Wegman’s or the Eden Corn Festival did not look like they stepped off the set of ‘Heathers’ or out of a 1996 Delia’s catalog. Unfortunately, both the aforementioned sources were great inspirations for me, though two decades removed from the present and my current age. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having a little panache and a unique sense of style, but neither are things that are really going to help one blend in. I think it’s OK if you are a cross-dresser to look like you are in costume, in private anyway, but when making permanent life changes picking an outfit from Spencer’s is probably not the best of ideas.

For the longest time I simply didn’t get it. I mean I waited three long decades and change to finally express my gender, so why not go whole hog with it? Why not find the prettiest, frilliest, fluffiest, patent, sequined, ruffled, baby-doll, girliest thing in the whole wide world and just wear that from sun up to sun down? Fuck pants. Pants are for men. So are shoes with less than a 4 inch heel, shirts that can’t be used as distress flags, and hosiery that doesn’t have Hello Kitty on it. Thankfully, my spouse wasn’t feeling overly vindictive, and was kind enough to stop me before heading into the world looking like a deranged old Shirley Temple or Pollyanna. Bless you if you get my references without having to look them up on Wikipedia.

I think of it as the curse of trans adolescence. Not necessarily dressing age inappropriate as we’ve discussed before, but putting way too much time and energy into nipping out for more onions and Grilled Bear flavored Doritos. It’s wearing heels when you know you will be walking on gravel. It’s wearing a skirt you didn’t realize rides up past your crotch when you sit because you only tried it on standing up. It’s wearing pantyhose when the situation doesn’t absolutely demand it. It’s all those little things that cause the world to stop for a moment, stare, and wonder, “wait, what the hell am I looking at there anyway?” It’s a painful anxious time, and I could not be happier that it’s over. Well, for the most part. I still get the occasional, “Um, you aren’t seriously wearing that to work, are you?” It’s a process.

The great lesson learned is that clothes do not make the woman. You are the same you whether dressed to the nines or slogging around in old jeans and a tee shirt, except in the latter most people won’t give you a second glance. Well, until you open your mouth and give your best Gary Busey impression, but that is another story.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

10 responses »

  1. I guess I’m fortunate in that dresses never held that much appeal for me. My standard outfit is usually a polo shirt and either shorts or pants (one of the benefits of living in the south I suppose). Admittedly I don’t get ma’amed, but I don’t stand out either.

    Though it did occur to me today walking in to Target, OMG my boobs were huge. Oh well it was too late to do anything about it, but if anyone noticed they didn’t say anything (another benefit of living in the south I suppose).

    Finally, I pretty much left the support group I’d been going to because I was tired of hearing “when you start dressing like a girl”, despite the fact that I was dressed like every other tomboy I know. 😦

    • So much the point I was trying to make Tristen and thank you for commenting! In the end, it’s all about how we feel most comfortable, isn’t it? I find it sad when we judge each other on how someone “ought to look” to be female, because seriously, are we really people who need to be throwing stones? 🙂

  2. You’re definitely onto something here. A great observation about our stages of life. Thank you. And I look forward to your writing, always.

  3. This stage is not something I’ve ever experienced…yes, I’m peculiar.

    I’ve become quite comfortable with pretty minimalistic preparation; I don’t think anything of popping into the store in capris, a fitted tee, with my hair in a nice scrunchied ponytail, pearl ear studs. It was *such a blessing* when I reached the day when I didn’t actually need what little makeup I was using. (I’m pre-op and have also managed to pass nude after showering {locker room}) It’s been months since I’ve been misgendered accidentally and I’m out and about a lot in our city.

    Somewhere I read that if you can get rushed out of bed, throw something on to meet someone unexpectedly and they gender you properly, well then you “pass.” This happens every so often, so it seems I pass.

    Actually, I don’t know *how* to dress to the nines. I’ve never learned the makeup techniques that most teen girls seem to live by. When I have had to dress formally, I try to keep things nicely natural and elegant in an understated way.

    This said, I think *most* of my femininity is signaled in the way I communicate, move, and behave as a self-assured woman. It’s amazing how these cover over my remaining masculine features. (I’m *thrilled* that my voice is finally sweetly feminine – lots of hard work, there!!)

    • You are so right Brettany! I know a few people who on looks alone could not pass for love nor money, but minutes after speaking with them anyone, cis or trans, would never think or describe them as anything but unquestionably female. Walk the walk and talk the talk and you’ll never be judged on the height of your shoes. Thanks for always giving such great feedback Brettany and I’m so sorry I so royally suck at commentary reply. Best of intentions, but the worst of follow through. Thrilled with those of you who so graciously put up with me. 🙂

  4. Is this where the 16 ton weight drops on me, ala Monty Python?

    OK, I was starting to get all this on my own, and you’re spot on with the whole “growing up” deal. I was recently through the “too made up for the mall” experience and as a result practiced toning down for grocery shopping. I was probably too nice looking for the support meeting I went to, but dammit, I wanted to be regarded as a WOMAN, at least there. In the rest of the real world, being man sized and shaped and featured for the most part, there isn’t a lot that’s going to shout “WOMAN HERE” unless I do put on some makeup and earrings and wear something that doesn’t say “I’M A BOY.” We all depend on visual clues to make an instant determination of someone’s gender, and being transwomen, we have to somehow suspend the viewer’s disbelief for a period of time. So now, for me, it’s down to more observing and studying, learning how to use just enough eye makeup for the right venue, depending on styling my own hair to say I’m a girl instead of wearing wigs, and practicing acting how other women act. The other tough part is suspending my own disbelief. I have a much more comfortable time at anything when I stop thinking of myself as a man in makeup pretending to be a woman, and start believing I AM a woman. That’s when I stop imagining everyone is staring and snickering.

    • Totally hear you there Deanna! I have so had the exact same thoughts. I’m getting over it, but early on, my whole MO was to dress in a way to ensure that people know at least what I was supposed to be, even if my presentation caused some mental confusion. I also used to have the same self-doubt – that I was just a man in a dress and makeup. That just took time to get over and speaks more to personal anxiety, or at least I think. Kind of al “I’ll think of it myself before they can” self-fulfilling prophecy thing. Now that I’m well over a year into my new life, I hardly ever give it a thought. 🙂 Thank you for putting up with my slow commentary response! Truly, I do suck with that. Hope we can meet up sometime as you live in my neck of the woods!


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