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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.

How You Wear It

Tuck

If you identify as female, either right off the line, or somewhere in the aftermarket, I think you are going to understand what I’m talking about. Why on earth is our clothing designed to malfunction only in ways most favorable to voyeurs and never the opposite? You have probably guessed right that this fun bit of indignation begins with a story.

The other night I was with my ex, son and a friend and her son at the Original Pancake House. Far superior, by the way, to the International House and their misleading name with not a single smoked fish or blood pudding anywhere on the menu. I think I had noticed walking in that my skirt seemed to be more binding than normal, but I paid it no mind. A little tightness is to be expected when gorging on kielbasa and basted eggs. It wasn’t until I got home that my ex pointed out, “Uh, you know the waist band of your skirt is way down below your ass.” My son picked up a few new words that day. I really have to watch myself with that. In any case, I found that by simply pulling it up, it was once again comfortable. My only saving grace is that I was wearing tights underneath, so thank the stars for a cold day.

I was trying to remember how often it felt wrong, you know, at the office. More expletives; pronunciation reinforced to a 5 year old sponge. It wasn’t the first time I found myself becoming unreasonably angry with the guys who work for me. Not long ago they stood conversing with me at length, and then let me go to two meetings in a row with jalapeno mustard in my hair. In their defense, I think they either truly didn’t notice, or assumed it was some sort of yellow and green accoutrement they didn’t understand. In any case, it’s clear no one is going to warn me away of making a complete ass of myself.

My ex explained that this kind of thing happens to all women at one time or another. Dress tucked into the back of pantyhose. Poorly constructed button triggered to snap just below the appropriate line of cleavage. Kick pleats and slits conveniently located on a seam stitched by one of the three blind mice after a night with Wild Turkey. Never ever do you hear someone complaining, “Dammit! This stupid snap came loose and completely covered my décolletage!” You never hear that. But why? Oh please, you know why. It’s the same reason men’s buttons are sewn on with high tensile steel thread, as are the butt seam of slacks. Even Rush Limbaugh has to make a pretty deep bend to split those poor suckers. Nobody wants to see that, so every precaution is there to make sure they don’t. No so true in our case.

All of western culture female apparel is clearly designed as the complete opposite of say, Middle Eastern garb. In the Mid-east, and not that I’m condoning this at all, women’s clothing is designed to absolutely minimize the chance that any bodily attribute not desired to be shown will suddenly make an appearance. In the West, total opposite. Skirts, essentially a tube around your midsection, can slip down, go up, be looked up in such a variety of ways that special uncomfortable leg and foot placement when sitting etiquette has developed. Even the long ones can be stepped on at the hem and pulled right down. Oh, believe me, I know. Most dresses are made of such light material as to head for the shoulders at the slightest breeze. Yes, even pants. The right fit (in other words, not super dumpy looking) are skin tight around the ass, with the worst ones undesirably showcasing camel-toe. Shirts and blouses, except for the winter ones, are almost universally cut to reflect the popular ‘hoochie’ look. There is one word for those who try to buck this trend – butch.

Understand, I’m venting here. Most women already know how to work within the system and achieve looks that are cute, feminine, and fairly low risk. I’m just learning how much care is required in making that a reality. Sure, I could go super butch, but honestly, I need all the help I can get to have any hope in being identified as the correct gender. If, however, I can manage that without mooning anyone or having a boob pop out, well, all the better.

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