Until now, clothing has not emerged as a topic on this blog. You see, because we're all serious about this business, we can't be caught talking about frivolous things like clothing. That would make us all sound like a bunch of transvestites, and we couldn't be having that, oh no.
So apart from the occasional rant about socks, I've kept schtumm on the subject. But a few weeks ago Lucy revealed "It ain't about the clothes" to be a deplorable cliché, and that opened the floodgates, at last I can hold forth on matters of fashion.
I suspect it must be something we who are born male bodied but aspire to be female all suffer from at some time or another, an obsession with passing. (Do FtMs share this, or do they lapse into comfortable blokedom and not have a care how they look?) Some girls never seem to lose it and no matter how far into stealth they run or how much painful and expensive FFS they endure they still see the bloke looking back at them in the mirror when nobody else can detect a trace of him. Others take a diametrically opposite tack and flaunt their impassability, shaking off adverse comments with boundless self-confidence. I admire this last group of ladies immensely, they seize life and just go with it in a way I simply would not have the courage to do.
My obsession with passing has largely er... passed. It took the form not of an obsession with making myself passable but a crushing depression that as an oversized bloke I'd never make it or fit in as an extreme oversized woman. The experience of going out presenting as female has taught me that the whole experience has a lot more to it than simply how you look, and that a face that betrays your origins or physical size that makes you the first person people look at in a group are only components of a much wider mosaic of female presentation.
In short, to be accepted as female you don't need to pass as such, but to mount a credible picture, to present to the world with style. And it is acquiring that style that has replaced passing for me as a consuming interest in this line, particularly at this time of year when the sales can place so much temptation before you.
Compared to some in my position, I am fortunate in my history. I was never a closet crossdresser. As I spent my early adulthood suppressing all this, I never had a stash of clothes, I never had awkward visits to charity shops, there was no cache of lingerie for my wife to discover and I never purged. So I never evolved an inappropriate look or wardrobe and I never found myself tempted into any of the multiple "scenes" that hover round the edges of our grouping. As my friend Dawn puts it, "It all looks like a lot of fun, but you wouldn't wear it to Tesco now, would you!".
Instead, as I began to explore cross-dressing as an adult I did so in the company of my wife. I was able to tap into her enviable sense of style as well as to expand on my own tastes and in doing so I hope I managed to avoid the more grievous faux pas that so many women, both FaB and otherwise fall in to. I might only have had the mirror and my wife as critics at the time but I avoided the "Mutton dressed as lamb", the "Mother-of-the-bride", the "Bet Lynch", and worst of all for a tall girl, the "Short fat girl on stilts"1. So at least when I stumbled from the closet, I knew I didn't have to worry whether my clothes were age or occasion appropriate, my wife's training through many hours of sitting together drinking coffee and people-watching had seen to that.
It comes down to why you decide to crossdress. My simple desire in all this is to be accepted as female in my everyday life. For reasons I've covered in depth, that isn't about to happen, but part of keeping the girl quiet involves dressing as though that were the case. So when making my choices the consideration is: If I were full-time, would I wear that to work, or would I wear it to Tesco? Thinking about the outfits some of my female colleagues choose to wear to work, that's a rather wide target.
One of my biggest surprises in all this is that I have become a label victim. No, I don't flash my wad by wearing designer logos in an attempt to prove to the cognoscenti that I too have no taste, instead I've found myself becoming very picky about the brands I buy. It was inevitable that I would not look at brands aimed at different groups such as teenage girls or petite women, but I've found the brands that have the style I want, and have become a devotee of their products. Hardly surprising when you think about it, it's one of those Duh! moments, I'm just doing exactly what I've observed all the women around me doing for years.
My sister made an observation to me a few months ago, that I have never cared for my clothes as a bloke. In fact what she said as someone who was five years old when I was born, was that when I was a very young child I didn't like wearing my little boy clothes and couldn't wait to take them off. Now she knows all about Jenny she said, so many things about me made sense to her.
So I've cultivated a style. I'm not flattering myself that it brings passing in itself, but that's not the point. My wardrobe contains outfits in which I feel confident because I feel they flatter my ungainly shape, fit in with the environments I wear them in (Or would wear them in, in some cases) and do not draw attention to me in themselves. And if there's one thing that all those years of people-watching have taught me, it is that if I've achieved those three things then I'm ahead of the game compared to a significant number of the people who pass our coffee shop window. And none of them ever think for an instant about passing.
Good luck to you all in the sales!
1A lot of female clothing in larger sizes is designed to flatter short fat women. If a girl with legs up to here wears those kind of clothes that's what she looks like.