Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Cultivating a style

    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.

10 comments:

  1. I'm glad to see this blog. I've not written much on this, either, since here in Blogistan, we need to be all serious, pensive, and such. I think that if one has clothes that she's comfortable in, mentally comfortable, that'll go a long, long way towards "passing" and acceptance.

    And there are brands that will work better on you than others, as you mention. Both in terms of fit, and style. For example, I like Ann Taylor. But all their sleeves are too short. But Banana Republic seems to fit. Affording a wardrobe from either one of those places is another story in and of itself. :)

    Anyway, I'm glad you've found a style that works for you. As for me, I'm still a work in progress.

    cheers!
    Teagan

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  2. Deep thinking is all very nice and all, but you have written about the very practical and essential part of getting on with life as a two-spirited individual, and I really appreciate your insights!

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  3. Do you know Jenny, I have never really thought about labels, designer clothes or anything like that but I have taken notice of style. You are right in saying that one needs to find a style that suits them and doesn't make them look ridiculous or stand out in a crowd for all the wrong reasons. In that sense it makes a lot of sense to be choosey about your clothes. Personally I buy what I like as long as it suits me and I don't look stupid wearing it. It is a learning curve but these days I don't give it as much thought as I once did when out buying clothes. My ex often accompanies me now but funnily enough she doesn't seem to have a 'dress sense'. She tends to dress down all of the time and is usually to be found wearing jeans and trainers with sloppy jumpers! I am always to be found wearing skirts and tops and I now have quite an extensive wardrobe. I dress reasonably smartly even for work and am never to be seen without make-up. People say I always look nice when out. I think that after years of dressing, especially post-op, dress sense becomes natural and doesn't require much thought. It is always best to seek anothers opinion of course if you can and as your wife assists you, assuming she has good taste, you are very fortunate.
    Sales? What sales?.....LOL

    Shirley Anne xxx

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  4. Hmm... I had a discussion about style with my therapist this week.

    Style, and hence your clothes, is how you tell the world who you are. Hence it's always, on some level, about the clothes. Let's face it people would not throw all of their male clothes away if that wasn't the case would they?

    Maybe it's not *just* about the clothes would be a better sentence...

    You can also choose to make a statement or not with clothes. I prefer not, but that's just my choice - someone else could have an entirely different view. Providing you accept that you are making a statement, and people comment on statements...

    Stace

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  5. Excellent post and very well said. Each of us needs to focus on a style that works best for our size, body shape, age, etc. Isn't that what GGs do. For women, in most cases, is comes naturally and is learned from an early age. Of course there are some GGs that never quite get it right.

    For us CDs we need to try harder to present with an appropriate sense of style. I cannot fool myself into thinking that I pass as a woman. Of course, there are times when I may pass and there are even more times where I am simply accepted but the critical turning point for me was to find a level of self acceptance with my choice of dresses, lingerie, makeup, shoes, etc.

    Once again, this was a good post.
    Pat

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  6. I hate to say this, Jenny, but with me it really isn't about the dressing. I mentioned once or twice in my own blog the the most intensive crossdressing I have ever done was prior to age 10. After that, I suppressed it and I really have only a minimal interest at this point. I do consider myself fairly fashion savvy but I also know that no matter how good I may or may not look en femme, I still see a male in the mirror and that is incredibly depressing for me.

    Someone suggested doing some crossdressing as therapy (might have been Anne) and I did purchase some clothing items that probably look fairly decent on my body (a blessing, I suppose), yet that male in the mirror just kills the moment. And, worse yet, I still never lose track of the knowledge of what lies below the belt and that is really the root of my problems.

    Sorry for being so serious about this.

    @Pat - Some of my CD friends are absolutely terrific fashion advisers. They know all of the tricks!

    Calie xxx

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  7. Morning everyone,
    Thanks for your comments, I'm glad this post resonated with you. I appreciate not everyone's take on all this is the same as mine, but for those of us who dress this is one of the hurdles we all have to clear.
    I'll always see a bloke face in the mirror too. Just sometimes though I catch a glimpse of my sister though, and that's magic, for an instant.
    My online sale purchases arrived yesterday. A very nice skirt and top from Kaliko, a favourite brand. I'm so vapid! :)

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  8. Were I see a problem is why should I have to discuss my clothes choice at my gender identity clinic. My psychiatrist described me in a report as being "femininely dressed and convincingly female". This seems to be held up as condition for receiving the treatment that so many of us need. My problems are with my body and my abject disgust with it in it’s current configuration. I do not have any problems with my wardrobe. They are just clothes and I buy them from the same places that any other woman would.

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  9. Entire weighty tomes could be devoted to that particular subject!

    I see why they are interested in that, and by extension why there is a requirement for RLE. However you might ask whether some of the judgements and language used might come across as rather odd if they were applied to a FaB woman.

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  10. I cannot help but wonder if the psychiatrist's report might read "presented as a female ready for a visit to Walmart (read Tesco)" if you went in your flats and track suit with hair under a kerchief.

    In other words, is the point for the psychiatrist to be aware of a style (any style at all) that will indicate female?

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