How-to buy a dress when you look like a guy
One of the important things I learned during my transition is this: a great many of the issues I perceived as “barriers” preventing me from being my “true” self only existed inside my head. In point of fact, many of them were excuses I used for years to deny the truth of my transgenderism.
But I learned to overcome them. I got to a point where, before I transitioned, I could routinely go into department stores presenting as male and buy women’s clothes. Never once did anybody say anything or give me an odd look or whisper about me with a co-worker. Quite the opposite. They were very respectful. Some even complimented me on my taste. (I think it only right to mention the stores that treated me this way: Macy’s, J.C. Penny, K Mart and Wal-Mart.)
Merchandisers, or at least their marketing departments, are aware that the transgendered exist. We are a target marketing group they can sell “stuff” to.
You also have what the politicians call the element of “maximum deniability.” You could just be one of those few men who actually do buy clothes for their girl friend, wife or even an elderly mother who has limited mobility. In the course of my job I once met a very wealthy woman whose husband bought all of her clothes for her. He had the fashion sense and she didn’t.
I understand, however, that some of you just won’t be able to bring yourself to do this, at least at first. That brings us to option two: mail order. Mail order works! (And don’t worry about the name on the mailing label. Your mailman or mailwoman doesn’t care. He or she has seen it all. They can even guess what’s in that “securely wrapped brown paper package” by looking at the return address.)
Yes, there is the shipping and handling charge. Yes it makes returns a pain. (I can’t help you there.)
I’ve always had good luck with these mail order merchandisers: Newport News (fashionable, well made and reasonably priced), Metrostyle (fashionable and slightly lower prices), Lew Magram (slightly funkier fashions), Spiegel (see Newport News), One Hanes Place (reasonably priced lingerie and hosiery), and, if you need larger sizes, Woman Within, Jessica London, Chadwick’s and Roaman’s (these last three are also a great source for shoes).
The important thing here is to understand the sizing on women’s clothing and know your measurements. Women’s clothes are much more form fitting than men’s. Fit is everything. And if you get the fit right, you won’t need to return merchandise very often.
Every one of the above mail order firms has a website. Go to the web site, locate the sizing chart and print it. It will show you the sizing according to three key measurements: bust, waist and hips. Use a tape measure to find your three key measurements. (If you can find a friend to help, it will go easier.) The sizing chart will explain exactly how to measure. (And be honest with yourself about your measurements!)
For women’s shoe sizes go to a website like Payless Shoe Source. They will have a foot size chart you can print off. You just put it on the ground and put your stocking foot on it. Be aware, your man’s shoe size will not be your women’s foot size. (My man’s shoe size was 10 and a half. My women’s shoe size is 12W.)
Also be aware that the sizing of women’s clothing varies slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. If a size 18 fits you in one manufacturer’s clothing line, it might not fight you in another manufacturer’s. Always check the sizing chart and match your measurements to it.
Here are some general guidelines:
- Dresses, Suits, Blouses, Robes: Order by regular dress size
- Pants, Shorts, Skirts: Order by the waist size nearest your hip measurement
- Sweaters, Slips, Oversized Tops: Order by the size nearest your breast measurement
- Body Briefers: Order by waist size nearest your waist measurement
- Bras: Order by chest and cup measurement (the size chart will explain how this is calculated)
Now here’s a very important point. If you haven’t started Hormone Replacement Therapy yet, or have only just recently started, be aware that, over the course of the next three or so years, the shape of your body is going to change significantly. Your hips and thighs are going to widen. Your stomach will become rounded and, of course, you will grow breasts. If you are at this point don’t go racing in and buy a full wardrobe of expensive outfits. You will outgrow them. (The cup size of your bra may change every couple of months for awhile.)
If you are in this stage of the transition consider thrift shops. You can get some pretty nice clothes at fire sale prices. (And I’m talking designer labels.) Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army have nation-wide networks of stores. But if you want a chance at the really good stuff, locate the hospital thrift store in your area that is the favorite charity of your local society types. Believe me, with a little diligent shopping you will find designer clothing (Chanel, Dior, Versace) at incredible bargains.
One last thing. Before you decide on your “look” watch the women around you. Analyze how they dress for different occasions. Notice what they choose to wear. Emulate their look. Your goal is to blend in and be accepted by those around you. That old saying may be unfair, but it’s true: looks count.
This time around, I focused on the male-to-female experience simply because that’s what I am and that’s what I know. I invite and encourage some of our female-to-male brothers to share their experiences with this particular part of the journey. I look forward to hearing what you all have to say.
Photo credit: stock.xchng.