Yes, it’s all about the clothes, How often have we cross-dressers heard that sarcastic comment from the mouths of transitioned/transitioning women and it’s even echoed from the mouths of gender counselors too. Yet these same girls express their own lack of femininity in their dress. American women, in general, have become a nation of sloppy dressers and have learned nothing from their sisters of past generations. The millennials have taken casual dress to the extreme and in the process have lost much of their femininity. So yes, dress is important.
Linda Grant in her book, The Thoughtful Dresser, said it clearly, “Clothes were not what you wore to be comfortable, they were how you built your femininity…women instinctively realized that they would be judged on how they dressed”. This is hardly new news as psychologists have shown that how you dress effects the impression (and treatment) of yourself by others so giving a good first impression is hardly a new thought.
Unfortunately, in great swathes of America today, dressing up is the sartorial equivalent of the old class taunt, “who does she think she is”. Taking pride in being badly dressed, not caring how you look, and dressing to “feel comfortable” has become a standard and not an exception. And for women in particular, this attitude of sloppiness has spilled over into how they feel about their bodies often making them miserable. This in turn effects their purchases of clothes and buying what covers them rather than what fits them. And if you don’t feel good about your looks, your femininity will not shine through.
The feminist will say we should be judged on who we are, not how we dress, but “You can’t have depths without surfaces,” says Linda Grant. For centuries, an interest in clothes has been dismissed as the trivial pursuit of vain, empty-headed women. Yet, clothes matter, whether you are interested in fashion or not, because how we choose to dress defines who we are. How we look and what we wear tells a story.
Clothes are a lifelong journey into acquiring an identity, an identity which should be deliberately formulated and not by accident. This is what Sister House is all about – a guidebook to better dressing for trans women and cross-dressers. Indeed, all cross-dressing is a means by which we can give expression to those secret selves which lie beneath our obvious appearance. Both Kandi Robbins and Marie Greene (Sister House authors) will be talking to these points in coming months so stay tuned for their articles. But to start, read Marie’s observations on Gentle Reminders of Femininity.
You can pooh-pooh the importance of fashion yet all women want to look pretty. Some women say they don’t care about what they wear and they’re sloppy, but I think they are denying something that is essential to a woman. It has to do with both femininity and desireability. This story from post World War 11 illustrates the point. Shortly after the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen death camp, the British Red Cross arrived with a huge quantity of lipstick. The emaciated, bald and shivering women from the camp were all walking around with this smear of red on their mouth. It was a brilliant idea because that single initiative made these individuals women again. They all had this collective desire to look pretty again.
And so it is with most women. The desire to be pretty is there whether hidden or not, for it is in glamour that women have their strength and clothes are an integral part of that.
In Marcia Reynolds article in Psychology Today on What Does It Mean To Be Feminine, she cites this example from a speaking tour in China
“I just returned from teaching leadership and coaching skills classes for two weeks in China. I loved the beautiful, young women in my classes. Their clothes were exquisitely feminine as were their smiles, embraces and dancing eyes. To my surprise, when they handed me their business cards, they held titles of Director, Regional Vice President, and Managing Partner. Young educated women have equal opportunity to advance. Femininity is accepted in female business leaders in China as long as they are smart, focused and willing to learn.
Susanne, Lee and Camille talk about femininity for trans women on Transline Hollywood…a most interesting discussion
Finally, I loved this brief video on how cross-dressers can Feel & Be More Feminine !!
A pretty dress is just the trick to help bring out your femininity and yes, it is about the clothes. This particular dress which I had custom-made got rave reviews from my women friends and now I’m adding a silver petticoat to give it more fullness. And yes, I am seen as a beautiful, somewhat older woman and size has nothing to do with it. It’s the inner radiance that comes out when you are happy.