Ms. Nora Simone is a mature crossdresser who seeks to present the image of a modern and sophisticated woman. She’s a father, a successful business person, highly educated, well–traveled and is happily married to an understanding spouse.
Ms. Simone’s writings about crossdressing have been featured in Frock and Transliving and now as a featured columnist on Sister House. Her image has appeared on websites where she has been a banner model, woman of the month and a calendar girl. Nora has also been a live classroom makeover model for crossdressers and transwomen and she was selected as a runway fashion model at First Event.
Nora is 5-11 ½ and weighs 190 lbs. and is a resident of the Washington DC area. She wears a size 14 dress depending on designer or brand and has an inverted triangle body shape.
Interview with Nora
What is the secret to great style? It’s no secret that great style is about dressing in a way that makes you feel happy, beautiful, and confident. Certainly there are steps to achieve this result but nothing is better than trial and error with feedback from true friends, honest strangers, and yourself by mirror reflection, photos and video. Accounting for your natural color palette, body proportions, and balancing with accessories, hair, and shoes should be considered a lifelong journey because adjustments are likely needed over time.
What is the one thing you would spend a lot of money on? Without hesitation, I spend an above average amount of money on style relevant service providers: seamstresses; photographers; and especially makeover artists. These experts have provided unbiased feedback on style unique to me and in some cases incredibly valuable personal tutorials. As educational experiences, these have been worth every penny in preventing costly mistakes and keeping my style journey in sharp focus.
What is the one thing you wouldn’t spend a lot of money on? Cheap disposable items and retail priced high end luxury items are wasteful spending. I spend on sensibly priced sound quality goods with a proven track record of what works for me: wigs, shoes, gowns, makeup. My priority is to identify articles that fit my style and then seek the best price possible. Consignment shops, for example, have been a source of otherwise unobtainable costly treasure.
How do you balance new trends with a more timeless look? Carefully and slowly! “Balance” is a keyword in that question. Adding a new piece to proven looks is comfortable for me. Historically a desire for drastic style change is a signal that I’m trying to fix something else in my life with new clothes, shoes, accessories, or hair. This has nearly always been a mistake. I’m much more confident and cautious now.
What is your current obsession? Easy-care travel-wear. Hey-I might write an article on that subject! Successfully living out of a suitcase with style is an art form. There is a huge need for a lightweight, compact and ultra-versatile wardrobe that needs no pressing or dry cleaning. I know women who stylishly travel the globe with a knapsack but that’s not me….my single trip needs can range from casual to business and include dressy events. My goal is to fit it all into a single carry-on and right now am not even close to being successful. Help!
Who inspires you? If “inspiration” is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative, there are too many sources to list here. However, the strongest Inspiration has come from people I have met personally because observing them in real life is so powerful. To name a top-of-mind memorable few, I’d include Diana Baker and Donna Kelli – not surprisingly both associated with this site! I’ve been fortunate to also meet well-known style icons like Jane Fonda who, for me, has been a model of graceful maturity. It’s important to understand that these people have inspired me to follow my own path – not to look like them. It’s important to be authentic to yourself – whatever/whoever that is.
Do you have a signature piece or style? My permanent detailed signature style is elusive as it’s still a work-in progress; however I always seek to be the best possible and most appropriate for the circumstance. I like to imagine other women looking at me and thinking “She looks great.”
Some common elements contributing to my overall style goal center on being mature, sophisticated, simple, and modern. This includes appearing healthy, vibrant, well groomed, and confident regardless of circumstance……..or hair color!
Anyone who knows me understands that my look changes frequently. I believe that adaptability and change is a woman’s prerogative to do so – and is expected. As an example, at conferences I have met people for lunch that later did not initially recognize me at dinner. What fun!
What’s your secret to making yourself stand out? If what is meant here is “stand out” as a crossdresser in public – I’d remind readers that my goal is to blend in. However if referring to “standing out” as a stylish woman, I think it is about confidence that comes with experience and ultimately attitude. A stylish woman stands out with timeless elegance and simplicity – she is who she truly is and by so doing stands out. Too many women are unfortunately fearful and insecure about their appearance. Consequently, someone feeling internally self-assured arising from the full appreciation of their own abilities or qualities truly stands out. They attract admirers of all kind.
The one piece of advice most crossdressers need but don’t get?
It’s impossible to resist offering more than one piece of advice because it is so needed:
- Good posture is critical and it’s free! Female practices of standing, sitting, head-tilting, and arm movements are vastly different than men’s. Woman’s clothing looks much more appropriate on people who also posture as women.
- When in public, look and act your age – or close enough to it! A middle aged man attempting to be a high school cheerleader should be done in private….please!
- Remove/groom exposed hair! Yes, some women have hair on their arms and legs but they have other feminine features to offset that condition. Successful crossdressers should eliminate as many visual clues of masculinity as possible.
- Get a high quality professional makeover and wig advice and learn what is truly possible! I’ve heard many complaints about the cost of a quality makeover and usually disagree from a value perspective. Isn’t a $100 makeover with potentially (likely) shockingly wonderful results more valuable than wasted hours (days?) of time experimenting with poor choices in clothing and makeup? I’m currently researching/writing about how to get the most out of a makeover experience – it is an underappreciated opportunity. The following photo is of me getting hair advice from style and image expert Monica Prata at a wig salon in New York City – priceless!
- Review existing timesaving information from this site (free) and/or pay a modest price for standard references like Carollyn Olson’s “Tricks of the Trade” series of guides for crossdressers. Why not learn from those who have gone before you?
- Know your measurements: If shopping on the web, it is vital to know your bust, waist, and hips. Use the sizing guide to determine your size by brand and also specific item – it’s truly necessary.
What’s the best piece of style wisdom you’ve ever received? Use technology, especially imaging, to save time and frustration! Here are a few examples that are free and can be used immediately:
- Videotape yourself walking, dining, anything and asking yourself honestly if you are satisfied with the result. Cameras, especially video, do not lie.
- Share photos of yourself, in outfits before you purchase, with trusted friends. This can be done in changing rooms or more comfortably at home or a studio. Good friends don’t lie and they don’t get a commission on the sale either.
- Use online style guides that create images based on your detailed interview. I’d not rely exclusively on these but computers don’t lie either however be a bit wary of sites that sell products as they will ultimately recommend something/anything to buy. For example:
- Sephora Virtual Artist: The Sephora To Go app (free on iTunes) scans your face and then guides you through Sephora’s large stock to find the best eye, lip, and lash products. The Compare Me feature lets you see four looks on one screen so you can choose the one you like, and “Shake It Up” provides Pro picks that are designed to flatter your complexion.
- Virtual Nail Salon (free app on iTunes and Google Play) uses a picture of your hand to virtually test hundreds of polish shades to see how they work against your skin tone and outfit.
Of course online tutorials and You Tube videos are useful as references but my experience is that if the subject is anyone else but you, the information should be considered general only.
An advantage of using technology for crossdressers is that helps you make serious progress while minimizing direct personal contact with others until you feels ready. Whew!
What is your favorite trend? I associate trends with fashion, not necessarily style. So with regard to fashion, I love the idea of co-creating customized clothing! What Nike has done for athletic shoes is now possible with heels, dresses, hair, jewelry, and makeup! Doing this will make it much easier to have things made perfectly just for you! Imagine a future day where you design clothing online and its delivered to your door the next day or jewelry on a website and watch it being made on a 3D printer in your home within an hour? If Starbucks can claim 87,000 possible drink combinations today imagine what will be possible in the future to create your unique clothing and accessories!
Note from Tasi: Create your own Lookbook by checking out the over 100 albums on Tasi’s Pinterest pages. There’s a style for everyone and I mean everyone
What would you not be caught dead in? Well, in a near- miss car crash I was wearing a tight black leather miniskirt and too much makeup. At that moment, all I could think of was – “This is not how I want to look in the Emergency Room.” I now stick with age-appropriate clothing and prefer to be on the dressy side of casual to completely doll up. I know real women go to the market dressed down as a practicality and I do not judge them, however that is not me. As a crossdresser, I feel it is important to represent to the public a high standard of care in appearance and behavior.
What are your favorite websites? There are too many to mention but here are a few shopping sites:
- As if I am the most interesting crossdressers in the world I like to say “I don’t always wear gowns and cocktail dresses, but when I do, I prefer Adrianna Papell.” See https://www.adriannapapell.com/
- If I can’t buy a dress at a reasonable price, “Rent the Runway” is a good option: See https://www.renttherunway.com/
- It’s useful to shop at Zappos for shoes, clothing and accessories. Their selection is decent and their return policy (one year) allows plenty of time to get feedback. While on travel I can expect next-day free delivery and return. You pay full price but what a lifesaver! See http://www.zappos.com
- And of course Sister House. That goes without saying.
Sharing images with friends and gaining useful comments is a benefit of Flickr. See www.Flickr.com. Also it’s been great to meet some stylish women from Flickr in person who will share their style tips and sources. Today my Flickr images have been viewed over 1M times and I’ve received dozens of “useful“ comments and many compliments which are confidence boosting.
How would you describe your personal style? Others have described me as mature, modern and sophisticated and I agree with that characterization. I seek to present a well-kept mature woman who is educated, generous, and has good posture.
Who are your style icons? Anyone who has had a signature style that worked well for them. These would include Princess Diana, Katherine Hepburn, Jackie Onassis Kennedy, Michelle Obama, and Julianne Moore and yes…Marilyn Monroe. If you love Marilyn, check out this special feature about Marilyn in the Sister House Playroom of Favorite Style Icons.
Like sources of inspiration, I do not seek to look like these women. They are icons to me because they successfully created their own style and became widely recognizable for it. Occasionally I will try to channel their energy – but with my own style. I am the only me after-all and happy about it.