Am I stylish? I believe so and have been told that I am. I really don’t know how I developed this skill or why, but I know I have it and am thankful for it. For me, it’s all about understanding my strengths and weakness and knowing how to dress to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. I also have a sense of what works well together and have always understood how colors work with each other.
The first step in the process is how I go about acquiring clothes. I have developed a massive wardrobe. I would estimate I have well over 100 dresses, probably 40 skirts, 15 pair of slacks, about the same amount of jeans, capris and shorts. I’d estimate there are a good 30 jackets, blazers and coats, easily about 30 sweaters and tops, blouses and t-shirts too numerous to count. I am very lucky to wear the same size shoes as my wife. She allows me to borrow footwear as needed as well as selecting just the right purse from her large collection. Despite access to “free” shoes, I probably have 25 or so of my own. Oh yeah, I have a very large jewelry collection, too many earrings, bracelets and necklaces to count. Then of course, a girl must have her lingerie, hose, tights, slips and other undergarments. Let’s just say I have plenty of these as well.
I am fortunate to get out frequently, usually three times a week. I never wear the same outfit twice, but will re-purpose certain items a few times before shipping them off for consignment.
Now how did I build such a cache? I am the queen of the thrift store! I am in at least 5 different thrifts every week. Unlike many gals who go out shopping and put together outfits as they shop, I approach things differently. First, I generally will not buy (I get the irony here) anything at full cost. I only purchase discounted items and/or use a coupon. I often keep purchases to between $2 and $3. But the beauty here is I am able to buy quality. I have many excellent labels in that closet: New York and Company, Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor and Loft, just to name a few.
So while many women’s outfits are born in a store, mine are done so in my closet. I will select a center piece for an outfit. It could be a dress, a top, a skirt or even a certain necklace. I know almost instinctively what I need to round out an outfit and what I have available to do so. I am almost Rain Man-like in knowing what I have and what goes with what. Then the outfit goes through my vetting process. I try it on and look at it critically. How does it look on me? Does that sweater really work with that skirt? Let’s consider a smaller necklace. That might look great with tights. My outfit sessions are truly one of my very favorite activities, sometimes more fun than the subsequent outing.
After having acquired much of the bones of my wardrobe, I have become much more selective. I now only look for the best of the best and the lowest possible price. I have walked away from beautiful dresses because I didn’t want to spend the $5. Recently I was working the dress rack at the Goodwill and I saw a My Michelle LBD (and the L is very appropriate). I knew it would be perfect. I tried it on as soon as I got home, paired it with some beautiful patent leather pumps and a string of pearls and I was ready for the evening (if I put a bag over my very male head). I just lit up when I looked at myself. Money well spent. I know my body and I know what types of things complement it well.
I am thin with an outstanding figure and have great legs. I don’t say this arrogantly and I was not born this way (far from it). That figure and those legs were built by hours in the gym and miles and miles on the run. I earned them! So when assembling an outfit, I look to feature these. Conversely, I look to soften my male arms, although I have been getting bolder in going sleeveless. I also know my back is not my best side, so I always look to properly cover it. No backless dresses for this girl!
Every time (and I am sure I am not alone here) I get dressed, I take some close ups to capture my makeup work and some full body shots to document the outfit and the coming outing. Looking at these photos frequently helps me better understand how outfits work for me. For me, it’s all about experimentation, working through things until the outfit just tells you it works!
I have lived my entire life outside of a few years living with women. Mom and three sisters (no brother), wife and two daughters (no son), so certainly some of this is by osmosis. Being a crossdresser (closeted for most of my life), I of course observed. My wife is stylish, so I probably mimic her in some regard. But mostly, I do have a way to putting things together, be they outfits or decorating a wall. I have developed a sense of tying things together. I know what top calls for a smaller, more delicate necklace. I understand that in an outfit, one thing should draw the eye’s attention. For example, I just put together a lovely outfit with a beautiful ankle length patterned skirt. The skirt features lovely shades of red, purple and black. I paired it with a black top so as not to diminish the beauty of the skirt with a necklace that echoes the red in the skirt.
Allow me to walk you through a recent outfit. I occasionally attend the theater (Cleveland’s Playhouse Square is the largest such theater district outside of Broadway) with a women’s social group I joined on Meetup (all GGs and me). This particular evening we went to see “Waitress”. About eight us of met for dinner before the show. I had recently purchased this lovely black skirt with the white circle pattern. I knew immediately that I would pair that skirt with a black sheer NY&Co blouse I had in my inventory. Once I saw them together, I knew that black tights would tie everything together very well and I borrowed a pair of heels from my wife (we wear the same size!) that emulate ballet slippers and I love how they flow with the tights. I always like dark tights or dark hose to match my skirt when the weather gets colder.
Now knowing I am in all black, I wanted an accent color to provide that pop. Pink was my choice. When accessorizing, I usually select either gold or silver. Since the blouse had gold buttons, I went with gold. I had recently purchased a beautiful pink pendant and placed it on a shorter chain to use as the center piece for an outfit. This was the perfect time for that. I chose a pair of large hoop earrings that would echo the circles in my skirt. My favorite part of the whole outfit was the lovely pink Kate Spade purse I borrowed from my wife for the evening. I always wear a faux wedding ring (after all, I am a married woman!) and a number of charm bracelets. I almost always stack many bracelets and am partial to charms. My outfit was complete and my evening sheer delight! The other ladies were very complementary and I even received a complement on my skirt from a passer-by. The show was so much fun and to be in that ornate theater, dressed pretty with so many other women all dressed up, was a dream.
Another example of the type of stylish outfit I prefer is one I wore this past summer. It was a beautiful Sunday. I attended services at church and then volunteered as an usher at one of the community theaters I work for. I had purchased this wonderful color block Dressbarn dress and was anxious to get it out in public. The dress fit like it was tailored for me. It was summer, so I went barelegged with my freshly shaved legs. I worked as best I could on getting a tan this year. Since there was a beige color block, I selected my favorite pair of nude pumps. I chose a burgundy lipstick to pull in the burgundy from the dress. I went with gold and pearls, I love the delicate simplicity of the necklace. I have a pair of multiple hoop earrings with a pearl on each one and went with the pearl bracelet. The outfit was rounded out with a lovely black purse with gold in the chain, to tie it all together.
Finally here is a casual outfit I put together to go to a summer street festival. I love the teal in the top and how the peak hole allowed my necklace to be seen hanging in my cleavage. The teal was my central theme so I chose a cute teal headband that pulled the whole outfit together. Being summer, I was able to wear my sunglasses and chose some silver and teal/blue charms to complete my look. A grey purse and silver hoop earrings rounded everything out. As any GG would, I wore my flats. I was there alone and received a few complements from some of the people there. The picture you see was taken by a kind stranger.
I’ve done this enough now that it is automatic when I put myself together. Intuitively I know what goes with what, what colors to incorporate in my makeup and how I wish to present myself. How am I perceived? I’m not sure but all I can tell you is that I have been out hundreds of times in the past three years (when I finally accepted myself and embraced the Kandi in me) and have never had a single negative experience. I am certain I have rolled some eyes behind my back, but no one has ever spoken a cross word to me and it is not unusual for me to gather hugs from total strangers when out.
Try things, experiment, be self-critical, understand your strengths and who you are (brash, conservative, demure, etc.). Dressing is fun, looking pretty is intoxicating. Now get out there girls, have fun and be stylish!