Oct 18

Developing Your Trans Sense of Style

stylish black dressDeveloping your trans sense of style is one of the biggest challenges trans women face, especially early in their public life. Learning about fashion and clothing choices and figuring out what styles work best for you is no easy task until now. Cis-gendered women grow up with mothers, sisters, and friends with whom they learn about clothing and make-up who help develop their sense of fashion. Trans women don’t have those types of experiences to draw upon, so it’s generally an ongoing learning process, which can end up being costly and time consuming, as well as frustrating. I know, I’ve been there.

So we are introducing the Style Bible with resources from the best of the fashion mavens out there. It’s comprehensive but easy to read. How do you eat an elephant??  Why, one bite at a time and that is what we will do. Browse through the many links, check out the style puzzle and keep coming back. What you want to know is here.

Many trans women start off buying clothes online because they’re not quite ready to venture out in public to buy women’s clothing, so doing it online is a safer and easier alternative, although there are a few easily overcome pitfalls to online buying. But being able to try things on in a store and see how they look and fit is also important, and you don’t want to miss out on the experience of being able to go out in public and be yourself and the enjoyment of shopping.

Figuring out clothing sizes can be tricky and frustrating because sizes vary from brand to brand and from store to store; a size 6 may fit perfectly in one brand, but the same size in a different brand may not fit at all. There is also the issue of the differences in the build of a cis woman versus a trans woman and how that translates into clothing.

human_body_proportionsOne of the more common problems is that males tend to have broader shoulders which has a large influence in how a women’s top will fit on a trans woman’s body. For instance, a trans woman can usually wear a size or two smaller in a sleeveless style than in a style which covers the shoulders, such as a blouse, and a top which fits the shoulders will likely be too big around the waist. It’s helpful to find a good tailor to make alterations when needed. It’s also important to learn which fabrics will shrink when washed so you can account for shrinkage and buy the right size, and how to launder clothes the right way.

As far as bras go, it’s best to go to a store and get measured and fitted by someone who knows what they’re doing. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to make sense of the seemingly endless combinations of sizes and style options, so let the professionals help you on this one.

The process of coming out is basically like going through adolescence and puberty again, along with the same desires to experiment and express yourself. Having had to repress their feminine side for so long, many trans women initially opt to wear ultra-sexy and tight clothing, which while fun to wear, is usually not appropriate to wear for a trip to the grocery store or the library. And this ends up drawing unwanted attention and you essentially end up outing yourself, which early on in the coming out process is the one thing which many trans women fear the most.

women shoppingTaking the time to observe other women out in public is a great way to learn, and something which is highly recommend. Notice what women wear when out running errands at the store or during a typical day. The majority of women usually wear something simple like jeans and a top; nothing too fancy.

What you won’t see are women wearing gowns or tight sexy skirts or dresses and five inch heels. The lesson to be learned from this is to dress appropriately for the situation; nothing draws attention quicker than being dressed inappropriately. When it comes to shoes the same rules apply; observe, and wear shoes appropriate to the situation. Going to the grocery store wearing five inch stilettos is not a good idea.

The key to developing a good fashion sense is to figure out what looks good on your particulate body style. A certain dress may look stunning on a tall slender woman, but may not look quite as good on a short, stocky woman. Very few women are built like runway fashion models, so it’s best to avoid trying to duplicate that look, and if you notice, the average cis-gendered women is not wearing those types of styles either.

There are nine keys to unlocking your style and once you understand this style puzzle, all will be open to you. There is no one route to style, but there is what I call, the Style Puzzle, a group of elements when they all go together define your personal style says Imogene Lampart of the Insideoutstyle blog. These nine puzzle pieces are just the start too.  You can delve into them and branch out to discover more and more!

style puzzle

Key to understanding the Style Puzzle is your body shape and Imogene gives us her Body Shape Bible. Defining your body shape helps determine what style of clothing best enhances your natural features while minimizing those less than feminine features that we may have. Coming later this month will be our comprehensive section on clothing styles by body shape

The same thing applies when it comes to make-up. Observe other women. Most women wear minimal make-up during the day, so if you show up at the grocery store wearing heavy foundation and eyeliner and the full works, you will probably stand out. If you’re going out for the evening then by all means your make-up can be more dramatic, but don’t over-due it during the day.

crossdresser makeoverMany trans women struggle with learning how to apply make-up. Some are lucky enough to have a woman friend who can help, but there are other options for those who are on their own. Most upscale department stores have numerous make-up counters and the women who work there are more than happy to do a make-over on you and explain how to apply the make-up and help you pick out the best shades and colors. Even if you’re shy or uncomfortable about venturing out in public, this is something which is highly beneficial if you can do it. But the single most important thing you can do to improve your make-up skills is to practice, practice, practice! And remember that when it comes to make-up, less is more; you don’t want to look like you applied it with a spatula.

Developing your own sense of style is a process of trial and error and it takes time. Go to stores and try on various styles and see what looks good on you. Bring a friend to get their opinion. Buy an assortment of styles to try out, and listen to the feedback you get. When you hit on a style which is flattering and looks good on you you’ll know it because people will give you compliments.

As trans women we have usually had to wait a significant portion of our lives to reach the point where we can finally be ourselves and wear women’s clothing, and it’s easy to go to a bit wild and wear things which we see as fun and exciting, but try to resist that urge. The average cis-gendered woman doesn’t get overly dressed up most of the time, which to us can be difficult to understand, but if we’re looking to blend in and not draw unwanted attention to ourselves we need to observe and learn to dress appropriately. And keep in mind that there will be plenty of opportunities where we can break out the sexy and slinky clothes and the stiletto heels and indulge our wild side!

Developing your own unique sense of style is one of the special parts of being a woman, so enjoy the journey as you explore the world of fashion and discover the look which expresses who you are!

Your best beauty tips are on Sister House at Best Face Forward