Aug 26

Not All Transgender People Have Dysphoria

transgender dysphoria - girl or boyNot all transgender people have dysphoria – and here are 6 reasons why that matters. I remember talking with a friend of mine who is transgender with the assumption that we both experienced dysphoria, which is the distress or discomfort that occurs when the gender someone is assigned does not align with their actual gender.

As I was talking, I could see their eyes start to stare off in another direction.

“Are you alright?” I asked, puzzled by their sudden disinterest in our conversation.

On an ordinary day, Kai and I could talk gender for hours. The only person who seemed more passionate about trans identity than me was definitely Kai.

But suddenly, in conversation that should’ve excited them, they seemed to be someplace else entirely.

“Well, I don’t…” Kai paused. “Don’t judge me or anything, but like, I don’t experience dysphoria.”

At that point, I had never heard of a transgender person not experiencing some kind of dysphoria. But there they were, right in front of me.

My instinct was to be protective over my transness. The idea that dysphoria was not required, and that anyone could just identify as trans if they wanted to, seemed to water down the importance of my identity and the struggles of my community.

No — their community. Our community.

I was getting possessive, trying to deny Kai’s identity, which was so unlike me. Just a minute ago, Kai was my comrade; now, suddenly, I was pushing them to the margins. Why would I try to tell someone what their gender is and isn’t, having spent a lifetime of being told the same?

“Yeah, I get it,” they said, seeming to read my mind. “It’s threatening to a lot of people, so I don’t often talk about it.”

But in my years as an advocate, I continue to meet more trans folks like Kai who don’t experience dysphoria, and further, who are afraid to open up about it.

I’ve been lucky enough to learn from them, and I understand now why my gut reaction – to exclude them – was such a problematic one.

So why shouldn’t we define transgender people on the basis of dysphoria?

Let’s talk about it.

  1. It Suggests That Gender Identity Is for Outsiders to Decide

It’s weird that some trans people are totally on-board with making a rulebook for transness, instead of encouraging people to self-identify and declare their gender identities for themselves.

When we allow other people to make the rules, we strip away the rights of trans people to self-identify. If we tell trans people that their identities don’t belong to them, we uphold a culture where the naming of gender identities belongs to outsiders instead of ourselves.

When I started to doubt Kai’s transness, what I was saying to them was, “You say that you’re transgender, but I don’t recognize that or believe that.” I was saying that I knew Kai’s gender better than they did. Yikes.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to exist in a world where I have to follow a set of prescribed rules before I can claim my own identity.

I should be able to declare what my gender is and have it validated, regardless of how I experience it.

Transgender people constantly have to resist having an assigned gender imposed on them. Do we really want to assign and impose a gender onto other trans people?

  1. It Medicalizes the Experience of Being Transgender

The phrase “gender dysphoria” became the go-to phrase after “gender identity disorder” was deemed offensive and inaccurate. Since then, the two phrases have been used interchangeably in the medical realm.

Need I remind you that Western medicine has been less than kind to trans people historically?

Trans people were “treated” by being encouraged to conform and accept their assigned gender rather than transitioning. Medicalizing the lives of trans people hurt us for a long, long time – it meant that we were treated as having a psychological disorder rather than a valid identity.

Placing the lives of trans people into an “illness” framework ultimately stigmatized their identities and left their needs to be dictated my “medical professionals” rather than trans people themselves.

The medical model disempowered trans people.

Trans people were treated as deviants with a shameful mental disorder, and language like “gender identity disorder” and “gender dysphoria” is tied to that history. The medicalization of trans people was a major source of oppression and harm.

When you suggest that dysphoria is the one way of determining whether or not someone is trans, you are relying on a medical model that wasn’t created by trans people, but rather, created by Western medical “professionals” who viewed transness as a disorder rather than an identity.

And I’d like to move as far away from this framework as possible.

Changing it from “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria” doesn’t change the fact that it’s still operating within the same medical model and still functioning as a “diagnosis.”

  1. It’s a Eurocentric Definition of Transgender

A lot of trans folks will say that “transgender” as an experience didn’t originate in the West – and they would be correct. There have been “trans” experiences in many cultures globally, long before the West had any concept of “transgender.”

Some identities outside of the West that you might know of include two-spirit, hijra, and kathoeys, and they have a history that precedes ours.

Many trans folks in the Western world insist that to be transgender is to be dysphoric, without acknowledging that this is a very Western understanding of what it means to be trans.

It doesn’t acknowledge that transness can exist outside of the West and has existed outside of it long before we came along – with its own definitions, language, insights, and experiences.

To say that being transgender is exclusively about experiencing dysphoria is making a universal statement for all trans people, but it’s steeped in Western understandings about gender. It completely erases indigenous and international identities and experiences.

It’s tricky (and sometimes, really problematic) to apply individual understandings of gender to all people.

“Transgender” as an umbrella is so diverse and complex that it’s best to avoid generalizations altogether, and allow people to name their own experiences.

  1. It Equates Being Trans with Distress and Dysfunction

If someone came up to you and asked you what it was like to be transgender, it probably wouldn’t be as simple as saying, “It’s terrible.”

It can be terrible. The pain can be very real. But for most people, being trans is a very complicated thing that involves a whole spectrum of emotions.

This is kind of where using dysphoria as the exclusive defining characteristic of trans people isn’t necessarily an accurate way of representing the experience of being trans.

As a trans person who does experience dysphoria, I can tell you that dysphoria is not the only thing that makes me transgender. It’s not even the bulk of my experience as trans.

It’s about the journey it took to disregard expectations and find myself. It’s about the layers I had to peel away just to figure out who I was. It’s about the pride and elation I felt when I found the words to describe my identity. It’s about the sense of community I found with others like me. It’s the way that I understand gender and the way that I move through the world.

Gender is complex. Transgender even more so.

The thing that Kai and I have in common is that we underwent a process in trying to understand ourselves and our gender, teasing apart what society asked of us and what we wanted for ourselves. We both discovered through that process that we didn’t identify with the gender we were assigned at birth.

The difference is that this realization doesn’t cause distress for Kai in the way that it does for me.

And if that’s the only difference, so what?

If distress is the defining characteristic, what are we saying about what it means to be trans? And what are we telling our youth, then, too? That who they are is contingent on how much pain they feel?

I want to live in a world where transgender doesn’t equate to pain and suffering. Because ultimately, the pain we feel is not what unites us. It’s the identity we claim and the unique journey we each took to find it.

I don’t want any trans person to go through this thinking that to be trans means to hurt. That only succeeds in saying to the world, “If you want to be in pain, be trans. If you want to be happy, be cis.”

We are so much more than that. Our lives and our experiences are so, so much more.

  1. We Privilege Some Narratives Over Others

I’ve been told before that I’m not “trans enough.”

I was hurting so much the first time I heard it that I actually blogged about it (this was, pretty ironically, before I understood the asterisk is problematic).

As a genderqueer writer, I’ve been told more than once that I have no business writing about the transgender community because I’m not “actually trans.”

And since I experienced that kind of invalidation, I’ve been sitting pretty comfortably in the camp of “everyone is trans enough and your gatekeeping is bullshit.”

At what point will we stop tearing each other apart and start lifting each other up?

I know what it feels like to have an identity that completely opened up your mind and your world, something that gave you new life and a sense of home, come crumbling down at the accusation that you’re not actually trans and, instead, just following the latest trend.

I’m just not interested in creating a power dynamic where some trans people are inherently better, more worthy, more trans, or more important than other trans people. That, to me, is not what social justice looks like.

Using dysphoria as the ultimate measure of transness means that any trans person for whom dysphoria is not present, not the language or framework they prefer to use, or not significant in their experience is suddenly invalid.

It says, “These trans people are the real trans people, and everyone else should be quiet.”

Our community has a history of doing this. Take, for instance, the transgender community’s initial resistance to including non-binary people.

Oh wait, that’s not history. That still happens.

I’m fed up with the power dynamics in our community and see absolutely no need to create more; we are still struggling day after day to dismantle the hierarchies that already exist.

We can already see the ways that certain narratives are privileged over others, the ways that certain voices are heard and others are silenced. And frankly, I don’t want to be a part of that.

I think we should be disrupting those narratives – not going along with them.

We should be affirming that the trans community is diverse, complex, and unique – not monolithic and homogenous.

  1. It Breeds Transphobia

There is a pervasive fear that if we leave “transgender” as a term that relies on self-identification, it will be rendered meaningless by people who claim it for the wrong reasons.

But this weirdly mirrors a lot of oppressive attitudes that are used against all trans people.

Take the trans bathroom debate, for instance. There is a widespread belief that cis people will pretend to be trans just to get into the wrong restroom and violate other people.

Um, when you’re on the side of Fox News, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your stance.

If trans people interrogate other trans people with disbelief, we are giving permission to the rest of the world to do it to us.

If we bully trans people and tell them they are deceiving other people, or following a fad, we’re telling cis people that they can accuse us of being imposters, too.

We’re taking away the right to self-identify and giving the rest of the world permission to misgender us if they, too, decide we’re not “trans enough.” We tell the rest of the world that they don’t have to believe us because we don’t believe in each other.

If you don’t believe a trans person when they say that they are trans, why should a cis person believe you?


When my friend told me that they didn’t experience dysphoria, my initial reaction was one of hostility, judgment, and skepticism. I’m forever grateful, though, that they took the time to educate me.

I had no idea that there were trans people who didn’t experience dysphoria – but now that I know, I work hard to make sure that Kai and others like them are included in the trans community.

I’ve received a lot of pushback as a writer when I talk about dysphoria not being a requirement for trans people. And I don’t necessarily blame them. I was resistant, too, and it took a while for me to come around.

But I believe that there are greater consequences when we exclude trans people on the basis of having a different experience from our own.

We become the “gender police” that we’ve spent decades criticizing. We become the very thing that has oppressed us for so many years.

If gender isn’t something that someone else can decide for you, then the reality is that it’s up to the individual, and that there’s no wrong answer. It’s not up for debate between outsiders – it’s personal, and it always has been.

Letting go of our need to control who’s in and who’s out and, instead, investing that energy into affirming and uplifting others in our community seems like a much more worthy effort.

So who is transgender? Let’s keep it simple: Anyone who identifies differently from the gender they were assigned at birth. Full stop.

Original source: Everyday Feminism

Sam Dylan Finch is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He is queer writer, activist, and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to his work at Everyday Feminism, he is also the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, his hella queer and very awesome blog. You can learn more about him here and read his articles here. Follow him on Twitter @samdylanfinch

Aug 23

How to Pose for the Camera

Do you know how to pose for the camera? Are you satisfied with your female image in photographs? If you’re like me, a committed MTF crossdresser (CD), the answer is No!

As a CD who cares about my image, I understand. Photos of my experiences as Nora are priceless mementos of rare blissful times. Unfortunately, photos often did not accurately capture how I felt and looked (gorgeous of course!).

For many years, it seemed only about one in a hundred photos were good enough to keep (i.e. keepers). This frustration, shared by real and virtual friends, led me to develop some posing tips for improved photos and memories. These have worked for me so I thought others would like to know about them.

Please understand, I am no supermodel. Unlike naturally beautiful CDs whose photos always look great, I need all the help I can get. At 6 ft. tall without heels, and having an athletic inverted “V” male body shape (i.e. broad shoulders, no hips), being mature (i.e. old), and weighing too much, I hope readers appreciate the challenge and can relate to my situation. I can’t be the only not-so-skinny CD who wants to look pretty, can I?

If these posing tips helped me look naturally female, it’s likely they should help others. In fact, these tips should be useful for any woman who wants to look more naturally feminine, relaxed, and pleasant in still photographs – from professional photoshoots to “selfies.”

Focus on Posing

The focus of this article is centered on posing. By “posing” I mean assuming a particular attitude, position, or stance for a photo. It’s important to understand that to capture great photos, I also ensure appropriate hair (or lack thereof), padding and cinching, wardrobe, accessories, and makeup. These added elements are critically important for achieving a completely female look. If you are uncertain about these topics, please see relevant articles.

Manage Expectations

Its best to start with low expectations because when it comes to photographs, that is reality for most of us. Normal people simply do not take decent natural photographs. Even with a professional photographer, ideal lighting, background, and you looking your very best – relatively few images will be “great”.

A photographer friend reviewing this article remained me of another key point. I am my own worst critic. Perhaps most of us are. So, in addition to managing your expectations, make sure you get feedback from others. My experience with the following smartphone image is an example. Thinking it was nothing special, I was surprised to see it rocket to my most commented on and among the most fav’d images in my Flickr stream.  It’s not among my favorites at all!

1-red dress

With my experience shared in this article and your patient practice, the number of your “keeper” images will increase as well as your confidence.

Have a Reasonable Goal

Everyone should have at least one “standing’ and one “sitting” pose you can reliably “snap to” when the occasion arises. With them, you will always be prepared for social scenes and selfies.


The advice provided in this article is based upon techniques that have been useful to me. These are not necessarily universal fixes. The more you look like me physically, the more likely the tips will be useful for you. Regardless, I hope you find my experience useful as a starting point and feel encouraged to experiment on your own.  Successful posing ultimately is about what makes you happy with the results.  It’s not the same for everyone.

General Golden Rules

Keeping the following two rules in mind have helped guide me in all posing opportunities. If you remember to apply them, you are likely to see more successful photos right away.

  1. Posture: Whether sitting or standing, it is best to start with a straight spine. This starting point is easier said than done given all the time I am hunched over my keyboard (like right now!). To quickly straighten my spine, I stand with my heels, buttocks, shoulders, and head against a wall and hold for 60 seconds. It’s tough but I always stand taller and straighter afterwards every time! Remember a straight spine is the starting point – you need to relax and be flexible for good posing, not be stiff and rigid.
  2. Distance to Camera: Like your car’s mirrors, objects closer to the camera will appear even larger! If you don’t want it to appear larger, move it away from the camera. This applies to everything!

Now, let’s get into more details that will take your posing to an even higher level.

Understanding Physical Differences is Key to your Pose

My advice centers on recognizing and addressing general physical differences between men and women as I have experienced or viewed them.

Worldwide, people recognize visual ques to gender. My goal, and yours I presume, is to naturally present as many female visual ques in photographs as possible.

The challenges for doing so and advice for addressing them follow.

Height – Tall ladies exist so this is less of an issue for me especially when posing alone. However, to minimize the appearance of being unusually tall there are a few things I am mindful of:

  1. I seek to pose with women taller than me! They are out there. Even though we don’t see eye to eye, I love looking up to them in photographs!
  2. I avoid being photographed with objects that convey a reliable sense of scale. For example, standing next to a normal height bar as a reference point makes it clear I am a tall lady.
  3. In group’s I seek to position myself to the back of the pack. Doing so diminished my overall body mass and no one can see how I’m bent lower.

black and orange print dress

Shoulders and Arms – Anything that emphasizes my broad shoulders is not good for me. So, I often avoid poses with my shoulders square towards the camera. I have found a 45 to 60-degree body angle to the camera works well to minimize my shoulder width. Also, I also avoid top-down shots because, as previously mentioned, whatever is closest to the camera looks larger.

When I stand naturally, my upper arm presses against my torso and it looks (wider really) larger than it actually is. This size is especially magnified when my arm is towards the camera. I can correct that by just lifting my arm an inch or two so it is “floating” and not pressed against me. Alternatively, I can pose my hand so my arm is in a different position, such as putting my hand on a hip (see waist) or in a rare pocket (see hands)!

bronze a-line dress_

Legs and Feet – I have to concentrate to keep my legs close together when standing. I routinely forget because years of male sports muscle memory are very difficult to overcome. Also, I feel a bit unstable in high heels and naturally want to widen my stance for safety. One remedy is to simply cross my legs at my calves or ankles while standing. It looks natural, gives my body some curve appeal, and it helps make my legs look longer – all good things!

print sheath dress_

The same is generally true while being seated – knees or ankles together or crossed is my rule. Unless I want a “big legs” shot (some do!), angling away from the camera is best for me.

flowered print wrap dress

My large feet (size 13!) look best with my toes pointed to extend the length of my legs – shoes or not. When standing, I avoid having my feet sideways to the camera.

red print a-line dress

Hands – Female hands should look elongated, graceful, and relaxed. This is extremely challenging for me so I tend to hide my hands in photos. True! If that is not possible, I try to show a thin side view. I also have to concentrate on relaxing my hands so they are curved with fingers together, not straight, flexed, or splayed, and my thumb tip no more than an inch or two open. The key is to relax my hands and minimize their presence. Because anything in front of me looks larger in photos, I try to not extend my hands forward unless necessary for a special effect. When posing with hands near my face, under chin, or at my neck, I make sure my hands are further away from the camera than my chin. Finally, I also avoid making any “male-like” big hand gesture such as a fist, or palm facing “high five”!

hands-full frontal with statement necklace

Hips – I have no natural hips, and I don’t always wear oversized hip pads – especially in warm weather. As a remedy, when sitting, I might carefully splay my legs behind a chair to give the illusion of width or otherwise spread my skirt in a lady-like way. When standing, I might play with my dress/skirt hem to make it look more full from the waist down and/or angle my body instead of presenting a direct frontal view. A waist belt cinching a loose blouse works well too! A direct frontal view emphasizes horizontal dimensions which do not work in my favor at all for hips or shoulders. When reclined, I might try to elevate a leg to add below-waist width.

hips pose-reclining in print dress

hips pose-black flowered a-line dress

No advice about hips is complete without some mention of weight placement while standing. Women commonly rest their weight on one leg or another – usually not equally the same as men do. Doing so pops my hip out to create a natural female curve. I prefer to place weight on my right leg but can do either as needed.

weight placement-black separates with long blond curly hair

Waist – I always try to ensure there is a gap between my arm and waist when standing. Doing this makes my waist look smaller. Having a gap at my waist level also makes me look curvier while in recline or sitting. The easiest way for me to do this while standing is to put a hand on, and slightly behind, my hip which is an essential element of the classic “skinny lady” pose.

waist-multicolored sheath dress

Head – I try to tilt my head slightly. This adds fluidity and curviness to my total shape. Most women, including my wife, seem to do this all the time. Some of my model friends believe an “S” curve body in a standing pose, which includes the head, is the most feminine possible. It does look good!

curviness-black lace top red skirt

Neck – The appearance of a double chin ranks in the top three things I am most worried about in photos. To avoid this nightmare in photos, I do the following:

The “turtle” technique with these steps:

  1. Stand or sit with a straight spine
  2. Shift shoulders back and down
  3. Project face forward
  4. Aim chin outwards

These are some extra tips I learned from a portrait photographer who works with Hollywood stars that work for me:

  1. Pushing my tongue to roof of my mouth just behind my upper teeth further elongates my neck and relaxes my jawline.
  2. I think of bringing my “ears forward”. This moves my entire face forward, not just my chin.
  3. Tilting my head down a bit also minimizes any indication of an Adam’s apple.
  4. If artistically possible I use my hands or a prop (see separate section on framing) to hide my chin(s).

neck-red top and jewelry

Face Positioning – My face looks better at a slight angle with my chin slightly down. I avoid facing the camera straight on especially when a flash is used unless posing for a “Most Wanted” poster. Also, from lots of experience, I know a profile (side view) is not my best angle. Perhaps this is true for most men seeking to look female. Sharp chin, jaw, and nose angles are not typical of women – at least not the woman I seek to emulate.

By playing with my hair gently with fingertips, or pushing it away from my face with relaxed spread fingers, I look very feminine and attractive. Don’t you agree?

playing with the hair-black dress lace coverlet

An accomplished portrait photographer told me to never let my nose project beyond my face in a photo. It’s true. Unless I am posing as Pinocchio, I avoid profile and near profile poses where my nose breaks my face line.

Facial Expression – Though it does not come easily to me, a smile is super valuable. A genuine smile conveys a variety of positive signals including confidence. The key is to ensure my smile is genuine. A genuine smile involves my entire face especially my eyes, not just my mouth. A forced fake smile, mouth only, should always be avoided – it’s scary looking! To elicit a genuine smile, I simply try to relax and think of something funny. For example, instead saying “CHEESE”, I like to say “LEPRECHAUN” (another professional photographer tip) which, for some reason, cracks me up each time! Alternatively, I can say and hold “ME” – this always works too.

facial expression-black yellow orange wrap dress

I have also found it useful to have at least one other “go to” facial expression. For example, I sometimes try to create a gaunt pouty model look by saying the word “POOR” or “PRUNE”, keeping my lips very soft and sultry and holding for a few seconds. Professional model and photographer friends told me about this look but I often crack up as a result so a smile will usually follow.

go to expression-red print wrap dress

Eyes – It’s natural to look directly at the camera and I often do unless there is a flash (see above). I’ve also had good luck by looking at an object behind the camera. Doing this gives a more distant dreamy look while still appearing visually engaged.

For a more intimate expression, these two steps work for me:

  1. Relax by closing my eyes, breathe deeply, and think sexy beautiful thoughts. Then…
  2. Open my eyes just as the shutter snaps the photo. Wow!

opening the eyes

Just moving my eyes can drastically change a photo. For example, by holding my head still and moving my eyes to the side, I can create an expectant or questioning look instantly.

moving the eyes

Some Advanced Posing Techniques:

Framing – A technique used to draw the viewer’s attention to what’s inside the frame. Our fingers, hands, and arms are natural frames to our faces for example. I also find the technique useful for hiding undesirable features such as a double chin or frown lines. Carefully selected prop’s, like color coordinated pool noodles, can also be an interesting frame.

framing the picture

framing the picture 2

Using Props – I love using props to convey personality, scale, or to emphasize my female image. These are a couple of my favorite techniques.

  • Straight Edge – posing next to a straight edge makes my body look curvier in comparison. I’ve used a lamp post, a wall, a ladder, and long dangling scarves for this.

straight edges

  • Curvy Edges – a curvy prop can echo and amplify the curves I want to project in my female body image. A guitar or even a snowshoe have worked for me.

curvy edges

When using props like eyeglasses, perfume bottles, hand fans, whatever, its best to not think of posing. Instead just use the object as it was intended and get a photo of that motion. It might take a few more shots, but the result will be much more natural in appearance.


using props

Careful – Do not let the prop become the center of attention instead of you. If you do, you will appear to be promoting or selling it. Keep attention on yourself.

 Movement – When multiple photos are being taken (this is usually the case) I like to adjust my pose for each shot even if it is very slight. It’s amazing how the smallest change in pose can drastically alter the image. Don’t just stand or sit there – move!

Flexibility is a challenge for me so I may do even more stretching than the simple spine straightening exercise mentioned previously. Women are generally more flexible than men and it shows in their poses.

Lengthening Neck Further – When posing for a head or full length shot, I make sure my shoulder nearest the camera is slightly lower than the shoulder away from the camera. So, as I prepare to turn towards the camera for a 45-degree angle, I tilt my head slightly away from camera and drop my shoulder nearest the camera slightly. This gives more space at my neck with no bunch up, and as I turn, my head actually ends up appearing centered.

lengthening neck further-blond frizzy hair

Self-Timer, Remote Control, and Mirror – Most of my photo collection have been taken with a digital camera using a timer and tripod. To improve pose success, I use a mirror on the wall opposite me – behind the camera. It’s very useful to see yourself just before the camera snaps. Even when I am in a professional photoshoot, I mirror pose for practice before we start working. Also, some of my popular lady friends use a smartphone app connected to their camera to preview a shot and trigger the shutter release. Their results are impressive but I’ve not tried this myself.

 self timer-selfie-blue dress

Practice – Are you ready to practice your standing pose? Great, now…

  1. Stretch your spine.
  2. Frame your photo in the camera viewfinder.
  3. Set the camera timer for 10 seconds. Program for multiple shots (burst mode) if the option is available.
  4. Stand in front of the camera and carefully press the shutter release.
  5. Race to pose position in front of the camera without tripping on a tripod leg.
  6. Place your body at an angle (60 degrees perhaps?).
  7. Plant one foot in front of the other.
  8. Keep knees close together.
  9. Put your weight on your back leg.
  10. Pop your hip out. More is better.
  11. Place your arm closest to the camera back on your hip.
  12. Place other arm in natural position or hide it.
  13. Ensure hands are “small”, fingers are aligned, and thumb is tight.
  14. “Turtle” your head in four easy steps.
  15. Tilt and angle your face to camera.
  16. Position chin slightly down.
  17. Look at an object directly behind the camera.
  18. Smile like you mean it!
  19. Hold it.
  20. Hear the click(s).
  21. Breathe

Congratulations! You did it!

Now do it again in a slightly different pose.

And again, and again, and again until you have the photo(s) you want.

My Photos

I’ve included a number of my photos to illustrate points made in this article. These were taken by professional photographers to ensure quality and usefulness. Yes, some are detailed for clarity too.

Of the many photographers and models, I have worked with, I wish to especially acknowledge the following in alphabetical order:

There certainly have been others who helped me.  However, I have worked with each of the three talented artists listed above at least five times so I feel confident listing them as a resource for CD friendly posing and photoshoot services.

My best pictures have come from having another person take photos who is experienced in posing, lighting, camera angles, and especially CD body type challenges. Those I’ve worked with have been kind and generous with their advice, and also provided great photos.

Sure, it costs more to get professional advice, but a session or two with an expert can immediately jump start your learning in a way nothing else would. Why waste time?

The chemistry between you and the photographer is critical. This is, I believe, the most important criterion for selecting a photographer. The experience should be useful and fun.

If you cannot get a personal posing session, there is plenty of advice and information on the Internet and some useful books with useful examples are also available.

Regardless of advice source, the most important thing you can do is practice, practice, practice.

Final Note – Please Don’t Judge Me!

I offer advice to help others. I do not follow it consistently, nor do I claim to be an expert. Posing is difficult to start with and remembering to apply all the tips, especially on a moment’s notice, is impossible for me. I’m human, not a posing fembot!


About Nora

Nora Simone is a featured author for Sister House.. She welcomes feedback on her writing and can be reached at

Aug 05

Love Those Prints

I love those prints. Take a moment to peer into your closet. What do you see, lots of prints or more solid colored garments?

tasi in print outfits

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a lover of prints, to me, they’re more interesting than solid colors and my preference for them stems from my coloring and personal style.

Like most things, too much of something is rarely a good idea; too many prints and your outfit can appear noisy and/or haphazard, too many solid colored outfits and you risk looking a little boring.

Prints and patterns are design elements which I believe deserve at least twenty percent of your wardrobe. They add interest, can display your personality, elevate or lower the formality of an outfit and even change it’s overall mood. Understanding about prints and patterns and what makes them work is important in working out which ones will work best for you.

First off, let’s start with the difference between prints and patterns. A print is a motif or design printed onto a fabric. While a pattern is a motif or design that can either be woven or printed into a fabric. Therefore, all patterns are prints but prints are not patterns.

prints and patterns

Now that we understand prints and patterns a bit better, here some of the major categories of prints :

  • Geometric: shapes made from geometry
  • Linear/Lineal: Straight lines
  • Florals: Flowers
  • Abstract: Images of objects distorted from how they look in reality
  • Animal
  • Ethnic/Tribal: Art that originates from specific regions, ethnic or tribal groups
  • Motif: clearly repeated designs, think shoes, leaves, elephants, butterflies etc
  • Graphic: Images generated on a computer


categories of printsThese categories can further be grouped into classics and fads. It’s important to make this distinction because classics prints and patterns are worth investing in if the garment is also classic in style, while fads are trends that are unlikely to last beyond a season.

Classic Prints and Patterns

The following prints and patterns have withstood the test of time. These kinds of prints and patterns have proven to be, time and time again, wardrobe staples that remain elegant, chic, and sophisticated.


There are three kinds of stripes: vertical, horizontal, and diagonal.

Vertical stripes are more flattering when the stripes are closer to each other and thinner. The wider the stripe, the distance between the stripes and/or the higher the color contrast between the stripes, the wider you will seem to appear to be. An especially noteworthy stripe when it comes to work wear style is the menswear-inspired pinstripe. Horizontal stripes, on the other hand, are perceived as more relaxed and casual. While diagonal stripes are seen as creative and individual. The same styling rule applies to diagonal and horizontal stripes as they do to vertical stripes.



Floral prints are no longer limited to spring/summer. They can be worn year round. The feel of a floral print or pattern is dictated by its color palette, the closeness of of the images to reality and the type of flowers.

Light or pastel florals convey romance, innocence, and femininity. Dark florals express more strength and are therefore more suited to business wear. Those with a background in a similar depth to your hair will look most at home on you. Bright florals are seen as youthful and fun and are especially appropriate in the summer. Abstract floral prints are creative on trend at the moment. Liberty florals have a retro feel and are typically smaller in scale. Lastly, folk floral prints are bohemian-inspired and have more of a BoHo influence.



The major categories of plaid are glen plaid, tartan, windowpane check, madras check and gingham. Both glen plaid and tartan are menswear inspired and are great for office dressing. Meanwhile, madras checks are for more casual occasions. The same can be said for gingham, no matter what the silhouette gingham is a casual and playful print that is best reserved for social occasions.

Windowpane checks are great for your work wear wardrobe. We would advise you to wear only one piece in windowpane check as it can get overwhelming. However, a head-to-toe windowpane check suit can work for those who work in more creative industries.ion, print location,



A major group within the animal print family is that of the wildcats. Leopard, tiger, and cheetah prints are classics that will never go out of style. Every year and every season, we spot these wildcat prints on major runways. Leopard is practically a neutral! All jokes aside, these wildcat prints and patterns exude an undeniable drama, sex appeal, and strength. Zebra and giraffe prints are unexpected incarnations of the animal print and express a more creative side. Python prints express that same drama and glamour as the wildcat prints. However, python prints can be too much so to be on the safe side opt for them as accessories. Lastly, cow/pony and dalmatian prints are quirky, unusual and even comical. These two prints are definitely more on the casual spectrum. Cow/pony prints can also be enlarging, so proceed with caution.

animal prints


People either love or hate the spot/dot print. A trend that can be traced back to the 40s-50s and still remains relevant today, the spot/dot is certainly here to stay. Even spaced spots are more retro, and smaller, uneven spots look more modern and more suited to wear in a corporate setting. Pop art spots and confetti spots in varying colors are whimsical prints that translate to daytime or party wear.

spots and dots prints


Originating in India, paisley prints and patterns were made fashionable by the British. This print is very strong in bohemian fashion. When donned as an abstract print, paisley can be appropriate for business casual events.

paisley prints


The army origins of the camouflage print give it a rugged, masculine and casual image. This print is enjoying a trend renaissance right now. Camouflage is becoming big in the street wear scene.



Fads come and go. So while these patterns and prints are fun, it is unlikely that these will last more than a season or two. You’ll be much better off going for these prints and patterns as low investment pieces in your wardrobe. Though their longevity isn’t the best, it makes a great impact for the season.


Resort wear and summer-inspired, palm prints and patterns are great in fun silhouettes like rompers and cropped tops.


This may be the only exception to the ‘fads’ rule. Part geometric and part linear, illusion prints can last you more than season especially when done in neutrals.


Comic prints are pop art influenced and are typically loud and in-your-face. Proceed with caution, comic prints can make a major statement but can be enlarging.


Motifs occur every season. Repeats of either tropical motifs like birds of paradise for summer, leaves for fall, map prints for winter; all of these are unique motifs that can elevate your look.

fad prints

This week I continue my feature on prints by looking at the design elements of prints and how to select ones that are best ones for you. You’ll be surprized that once you know this information your unconscious brain will be ever on the look-out for them.

Design Elements that Impact Size


The rule is simple here: the bigger the print, the bigger you’ll appear to be. The best prints are ones that are scaled to harmonize and flatter your scale. If you are a petite go for prints that are small to medium, if you are medium to tall and not overly overweight medium-small to medium-large prints are best for you. Tall gals with a likewise weight can wear medium-small to large prints and if you are plus size, go with prints that are medium to medium-large.

scaling printspolkadots

scaling plus size prints



The overall color of your print will also make a difference to both your size. Light and bright prints tend to be enlarging while darker prints minimize size. Medium depth prints, on the other hand, are neutral in their effect.

color in prints


Color Contrast

Another impactor of apparent size is the contrast of prints. The greater the contrast between the colors the larger you will appear general rule applies to color contrast: the higher the contrast, the wider you will appear to be. If you love big prints but find them too enlarging try finding a large print in a low contrast. The subtleness of the low contrast will mitigate the enlarging effect of the print’s size.

color contrast in prints


Print Location

Where you place a print is also important. Are you larger below your waist like Girl with Curves blogger Tanesha Awasthi? Then prints on your top half will flatter you most. Larger above the waist…yep, prints below your waist are the way to go.

print location

When selecting dresses keep scale, color and direction top of mind.

Print Direction

Being able to recognize the direction of a print allows to to chose the one that will best work for you. Send the eye vertically and you’ll make the area appear longer and/or narrower. horizontally and you’ll appear wider and possibly shorter. Multi directional prints are easiest to wear because they do not have a major direction.

Worth mentioning here too are complex prints. These are geometric/angular prints which have a complex design that does not allow the eye to rest in any one area. These are incredible at breaking up the body and can achieve minor miracles in the visual slimming stakes.

print direction

There’s more to learn about prints and the impact they have on your image but I’ll leave that topic for another day. But do listen to Lindsey Albanese give us a good summary on how to choose prints when actually in the dressing room

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