What is style?

Now that I’m medically transitioning, the issue of clothing is becoming ever more prominent. Recently I had to go to a family wedding, which meant I had to buy my first dress, and get nice shoes, and put on makeup, and be in front of people. It turned out fine, and I was quite happy with how I looked (see the photo).

Thanks to the magic of oestrogen (“titty skittles”), my breasts have been growing quite fast, and aside from being damn tender, it’s reminding me that at some point I’ll have to buy a bra. Not easy for someone who a) doesn’t love clothes shopping in the first place, b) has never bought a bra, c) has quite a broad chest making it hard to measure. I can buy online, and there are specific guides for how to measure your bra size as a trans woman, but it’s still all pretty disorientating.

I dress much better than I used to, by which I mean my mum no longer buys my clothes. The thing is, as much as I’d like to look well-dressed and stylish, have a repertoire of different outfits, I can’t be bothered to go to the effort and expense of buying the garments, then faffing about choosing outfits and layering pieces.

I’m not a high-heels and dresses type, but I am enjoying the possibility of wearing clothes I couldn’t before, like skirts and tights. The only problem is, I’m a comfy gal at heart, and besides that, the process of finding clothes that fit me and actually look nice is incredibly daunting. The dress pictured above cost me £88, and the shoes that went with it, which I can only order in my size from a few select places, cost around £200. Vintage clothes, charity shopping, and even casual browsing are pretty much off limits for me.

Paloma Urban Fashion

I have a difficult relationship with presenting femme (or “wearing girls’ clothes”, or however you want to call it). When I was first experimenting with physical presentation (I don’t call it “gender presentation” because that, to me, includes body language etc.), I was much more daring than I am now. I wore makeup with facial hair, put on bright pink tutus and pink leopard-print tights, grabbed anything that was neon, and dyed my hair bright colours. Pictured to the right is me wearing one such outfit .

That night, on the way to the club, a man slowed down in his car just to laugh at me.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this didn’t exactly do wonders for my confidence. I receded back into my shell, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come out that far again. It’s hard to know how much was tactical and how much was voluntary. (I actually made a vlog about transmisogynist street harrassment, but then my brother saw it, without my consent, and was Weird, so I deleted it.)

A similar thing happened during my first queer naissance/coming out, when I was in school and thought I was gay. Once I started telling people, I started to feel more comfortable in myself, until someone commented that, “Now that you’ve come out you act really gay. What’s up with that?” Again, blow to confidence, recede etc. etc.

So what would it mean for me to be stylish? I feel like the word implies so many things: elegance, conventional attractiveness, but above all, ease. It comes to her naturally. She doesn’t even have to try.

I have to remind myself how people actually dress. We get bombarded by images in the media, and are conditioned to notice thin, well-dressed people more than others, but if you go around and do a style census, you find that most people are wearing flats and a hoodie. And even if they aren’t, they’re hardly decked to the nines in ten-inch heels, either.

As with all things, I guess there’s a balance. But when you’re getting read as male a large part of the time, it’s impossible to not feel like you should be doing everything you can to push the scales in the other direction. Maybe the most stylish thing to do is simply not to care.

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