Friday, January 27, 2006

Dressing En Femme

One thing I have in common with transladies is the love of feminine dressing. I’d like to share my own girl-woman dressing evolution, and explain how dressing has impacted me. I understand completely why you need this feeling because I need it too. I may well need it so much as to be unhealthy. Yet I’m genetically female, so my excessive dressing habits are “normal”. My love of feminine dressing energy was a factor that drew me to the transgender community. With my love of feminine dressing, I know that if I’d have been born male I would be a t-girl.

The joy of feminine dressing runs deep for me. I’ve always been a girly-girl. As a little girl I loved doing fun girlstuff like playing “dolls” or “house” or “dressup”. Every day I would enjoy having my long hair done in french braids, pigtails or half-up half-down, and would always request the ribbons and barrettes. I wore a dress at every possible opportunity, complete with pretty tights, shiny shoes, even cute frilly panties.

I remember one of the most important qualities of a dress was its spin factor… the degree to which it would twirl outward. When I would wear a twirly dress, I would spin myself round and round, mesmerized by the fabric of my dress flowing outward. I would insist on demonstrating the twirl of my dress to anyone who would pay mind to me. Of course, in doing this I would invariably become dizzy and fall down on the floor with my cheeks all flushed, giggling hysterically.

In my perfect little world, I would have dressed femme every day. My mom set limits in this area because she wanted me to have a diversity of interests (thankfully!). Plus it was probably a lot more trouble for her to dress me up like the little doll I wanted to be, than on those days when I was resigned to more practical attire. I was always lucky enough to be able to negotiate the dressup at least a few times a week, so I certainly didn’t suffer.

Part of why I was so drawn to dressing girly was the notable positive reaction from those around me. When I would dress up pretty, I would get more attention, and people seemed generally more receptive to me. Before the age of 5, I already had an inkling of the power of feminine beauty and charm. I would work my little girl “cuteness” to the maximum (or so I supposed). Being a girl definitely had its advantages, yet I grew up in an era and place where girls basically had “equal” status to boys. I got to enjoy the fun of being a girl, while having the same opportunities boys had. I know how fortunate I am for having experienced this.

As I moved into my teen years, dressing was still a huge part of my life, although it took on a different form. No longer did I want to be girly. Instead I wanted to be SEXY and BAD. So I experimented with my look, constantly changing styles. At the age of 13 my look was inspired directly by Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. I got into sexy dresses and mini-skirts, lace nylons and gloves, scarves, ripped up clothing mostly all black, with white, red or hot pink accents. Makeup became my new-found obsession, which I applied to excess, and in every manner of experimentation I could conceive. My hair was always wild and huge, often different colors, punked out in any variant of ways. Jewelry was overdosed upon, earrings, chains, rings, bracelets… and accessories, belts, chains… and footwear, heels always, preferably something saucy and spiky (I still enjoy the dominant power of the heel click factor), rain, snow, whatever, reason and practicality be damned!

By the age of 16, I began to emerge from the wild-child phase, and become more of a young lady. The dressing was still a big part, but again, it took on a different form. I began to have a taste for more elegant styles, subdued yet always quite feminine. Deeply ingrained in my psyche by this time was the daily ritual of styling and curling my long hair and applying full makeup, and I would spend anywhere from 1-3 hours per day on dressing and beautification.

Not much has changed in my 32 years as a female, only the emergence of my different dressing styles. My love for feminine beauty and dressing has remained constant in my life. As you may have noticed from my pictures, I still dress up and experiment with my look often. On a daily basis, I still perform the beauty ritual, even if I’ve no plans to leave the house. It’s something I need, I crave, and I indulge perhaps to a fault.

Mirror, mirror on the wall… it has always been my best friend and my worst enemy.The self-adornment options available to females are endless. Fashion choices are bounded only by imagination, and undergarments alluring and sexy. Proper makeup can conceal almost any “flaw” and hair can be styled in a plethora of ways (with wigs as an alternative). Women’s jewelry is pretty, dainty, sparkly, eye-catching. Shoes and accessories are available in literally millions of different designs.

For men, the options are not even 1% of what is available to women. Men have to just accept themselves in a totally natural state, with very little opportunity for improvement beyond a certain point. Women have the opportunity to enhance and maximize our outer appearance, transforming ourselves into whatever image we want to portray. As women, we have available a whole spectrum of identity crafting tools to which men are not permitted.

What is needed on both sides of the equation is balance. Women are fortunate to have all the trappings of beautification available to them, yet it’s a two edge sword. Women who dress to excess may hinge a great degree of self-confidence on outer appearance. I must confess to falling into this category, as for many years I would not leave the house without my “mask”. I have come to realize that I feel like a different person when dressed, partially because of the vastly different outside reaction when dressed vs. drab.

Not only must I care far too much about approval from strangers, but I need to also understand that it’s just window dressing, costuming even. The makeup isn’t ME. When dressing must occur before self-confidence kicks in, it can’t be healthy. This is my challenge.The other side of the coin is men, who are not allowed by society to modify their appearance at all. Even if their outside does not match who they are inside, they must settle for the basics. Men are relegated to a very narrow set of boundaries in terms of self-expression.

Society condones men becoming physically fit, smelling good and being well groomed, but that’s about it. Any further measures to improve ones appearance are frowned upon. It seems so inequitable compared to women’s opportunities in this area.

Due to my own love for dressing, my sense of fairness, and my belief in gender equality, I could never condemn a man for (cross)dressing. In fact, I very much enjoy interacting with men who dress. I never imagined there could be men who would bridge this gap, and truly understand what women go through in regard to the beautification ritual. Too many times in my life I have heard from an ordinary man “why does it take you so long to get ready? can’t you just throw on some jeans? hurry up! c’mon lets go!” who upon getting his wish might say something to the effect of “well geez, you’re not really going out looking like THAT are you?” Never again will I hear these words, thankfully.

Men who dress have an appreciation for all the little details that go into the process, and will notice the effort in a positive light. Men who are clueless about dressing assume women roll out of bed looking like this. Men who dress present a most refreshing evolution from the status quo of men. These are the people who are bridging the gender gap, and whose courage will be the foundation for true equality between man and woman.

Originally posted to:

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home