Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Going glam

It's fun to get glammed-up. No question. But it's not what most women do, most of the time, even in the evenings, and especially not during the day. A woman who in daytime is wearing a sharp little outfit and stunning makeup generally has a good reason. She might be a top professional, with clients to impress, but at midday it's most likely to be a wedding. And if it's not obviously either of these, other people will notice and may start to speculate. And that might mean unwanted scrutiny. Can you risk it?

If the answer is yes - you might be on your way to Royal Ascot, say - then fine. Otherwise, surely caution is the order of the day. I see a lot of trans women, usually in the early stages of their transition, who naturally want to wear their best finery, but fail to see that it looks all wrong. You know, high heels and fishnets. I've never seen a natal girl wearing fishnets in the street. Working women and housewives and girls pushing prams all wear practical clothes that need not be drab, but they're going to be the sort you can go to the supermarket in and not mess up. If you are dressed like a dancing girl straight off the stage, it strikes the wrong note.

I think most trans women who have some full-time experience under their belt decide for themselves that doing what ordinary women do is the best course. It will let them walk about unnoticed. This is especially necessary in a place like Brighton.

Brighton has long had a reputation for being a mecca for LGBT people, a thoroughly safe place to go, with a large resident community of LGBT people and a local population that is used to seeing many strange sights. That's true about the local community, but it's also a problem. It means that what would pass as merely odd in another city is instantly recognised as LGBT, because the locals are so 'aware'.

In many other places trans folk are a rarity and not on people's minds. I was told a few months ago that there were only three trans people getting their prescriptions filled by Boots at Burgess Hill, where I go. I visit Burgess Hill (a small town north of Brighton) quite often for my shopping when I don't use the village shops, and I've never ever seen another trans person. But even if there were a dozen strolling around, I'd be surprised if they would be recognised in a place like that. Nobody would be familiar enough with the real appearance of trans women, nobody would spot the sometimes subtle visual differences between a trans woman and natal woman. So for a dressed-down trans woman, Burgess Hill is 'safe'. Not that you'd get a big night out there: don't bother.

Quite unlike Brighton. Gays, lesbians, bis and trannies are all tourist sights there, and the locals and Londoners milling around in the Lanes and the North Laines expect to see something to smirk at. So it's especially wise to look natural and unremarkable if you want to avoid embarrassing situations. Nor is Brighton as tolerant as you might think. There are plenty of folk around who will look for someone to have a go at, and an obvious trans person is terribly vulnerable. And remember the murder of Andrea Waddell there: she won't be the last.

All this said, you won't catch me leaving my front door without mascara and lipstick on, because these things draw attention to my eyes and lips, and away from my ugly nose and less-than-perfect jaw. They are essential props. They have a purpose.

As for my hair, I like it to look freshly-washed. But since it's fine and easily messed up by the wind, and because I don't like hats that much, I've recently been wearing hairbands to keep it in place. With fair success. A hairband doesn't make me look like Alice in Wonderland, and if a breeze whisks a few strands out of position, then restoring the well-groomed look is easy. A few flicks of my fingers. Meanwhile the hairband pushes my hair out around my face more, and that frames my face better, and looks right with the fringe.  If it's a day when the hair is looking a bit lank, I still don't worry overmuch: other women might think me slovenly, but at least I won't look like a tranny.

At this point, the challenge is putting together a glam outfit that doesn't seem over the top. Caution demands that you dress down. So currently this is my limit:

Tut. Eating again! But to make my predicament clear, what on earth would I have worn to the Royal Wedding, had I been invited? (Like Fergie, I wasn't) Whatever it was, I would have avoided the overdressed efforts that some people thought appropriate:

That evening meal photo was at The Red Lyon, a country pub in the village of Slinfold near Horsham. I was about to scoff my main course. For dessert I chose a summer fruits pudding with ice cream:

I've gone way off-topic, but it was so yummy I just had to show you.

That was an evening of total acceptance for my friend R--- and myself. Nothing less than we expected, but clearly they don't get trannies in Slinfold. And if you don't wear fancy stuff, and your makeup is natural, and your voice and manner are right, and you don't mind pushing your way through guys at the bar, and asking girls how old their toddlers are, you can get by really well and have a wonderful time.


  1. Well I work with women who wear fishnets to work! And I've been known to, with no trace of irony, alongside a spring/summer business outfit - gives the blokes something to drool over. ( ** prick tease ** is, I think, the term)

    Talking Ascot, Mel and I are going on the Thrsday if you felt up to joining us.

  2. Oh, and the never withiut some makeup thing, fine in theory, in practice, gym, facial appts, trainer and so on get in the way! Sometimes nude has to be the way, my mantra being the best makeup is exclellent skin.

    I'm lucky I can get away with it I guess.

  3. Prior to transitioning professionally, I decided that my appearance could not be distraction from my work. There are two approaches one can take, one is to try and fly under the radar and always dress down, the other is to ensure you are dressed impeccably to avoid offering surface for criticism, especially about your clothes.

    I have found that people take clues from me and dressing in a way that is attractive has helped much. Being well dressed is not glamor but something all women want to achieve.

  4. I loved this post, and I couldn't agree with you more on the issue of dressing. Personally I always get so sad when I see Trannies way over the top on deep cleavage and make up. I have a very good friend. He's a baker and gay, and he always want to lend me his Tiara, and every time I have to tell him that as a TG, that's just not what we are into, we just want to blend in LOL.
    Thanks for your refreshing post.
    In kind

  5. I completely 'approve' of dressing well, in quality clothing, for the right occasion. It's the over-colourful, jewllery-festooned look for everyday use that seems so dangerous to me.

    If attending a country shoot, for instance, I'd wear olive green or brown outer wear by Barbour or whatever - and my pearls and brown boots by Dubarry would be the only low-key indulgence, to express some individuality and personal style. Prettiness suborned to hanging around in the wind, rain and mud.

    I wonder sometimes whether the look of some early-stage transitioners has a lot to do with living a long-suppressed suppressed fantasy, with their new 'official' status as trans women as the trigger for an outburst of experimentation. It might explain the preponderence of pink, and the frills, and beads galore, and eye makeup otherwise only found on the employees in places like MAC, or on the set of the remake of Cleopatra, and, yes, the big cleavage.

    But I suppose it's a stage we all have to go through, and I couldn't blame anyone in the first flush of freedom for trying out some whacky getups - so long as they recognise the personal risks.


  6. We all go about this differently, don't we. I generally aim for "stylish," and that's according to my own taste. I'm not above doing local errands in jeans and a top and even no makeup, but when I go into the city I like to look decent. And I like to be noticed -- for the right reasons. And I do get noticed because I dress well and appropriately. I am not afraid of pushing the envelope a bit. I am a fashionista!

    I do own a pair of fishnets, but those are only for punky sorts of parties or something similar.


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