Wearing dresses

Trans women dress more femininely than cis women. I have often noticed in a group I am the only woman in a skirt; or been in a group of trans women, all in dresses, where cis women in similar circs would be in trousers. For years I never wore trousers at all- though a man I knew wore trousers three times in five years: he was a hotel manager in the Highlands, and always wore kilts.

I like skirts. I don’t have particularly good dress sense, though it is better than it was. The play Bakkhai represented my experience beautifully: the King appears in a ridiculous skirt suit, out of fashion, ill-fitting, with feminine flounces; and I thought, I have worn that suit, and seen others in it. Dress sense is something cis women learn from childhood, and we have to pick up later.

You pick it up in part from watching other women. I have a problem with that, too: I tended to walk along the street quickly, to get where I was going, rather than looking around at people and things. Friends think I have snubbed them when I have not noticed they are there. Partly this is not noticing others’ attention, which I feared might be hostile.

You work on it slowly, because you have other things to work on. I had a few looks I liked, and I stuck to them, because I had to think about work and friendships. One trans woman I met bought lots of clothes from charity shops and wore something different every day, to find what she liked and what looked good on her, and what other people liked on her.

I found the fashion a few years ago for leggings or black opaque tights, and short flippy skirts, too exposing. I was scared of it. It was the sexy end of feminine, and I don’t want to look sexy. Neck lines go up and down, but I wore high necklines and was roundly mocked for it by one woman in about 2007: no-one would wear a shirt like that, buttoned up to the neck! And with the leggings, a woman in her sixties had been told her long skirts were frumpy, she should show off her legs, and she told me I should show mine. So I do, now and then, I have a shorter skirt and a couple of shorter dresses. I still feel self-conscious. Not everyone is looking at me, and those who are might be appreciative not derisive.

It has never been that I want to appear feminine so I choose clothes which I think look particularly feminine, but that I am feminine, so choose clothes I like- bright warm colours, soft fabrics, floaty shapes. And I wear jeans a lot, because they are practical.

Madame Monet in Japanese Costume

8 thoughts on “Wearing dresses

  1. I think I’ve become lazy to wear dresses or skirts and for decades now “trousers” are as part of femininity as they are of “masculinity” – especially the the tight one…I think pants have thus made it much easier for women because decades ago when pants were just a sporting wear for women dresses were worn and thus needed to show legs and, bugger, women have always been self-conscious about two things: breasts and legs (the shape of them) – so Maxi-skirts and pants have taken away the stress of self-consciousness in appearance for many women especially those who think their legs are either too skinny or too fat or what have you

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  2. I’m not sure all (biological) women learn from childhood how to dress well – I didn’t. I think that when you’re young, especially as a teenager, you just tend to go with fashion, whether it actually suits you or not. I learnt how to dress for my body shape from a friend when I was in my mid-30’s. It was like a mini revolution…

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  3. Echoing what ladyofthecakes says, if you make too many assumptions about what cis women do, you put barriers up that aren’t there. I learnt next to nothing about femininity, having had that variously cut, pulled and shorn off me. I also have very few memories of watching women dress, so have no notion that I picked up anything from them. And indeed, my masculine preferences attest to that. I find women’s clothes troubling – so much choice! – and not fitting on my long thin frame, that almost always manages to be between sizes.

    Again, my experiences echo much of what you write. Not wanting to be noticed, (which I would assume would be for the wrong reasons) and craving to be noticed (for the right reasons).

    A wonderful post, thank you! 🙂 xxx

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