Spotlight on: Dresses

Today I’m going to talk about dresses. For people wanting to present female, a dress can often feel like a signature item that really signals your gender. After all, dresses are a big signifier of femininity as very few men wear them in every day life.

But I see many trans women making a few key mistakes when it comes to dresses, and I want to address those in this article so you have a few ideas about how to get your first few dresses, and make sure they look good on you.

Problem one: BodyCon

I often see trans women wearing very form-fitting or BodyCon (Body Contouring) dresses, and this is one of the first mistakes I want to point out, as it can make it harder to pass.

The reason for this is that natal males (people assigned male at birth) have very different figures and proportions to natal females (people assigned female at birth) even if you have been on HRT for a while. The picture below illustrates some of the key differences.

Idealised, but it sets the point out clearly.

People with bodies that have developed as male will have broader shoulders and narrower hips, on average, than people who have developed as female. Also, depending at what age you start taking HRT and how long you’ve been taking it, fat will deposit in different areas on your body to where it would on a natal female.

This often means that trans women end up bulkier around their stomachs if they put on weight. In comparison, cis women would have heavier breasts and hips, as this is where fat normally deposits on their bodies.

So if you’re wearing a very tight-fitting dress, and your body hasn’t fully adapted to HRT yet (or you started taking HRT after your body had roughly completed its first puberty) then that dress will actually emphasise the fact that you have masculine proportions.

Even if you’ve got larger breasts, or you’re wearing breast forms or have even had an augmentation, if your body is still otherwise proportioned in a more masculine way, form fitting clothes will emphasise that.

Problem Two: length

Another big issue is about the length of the dresses you choose to wear. Whilst what may be fashionable is about what looks good on the bodies of very thin women in their late teens and early twenties (i.e. professional models), it’s important to remember that those looks don’t always translate well to the real world.

Especially if you’re coming at it from the perspective of someone who’s transitioning, and even more so if you’re at that stage a bit later in life than most.

A lot of what’s out there at the moment are dresses that end mid-thigh. If you had a history of being a bit more athletic when you were younger (can I say denial jocks are a thing? I think they’re a bit of a thing), then you’ll likely still have quite bulky, masculine legs.

Or, if you’re really still into sports, your muscles are likely going to still be a bit bigger and more defined than the average cis woman. This doesn’t mean you should drop a hobby that’s good for you and you enjoy, but it does mean you should be a bit more aware of what a super-mini dress might look like on you.

Problem three: formal wear

My general rule is that you should always make sure that what you’re wearing is appropriate for the occasion. I mean, I’m not exactly Einstein for thinking that; it’s a good rule of thumb.

If you’re still learning the rules of what’s appropriate for the occasion as a woman, I don’t blame you. Fashion is definitely a lot simpler en homme given that most men’s clothes are a variation on trousers, jeans, suits or shorts and shirts or T-shirts. Women on the other hand…

I’d recommend looking at what other women around you wear for the kinds of things you do in your life. So if you’re a nine-to-five desk-jockey like I am when I’m not blogging, look at what other women around you wear. Eight times out of ten, they’re wearing trousers and blouses, but if they’re wearing dresses and you want to wear a dress to the office (and with summers like the ones we’ve been having I don’t blame you…) keep an eye on the kind of length and formality they’re going for.

Lovely as it looks, office-appropriate this ain’t.

You don’t want to be turning up to the office in something you’d wear on any of the following occasions:

  • To the beach
  • To a club
  • To a formal dinner
  • To a wedding

The same goes for any other occasion. If you’re having a casual afternoon out with your friends, don’t wear a dress that would look better on a first date. Don’t wear a casual summer dress to your best friend’s wedding. Don’t wear a smart pinstripe sheath dress to the club (although obviously that probably depends on the club).

So what should you do instead? Check back next week for my solutions for what will look good, stylish and fashionable while still flattering your unique body. Want to chat about how my personal coaching might help you with your transition? Contact me here.

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