I'm new to this fashion thing.
September 2, 2013 1:20 AM   Subscribe

I could really use some fashion tips and am feeling in over my head. Difficulty level: Hard - Recently actualized transwoman on a tight budget.

So up until about a little over a year and a half ago I've paid little to no attention to fashion, especially women's fashion. I had been content with jeans and t-shirts mostly, but now it's time to step up my game. I'm looking for styles that are inbetween casual and (kinda) flashy. I'm in my mid-30's, 5'5 tall, 150 lbs-ish, on the stocky side with a ruddy complexion. In terms of what I have in my wardrobe right now, it's not much - a couple business casual button down shirts, a couple maxi dresses, a couple pairs of cute ballet flats, chuck taylors, flared slim fit jeans, and an Iron Maiden t-shirt (this was non-negotiable) is most of it at the moment. Stuff that de-emphasizes broad shoulders and um, The Area is a huge plus. Are there any good fashion blogs that cater to transwomen? Any pointers to online stores would also be greatly appreciated.
posted by spungfoo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I have a few random ideas.

- some trans ladies seem to have unusually fantastic legs, and you might like to consider whether this is the case and if so investigate looks involving tights or leggings.

- if you put a wide belt over a fairly form fitting dress or long top, and then stick a cardigan or a coat over the whole thing, somehow this magically gives you the appearance of a curvier figure than you actually possess. This totally applies to stocky shaped people too.

- searching for fashion tips for an "inverted triangle" body shape may help

- putting larger items on your lower half will help balance the shoulder area. For example, tallish boots instead of ballet flats, or bootcut/flared jeans instead of skinnies, or aline skirts/dresses instead of pencil ones. This is not an immutable law :-)

- longish tops or sweaters over leggings/skinnies with boots sounds like it would suit you, it clearly reads female, and it hides the Area that I suppose you are talking about.

- blogs by crossdressing men are a riot of helpful ideas, and reassurance that one can rock a fashionable lady look no matter how unconventionally shaped a lady one may be. I say this as a cis lady who reads these things and finds them useful.

- boots with a chunky heel are excellent for reading feminine while being easy to stride about in.

- do not make the mistake I made and buy tall boots that require lacing up, unless you honestly have the patience for that shit.
posted by emilyw at 1:49 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might get better return on your money and time investment to get a 1 or 2 really nice dressy shirts/blouses or classic dresses in neutral shades that you pay to have tailored (dresses without linings are simpler to get adjusted - and you can buy really nice pretty slips separately if a lining is needed). If you have broad shoulders, get them so they fit your shoulders perfectly and a tailor can then cinch the rest in nicely for a silhouette you like that looks fitted.

Then stop buying clothes and treat them as a blank canvas and do accessories like belts/scarves, necklaces, bags etc. That way you can experiment with lots of different looks without a big investment. You can borrow accessories from friends more easily than clothes too.

Then when you have more money, you'll know what style - retro, library-marm, country etc - you prefer and what colours you like for buying more pieces for your wardrobe.

One item, many ways, Same dress, four ways and The Uniform Project.
posted by viggorlijah at 3:36 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

The show gets on my nerves sometimes (I hate it when they pressure weird, interesting people to conform, and that "no miniskirts after 30" stuff can eat a hippo dick) but What Not to Wear often has pretty good advice. A lot of their victims are plus-size gals, and they do almost always end up looking better than they did when they started.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:58 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get a lovely, flowy, 1950s style circle skirt. Reasons: 1) waist defining 2) never goes out of style 3) de-emphasizes the Area 4) SKIRT TWIRLING, HELL YEAH.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:12 AM on September 2, 2013

Wrap dresses. Waist dresses. Eshakti will size their dresses to your measurements! Avoid cap sleeves and go for elbow or similar lengths.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:38 AM on September 2, 2013

I'm your height and weight and am also stocky (I got asked a lot in high school if I was a swimmer - nope! just have huge shoulders, thanks). Anything that cinches in at the waist only serves to emphasize my general rectangle-shape and lack of waist. Most of the dresses I buy are sheath-style with a little shape to them to give the impression that I have more curves than I do - like this one or something like this, if the cut is right. Loft is such a good place to start - they almost always have a wide range of different styles. I'd just go someplace like that, or even the Gap or Banana Republic - smaller than a department store, but larger than a boutique - and start trying on things to figure out what styles look good on you.
posted by something something at 7:05 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, also: personal shoppers. There are a bunch in Pittsburgh. I don't know what your budget is but someone like this might be worth the hourly rate, especially if she'll help you shop at whatever your pricepoint is. If your current closet is not at all what you want, show the shopper photos of styles you do like (blogs, celebs, etc) and work from there.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:05 AM on September 2, 2013

Jersey wrap dresses are femme-ly flattering on most body types. They're also very comfy to wear all day and can work in a range of settings (casual, office, dressy party). One with a busy pattern and full skirt should help camouflage The Area. Note: cheap wrap dresses tend to need a safety pin at the neckline, where the two sides of the wrap cross, to stay modest. I like using colored safety pins to match the fabric.
posted by Orinda at 7:08 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The basis of any good outfit are properly fitting undergarments. Check out the sizing guidelines at Reddit's A Bra That Fits community (most stores and websites have outdated and incorrect measuring methods). It's a trans-friendly community and there have been several measurement checks, fit checks, and other threads by transwomen. Especially take a look at the sidebar link on shallow shapes - many transwomen have a shallow breast shape so bras with only vertical seams and no horizontal/diagonal seams on the cups, and with more open tops are usually best. A popular bra for shallow breasted women on the smaller end of the spectrum (DD and below - yes, DD is relatively small, when properly fitted) is the B.Tempt'd Ciao Bella.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:37 AM on September 2, 2013

I think you are a perfect candidate for the Nordstrom personal stylist. There is a Nordstrom in Ross Park.

The personal stylists are free, and they can help you find the right types of clothes for your shape and help you define your personal style. Appointments are usually an hour, and you can try on A LOT of clothes in an hour. While it is customary to buy something, you could walk away with nothing but a lot of knowledge about how to dress your body.
posted by frizz at 7:43 AM on September 2, 2013

As a cis(ish) female who often reads as male from behind (broad shoulders, narrow hips), and who was not born with the Lady Style Manual, here are some things I've figured out.

Avoid: Turtlenecks. Cap sleeves. Empire waist dresses--they might appeal for area-coverage, but with a broader chest, everything under that is Shapeless City, and if your belly is more prominent than your hips, Maternity City.

Aim towards: v-necks (depending on the chest hair situation, you could wear a high-necked camisole or tank top underneath. It's more about the color and line than the expanse of skin.). The wrap styles mentioned up thread are magic. Belts. Flouncy skirts with a slip underneath for a little more fullness to balance out the top, and bonus Area coverage. Also agreed with up thread comment that transwomen often have fabulous legs; full skirts that hit around knee length can show that off but still be modest.

On a budget, find the local thrift shops. There will be a lot MORE styles there than in an average shop and cheaper to boot. That's where I usually start when I want to try something different.

Also--if you have a friend or acquaintance with a style you like, it's totally acceptable lady-talk to say you like accessory X and ask where she shops.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:16 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ditch the flared jeans. Straight-legged jeans are in right now--not necessarily skinnies, but definitely not flares either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:18 AM on September 2, 2013

A-line skirts! They commonly fall just below the knee. Similar to the aforementioned circle skirt, just updated and with less material. Wear with sandals in summer and boots with tights or leggings in winter. The shape is comfortable (not fitted anywhere but the waist) and flattering, will offset wide shoulders and emphasize (or create) a waist.

I also recommend wide-leg pants. Not flared, but wide leg. You want to avoid snug around the thighs and these accomplish that. Paired with a nicely fitted top, wide-leg pants will also give you a nice shape. Wear with your flats.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2013

Accessories can do a lot to step up your game. The right shoes, jewelry, and bag, turn a dress from casual to elegant. Basically anything that looks like it's on purpose. Hair jewelry too.

Since you say you are on a budget, I would say bring a friend who likes to shop to Goodwill or Salvation Army and try on everything and anything she brings you, no matter how sure you are that it won't work. That's the only way to find what works on you. A few pieces of expensive clothing can wait until you find your style. Commit to wearing everything you buy at least once, even if it makes you nervous. If it doesn't work, no big deal.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:40 AM on September 2, 2013

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks to all of you! This is a lot to take in, but I'm leaning towards going the personal shopper route; it might end up being more than I planned on spending but a professional would go a long way in helping me navigate through the frankly dizzying array of choices. Now to belt down that voice of mine and my posture... ;)
posted by spungfoo at 8:47 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]



You have two options while wearing heels. 1: Walk like a lady (curves out, package in). 2: Fall.
posted by Vesture of Chance at 10:25 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Late to the party, but thought I'd stop in and recommend Imogen Lamport's blog Inside Out Style. She's an Australian personal stylist who focuses a lot on body shapes, answers questions and provides many illustrations; she doesn't say, "You'll look like a wombat if you don't buy these $200 jeans."

Here are a couple of her posts for dressing your body shape:
Body Shapes Explained – V Shape (Inverted Triangle)
Real Life Body Shapes – V
Bad Design (with this critical insight: "Women, notoriously blame the garment when it doesn’t flatter them or fit them, but in fact, if we look closely at the design of the garment, we will soon realise that it is not us or our body (which is perfect) but a badly designed garment.")
All of her posts for dressing the "V shape"
posted by virago at 8:49 AM on September 3, 2013

If you want a friend to shop at thrift stores with you, there's a thread full of Pittsburgh people to ask, as well. (If you're ever in Seattle, I'd be happy to go shopping with you.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 1:07 PM on September 3, 2013

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