My previous series on dressing was a pretty typical trans/crossdresser article, basically a catalog of all the clothes I had purchased. There are hundreds of these on the internet. I'm not criticizing: women's clothing is more varied and complicated than men's, and beginners need help navigating through all these new options. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a mentor like Dom de Luxury to guide them.
The problem is that once I had all those new clothes, I didn't look that great in them, and I didn't know why. Since figuring it out, I deleted all those cataloging articles and started researching a more helpful series about dressing. If you are like me and think you should look better than you do, read on! Hopefully, this will help!
The most important thing is FIT.
You've seen red-carpet photos of gorgeous actors and actresses. They look amazing, and one of the reasons they look amazing is that their clothes fit absolutely perfectly.
Except they don't. I've been behind the scenes at several red-carpet moments and I've seen the reality. These beautiful people look fantastic from the front, but you wouldn't want to see them from the back. Before the photo was taken, expert fitters worked hard, making sure the actor looked perfect for the picture. They do that by adjusting the back of the outfit, so while the front looks great, the back is a crazy quilt of safety pins, tape, and ad hoc sewing. So fit matters. But what can the rest of us do if the people with those clothes budgets need help?
It turns out we can do quite a bit.
How We Got Here and the OTR Problem
Before the 19th century, clothing was made to measure by professionals or in the home. Those were the days when every suit or dress was bespoke. ("Bespoke" means the same thing as "custom," but it's much snobbier. People started calling custom-made clothes "bespoke" because there was always a lot of discussion between the dressmaker and the client.) When industrialized or "Off-The-Rack" (OTR) clothing was introduced, bespoke clothes became the province of the high end of the market and are now considerably more expensive than OTR clothes.
The OTR revolution was great for middle-class dressers, but a compromise was the only way to fit everybody. Now clothes only "sort of" fit. While it's true that dress shops will adjust clothes for you, these adjustments are usually restricted to the hemline or the sleeve length. Getting a really flawless fit requires a bit more than that! And when you buy clothes online, you are completely on your own.
A Beginner's Example: Buying Clothes Online
Many trans and crossdressers are reluctant to go into dress shops, fearing they will be mistreated. I haven't found that to be a problem. It's best to find a time when the shop isn't busy. The people who work at these places are usually super friendly and even find it fun to help you out. Trying on clothes is the easiest, quickest way to get your best fit.
But there are lots of advantages to buying online. Prices are better, and a huge selection is available to you from every country worldwide. You have to do a little more work, but it's not hard, and it gets easier with practice.
I thought it might be instructive to show how I bought a dress online. This is a dress I like from a brand I respect that markets exclusively on Amazon. You need to know your measurements, of course. Mine (in inches) are:
- 46 inches
- 28 inches
- 44 inches
And here's the size chart from their Amazon store. Like any good brand, they helpfully give you pictures that show how to measure yourself.
Let's find the size that will fit my bust. My breast measures 46, so it looks like a 2XL is what I should get.
But the waist measurement for a 2XL is 36.5-38 inches, which is 8.5-10 inches bigger than my waist! And the hips for this dress are 47-48.5 inches, 3-4.5 inches bigger than my hips! The 2XL size will look like a tent on me!
So let's take a look at the waist. The size chart recommends a medium size to fit my 28-inch waist. But now the dress' breast size is 9 or 10 inches too small for me, and the hips are 4.5-5.5 inches too small!
Ok, let's try the hips. For 44-inch hips, the perfect fit is an XL. That's a better fit for the breasts (only 3 inches too small) and the waist (only 7 inches too big).
So what's the story here? Should I give up on this dress and move on? The sad reality of living in an OTR world is that moving to another dress and another sizing chart would give similar answers. While it's true that my breasts are larger and my waist smaller than is "typical," very few people would find OTR dresses with sizing charts that would fit every curve perfectly. So we have to find some compromise.
So what did I do?
I looked at how much stretch the dress material has. The manufacturer says it contains a mix of 95% polyester and 5% Elastin. That's pretty typical - I have a lot of clothes with that type of cloth, so I have a feel for how much it would stretch. Reading more, I see that they recommend sizing down 1 or even 2 sizes for a "form-fitting" look.
But which measurement do I go down from? I felt the XL measurements were the closest fit. It was a perfect fit for the hips, slightly too small for the breast and too big for the waist. Given the material's stretchability, I could go down two sizes to an M. My partner (hi SheDaddy) loves it when my breasts are prominent, so it's very tempting. The problem is the neckline, which might be a bit too revealing of the prosthetic nature of my breasts in public, even with a translucent body suit over it. So since I don't have implants yet, I went with the L. With a breast size of 42.5, my boobs should look nice and full but still be acceptable in public. I wish the waist was smaller, but if I'm not happy with how it looks when I get the dress, I can add a belt or even modify it (more on that in a later article). The hip measurement, a bit too tiny, should look amazing if the material is as form-fitting as I expect.
How did it work out?
When I got the dress, it looked just like I expected. My breasts and hips looked terrific in the dress, and even though the waist was slightly larger than I would have liked, it still showed the curves of my body. I will modify the dress at some point so the waist fits better.
Getting a happy outcome like this combines several factors. Looking at the size chart and thinking about it is one of the most important. Sizing, cut, etc., differ between brands, so it helped that I was familiar with other dresses from this maker. Experience plays a significant role, and there is always an element of luck, although less in this particular case.
And even though I was pretty sure of myself, before putting down my hard-earned cash on the dress, I checked the most important thing: "Free Returns." Always check for that, just in case it doesn't fit.
Incidentally, I didn't worry much about the length. That's not the most important thing for a dress like this. The difference in length from small to large is only about 2 inches, and with this hemline, it will look nice if it flows a bit on the floor or, as it did in my case, gather around my shoes.
My decisions were also based on my taste and how I wanted to look. That's part of what fit is. Some people would be uncomfortable with this sizing and prefer a more modest appearance. Or you might have a different body type and pick a different silhouette.
Some Advice for Beginners
The best advice is to jump in and try it. Take notes and remember how it all works out. If you're not happy with something, feel free to return it and get another size.
Most people have things about themselves they want to emphasize and other things they would be happier about if people wouldn't notice. There will always be an element of compromise in these OTR buying decisions. For example, if you have large breasts and a large tummy, select a larger size or even a different style of dress.
I generally start with the waist measurement and see how everything else works with that. I've found that a reliable method of selecting dresses over the years..
Most of all, have fun. Looking good in your clothes is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your friends!
I hope this helped out. Let me know if you have comments or questions. I'm always happy to hear from you!