Monday, June 13, 2011

Q & A: FTM Fashion Advice

I was wondering if you had some advice in terms of work clothing.  I'm an ftm...about a year into testosterone.  I definitely look more masculine, and pass almost all of the time, but my biggest problem has been updating my wardrobe.  I'm trying to apply for jobs now as the "new" me, but mens clothing (even the smallest sizes) are still too big and I end up looking sloppy.  What should I do to stock up on some business clothes? I need something like the opposite of big-and-tall.

small-and-short, Los Angeles, CA.


Great question.  To start with, lots of biological males are below average in terms of height and build*, so there is plenty of hope out there for clothing options.  First to note is that when someone is dressed in clothing that's meant to fit well, like business or formal attire - but clearly doesn't - you won't only risk blowing a perfect interview: you could be drawing attention to being a transman.

Being transgender - especially post-transition - is not something most want to publicly "wear on their sleeve", so it's important to make sure those sleeves fit (forgive the unavoidable pun).  Aside from the egregious lack of laws protecting the transgender community from discrimination, you've worked very hard to embrace your internal manhood, and there's a reason you've undertaken the challenges associated with transitioning; clothing shouldn't be working against you.

So the million dollar question is, what to wear.  

Order Online
  • To start with, it's helpful to know your measurements.   Whether you're selecting a dress shirt or suit to try on in a store, or you're more comfortable ordering clothing online (sans fitting room anxiety).  Check online for how to find your measurements.
  • Opt for online stores that offer free shipping (making returns and exchanges far more economical).  

Aim for slim fitting suits
  • Try two button suits, with a more slender lapel. 
  • Pair it with a slimmer tie.  It doesn't need to be a skinny tie, but it should be no more than 3" at its widest point.  
  • Note: Ties should always reflect the width of the lapel, which should reflect the overall cut of the suit.  A slim tie and slim lapel with a wide-cut suit will still look bulky.
Benefit from bulking up
  • In addition to improving your overall health, and combating negative changes to your cholesterol levels due to testosterone therapy, exercising and adding a little muscle can make a world of difference in how clothing fits a transgender man.
  • Focus on areas that matter to clothing sizes, such as the neck, traps, delts, and lats.
  • **ALWAYS consult a medical physician before starting any exercise program.**

Don't settle for sloppy
  • The smallest (yet still commonly available) dress shirt size is 14 - 14 1/2".  There is a possibility that this still looks a little ill-fitting.  There are two more tricks you can try: 1. Allow the collar to rest on an angle toward your chest, as opposed to up higher around your neck.  The diagonal angle will give the shirt collar more distance to cover. 2. Try the shirt on with a tie - tightening a tie will pull the collar tighter around your neck.
  • The smallest (yet still commonly available) suit size is a 36 short.  Having a suit jacket tailored is a simple, though more expensive alternative.  It will always pay off in the long run to have a well-fitting suit.  Invest in a very versatile one (i.e. a solid color: navy, black or gray).
  • You may also try layering beneath the suit jacket with a sweater pulled over the dress shirt and tie - this strategy will look out of place in warmer climates addition to putting you at risk of heat stroke.

Don't let your suit wear you
  • No matter who you are, or what you're wearing, confidence always makes the clothes, and clothes make the man.  
  • Good posture is always in style.  If you're feeling insecure about your outfit - or the way your body looks in it - it's human nature to try to withdraw or blend into the background.  But, slouching will fail to achieve this; in fact, you're far more likely to draw attention to yourself and your insecurity by rolling your shoulders forward. It will also draw unfavorable attention to your chest, whether you've undergone top surgery or not.
Mad Men: Season TwoThe final notes that I have for you are that, fortunately, slim cut dress shirts and narrower suits are very much in style right now, making them much easier to find, affordable to purchase, and fashionable to wear (thank European designers and Don Draper, from Mad Men).

Wear your suit with confidence, my friend.

J. Adams

* The average man in America is just over 5 feet 9 inches (69.2") according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.