"Do you have any clothing tips for a female-bodied person who wants to look like a guy? How can I find pants that minimize my hips (just covering them up only makes it worse) or shirts that make my minuscule shoulders look a bit broader? AND WHAT ABOUT FANCY CLOTHES?!"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Anita Dolce Vita as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
Congratulations on embarking upon the journey of developing a masculine wardrobe that affirms your identity. Finding masculine clothing that fits female bodied individuals is undoubtedly a struggle and you are not alone in this struggle. How you dress does impact the way you think and feel, thus, it is important to find clothing that empowers you. I’m here to provide you with some suggestions to guide you through this journey. Some suggestions will be exciting. Others will be frustrating. But, hopefully, many will be practical methods that you can employ so that you can achieve a look that makes you feel great! So, let’s get started…
First, let’s acknowledge an unfortunate truth: The fashion industry designs off-the-rack (as opposed to custom made, a.k.a. bespoke) clothing to fit their image of “ideal” body types, most of which are unattainable and do not represent a diverse range of shapes and sizes. This is true of both menswear ANDwomenswear. Menswear blog posts and magazine articles addressing reader concerns that menswear does not fit properly reveal common fit issues. Experts often advise that readers know their proportions, get clothing tailored, and/or invest in bespoke apparel. In fact, James Sanders (known as the Fat Fashion Guy), a fashion editor and writer on style and culture, published an article on theHuffington Post discussing the dearth of plus-size specific men’s fashion blogs at a time when menswear blogs are exponentially increasing in number and popularity. And, The Handbook of Style: A Man’s Guide to Looking Good byEsquire magazine writes:
Are you a ‘drop six’? If you are, you’re a suit maker’s dream: Your chest is six inches larger than your waist. You can wear anything. Sadly, most of us don’t live inside those ideal tailoring measurements.
Well just grrrrrrrrrrreat! If the menswear fashion industry is failing to address the needs of a wide range of male bodied individuals, how do female bodied individuals stand a chance at finding menswear that fits?
Ready to throw in the towel? Don’t! You CAN do this. Know that building your dream closet will be a labor of love. It will take work, and for those who dislike shopping, not finding their dream wardrobe in one day, one week, one month can feel overwhelming. You are a work of art and your body is a canvas. You’re not going to produce a wardrobe masterpiece overnight, but you can use these tips to make the journey less daunting.
1. Know a few things about boys and menswear sizing
Menswear sizing is usually stated in inch measurements, and Americans accustomed to shopping in womenswear departments often do not know their body measurements because womenswear sizes are typically denoted with arbitrary numbers (e.g., 2, 22, 14, 6, 26, etc.). First things first, let’s get you started with basic measurements.
Measure around your natural waistline, keeping the tape comfortably loose.
Stand with your heels together and measure around the fullest part of your hips.
Wrap the tape around the fullest part of your chest or bust, including your shoulder blades, then drop your arms to your sides to measure.
Measure around the middle of neck. Allow room for your index finger to fit between the tape and your neck for a comfortable fit.
With the appropriate shoes on, measure from your crotch to your desired pant length.
Once you know your measurements, take a look at the boys and menswear sizing chart dapperQ put together, keeping in mind that brands and styles within brands have some variability with respect to sizing, which brings us to my next word of advice.
2. If first you don’t succeed, try on and try on again
You will probably have to try on LOTS of clothes before you find brands that best fit your unique shape. dapperQ’s store guide is a great place to start researching brands that offer masculine clothing for female bodied individuals. More specific to your fit question, dapperQ also published a piece on masculine trousers for curvy individuals that you may find helpful.
In addition to trying on for size, try a variety of patterns, colors, and cuts to create illusions. For example, those who want to create an illusion of a broader shoulder may want to consider trying on structured jackets with shoulder pads; shirts and ties with horizontal stripes; and slimmer fit pants that make the body appear more “V-shaped.”
Experiment with different brands, collections, cuts, shapes, patterns, colors, and textures. Just get in that dressing room and start experimenting.
3. The tailor is your new best friend
Whether you want your pants hemmed just a few inches or you need major alterations on a suit to accentuate and/or minimize the appearance of different areas of your body, a good tailor will help you achieve the perfect fit. When purchasing an article of clothing that you intend to get tailored, be sure that it fits the largest portions of your body and get any excess material taken in. It is easier for a tailor to remove and take-in fabric than it is to “let-out” or add fabric. For example, if you are having a very difficult time finding trousers that hide your hips, you may need to go up a few pant sizes and then have the tailor make some adjustments so that they fit just right.
4. Invest in formal attire
A great suit is a wardrobe staple. You will be wearing your suit to job interviews, work/work related events, weddings, holiday gatherings, etc. dapperQ’s three part suit manual on Autostraddle is a fantastic place for suit novices to start. (You can’t advocate for what you want unless you know what it is that you’re looking for.) Here’s Part I, Part II, and Part III.
I advise purchasing at least 1-2 great suits. (If you can afford two, get one in a lightweight fabric for warm weather and one in a heavier fabric for the cooler months.) Then, get them TAILORED. Details Men’s Style Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Making Your Clothes Work for You states, “Just because you’re buying a suit off the rack, doesn’t mean it won’t require a fair bit of tailoring.” Your budget for investment pieces should include an amount for tailoring and alterations.
For suits, our readers swear by J-Crew’s Ludlow line, the Butch Clothing Company, Saint Harridan, Kipper Clothiers, and Men’s Wearhouse. You may also find great menswear dress classics at Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, Ratio.
The cost of a tailored suit can add up pretty quickly. To save some money, you can also shop for deals at off-price retailers and thrift stores and have inexpensive finds tailored. I recommend reading “Fat-Booty Butch Buys A Suit on A Budget,” an inspiring personal account about tailoring an inexpensive suit to fit curves.
5. Find emotional support
Some of the most frustrating and painful shopping experiences that masculine women, gender-queers, and trans* identified individuals commonly report are that sales staff are disrespectful, unhelpful, and dismissive and that other customers give cold stares and evil eyes. When answering a reader question about which dressing rooms dapperQs should use, I recommended a few helpful tips, including bringing along emotional support. Your buddies will not only help you with fashion advice and keep you company during the daunting task of finding a pair of jeans, but can provide emotional support and serve as witnesses when shopping situations are less than ideal.