Many trans* women wait until college to come out because they're away from home and all their peers from the judge-y days of high school. But what's a trans* collegiette to do when she’s finally able to express herself and her old wardrobe just will no longer do? She goes shopping! Here are some shopping tips and tricks for trans* women.
You can search through the racks at Payless all you want, but the only heels you're gonna find in a size 12 are two-inch-tall pumps in the most gorgeous shade of baby-poop green. Finding cute shoes in large sizes can be a nightmare, but thanks to companies likeDoreen Fashions and Janet's Closet that make shoes specifically designed for trans* women, the nightmarish terror of shoe shopping can be a much more pleasant experience.
Before venturing out, make sure you know your size. If you're brand new to shopping for women's shoes and you don't know what size you are, just add two sizes to your men's shoe size and you should be good to go.
Where to get shoes
For those fortunate trans* women with "average-size" feet, any old shoe store will do. But for the more well-endowed girls out there,Long Tall Sally sells them up to a size 14 and Zappos goes up to a whopping size 20.
If you can't find one of these stores near you and shopping online isn't an option, there are a few nifty little tricks for expanding smaller shoes to fit your feet. Shoe expanders can widen and lengthen your shoes to make them fit your feet better without the uncomfortable hassle of breaking them in. You can get them on Amazon for around $20.
All you have to do is stick the shoe expander inside your too-small shoe, crank it until it's stretching the shoe out a little bit, then leave it overnight. The shoes should fit better by the next morning.
Feel like getting even more DIY-savvy? You can create your own expander by filling sandwich bags with water, sticking them in your shoes and putting the shoes in the freezer for a few days.
For trans* women, finding pretty underwear can be a hassle since most panties are made for women with different parts down there. They also tend to sit awkwardly on hips that aren't quite as wide as the "birthing hips" of a cisgender woman. Luckily, with the help of a few tricks, you can smooth things out and get the hips and butt of your dreams.
If you're looking to accentuate your hips and derriere to create the illusion of a more feminine figure, padded underwear may be a viable option for you. Several brands like Bubbles Bodywear and Lingerie Solutions make underwear with built-in pads to create the illusion of fuller buttocks and hips. You can also buy them at Walmart for $10.94!
Homemade hip pads
For the gal on a budget who can't afford a new wardrobe of booty panties and doesn't want her butt to go from fab to flat on a regular basis, you can fashion your own reusable hip and butt pads out of cushion pads from the craft store or even discarded couch cushions.
The first step is to make a template. You can do this by measuring the length and width of the area of your body you want to pad and then drawing it out on a piece of paper. Generally, hip pads should be the shape of Africa. Next, cut out the template shape in the cushion pad and trim it so that it fits well against the curvature of your body. It's okay if there are some lumps and bumps; just wear shapewear and/or pantyhose when you wear the hip pads to smooth everything out and make it look more natural.
Underwear specifically for trans* women
The Breast Form Store makes a lot of products for trans* women, including a line of exclusive, custom gaffs and tucking panties. Chrysalis Lingerie is a store made by trans* women for trans* women with an impressive range of panties designed for pre-op trans* ladies.
For girls on a budget, tucking panties are often on the expensive side, so a tight women's bikini bottom can be used to achieve the same effect.
HRT (hormone replacement therapy) will redistribute fat deposits in your face over time to give you a more feminine appearance along with softening the skin and making it more clear (awesome, right?), but it can't do anything to change your bone structure. In fact, the only way to really change your bone structure is surgery, which is pretty drastic. However, when applied correctly, the right makeup can make your bone structure look totally different without the price (and pain) of surgery.
Makeup is not a necessity by any stretch, and many trans* women are the picture of womanhood without any makeup at all, but if you do want to enhance your femininity, it can be a useful tool.
Sally Smith*, a fourth-year student from the University of Central Florida and an HRT-using makeup guru, gave us an awesome step-by-step guide for trans* women for how to make your face appear more feminine. Here are some of her tips:
According to Sally, "cream products are your best friends. NARS Multiples ($39 each) are a great option.”
In order to contour your face, “use a darker cream in the shadows of your face, a lighter shade in on the high points and then, using a beauty blender or stippling brush, begin blending a light BB cream ($7.44) on top of the highlighted areas first and then the contoured areas to give a natural, 'maybe-she's-born-with-it' look to the face,” Sally says.
When doing your eyebrows, Sally says it’s important to follow your natural brow.
“Fill in, don't reconstruct. The goal is to refine and emphasize what you have,” she says. “Go get them professionally shaped. I find that a less-arched brow looks better on women with harsher features because it softens the face.”
Other makeup tips
For your eyelashes, “load them up with a few coats of L'Oreal Telescopic Carbon Black [Mascara] ($10.59) (my tried and true) and skip the eye shadow,” Sally says. “The bigger the lashes, the bigger your eyes look.”
Overall, Sally says to keep your makeup natural and try not to overcompensate. “Keep makeup simple for everyday,” she says. “You don't need to spend hours to look beautiful when you already do naturally.”
There's a long list of things cisgender girls are taught at a young age that trans* women often don't learn until later in life. Finding your proper bra size is one of those things! Here’s how to make sure you get the right one.
Getting a professional bra fitting can be nerve-wracking, especially for trans* women, considering all the horror stories floating around (such as Kylie Jack being denied a bra fitting at Petticoat Fair in Austin, Texas).
If you're looking for a trans*-friendly place to get a professional bra fitting, Victoria's Secret is a good bet.
Fortunately, professional bra fittings aren't totally necessary since you can do your own fitting at home as long as you know how. Erin Lucombe, a former Victoria's Secret employee, shares her knowledge of bra fittings so girls can do them from the comfort of their own homes:
“Bring the measuring tape across your back at bra-band level under each arm and measure just above your bust,” Lucombe says. “The resulting number is the band size. If the number is odd, round down to the closest number. For bust measurement, bring the measuring tape across your back under each arm and measure around the fullest part of the bust. Leave a half-inch between the tape and bust. This is your bust measurement."
Once you have your band and bust measurement, the difference between those two numbers will give you your cup size. One inch is an A cup, two inches is a B cup and so on. Tack your cup size onto your band size, and viola! Your bra size.
"We recommend you get refitted every six months because cup size and band width can change depending on if you have gained or lost any weight,” Lucombe says.
The right bra for you
Bras come in about as many shapes and sizes as people do–maybe more. There are floppy bras, sexy bras, good-old trusty bras and even bras that can make your boobs look three times their size.
If you're new to HRT, don't spend too much on a bra, because your breasts will continue to increase in size and you'll just have to keep getting new ones. It's impossible to tell how long it will really take for your breasts to grow, because some trans* women start noticing growth after just a few months of HRT, and some are on it for five years or more before they even get to an A cup. Just be patient and keep track of your breast growth to make sure you continue to wear proper-fitting bras.
Most superstores have bras for low prices. Walmart carries bras starting for as low as $3.98, and Target has them for $7.48, which is still much cheaper than what you would find at Victoria's Secret or other lingerie stores. If you feel comfortable with it, you can even ask your friends for some hand-me-downs. Lots of girls have bras lying around that they've grown out of!
If you're not happy with the final size HRT makes your breasts, you still have options. Of course you can get breast augmentation surgery, but another solution is to get a breast form or a padded bra. Plenty of stores like The Breast Form Store and Make Me Heal design breast forms and special bras for trans* women as well as drag queens and cis women who have had mastectomies.
We've discussed how to feminize your face, but what about your body? According to our lovely Sally Smith, who gave us that awesome contour and highlight guide, HRT can help a lot.
"From personal experience, I went from straight as a board to having Victoria's-Secret-Angel proportions, so you just have to let the hormones do their thing and accentuate what you have until you're noticeably more hourglass-shaped," she says.
HRT results have been known to vary, however, so if you aren't filling out the way you'd like to, fear not! We can all look like Marilyn Monroe with the right clothes. You can get the appearance of a more feminine figure by wearing skirts and dresses that accentuate your hips and cinch in your waist.
"The biggest and best tip I was ever given was to wear flowy dresses, like summer dresses or skater dresses, that have a lot of fabric in the skirt,” says trans* performer and Katy Perry impersonator Sara Andrews. “They're perfect for girls like us because you don't have to worry about your tuck!"
Types of skirts
Not only are skater skirts and dresses fantastic for hiding certain areas, they're also great for creating that oh-so-popular hourglass figure. They cinch in the waist and flare out at the hips, making them flattering on all body types. If you're apple shaped or rectangle shaped, a skater skirt will do wonders to define your waist, and if you're triangle shaped or inverted-triangle shaped, it will even out your bust-to-hip ratio.
Just watch out when it comes to tighter-fitting skirts; they can create some unwanted lumps and bumps. Not to mention they're notorious for making big butts look too big and small butts look flat.
Where to get them
American Apparel has skater skirts and dresses in varying lengths and almost every color under the sun. They're also famously trans* friendly and even hired trans* woman model Isis King for an ad campaign! If you're looking for something on the cheaper side, Forever 21 is a go-to store for college girls on a budget. They have a phenomenal selection of flowy skirts and dresses for cheap prices. Forever 21 also has a plus-size section so you voluptuous babes can find clothes that emphasize your natural curves.
Keep in mind that what may work for one girl might not work for another, and obviously there are oodles more tricks for creating a more feminine appearance. But here's the most important tip of them all: Don't feel pressured to conform to society's standards of femininity. All the tips listed above are only for those who want to follow them. If you're not going for an hourglass figure or a busty torso, then by all means, more power to you! You can be as feminine, masculine or androgynous as you choose, so don't let anyone tell you that you have to do otherwise!
*Name has been changed.