How to…

I suppose that no site dedicated to transgender themes would be complete without some help and advice. There are lots of sites that offer really detailed advice. I’ll add some links to those. For now here are my top tips.

  1. Blue chins – yuck. Unless you have really fair or white hair, your beard will take a determined effort to conceal. Despite the fact that the hair on my head turned grey years ago, my beard remains obstinately dark. I can’t claim to be perfect, but the following are suggestions about how you can minimise the impact:
    • Have a really close shave first; I always use a new blade. I use a twin blade wet razor (Gillette Sensor Excel), because the multi-blade razors that are very fashionable nowadays are designed to allow people to shave quickly without cutting themselves, and are really poor if you want a very close shave, or to get close to difficult contours (eg nose). The twin-blade gets into all the nooks and crannies, and shaves really close (although of course its easier to cut yourself).
    • Apply a layer of coloured concealer or a combination of lipstick and concealer first. Some say that this should be orange, to compensate for the blue of your beard. I tend to dab on some red lipstick, work it into a thin covering over the beard area and then apply concealer matched to my normal skintone over the top. This gives a pinker colour, but it works for me. It takes a bit of practice to get the application right.
    • I also apply concealer (and a little lipstick) to my neck, to conceal the beard, but I use a different shade of concealer. The general rule is to match it to your natural skintone.
    • I sometimes apply a little powder on top of the concealer. I think this helps, but its not 100% necessary.
    • Then foundation goes over the top. Again, this should be matched to your natural skintone. In the UK, Boots will test this free and make a recommendation, although they’re not 100% reliable in my view. For me they recommended warm beige foundation, whereas cool beige is a slightly better match. Of course you have to be comfortable asking for this service at a make-up counter while not wearing makeup (in my case, while dressed as a guy). If that freaks you out, you’ll need to try some discreet sampling. Boots offers a colour match app for phones – this also came out with warm beige for me.
    • Apply plenty of powder to set the foundation.
    • One can get away with a heavily made-up face because some women have heavily made-up faces. However, women do not usually apply make-up to their necks, so subtlety is required in concealing beard growth there. My neck is naturally lighter than my face, so a lighter shade is required, but I like to think that the change of shade makes it less obvious that I have foundation on my neck.
    • Remember less is more! The less foundation you can get away with applying, the better you will look. That’s where the first steps with concealer are so important – get those right and you can be much more sparing with the foundation.
    • If you are out for a while (I’m often out for 6 – 10 hours) it will go shiny. You can deal with this by applying powder over the top.
    • Try not to tamper too much with your make-up once its finished, because its very easy to make a mess. I keep a stick of concealer in my handbag and if blemishes appear I may dab them very carefully, and dab a little powder on top. But avoid it unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Dramatic eyebrows are very fashionable at the moment, but I suspect its a lot more difficult for a t-girl to carry off this look than a pretty 18-year-old. I pluck my eyebrows. This creates the possibility that people will notice that I have very tidy eyebrows at work (where I’m definitely not “out”). I wear glasses which helps conceal the effect somewhat, but I’m sure people notice. Its one of those things one has to make a judgement about (like epilation – see below). My sister-in-law is the only person who has ever commented on my eyebrows – she saw me without my glasses and asked my wife if I “was a tranny”. There’s a whole story there but this is not the place!
  3. Body hair – yuck! This is a personal thing, and not something for which there is a one-size-fits-all solution. I use an epilator, every 10-12 days. The advantage of physical hair removal is that it slows regrowth; some parts of my body are much more sparsely covered nowadays. I shave my legs because I have some varicose veins – its not good to epilate in those circumstances. Epilation hurts a bit at first but after the first few times it’s really not a big deal – the hairs come out more easily. It is somewhat time-consuming, but I have a very stressful job and being forced to do something mindless for 45 min every 10-12 days is frankly therapeutic. The risk is that your colleagues at work will see that you have no hairs on your arms. However, male grooming is quite widespread so this may appear less remarkable than it once would have done. I’ve done it for years, and again, nobody has ever commented.
  4. Breastforms: most of us wear falsies. I’ve had the same pair for years; investing in a good pair (if you can) makes sense. But think hard before you buy. Many t-girls go for big ones because perhaps that’s what they find attractive in a woman. But remember, we guys tend to have much slimmer hips. Breasts and hips are regions where women’s hormones direct the accumulation of fat. Thus if you’re very slim on the hips you’ll look daft with a large bust; instead go for smaller breasts. If you carry a little more weight, then you may be able to get away with larger breasts.
  5. Hips: women’s hips come in a range of sizes; slimmer middle-aged ladies often have less pronounced curvature in the hips. However, they will still have more curvature than the vast majority of guys. Some t-girls wear padding around the hips. I don’t but I do choose my clothes carefully – I go for fuller skirts, and avoid clingy fabrics. Structured fabrics work much better too. Many occasion-wear dresses cling around the hips, because a woman may very well want to show off her curves on a night out. However, I tend to avoid that sort of dress because I feel its really unflattering. The fuller the skirt the better in my view.
  6. Wigs: a really good wig can be expensive, but if you can scrape together the money, it can be a great investment. A good wig will give you an enormous amount of confidence. I went out and about for quite a while in a £20 wig bought over the internet. In the end, I saved my pennies and visited the wonderful staff at Betty Brown in York. Not only did they help me to find a great wig, but they were able to style it (trim the fringe). It was immediately clear to me that the end effect was worth every penny, and my self-confidence was sky-high as I walked out wearing my purchase. I’m pretty sure people can’t tell its a wig; indeed, while shopping people have tried to sell me hair-care and hair-styling products which underlines that point. But it wasn’t cheap. I bought a hand-tied lace-fronted wig, probably the most expensive kind (apart from real hair wigs of course). But between this extreme and the £20 wig there are a variety of options; my recommendation is to visit a specialist wig supplier and take their advice. You can buy wigs more cheaply over the internet – useful if your budget is tight – but I’d rather pay the extra and buy from Betty Brown because the additional support they provide is invaluable.
  7. Wig care: if you spend a lot of money on a wig, it’s a good idea to look after it. Mine have lasted years. There are a few wig-care dos and don’ts”:
    • do wear a wig cap under your wig; it will help reduce the need for cleaning and keep your hair under control;
    • do apply wig conditioner every time you wear the wig – it helps prevent tangles;
    • do get a wig brush and use it carefully; if tangles will not come out easily, try running your fingers through the hair gently instead;
    • don’t wash your wig too often; washing creates tangles and dealing with these can damage your wig. Clean it when it needs it but not more often.
  8. Dress for the occasion! Some t-girls always dress like the mother of the bride; if that’s your style then OK. But if you’re like me, and simply want to blend in and be a regular woman about town, then you’ll need to dress down. Some friends of mine wear jeans, but trousers are unforgiving of narrow male hips unless you wear padding. However there are plenty of places that you can get really cute casual skirts and dresses. Over the years, I’ve gradually developed a sense of my own personal style, and I’m much better at identifying what works for my frame and the ways I spend my time. In the past, however, I’ve been suckered into buying fabulous-looking clothes that really looked over the top for a trip into town. Making wise purchases can save you a pile of cash. Recently I wore a cardigan on an evening out that I first bought 11 years ago; some of my clothes are like old friends – its lovely to welcome them back out of the wardrobe as the seasons change.
  9. Learn the clothes that work for your body-shape. For example, tops with broad shoulders accentuate the breadth of my shoulders, and a billowing blouse may accentuate the slenderness of my hips. I’ve not had too many purchases that I’ve regretted badly, but I’ve had a few. Early on I was shy about going into changing rooms, but now I’m much more relaxed, and much better at trying plenty of things on before I buy. In the picture here, you can see me in my favourite summer dress. It has a fairly full skirt, but is fitted around the body. It tends to broaden the lower part of my body, giving it more feminine proportions. The effect depends upon the cut of the dress and on the fact that the fabric is cotton, not apt to drape (the same dress cut from cotton jersey would cling and present a very different silhouette).
  10. You don’t have to wear high heels all the time! As with clothes, pick shoes that are appropriate for the occasion. I occasionally wear low heels but usually wear flats because I’m so tall. If you want to blend in, choosing heels that are not too high might help. Trainers have been a big thing in women’s fashion in the last few years, and nowadays its perfectly common to wear them with a smart frock. They’re comfy and practical, especially if you walk a lot as I do. So there are lots of choices. If you have large feet, there are now some great places you can shop for them online. A few sites are listed below.
  • Crispins shoes – the most expensive and not in everybody’s budget but the shoes really are gorgeous.
  • Horsch – probably the largest selection of large-sized ladies shoes I’ve found on the internet. Subtly different stylistically from Crispins, but just as gorgeous. For English girls the thing to remember is that the total (including shipping) needs to be under £135 to avoid import duties, which can be sizeable. I’ve bought a number of pairs of shoes from Horsch and Crispins and I’ve invariably been very happy with them.
  • Ellie Dickens – I had some great winter boots from here. I love them and ladies complement me on them wherever I go. I’ve also had a couple of pairs of very nice slingbacks. A little cheaper than Crispins but still great shoes.
  • Cinderella Shoes – this Irish store offers a great selection of shoes, to suit a range of budgets. The first few pairs of ladies shoes I bought were by Andres Machado – synthetic uppers and modest prices by fabulous looking – and I found them at Cinderella Shoes.
  • After 8 shoes – not cheap but some really good value options including large-sized Gabor shoes (super-comfortable and very hard wearing)
  • Magnus Shoes – set up shop a few doors down from Crispins in London, which seemed quite aggressive! The shoes are great (lots by Gabor, for example), but they don’t have the price tag (or, perhaps, the wow) offered by Crispins.
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