While on vacation, at the beach, in Gloucester, I experienced a moment of mind/body congruence. It was fleeting, but notable.
I was getting dressed to take a walk. I put on a new gray T-shirt, old olive hiking shorts, and gray sneakers. The new T-shirt looked good on me. I looked in the mirror and thought “If I saw a guy coming down the street wearing this outfit, I’d think that he was nicely, if monochromatically, put together. I’d make a mental note of it.” I liked how I looked in the mirror. There was no dysphoric distortion.
That sentence should be in bold caps. I LIKED HOW I LOOKED IN THE MIRROR. One day, I hope this will be a normal, daily, event. It doesn’t happen often enough, but the possibility exists.
I’ve chosen my own clothing since I was old enough to get working papers and an after school job. My mantra was “everything goes with blue jeans”. Since then I’ve owned and worn a steady supply of T-shirts, flannel shirts, button-downs, sweat shirts, and jeans. I’ve bought lots of clothing that I liked in the catalog or in the store. I liked them in my dresser drawer or hanging in my closet. When I wore them, though, they didn’t look right on me. The clothes were simultaneously too loose, too tight, and too long. I was too short and too round, and too female. The solution was to never look in a mirror.
The obvious question is: why didn’t I buy clothing that fit me properly? Or flattered me? I knew that women’s clothing fit me better than men’s, but I didn’t want to wear it, even if I was the only person on earth who knew that it was made for women. I wanted to wear men’s clothing and disappear into masculine thin air.
I ignored the drooping crotch, the crumpled up pants leg, the shirt button gaping at the chest, and the shirt bagging out at the waist when I tucked it in. I believed that if I could button all the buttons, or zip up the fly, then it fit. I didn’t understand that even if it did “fit” it didn’t guarantee that it looked good on me. Every once in a while I lucked out and found something that worked. Mostly, I wore duds.
I had an inner picture of myself as male, but it was smashed to pieces every time I tried on clothing in front of a mirror. It’s taken five years of transness (weight loss and top surgery) for me to stop flinching at my own reflection, to bring the inner and outer pictures together. I’m almost at the point where I can objectively try something on and tell if it fits. Sometimes it even looks good. Donna tells me it takes patience, persistence, practice, serendipity, and empathy to find clothes that fit and look good. I prefer science and research.
A few months ago, to prove my point, I measured four different T-shirts that I think fit me properly (a boy’s XL, two men’s smalls, and a men’s medium). The chests were between 19.5 and 20.5 inches wide. The lengths were between 25 and 27 inches, back collar to hem. The sleeves were between 7 and 8 inches long, from the shoulder seam. I measured some of my other T-shirts and they were all too long. Some were off on all three dimensions.
I order most of my T-shirts on-line. Some manufacturers list the dimensions of each garment. Others will provide them upon request, by chat. The Gap Essential Crew in small meets my criteria. The gray T-shirt came from Gustin; there is nothing special or magic about it. It is 20 inches wide and 26 inches long, with 7.5 inch sleeves. Gustin considers that a men’s medium. I consider it perfect.
Notes: The website Threadbase has an interesting chart by manufacturer for T-shirt chest width and length. It shows how much variation in sizing there is between brands, and how one person’s small is another person’s medium. It helped me measure my shirts, request dimensions, and stop ordering shirts that I know will be too wide, too narrow, or too long.
I’m still slowly building a wardrobe that I like (I’d like a few more Proper Cloth custom button-down shirts). It would be great if I could feel the mind/body congruence wearing a potato sack, but I’m happy when I find it in a good shirt and jeans.