In order to have a good time you don’t have to actually look good; you just have to think that you do. - Andy WarholAs I mentioned before, I am not very good at crossdressing. However, I am quite encouraged by this comment from The Lazy Crossdresser by Charles Anders:
Looking good in women's clothes isn't the same thing as looking like a woman.(The last time I read about Charles Anders, I seem to recall him saying that he went out dressed in women's clothing at least half the time, and didn't mind whether his friends called him by his male name or his female name (in the book this was Julia). I basically aspired to this situation, whilst knowing it would never happen: someone invites you to a party not knowing (or minding) whether you will show up in a shirt and jeans or a dress. I see just now that Charles Anders' identity is now Charlie Jane Anders. On her Wikipedia page and her personal website, feminine pronouns are used exclusively. It seems I am now finding Charlie at a different stage of the journey. I wish her well, with the merest touch of envy! Her book is fantastic in every way, and her website is hilarious (the flowchart alone is worth a gold medal)).
My second-ever makeover was in England, at a business which caters for the entire male-to-female transgender spectrum. Naturally they offer a dressing service, where you can turn up and be pampered for a few hours, or indeed all day. They even cater to specific themes such as maid, bride or schoolgirl (those archetypes again!). When I (nervously) went along it was afternoon on a weekday. I had arranged a two-outfit makeover; you get the first one, then sit for a bit and drink tea, then the second one, then drink some more tea, then go home.
When I arrived it was just after lunch. I was met by the first assistant, (let's call her Monica). She showed me to a room full of outfits, and asked me to pick one. All I could see were rows, and rows, of clothes on hangers. In one sense, it was a treasure trove, but I couldn't see any of the clothes clearly, and didn't know what I would find, and couldn't therefore easily choose something without pulling out each item at a time and holding it up. I asked her for some help, and she asked me what sort of outfit I wanted. I don't know, I told her (truthfully). Nothing too tarty. Just a normal, girl-next-door sort of look.
The makeover wasn't a success either. It seemed Monica put on too much of everything: too much mascara, too much lipstick. When the wig was finally on, I felt like a caricature. What I saw in the mirror was not very attractive, and certainly wouldn't have been manageable on the street. Not to worry, I thought. Give yourself some time to settle down a bit and relax and maybe you will start to enjoy it. But I didn't.
For my second makeover, Monica was busy doing something else, and I had Sally to look after me. She looked me up and down. "How do you feel?" she asked. Awful, I replied. This isn't what I had in mind at all.
Sally took me back to the garment room, and had a brief rummage. She brought out some more things. "Let's have the boobs," she said, and she gave me another pair, at least two sizes smaller. The clothes were better: a much more modest and sensible blouse, a much more comfortable skirt, and a short jacket. The shoes were better; at least I could walk in them. We got rid of the corset and my eyes stopped bulging outwards.
Then she did the makeup, but she started by scraping off all the old stuff with a trowel and beginning again. This time it was much more subtle and natural. And we finished off with a different wig, one which I had bought on a previous trip to the far East. It had looked amazing in the shop, but whenever I wore it, it looked like a dead animal perched on my head. With Sally's expert hands, and a long-tailed comb, it became amazing again. I had spent much of the makeover time either with my eyes closed, or looking the other way. When I turned round, and looked in the mirror, my jaw dropped. I looked fantastic. I couldn't believe it. Until that moment, I had not believed it would be possible to actually look like a woman without the help of the makeup artists who work for Peter Jackson. And I didn't look like a tart, or a drag queen, or a caricature. I just looked like me, only as a woman.
I was overcome with emotion. I thanked Sally extremely warmly. "You look really pretty", she commented, and I sensed her sincerity. We walked out into the shop area, where Monica was still working. Even Monica looked impressed. I was feeling so good, I wanted to wave my credit card at them and say "I'll take the lot!" and just walk out of the door. Of course, that was never going to happen: among other things, the business expects a certain level of circumspection from its clientele so as not to frighten the horses. So instead I had a cup of tea. It was a very British thing to do in the circumstances.
We chatted for over an hour. It was long past the time when I should have been getting ready to go, but they were in no hurry, and I believe that they were enjoying the conversation. As closing time began to approach, I hastened to take off my borrowed gear and put my own clothes back on (what some crossdressers refer to as their drabs, and I know exactly why).
Sally took some photos of me, and naturally I bought them. Good though they are, the image seen through the camera is still not as good as the image I saw in the mirror; I think the flash is unflattering. As with all crossdressing photos (for me at least), the photo is there as a tangible and irrefutable reminder of what happened, to aid future reminiscences.
I drove home absolutely purring, with my emotional energy on full charge. Shortly afterwards, I left to live in New Zealand, so I haven't had the chance to go back there. This experience included perhaps the best and worst of makeovers: since then none have been so good, nor so bad. I hope that my life's most fulfilling experience of femininity doesn't turn out to be one lipstick-smudged cup of tea in England in the autumn.