Monday 12 March 2012

Makeover sparkle

In order to have a good time you don’t have to actually look good; you just have to think that you do. - Andy Warhol
As 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)).

Anyway, enough with the pronouns already! For people who are not convincing crossdressers, or who can't do it at home, or both, you go and get a makeover. I have done this about four times now, with an average of once every two to three years. That's not a lot of activity, and I would like to apologise to those businesses right here: I would be round your place three times a week if I could possibly manage it.

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.

She looked at me a little quizzically, before rummaging among the hangers and bringing out some garments. She asked me if I wanted a corset and I said yes. She showed me to a changing booth, and left me to get dressed. For me, this was a special occasion, and I had prepared carefully, including an all-over shave which was beginning to itch. I started off by putting on the tights, and immediately put a big ladder in the leg. I had to get a new pair. Not a great start. Then once I had the bra and the panties and the tights on, I went outside where Monica helped me put the corset on. Then I went back in the cubicle and put on the rest of the clothes. There was a shiny blouse, a very short skirt, a pair of shoes which had heels so high I couldn't walk (and I couldn't easily bend down to put them on because of the corset). I emerged very unsteadily and not feeling at all feminine. Monica provided a pair of silicone boobs. Again this was a first for me (now I have a pair of my own), and I was very keen to try them, but they were too big.

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.

In a sense, I thought, this is probably what most people want when they come here. They want exaggerations of femininity: the corset, the heels, the thick makeup (if not the actual maid outfit or bridal dress). I notice when crossdressing after a long period of abstinence that I am voracious, and I remind myself of the quotation "All things in moderation-- even moderation" during those times. It was forgivable for Monica to think that was what I was after. But really, it wasn't me. What I saw in the mirror (and there were of course plenty of mirrors) wasn't the image I saw in my mind of myself as a woman. I began to feel quite despondent as I drank my tea, even though I enjoyed leaving lipstick smears on the cup.

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.

I stood at the counter and drank my tea. Other customers came and went. I just chatted with Sally and Monica. I felt relaxed, and the chat went from polite to friendly to hilarious, and soon we were all laughing. I realised something at that moment which seemed very profound. It had gradually gone from being a very polite customer-assistant interaction into a complete girly gossip. I felt more feminine at that moment than I had ever done in my life hitherto. And I like to think that, for them, this was different to how their customers usually behave with them (but here I may be completely flattering myself).

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.


  1. My sense is that as crossdressers we dress in the way that we find women to be attractive. If you are one of those guys who thinks of attractive women as those wearing corsets and high heels and tons of makeup, then you will probably dress that way. If you are attracted to women, say like your wife, who probably dresses normally and attractively but not slutty, each day, then you will probably want to dress up like her.

  2. I am not sure that is completely true. I agree with Helen Boyd that crossdressers don't dress (or act) like women; they dress and act the way men _think_ women dress and act. This isn't at all the same thing. Boyd also makes the powerful remark: "If you really want to feel like a woman, do a pile of ironing!" Ouch!
    Like many crossdressers I really like things which are almost exaggeratedly feminine. On the other hand, they look ridiculous on me, and real women don't actually wear them (at least, not all the time). I feel more feminine wearing more conventional female clothing, because I don't feel like a clown or a caricature. Less can actually be more.

  3. I think that Thorin25 is saying about the same thing that you and Helen are saying, only I think that Helen is a little muddier the way she is putting it. I know what I find attractive, I don't know what Bill or Bob or Bubba or other men find attractive, or what they think of how women act, and frankly, I really do not want to know. When it comes to the way that women act, Bill or Bob or Bubba will only speak up when she is acting in a negative way, like being moody or the like.

    When was the last time a guy said to another guy, "I really like the way that woman behaves toward her husband."

    I would restate Helen's statement as follows, "As a cross-dresser I don't dress (or act) like women, I dress and act the way I _think_ women dress and act, and sometimes I dress and act the way I wish I could see women dressing and acting." In fact, I dress the way that I would like to see my wife dress.

    I have even used my feminine powers to that end as I did buy her about 8 dresses for Christmas. We went to the discount dress store, she picked out about 4 and I picked about 14. She tried all of them on modeling each for me and the fitting room attendant where we made the determination as to if the dress works or not on my wife. Then from the ones that worked and fit well, I chose the ones that I was going to get her so that she would still be surprised but I knew that they fit and looked good.

    Now for Easter, since only one dress would be involved, I struggled with the notion of how to sneak my wife into the store to try on the dress without my wife knowing about it so that she could be surprised. The sales lady suggested a conk-on-the-head approach! I just ended up not making it a surprise. They sales lady said that I had excellent taste. Little did she know that if that style dress had been offered in my size, I would have bought it for myself in a second. So, next best thing, get your wife to wear it. It does in fact work for me. We do both have the same pair of shoes though.

    As makeup goes, it can be pretty or clown. My first few attempts with makeup were very very much like a clown. I now know why they cry. I would have given the whole thing up if I hadn't the benefit of the makeover when I bought it all. Free makeover product demonstration. Even after I was made up, I was not convinced, but bought the haul anyway. After the makeover, I went to the wig shop to try to find my first hair. This is why I was not convinced. I still had man hair. Once I saw myself with a proper hairstyle, I was amazed, because what I saw was both lovely and familiar. I was looking at my mom in the mirror. Anyway, like I think that most cross-dressers do, we took pictures. So those images encouraged me that it was possible, and I just needed the practice to not put on a clown face.

  4. Thanks for posting Darien. I enjoyed this comment about the clown very much: "I now know why they cry"! I think when it comes to makeup we all have a tendency to overcook it, but, as you've pointed out, it's quality, not quantity, that counts. I'm at the stage now (having practised and experimeted a fair bit) where some more professional makeup advice could really improve my appearance.

    I also think that transformation requires the whole package: the clothes, the hair, the makeup and the accessories. If one part of the package is not right, the whole lot can fall flat.