I want to inform you, kind readers, of the undeniable factor in a transgender person’s life, cost/expense/toll/levy. Money will be your foe and friend in transition. So, I am going to try to document a series of honest reviews of the fees incurred so that you aren’t stunned but prepared. I will give you honest, unabashed costs as I encounter them myself. This will be upon my firsthand experience, so it will apply mostly to MtF transition. Though, I have a son who is FtM, so perhaps I can get his take on the costs associated as well. But I also want to vent my frustrations. So, I will do both and hopefully give useful information along the way.
The first costs I have encountered in my slow, winding transition are for things to wear. I spent most of my life stealing clothes or wearing the clothes of my girlfriends, sisters and finally my wife. I know it was wrong, I was in survival mode and not thinking about how seriously intrusive and wrong it is. So, when I finally stopped denying who I was and honestly told myself it’s time to stop being the mask, I started buying my own clothes.
- Online Purchases – Amazon and Walmart were great places to start, they offer a lot of clothes and you get the benefit of reviews to see if fit is accurate to size, etc. The clothes can be inexpensive and easy to return if you have issues. Now that I know what brands I like, that look better on me, I know I can go to them directly, or at least have an avenue of search on other sites. I tend to go towards styles that fit my age and aren’t clingy as I am overweight (I am working on that).
- Panties – While my instinct was to go sexy, I found that it is better to buy practical at first. It is cheaper and you can often get them in packs of 2 or more. Also, if you make a mistake on size or style it won’t affect your pocketbook as much. I have not found a reliable size conversion for men’s underwear to panties. I was able to guess by comparing my wife’s size. Once you have the basics you can experiment with different styles and brands.
- Example: Walmart.com [Walmart #: 553629108] Best Fitting Panty Cotton Stretch Bikini, 2 Pack comes in several color choices $4.96
- Bras – This could be an entire column on its own. Bras are notoriously easy to get wrong. Honestly, the best way is to go to a place that does fittings. If you aren’t ready for that, it becomes a bit hit or miss, even if you follow the instructions. I am providing the instructions I followed. Still, it will be sheer guess work, I changed cup size and band size a couple of times before I got it right. Go with inexpensive bras at first (they can get outrageously expensive quickly), and keep in mind what type of dress or top you wear as it will matter what type of bra you purchase so that you aren’t showing a lot of bra over your top. Also, if you are wearing falsies, it is best to keep away from underwire as it does contort the shape and not in a pleasing way.
- Example: Amazon.com http://a.co/66MRwrf Avenue Women’s Back Smoother Underwire Bra comes in three colors $24.40
Measuring band size
There are two ways to measure your band size. The best bet is to do it both ways to see if you get a consistent measurement.
- Bring the measuring tape around your back to the front, keeping it under the arms and bringing it up across to the middle of your chest (see image). If you get an odd number, round up to the next even number to get your band size.
- Measure across the bottom of your band, directly under the bust and across your ribcage. Make sure to keep your measuring tape straight around the back to front. Again, if you get an odd number, round up to the next even number to get your band size.
Measuring cup size
This is where it gets tricky- if you already have a bra and can talk us through how it’s fitting, we might be better off stopping here- we can help you troubleshoot your fit. You can also Check Your Fit and see our Bra Fit Q&A for help assessing your fit. The first step (above) will tell us if you might be in the wrong band size. This one becomes much more subjective. Here’s how to do it:
- Measure loosely around the fullest part of your bust, with the tape straight across and around your back, bringing it to the front.
- Subtract your band measurement (from step 1) from this bust measurement. The difference calculates your bra size- each inch represents a cup size. For example, if you measure a 34 inch band size, and a 36 inch cup size, the difference is 2: which would indicate a B cup.
- Tops – Whether it is a batwing blouse or a simple t-shirt, you should dress for comfort and with the entire outfit in mind. Style is more in how you wear something more than what you wear. Make good choices for your body and your age. This doesn’t mean you have to wear clothes that look like your grandmothers sofa. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find your own style. Again, start with inexpensive tops, they will allow you to find the style, material and size you enjoy. For colors I try to envision what my entire ensemble will consist of. Since I have so few shoes (the sadness of having man-sized feet) I build from the bottom, up. Starting with my shoes or boots, I build my pants/skirt/leggings then belt(no belt), then the top and any overshirt or jacket. Like most items, you will find the brands you like and stick with them. I have found (being plus size) that the sizes are pretty close between men and women. However, for the slighter of you, you will probably need to step a size up on women’s tops.
- Example: Amazon.com http://a.co/cy4p64Q Women’s Plus Size Perfect Long Sleeve Tee Shirt, comes in several colors $17.58
- Jeans – Jeans come in many varied designs and fits, as well as materials. I find that I like the softer, stretchier jeans, which is obtained by varying the material makeup. The jeans I wear now have a 99% cotton 1% spandex blend. I recommend buying jeans in a department store, as you get a better fit this way and you can tell if you like the feel. Once you have this, you can order online. However, if you are not ready for that, I understand. Just go into the women’s jeans area and feel them. That will let you know the materials you like, the rest will be a bit of experimentation unfortunately. Cuts of jeans tend to be along the line of men’s jeans too, boot cuts flair at the bottom, straight legs are straight. Skinny jean cuts are very obvious, so if you aren’t out, then try to keep those for when you are being you and not going to work as your mask. I find that jeans not only vary by brand (size and feel and cut) but also the same brand of jeans will vary on size and they tend to discontinue lines of jeans. So, if you find something you love, I suggest buying several of them.
- Example: Walmart.com [Walmart #: 552824037] The Riders By Lee Women’s Slender Stretch Straight Leg, comes in two colors $18.94
- Leggings – Leggings vary in how they fit the entire leg/waist. I have had those that fit horribly, with looseness at the crotch or buttocks, or they don’t hug the calves. Then you have the ones that feel like they will strangle you in the dark spooky area of the park, leaving you as the really pale actress with no lines on Law & Order. I am providing a sizing chart so you can get an idea of what size you might need. I have found that the most crucial areas to worry about are the waist, hips and stomach, as leggings are typically stretchy enough to fit the legs themselves.
- Example: Amazon.com http://a.co/0eN1x5z Women’s Plus Size Basic Leggings 1X/2X and 3X/4X, available in many different colors/patterns $12.97
- Dresses – I love a nice dress, in fact I started with dresses before anything else. I made three mistakes when buying my first dresses, the hemline was too short, dress was too tight and neckline too plunging. I went with what I thought would be sexy again. I still like short dresses, but I like them just above the knee. It will depend on what you like but also what you can get away with. If you have falsies, avoid plunging necklines, if you have implants then go wild. If you have really good falsies that match your skin tone and meld seamlessly to your skin, then go for it as well. Most of us will want to avoid plunging necklines, opting instead for less revealing cuts. You can still accent the breasts by looking for dresses that push up the breasts or outline them from just under the breasts. The tightness of the dress will also depend upon what you like. Bodycon (figure hugging) is not good for us big girls, dresses can cover all manner of sins, but not when it’s so tight it’s competing with your immune system. Whether to go sleeveless or sleeved, long or short will be up to how you feel about your arms and the weather. Beware the models photos; use them as an idea of the style, not how they will fit you. They never fit you how they fit the models, mostly because they don’t fit the models either (behind them are clamps and pins holding the dress tight and loose in all the right places). I go inexpensive here as well, find what you like then you can find better versions of those styles. Also, be thinking of what shoes/boots you have to fit the dress.
- Example: Amazon.com http://a.co/5MVVsFK NINEXIS Women’s Wrap Surplice Short Sleeve Dress, available in several colors depending on size $22.99
- Shoes/Boots – Ok this is going to hurt and I am sorry. The one thing a transgender woman can’t change is foot size. The general wisdom is whatever you are in men’s size; add 2 sizes and you have your women’s shoe size; however width will remain the same. (I.E. Men’s size 11 = Women’s size 13) Sizing doesn’t really change between brands and types (boots, shoes, heels, etc). As the sizes go up in women’s shoes, the more they tend to become fetish-wear with heels absurdly high and thin. I have spent months trying to find a boot or shoe that will fit me (size 11½ men’s). Don’t give up! Every few weeks new shoes appear and old ones disappear. If you see your size and style don’t tarry, get it as soon as you can. Of course the smaller your shoe size the easier it is to find footwear in more styles and colors. I scour Amazon (multiple suppliers), Walmart, Long Tall Sally US, Pretty Tall Style, Belk, etc. When you do find your size, be conscious of the pricing. I have had them in the cart, ready to go when I noticed the boots cost over $200. You can find inexpensive shoes/boots but it is going to take a lot of searching and some time. Don’t get too frustrated, keep at it.
- Example: Amazon.com http://a.co/9vmmbga ROF Petty-02 Women’s Fashion Western Inspired Almond Pointy Toe Vegan Stacked Heel Ankle Booties, available in several colors and materials $29.99
- In-Store Purchases – I have focused on online purchases, mostly because it is far easier to shop this way, barring the issue of fitting. If you want things to fit, you must try them on. In order to do that, you must be comfortable walking up to an attendant and asking for a fitting room. These things are hard initially, especially if you aren’t out yet. You have to start somewhere. I started at Walmart, oddly the least judgmental place in the world, look at the people who shop there. It took me some time to work up the nerve to approach the fitting room attendant. My voice is distinctly male; I really have to work on that, so asking for a key is the hardest part. Once you are past that hurdle, there is the other thing. There is the chance they are going to clock you; they are going to talk about you when you are gone, or as you are walking away. I hate that, but it is going to happen sometimes. I don’t want to you to not take the chance, to be a normal person shopping. I just want you to be prepared if it does happen. I have been clocked, I didn’t enjoy it but they didn’t cause a scene, I went red in the face and fumbled a lot trying to get my purchases. It was embarrassing, but I lived through it, and I have been back to that store. Being clocked is going to happen, be safe but don’t be afraid. You are worth living your life as a person.