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The First Time His Body Did Not Feel Wrong
December 1, 2013 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Daniel Friedman makes men's suits cut for the bodies of trans* men and women. What is the meaning of a man’s suit? Every day men disappear into them, as into uniforms. In wool and creased flannel, the suits tell a story of power and belonging. When Ms. Tutera approached Mr. Friedman, she offered a new twist on that story. “We started looking at these weddings from Maine, because it had legalized gay marriage,” he said. “And these women who were getting married in these tuxedos looked ridiculous. They looked awful. The suits were giant. And I can only imagine these people going into a Brooks Brothers in Maine and saying, ‘I want a men’s suit that’s going to fit me,’ and I can imagine how uncomfortable it was for both sides.”
posted by Apropos of Something (52 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
I want to hug so many of these people so hard. Even as a gender conforming cis woman, I appreciate and relish my ability to 'disappear' into a garment that fits properly.
“The suit really helped me in ways I never expected it to,” she said. “I hadn’t ever felt handsome before. I had put together these makeshift outfits for special occasions and always felt like I was being overlooked in some way. I felt like I was ready to be paid attention to. It brought me to the precipice of becoming who I am now.”

I cannot even imagine what it's like to not have clothing choices that readily express who I am, much less being afraid of being outed by my clothes as anything other than poor. Being made aware of my privilege doesn't fix anything, but it does give me a chance to say thank you to the innovative (and of course) profit motivated folks making life easier/more fun/safer for all kinds of people.
posted by bilabial at 11:46 AM on December 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm really glad that businesses like these are taking off. I live in a small city, and can't (yet, at least) afford a custom suit. I mostly make do with a variety of sweaters and sweater vests, which smooth over at least a few problem spots when it comes to how men's/boys' shirts fit a short butch woman with E-cups. Even looking "awful" as I'm sure I do to the trained eye in ill-fitting masculine clothing, I am so much happier and more confident since I stopped forcing myself to dress femme in the workplace, and I hope that these businesses continue to thrive.
posted by northernish at 11:56 AM on December 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Fuck, I had a heart stopping moment when I read that "Daniel Friedman makes men's suits out of the bodies of trans* men and women."
posted by bongo_x at 11:58 AM on December 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


But really, fit is the most important thing in clothes. For everyone.
posted by bongo_x at 12:00 PM on December 1, 2013


This is going to be a big thing; there are so many women and trans men alike who are looking for just this sort of thing. Even the ones who want to look a little more femme could use the tailoring. There have been multiple Ask MetaFilter questions in this vein in the last few months.
posted by limeonaire at 12:08 PM on December 1, 2013


What a great thing.
And I want that grey suit on the left.
posted by chococat at 12:11 PM on December 1, 2013


How great. And I don't think you'd have to be trans to want to wear a suit like that -- I'm a woman and as gender-conforming as you get, but I think the styling for men's suits just looks better, and if I had to wear a suit to work I would consider something along those lines. Women's suits tend to be so very far along the continuum.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:12 PM on December 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Duchess up in Portland (who make a lovely suit) have added this as a focus as well, see their Rainbow Collection.
posted by feckless at 12:12 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


“a very tiny space that exists between being a butch dyke and being a trans man,”

Oh, precisely. That is my tiny space. I'm pretty lucky because I have wide shoulders and flat hips (even as a fat person) and this means that if I buy undarted women's shirts and really simple pants, they fit as I like them to, but even for me, actual men's clothes (except sweaters) don't really work. (Now that I think about it, I bet most people think I'm wearing men's clothes most of the time, since very few people actually look carefully at the buttons.)

It is very frustrating, too, when you see really beautiful shirts (and honestly, that whole "such beautiful shirts" thing totally resonates with me in a happily contra-Fitzgeraldian reading) in nice fabrics at good prices, made to last, in simple attractive patterns - and you can't get anything like that to fit you, because women's clothes are not only made differently but are usually junk. It's not until you start looking at men's clothes regularly that you realize what shoddy stuff women's almost always are - the knits are thinner and made of cheaper materials, the sewing is worse, the colors are less rich, the finishing is shoddy, the fabrics are thinner and have a higher percentage of synthetics - even something that should be virtually identical, like tee-shirts, is always crummier when it's for women.
posted by Frowner at 12:13 PM on December 1, 2013 [33 favorites]


A bunch of companies who make suits and dress shirts for trans men and masculine female-bodied folks have popped up lately. It's awesome, don't get me wrong, but pretty much all of them are really expensive--the cost is prohibitive for a lot of the target audience, which is a shame. Trans people and masculine women don't tend to be that well-off financially, for various reasons. A lot of my friends have been really excited about the new products...and then seen the prices and realized they'll never be able to buy them. I'm not sure there's any way around the cost issue, though, sadly.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:13 PM on December 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the cost is a thing; I'm going to be buying men's sweaters at thrift stores for a while yet, no doubt. Still, I'm glad there's at least some recognition in the marketplace of this set of clothing preferences.
posted by limeonaire at 12:17 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I cannot even imagine what it's like to not have clothing choices that readily express who I am, much less being afraid of being outed by my clothes as anything other than poor.

Not to detract from the LBGT people, but this is the realized experience of anyone whose body deviates substantially from "the norm".

I say this - at 6'4" and 190 with a 36" inseam. Fashion exists for short people or rich people. Everyone else can get a tailor or GTFO.

At least I can see at concerts, though.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:19 PM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Cost is a real tricky thing. As a cis man, I've built up my collection of menswear largely used, and that's not really an option for this market, where there's not a huge used pipeline. Even modifying suits cut for men is difficult: even miracle tailors can't do much about shoulders, and shoulders seem like a good portion of what's at stake here. On the other hand, all those quality issues Frowner identified translate into cost - the cheap suits that most cis men wear are ill-fitting enough for them, let alone for anyone differently bodied.

A $1500 suit is actually on the low end for bespoke tailoring ... and yet very few people can afford to leave the house in $1500 worth of clothes every day.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:28 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stuff always starts expensive. There's no way to make custom tailoring cheap. But if it catches on, then you start to see more people doing it, even stuff mass-produced, the price goes down, etc. So, I'll grant it that much.

I wish there were a couple more pictures of suits on bodies that were slightly less svelte, either there or on the Bindle & Keep website. I'd be more impressed with this then, I suppose. It's always been not-too-hard to do menswear if you're skinny. It's always been nearly impossible if you're not. Buying off-the-rack stuff even in the women's section (which, dear god, it is so hard to find things without ruffles or frou-frou bits) always felt like it was so ridiculous that there was no possible way to tailor even the ones nominally cut to my body type so that they'd look okay. But I'm not sure I'd be very confident that the money would be well-spent on this even if I had it.
posted by Sequence at 12:29 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Not to detract from the LBGT people, but this is the realized experience of anyone whose body deviates substantially from "the norm"

Sure, but as a tall woman who wears women's clothes, the worst I face when trying to find clothes that fit is my own frustration. Nobody is going to give me the side eye for shopping in the women's department, even though most of the clothes won't fit me.

So there are matters here beyond finding clothes that fit your body.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:34 PM on December 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


A couple of years ago I was having dinner with friends at the house of a friend who is trans. We all wheedled him into modeling for us when we found out he'd just bought a new suit to wear for his first day at work at a new office. It wasn't a custom suit, but my friend has a slender build anyway, and he'd gotten a great deal on a clearance moderately-high-end off-the-rack suit. The suit looked fantastic and professional. And I've never seen my friend look so happy.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:36 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Custom clothing prices are coming down pretty rapidly. It's a little annoying getting the fit right but for the most part if you find a good online clothier you can have most clothes made for you at a reasonable cost. I've had good luck with modern tailor for example.

And yes, they make women's shirts, and their fabrics range from OK to really nice.
posted by Teakettle at 12:40 PM on December 1, 2013


Seriously, if you've never tried a "men's"-style tailored suit you might want to experiment. Try one on to see how it feels. It's a style that tends to do a good job of concealing that thing you don't like about your body (whatever that might be) while at the same time making you feel strong. It's flattering on an extremely wide range of body types, and I suspect that a lot of people who present as women wouldn't have a super hard time finding an off-the-rack suit at the mall that works for them.

Heteronormative clothing can be a prison for cis-men, but the very few options we do have are pretty sweet and should be shamelessly appropriated.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:41 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plus you get pockets. Women's suits don't have pockets.

I just realized I'm straightsplaining.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:43 PM on December 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Not to detract from the LBGT people, but this is the realized experience of anyone whose body deviates substantially from "the norm".

I'm also overweight, and the difficulties and anxieties surrounding finding clothes that fit in that sense are completely different from the ones I've faced when it comes to dressing in a non-gender-normative way. So, yes - a bit of a detraction.
posted by northernish at 12:45 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not to detract from the LBGT people, but this is the realized experience of anyone whose body deviates substantially from "the norm"

I kind of had this thought when I started reading the article. I have a "non deal" body and trying to find clothes that fit is a struggle. However, as a cis man, I can pretty much go into any tailor or men's clothing store, explain what I want and expect to get it (if I am willing to pay the cost). I can't really imagine how much nerve it takes to go into a men's tailor as a butch woman or trans* man and ask for a suit to be altered/constructed. Because it's not just a question of taking your $$$, the tailor might make a go at your self-respect, identity, or any number of other things.

Once upon a time, I ran a bookstore that catered to a lot of "non standard" interest groups, including gender- and sexually-nonconformers. We were as popular as we were because we didn't judge people for their purchases (and when we complained about customers, it was because they were being jerks-as-customers, not for what they were buying). Having a place where you can just admit what you want seems to be such a relief.

I am glad that services like this exist.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:48 PM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Very, very awesome.
posted by odinsdream at 12:56 PM on December 1, 2013


Here in SF Kipper Clothiers just launched with the announcement of a popup fitting shop next week, targeted to the same general audience. I'm a little surprised that I hadn't heard of this type of business sooner in this town, but probably that just speaks to my straight privilege. Regardless, this is fantastic and I hope these shops flourish.
posted by casarkos at 1:10 PM on December 1, 2013


Awesome stuff. And, to be selfish: I wish there was something like this for the male-to-female folk. I'm tall and I am not thin, which means my extra weight forms in the stomach and not in the breast or hips. There are bordering-on-zero dresses for my bodytype, and I am not the only one in this space.

(Please point me in the right direction if I have missed something...)
posted by andreaazure at 1:38 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another NY Times article about services and goods for rich New Yorkers! Yay?
posted by Wordwoman at 1:46 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm so happy this exists.

Mostly for smashing gender barriers, but also because in my ideal dream land, we go back to a time where clothing was handmade and sure you could only afford three shirts, but they FIT and did not fall apart in six months.
posted by sonika at 1:52 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another NY Times article about services and goods for rich New Yorkers! Yay?

Well, yes, I suppose, but it also tells trans* men that there are options that they may not have thought of. Yes, tailoring is expensive and probably easier to get in large cities, but I figure if a) a trans* person sees this and thinks "why didn't I think of that?" and their life gets a little easier and/or b) a tailor sees this article and thinks "hey, there are people out there who need this service, maybe I should be friendly to them." then some good will be done.

The whole idea of tailoring and clothes and the construction of manliness are kind of a mystery, because no one likes to talk about it. Anything that makes that process easier is welcome.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:59 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Trans* men and butch women, you mean?
posted by Wordwoman at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2013


I am saving for a bespoke suit. My clothing aesthetic is masculine of center, and I know the frustration of trying to get menswear to fit female curves without being too awkward. I wish companies like these would have a pop-up in small SLC UT but I don't see that happening soon. I am working with a friend to make custom shirts, but there is something amazing about the feeling of wearing a suit. I have had horribly awkward conversations with mens sections in department stores, and it is as terrifying as it seems to walk into a dedicated menswear store and ask to get a men's suit tailored to fit me. The only store I feel comfortable in is my local Nordstrom; the menswear department helped me get tailored trousers for my sister's wedding without making me feel out of place (although I did need to go upstairs to try clothes on, which I found disconcerting but whatever.) I feel like myself in menswear and like I am dressing in drag in anything else. This is a difficult thing for people to understand, I am realizing, especially my more traditional gender-role-oriented family. For some reason, me saying I feel confident and powerful in menswear is a "phase." So I am losing weight (-47lbs and counting!) and saving for both a suit and the airfare to get to one of these companies. It is going to be a belated birthday present for myself, and I am excited.

Related: for a good starting point, the tumblr Qwear is a great resource.
posted by awesomelyglorious at 2:05 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


And I can only imagine these people going into a Brooks Brothers in Maine and saying, ‘I want a men’s suit that’s going to fit me,’ and I can imagine how uncomfortable it was for both sides.”

It would be very uncomfortable if they asked that question here.
posted by Knappster at 2:11 PM on December 1, 2013


Trans* men and butch women, you mean?

Yes. That's what I get for posting while people are constantly texting me. Also, it's "ideal," not "deal."
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:27 PM on December 1, 2013


Another NY Times article about services and goods for rich New Yorkers! Yay?

A surprising number of people actually save up money for really good clothes, clothes that fit, clothes that make them feel confident and good about themselves and their bodies.
posted by rtha at 2:33 PM on December 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Tomboy Tailors here in SF has also been working to meet some of this need. As an admirer of well-dressed butch dykes and trans*men, I appreciate their work.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:07 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not to detract from the LBGT people, but this is the realized experience of anyone whose body deviates substantially from "the norm".

I disagree. I am a fat person, who used to be a much fatter person who could only shop in specialty stores. Shopping sucked, and while I did feel that the lack of clothing options were reinforcing some kind of social norm that my body was wrong and should not be seen--I could go into the plus section of any department store, or lane bryant, and find dozens of items that not only fit, but accentuated my hips and boobs and all the rest of my female identified body in a way that I could be okay with.

When your body deviates from the norm, shopping is a pain in the ass. However, I can shop without anyone questioning whether or not I have a right to occupy the space I am in. No one wonders why I would want to look the way I do. My gender identity, sexuality and genatalia are not questioned. I don't have to worry about which dressing room to use.

People might wonder why my body is the way it is, but they don't question why I am the way I am.
posted by inertia at 3:26 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a friend who does dress in suits. Which she has to order custom from Hong Kong for a thousand bucks because she is very short even for a woman, so nothing ever fits her in men's clothing. I heard about Tomboy Tailors and told her about it and she was so excited that she dragged me down there for their opening. Alas....well, apparently they didn't actually have any tailors at Tomboy Tailors, which shocked the hell out of me. They're just taking orders and having them actually made elsewhere, which disappointed my friend a lot.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:38 PM on December 1, 2013


I don't think there are any cheap(ish) tailors left in Hong Kong; even if you go there, your clothes will probably be made on the mainland. Another alternative would be Thailand. The tailors in Bangkok I've dealt with were very eager to sell me things, and very flexible, but I'm a guy. I have no idea whether it would be similarly easy for a woman in a shop targeting men.

Hmm. I will email one and ask.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:04 PM on December 1, 2013


It's not until you start looking at men's clothes regularly that you realize what shoddy stuff women's almost always are - the knits are thinner and made of cheaper materials, the sewing is worse, the colors are less rich, the finishing is shoddy, the fabrics are thinner and have a higher percentage of synthetics - even something that should be virtually identical, like tee-shirts, is always crummier when it's for women.

Yeah, I've been stunned by this as I've been switching over to buying women's clothing. I keep feeling like a sucker for spending money on stuff that's so flimsy and half-assed and my wife keeps being like "What? This is pretty solidly made compared to most of what I own." It's infuriating.

Like, okay, you can find men's clothing that's badly made. And you can even find expensive men's clothing that's ostentatiously badly made, usually going for some sort of trashy club-kid image where the aspirational fantasy is "I'm gonna wear this twice and then throw it away before anyone else jumps on the trend."

But then at the other extreme there's stuff where the fantasy is more like "This is so Authentic and Timeless and Classic that I could wear it every day for the next fifty years and it would never look ragged or worn or out of place." And as it turns out, it's hard to cater to that fantasy without making reasonably durable clothes in the process, so even when styles change and your so-called-Timeless shirts end up looking kind of dorky, they're at least still wearable and not full of holes.

I still drool over that sort of thing, even though I know that actually wearing it would make me feel awful and dysphoric. If they made a feminine counterpart, I would be all over it. It's completely baffling to me that they don't.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:31 PM on December 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Awesome stuff. And, to be selfish: I wish there was something like this for the male-to-female folk. I'm tall and I am not thin, which means my extra weight forms in the stomach and not in the breast or hips. There are bordering-on-zero dresses for my bodytype, and I am not the only one in this space.

(Please point me in the right direction if I have missed something...)


And yeah, I wish I knew of something like this too. I can think of companies making women's clothing specifically for AMAB people, but they're all pretty much doing fetishwear for crossdressers — which is cool, I'm really happy that stuff exists for the people who enjoy it, but it doesn't really help on the practical-everyday-clothes-that-actually-fit front.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:41 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now there are two. There are two _______.: There are a few places that do that sort of thing, LL Bean and the like. Family members of mine really do own 20+ year old clothing from LL Bean. I'm not sure I've really compared their men's and women's stuff very closely, but. Of course, you do tend to end up looking very clearly like The Sort Of Person Who Shops At LL Bean.

And andreaazure, too: I really don't know much about their quality because it's just friends who shop there because I can't wear dresses without feeling like I'm in costume, but as far as being just oddly-proportioned, I have friends who swear by eShakti.
posted by Sequence at 4:46 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Outstanding find, Sequence!
posted by andreaazure at 6:56 PM on December 1, 2013


Huzzah. One of my obnoxious drunken habits is to complain about women's clothing - in particular the lack of pockets. I am ashamed to admit it little occurred to me that correctly shaped clothing comes in a limited variety of styles.
posted by PMdixon at 7:17 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


@Now there are two.
Tell me about it. For example, I've loved the quality and the aesthetic of Filson's menswear for years, but I've recently *ahem* switched to the other side of the store as well, and it's just depressing. This tweet captures my Filson disappointment pretty closely:
M: “Filson has women’s coats if you want to look like a man.”
T: [walks over] “Let me see the women’s.”
M: “This IS the women’s.”
posted by danthony at 7:28 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is great stuff, but at the prices listed, I'm almost tempted to pull out some sewing patterns and see if I can't give it a go myself.
posted by rebent at 8:44 PM on December 1, 2013


PMdixon: "Huzzah. One of my obnoxious drunken habits is to complain about women's clothing - in particular the lack of pockets. I am ashamed to admit it little occurred to me that correctly shaped clothing comes in a limited variety of styles."

Yeah. I'm a guy and I hate the lack of pockets on women's wear. Go to the right place, and I would have to stand by the car for several minutes while the ex-wife went through piles of crap to prioritize what was going to go in MY pockets during the duration of the visits.
posted by Samizdata at 9:16 PM on December 1, 2013


From speaking/having fittings with all of them, St Harridan (Oakland), Tomboy Tailors (SF), and Duchess (SF/Portland OR) are all having their clothes constructed in SE Asia. India, if a tailor's representative can be found, has a very fine British tradition of budget tailoring as well.
2 suits (a 3 season summer and 3 season winter depending on climate) and a sport jacket and two pairs of pants are an adequate minimum, plus perhaps a tuxedo. If waist is very different than hips/chest, wear a vest instead of a cummerbund with the tux.
Avoid paying retail for off-the-rack designer name clothing - like perfume, one is mostly paying for marketing, not materials and labor.
Good tailoring with fine fabrics is expensive and looks it.
posted by Dreidl at 10:16 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hadn't heard of Bindle & Keep till just now, but I've been following Saint Harridan since their Kickstarter. As a fan of dapperness with many butch/genderqueer/etc friends and persons I lust over, fine suit tailoring for all is a big interest of mine; the more companies offering it, the better!

That said, I really appreciate that Saint Harridan highlights a wider range of body sizes and types. I'm femme, fat, and I'd pay $1,500 for a perfectly tailored three-piece suit (see again: I <3 dapperness) that works with my body in a heartbeat. Saint Harridan's looser fits aren't my ideal, but I know from the start that they aren't scared of my body. I can't say the same for Bindle & Keep, and I know fat butch women who have the same concern.

I just asked B&K on Twitter if they've worked with plus women, and if so, can I see pictures. I'm curious to see what they say. I've complained endlessly about all the recent quality apparel startups who make it clear they don't want my fat girl money. I'll sigh myself stupid if this is yet another.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:34 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got a response back from a tailor in Bangkok that I went to a few times. He says yes, they will tailor mens'-style clothing to fit women. I asked him about price but he conveniently didn't reply to that bit of the email. As I recall most tailors there will fit you in your hotel room if you like. So I suppose that's another alternative.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:42 AM on December 2, 2013


mostlymartha: I was just browsing Duchess Clothier (mentioned in a comment above)'s site and their "rainbow" gallery includes some larger people in their suits.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:45 AM on December 2, 2013


Joe in Australia, I was recently in Thailand and another trans woman I met there had no trouble interacting with tailors to have a suit made. Everyone I came into contact with there was pretty swell about everything, really, aside from one or two of the other foreigners in the hospital I was staying at. I expect that it's a great place for this kind of thing, if you're going to be there anyway.
posted by Corinth at 1:36 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lovely update! I reached out to Bindle & Keep on Twitter:
Hi! I deeply, passionately adore your suits, but am curious, have you worked with plus women? If so, where can I see photos?

They responded a few times:
We absolutely have! We're still building a portfolio but please check our Instagram account (username bindleandkeep).

Valid concern. Many of our clients are plus-sized but since we only use real clients on our site, not everyone wants to model.

Me:
Thank you! I'm delighted to get and peek and excited to hopefully see mire in the future.

B&K
Pleasure's ours. All of us, large or small have unique requirements for how we want our suits to fit. It's why we're here.

I do social media professionally and have something of a hobby of Twitter badgering clothing brands that ignore plus customers; I've rarely had an interaction this nice. Good work, Bindle & Keep!
posted by mostlymartha at 5:32 PM on December 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Am currently obsessing over the hottie that is Rachel Tutera.

I am being serious when I say my sexuality changed when I saw her. Holy gods, handsome ladies in suits. Holy holy gods.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:03 PM on December 4, 2013


Report from Oakland: I just walked up Broadway to get lunch and was stopped-in-my-tracks delighted to find that the former beauty supply shop at Broadway and 14th, which has been vacant for at least six months and was vacant when I walked past earlier this week, is now a Saint Harridan storefront! Yay yay yay!

According to their webpage, it's a popup and will be there December 2-24.
posted by Lexica at 1:39 PM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


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