• Stephanie Ashton

Shes In Fashion

Suede, Head Music, 1999


Having gone to Northern Italy with the intention of rewriting my long-suffering novel, my big discovery of the day was not 3 new chapters but instead, the wonderful fashion on display in the shops in Padova. Fellow authors will no doubt confirm that writers block is a real phenomenon and when it strikes there is simply no point in staring blankly at the screen in the hope of inspiration.


Following a nice little run and a light breakfast I therefore decided that rather than spending another day tormenting my laptop keyboard, I would venture forth into town to see what it had to offer. Naturally, I was at once drawn to the stylish female clothes shops once sighted. If only rewriting my novel had the same magnetic attraction as an Italian dress shop. The fine cut and brightly coloured garments on display made me elated and I was totally captivated. The wonderfully stylish clothes also made me realise that by comparison, female fashion in Northern Europe is much like ‘Taking the Black’ in Game of Thrones.


Sadly, there is a reason why the Italian female clothes look wonderful and that is because they are designed for ladies who are UK size 0-6. Not UK 12-16. For that reason, I did not even venture into the shops to ask if they had any of the lovely dresses in sizes suitable for my bulky northern frame. Had Shakespeare written a play about me doing so, it would not have been the “Taming of the Shrew”, but more likely the “Embarrassment of the Shrew.” So, instead I looked through the shop windows at the dresses with declining interest before going to for a Macchiato in a shaded piazza to contemplate life.


Which brings me nicely onto one of the big challenges for any dresser. Without even getting into the complications of trying to buy Milan fine couture, choosing female clothes and accessories that are right for you is one of those experiences that ranges from being exhilarating to just downright frustrating. For myself, shopping is one of my favourite past times. Indeed, I have been known to clock up 20,000 steps around London, Copenhagen or Hamburg in the pursuit of the perfect outfit for a night out. Due to my relatively large size I am largely constrained to clothing chains in Northern Europe and hence my choice of cities to shop in. Nevertheless, I love a good shop; going around trying on all the shoes, dresses, and crazy things I would never normally consider buying. Its like one great big dressing up party, without the need to pay for anything. However, I did not always feel this way about shopping for female clothes.


In my early years of dressing it used to drive me to distraction trying to find clothes that were stylish, the correct size, and also the correct cut for my figure. In the absence of internet shopping as we know it today, it was a chore trying to find anything that was the right, especially as I lack the twin airbags front and back that give women the shape we adore. It is highly likely that many of my dear readers will also have been through many of the same expensive, time consuming, and questionable styling failures that I too experienced in my younger years. Fortunately, I have reached the point where everything purchased is now a success and I hope to share with you how I have achieved this miracle.


So, in this blog I will share yet more of my candid views, this time on the topic of female attire and shopping. It is a wonderful diversion from writing my novel which frankly I would gleefully burn right now, were it on paper.

Ready to go shopping darling? Every day Steffie on her starting blocks

Few women are Scarlett Johansson


It is a quite a well-known fact there is a lot of female fashion that is not suitable for even half the population of females going about their lives. Indeed, the subject has been in the press frequently in the last few years regarding the dangerous health implications for young females who may feel pressure to fit the perfect female ideal as portrayed in social media, film and TV. But the simple fact is that not all females are super models or film stars.


So, this may seem like an obvious fact but it is also very important to remember if you are getting frustrated at picking clothes that fit. Indeed, our genetic sisters feel exactly the same way and in part explains why some (very odd) females don’t enjoy shopping at all. Why, for example, is a UK size 14 allowed to differ in size by as much as plus or minus 1.5 inches at the waist? Its therefore unsurprising that my very own wardrobe contains a size 12 dress from Monsoon that fits perfectly (I love you dress in case I haven’t told you recently) but also a size 18 dress from Zara, which one my genetic female friend calls the ‘fat bitch dress’. How ladylike.


There is a serious point in this amusing reflection. With reference back to my opener for this blog, buying clothes from retailers with continental manufacturing, as is the case for a number of UK outlets these days, then expect to have to pick clothes off the rail that are a lot bigger than clothes sizes from say Monsoon, DP, Coast, Hobbs, or Lipsy. My advice is to find the brands that have sizes that work for you and then stick with them. This is especially important if you order a lot of clothes online and need certainty of sizing.


I don’t mind making jokes, but I don’t want to look like one


Within the community of cross dressers there is a huge spectrum of people with different agendas and so it is important not to get caught up by what others do and instead, tailor your look to what suits you best. A number of factors may come into this including your build, age, views on what is stylish, and also your level of concern for whether you are making a complete fool of yourself or not.


For closeted or part time dressers who are primarily motivated by seeing a ‘sexy’ reflection in the mirror now and again, then wear what you like and be happy. These folks do not need to worry too much about public perception as they generally don’t go out in daylight exposing themselves to the neighbours and everyone down the shopping mall. Even for those part timers happy to go out to night clubs looking like an extra from the Rocky Horror Show, then knock yourself out, if you have the stomach for it. The world needs a bit of novelty and excitement and you my friends, will add it.


However, it is quite a different matter choosing what to wear if your objective is to pass as a woman in public socially, or at the workplace during daylight hours. At the hardest end of the scale, it is very challenging to choose the right items to make a positive impact in the workplace and look like you belong. In this situation it is now important to make a good impression with the eyes of the world on you and more specifically, the judgemental genetic female eyes of peers and rivals looking for signs of weakness in your style and choice of accessories. Welcome to the realities of the sisterhood; all the women in the department smile politely at Samantha from Logistics, but after work they get together and shred her style choices to pieces over a white wine spritzer.


This section started with a quote from Marilyn Monroe and I keep it at the forefront of my mind when I am out shopping or choosing what to wear. In general terms here are a few rules I follow:


1. Dress my age or a maximum of 10 years younger. Forget about the sycophantic comments on FB from sex pests and people who are as deluded as you; if you dress much younger the only person you are fooling is yourself. You will not fool the public at large.


2. Never over dress in daytime as it draws attention no matter how good you look or feel. Do as other women do. Dress down a lot when shopping, travelling, and other mundane stuff


3. Good day time make-up is neutral matts that can be built-up going into nighttime with all the shiny and glittery make-up we love


4. Shiny make-up is a magnet screaming “look at me!” so be careful with the highlighters and glittery stuff unless you consciously want that effect.


5. Appropriate accessories are important items to shop for as they complete a look. These include coats, bags, scarves, jewellery, hats etc.


6. Wear flats over heels. Yes, you may love heels but sadly most women do not when it comes to shopping. As a result, going shopping in 6” fetish platforms or work shoes will stand out and get you all the wrong sort of attention. Plus, most of my dear readers do not really need any extra height. I always pick up nice flats in various colours as they give me options.


7. Be a city girl If you regularly dress from daytime to evening then think like a city girl when you go shopping. Buy flats, trendy trainers, or kitten heels for travelling, and carry nice heels for the destination event whether it be work, lunch or an evening out. I typically carry my nice shoes in either a nice shopping handbag, or a nice bag from a top-class shopping chain so that it looks like I have just been shopping.


8. Go with a friend There is a reason why women like to shop together and that is to get an opinion. I love shopping with friends who I trust so I can get an honest opinion of whether I look good, okay or downright ridiculous.

Stephanie at home in Selfridges with evening shoes in nice shopping bag

If you have read my previous blogs, you may remember I am very positive about professional cross-dressing services; they provide all sorts of interesting insights into girl-you. And before you ask, no I am not on commission. It is simply my honest view that if you have limited experience and want to learn more about all aspects of being a woman, then it can be money well spent to visit one of the top classes services. With reference to this subject, if your objective is to pass as a woman rather than look like Madonna in Erotica, then say so when you book the appointment. The ladies who run the top services will know exactly what to do and the results can be more emotional as you get a more realistic view of what you would look like every day. I will admit that nowadays it is far more exhilarating to see new options for everyday girl-me than lingerie shoots. Damn my female common sense.


Shop ‘till you Drop


It takes courage or a complete absence of concern to go out dressed as a female with the intention of shopping. However, once you arrive at the shops the experience is amazing and a total game changer when it comes to wardrobe. You are no longer ordering things online against dodgy pictures and hoping clothes will turn up in the post and possibly fit. You can now try on all the options firsthand, see the colours, the cut, how it fits, how different materials feel. You can try on lots of different things together and mix and match. Wonderful.


So if you are thinking about going shopping dressed for the first time and need a little shove out the door then consider this: if you go shopping looking and behaving like a normal woman, regardless of how well you actually pass, then everyone just accepts you. That has always been my experience and never had anything negative or to the contrary. You see, the perception has changed completely.


The negative public perception of dressers is that they are a group of deviants who put on their wife’s panties when she has nipped out to Tescos, with the specific intention of getting aroused. However, if you are a well turned out dresser and behaving appropriately as a woman, then the natural assumption now if spotted, is that you are a brave, serious and authentic soul who is simply trying to get on with life as a woman. When spotted nearly all women without exception are lovely and normally ask if I am transitioning to which I reply “yes.” Well…it is taking a while, but it is my end goal, so it is the simplest answer.


Indeed, I am not so delusional that I think I pass all the time but that doesn’t actually matter. If you are behaving as a female, you smile, are polite, make no bones about being a dresser, and walk with confidence then you will have so much fun. I recently went shopping in what I regard as one of Scotland’s roughest towns and yet no one blinked an eye and I got some real bargains. Risk and reward :D


Ordering online


Internet shopping has been a massive revolution for dressers in the western world. For myself, I return home daily to a mountain of items or notes from PostNord advising they have something for me to collect. Even for those girls with situations that do not allow items to be sent to their homes, delivery services like Collect+ have totally revolutionised our ability to shop for female items worldwide. UPS and Fedex have collection points also, along with GLS on the continent. Rocking.


For my big projects and retro shoots, I buy many things from the wonderful shops and artists on Etsy. It is fantastic and all my clip-on earrings now come from 2 super shops online. The same is true for most of my shapewear. Whilst I still prefer to try on shoes before I buy, I too have joined the fad of ordering the most ridiculous heels from shops in China through Amazon with some very pleasing results. The spiked T bar heels I bought for my Vampirette photo-shoot are out of this world and impossible to source anywhere in Europe directly.


I really love online shopping now but there are a few points worth knowing to avoid disappointment. More than once I have ordered things online for shop collection in the UK, only to discover the items were not processed due to the system picking up that my credit card boy-name differed from girl-name on the order. How dull. The best way is to do everything in boy name unless you have got as far as having a female legal identity with bank cards to match.


Ordering online


Internet shopping has been a massive revolution for dressers in the western world. For myself, I return home daily to a mountain of items or notes from PostNord advising they have something for me to collect. Even for those girls with situations that do not allow items to be sent to their homes, delivery services like Collect+ have totally revolutionised our ability to shop for female items worldwide. UPS and Fedex have collection points also, along with GLS on the continent. Rocking.


For my big projects and retro shoots I buy many things from the wonderful shops and artists on Etsy. It is fantastic and all my clip on ear rings now come from 2 super shops online. The same is true for most of my shapewear. Whilst I still prefer to try on shoes before I buy, I too have joined the fad of ordering the most ridiculous heels from shops in China through Amazon with some very pleasing results. The spiked T bar heels I bought for my Vampirette photo-shoot are out of this world and impossible to source anywhere in Europe directly.


I really love online shopping now but there are a few points worth knowing to avoid disappointment. More than once I have ordered things online for shop collection in the UK, only to discover the items were not processed due to the system picking up that my credit card boy-name differed from girl-name on the order. How dull. The best way is to do everything in boy name unless you have got as far as having a female legal identity with bank cards to match.


Online shopping is okay but shopping and cocktails with a BFF is more fun

Expensive and out of control lessons


Written words are most successful when the reader is drawn into the text, they feel the authentic nature of the words, can place themselves in the scenes and even put themselves in the place of the protagonists. For this reason, I will now share with you some of the truly woeful decision I have made over the years so that you can get a sense of the fun I have had!


The great Steffini - So my first reflection is a truly embarrassing shopping experience. Assuming you have the courage to walk into a female shop like you own the place, it is always worth considering carefully what you will and will not try on. On more than one occasions I have made a critical mistake which many genetic women are careful to avoid; if you have a full face of make-up, trying on very tight clothes with no side or back zipper is a crash course for disaster.


Houdini’s escape from chains in a tank of water was child’s play when compared to the 20 minutes it took me to escape a tight body con dress with no zipper in Mango. And of course, despite my best efforts, the best impression of me was no longer on my face, but on the dress. FFS. Fortunately, at the stage in my dressing ‘career’ that this incident occurred, I had become accustomed to always carrying make-up essentials. After a further 15 minutes sorting myself out, I then covertly escaped the shop without discovery of having ruined a £150 dress, a feat that I believe would have impressed even the secret service.


Unwise spending - For dressers with the means and style to go with it, there is a temptation with access to high end shops to go completely out of control. What do I mean? I recently had a hilarious discussion with a lovely friend over dinner about the most expensive pair of shoes we had bought, and then instantly destroyed!


You see, a big gap in many dressers experience is how best to spend the money wisely when it comes to shopping. The whole fashion industry is set up provide women with endless temptations in order to extract as much money as possible from them. Therefore, our genetic sisters soon come to learn what they need to spend to look their best, without throwing money away. However, dressers with money but no understanding of how best to spend it sensibly, can have a tendency to make some truly crazy and outrageous shopping decisions.


Returning to the conversation with my friend over dinner; I had to admit with some embarrassment, that the Gucci shoes I bought in the Galleria in Houston for an eye watering $750 lasted a little under 4 hours. The reason is simple; these shoes are designed for 65kg females and the fact that you can buy a size big enough for you does not now mean that they are now designed for 78kg males! On the contrary, the force on the slender higher heel is now considerably greater. If you then go dancing in said shoes then the heel will most likely be destroyed in under 4 hours, as I proved through thorough field testing. And I mean obliterated beyond repair. I have told my counsellor more than once, "will you please stop talking about trans issues! Can we get back to coping mechanisms for handling the grief associated with destroying a pair of the most stylish shoes on earth!"


In my case I have genetic female friends who have since coached me on what to spend money on, mainly accessories, and what to buy from Primark and Markies. I still have a love for nice shoes, but I typically buy going out shoes from Next, River Island and New Look, accepting that if they get trashed its no big deal because they were cheap anyway. These days my Manolo Blahniks, Guccis and Kurt Geigers are carried close to venues and only worn for the duration I am visible to anyone in the social situation…just like most other genetic women trying to protect their prized shiny possessions.


On a night out in floral dress, jacket and 3" heels

Dresser Specific Issues


The final section I will write about is specific to choosing clothes as a genetic boy to pass as a girl. Now, if you don’t care about passing and want to walk down the road looking like a tranny with ‘bulging bits’ on show then by all means be my guest. However, that idea frankly makes me feel sick and the reception you get from the public will not be kind either. If like me, you aspire to look your best as a female here are a few pointers.


It is obvious but tight clothes will immediately make anything unusual stand out. I say this with the greatest respect, but if you are overweight in any way or don’t want to tuck, leave the bondage dresses and skinny jeans on the rack. I know a number of larger girls who look amazing because they chose clothes that are the right size, and respect to them. Also, if you don’t want to tuck you don’t have too; I know some stunning girls who have never pushed everything up, and still pass really well in skater dresses and looser fitting clothes. There are always options, but you need to think about it.


When it comes to shape wear, I am a bit hmmm about it. For myself, shape wear is great for photo-shoots but make no sense for wearing out. I would not buy a silicone breast plate with the intention of wearing outside the house as even a Game of Thrones White Walker would overheat after wearing one of those in a club for a few hours. If you enjoy being sweaty or plan to dress in a sub zero temperature then yes go for it, but given that I overheat on photo-shoots wearing a big lump of silicone, I certainly would never dream of buying it to wear outdoors.


When it comes to buying other shape wear, I am a bit kinder and even wear some hip pads myself, depending on cut of my outfit. However, you again need to consider how much to wear due to overheating. If you are thinking of buying ‘control’ shape wear, then it is useful to be aware that typically all it does is push bulging bits elsewhere. the only way to look better is lose weight and no amount of super strong elastic will suddenly improve your figure. Shape wear in my opinion is for home and photo-shoots but not practical for wearing in daytime situations.


And finally, when it comes to hiding boy genitals, buy good quality gaffs if you are going to wear tight clothes. End of. For bras it is important to remember that men have a deeper chest typically so choose sizes up from your breast forms. Typically, I wear C breast forms but need a D bra. More than ample for my purposes :D


Final Remarks


Shopping as a female is not always easy but online shopping has helped us a lot. If you can pluck up the courage to go down the mall then you will have a wonderful experience and it is very unusual for women to be anything other than kind and pleasant in continental Europe. If you can get past worrying about what others may or may not think, you will have a great experience trying on...well...anything you like. Worth remembering that not everything fits every woman so do not get depressed about shopping failures; it happens to all of us including our genetic sisters. I am now away to check out Debenhams sale list and I sincerely hope you enjoy your next shopping experience!


Steffie

xx