Planting the Forest

  • Reading time:11 mins read

So there’s this online clothes service… thing, where you give them your measurements and vague preferences and on request or stated interval they send you a mystery box of curated stuff with a free return envelope for whatever you don’t want/can’t afford. I got a $35 credit, so I figured what the hell. Worst case scenario, they send a bunch of stuff I don’t like; I send it back, and don’t pay anything. Best case, I get one or two things I do like, that are covered by the $35 credit, and I send back the rest—and still pay nothing. If I get just one piece of free affirming clothing that I like, it’s worth a trip to the fucking mailbox.


Turns out, I was both overly and inadequately optimistic.

Like most places that carry women’s clothing, this service, their sizing is all weird and byzantine and bespoke, but I did my best with the fairly rigorous measurements I have assembled—which to my surprise mostly worked out. Sometimes astonishingly well.

I woke after a few days to a phone alert that the box had been delivered. And—well! As it happens there’s no fucking way I could afford any of this, but the experience did make my head swim with new ideas and help me to confirm a few things about this new person whom I am.

Like, say, jewelry. I mused earlier about piercings, and have rattled on internally about necklaces and rings and bracelets—and this package has only solidified those thoughts.

As would become a trend, the piece they sent was… not quite right, and I doubt I’d have kept it even if the price had been other than ludicrous, ($74?! Haha! I’m no expert, but I’ve passed mall kiosks before.) But more importantly, it felt good to wear. I liked the weight and the movement. It just feels good to have something like this (if not this in particular) on my wrist.

There is, as it turns out, a real stim value to jewelry, which—the concept feels like a revelation to me. I want to associate jewelry with, like, Christmas trees, right? I’ve always thought of it as pointless baubles and decoration. But there’s this visceral quality that matters, on a nerdy psychological level. It’s so soothing to have this jangly thing on me that I can fuss with as needed. The sensation makes me feel more grounded, more present and real.

Getting more into the meat of the wardrobe, bottoms have long been an issue for me. It’s hard to find men’s trousers that are both long enough to fit the limited range of acceptable cuff lengths and thin enough to fit me without tying a fucking rope around my waist. Also my hips and thighs and waist and butt are changing, if ever so slowly, and it would be nice to get something that I can wear outside when it’s no longer skirt weather. But, well. Here we start to run into some well-documented systemic issues.

These things are still cut a little low for me personally—I want coverage up to my navel, so my hips are taken care of—but otherwise the fit is… absurdly close yet exactly right. It’s funny; my leg length is completely normal in women’s pants, yet causes all these issues in men’s sizes. And with the stretchy material, these sort of mold to my thighs and calves even. I don’t know if I need all my clothes to be as tight as all that, but now I do know my measurements, and that I should be able to find something in my size with little trouble. Finally.

Thing is, I’m used to paying, what, $20 for a new pair of jeans? More often $5-10 from a thrift store. So what do they want for these? $78.

hahahahahahaha get real.

It’s then that we get into the particulars. I start to make concessions and excuses, and think, well, these pants are kind of nice, and maybe the waist isn’t quite what I want, and I didn’t expect them to be this tight but there’s a place for that, and maybe if they cost $55 less I’d keep them. As I strut around, though, I notice all the little things, most prominently that famous bugbear:

There are no pockets.

I don’t mean the pockets are stitched closed (why does this happen?), or are shallow but could maybe be extended with a little seam work. I mean, there are stitches that indicate the appearance of pockets but there is nothing actually there. It’s entirely cosmetic. A false front.

For seventy-eight dollars, fancy dress pants that are entirely useless.

Whee! Yeah, okay. This is the world we’re living in now. Okay. This shouldn’t have been a surprise, but as with so many things sometimes you just need to live it for it to click entirely.

So frustration aside, we now stroll into the realm of confusion.

I don’t know what this top is supposed to be, but, uh. No. I guess I like the whole paisley print thing, but I don’t understand the cut and the fabric is strange, and… it doesn’t suit me in general. On the upside it’s the cheapest thing in the box, at $38—almost affordable! On the downside, it’s not my thing at all. I mean, paisley is good in principle. Otherwise? Yeesh.

Two interjections before we move onto more viable territory:

  • Excuse my bedhead in all of this. As I say, I literally just pulled myself out of bed to find the package delivered.
  • I swear, my mirror cannot be un-gross. I clean it, and ten seconds later it’s magically just a wall of handprints—even if I haven’t touched it (so far as I know). Must be the ghosts.

The next thing is nearer to a thing I might conceivably wear. Thing.

I’m told this shawl-smock whatever is meant to be a kimono. I don’t really see how that makes sense. But whatever it is, it’s rad and I want to see more like it. But, probably not for $44. Because again: i am poor. Chop off, like $15, and maybe we’ll start to think about it. Even then it’s pricey.

If this is meant to go with that paisley top, I’m… like, that seems like a dangerous intersection of patterns. Confuse your enemies. Dazzle your friends. With a flat color it should be fine.

And finally, the centerpiece:

I’ve never actually worn a full dress before, and this one confuses me to put on. I keep burrowing into the wrong holes. But, haha, the cut is novel and it seems to fit just right.

I mean, the dress isn’t super duper interesting in its own right, but gee does it open my head up to new ideas. It seems to fit just right. And I don’t think I’ve worn anything more flattering in my life. It is… a little scary how accurate it is in terms of what it feels it should emphasize, and not.

As with everything, the problem here is the price. I guess maybe $68 could be reasonable for someone, but not for me. That’s just money I don’t have, and if I did it would be going to keep me off the street and to keep the power on. If I could afford it, though? I guess I would be exploring more dresses like this. Because, jeez Louise.

So although I don’t get to keep any of this, the adventure has been constructive. I know I have my sizing correct. And I know that a V-neck is good, for the way I’m shaped now. I guess I work well with a low cut, even. If I go for a dress, a wrap style might not be a bad plan apparently. And now that I know how good I look, it’s hard to keep my mind off of it.

Just as a garment, this is so comfortable and natural to me. I mean, yes, the fabric is soft and warm and stretchy and nice. But also, I just feel confident in a way I’m not used to. It’s like, wearing a dress like this, everything clicks. I make sense to myself.

So! Guess this is fully my thing now! Every day, becoming a little more human, huh.

I think if I had a dress like this, I’d want some kind of a necklace to break up that space. I guess we’re entering the jewelry zone, huh. (It’s mostly gonna be silver. Or, you know, white metallic.)

All in all this was a reasonable, if not quite right, menagerie. That top is kind of weird. The rest of it, some good beginnings of ideas at least. I like the feel and cut of this dress. Turns out, I like a jangly bracelet. Everything beyond the ideas, it needs to go right back before I do it any damage or wear. (This is making me a little paranoid. Better hope the return mail works properly.)

Altogether that’s $302 they wanted for those five items—which… you know, I’d hope to have paid like maybe $75 for, by whatever impoverished fantasy bubble my mental calculator currently lives in.

Someone out there surely will mock me for this, but I don’t get paying that much for clothes. If we weren’t in a pandemic, thrift shops are of course a thing that exists. Often you can get a decent top for a couple bucks. Maybe five, for a pair of jeans?

So yeah, this service ain’t gonna work out. But hey, fun dress-up session. Again also, it’s also good to know that my measurements seem to be right on—and that it is possible to find clothes that fit me! This is such a novelty! And an important point. I have never in my life found masculine clothes for my frame. And, that’s because, not only am I not a dude; I’ve never been shaped like one. And now I’m really not.

All of which speaks to—hrm.

A thing I’ve been learning just recently is—presentation-wise, my tendency has been to play it slow and safe, right? Dress down in public, even as my tits become harder to hide and my face changes and my hips grow. I’ve been reluctant to go too overtly femme, as I didn’t imagine I could pull it off and I felt kind of vulnerable to think about it.

But, turns out. It suits me. Like, this is actually me.

It’s not only fine; it’s not just that it works okay and I shouldn’t worry about it. It actively works really really well. way better than the half-steps I’ve been settling with and way better than anything I’ve worn in my life. And I feel amazing. Like, I found something here. Maybe if I could dig up something similar, but cheaper—and with a bit of lace? A dress, and maybe some cheap, stimmy white-metal jewelry. I hadn’t at all considered the stim factor, and now I want to keep going with it. (Again, god, I wish thrift stores were a thing one could reasonably visit in the year 2020.)

I just had this flash. Imagine waking up in the morning and actually being excited to get dressed—like, it being a fun thing that served to enrich one’s day, rather than a thing one had to do. I bet that’s what it’s like for some people, assembling themselves each day.

It also is becoming clear to me just how much clothing affects one’s presentation. I mean—duh, right? But normally I don’t much notice clothing. It’s just a thing that rests atop the essence of a person, and my attention brushes right past it like the furniture of an entryway. It’s decorative, not structural.

The thing is, no detail exists in a bubble and clothing isn’t just about the clothing; it affects how everything else is read. Weirdly I think even my face looks different when attached to well-fitted, clearly feminine-coded dress. The brain, it picks up all these different peripheral contextual clues, which add up to change the overall perception, the meaning of any component detail. Change the bulk of the signals, and that changes how one reads what’s left.

Even a face, it’s relative, not absolute in what it serves to communicate. My face is more masculinized than feels comfortable to me—the jaw, the brow, the chin—but much of the significance to those elements seems to dissolve next to a form-fitting, low-cut dress and other distractions.

Masculinity, femininity; they’re arbitrary and exist on a scale. Different people have different faces, and even with testosterone damage mine is fairly androgynous really. So take a broadly androgynous face and surround it with all these other signifiers, and one’s perception shifts to fit one’s expectation. It’s kind of like color theory. The features look different as dimensions in a broader context than they might seem on their own. Lots of women have an angular face, and if everything else is coded feminine nothing seems all that strange about it.

Figuring out a lot here that I hadn’t really thought about. I’m going to be chewing on all this for a long time.