Breaking Clothing Barriers – or Reinforcing Them?

I was recently taken to task in an online forum when a crossdresser got upset with me for confessing that I wear dresses but still present as all male — bearded, aggressive, sloppy, and arrogant male.

Now, let me see if I understand this.  A man who has a beard and refers to himself with male name and pronouns but wears a dress is unacceptably weird, but a man who also wears dresses and adds to that makeup, nail polish, false breasts, a wig, and a feminine name is NOT weird?

Now either this other crossdresser believes that beards in and of themselves are ugly and nobody should wear them regardless of what kind of clothes they have on, or he/she believes that only people who appear to be female should be allowed to wear dresses.

Is it just me, or does it seem like that’s reinforcing outdated, rigid societal rules on what kind of clothes men and women can wear?  Isn’t that exactly what we crossdressers are trying to be free from?  Do we tell women they have to look more masculine if they want to be allowed to wear trousers?  If a biological woman has a muscular build, square jaw, short hair, maybe even an unfortunate problem with a little facial hair, should she be forbidden from wearing a dress?

If it’s OK for me to have a beard while I wear jeans and t-shirts, that level of acceptability should not change when I swap out the jeans and t-shirt for a satin blouse and long skirt.


About Ralph

Male. Straight. Married.
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15 Responses to Breaking Clothing Barriers – or Reinforcing Them?

  1. Grok says:

    Ralph, in Skirt Cafe posts this group has been called “classic” TV/CD. I can’t claim to have much knowledge about them, but they are clearly a distinct group with their own motivations and priorities. If ever there was a group that you belong to, this isn’t it. You would be a “casual cross dresser” or “fashion freestyler.”

  2. Ralph says:

    Yup, Grok, thanks in part to your recommendations in the past I have hunted down all “casual crossdresser” and “fashion freestyler” sites. The freestyler forum on Skirt Cafe amazes me with the large number of men who are brave enough to openly wear dresses and skirts in their daily interactions with society, and most of them seem to have positive experiences from it.

    Good thoughts, Thorin. Your final challenge/question to me is a bit tricky because for obvious reasons I can’t find, say, back-zip spring dress with a full skirt and a bodice tailored for a man’s physique.

    I absolutely don’t care for outfits that are specifically designed to emphasize breasts that I don’t have (although if I don’t keep gaining weight I might… sigh). And because of said weight problem, I can’t wear stuff that tends to emphasize the hourglass shape.

    For easier fit and just because I like the massage effect on my skin, I tend to favor stretch materials. My sundresses almost all have some amount of elastic smocking at the top to keep them from falling off my barrel chest. Almost all my winter dresses are like the one I’m wearing now — stretch velvet or velour, turtleneck or crew neck, long sleeves, and little or no shaping at the waist so it pretty much hangs down from shoulders to ankles. The only exceptions are a zip-back spring dress that has a tight crew neck and fits against my chest so it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t have inside, and my guilty excessive treat for cool days when a little textile pampering cheers me up — a ridiculously big poofy lavender prom gown I only got because it was on ebay for ten bucks and I always wondered how it would feel to wear one. That one DOES only fit you right if you have the support structure across the balcony — a slightly lower square neckline with lots of room to stick out. To solve that, I did some basic tucking to completely flatten the front.

    Getting out of the neck-to-toe dress department and into separate blouse/skirt wear, the tops I wear with my skirts aren’t really tailored for a woman’s form much if at all (or if they are, I can’t tell). Apart from the buttons being on the wrong side and the fabric being shiny and soft satin/rayon/silk instead of cotton, they might as well be men’s shirts… and in fact when I’m wearing a skirt separately I often top it with a soft turtleneck sweater I actually got out of the men’s department.

    Not sure if that answers your question, but it was an interesting mental inventory to think about the clothes I wear and why I prefer those styles.

  3. Grok says:

    I’m not sure that Ralph is trying to change the cultural gendered patterns of society; I think he is just wearing certain items that he likes.

  4. Ralph says:

    Well, that’s true — as much as I’d *like* to change society, I don’t have that much fight in me. So unlike those folks at Skirt Cafe, I don’t go outside dressed as I would like to.

  5. Grok says:

    As far as Skirt Cafe is concerned (or HisBlackDress), I would comment about what sells and what doesn’t. Actually, members have been posting about getting in trouble with their wives-for wearing skirts that were designed for women. Actually, this topic was covered in the old Bravehearts kilt forum. (I believe that you can still access the site, even though the forum is over run with spam). In an article it was pointed out that this just will not sell…to the mainstream of society.

  6. Grok says:

    As for borrowing from the other side of the aisle, I figure that the most that can be achieved is to form a small group that goes off to do its own thing-in private. But stating this would just get me a lot of flak. As for the mainstream of society, I think the most that could be achieved would be to promote garments specifically designed for men.

  7. Grok says:

    There was a link to the Madrass Kilt, supposedly men can try it. Would it be possible to sell what was originally a woman’s design as a unisex garment?

  8. Grok says:

    So far as the mainstream of society is concerned, I expect change at a snails pace, at best. More like a glacial pace, actually.

  9. Vivienne says:

    Hi Ralph,
    An interesting point.
    Using the autogynephilia model, I think what this individual is saying is that s/he wouldn’t be attracted to a bearded man in a dress; whether that person was someone else, or the image in the mirror. And, FWIW, I can understand that.
    For this individual, that attitude is more important than the attitude of general acceptance and tolerance which (IMO) we should all display toward one another. It’s something I find disturbing about the trans “community” that we are seemingly very willing to stick the daggers in one another. “There is more that unites us than divides us” is, as you know, a common refrain in my writing.

  10. Pat Scales says:

    I do not read your blog too often so this is a late comment. I am a big guy in a dress. i do the best I can to appear as a neatly and nicel dressed woman but at my size and age (6’1″, 250 lbs, mid 60s) I do not delude myself into thinking that I pass. As such when I go out I dress and makeup fully but do not present as trying to fool others that I may be a woman. I behave and talk much the same as if I were in a shirt and slacks.
    About a month ago I met another fellow who invited me to a poetry reading. I was dressed in a nice flowing wrap dress, brown sturdy 3: heels, hose and a wig. He presentd wear high and tight ladies jeans with lots of embroidery, 3″ grey booties, a lovely flowing velour top with very expressive costume jewelry, (large necklace, bracelets, earings and rings). He sported a neat gray mustache and beard and wore his own longish gray hair. He and I were fully accepted as just two more coffee house patrons. He read some of his poems and knew several of the other patrons.
    I write to tell you that there is a growing acceptance of a ‘man in a dress’.

  11. Ralph says:

    Hi Pat,

    No worries, I don’t update this blog very often either. Thanks for your response! It’s encouraging to hear that you and your friend were treated well.

  12. AMWAB says:

    Yay for wearing women’s clothing in a masculine way!

    Another Bearded Man In A Blouse

  13. BroadBlogs says:

    It’s funny how often we have double standards. One for ourselves and another for everyone else.

  14. Grok says:

    I was thinking about Ralph’s comment about changing society; I have to say that I also don’t have that much fight in me. I just want to be left alone to do my own thing.

  15. Grok says:

    Regarding some of my posts to Skirt Cafe….. I suggested that there is a design or two, such as denim skirts, or the Macabi skirt, that might someday be viewed as androgynous as worn by a man. It seems to me that in terms of colors, a black-and-pink combo (such as suggested on the Fashion Freestyler blog) might come to be viewed as androgynous on a man. Check out Not exactly creating a “Janeygirl” category, but rather, expanding Androgynous a bit to include men.

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