The Power of Clothing for Self Expression - A personal Journey

Guest blog by William Elisabeth Cuthbert

Dressing for your gender identity can change everything about how you move through life. Confidence, posture, accepting compliments or opening up around others, can all shift towards how you are inside. But it can also reveal ways you’ve never imagined you could feel about yourself, as I found when I needed an outfit for two family weddings in 2021.

Two ceremonies, one weekend, maximum pressure. At my sister-in-law’s, in the stately surroundings of Kenwick Park Hotel in the Lincolnshire Wolds, I hoped to make an impression as a member of the bridal party.

What kind of impression though, I still wasn’t sure. I’d come out as non-binary almost six months before, but my self-knowledge had shifted. Privately I’d chosen William as my name, ready to reintroduce myself as a trans man.

But not then. Not right before two huge family events complete with named place settings, and even custom bride tribe loungewear. I couldn’t throw a wrench in the works like that. But I could share something true in what I wore.

So I went to buy my first suit and tie since being out of school uniform. Even as I browsed the rails, I hadn’t decided if I was going to ask for help. But when it came to speak up or leave, I got up the nerve to make it known I wanted a men’s suit, and that this was my first time.

To the store assistant’s credit, he played off the extent of the adjustments as business as usual. I’m still grateful for that. To this day I wonder if he realised the difference he made in my confidence. Even now, I wonder if he knew I was trans—if he was one of the first to see me.

As I watched him roll, tuck and pin the clownlike lengths of sleeve and leg in the mirror, in full view of other shoppers, I saw myself transformed. I’d gone too far from pretence by the time he asked me for contact details. I took one of those strange leaps of early transition, making this stranger the only person besides my partner to know my chosen name.

non binary fashion
Barely recognising my own reflection, I understood next to nothing about how to ‘be masculine’ in a way that was mine. All I had was the navy tweed three-piece and my first shirt from Gender Free World, my trusty burgundy number with contrast sky blue sleeve placket and inside collar.

I took my new clothes and the hidden knowledge of how well they fitted me into the hotel room, where the three bridesmaids plus yours truly each gave an old, new, borrowed and blue gift to the bride. (I was blue. No word of a lie!)

Then, finally, we got dressed up.

After checking the how-to for a Windsor knot and fastening the tie against my bound chest, I arranged the knot and admired myself in the bathroom mirror. Its diamond details flashed glossy against the matching shade of the shirt (in the fashion which a quick search tells me is á la page).

I ran my gaze down my body and tugged the jacket front to pose, as if to pull my mirror image in closer.

I carry the memory of that reflection, that day, as the first time I knew how beautiful a boy I truly am.

gfw clothing wedding outfit

Since then, I’ve learned more again about my identity and expression. I’m less of a binary guy than I put on myself in the thrill of embracing my masculinity. Now, I identify somewhere along the lines of a non-binary transmasculine, femboy genderqueer. What I wear continues to shift with my self-awareness, but a bold shirt is always a safe bet.

Wearing clothes from GFW has been a blessing for how they cut the needless gendering, and worries over what will fit from too-big men’s and too-curvy women’s sections. No matter how my gender journey reveals itself, I know I’m wearing something that affirms me in body and soul. Putting on that burgundy shirt still reminds me of the pure joy of looking in a bathroom mirror, and seeing someone I wanted to keep around.

transman dressing for self expression


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