Capsule Wardrobe Update: New clothes, new me

Seven months ago, I showed my entire wardrobe in the post Wardrobe Exercise: What are my capsules? Since then, I’ve achieved almost 100% wardrobe turnover as I stopped wearing women’s clothes and starting wear men’s.

I couldn’t have predicted it, but this wardrobe exercise was actually a crucial part of the egg-cracking process that led me to consciously acknowledge that there was something weird going on with my gender identity (as I noted in the subsequent post, Complicating your wardrobe by getting confused about your gender identity). In the original post, after getting all my clothes together in one place and taking pictures of the various “capsules” they fell into, I observed,
[My capsules are] divided, oddly, by gender expression. My casual look is tomboy/androgynous/soft butch/masculine, and my work look is quite feminine.... I can't explain it, but I feel more comfortable in androgynous clothes when I'm relaxing, and more confident in feminine clothes when I'm trying to be professional. I just have no interest at all in very feminine casual clothes -- the closest I get is unisex clothes that are pink... I'm also completely uninterested in dressy masculine clothes (suits and ties, wingtips, etc.) I think it's cute when other women wear three-piece suits, but I don't want to rock that look myself.
Now that I'm confirmed trans, I feel like I can completely explain that phenomenon. Masculine casual clothes made me more comfortable because I’m a dude. I dressed feminine for work because I was laboring under the misconception that accepting my assigned-at-birth gender was one of those boring, hard, inevitable things that grown-ups have to do, and that people would think I was childish or special-snowflakey if I brought my nontraditional gender expression into the workplace (largely because I’d internalized the constant side-eye I got for being gender nonconforming as an actual child). As for my dressy capsule, I didn’t want to be a woman wearing a suit because I didn’t want to be a woman wearing a suit. Now that I feel like I’d be a guy wearing a suit, I’m completely planning to wear suits for all future dressy occasions. Done and sorted. See, it wasn’t that complicated, Seven Months Ago Self!

Here’s what I’m wearing now.

Capsule 1: Work

Consists of: 2 blazers, 7 button-down shirts, 7 undershirts, 4 pairs of chinos.

 Notes: While I’m still sticking more or less with my True Summer palette, the colors are much more subdued than my original work wardrobe. Instead of navy, teal, aqua, and hot pink, the main colors are navy, gray, forest green, and burgundy. (I’ve also relaxed on the “no black” rule.) Partially this is because men’s clothes are simply easier to find in darker, muted colors; partially it’s because I’m still in a place in my transition where I feel like I need to try to blend in a bit, rather than stand out with my natural flamboyance. That will come, I’m sure.

Capsule 2: Casual

Once I started switching to guy clothes, my standard for what’s masc enough changed, so even the original “butch” casual wardrobe got entirely replaced!

Consists of: 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of nylon hiking pants, 1 lying hoodie (I am not matriculated from Boston University! I just live near there!), 1 merino pullover, 4 plaid flannel shirts, 6 cotton t-shirts.

Notes: This is pretty darn similar to my work wardrobe, both in color and style. Some of it is directly analogous: dark blue jeans and a red-and-blue plaid flannel instead of dark blue chinos and red-and-blue plaid twill button-down. It’s pretty obvious that these capsules belong to the same person. I think this is progress.

Summer Preview

Consists of: 4 baseball caps, 3 pairs of sunglasses, 2 floral t-shirts, 9 short-sleeve button downs, 3 pairs of shorts (1 cotton / 2 nylon & swim-ready!)

Notes: This isn’t really a capsule per se; it’s pieces that will be mixed into the previous capsules when summer rolls around. Mostly these are casual items, but the button-down shirts can be worn to work. (Last summer, when I started dressing masc at work, I felt comfortable wearing the five least flamboyantly patterned out of the nine.) Here is where we start to see more of the True Summer brights: vivid jade, hot pink, and aqua. These are the colors I am more drawn to generally. They’re mostly absent from my three-season/fall/winter wardrobe because:

They’re temporarily too feminine. I’m mostly avoiding them now at the risk of looking too fem, I feel like if I begin to “pass” and strangers looking at me assume I am a cis male, these colors will simply make me look gay. Which: bonus.

They’re massively harder to find outside of actual summer. One thing I’ve noticed going from women’s fashion to men’s is that men’s fashion is more seasonal: certain colors and patterns are strictly for summer, others for fall, and so on. This is true of fashion generally, but there’s more variety available for women, so you have more scope to do something a bit unusual, such as wear a summer color year-round.

This reflects a different attitude about fashion that I’ve noticed in men’s and women’s fashion communities (such as the “fashion advice” subreddits). Women’s fashion tend to be individualist: find what works for you, personally, and rock it. Seasonal color palettes describe you; you’re expected to bring that season with you through the year. There’s an emphasis on finding silhouettes that work for your particular body shape and styles that work for your lifestyle. In men’s fashion, on the other hand, there’s more of an expectation that the same rules apply to everybody. Everyone should wear summer colors in the summer and fall colors in the fall. There is one correct style that is objectively the best. If that style doesn’t work on your body, change your body.

You can probably tell by the way I describe that I favor the women’s approach. Sure, if you’re the kind of person who simply wants to be told what to wear and to go about your day, the “whatever works for you!” attitude is going to be frustrating. But I’m not that person. I like experimenting with clothes. I don’t want to wear all the same things that everyone else wears. I do believe that different colors and styles favor different people, and I feel like it’s more empowering to select clothes that flatter you as you are, than to feel pressured to change yourself to fit the clothes. I love shopping in the men’s department and expressing my masculinity through clothes - I don’t want to go back to wearing women’s stuff - but ultimately I’d like to infuse my wardrobe with more of the fun and individuality of the women’s fashion attitude, and the bright and happy colors of summer all year round.

The Money Stuff

This is a money blog, so you’re probably wondering how much it cost to completely replace my wardrobe in seven months.

The good news is that I was able to be pretty frugal with it. Almost nothing was bought at full price. I took advantage of sales; shopped at discount stores like Target and Old Navy; and bought used from Goodwill and Poshmark.

The bad news is of course that it was a COMPLETE WARDROBE REPLACEMENT! It was definitely more of a budget outlay than I’m proud of, and the shame/exhaustion of keeping track of it is a large part of why I fell off the YNAB train in the summer and have failed to report on my spending through the fall.

Using a somewhat back of the envelope approach, then, here’s about how much it cost:

$800 (The biggie. Includes 2 down jackets and a pair of winter boots. The boots needed to be replaced; the jackets didn’t, since I’d just gotten a new one last year! The men’s ones are like 1% different from the women’s ones but I KNOW THEY ARE DIFFERENT.)
Work button-down shirts
$60 (Not pictured. Much needed; I didn’t even own a belt before, and they’re crucial to the men’s work look.)
$300 (This is just because I’m a dummy and I insist on merino wool undershirts. I could have spent a tenth of this.)
Casual button-down shirts
Shorts/swim trunks
$100 (Not pictured. But I did replace most of it with men’s, mainly for psychological reasons, since nobody sees it.)
Long underwear
$150 (To be fair, this actually needed to be replaced anyway.)
$300 (Not pictured. Consists of 2 pairs of sneakers and 2 pairs of work shoes.)
$140 (Not pictured. Very frivolous; I replaced my women’s backpacks almost entirely for color reasons.)
Failed experiments
$500 (This is a general guess at how much I spent on clothes that I actually don’t even have anymore, having both gotten them and given them away in the past 7 months. These are non-optimal items that tided me over until I found better ones. When you feel an urgency to quickly wear totally different clothes, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of waiting for the best deals or the best items; it also took me a few tries to find the kinds of things that looked best on me. In at least 2 cases, I also had to retire items because I changed size! Sadly, I expect this will continue to happen as my body changes from hormones and surgery, which means I REALLY need to stop spending a ton on clothes.)

Over. Three. Thousand. Dollars. (And that’s probably an underestimate, tbh.) I mean, I could buy a small sailboat for that money! On the other hand, it is amortized over several months, and it’s actually on par with the rate at which I spent money on clothes on an ongoing basis prior to transition. The difference is that I felt at that time that I was on a neverending hamster wheel and would never be satisfied with my wardrobe; now I kind of feel like I’m good and done for awhile.

Time will tell, of course - will I still be wearing these things in another seven months? Or will I have switched entirely to the space-age fabric Zibblzorp with extra space for my brand new tentacles? Stay tuned to find out!


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