This is a story that we published early on when piloting our website in December 2010. I joined Jenni on a business trip and discovered custom made tailoring in China. I hadn’t bought any dress up clothes since that visit in anticipation for our return trip to China. So, prescription when we went to Shanghai this past month, price I asked Supergay and power lezzie Charlene Liu where she and other butch women shop in town. She sent me to her favorite tailor and I ordered eleven shirts, doctor four pairs of pants, two vests, and two jackets for a fraction of the price in the States. I’m pretty much gotten a tailor made wardrobe and am ready to get married, go on a bunch of interviews, and attend a ball. I hope you enjoy reading about my first trip to order a suit…
“You want buy a dress? We make pretty one for you,” Lucy said. Jenni and I had walked into the overflowing Silk Market in downtown Beijing to take advantage of the tailor-made clothing, and I could tell that the saleswoman, Lucy, had never met anyone like me. It seemed like her first reaction was to put a dress on me to try to make me look more “normal.” “No dress,” I explained, “I would like a suit.” Three minutes later Lucy returned with a catalog of women’s suits that screamed Hillary Clinton. I wanted to avoid that fashion nightmare and told her, “no woman’s suits. I would like a man’s suit please.”
My cousin’s wedding is coming up in June and I decided it was time for me to have a kick-ass outfit. I dread weddings, not only because they remind me of how I am still a second-class citizen and not allowed to get married, but also because I have to get dressed up. I’ve gone through various phases in my life. Phase 1: the Boy-in-a-Dress-Phase. I used to try to blend in and wear a dress and make-up for special events. Inevitably though, I could not change my boyish mannerisms and movements that drew more attention to my awkwardness in a dress. Then came Phase 2: Unfashionable Lesbian Outfit Phase. This is when I would wear some type of flowy capri pants and a tank top so that I was at least out of a dress, but still could pass for wearing appropriate clothing for my gender. However this left me looking under-dressed and way out of style. Finally, a few years ago I went balls out for Phase 3: the Gay Boy look. This meant buying men’s clothing only and wearing it with a queer twist (in other words, not looking like a straight man). I began wearing a hot pink tie and skinny black suspenders and finally started feeling natural. Arriving at the Silk Market was going to help me continue this look.
If only there was the “butch woman” concept in China. At least in the States I can say “make me look like Ellen” and there is some understanding. So, Jenni told Lucy to just pretend that I was a boy and make me a suit. Lucy immediately needed consultation. We were quickly escorted to three male designers who looked at my curvy body and talked about me in rapid-fire Mandarin. I started to get embarrassed. While I have had my butch look now for many years, every once in a while feelings of self-consciousness creep in. I was surrounded by male tailors and my gaydar didn’t go off once. The chances seemed so improbable that all three of these male designers were straight, but I didn’t get one wink when they started to measure my body. Yes, my body was a challenge to fit in a suit and this is why I was going through such lengths to shop for custom-made clothing in China. Otherwise, I would have walked down to Macy’s men’s department and been done with it. But, getting a men’s suit in the States to fit on a 5”7’ woman with boobs, a tiny waist, and petite shoulders is a real challenge.
They decided that they were up for the challenge (or at least they were up for taking my money) so they started firing off a million questions about what I wanted….types of cuffs, pockets, buttons sizes, and jacket cut. Then we moved onto the dress shirt. I used my hand language to show “no darts” and “no curvy tailoring.” Thank God I am dating a fashion-forward woman or I would have ended up in a beige double breasted boxy suit with a baggy shirt. Jenni explained in Mandarin that we needed a little tight and slightly curvy. I ended up with a silver sleep suit and light purple shirt that came out of an Asian fashion magazine. They appeared to understand the Gay Boy Look because most Asian men seemed to dress in that style anyways. I think even Lucy developed her first girl crush when she saw me come out of the dressing room. She told me “You so cool.”
Lucy’s team’s work came in handy when I attended a $500 ticket HIV benefit called Dining by Design. Usually, I freak out at these types of fancy events trying to figure out what to wear, but this time I had my suit! Jenni and I found ourselves randomly assigned to a table with a group of gay male interior decorators. It was as if we were eating dinner with five Clinton clones from What Not To Wear. Those fashionable bitches were commenting on everything and everyone. Then surprisingly the table conversation turned to me when one asked, “Where did you get that fabulous suit?” For once, I enjoyed the attention and with confidence told those jealous divas that it was one of a kind and custom-made.