By Tyler DeSouza
Some might be mesmerized – or at least pleasantly entertained – by the sight of a fit young man all tangled up in a dress, but it’s just another day at the office in my world.
Today’s agenda: The intersection of a diva-licious, body-hugging graphite dress with a rugged, hairy male model named Ryan. He’s just one of the models we use for our international fashion line at Suddenly Fem. His job is to make sure the fashions we design fit the biological male form.
As my staff and I surround him to pin, tuck and refit the dress together, it’s never so obvious that our job is to create not only ridiculously sexy and functional dresses and lingerie, but to make sure they complement the contours and ridges of a male or male-to-female form.
Each fitting session like this one (trust me, we have a lot of them) has its peaks, both in terms of joy (it works!) and frustration (back to the drawing board), with a few furrowed brows thrown in for good measure about the viability of this, our style de jour.
But it’s this type of experimentation in design that makes our work all the more important. Sure there’s mainstream fashion, but then there’s what we define has fashion. Sometimes they cross paths – and sometimes they don’t. But deep in the core design studios and fashion warehouses at Suddenly Fem, we don’t just create dresses, we innovate them. That’s because our dresses not only have to look good, they have to transform people, both physically and visually. That means our fashion contains a bit more – as you might say – “gadgetry” – as dictated by the people who buy them as much at the creatives who design them.
And that works for us, mostly because our customers are men or transgender woman who seem to love their gadgets.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t have an eye on some of the most popular fashion trends of the moments – the styles that are infiltrating the runways and Vogue magazine – but I like to think of my way of approaching fashion as more of a furtive glance. Sure, I’ve been to Paris and I’ve been to the couture shows, so I know what’s hot and what is definitely not. But for us to really make it in a very distinct niche, I must first make sure that these trending styles can also fall into our own “beau ideal” before they are even allowed into our design space. In a way, we have more restrictions than the average fashion designer might, but we also have lots of creative freedom as it relates to this, the ever-changing whims of the fashion world.
As for our model Ryan, the fitting has just as much to do with glamour as it does to prevent his possible demise … via breast form suffocation. But success is showing itself stitch by stitch. With both arms in the dress, strapped down by bra straps and their accompanying cap sleeves, we may have a winner.
One of our assistant designer calls out, “Ryan, give it a wiggle and see if you can slip one arm in at a time. I really want to see what this baby can do.”
With beauty comes pain – that’s the old saying. But I can assure you that when our process is done and our creative and artistic minds have intersected with our model’s very flexible body, not only will a functional, fabulous, and easy-to-use masterpiece of a dress emerge, but it will be ready for a truly “transtastic” model at our photo shoot and then, finally, ready for our transgender or cross-dressing customer in search of, in some cases, that perfect little black dress.
Such is the life of the fashion designer for the M2F transgender community. We are one part diva, one part fashion architect, and these days, 100 percent stylistically fly pioneer.
Tyler DeSouza is the vice president of sales and marketing for Philadelphia’s Suddenly Fem.