I'm a bridesmaid in a close friend's wedding this summer — R is transgender, and she's struggling to find a dress on a budget. R is a gorgeous woman who gets her curves from her post-transition hormones and her shoulders from her pre-transition adolescence. Dresses that look gorgeous on a model online look totally different when she tries them on, and she doesn't have the budget to have something completely hand-made. Since you did such a great write-up about finding suits for FTM transgender dudes and butch women, I was hoping you might be able to help us out a bit. -Beth
Thanks for writing, Beth — and congratulations to R on her engagement! I've got opinions a plenty, but I figured I'd bring in some experts to help me answer your question. I shared your email with four of my favorite independent wedding dress designers, and here was their advice…
"Look for something body–skimming (not body-hugging) with an A-line shape for the skirt to make R's waist look smaller." Katherine from Whirlingturban Boutique said. Katherine went on to advise, "For inspiration, look at traditional 1940s wedding and evening gowns, then look for something new like that but with clean lines and FAR less detail and less modest coverage. Don't use shoulder pads because R is lucky enough to have au naturelle shoulder pads."
Dianna DiNoble from Starkers! agreed on the A-line idea, suggesting "A full or A-line skirt — with a corset of course!" She went on to clarify that she'd suggest R aim for "either tea-length or full skirt to accentuate a small waist and hide narrower hips."
When I emailed Chrissy Wai-Ching to ask her thoughts on R's dilemma, she recommended "hourglass shapes with flowing skirts, with a halter and sweetheart neckline. Those would help to soften R's broad shoulders and create curves." She added a little plug saying, "My Athena Dress or Samsara Dress with a sweetheart neckline could be really flattering."
Joi from Dress Forms Design Studio got meta on the issue, explaining "On any person you want to accentuate the best feature. If R is worried about wide shoulders, then she wants a line in the garment that makes them look narrow. Draw a silhouette of the person, then imagine drawing an arrow pointing inward. That is the line or illusion you want for wide shoulders."
Getting more specific, Joi explained: "Halter necklines create a line angling in, portrait collars are also nice (not an off the shoulder, but one that covers the shoulder and goes up the shoulder and overlaps in the front), and a surplice neckline (a bodice that overlaps) would be wonderful. These are necklines I use on clients with broad shoulders — such as swimmers, for example."
So, in summary:
- Skirt: A-line full skirt, likely tea-length or full length
- Bodice: corset or halter top
Many thanks to Katherine, Dianna, Chrissy, and Joi for taking the time to share their wisdom!