By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist-
Q. Is there a trans friendly spa or salon where a transwoman (or transman even) can go to get a makeover or other beauty regimen advice?
I know (actually I assume) that at the beginning of your new trans life that it would be hard to know how to compliment your makeup and hair for your new gender. How does a transwoman balance the learning curve so as not to go too over the top and get the desired look she wants? Most women have years of practice and it doesn’t include the same challenges that I assume a transwoman would face. It would be wonderful if there were trans friendly or even exclusive salons/spas where one could get the advice and style without being judged. What is it like trying to achieve style in the transworld? Where do get the help you need if you don’t have a big support group?
Are there such places Lorelei? If not… I think there should be.
A. Well good morning everyone and welcome to the column! Your question, Pam, is one of those that people often want to ask but don’t quite know how to put to me politely. And while I’m sure I’ve answered aspects of this question here before, there are elements of your question that deserve some special focus.
Some quick research reveals quite a number of resources primarily focused on crossdressers. “Miss Vera’s Finishing School For Boys Who Want To Be Girls” is perhaps the best example of this. Miss Vera and her NYC based “Crossdressing Academy” really offers some wonderful services. Everything from private coaching, modeling sessions and maid training at their NYC campus to full feminine transformations and a night out on the town! They even offer classes on how to walk in high heels that are open to all women whether trans or cisgender.
You can also find any number of professional cosmetologists who will do complete makeovers for a transwoman wanting to feel pretty. A brand new you for at least as long as the makeup and styling holds up.
Online, as I’ve mentioned in this column before, there are a plethora of instructional videos and other materials tailored to help trans women walk, talk, dress and look like a woman. Though I find many of these tend to offer rather exaggerated examples of stereotypically heteronormative femininity.
What I find lacking is anything much, which focuses on the more mundane, day to day aspects of being a woman that most cisgender women have had years to learn. I think a salon that offered makeup; beauty regimen and style tips for transwomen from the perspective of “average” women as well as, later transitioned transwomen would be fantastic.
When I was discussing this question with my girlfriend Widow this evening she admitted that despite her lifetime of living as woman, she would have no idea how to cope if she suddenly found herself having to deal with a beard. As a transwoman, that issue alone has been one of my biggest ongoing learning curves.
It took me years of gleaning tips and ideas from myriad sources to cobble together my own routine through a minimal knowledge of color theory, theatrical makeup techniques, personal anecdotes and blind guesswork. It would have been awfully nice if there had been somewhere I could go to learn these things from more experienced trans and cis women.
Of course all of these are mainly what-ifs. In the more practical, “Lorelei, I need advice in the here and now” sense, here are some things that have worked for myself and for others I have known.
First and foremost, I recommend that transwomen go to any cisgender female friends in their lives (like you Pam!) and ask for help. Ask them to be honest too. A big part of the problem many transwomen encounter early on are friends, who in an effort to be supportive, will tell them that they look great, when in fact they look like a nightmare version of a Catholic schoolgirl.
Okay, maybe that was just me. But I think you all know what I’m talking about. There’s no need to be harsh, but a simple, “You would really show off your better features more effectively if you (insert makeup technique/style/length of skirt here).” I also find this can be an effective way to create allies and bridge any awkwardness when coming out to friends and family. It gives them a tangible and fun way to relate and be involved.
Secondly, brush up on those observational skills. When looking at fashion magazines, look closely. Examine the details. Look not just at the clothes and makeup, but also the bone and body structure beneath. More importantly, go outside, to the mall, a park, a coffeeshop, what have you, and see how real people (i.e., not runway models) look. Again, note details.
Then go home, and look at yourself! See your own body and bone structure. Work with that! Play with makeup and outfits in the safety of your own house. Maybe invite over a more experienced (cis or trans) girlfriend to play dress-up with, uncork a bottle of vino and have fun! Take pictures to review later. Pictures of the sort you wouldn’t be afraid to show your Mom or put up on your Facebook profile for the whole world to see.
This basic advice goes for transguys too!!
Don’t be a carbon copy of what you see in the magazines. Develop your own unique sense of style-one that draws smiles of admiration rather than unpleasant scrutiny. Find what works for you and makes you happy and comfortable.
Be the woman (or man) you are!
*Lorelei Erisis, former Miss Trans New England, can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.