Inspired by this as well as by some recent internet commentary, particularly at No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?, I think it's time to hash out some of my feelings about clothing. Here we go.
1. Clothes are nice for thin people
2. Clothes are nice for (relatively) rich people
3. Clothes are nice for people who fit neatly into the gender binary
I am none of those things. And yet I love clothes! I went through most of my life thinking I hated clothes and didn't care about fashion. As it turns out, I love clothes and am pretty invested in fashion - up to a point, anyway. This revelation is linked to my adventures in gender. It's not that I fit into boy clothes any better than I fit into girl clothes - often the fit is worse, actually, due to the fact that I am short, have small feet and abundant hips and breasts. It's also much more challenging to go into shop changing rooms with armfuls of men's clothes when I am clearly be-breasted and be-hipped, than it was to go in with armfuls of women's clothes. It's possible that the odd looks I get are a product of my feverish brain rather than actual looks people are giving me, but the effect is the same. It's hard work.
The love, I think, comes from attempting to achieve a look that I actively like, rather than one that I think I ought to like (or at least aspire to). I may not be any more successful at achieving that look, but I feel better about myself - less conflicted - in this failure than I ever did in the previous failures.
So while I may weep in changing rooms when I totally fail to fit into a shirt of any combination of sizes (regular, tailored or slim fit, formal, semi-formal, work, fashion - what an endless list!) the very act of trying on shirts makes me feel a bit stronger in myself than the trying on of, I don't know, scoop-necked t-shirts or diamante-encrusted jeans.*
Having said that, I do like wearing women's clothes sometimes. One of my most enjoyable post-Ollie moments was going to a friend's barbecue party last summer wearing my favourite battered Converse, a fairly short handkerchief dress, and dangly earrings. But then, not everyone at that event knew me as Ollie at the time, meaning that I felt I had more freedom to present as femme than I did in environments where I always had been 'Ollie, the girl who wants to be a boy'. I came closer to a breakdown in that environment than I ever had before, when I was trying to decide on an outfit for a big event and felt that the whole world of femme was closed to me if I wanted to be taken seriously as a trans boy. I still feel that pressure more often than I'd like. But it's getting easier, as I expand my wardrobe incrementally when the sales are on, and start building a collection of clothes, men's and women's, that I can mix and match until I find a combination that's perfect (or at least appropriate) for the occasion.
*There's that femmephobia creeping in again! Obviously I detest diamante-encrusted jeans, because that's a totally rational reaction to such brazen femininity :-/