Recent media interest in rising gender dysphoria coincided with a flurry of dressmaking in our house. This did not result from either of us (a hetty couple) choosing to don or drop our metaphorical trousers, but from my partner’s need for a dame wardrobe as he approached a stint in panto. I’m not equating Mother Goose frocks with everyday cross-dressing, transsexuality or gender neutrality. Nor am I suggesting that men lose their sartorial nous if/when they re-stock their rails with women’s clothing. I’ve simply discovered a gap in the market: commercial dress patterns available in men’s sizes and proportions.
Since my partner has the body of Father Christmas, there was no possibility of buying a ladies’ pattern and scaling it up. We looked through Simplicity, Butterick, Vogue and McCalls catalogues but nothing jumped out as a viable option for someone with huge shoulders and a barrel chest, a plum-pudding midriff, two flat, chewed toffees in place of buttocks, and the toned thighs of a primeval raptor. You won’t find that combination in a perfect 22. The point is that all those who want to dress in a feminine manner do not necessarily have Julian Clary’s slim, feminine frame as a head start.
So I became a tailor, cutting and pinning and lining up bits of polka-dot fabric directly onto the dame himself, guessing and honing until it fitted his ample bosom (teddy-bear stuffing in a 44D) and belly. This is, of course, standard practice for a professional, but as we’ve all become accustomed to mass-produced, off-the-peg clothing, the availability of skilled dressmakers has reduced accordingly. And while the postman attempted nonchalance the day he spotted a large bearded bloke in our kitchen wearing nothing but bra and boxers while I took his new measurements, not everyone will be happy to deal with the indignities of amateur couture.
There were also some real, practical problems to overcome. You need a very long zip for a big man to get in and out of a dress and they are almost impossible to buy. In comparison to women, most men have quite unremarkable hips and this plays havoc with a hemline already shifted up a gear at the front by fake breasts on a broad ribcage - there’s nothing at the back to even out the front. Also, the lack of a waist means you have to assign one, particularly if your design includes (as mine did) a waistband. Make the wrong decision (as I did) and you will recreate a toilet roll lady whose life begins at the armpits.
Should I pursue this as a new line of work? I doubt that I’d make enough to cover my costs. It took almost a week to knock up Dame Dolly’s entrance outfit, though if I’d been clever and made block templates along the way, my next attempt would be faster. There must be hundreds, if not thousands of potential clients out there wanting to look smart and sexy in female clothing. XL dresses in spandex, velour and jersey might stretch to fit but they will also enhance the effects of too many pies. And the ownership of a penis. Consequently, I predict a riot - or at least some pushing and shoving - should a canny dressmaker set up in your area. The Masculo Dress (or Mascula depending on how the customer self-identifies) is surely in demand.