Friday, 31 October 2014


Underdressing means wearing differently-gendered clothing underneath normatively-gendered clothing. It's a common transvestite strategy. When social/cultural norms and pressures, internalized shame or embarrassment – or just specific dress codes – prevent us from wearing what we might like, there is some relief to be found in doing so under cover, as it were. That is, wearing certain underclothing concealed under other clothing – as indeed underclothes tend to be, unless you want to dress up as Superman. As an example, filmmaker Ed Wood wore (perhaps apocryphally) a bra and panties under his military uniform while serving with the US Marine Corps in the Second World War. Nice one.

Googling brings up numerous trans-related blogposts (and forum threads) on the topic of underdressing, ranging from support and advice to personal taste to kink and guilt. There's usually some sort of guilt thrown in there somewhere, some need to apologize, to qualify something somehow. We so often feel the need to do that. *Sigh*. One exception is the blog of an American crossdresser called Meg, who (admirably) isn't offering even the hint of an apology.

The oblique prompt for my own post was a fashion piece in The Guardian this week: ‘Why women are buying men's underwear’. And why are they? Some are buying it for their male nearest as always; some are buying it for themselves because, for instance, it's “so comfy”; and I'd guess, although the article doesn't consider this motivation, some women are buying it to underdress, in order to express (some sort of) masculinity (or something) in themselves, to themselves, for themselves.

Below the line, someone called ‘mikiencolor’ makes the following point: Women wear "men's" underpants: latest unisex fashion trend. Men wear "women's" underpants: crossdressing sexual fetish.

Actually, that quote makes (perhaps unintentionally) a whole load of points: about gender and sexual assumptions and stereotypes and judgments and proscriptions. *Sigh*. It makes me tired just thinking about all that, so I'll leave the comment alone as one of the very few worth reading. Here's another one I liked (from someone called ‘Hosieryformen’). Otherwise, as you'd expect, the comments are the usual pile of pants.

As someone who underdresses myself – and I'd call it that even though virtually all my clothing is technically (if not obviously) non-normatively gendered – the best passage I've ever read on underdressing comes (perhaps inevitably) from a lesbian femme. In a chapter on personal femme style in ‘The Femme's Guide to the Universe’, Shar Rednour writes:

Lingerie is like the fabulous gift wrapping between the birthday girl and a precious treasure, and baby, that treasure is you. Wearing sexy undergarments makes you sexy. It means you're ready to be sexful at the drop of a skirt. Wearing sensual next-to-you things can also remind you that you are a Queen no matter what you have to be wearing on the outside. I used to wear camisoles and lacy slips underneath these ghastly uniforms required by the hostess job I had at the Ramada Inn. Try wearing a velvet or embroidered bra under your McDonald's uniform. Or a PVC G-string under a power suit. No matter what costume we have to don to face the world, our lingerie is our armor protecting our inner Queen and keeping us sane with reminders of our true nature.

Quite so :)

And no, there's not the least hint of apology in Rednour's writing either. And I just love that. More and more, nowadays, I find, I have less and less time for useless internal bullshit.


  1. Rather than a War on Drugs, we should have a War on Bullshit? Okay, so a few drones and MPs may get offed, but won't society be richer for it? :-) Hmm... Is that a little dark for an opening reply? :-)

    For the record and for what it's worth, I don't underdress, although I have in the past. It wasn't for kicks - as one commenter put - it was just for me, not anyone else. Underdressing meant I could feel comfortable with who I was. At other times, one office I worked at was incredibly cold. Being able to 'layer up' with tights or leggings, and/or a well fitted women's warm top (the men's ones were always too big and felt itchy) under my clothes was just fine for me.

    Perhaps there are some people who wear undies of different types for kicks, and if they do, I hope they're happy (so to speak), far be it for me to judge them.

    As to women wearing men's pants, given the cheese-wire appearance of the thong, I don't blame them at all! :-)

  2. I don't know whether I can summon the energy for a war on bullshit. I'll probably just sit here and grumble about it ineffectually online ;)

    But yes, tights are good for cold winters. Does this inclination for hosiery give us an evolutionary advantage or disadvantage? I'm not quite sure.

    1. LOL. I thought money made the world go around, but I think it might be BS. If only we could bottle it and use it to heat our homes.

      Evolutionary advantage? Only when it comes to the sales and keeping warm. :-)

  3. If I didn't have underdressing, I'd be one miserable tranny. I live in an extremely conservative part of the US where any hint of deviance from established norms is viewed as either perversion or terrorism or both, and ALL such deviance is indistinguishable from one another. Thus a crossdresser is a homosexual is a child molester is a goat molester etc. etc. etc. So I wear my comfy dresses in the privacy of my own home (hooray for a tolerant wife and a home office), and when I have to face the world in those nasty itchy stiff-legged jeans, I can at least do it with a layer of nylon insulating my skin from that outer shell.

    Last week I went to see the family doctor for my annual checkup, and I knew we'd be playing the "drop trousers and bend over while I snap on this rubber glove" game. In anticipation of that I wore men's trunks (actually nylon/polyester swim trunks, but men's nonetheless) and men's socks and no camisole, for the first time in over a year (and the last time was also for this doctor). But the moment we got to my car I was adding a layer of leotard and tights while my wife drove us to a restaurant.

  4. Hi Ralph :)

    Virtually all my clothes are off the women's racks, so of course all my underwear is too. And I want to wear pretty things, so I am underdressing in a sense, but it's not driven by quite the same need. It's just what I wear – I'm not constantly aware of it. And with a nice sort of irony, I mostly opt for "boy shorts".

    In younger (teenage) years underdressing was far more significant to me, and I'd often be wearing, for instance, a full set of lingerie under my "ordinary" clothes. (If anyone ever noticed, they didn't say anything.) All that early gear went in a one-time purge (see the question ‘Adolescent coping’ here); I've replaced it with other stuff since, but it generally stays in the drawer nowadays.

    On the other hand, nightwear is a kind of underdressing too (under the bed clothes, as it were); I have a lot of nice things there, mostly pure silk. And shaving is something else that's "under"; I have some dysphoria with body hair (though, oddly, not with facial hair). So I'm able to meet my (fluctuating) femme needs in several discreet ways. If I wasn't able to do that, I'm not sure what state I'd be in. Especially at the moment, when I'm caught in an unusually strong femme tide (or rip tide). A dense pink fog – a Tranny particular – that doesn't seem to be blowing away any time soon.