The challenges and triumphs of summer trans fashion | Pittsburgh City Paper

The challenges and triumphs of summer trans fashion

click to enlarge The challenges and triumphs of summer trans fashion
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
higu rose poses for a portrait at the Allegheny Cemetery on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh on August 4, 2023. rose draws fashion inspiration from 80s anime and black female popstars such as Whitney Houston and Jody Watley.

Finding your personal style can be a case of trial and error — exploring what clothes fit you best, choosing from a vast array of color schemes, and accessorizing in a way that matches how you feel on the inside.

For transgender people, this self-exploration can represent a new era when they decide to socially transition. The dilemma of how to safely “pass” in public, what clothes fit them the best, and which clothing articles help alleviate gender dysphoria are all common conversations in the trans community, resulting in plenty of advice being posted on social media platforms.

Planned Parenthood defines “passing” as a person being perceived as the gender to which they are transitioning. However, in recent years, people in the trans community have argued that an individual should not have to “pass” in order to be seen as trans.

As a trans person, this overhaul of how you present yourself as a person is simultaneously one of the most euphoric and suffocating feelings to experience. As a transmasculine individual, I got to shed the formal dresses, skirts, and tight clothes that defined my own femininity in that moment, only to be confronted with the limited knowledge of how to access gender-affirming clothes, and the daunting task of how to find a clothing style that suits me the most.

The process looks different for every trans person, and there is only so much blogs, YouTube videos, and TikTok posts can do.

For higu rose (they/them), a transmasculine Pittsburgh-based artist, it’s important that trans people are able to stay safe while wearing what they want during the summer months.

“From my personal perspective, and maybe this is due to some privileges I have in terms of presentation, but passing to me is not a high priority,” rose tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “A lot of times, I’m just like, wear what is physically comfortable because you can’t actually control how people perceive you.”

click to enlarge The challenges and triumphs of summer trans fashion
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
higu rose poses for a portrait at the Allegheny Cemetery.

As a frequent receiver of the not “Who are you?” but “What are you?” stares, even walking down the streets of downtown Pittsburgh is a personal feat. I have learned to read expressions, how to locate the nearest exit, and that simply ignoring them often results in less risk of harassment of violence from another person.

rose says that, by traveling in groups out in public, LGBTQIA+ people can boost their sense of safety, “creating solidarity” with other trans or even cis friends.

AC (they/them), the owner of Honor Student Vintage, a Pittsburgh-based gender and size-inclusive vintage shop that opened in 2018, spoke about how to dress comfortably and safely in the summer heat as a trans person.

“I think being a queer, transmasculine person, I want people to feel empowered and to look through things and not feel judged,” AC tells City Paper. “Because I felt that way.”

The common division of men's and women's sections also presents a common cause of discomfort for gender-variant people. Being aware of your general sizing, however, can make vintage clothing a more accessible option. Given that sizing for clothes has changed through the decades, being aware of your bust, hip, waist, and height measurements can be helpful.

click to enlarge The challenges and triumphs of summer trans fashion
Outfits by AC / Honor Student Vintage

“I think most people know that, generally, vintage runs smaller than modern sizes. My advice to trans people, or anyone, is to kind of know measurements of yourself. So realistically, if you’re not able to find your size, just know your measurements,” says AC.

AC and rose both point out that linen is a breathable, affordable fabric for warmer months of the year.

AC also says not to sleep on “size-inclusive” vintage accessories. “A summer staple would be, like, a skinny neck scarf,” they add.

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By Mars Johnson