Sep 27, 2009

Soggy Blog

The worst weather seems to have passed, the forecast for the week is dry, and the basement is in the process of drying out. Life however remains in a state of mild uproar. There is a good amount of re-assembling, repairing and replacing of stuff that absorbed water damage. Manageable, all of it, but burdensome nonetheless.

The recent flooding took me away from my paying work entirely last week which puts in me in a deficit position from a time and money perspective. Something has to give while I catch up, and for me, that will be the blog.

If you want to keep entertained in the meantime, many of the people who follow this blog have very read-worthy blogs themselves. So go poke around the followers profiles, and see where the links lead you.

Thanks for the nice comments, words of encouragement and etc.

Looking forward to a return to my brand of normalcy sometime in October friends.

Ta ra for now …

Sep 21, 2009

Here comes the flood

Curious people (in every sense of the word) who visit Voyages en Rose on a regular basis may have noticed a pattern in my publication habits. In a normal week, I try to churn out 3 pieces with slightly different feels to them: Pithy, Profound, and Pantyhosed.

Often I am wildly off the mark on at least two of them, but trust me dear friends, the intent is there.

This weeks publication schedule is threatened however by events beyond my immediate control. It is raining, and I mean Biblically raining. Chez Bellejambes is presently partly submerged. While I would rather be battling with back zips and wrestling metaphor into a state of surrender, I am battling the elements, and wrestling with the very outer limits of my physical capabilities.

Fear not though, the wardrobe is safe.

Be assured too, or perhaps even a little freaked out to learn, that this cross dresser is butch enough too to possess a shop vac, and not one, but two submersible pumps. Happily, my wife and I are insured out the wazzoo, but I am always gruesomely fascinated with exactly how Insurers respond to prone wazzoo’s when given half a chance.

Apart from the grief attendant upon all of these unhappy events, there is my sadness in not being able to work out a couple of themes that came to mind last week. Stuff I look forward to writing and sharing. I beg your patience, and promise to reward it next week with some better than middling efforts disguised as blog posts.

Fans of vintage Peter Gabriel may recognize the lyric from the headline of this post. Or was it Robert Fripp? Sorry, a little busy to Google it up just now. If there is anything good in all of this, that song popped into my head over the gurgling of a pump in my crawl space. Has not left yet and beats hell out of many songs that may have infuriatingly dossed down in my noggin for the duration of this minor ordeal. Small blessings everywhere.

Keep dry. Damply yours, Petra

Sep 17, 2009

Petra’s Pantyhose Parade – Sheer Berkshire

If you have recently driven a car more than 10 years old, you may have felt a little sensory displacement when you noticed that the steering array lacked cruise and audio controls soon into your journey. Similarly did I feel when I smoothed up this weeks proud, throwback entry in my perpetual Pantyhose Parade, Berkshire Ultra Sheer Control Tops. Something just felt different, some ubiquitous modern convenience was absent, and I had to refer to the packaging to figure it out.

Look ma! No Lycra! That’s right, these nylons are all nylon!

Curiously, and without wanting to set off too many Freudian alarm bells, these are your Mothers' Pantyhhose. Or perhaps mine. I felt a little like a salmon swimming upstream to the spawn site of my own cross dressing.

The Berkshires were the only product I had not yet plundered the ample racks of Macy’s for over the last year, and were picked last for a simple reason. No pretty pictures on the package. I mean, for pity’s sake Mrs. Berkshire, would it kill you to hire a photographer, an art director and a model so that your prospective client has something to aspire to? Modesty in such matters is often interpreted as a lack of confidence, and my legs and I agree that you should shake that off, post-haste. Glad to meet you finally, and now back to your all-nylon construction.

Lycra© and other sythentic microfibers are employed to add elasticity to, and to soften the feel of most of the modern hosiery that we wear today. They add the silky feeling often referred to in product names where silk is nowhere else in the mix. Science in the service of womankind surely. Older milling and yarning machines cannot be economically refitted to manage this multiple fiber magic, and so I suppose with time we can expect to see fewer of these all-nylon entries on big retailer shelves. This is a shame. We will lose over time a refreshing change of look and feel in our wardrobes, looks and feels that are at heart nicely nostalgiac.

First, looks. You have seen it in silk stockings, a gentle darkening gather behind the knee when seated, and around the ankle when idly twirled. That alluring pinch of nylon at the narrow toe of a nice pump ... vintage Hollywood starlet stuff. There is a glimmer to them. Far from invisible, these are statement leggings and available in a nice array of shades harkening back to a different time. My middle brown “Utopias” seem lifted directly from the set of Mad Men, and while they look ready for business, they have capacity for a little devilment. I additionally love the dark and fully reinforced toe which would look quite at home with a fully fashioned heel. I have been fortunate so far, but I suspect that these are fairly fragile, and prone to runs, so don't rush your dressing.

Feel is a touch and go thing though. The all nylon boot (i.e. leg portion) lacks the smoothness that we have come to expect from our tights. For this trade, we are returned with some nice gifts. The proportioned fit glides easily up and down and around moving legs, and this is a nicely distracting pleasure. To the hand though, they are a little coarse. Through the midriff, the spandex rich control top panty is very secure, quite comfortable and cleanly finished. Snug, compact and not prone to either waistband peeking or gathering.

Berkshire has a mission, stated clearly on the package: “Dedicated to making Hosiery a Pleasure”, and I would have to say that unless you are completely dedicated to the latest and greatest that technology can bring, Berkshire will have succeeded nicely.
Excellent fit, strong marks all around except for feel, and a modest price of $6.50 for a nicely showy pair of legs all add up to a 7th (out of 21) place ranking with 166.2 Petra Points.

A closing note on Berkshire. I snapped up a pair of their Sheer Leg Thigh High stay ups that same day on a mad whim. For me, stay ups typically don't stay up, but I am happy to report that these did. Still 100% nylon, but somehow, much more glossy and smooth to the touch. More hosiery magic I am at a loss to describe, but suffice to say, if you are a stay-up or stocking kind of a gal, this is a product you might want to try. I will figure out over the course of the year just how to judge and score stockings as a class of hosiery, and look forward to sharing those findings with you all at some pretty point in the future.
Happy dressing, Petra

Sep 16, 2009

A-Z, or only as far as CD?

Future generations will scarce believe there was a time when hitchhiking was a borderline acceptable behavior, and not an advertisement of poor judgement or a display of desperation. Hitching was the platform for bad starts in countless films, and in real life, too many instances of crime, violence and victimization slowly drove this sociable means of transportation beyond the pale of, well, decent society. The civilized no longer pick up hitchhikers, and hitchhikers are no longer civilized. There we are, one way less for people to display a random act of kindness, and one way less to be surprised on the way from Point A to Point B and beyond.

I hitched in my own youth, back to college when money was tight, holidays in Europe, and a handful of other instances where the lure of a distant place was great and my purse too empty to travel on own my dime. Happily, I never ran afoul of the good luck that has been a hallmark of my nearly 50 happy years. In my time on the road one consistent finding was that my ultimate destination was rarely the same as my rides. There was an end soon ahead for my lift, or a route that I needed to be on that diverged from theirs.

In the space of 5 minutes though, or a couple of hours, we would typically, warily, politely establish the things we had in common. With that established, we could talk, share views, and pass the time and miles well. The open road as a literal and metaphoric mind expanding substance. Each traveler would get a little closer to their destination, and both of us at parting would feel like the world was a little kinder, a little less selfish than we feared it was.

So it has been with me here as I come within a few weeks of 1 year of active engagement with my feminine self. Last year around this time I felt stirrings and had occasion to cross dress again. I have long had a Love/Hate relationship with cross dressing. I decided to focus on the love part. I embraced my life long desires more willingly, patiently and fully and was rewarded with feelings of wholeness that had forever eluded me. I got past fetish, and found deep within something very real and rich. I knew, finally, that I had a real need to learn more, and that I had something of value to share. My need to learn resulted in a good deal of time spent hitchhiking around online. My desire to share resulted in the creation of my own vehicle, Voyages en Rose.

I started off the journey committed to not being frightened of where this all would wind up, but pretty certain picture of what the end of my road looks like. I pictured a destination where I could dress when I wanted to, not when a compulsion ruled me. I pictured a place where I could experience the world through better attenuated feminine senses, and not just stare blankly at a different looking me in the mirror. I hoped that I would arrive in a place where I could share a fuller self with a select number of people I love. One year later, I think I was right.

This destination is a private place that I will not heedlessly share with many people, many of whom I know, love and respect. Life has complications enough without optionally adopted complications. With that said though, once I am at that place, I hope I won’t work terribly hard to obscure it, and not live in fear of the consequences of disclosure. I am not there yet, but can touch this place in my imagination and feel like its not too far off.

In short, periodic cross dressing, especially publicly anonymous cross dressing in the big wide world satisfies me. Satiety is a good word to describe the feeling. I am delighted to find this state for myself, in part because of the feelings of tranquil excitement, becalmed alertness that comes with it, but also because it seems to signal a limit to my desires for exploration.

A part of me feared that I would not feel this satiety, and that an active embrace of my curiousity would act as an enabler for something bigger. That by opening Pandoras' box, Pandora might just decide to take matters over with me powerless to slow the ride down. I suspect that every cross dresser has imagined that an innocently hitched ride could have radical consequences. Consequences like a real challenge to our perceived sexual orientation or gender association. Challenges that seem too too big to take on when the rest of our complex lives take enough of a bite out of our energies and gifts as it is.

This was certainly the case for me. I questioned, for decades, if my sticking my thumb out on this curious road, was simply begging for a ride too far, unturning, and permanent. This fear I believe constrains our desires and douses our willingness to set out on the journey. So good to be able to wrestle the fear down.

Many of the friendships I have formed over the last year are with gender explorers who have that different destination, full gender reassignment at the end of their road. How daunting a ride. I have thought a great deal about the differences between the “simple cross dresser” and the person committed to the transition, to the adoption of a new and finally correct gender. I have thought often about how close our starting points were, the die cast in toddlerhood, or perhaps in the womb. I have thought about how each of us to some degree enabled the broader societal conspiracy to suppress our fullness. Denial, overcompensation, introversion, sourceless anger and often the unhealthy embrace of something in a bottle or a bong that might deaden senses aching for a little touch.

I am unable to put a name to what causes our destinations to be so seemingly far apart. And I am now ready to not worry about the knowing. The great shared things are enough. That we each have felt that a part of us was unknown to ourselves. That we each at our best moments let honesty and curiousity trump deceit and fear. That we have each felt that the consequences of not engaging with our whole selves was the bigger risk.

I have found myself metaphorically hitching a ride with many admirable, smart, brave, caring, perceptive, beautiful, and humorous people this last year. I have been inspired by the dignity and fearlessness expressed by our surprisingly large numbers, cross dressers and the transgendered alike, thumbs bravely out, hopeful of a destination in perfect alignment with their imaginings.

Whichever road it is, it is a road of uncertainty, fraught with peril, and a little bit beyond our absolute control. Taking to this road is an act of love for ones self truly, but it is also an act of faith in the people around us. That act of faith is an expression of our very best natures. With that better nature in mind, I am looking forward to an even better year, and wanted to thank you for sharing the journey with me this far. If you are looking for a lift on your road, holler out. We might be off to different places, but we have a lot to share on our common road. Thank you all for picking me up.

Sep 15, 2009

The Fairer Sex and Cross Dressing

I was reminded of long buried memory this past weekend. The weekend first:

My wife and I were sharing a cottage with some friends celebrating a birthday and I was the only rooster in the hen house. 5 women and I were shaking off cobwebs with coffee and generally loafing around at the start of a long day, not mustering the energy for much. Two women, curled on a couch were flipping through a Vogue and gushed at the picture of the nice strappy gladiators with killer heels.

“nice”, says I, walking by.
“they'd look great on you” says women #1
“I do have the ankles for them …”
“hell yes. These and a nice short skirt, oh yeah, we could have some fun dressing you up…”

Well, you know where this goes. Absolutely nowhere. In this case in any event.

The memory however goes back to high school, and I suspect that Halloween enabled the whole caper. Myself and a best friend managed to find ourselves in a home untroubled by adult supervision with a couple of girl friends, couches and a bottle of lemon gin or some other social lubricant.

The girls had mustered the nerve to make or rent Playboy Bunny outfits, were foolish enough to share the news, and contrary to the sound advice of mothers everywhere were convinced to slither into them for an early private audience. This, in and of itself was a “bucket list” moment. Black sheers, tall sandals, and form fitting bodices yielding an epic upward effect on youngish breasts not needing much help for starters.

A grand time was had.

At some point, a conversation along the same lines as my recent experience happened. Hushed conspiratorial, enticements and giggling endearments …

“you would look so cute, both of you… wouldn’t they?
“oh yeah, and we dressed up for you … fair is fairright?”

Knowing my desires well, I put up a little fight, but my buddy who was less hung up on things in general grabbed a bunny and vanished behind a slammed door in a heartbeat. It wasn’t long before I was cotton-tailed, short of breath and entirely short-circuited in my overloaded brain. Any attempt to summon up accurate detail about what happened next would be pure speculation, and not worthy of my respect for you, dear reader.

I have had more than a handful of experiences where a woman or a budding young thing wielded this tease, parts innocent and parts provocative, and wondered whether this is a more common desire, more commonly acted out than we know. I wonder whether this class of conversational probe is intended to find out something good or great about the guy trapped in her gaze. I hope that the sessions of exploratory dressing that I was fortunate enough to stumble into were … well, “good for you too” you know, and whether it is a theme that these curious girls returned to later in life.

I hope so. I had a terrific time in the bunny hutch, and if I had more nerve, would likely have gone on an all carrot diet to stay there for a while. Daylight frightened me back into my warren though, but thoughtful always of pretty captivity.

In closing today then, for those select and respected women reading this post, here is a question:

Did you ever dare or engineer a guy into a dress? Go ahead, don’t be shy, and leave a comment. Or better yet, just go and have some fun with your guy. It may be a little awkward, but a part of him will thank you.

Happy dressing, and happy everything else.

Sep 11, 2009

Cross Dressers wins Victoria’s Secret Sweeps (Moral Victory Category)

Careful readers will note 2 headline characteristics:

- The plural form: Cross Dressers, and
- Moral Victory. Moral, not actual.

It is true, I am not going to New York with a purse stuffed with Victorias' fragrant lucre. I did not even come close. The Body by Victoria Love your Body” online contest has come to a shrieking, early halt owing to vote tampering. With the (alleged) scallywags having been shown the door, it seems as though Casey is on her way, with a staggering 26,454 votes. Yes, I did rather imagine myself staggering under the weight of a dozen or so signature pink bags, and generally lighting up Manhattan en femme, and it was a nice imagining. But only that.

I am delighted for Casey. She is a cancer survivor, with hard days yet ahead. I introduced Casey to you in an earlier post, said then, and repeat now, that this is a person entirely deserving of some luxuries, pampering and a fine distracting time in an exciting place.

What a fun lark the whole exercise was for me too. My entry, with your help, came in 432nd out of over 10,000 official contestants with an understated, and fittingly ladylike 58 votes. Pathetic when measured against Casey’s hordes, but I did register in the upper 5%. Pretty rarefied territory and much better than I honestly expected. I believe, but cannot confirm that my entry won the unofficial, unsanctioned, Cross Dresser category. That is a victory of sorts, but not the victory that I am keen to share with you today.

The very last vote that I received came from a stranger, a fellow contestant, and someone simply nice enough to take the time to reach out to me, say some nice things, move on, and leave the world a happier place.

Meet Laura. I suspect that Laura like myself and many other contestants had noticed over the last couple of days that her vote count was not growing. I had noticed that my legitimate one-a-day ballot box stuffing was not registering in the count, but got distracted and moved on. Like many of you, I too am afflicted with CDADHD. Laura however, being of sound mind, had a bit more curiosity and set about to research the topic. She Googled up a text string with “Body by Victoria” and “Vote Count” in it and Voyages en Rose was high enough in the search engine returns to catch her attention. She then spent a little time poking around this site, and was moved to leave a blog comment.

She said some very nice things, and things as well that demonstrate sensitivity to realities faced daily by simple Cross Dressers like me, and the Transgendered of every stripe. She focused in her note on things that she suspects we endure, and not on the many things that, if fortunate, we enjoy. She gave a little salute to what she called my “inner and outer beauty”, and then vanished off into an anonymous internet sunset.

Laura, going by her photos, is quite young. I don’t suspect that she has had much in the way of exposure to people who express and present as I do, and as many of you do. Given that, I was very touched that she took the time, kept an open mind and spent a little time thinking about people with our curious habits, or needs, or gifts, or whatever we want to think of them as. Thinking about how the world reacts to us. And then, thinking about a way to welcome us into her world.

And that my friends, is the victory. Small, but big enough to share around, amongst us all.

I had time enough just before the contest was terminated to place just one vote for Laura. I wish I could have done more. I had hoped to be able beg and implore enough of you to spread the good karma around and click your mouse once or twice for this nice stranger. Alas, it was not to be. With the contest closed early, we can’t send her to New York, but if you wanted to send a nice message or 2 to her, please leave a comment here on this post. I suspect that our new friend will visit again. I would love her to know her kindness is greatly appreciated.

Hearts and minds are won and changed one at a time.

Have a terrific weekend all, and thanks again Laura for helping Cross Dressers everywhere win.

Sep 10, 2009

Petra’s Pantyhose Parade – The Year of Living Hosiery – Part 2

In last weeks parade review of our constantly expanding and yet still nicely fitting Universe of Pantyhose, viewed through the eyes (and paid for through the nose) of this cross dresser, I generalized on my year-to-date findings and delightful learnings. I did name a few names, but focused more on trends of thought that emerged from the crowded top drawer of my admittedly obsessed mind. This week, a few specifics on the great and less so, and a regrading of a brand that seems better with time.

I maintain a pretty detailed spreadsheet of hosiery purchases. After a typical shopping sortie I enter a few values including place of purchase, country of manufacture, brand and model number, color, fabric content, and sheerness. I then make notes regarding their construction (control top, sandal foot, sheer to waist, boarding and stitch method, etc.). Then the fun bits: I say hello to my little friends and they get rolled up and on to my leggy laboratory. To the best extent possible they get a full days wearing, sometimes in the great open outdoors fully en femme, more often though here in the relative privacy and comfort of my own home.

After a few false starts in early parades, the 4 key categories of Fit, Finish, Style and Feel emerged as useful barometers. Tested hosiery is granted a score between 1 and 10 for each of these categories with one catch: I do not give 10’s. A final and entirely capricious value is added that at heart, measures my passion for the current pair. All of these values are added, averaged, squared, divided by cost and multiplied by a constant that spreads the scores out over a fairly large scale. This formula rewards quality and value. At the top of the chart today is
Hanes, and holding last place at 20th, are the Spanx All the Way Up’s. Lets start at the bottom and work our way up, shall we?

Spanx Revisited. Big mea culpa here dear friends. In my
original review, I tested the All The Way Up sheers (pictured at right). These specialty, high waisted, body tamers should not be judged in the same flight as traditional, seated at the waist pantyhose. While they score very highly for fit and register in the upper 1/3rd on all other categories, their high cost ($28.00) cripples them. The Leggs Silken Mist Waist Cincher is equally in the wrong room here. This is a class of hosiery deserving of its' own pretty parade, and I will stage one in upcoming weeks. Body sculpting tights are very useful underthings for very dressy evening wear, and worthy of exploring in greater depths (and yes, heights I suppose). My mad crush on the energetic and alluring Sara Blakely continues to smolder, and so I will test more traditional low rise pantyhose from Spanx in upcoming weeks. I expect them to perform well.

Worthington Revisited. The JC Penney house brand did not fare well in my
original review. I took them out for another spin yesterday. Fit still excellent, but having judged later and weaker entries less harshly, I went back to the original scores and added one half point across the board to their original scores for finish, style, and feel. I think I had subconsciously downgraded them in part because the check out lady clearly did not approve of cross dressers. Or perhaps she simply does not like people. In any event, that day, Penney’s felt like a Soviet era department store and the feeling lingered throughout the test session. These are fine hose. Pretty floral detail through the panty, run resistance that does not ruin the finish, and very durable. When you consider the practically permanent “Buy 1, get 1 for ½ price” offer at JCP, the Lace Tanga Control Top is a terrific value, fine for everyday wear, and newly promoted to 14th place above lesser efforts from No-Nonsense.

Hanes Silk Reflections Revisited. The marks do not change. I believe that I got them right. I feel the need to say a few things about the top ranked product. Faintest shimmer, just south of a glimmer from them. Very smooth yarn is invisible to the eye, and practically liquid to the touch. Superb. Very subtle contruction, suitable for the most clingy fashions. Available in toe finishes to suit your favorite shoes, very cool to wear.
The Silky Sheer Control Top is an unassailably good value, and a complete delight to wear. It is going to take a miracle to knock the tiara off Ms. Pantyhose Universe. I live in hope of miracles every day.

Wolford Revisited (ed.and never often enough). In a world where money is no object, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would be 24/7, tummy to toe, in these most peerless sheers, the
Luxe 9’s. Part science, part magic, all delight. They cling, but they glide. They are weightless, but you feel them. They are invisible, but beautiful. Their $30.00 retail tag is steep yes, steep to the extent that they are driven to 12th place of 20 contestants in overall Petra Points, but some feelings are more precious than money. I implore you to skip a meal or 2. Buy some Wolfords.

So from top to bottom, from gusset to ground, here is The Pantyhose Parade organized by Petra Points. On the podium, gold to Hanes Silk Reflections (205.0 Petra Points) with an envious silver to Calvin Klein’s
Matte Ultra Sheer Control Tops (194), and a laudable bronze going to the Donna Karan Bronze Satin Sheers (185.2).

If you would like a closer look, simply click on the image. For those of you who want to review the archives, just search this site for “Petra’s Pantyhose Parade”, glide into something comfortable and settle in for a couple of hours of overindulgence. For those of you with suggestions about what I ought to wear next, I am all ears when not admiring my own thighs. For the rest of us all, please visit on Thursdays for fresh news from the hosiery’s sheer frontiers. Next week, Berkshires.

In closing, 20 Pairs of pantyhose, $215.72. Gas for 14 shopping trips, $35.00. Knowing Pantyhose better, priceless.

Happy dressing - Petra

Sep 8, 2009

Cross Dressing Drama

Having perfectly misspent some of my youth and earlier adult years in a company of theatrical players, I am acquainted with an acting technique or two for summoning up emotions. Actors will sometimes quite pointedly rummage around in their mental attics for a moment lost to time that helps underline, amplify and lend genuine feeling to an audition reading or to bring more arresting authenticity to a performance. This “memory sense” is available to us all, but is typically consciously deployed only by the curious people found exploring the human condition on stages or in front of cameras.

Fear is an emotion commonly required in dramatic settings. I may have been a more successful actor if I had tapped my own memory sense for fearful moments associated with Cross Dressing.

remains in the mix today, well into my 5th decade of cross dressing (a bravura performance, widely acclaimed, Tony-worthy and held over yet again in the poorly ventilated theatre of my mind). Today, I am going to do a little Devils Advocacy for Fear.

Historically, fear is not an emotion that gets much credit. If Curly, Larry and Moe were Emotions and not Stooges, Shemp would be fear, an irregular player, never claiming the spotlight or winning the big laughs. The Cowardly Lion did heroic things with his Oz gift-bag of Courage. Tin and Straw men merely became usefully employable with their gifts of Caring and Thinking. Little boys are told to get over their fears, and punch the bully right back. The poorly suppressed subtext of course being that not mastering fears earned you a permanent set of sissy stripes.

I got along quite well as a youngster, a charter member in good standing with the fraternity of the penised. Athletic enough, I displayed no evidence of the sort of creative talent that brands a youngster as being seditiously sensitive. My handwriting was lamentable then, and worse today. Additionally, I was reliably dirty and smelly enough to not be welcomed into the company of girls on my own merits, and so was saved the stigma of being a girly-boy. These things, these evident things I knew instinctively to be behaviors that had the effect of making my life simple, and O how simple was desired.

I believe now that I knew this better than many because I had already satisfied complex curiosities and compulsions that would surely have had me drummed out of the uncivil boy society that I felt I needed to belong to at the time. I found women’s clothing, and lo, it felt good.

Even before I was old enough to associate the tactile experiences of cross dressing with sexual imaginings and experiences, it felt good. It felt liberating and confining all at once. Smooth things that clung like no boy-clothing. Structured, shapely things that fastened and twirled and shifted like no boy-garments. Things I was curious about, and intoxicated by. And for all of this intoxication, these things engendered a greater feeling of fear than any bully or bogey-man could ever summon up. My curiousities acted on, were a breach of a commandment so obvious to me that it needed no carving in stone, no bearded guy in positively ghastly sandals to stumble down the mountain with. No one, absolutely not a soul should know about this breach of the rules. I do not know why I knew, and still do not need to. Fear told me well enough.

There was fear of getting caught certainly. There was fear that not everything had been put back perfectly in place. There was fear that the missing thing would arouse inquiries and that the billboard that passed itself off as my face would advertise my guilt in tall, bright, neon-outlined letters. Tactical fears. There were the bigger, subtler fears too. Let me simplify and articulate the biggest one, confident that I am not alone in having asked then, and having asked often since then, the following question:

Does this make me a girl?

Over the years, I believe that I was happily capable of suppressing my dressing in part because of my fear that the answer was yes.

Fear is a powerful inhibitor, but it is also a useful evolutionary adaptation. We are deeply wired to stay away from things and behaviors that cause us harm or get us marginalized in our tribe. Hooray for Humanity! We are here in pretty strong numbers, and at least nominally in charge of things. Hooray too for fear! Long may we summon it up for what it is, employ it to our advantage, but keep it in check. We have been provided with the tools to do so.

Curiosity is the tool I have in mind today. Curiosity is, for me, the delicious chocolate partner to Fears peanut butter. Curiosity has impelled humanity forward as surely as fear, and has bequeathed the carefully curious with great advantages.

I feel inclined to favor curiosity more and more the older I get. I feel surer about my own boundaries, about my own desires. I do not fear for myself the question, “does this make me a girl?”. For me, a few moments at a time with the privilege to experience the world through feminine senses is satisfactory. In fact, it is a joy that I cannot believe other men are not lining up for in great, uniform and unanimous hordes. Don't they know what they are missing? Where the hell is their curiosity? Why did they not do a better job of right sizing fear along the way?

For my many friends who are on a different path, for those of you who have a different answer to your own question “... does “x, y or z” make me a girl? ...”, let me say here something that I hope you already truly know. You are not alone. And I suspect your experiences are not too, too different from many of your simple cross dressing cousins. Our fears and curiosities are surely similar, even while the root causes, the magnitude and the consequences of our truths differ.

I am going to put a little thought to these different, sometimes parallel, but seemingly divergent paths this week, and scratch out a note next. Your thinking in the form of notes left here will of course be welcomed.

Happy dressing, and happy everything else - Petra

Sep 3, 2009

Petra’s Pantyhose Parade – The Year of Living Hosiery: Part 1

In December of last year, realizing that I needed regular features to return to in order to build useful, regular blogging habits, I started a still enduring Thursday feature, Petra’s Pantyhose Parade. I was not sure at the time what I knew, but was very sure what I liked and had forever.

Hosiery. Tights. Pantyhose. The sheer stuff dear friends.

Putting names aside for a moment, I am not hung up on the term pantyhose. For me it is too utilitarian a word. It does not capture the imagination in the same way that the garment captured mine, ensnared me really in my very young, very impressionable days. What an impression, One with me still, and I suspect, forever. Clearly, a name for this regular blog post was required. I settled on Pantyhose mostly because of the alliterative possibilities presented with Petra parading about. Thusly, was Petra’s Pantyhose Parade conceived.

I suspected that this was a deep realm, a cool fashion well that would never run dry. I saw in my minds thigh a sheer and endless river of nylon and lycra. I felt as though I could cool my toes in this glittering ocean ceaselessly. I believed, moreover, that if I took my time and made good notes, I could genuinely develop a shapely body of work, free of blemish, that might help us all make better, smarter and more fashion forward choices for our legs. Beautifying the world, one happy gam at a time. I have not been disappointed. I have now tested and opined upon 20 pairs, and the horizon gets further away each week. I do not lack for choice. Yumm.

I do lament however that fewer and fewer genetic women share this passion with cross dressers. Pantyhose seem to be thought by many to be a chore, only borderline comfy, and not in most circumstances absolutely required to complete an outfit. When given the option for bare legging it, many, too many do. Hosiery sales have been in decline for years, and outlooks don’t predict a rebound. That leaves less to admire for all of us, and the loss of a truly feminine touch in the everyday world.

From many comments on these posts, and correspondence with friends of this blog, I have learned that my passion, while pretty vivid, is not unusual. For many of us, this frail, powerful amalgam of inner and outerwear, this quietly private choice, this sometimes brazenly displayed enticement was at the very start and remains at the very heart of our sometimes difficult but always electrifying journey. This gossamer thread has the strength of Spiderman’s web and is perhaps stickier

So 20 reviews thus far. 20 is a good number: fingers and toes. Its time to pause and reflect before I lose count. General observations today.

Control Tops dominate the shelves, and as a result, the rankings. I sense that they dominate the shelves because clingy, body conscious fashions demand slimming effects, and if you look around, so do many too well fed, too poorly exercised bodies. Beyond that, I tested a good number of control tops because they do have a beneficial effect for cross dressers who, like me, pad up to achieve more attractive curves. Control tops help smooth it all out.

Wine and Pantyhose have much in common. I keep an army of <$10.00 wines on hand at home, and many of them I proudly present to friends. It is a relief that we live in a world where one can get comfortably tight with a $8.00 bottle, while comfortably clad in $8.00 tights. When you go south of $5.00 though, something happens to both. They are still mostly well made, employing state of the art technology and best production best practices, but they lack something. They lack finish. The finish element is to me, more than a certain je ne sais quoi, this quality is the very raison d’ĂȘtre of pantyhose. Be value minded therefore, but do not cheap out dear friend.

We are worth a little indulgence every now and then. There are special outfits, and nights when a spoil is good for the soul. At the very top end, the luxury vendors really are a treat. The highest scoring panty hose (Wolford Luxe 9) garnered an unassailable 47.4 out of an available 50 Petra Points. They felt and looked so good I could barely think. A $30.00 splash out is not a whim for me, but then neither is a $100.00 massage. The massage makes me feel better but doesn’t make me look better. The Wolfords do both and will last longer.

A Girl on a budget can look terrific. Our Gold Medal performer is in fact a $7.50 entry from Hanes (
Silky Sheer Control Top) that can be found even more frugally if purchased online in bulk. They scored 31 points out of an available 50. The L’eggs line at $5.00 even shows terrific value in a line of very comfortable, evening appropriate, dress sheers. If you are hard on your hosiery, getting a run does not have to mean a run on your bank.

Durability is not pretty. Run resistant weaves help contain minor snags and help hosiery last longer. These weaves typically though add heat, coarsen finishes and leave the fine but apparent tell-tale horizontal lines across the thighs. So, for the price of a little longer wear, you give up much of the magic. For some, not a bad bargain, but not, for me, a good one. I rather take the approach that if you are mindful of how you are dressed, alert to your surroundings, and graceful in your movements, ladylike in a word, then you will not need the durability that run resistance provides.

Love them, and they will love you back. Runs are ultimately inevitable and costly. If you get fewer of them, your price per wear drops each time out. I have laddered precisely 1 pair of pantyhose this calendar year (the fishnets that got freakishly caught up on my purse). Do these things please: Keep your nails filed, pay attention to the size charts (and go up a size if you are borderline), and use a pair of standard issue rubber gloves to smooth up and really fit your hose perfectly after you have both feet in. Your legs are worth the care.

The chart shown here is a top to bottom ranking of all tested pantyhose with pricing taken out of the final score (click to enlarge). Raw scores out of an available 50, 1-10 in 5 categories. At the top are favorites, and what I would wear always if money was no object. Next week, I will re-order them with price in the equation, and line them up with the “bang for the buck” values highlighted. In next weeks recap post I will additionally provide a little color commentary on the good, the bad, and the saggy of some of the more memorable experiences.

2 quick footnotes.

1.The first two photos are courtesy of a stylish friend, CC over at Couture Carrie. 3rd photo from Worlford.
2. I am drafting today’s post in a Starbucks, and I just spotted a completely healthy, beautifully shaped woman in her 20s with a smartly tailored black cotton, belted shirt dress, wearing a very nice pair of nude sheers. It is presently 80F in Atlanta. This gorgeous girl could have made a different choice, been more comfortable and saved a few minutes earlier today by going bare. Bless her soul, she did not, and the world is prettier as a result. A nice glimmer of hope for us all.

Happy dressing and everything else ...

Sep 2, 2009

Petra’s Pantyhose Parade – Wednesday Special – No Nonsense II

Food critics will always visit a restaurant at least twice, and often more, before rendering a judgment that may in the future reflect unfairly on the establishment, or call their own taste into question. Well, when this cross dressing hosiery critic first reviewed No Nonsense in February of this year, it was an off night for pantyhose. In fact, I could not wait to get them off. Full review linked here, but here is the pithy conclusion:

They breath poorly. I know that after a long day confined in a nice fitting pair of day sheers it is an airy pleasure peeling them off, but I was a mere 15 minutes in captivity and starting to get itchy. The prospects of the full day loomed as impossible. I thought perhaps I was experiencing vicarious hot flashes, remembered my commitment to you, and settled in for the day. It wasn’t a delight friends. And 2 hours into it, I threw in the towel. And then I toweled off….

My word, that was bitchy. Not entirely what I like to hear from myself.

I did promise in that review to revisit No Nonsense (ed. after a court ordered trial separation) to see if perhaps I was just a little harsh, just a little snippy to our hard-working, earnest, and modestly priced friends. It seemed to me that after swanning around the globe to slide Chinese, English and Italian hosiery up my all too willing legs, that I might just stay near to home, enjoy some domestic comfort food, and perhaps have a sunnier disposition about the No Nonsense brand.

And so, with an open mind (ed. short memory?), and all the good will in the world, I snapped up a pair of Smart Support Control Tops, to go back for seconds.

A handful of things made this model interesting to me. First, the promise of an Ultra Sheer Leg. Second, the nude shade, Beige Mist suited my complexion well from what I could gather from the package. These 2 things together improved the likelihood that my new Smart Controls would be a great warm weather option.

The last thing that intrigued was the concept of Graduated Compression. Now, having flunked out of two truly superb universities, I rather hoped that a pair of Graduated Pantyhose would help complete me somehow. The idea of graduated compression is to provide a tighter weave on the lower parts of the leg so that the nylons provide a little of the circulatory oomph that nature loses with time. Terrific concept, and Nobel-worthy to my thinking. And yet again, graduation has failed to impact the odd trajectory of my life. Periodically, oxygen does not make it to my brain in full enough supply, but my legs seem fine without the help. I simply could not feel the difference.

So, on to the rest of the product. Polite applause only my dear friends. On the plus side there is care taken making the product. The seams are well finished, the toe is tidy, the panty portion is firm and comfortable, the waist band does not roll, and really, they look attractive enough. Attractive is at the heart of the problem though: what attracts the eye are the pantyhose, and not the legs. A good pair of pantyhose becomes one with the leg, and makes the leg more attractive. This weeks model simply sit on top of the leg. Ultra Sheer is an overpromise. Lastly, while not quite so warm on the leg as the Silk Indulgence model, they are still a tad cozy.

Dear friends, for the price ($3.99), they are a good performer. One should not I suppose expect greatness from the spare change you can shake out of your purse. A high grade (7.0) for fit, but 4.5 – 5.5 for the all important finish, style and feel criteria. 1.0 only for random merit. I could not imagine wearing these to my own funeral. I might wear them while selecting my grave site if the place was completely overgrown and likely to tear a run in a finer pair, but that is as close as they would get to my eternal and eternally sheer place of rest. All of this contibutes to a 15th place rank out of 20 tested pairs. Furthermore the Silk Indulgence has laddered over time from 9th, when first tested to its' present 17th place perch.

These No Nonsense Control Tops are the 20th pair of pantyhose reviewed here in this ongoing and hopefully endless parade. Tomorrow, a look back on The Year of Living Hosiery©. It’s a fitting time to reflect on what I have learned to date before getting busy with a new autumn rush of tights.

Ta ra till then, happy dressing, and etc…

Sep 1, 2009

Long Crossdressing Strides

My wife sometimes thinks as far as a half day ahead when considering what to wear. We cross dressers typically require a little more planning. Perhaps require is the wrong word. I, for one, rather relish thinking about what will work for Petra. And in so far as dressing en femme for the outside world is not a frequent event, I typically do have time to ponder on about exactly what I want to shimmy and slide into next time. Here at least, is a nice, low carbon emitting pastime.

I review 8-10 emails a day from various retailers promoting this look, pimping that coupon and generally provoking my next click with the promise that I too, yes even I, can look as beautiful as the remote, perfect woman pictured within that simply-must-have garment. I follow avant gardiste bloggers gathering intelligence from the glittering trenches of the rag trade. The other day in a dentists lobby the choice between Sports Illustrated and Elle was a no-brainer. I’ll take the pretty over the sweaty any day.

Out in the real world too. I can barely stop writing memos to self. Fueling up the car, hunting for a bunch of bananas less bruised, holding an elevator door open, all around me are women who made fashion choices that register a place on my long and largely unfulfilled wish list. The variety is blinding and crazy-making. I envy them the complexity, the exponential explosion of ensembles that somehow, by some miracle emerge from so many drawers, shelves and closets, so effortlessly assembled and lived in so gorgeously.

My wardrobe is largely built around the dresses that flash a little leg, the skirts that gently and surely constrain the stride within taut fabric, the suits that insist on mindful modesty sliding out of the car seat, or taking a tall chair at a long bar. I do not suspect that will ever change. Truly. The breeze between my knees is the wind beneath my wings. With that said, I am struggling with an urge, a yet unexpressed desire to get into women’s pants.

Now, for the benefit of visitors from The U.K., by pants I mean slacks, not knickers. Well tailored trousers that merchandize curves, lengthen legs, narrow waists and draw eyes from butt to buffed nails. If pants were good enough for Katharine Hepburn, surely they are good enough for me? … I think. There is a curious set of feelings aroused by this next likely fashion statement. I feel like I am considering a little act of sedition within a bigger act of sedition.

For me, and for a few of you perhaps, cross dressing is, in part, an act of rebellion. Even as we embrace feelings and needs deeply wired within, we are thumbing our noses at convention. Hello world, yes, this is me, in a dress. Maybe “passing” from afar but far from passing up close. And now I am considering taking the dress out of cross dressing. I spend years warding off the urge to dress, agonized over accepting myself when I finally realized the fight was futile and wrong headed, and now I want back into pants? How very perverse.

Pants might just represent an interesting fashion frontier though. I suspect that they might have the impact of cloaking me just a little bit --- who is expecting a cross dresser to cover up their legs after all? Slacks have an odd ambiguity to them. On a woman, they are statement ... "I can run with the boys, and look like a girl". This statement is pretty muted these days and demurred by ubiquity. But not so long ago, a grown woman in pants was challenging the status quo and being just a little cheeky. Well, I live to challenge status quo's everywhere, and with the help of my ample padding can be just as cheeky as the next girl.

Perfect pants are de rigueur for the modern woman, can fashionably rise to the requirements of practically any occasion and still possess all the liberation that their design naturally provides. And lord can they look good. I want some of that. I am man enough to admit it.

High-waisted, thin-belted, side-zipped, flare-legged, and long enough at the cuff to insist on a good heel. Paired with a smartly tailored, stretch cotton, French-cuffed, body-fitted blouse. A little bling, a big shawl and a bag to die for. I am looking forward to really legging it about this autumn in this imagined look. Ann Taylor and Macy’s are showing some terrific stuff. The endless racks of TJ Maxx are lined with options I have not taken the time to explore, besotted as I have been by the dresses.

I just feel like its time to mix it up a bit. How about you my dear? Do you have a perfect pair or do you remain faithful to garments with higher hems?

Happy dressing …
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