Dec 30, 2010

Five for ’10. A Look Back Blogwise

It is a well accepted convention in the worlds of media, journalism and here too in the treacherous mountain passes of Blogistan to pause for a moment in late December, and look back over the year. I will vary only slightly from the convention in so far as I will pause for a moment, then flick my hair over my shoulder and put one hand on hip, before looking back.

Now, where the hell was I?

Ah, yes, Dear Reader, in the spirit of providing you with a retrospective view of what I feel to be some of the highlights of this years fun and games here at Voyages en Rose, and furthermore with the view of saving me the heavy lifting of actually writing something new of value, I present the following posts for your grazing and mulching pleasure.

I have pulled these stalks from the stubble field of the past year because I quite like the writing and thinking in them. I think they either have a smart observation or two, or are simply well executed works of word-smithing. Perhaps even both.

In The Cross Dresser on the Ramparts of Change I take a big old swing at placing my personal habits in the context of the ongoing sexual/societal revolution that has been a pretty constant feature of my nearly half-century life.

I wrote Things I like. Perhaps you do too for an audience not interested in matters of gender, presentation and the like. I had a guest post up on Miss Neira’s fashion blog that I expected would drive a little traffic here, traffic that was unfamiliar with matters familiar to you and I. This piece was intended to establish some common ground between me and new visitors. I think it did, and happily, I made a couple of new friends in the process.

I built a metaphor for Cross Dressing Character and exposed it to a sustained blast of 12 g-forces that surprisingly did not shatter its constituent letters and splatter the authors face with goo. That the metaphor is stolen from Shakespeare particularly tickles the author. The author will now stop referring to herself in the 3rd person.

Next up, 5 (un) Easy Pieces is a big departure for me, and an attempt at a structured, poetic exploration of my own long, troubled and really, only recently easy life of Cross Dressing. I am happy with the finished piece, but remember the making, editing and polishing process as some of the most involved, demanding, time evaporating and rewarding moments of my life. Very proud of the piece still.

Lastly, may I commend to you a 2 piece suite that goes to the core of “why”, or at least a part, a knowable part of the why I do as I do themed “The Art of Cross Dressing". (Part 1 and Part 2). The Rubik's Cube is not fully solved, but I do have the pink side pretty much fixed up.

All of this stuff is fairly ponderous. It is the stuff that happens in my cerebral precincts. There is more to life though than the life of the mind though. My next Five for ’10 list will feature the most memorable moments, out in the big wide open, en Femme, amongst friends and the unsuspecting both. The visceral stuff. I am going to have a lot of fun rebuilding those moments in my mind, and look forward to sharing them over the next couple of days.

Thanks, and thanks eternally for your many visits here. You make the writing worthwhile. This I value greatly.

Happy New Year.

Dec 27, 2010

Crossing T’s

Here we are at the start of a lower case “t” transitional week, the strange time betwixt holidays high and a new year nigh.

Christmas was lovely and white here in Dixie, a light blanket of snow lays still on the ground. Enough of the stuff to make a displaced northerner feel nostalgia, but not so much as to make travel a travail or render high heels impractical. For those of you presently ploughed under in the North East, or perhaps recently liberated from a miserable airport in Europe, I hope you are warm at home, or wherever you planned on being.

The big day was quiet and enjoyable Chez Bellejambes, although I must confess that I earned a few Cross Dresser Demerit points with the gift giving. The big hamper of things I picked up for Mrs. B certainly had all the color, cache and cut characteristics desired, but I was positively spastic on sizing. I am a little ashamed, really, someone with my eye and experience should do a little better. We will therefore sally back into the mall melee sometime this week to remedy things. It stings a bit, you know.

General busy-ness with the holidays have kept me away from the blog too, and also from activities that would create compelling new stories to share with you. I did keep a little busy following the ongoing series of guest posts at T-Central featuring the perspective of Cross Dressers and their loved ones. Following my own post, old friends and new names Sally, Aeify, Alice, the indispensable Stana, and most recently from The Wife, of The Cross Dressers Wife fame, all published great efforts. I believe there are another couple of essays yet to come in this series, which I look forward to as much as I enjoyed the warm, welcoming, inclusive and positive tone of the earlier posts.

Going by the comments the essays spawned, it would be fair to say that a few T’s were crossed though. My word, but things got a little heated. If you did not follow along, go spend some time while you have it. Passion is something that is not lacking under our big tent. Strongly held opinions neither. I stayed away from the fracas in part because life is short, but also because of other demands on my time.

Par example, my budding fashion journalistic career. There are a few new posts up at my other home, Guilty Pleasures, which is a lingerie blog for the more mainstream (i.e. non-part time) woman. Recent posts include a brassiere review for newish vendor Top Secret Society, some chit chat about luxury French hosiery brand Gerbe and, most recently, a roundup of Leopard print tights featuring purring entries from Hue and Wolford (ed. amateur model and critic pictured left). I can provide assurances here that none of my academic or vocational advisors ever suggested that I give this line of work a serious look. Well, none of them had my figure either, so there. This work, dear friends, is a blast and a privilege. Perhaps as well, a little cheekily, a little seditiously, these posts auger a day in the future where gender norms and standards of presentation are a little more fluid than they are today.

Other busy-ness comes from clearing the mental deck for a really new and challenging year. It is official that I am going back in to a formal workplace setting after a multi-year, pajama clad consultancy / sabbatical phase early in January. No details here other than to say that the work is something I am genuinely interested in and skilled at, that the work is with people I genuinely like, and that the work is something that I am still young and energetic enough to do well. The office is really close to some terrific shops too.

Part of the mental prep for this new undertaking will include taking stock of yet another year of integrating Petra into the whole me, and vice versa. Much of that work is done via this blog, and so figuring out the extent to which I will be able to do both the blogging and integrating in the upcoming year will occupy much of my thinking this week.

I will have fewer luxuries of time and opportunity in 2011 for the exterior life of Petra. And as much as I have had great good fortune in expanding my range in this past year, the best gains have been in the interior. I understand and love myself better here now than a year or so ago. With that said, I am going to have to be circumspect in my behavior in my newish setting. For example, it will be helpful to periodically stifle the urge to say things like “killer bag, where did you get it?” to smartly turned out clients and colleagues. A fine line exists between personality and liability and it must be walked carefully.

But you know, dear reader, that there is no on/off switch for this stuff, is there? And if there was, I am not sure I would want to fiddle with it all that much. I like the colors, textures and sounds too much. They are integral to me. Subtle adjustments to some of dials can be managed though, and I suppose must be. While I figure out how to tune things for new realities, I do hope you will tune in here time to time to see how it is all going.

I will get a Best of Petra / New Years Frockin’ Eve retrospective of the year posted up before we all turn 2011 later this week. In the meantime, thanks for your shocking, flattering and more welcome than words can render visits here to Voyages en Rose.

Dec 17, 2010

Meet the Frockers

Yes friends, here we are deep into the manic month, dreaded and delightful December. The dread has much to do with just how many things need doing, and the generally worsening weather in which they get done.

The delight is abundant though. Contemplative finishing stitches are put on the waning year, loved ones are loved, and one receives a little love in return. Sometimes too in December, we get to witness, or precipitate a random act of kindness, stranger to stranger, the little miracles of humanity that seem most important when the Sun is at it’s furthest remove. Watch for it. Heart warming stuff is nearby, and is a pleasant relief from other year end rituals like spittle flecked, profanity laced shouting matches over possession of the last damned parking spot within marching distance of the mall.

It is a lovely time of year too for people with an eye for style. Women do make an extra effort with themselves even with all the chaos. Whether it’s an office party, a dinner party with friends, or a seething, sullen and uncommunicative custody hearing, you just know that looking a little better, newer, more special is OK, welcomed, even expected. The bigger and later in the day, the bigger the effort, the better the looks.

Most chaps out there look forward to a little harmless ogling. Me? I take notes. There is so much more to pay attention to, to be mesmerized by. The color, shape, glitter and glamour dials get cranked up to 11 (one louder). Nails are brighter, eyes smolder like a tire dump fire, hair is teased out and pumped up, perfume descends like sunset in the desert.

Accessories too, the sparkling little clutch with room enough only for lip gloss, a credit card and a condom is held by a bare arm, draped in a diaphanous tasseled shawl. Rings and bracelets catch light even in dark rooms, subtly and not-so-subtly saying to the world “yes, I am all that, and at least one person agrees with me…”

Comfort falls by the wayside as far as shoes go too. Strappy sandals, beguiling d’Orsays, glittering, beribboned, velvety, metallic, anything but dull, and anything but flat. You see, one wants to drive the height up a bit and really look people in the eye, perhaps from an unexpected angle. Indeed, with the shoes and hair done just so, a 6” change in altitude is not out of the realm of the possible.

This sudden change in presence draws attention to plunging necklines, fabulous necklaces, polished pendants poised just so, nestled warmly upon more brazenly displayed busts, pushed up, powdered, perfumed and proud.

All of this is lovely yes, but for me, the High Holidays are also the time of High Hemlines. And for this, here in the Church of Petra, can we get an Amen? Hell yes.

I was out this past weekend to join friends at the year end
Tri-Ess / Sigma Epsilon gathering. I went high of hem, and had a high old time. It was party number 2 of a longish day, requiring a drastic change of appearance during the intermission. I would have like to have taken more time with the maquillage, but December schedules do not always allow the luxury of time.

My party frock for the evening, a foxy little number from Macy’s, picked up for a relative song had been quietly waiting on the sidelines and hoping to be called up to the big leagues since early October. I had such fun with her in the fitting room (story
here), I was very much looking forward to her debut evening.

With coat off and over my arm, I followed the wrong party sounds navigating my way through the hotel and wound up in an impromptu chat with a couple of gentleman loitering outside what I took to be a Korean jewelry merchants soiree. My silver accessories attracted positive notice. I did take a look back over my shoulder once they had steered me in the correct direction and can claim a little giddily that the rest of the visible me did too. That’ll straighten your shoulders in a hurry friends.

I soon found the right room. This was only my second social with my local support group, and so most of the faces were new to me, and vice versa. The average attendee, there with a supportive spouse, was an empty nester freed up in later years to better explore themselves without the prying eyes of kids about the house. The ladies of this great generation did go all out for the evening. Lots of glitter in evidence, a very happy celebration.

There were a handful of late Baby Boomers like me in attendance, and a even a young 20 something with a complexion to kill for (I am mad jealous Grace), but I felt as though I was amongst the youngest in the room. It was nice to say hello to a couple of friends I had met at SCC this past autumn too, Phoebe, Heather Anne and Megan amongst them.

Here is a little observation for my fellow denizens of the online world. We (or perhaps, just me) think of the CD/TG world as being a sub set of people who spend countless hours browsing blogs, social networks, chat rooms and the like to learn more about and participate in our gender driven lives. As it happens, there are a lot of nice people out there who managed to get to a comfortable place with themselves (and with their partners too) without much reliance on the Internet. Who knew?

Fellow bloggers will know just how much a nice comment on a post means. Well, to be told in person that ones blog is read and enjoyed goes even further. I was actually recognized as Petra of Voyages en Rose infamy. Some top moments of the evening were provided by people who tottered over to introduce themselves. I enjoyed a good long chat with Milla and Teresa, (killer pant suit Teresa) in from neighboring Alabama who said some wonderful warm things the writing found here. This is a conversation starter absolutely certain to engage my full attention. I was late (and unprepared for) the gift exchange, but new friends are no doubt the better gift.

I was a little surprised, and shouldn’t be in hindsight, that in another conversation, I was asked if I was the person behind “that blog with all the pantyhose posts”. Guilty as charged. You are what you write, I suppose. For the record, this evening I was sporting a lovely pair of
Gerbe Sun Satin 8’s, and yes they felt great. I will be doing up a full review of these fine sheers on a more mainstream lingerie/fashion blog in the not too distant future.

It was a lovely evening. Long time readers know that I put pretty good care into wardrobe, and am not shy about clingy, fashion-forward looks. This evening however was really the first time that I dressed for display. One wants to look good always, yes, but typically the Cross Dresser dresses to blend in, to be noticed perhaps, but not to stand out. A holiday party is a nice change from the typical routine. Standing out, standing tall, shining brightly and revelling in the effect is special. I better understand today just how this time of year is celebrated by the beautiful women in my life. Such a feminine privilege, the opportunity to really go all out for a night out.

I do hope that you all get a chance to get dolled up a once or twice over the busy holidays. It is a nice gift to the self, and to all the people around you too, regardless of how you appear every other day of the year. If you have seen and met some nice Holiday Frockers, I would love to hear from you, an consider your comments to be a real gift.

Dec 8, 2010

In Praise of Bolder Women

Admiration of women is, it seems to me, a common thread that ties together the various and diverse patches of our big, fluffy and sometimes frayed T-Quilt. Putting aside, for the moment, screeching cabaret Drag Queens and demented, homicidal Hollywood archetypes (distant cousins, yes, but let us acknowledge their presence) women will typically find amongst the CD/TG set their most sincere admirers.

Never too far from admiration is a desire for acceptance. Whether your embrace of the feminine is periodic or permanent it would be rather a pyrrhic thing to be free to present sometimes or live always as female, and not enjoy a warm welcome from women. I am fortunate. I have been warmly welcomed. Life has been enlivened by many generous and genuine encounters with women while en Femme, vivid moments free of friction. Invariably, these are the best moments of the day.

This admiration of and desire for acceptance from women is heightened at home for those of us in the dedicated, delicate, exclusive and sometimes exasperating relationship of marriage. Clearly, if the admiration was not there in the first place, we would not have popped (or responded positively to) the question, yes?

Fear of spousal withholding of acceptance is a fear that keeps many bottled up, locked in, tamped down. Keeping secrets, as I did for some time within my happy home, is a pretty natural response to that fear that we will not be accepted. Sooner or later, once we remember what exactly made our partner so admirable in the first place, once we reckon on the cost of dishonesty, once we know we will explode if we do not share, we face the fear down, share, and hope for some degree of acceptance.

I have been well accepted at home. Not a bed of roses entirely friends, but not a bed of nails either, and closer, by far, to roses. There remains much to be figured out. If we work hard and carefully for each other for another hundred years or so, I think we can get there fully. Bold as Mrs. Bellejambes is, and as much praise as I could heap on her though, this post is about a few other bold women.

I want today to direct your attention to a handful of Wives and SO’s who not only tender the best level of acceptance they can to their CD/TG partners, but go a little further and share their experiences online. Spouses of CD/TG’s share all of our issues, and more besides. Those who share their learnings online deserve special regard. Here are a few blogs that I hold in high regard, each replete with a mix of triumph, tribulation and trivia, the stuff of a full life:

The Wife behind
The Cross Dressers Wife has been airing the pretty and sometimes wrinkled laundry of her complex life here for close to a year now. Always delighted to see a new post show up in my Google Reader.

Lynn D’s
Fun Finding Her She Me. Ms. Lynn is not always active with the blogging part of her life. Like all of us, other demands intrude to the exclusion of blogging. When she does blog though, good-spiritedness and a willingness to make things work without an owners manual shines through.

Love is the theme of A Perfect Luv. This is a lasting theme, as I hope Ms. Perfect’s blog to be. This blog is unique in so far as Ms. P seems to have started her voyage with her life partner with a higher degree of interest in and receptivity to Cross Dressing than women typically exhibit.

A very shiny new star glitters in the Blog firmament courtesy of Casey at
Yes, She is My Husband. This is a ground floor opportunity to see a skilled writer find a voice in the midst of a whirlwind of change.

No list of this variety would near completion without mention of Helen Boyd’s
enGender. Ms. Boyd is a well recognized Founding Mother of the digital gender-afflicted SO world, and the wildly successful author of My Husband Betty.

This list is no doubt incomplete. Bold women abound. If you are such a bold woman, and a partner to a someone who is discovering more about themselves through exploration of gender, your visit today is very welcomed. I hope the time you spend here feels well spent. If you are a partner who blogs about your experience, I want to know you better, and to share your experiences with my wonderful partner. Please reach out, name names, and introduce yourself in the comments section.


Dec 7, 2010

Vitamin T

Most visitors here will be familiar with the indispensable resource that is T-Central. Certainly, people who have found themselves here today after a visit to T-Central already are. If you are here from there, welcome! Make yourselves at home.

For those of you not on intimate terms with T-Central, well, dear friends, I don’t want to sound harsh, but really, I thought I knew you, how could I be so very wrong?

A team of volunteers labor ceaselessly (and largely thanklessly) there. They collect and maintain current feeds from literally hundreds of blogs focused on matters of gender. The assortment is amazing. It can seem like a too big buffet table at first glance, but it is worth a close look. You are sure to find something to your taste there.

One of the site moderators, Calie, lives a full enough life already, maintains a superb personal
blog, and just because somebody had to do it, has indexed the worlds most comprehensive list of songs that could be thought of as T-Tunes.

On top of all that, this friendly force of nature is curating a series of essays for T-Central this week authored by self described Cross Dressers. There are bound to be some really heartfelt, educational, and artfully crafted efforts posted up over the next week or so. In the meantime, there is one from me.

Go ahead, visit, visit often, and enjoy the fruits of this good labor.

Dec 5, 2010

Give a little. Get a little.

It is, dear friends, the giving season. Of late, much giving has been required of me and, as a result, certain aspects of my life have been getting a little less attention. It has been over a couple of weeks since I have posted up to Voyages en Rose. This is the longest authorial hiatus since the pronounced quiet of my Summer ‘09 Drabbatical©.

It is never just one thing of course, but work has much to do with it. Coming up on three years of independent, freelance, pajama-clad consultancy, my client dance card is filling out nicely. I am a slow learner but have, it seems, figured out how to make this lifestyle work for me and the bank.

Here is the thing though: The moment that the clay starts to round into shape is precisely the moment that the universe and I conspire to hit the brakes on the potters wheel and start peddling in the opposite direction.

My favorite client and I have decided to deepen our relationship, to go steady. It is a big, interesting job with a big, challenging revenue number and plenty of financial upside. I like the people, there is an enjoyable amount of travel required and nobody gets hurt when we succeed. Ramping up for this effort has eaten into Petra time.

I was anticipating this, and a few weeks ago started to empty my purse. First thing out,
Twitter. That saved me a couple of hours weekly of poking about in the global yard sale of random bric-a-brac that this interesting community represents. Next up, Facebook. Here, good number of old friends and I commune, and I do find much to gaze and graze upon there, but as it happens, nothing essential to my survival. Soon, Pink Essence, Chictopia, Stylehive, local Yahoo! groups and the like spilled out too without a drop in quality of life. The endless river of inbound emails from favorite fashion retailers no longer merit reading, and now get the "select all, mark as read" treatment.

Done, thusly, with the metaphorical emptying of the purse, I must share with you a thought I had while emptying the actual contents of my purse a couple of weeks back.

It was a lovely crisp autumn day in Atlanta, Petra was out and about, resplendent in pink, having enjoyed a nice lunch at
The Heretic and the gorgeous musical stylings of Miss Edie. I had enough time before a Very Serious Conference Call© to browse a couple of shops. I did, and finding nothing, I strolled along the crowded sidewalks back to my car.

Three minutes and two unhinged fingernails later I was still furiously rooting around in my purse not finding my damn keys. Purse on the hood (bonnet to mes amis de l'Angleterre), hands on hips, windblown hair strands adhered to my glossed lips, in a moment of mounting despair I heard a voice from deep within the recesses of the wig cap:

“What the hell are you doing?”

A part of this inquiry was rooted no doubt in the practical. If indeed my keys were lost, the day would spiral out of control entirely. It was time for a deep breath, and a methodical, bit by bit emptying of my big black shoulder bag. The keys were found, the last thing exhumed of course, from the closed interior pocket I had pointedly used in the first place to avoid such heart flutters. I swear to the heavens, I am a natural with bra clasps, delicate jewelry fasteners and back zips but I turn into Helen Keller with hand prosthesis around a purse.

But the question lingered in the crisp and beautiful air.

What the hell are you doing?

I was, in hindsight, not doing much. Not attracting untoward interest and not feeling in any way self conscious. I was loving the look, the feel of things, and was meeting the worlds eyes with my own squarely, yes. But the phase of the moon or who knows what had turned the voltage of the moment down just a bit, a noticeable bit.

The responsibilities of the day were calling for my attention. At that moment.

In this moment, I can see on one of my monitors a vain collage of snapshots of ... well, of me. Smart skirts, silken blouses, proud postures. It is still a source of amazement that I can look this way. Honestly, startling is the word. My appetite however for the work to achieve this look is lessened just now. And now, my principal resource for this dreamy life, time, is lessened too.

I must say that I feel OK with this. For starters I am man enough (woman enough?) to know that there are tides beyond my contol. Que sera sera and all that jazz. Beyond that, I see two other influencers.

One, methinks, is the impulse I mentioned earlier in this post. I am discomforted by comfort. I welcome “problems”, and love to solve them. The problem of “Petra” has been pretty well knocked down, largely solved over the last couple of years. This part of my life is naturalized to a large enough degree that I callously missed my own 2nd Blogiversary (ed. sorry honey, I will make it up to you on Valentines Day…). For the curious amongst you, or for budding literary agents, click here if you care to read the Overture movement of Voyages en Rose.

The other influencer is that Mrs. Bellejambes and I have not yet figured out precisely what to do with all of this. The life of Petra lurks quietly around us, but this life does not yet pull up a comfy chair at our marital table. Mrs. B has been terrific, but she harbors very sensible concerns about prospective downsides. “What if …is a good question too, and she has a few questions of that sort. What if we take in a movie together and bump in to friends? I can take my lumps, and be that Cross Dresser, at some cost. In a way, I have spent a lifetime preparing for that moment. Mrs. B however, has not spent a life time preparing to pay the cost of being publicly married to a Cross Dresser though. Different stakes on the table for her, and fewer obvious upsides.

We have not gone out together, other than the brave evenings she took with me in the safe confines of this past Southern Comfort Conference. As such, my orbits have been Mercury solo missions. We are not Gemini, and we might not get there. In fairness to our mutual commitments and to the really enviable possibilities we enjoy, that mission may not be the appropriate one for us, for me. We have not fully mapped it all out, and we will wrestle surely with our limits, but I must know now, for myself at least, that we may simply reach a truce and not reach the stars. This is not a fully shared enterprise, and that likely (unavoidably?) takes a little edge off the appetite.

Surely though, the occasion for all of this exploring and discovery has been in part enabled by the luxuries of time that my lack of formal employment has provided me. I will not cite the Devil, but I must say that through some agency, pretty work has been found for idle hands. With formal employment back in the mix, I have less time on hand now.

I think now that much of the interior that has been enlivened by and matured through this wonderful exploration of the self will emerge in my work and in my interactions with people. Perhaps too in my patience with the patently suicidal drivers I expect to hover near me on my new commute. This splendid and loving relationship with my “Petra-ness” has changed my outlook entirely, regardless of how “out” my look is. I feel ready to apply much of what I have learned to great effect in life.

So, there we are for now. More here when I have more. Thanks for your continued support of my various voyages.

Nov 20, 2010

Transgender Day of Remembrance

I will join late, the long parade of bloggers, journalists and seekers-after-justice in general who have been promoting awareness of and participation in a global day of thought and action about some of the harder truths that many in the TG community face. Today, Saturday November 20, is the 12th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Many of my online and real world friends are people who work through the ups and downs of their lives on blogs and in support groups. For many, the life of the gender explorer is more thorn than rose. Writing for an unseen audience, or circling the chairs and having a chat with like minded people is good therapy. In these gatherings, the rose comes in to better focus, and the barbed thorns are clipped. We prune and grow, and sometimes flourish.

Continuing sadly on this metaphor though, flowers of all varieties are too often seen at memorial services for T-People cut down too soon in life, in shocking, out of proportion numbers, gravely by their own hands, or brutally at the hands of others.

These people often lack the support, sense of community, and relief that is attended upon those of us who live parts of our lives out loud, or mutedly so here on line. Even with the benefit of such support some will see no better option than the irreversible option of suicide. Even with the benefit of such support, determined and happily liberated innocents will become victims of violence.

I am happy to see a well provisioned umbrella group publicizing events in so many cities and small towns in so many diverse countries around the world. I remain not so surprised to know that a need exists.

Cheerful an outlook as I have, I must say that I expect there will be a 13th, 14th, and years more to come of Transgender Days of Remembrance.

If you have the time to visit an event, show the flag, stand tall and quiet, that would be a nice thing. If not, take a moment to count your own blessings, or to measure your own relative trouble against the more acute sense of pain that somebody, somewhere, just now, this minute, is enduring.

Someday, surely, there will be less to remember, and more to look forward to.

You can find an event near you by visiting

Thank you.

Nov 18, 2010


A mere couple of posts ago I mentioned that the focus of Voyages en Rose would be changing just a tad to better reflect what passes for reality for me. There has been a slightly schizophrenic aspect to content here. I flail wildly between 3 broad themes:

- pensive, sometimes even bordeline trenchant explorations of the inner workings of this Cross Dresser's mind
- reportage on my various Voyages en Femme and general infiltration of a bigger, unsuspecting, sometimes curious and often blithely unaware or unalarmed world, and
- perky, insouciant reviews of lingerie and hosiery that can be found under the tag “Petra’s Pantyhose Parade”.

Three is a crowd as they say. Time for the lingerie to move out of the basement and find a new home.

I started writing about lingerie for a couple of reasons that did not take much thought at the time. Much of it had to do with not really having a clue about what my then recent, open and honest embrace of Cross Dressing would mean to me. I felt that a blog could be a great venue for figuring a lot of things out, but knew that if I did not have an editorial calendar to attend to I might let the effort rust. I knew that I required a structure around which I might better develop a discipline of writing. I therefore committed myself to a weekly product review, and built a complex, multi-variant grading algorithm that would enable me to develop a scientific, stacked ranking of my hosiery stash.

It was a bit of a lark at the time I must confess, but with time it has been a real pleasure, and a minor achievement to develop a body of knowledge and a reasonably well informed voice on these matters. I actually know my stuff, and take pleasure in the connoisseurship.

Today therefore, I am pleased to announce to you, dear friends, that such posts will be found periodically on a much more popular lingerie blog and overall hub for all things under it all,
Guilty Pleasures. I have joined a terrific team of lingerie and style enthusiasts as a periodic contributor of views on and reviews of hosiery. My first post there is timed right for the onset of chilly winter temperatures, a comparative review of opaques from Hue and Berkshire.

In my posts for GP I will be assuming the voice of someone who simply knows and loves the subject matter. People visit Guilty Pleasures for lingerie know-how and shopping know-where. Therefore, my gender is a non-factor, and won’t be raised or alluded to there. There is only one Petra Bellejambes though, our internet is rich with bread crumbs, and readers will follow links back here from there, perhaps to be surprised, perhaps not. I hope that my gender will not matter, and the quality of thinking and writing will.

Certainly, it seems that my gender does not matter at all to Ally and Miss Tique at GP with whom I now periodically labor. I take this as a signal of a couple of good things:

First, that the iceberg of hostility that the Trans community needs to navigate around every day is melting, and can only, with time, get smaller, less threatening, drip by sure drip. People with accepting postures and open minds are out there. Clearly, my new friends are such people. Hooray for progress!

Second, this shows that people like me who love to write and are prone to swooning in the face of flattery are easy to motivate. Much in life comes down to time and money. There is no money in this stuff. But if my writing is useful or entertaining to others, I will think it a great use of time.

Team GP is well plugged in to a pretty network of designers, brands and vendors. We get the odd assignment from the network. My first essay for a Guilty Pleasures partner went up last night on Layla L’Obatti’s blog. Layla is a young, talented and determined intimate designer in the early days of the heroic struggle to build a beautiful business, Between the Sheets Lingerie, from scratch. Her stuff is made with love, and made here in America. I would love to see her thrive, and really hope that my Gift Giving Guide there helps shift some gorgeous product.

I’ll keep you all up to date about where and when these posts can be found. I will be back here over the weekend with a signature post on my acute need for a new signature. I found myself cursing my cursive style at a Macy’s counter the other day. This dizzying merry-go-round just never stops it seems.

Before signing off, I want to say a last little something to the amazing women who visit Voyages en Rose. I was not expecting you to gather here in such big, happy and beautiful numbers. Many of you are in the fashion business, or deep in the arts and letters. I would not be striding out in to your world without the superb encouragement you have tendered.

Thank you.

Always happy to see you here, and I hope you will join me in my new venues too.

Nov 14, 2010

The Panting Cross Dresser

A little over a year ago, I promised myself and you, dear reader, that I was on the breathless threshold of a daring new fashion statement.

Pants. Slacks. Trousers. The lovely and troubling staple of the wardrobe that takes so much of the cross out of Cross Dressing.

Sorry to take so long. I have been a little busy.

I had steered away from pants in my wardrobe building exercises principally because I had been wearing them for, well, forever. It took me an awful long time to get to the place where I was able to say yes to the dress. All that struggle and now I was proposing to climb, by choice, back into pants. I am not an entirely normal individual, yes, but this seemed to me to be piling perversity on top of perversity.

There is more, of course. I had very real non-pant gaps in my wardrobe. I have been pretty diligent in filling in those gaps, covering the staples. A year later now, and the closet is fairly brimming over with hems at the knee and north thereof. Nowadays, often in the shops I find myself admiring a skirt on a hanger or a dress on a mannequin and hear an inner voice " … down girl… you already have that one…”

Yes, my dressing is starting to take on the air of a fad diet. All protein, no carbs. Not balanced or indeed practical. There isn’t a stylist on the planet who would willingly let me continue to live a pant-free life. I know this. I know furthermore that life is too short to have nothing to wear on a Saturday afternoon.

Damn daunting thing though. Every women I have even known has a love / hate relationship with pants. Typically they love 2 pairs and hate about 17. I cannot afford to hate that much of my wardrobe.

There are so many more variables to get right relative to the typical skirt fit: leg shape and length, thigh circumference, crotch-to-waist rise height, waist-to-hip aspect ratio and etc. Do the pockets flatter the figure or feature the faults? Too skinny for pleats, too short for flares, too much of this, too little of that. Torture.

Add the Cross Dresser to the mix, and things are ready to completely fall apart. With the exception of a nice bra, there is no garment that so dramatically features the lovely differences in body shape between men and women as a pair of pants. All of this looks to me like a recipe for failure, or on a good day, mediocrity. The odds of finding a truly epic pair of pants? A total cosmic crap-shoot.

Like so much in life, try we must, and try I did. On a recent drab shopping excursion through always reliable Macy’s Lennox Mall, I was both able to keep the First Shopping Commandment (Pay Ye Not Retail Unless Not Buying It Brings You Damnation), and managed to go 2 for 2 on my first two-legged at bats. Not just little singles either. Out of the park and way the hell down the street, grand slams.

First up, a stretchy, fitted black pull-on number from
I.N.C. They are quite high waisted, non pocketed and smooth throughout the midriff. They are clingy, true, but they are more substantial than a pair of leggings. There is enough structure and tailoring in them that one does not feel like one is walking around exposed in one's underwear. With the faux-leather panels inside the leg they give off a very Bridle Path / Jodhpur feel, an Urbane Cowgirl vibe. I immediately felt a desire to own a riding quirt and a smart new pair of boots.

The high pink, cropped jacket they are paired with has been unused, looking for an ensemble for the better part of 9 months now. I think they are made for each other. I have been dying to find a way to get a screaming loud color or two into my admittedly dark palette, and I love the way it flares out at the tail. The jacket set me back $23.00 (down from $100.00). The pants, my pants, my first pants ran for a mere $12.70 (down from $50.00) after all the coupons and etc. Tally Ho!

Next up the Alpha Challenge of the Pant Universe, the 5 pocket, low-rise classic denim style, skinny leg. Form fitting and unforgiving, the Halley’s Comet of the fashion world: if you live long enough and look hard enough, you may find the perfect pair once in your life.

I honestly do not mean to gloat, but I got them. On my first attempt. This is not at all fair. I know women who view the perfect fitting classic jean style pant as an imaginary thing, the Unicorn of the closet. Spoken of yes, perhaps even seen by someone in the dark mists of time or in a booze fueled hallucination. But not to be had by mere mortals. If I was not so damn happy, I would feel sad for all the women who still dream of perfect pants.

A lovely versatile Café au Lait shade, cotton/modal and a dash of Lycra, slung gun-belt low on the hip and gorgeously, determinedly clinging to every inch of me all the way down to the nice eye catching exposed zipper at the ankle. The ruffled olive jacket and these pants supreme fell into my clutches for a mere $14.70 each or roughly 80% off retail. At this price, I could afford a failure of fit. This however seems to not be my lot. Perfect fit, throwaway price.

There is more though, something entirely unexpected.

Something captivating in fact.

I was not expecting to feel very immersed in the feminine, but once I buckled the belt and stood tall in my pumps, something happened. Ones walk changes, the stride a little longer, a little more hips out and feet forward. The walk is louder too, more certain on the ground, and it drives back up too, through hips, through back and shoulders. The change is there while standing still too, a different aspect, a different posture, everything different. I felt confident, and I could feel the very direct line between confidence and sexiness.

I honestly do not think that I have ever felt quite so convincingly feminine. I was so entirely not expecting this. For a moment I regretted having put this purchase off for quite so long, but I am rather more inclined to looking forward, and so I am looking forward to pulling more pants on.

And you, my friends? Diverse views on pants most welcomed here.

Nov 7, 2010

Reality TV

A couple of posts back I advised readers that I was planning a nice outing for 9 November. The idea was to share some of my pre-Voyage staging notes on my happy path to being a non-credentialed journalist at a big rally headlined by media curiosity, and arguably the most stylishly turned-out American ex-Governor Sarah Palin.

The only potential run in the fabric of my scheme was stated thusly:

“ …Presuming that my planning comes together and clients do not rain down crises on or about the 9th …”

Well, hells bells, so it has happened. I am pretty well stuck into a big heap of demanding things. Things I caused to happen myself by flapping my gums and making a terrific suggestion. I opened a bit of a Pandora's Box, and for my troubles will be enjoying a Pandora’s Boxed Lunch, and talking about possible futures that include me taking a staff position, yes a day job with my principal client on Tuesday. These are people I genuinely like, the work is challenging, I am capable of doing it well, and pocketing a few more shekels doing it well than I do today. All good things.

This decision is being weighed against pretty late stage negotiations on a book contract. Some of you have said nice things about my writing in the past. There are others who agree with you. Different subject matter than what I dwell upon and within here altogether. Rather butchy business-y stuff in fact, but there are all sorts of settings that I can pass in.

In short, there is much occupying my mind and much threatening to occupy my time too.

It is a shame to not find myself in the same room as Ms. Palin and so many of her ardent and vocal admirers. We, Sarah and I, are members of different "T" parties, but proud sisters of the Size 4 Party. There may be much that Ms. Palin and I do not agree on, but I do believe we could mount a furious shopping expedition together. That is change that both of us I am sure, could believe in.

On a more serious note, there are of course other not-so-good things, different and indifferent things associated with these new possibilities too, and some of these things would trim my ability to explore and tend to my Petra-ness, and to paint the walls of Voyages en Rose as frequently and colorfully as I do today. All happiness at a price, yes? Much to think on. I will keep you posted.

At the very least, I expect that I will be posting here on a slightly slower cadence.

You know, my dear friends, I had been planning on a few tweaks to the blog in any event. Voyages en Rose is approaching 2 years in age, and the word-o-meter is damnably close to clicking past 200,000. A little routine maintenance is in order and some of them are underway as of today.

Those changes are going to be very hosiery-centric.

The very alert amongst you will have noticed a change in the header graphic at the top of the page. Where there was a montage of artful and beautifully lit figures clad in filmy things from Wolford, there is a new montage of, well me, poorly lit, clad in clingy things, some of them from Wolford.

Hosiery was the proto-lure, the enabler, the sizzling flame to my fluttering moth yes, and will always be very near to my heart (and often times near to parts south thereof). I just don’t want to mislead visitors. I love lingerie, and lingerie for the legs especially, but visitors here should know right off the bat that Voyages en Rose is not built to cater to the interests of dedicated hosiery enthusiasts.

Voyages en Rose is rather more about gender generally. It is about sometimes glimpsed, never reached, always receding horizons of understanding or clarity. It is about living with and enjoying fuller dimensions of human experience. A very important part of this journey does have to do with fashion, style and shopping and I will continue to share posts of that variety with you. Just not so much in the way of words or pics of the nylon/lycra variety. If your interests clatter in that direction, check out any of the sites listed in the “Fashion, Foundations and Femininity Links” section in the right sidebar below.

If you think for even a frozen moment that I could simply close the book on the whole hosiery thing and not burst a blood vessel, well you would have been wrong. Petra’s Pantyhose Parade is something I am proud of. I have studiously reviewed and scientifically ranked roughly 40 distinct brands of sheers over the last couple of years. I have, to my surprise and delight, become something of an amusing voice, and perhaps even an authority on leg wear. I will continue to cultivate this work. Just not here.

I have in fact found a new home, and really, a better place for my hosiery related posts. A place with a much larger readership than Voyages en Rose, a largely female readership whose blog-hopping has little or nothing to do with matters of interest to the CD/TG community. It is a matter of real delight to me that my writing and learning has earned me a chance to write for a new audience. My product reviews at my new home are going to be entirely neutral of the things that identify Voyages en Rose as a Cross Dressers blog. In my new home, I will simply be someone who knows hose.

So there.

I will share all the particulars when the inaugural review goes up a little later this month.

I will also share news on how all the business shenanigans impact my realities, TV and otherwise. Wish me luck.

Oct 31, 2010

Ruminations on Halloween

Halloween is many things, including a license to behave differently, to occupy a surprising new shell, and finally, to not be held accountable for all the hijinks.

Always happy to do my bit for a good cause. Therefore, today, on the behavior front, I am likely to take a miss on shaving. For my surprising new shell, I think I will favor comfortable, worn, faded jeans and a non-descript pullover sweater. There won’t be much in the way of hijnks as such to be held unaccountable for, but I do hope to get credit for a certain amount of routine household and yard maintenance.

Always the rebel, that Petra.

Yes, it is a drab Halloween chez Bellejambes.

It is likely not the last one either. As “Petra” has, over time, converged with and enlarged the rest of me, my Cross Dressing has diverged from Halloween. Me, in a dress, is not a costume. Me in a dress is a happy extension of something that is core to me. This is a spectacular thing, to be sure, but it is not a spectacle in the way that Halloween demands. And so this evening, I will answer the doorbell and dole out the bon-bons in drab.

This Halloween though is the 2nd year Anniversary of my first “real” Voyages en Rose, and indeed of my adoption of the name Petra. I had spent the prior 40-something years either fighting or being fast and furtive with my feelings. For whatever reason I decided just before Halloween of ‘08 to stop fighting, to slow down, and not be furtive, at least with myself.

In the days running up to Halloween, I ordered the fabulous 4 pad girdle from Fredericks. Quite remarkably, in hindsight, I hand crafted a silicon based full chest prosthesis complete with an adjustable back closure fashioned from a cheap bra. Terrific shape, but not the pliability I was hoping for.

A wig, a cheap one was acquired, on the 30th of October. The jolly Asian woman behind the counter asked me who it was for. “It’s for Halloween” said I not then willing to put my name to my actions.

“Very pretty. You will be very pretty”.

I did not know then quite how to react.

I did take courage from the encounter though, and visited an off-brand discount shoe store, emboldened enough in a crowded shop to find a nice stiletto heel, to hold it up and to ask the cute young thing if she had it in my size.

“What size are you?”

We sorted out the details, and I quite pointedly tried them on, viewed them in the floor mirror, hazarded a step or two to the delight of my small audience. Here again I did not die of embarrassment, or of fear, or under a hail of stones from and angry mob of shoppers. I was a little shallow of breath, yes, but composed externally and happy for the Halloween cover story.

I rather lacked the perfect dress at the time. Oddly enough, even today with a very full closet, I still feel that way, but that is another story, yes? In any event my Googling for a turtleneck knit mini lead me into the youthful confines of American Apparel. By a factor of 2, I was the senior most person in the room. The cheerful young sales assistant and I agreed quite ambiguously on the correct size and color without any real discussion as to who would be wearing it. I thought then that the general assumption was that I was simply a normal father picking up a vaguely slutty frock for his daughter. Just for kicks I went back to the AA web site, and am happy to see my glowing and frank product review is still live on their site.

It should be noted that this small epistle is the first “published” work of Petra Bellejambes, prior even to the launch of this blog. The curious may see these baby literary steps just over

I lastly stashed a pair of black opaque tights into a Target cart filled to toppling with paper towels, tissue rolls, light bulbs and golf balls, and drove home, ignoring speed limits and road safety conventions, heart hammering anxious to, at last, wrap myself in these loose threads, to see if the sum was greater than the parts.

It wasn’t. But I was hopeful, shocked, becalmed, giddy, head-over-heels, terrified, intoxicated, flattered and critical. Thoughts and impulses both ungovernable and crystalline flashed brightly, loudly, clearly. As with Neo, quite suddenly my Matrix was revealed. Whoa.

I cannot remember, but I do suspect that I did not sleep deeply that night. When Mrs. Bellejambes is away, as she was then, I do sleep more lightly, but here I had much in mind for my tomorrow, my Halloween.

Much of that
story was recounted in the inaugural Voyages en Rose post. It is easy to forget, once one has become practiced at swanning around in public en Femme just how big a threshold moment those first committed steps are, with or without the cover of Halloween. Looking back from here, I have to say I really braved it out that day, and committed myself to a deeper immersion than was required. The blog post stopped at the Lancôme counter. What happened immediately after that was an early evening, slow stroll the length of a mall. I took a seat on a bench beneath a big clock and aimlessly poked at my cell phone, pretending to tap out a text message. I looked up from time to time, to see if I was attracting any attention, good bad or indifferent. Not much as it happened.

I stepped into a couple of shops, felt the merchandise, and on a couple of occasions was stopped dead in my tracks by a mirror, a shocking image of a complete stranger I had known my whole life. I drove home, slowly, at the speed limit, savoring things, how my dress was the same shade as some of the leaves, how the heels felt on the cars pedals, how my lipstick tasted.

I fed the dogs, and fixed a bite for myself, relaxed, freshened up the makeup and ultimately drove out to a now defunct gay bar not far from home. I wound up in a lovely old chat with a chap who played clarinet for a living. He was a big fan of early polyphonic music, and possessed an encyclopedic wealth of information about late medieval society that made for really neat conversational fodder, even surrounded by a crowded array of butch leathermen and over-the-top drag queen karaoke enthusiasts.

He asked me, at one point in the evening “Why ….” not finishing the sentence but indicating with an up and down hand gesture that he quite clearly meant, “Why are you, seemingly well adjusted and charming person, wearing a dress?”

"I do not know. But it feels good".

So here we are, friends, 2 years to the day later. I have come closer to the always receding horizon of “why”, and have come surprisingly far from fear of what I might find out by honestly asking myself the question. These two things are of enormous value to me. And so even as I wallow in my drabness on this day, I have many happy thoughts about Halloween.

We all need a little help here and there. You may be at a place in your life where the help, the cover, the license that Halloween provides is useful to you. Go ahead and use it. No trick. All treat.

Happy Halloween.

Oct 28, 2010

She’s the Day

I do a good bit of anticipating and planning for days out en Femme. My predisposition for probity serves me well in much of my personal and business lives, as well as in my Voyages en Rose too. Forethought eliminates risk, and with risk eliminated, one can put more of ones mind “into the moment” and really take value from those moments. This helps me process things in the aftermath of a nice day en Femme, and I think that shows in blog posts that come up after the make up comes off.

Typically, I plan quite privately, and don’t provide kind readers with much of a glimpse of thigh as to what is in the works, but today, I am going to give you a flirty peek at a planning process that has just started up.

First off, a little credit and some background on the precipitators of the now scheduled outing. Meg Winters, created her blog,
Call Me Meg earlier this year to chronicle the planning and execution of an ambitious project, flying en Femme. Her plan was to create the document, and then leave off the blogging when done. Happily, blogging is just as habit forming as Cross Dressing, and so Meg has continued to share her exploits. If you have not followed her, please do. If you want to see first rate project management skills at work, she is a wonder.

Presently, Meg is putting the final touches on her project to appear in The National Mall on Saturday as Senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell at the Stewart/Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity / March to Keep Fear Alive events this weekend. Nice. Touché, quelle finesse! Mrs. Bellejambes and myself contemplated going to DC for the weekend, but ya know, things just got in the way. So we will catch it all on the tube. I will certainly keep an eye out for beautiful standard bearers of the (other) T-Party. Go Meg.

To make up for my absence from this event, I have decided to attend a rally with a slightly different take on Sanity and Fear on 9 November called “
Seize the Day”. Within the cavernous Phillips Arena in Atlanta a star studded roster of motivational speakers will assemble to deliver some good old timey words of inspiration to, well, to people who go in for that sort of thing.

Bill O’Reilly, Ben Stein and Terry Bradshaw are amongst the media celebrity crowd. There are a good number of personal, financial, and spiritual mavens too, A-List no doubt in their worlds but unknown to mine. I do have something greatly prized in common with the headline speaker though:

Sarah Palin and I both wear a size 4.

So, yes, there crowd will number in the 1000’s, and editorially, the content will generally lean to positivity, hope, thrift, hard work, belief in the self, love for neighbor and devotion to family, things I value. Really, I do. I suspect furthermore that there will be periodic mentions of Divine Will and commentary on precisely what The Creator wants of us. Living in a glass house as I do, I can let that stuff go without much fuss.

I don't know for certain, and it is not my way to pre-judge things, but given the relatively small and uniform social spectra represented by the speakers (including former American First Lady, Laura Bush) it is quite likely that there will be a few spoonfuls of "Red State Red Meat" social messaging served up that does not agree well with my political palate or settle very happily in my belly. I share this information with you very guardedly dear friends. Voyages en Rose is not about politics.

Presuming that the planning comes together and that my clients do not rain down crises on or about the 9th, I suspect that my journalistic observations will, however, reveal a good amount of my own sympathies, and perhaps some antipathies for views that are very near and dear to some of you. This may offend or upset. No apologies before or after if that is the case. Our freedom to hold divergent views is foundational to our ability to wear, well divergent foundation garments too. Behold: I celebrate diversity.

And really, at this point in the planning, I am hoping that most of what I write about will be fashion oriented. My iPad and I will be tapping out notes, as long as my feet hold out, on the general appearance of the maddened and gladdened crowds. I expect as well that I will totter in to a handful of interesting interactions with rally attendees. I am especially looking forward to chatting up strangers with great taste in accessories. Pashmina scarves and really high end bags will be my beacons. Believe me when I tell you that I am expecting to meet some really nice people. In truth too, I am expecting to freak out a couple of them.

Making an omlette here people. Gonna break some eggs.

And so the planning begins. There is a coupon code in fine print on the publicity billboards that drives the price of admission down to $20.00 from $100.00. Must make note of that code this afternoon.

I believe it will be entirely fitting for the event if I secure some new hair that I can pile up high, and find a pair of smart-girl glasses too.

I will then, swing open the closet doors and Seize the Skirt most likely to help me Seize the Day, and hopefully in higher style than all the other ladies in the room, Ms. Sarah included.

I will keep you posted.

Oct 25, 2010

I blame Yvonne Elliman.

Many Voyages en Rose readers are lovers of music. I know this from reading your blogs, and from the odd bit of private correspondence with you. Me too. This lifelong love transcends format (45’s, LP’s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s, MP3’s etc) and genre. From Albinoni to Zevon, preference and predispositions do not readily emerge, and a quick flip through my stacks reveals either refined broad-mindedness or borderline schizophrenia depending on your own muscial points of view.

On the whole though, songs with lyrical content are the songs I go back to. I do like stories after all.

The musical stories that drive most expertly, persistently and deeply into my thinking and feeling are the ones that women sing, expressing their experience, from their perspective, and typically in response to some generalized shortcoming or specific fuck-up doled out by a guy.

And yeah, this goes back to Yvonne Elliman. I first heard her perform on the 1970 pre-Broadway opening recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. For the sonority and range of her voice of course, such a gorgeous instrument she possessed then, and probably still today. This 8 year old didn’t have the language to describe the music, but I had all the instincts I needed to be moved by it, to be riveted in place by it

Her voice, paired with with Tim Rice’s lyrics in “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” carried a depth of feeling, an honestly, a fully expressed emotion, that was startling to me. Freely admitted confusion, an understanding of her own weaknesses and worst potentials, complexity, hope, despair, the whole shootin’ works in a 3 minute masterpiece portrait of the full spectrum of human emotion, from high to low.

This stood in marked contrast from such then popular male vocal efforts as Tony Orlando’sKnock Three Times” and the Archies truly lamentable multi-platinum tribute to all that is transparent, shallow and water soluble, “Sugar, Sugar”.

It was a golden musical era. Female songwriters were getting a shot at telling their own stories on their own terms. Janis Joplin hurled pieces of her heart at us. Carole King made the earth move beneath our feet. Carly Simon called out our vanity for what it was and told the world. Yes, of course, there were many gifted male songwriters doing deeply revealing, sensitive personal stuff (all due praise to Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, and Neil Diamond), and countless songs by chaps that remain potent today.

With that said though, I felt then, and still today, that much of the masculine emotion revealed in song was expressed, at least in part, in the service of getting laid. Soon. Now preferably. And would it kill you, O mighty Creator, to serve me up twins? Do this righteous dude a solid would you?

The female lyrics however seemed enlisted in the service of something of more lasting value. They seemed as to tap in to the wellspring of endurance and patience that women possess as a matter of survival, and nurtured in beautiful contrast to common masculine survival virtues.

I listened so closely to those songs as well because, dammit the women just sounded flat out disappointed by some guy, and by logical extension, me. I felt in some way responsible for the hurt, confusion, despair and weariness expressed in song. Perhaps, if just given a chance, I could make it all right.

O, there was so much to make right too. Guys were clearly capable of and perhaps mission driven to discover new frontiers of insensitivity. The hits just kept coming, the weariness started showing in more unpolished voices, and blown over gaping acoustical apertures, exposed nerves, cracking and creaking, with raw broken china scratchiness, Marianne Faithful, Stevie Nicks, Linda Thompson and Patty Smith.

My 80’s begin with Rickie Lee Jones, end with Sinead O’Cononor, and were punctuated along the way by Kate Bush and k.d. lang, each capable of stamping a nearly toxic dose of honesty, hope and hurt into a 3 minute tune, each terrific long form story tellers too, and each in their way a trailbreaking affront to rock-chick beauty standards.

Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Bjork, Natalie Merchant, Liz Phair, Aimee Mann and too many to name made the relative absence of male singer/songwriters the musical non-event of the 90’s. In hindsight, the guys contribution was simply not required. Beautiful, attractive performers, feminine, unashamed of their sexuality, self aware, easy on the eyes, easier on the ears, and happy to challenge your thinking about exactly what women were thinking.

Musically, the ‘Aughts and our current decade are, for me, mirroring and perhaps anticipating a broader change in society. Our beauty definitions have changed, Cougars prowl with quiet certainty in the beauty of experience. Musically too, the kids have left the nest and the mother is still possessed of a confident come-hither look. Lucinda and Emmylou, Patty Griffin, and yes, god bless her hopeful heart the still radiant Mavis Staples hits the studio and jumps on a tour bus in her 70’s.

These lives and stories, expressed in song have for me always revealed a different view of life. They possess a luring complexity, intricacy, deeper and different learnings taken from the seen and felt world, and have been just as potent a lure to my own curiosity about a woman’s experience as her clothing and appearance.

And so, yes I blame Yvonne Elliman. I thank her too. Whose praises do you sing?

Oct 22, 2010

Cross Dressing Senses: Sound Edition

Sight and Touch are two of the five Senses easily alighted when you dress well for a special occasion. Fashion-hungry female readers of Voyages en Rose know this as well as (or better than) periodic Cross Dressers. We, all of us though, have other Senses, hungry ones too who get a little less attention from wardrobe elements. Today’s essay has to do with one of the Senses less obviously catered to, the Sense of Sound, and is written for anyone with the precious and all too fleeting gift of hearing.


The other day, a new threshold of experience was attained, just then, fully dressed in the quiet moments before taking the air en Femme.

The skirt I had selected for the day was typical in terms of shape: a black, slim and fitted pencil cut, back-zipped and slit, seated quite high on the waist, and cut a couple of inches above the knee. This skirt, in black leather, is an assertive, highly visible fashion statement that never fails to seize my attention when I see a woman so outfitted. This is a look certain to rivet the attention of the female set too. Watch for it the next time you see a leather skirt, pay mind to the reactions of other women in the room. The leather skirt gets seen. Reactions on the faces and given voice to ranging from “you bitch, you look great” to pensive admiration, to puritanical disdain at such a daring outfit.

Again, driven in part by envy as I am, I have long wanted to stand in the eye of this little storm system. I did, just last week, find a day-appropriate leather (ok, synthetic pleather) skirt at Macy’s. With a couple of coupons and great luck in the clearance rack I managed the heist for a mere $21.00 down from $80.00. I need yet another shortish black skirt like I need toilet tissue on my heel, but leather was, I felt, underrepresented in my wardrobe. So there.

She fits perfectly and has the impact on posture, movement and stride that one expects from a well fitted skirt, but it came with an added, unexpected, and delightful bonus. Like any tailored skirt, it has a slick lining (acetate in this case) that facilitates comfort, a smooth exterior finish and relative ease of motion.

The lining being moored to a completely inelastic skirt exterior though, taken with the real restriction on stride length inherent in the figure hugging cut created a Sound, a gorgeous, upper case "S", Sound that provided me with one of the most rewarding sensory pay-offs from these years of self examination and wardrobe exploration: The soft, subtle and unmistakable swish of sleek lining across nyloned thigh. An absolute Choir of Hushed Angels between my knees.


The skirt guards against lengthening of step, or hurrying from Point A to Point B. In fact, making any distance with a modicum of grace necessitates much more swiveling of hip, shifting of rump, and tightly circling thigh than any other garment I possess. One is encouraged to adopt the exaggerated prowlish motion of the catwalk. This walk, dear friends, is not an affectation: it is a practical imperative. And it amplifies the Sound.

Swish, swish.

These soft woodwind notes join the percussive meter of the stiletto heel on hardwoods, tiles and pavements in a satisfying swell of music. Dramatic punctuations from the brass section herald such movements as the ascent up and on to the leather upholstered car seat, derriere first, with knee-locked legs swinging in behind. The sizzling crescendo when sinking deeply on to a couch, or attendant upon straightening the skirt and tucking the blouse, all of it very evident in ones quiet and newly self aware aural center. While others paid some attention to my appearance, I was drenched in this music, a private channel delivered with terrific reception even in a room crowded and buzzing with ambient sound tracks.

Swish, swish, swish.

And to close this small symphony, the dénouement notes, the diminuendo, muffled snare of the zip, sadly undone at the end of the day, heralding the long sibilant slide of skirt from high on hip to pooled at feet. A deflated, briefly sustained and mournful cello grace note from the now formless, collapsed and accordioned skirt signaling the end of a magical, musical performance.

Encore. Bravo. Encore.

If you like music, and you like the look of a nice leather(ish) skirt, I encourage you treat yourself to a little shopping, and to treat your ears to a little night music. There is a positively operatic selection of them online and in stores at Macy's.

And if this fun is not on your program today, I would be so happy if you might share your favorites Sounds of dressing here today in the form of a comment. I’m all ears.
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