Jan 27, 2010

Seven Deadly Cross Dressing Sins

Four of seven blog posts in this first month of our downy-fresh new decade have been chronicles of recent adventures en femme. Happy to share that sort of privileged fun with you, and a photo too when the lens does not fog or crack entirely, but do you know, this is not an editorial or creative direction that I want to run with.

Don’t get me wrong: I have had a blast of late. But the truth is that under normal circumstances there is simply no way I am going to get out as often as I have over the last couple of weeks. Life is damnably busy. More than that though, even if I wanted to be dolled up daily, had the means to swan about town at leisure, and had the time to describe it all in lush detail, I am not sure that I could make it interesting or valuable to you dear friends. Other content is required. It is time, therefore, to prospect, stake and mine a new Cross Dressing literary claim.

I quite accidentally stuck a stilettoed heel into a good rich seam of thought the other day when I found I was in a bother about not getting a great photo of myself taken. I was quite upset at a harmless little camera. I went so far as to recreate my outfit the day after, make-up and all, in the effort to set things right and appear in a good light. After getting the best shot I was capable of, after peeling off all the layers, after soaping off the face, I then spent time fussing over the many images. Dress not sitting flat here, eyes not right there. Legs look gimpy here, grimace on the face there, imperfect and grating in a thousand little ways.

I felt, at moments, that my efforts to take a great photo might be in vain, but it took a while for it to twig that the whole enterprise was actually an exercise of vanity.

Yes, Vanity. One of the Seven Deadly Sins, excessive pride in one's appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, and etc. I did a quick mental inventory of moments of vanity I indulged in of late, and did not need too much reflection to realize I had at least one blog post at the ready.

I then put the rest of The Seven Deadly Sins in a spreadsheet column, and check marks where indicated beside them. Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Sloth, Wrath ... guilty as charged Your Honor!, with mitigating circumstances perhaps, but guilty no doubt.

I will reflect a little here today on Vanity. Perhaps there is a small series available in the rest of our Deadlies. With luck perhaps there will be a payoff, some lesson at the end of it all, or somewhere along the way. Join me sinners, won’t you?

Vanity

Care about ones appearance is good sense and good manners. Pride about ones reputation and capabilities will help one muster the nerve to endure and achieve. Good things yes, but when poured on too heavily, too often, very off-putting to people nearby. There does not seem to be a hard and fast line between the extremes. The virtues of prideful care for how you perceive yourself, and how the world perceives you can decay into vain vice before you know it.

I have always put a good amount of care and thought into my appearance. Clean, pressed, well coordinated, not surprising to people who know me and not alarming to people who do not. I have a signature look in guy life - not fussy or too concerned with the fashion of the moment. It is important to me that people remember what I said, not what I wore. I do not live in expectation of complements. I have pride, yes, but it does not morph into vanity.

Cross Dressing goes a little differently for me though. I am too out for complements, for notice, for validation that I do it well. I dress for it, and cannot get enough of it. I have received some very positive notice, and when it comes, it is intoxicating. There is an addictive quality to that intoxication, and it stings when you don't get a hit. I feel now that this buzz has become more important than it should be.

Wanting this external validation is at odds with how I roll normally, and it troubles me that a behavioral fissure is appearing between my “normal self” and the part-time persona you have come to know a little of here. Wanting the positive notice causes me to preen, and preening is neither gentlemanly or ladylike deportment. Ultimately, it is a set up for disappointment, and I most avowedly do not want to be disappointed either in myself, or in my dressing.

There is an opposite virtue that pairs up nicely with our featured vice: Humility. I think that I should try to pack a little more of that virtue when en femme. I think furthermore, that I am going to feature a little less chit chat here about the outfits, and what sort of notice they get in future posts about my rare and treasured adventures. I am not going to work at posting up snapshots either. You will have seen the look done better on others no doubt. The satisfaction I get from Cross Dressing should come from within, and not be dependant on the flattery of friends and the odd stranger.

Vanity is not pretty, and as much as I want to be pretty, I want less to be petty. The world will be a little more pretty and a little less petty if I focus more on all the nice things that I see, the nice people I meet , and less on what I think the world sees in me.


One sin down, six to go. Your thoughts most welcomed here….

A word about the illustration. Finding a series of pictures of depicting The Seven Deadly Sins in female form was a bit of icing on my creative cake. The artists name is
Marta Dahlig. I know very little about her, other than that she has created a series of pictures that captures my attention fully. I will reach out to her in the hopes that she will not mind my use of her wonderful work here, and hope to present the rest of the series to you over time, and my muse allows.

Happy, vanity-free dressing, and everything else…

Jan 25, 2010

Megalon vs. The Cross Dressed School Girls

With no pleasant company to distract and engage me at home, I took an evening out this weekend at the urging of friends at Paris in Decatur. OK, my dogs are compelling, delightful really, but here is what they were competing against:

“Petra, come to Sukiban (pronounced soo-KEE-bonn) on the 23rd. It’s a Tranny-Drag-Japanese Anime themed party night with a little burlesque thrown in. You’ll have a blast!”


This from Travis, proprietor of Paris a couple of weeks ago.

It sounded like an evening at which my typical day-appropriate fashion fare might not endear me to the environment. I knew I did not have the kit or the skills to run with the over-the-top Asian superhero/school-girl set, and so opted for a more generic youthful, able-bodied American nightclubber-chick look.

L’ensemble as follows: The American Apparel
Turtleneck Dress over the Wolford Lines Tights slid in to the pointy, spiky 4" Nine West pumps all wrapped up in the I.N.C. leopard trench. Even with the smokiest eyes I could plaster on, lots of big flashy bling and a hemline 8” above the knee, I suspected I would be on the dullish end of the spectacle spectrum. I was correct.

I mean Holy Kimono Batgirl, what a mad parade. Hand painted fans sprang from tsunami-swept up-do’s, neon eye shadow glared out from alabaster faces, falsies clung for dear life to flimsy floral perches, and all this before even clearing the front door. There was some of the same class of fashion fun peppered here and there within, but on the whole the room just looked like a really good trail mix of regular folk. All orientations, ages and a good spectrum of complexions were out for the fun and looking forward to a good show. Some dressed for excess, but most for comfort.

Amongst the gathered were Phoebe and Heather, stalwarts of the local
Tri-Ess chapter, with 6 or 8 sorority mates in tow. On the whole, the ladies were as nice and friendly a bunch as any random sampling of people with slightly pinched toes would be. Lots of small talk …how do you do’s, love the shoes, what do you do’s and etc. and some jostling for chairs and scarce bar front real estate as the club filled steadily up.

For entertainment, the lovely
Bianca Nicole (pictured, below) was the headliner, and following quickly on the high heels of a pale and pretty Balinese dancer with 6” nails whose name sadly eludes me now.The Emcee whipped the crowd into a frenzy for Bianca who clearly puts a lot of love into her work. Impressive of appearance and fleet of foot, her lip synching was first rate. Tributes in the form of paper currency were encouraged, and so I waded up to the foot of the stage to tuck a tip into her remarkably lush d├ęcolletage. I never was much of a fan of strip clubs, and will confess to a moment of doubt as I made contact ... was this all just a tad familiar …? Evidently not. She tendered a graceful double-cheek air kiss and did not skip a beat. A total pro.

And a gorgeous one too. After her gig, she was back in jeans and a simple top, just glowing naturally at the bar. I could not not say hello and say a kind work or two about her performance. Perhaps it was that I was wearing a dress, but I completely mislaid my natural generous-guy impulse to buy a girl a drink, or at least put the offer out there. Daft and graceless. Must pay closer attention next time.

There was a lovely cast of characters met over the course of the evening. Travis, I loved the pink fishnets and tutu, thanks to the cashier with shopping tips for glitter eye make-up, and Susan it was great seeing you behind the bar again: Thanks for the nice words. Most charmingly of all I think though was Santa Claus. Yes, the most absolutely perfect Santa look alike was out of uniform and out for a night on the town in off-season denim drab. He went out of his way to tell me he thought I had great legs. I was flattered, of course, but wondered whether Santa was interested in a certain chimney, but in all likelihood he was just expressing an innocent and natural professional interest in stockings. God bless you Santa.

I could have stayed longer, but it seems with the years I am better able to avoid the cocktail of no-return, the poorly judged fork in the road that makes a late night too, too late for anyones good. I was home for mid-night and a vain (in every sense of the word) attempt to get a good photo taken. Not a AA battery in the house, and so the real camera was out of commission. I did what I could with the iPhone: please forgive the blurry and poorly lit results. The fending off paparazzi pose was the best I could muster. I promise to recreate the look in the not too distant future and do better justice to the outfit.

I’ll be meeting Mrs. B at the airport at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Can’t wait.

See you all later.


Update: Mrs. B is home safe! And I did manage to get a good (ok, better) shot of the outfit done. Presented for your viewing pleasure here....

Jan 22, 2010

Broad Daylight

Here on my voicemail late Monday afternoon:

“There is a show I think you want to see tomorrow. Miss Edie is playing between 12:00 and 2:00 at The Heretic …”

This surprised me, you see my friend is not a real night owl, and Tuesday is a school night after all.

“ … and the lunch buffet is free!”

Lunch? Now I was entirely bumfuzzled. Mid-week, mid-day, drag musical cabaret? Atlanta is a blue town in a red state, yes, but this was beyond blue. I cannot name the color. Now, I know a lady never accepts a late invitation, but dammit my curiosity did get the better of me. I burned some midnight oil and set the alarm for a brutally early hour to move the paying work out of the way. At 10ish, I started dressing, and was en scene, en femme, just moments after noon to meet our local Angel of Transformation Ramona, and two of her more dedicated acolytes, Barbara and Debbie.

After a long spell of dreary weather, Tuesday was one of those crystal clear sky, sun drenched Atlanta January days (64f, 18c) that just puts a smile on every face. Walking from the bright outdoors into the darkish confines of The Heretics’ foyer was a challenge to the eyes, and I more or less blundered directly into the ample bosom of Sue Nami, who, as it happens, was one of the days performers. Guitar strums and a sweet, sweet voice that could have been Willie Nelson’s, but in fact belonged to the legendary Miss Edie wafted in from the main bar-room.

Miss Edie had white knee-high lace up hooker boots (no Lucite platform, but otherwise regulation streetwalker gear), a red leather skirt and a pleasant white blouse behind the guitar. She played and sang like a dream, walking from table to table, pulling out Chris Kristofferson and James Taylor numbers like chocolates from a silver dish.

The bar was packed, not a stool open. At noon. Not midnight, noon. Tuesday. Not Saturday, Tuesday.

And there is me (l'ensemble pictured below) in the shortish black Bisou Bisou skirt, a camisoled lace top from I.N.C., the Calvin Klein Zig-Zag opaque tights (pictured left). Each piece was deeply, deeply discounted, and the whole outfit came together for a few pennies under $40.00. It helps to be able to finish the look with some choice bling from Mrs. B’s permanent collection. (Hi honey! Everything is back in one piece! Miss you!).

Yes, the love of my life is out of town for a little while, and being solely in charge of our humble estate is trying, so I have allowed myself a couple of indulgences this last little while (ed. Yes m'dear, I fired the yard crew).

With introductions made to Barbara and Debbie, we made small talk, and I watched in alarm as mid-day Margueritas were drained. I have done that before, and never managed to make a full or useful enterprise out of the day. Beer for me, which seemed to suit the butch decor of the joint. Barbara, proudly in her 70’s and looking much younger, had left New York 20 years ago, but kept a Long Island accent and attitude with her though what sounds like a life of full-time leisure, part-time en femme. Bless her heart.

Debbie was a bit quieter, and said she knew me by reputation, not from this blog, but on the word of a friend who suggested she should look me up for advice on how to break Cross Dressing truths to ones wife. Word gets out I suppose. We talked quite seriously for some time. It puts my belly in knots thinking about how difficult an exercise this is, and how necessary it is ultimately. Good luck Debbie. You know what to do.

With that done, and a sunny deck beckoning I took a walk outside to revel in the day. There were some much younger people doing what I used to do when I was a 20-something and had a little time on hand: finding a party.

As I walked into the light, this from the pretty girl with the big starlet “don’t-talk-to-me” sunglasses:

"That top is SO F#@KING HOT!! "

Now, a complement from a fellow Cross Dresser is one thing friends: we are a largely supportive flock. Getting a shout-out from a stylish natural born woman though, well that tells me that my fashion darts are hitting bulls-eye. Linle, (pronounced Lynn-Lee), beer in hand and pleasantly buzzed was there with her boyfriend and just wallowing in the demented fun. We talked shopping for a couple of minutes and she confessed to ownership of more than 200 pairs of shoes. I am glad we didn’t hug, that sort of mania might be infectious. The young couple agreed that this party was the very ground zero of cool, and a perfect launch pad for an afternoon of radio controlled car mayhem in Piedmont Park. Not a care in the world. I do miss some elements of youth, yes.

Miss Edie joined me and shared some of her secrets to long life (another beauty proudly in her 70’s), and spelled out some really impressive biographical detail. Amongst many work and play commitments, she does a good amount of outreach with post-grad level psych students, helping future generations of mental health professionals better understand the lives of the Cross Dresser and other special people. She, like me, loves Willie Nelson and vintage musical instruments. She spoke reverently about her many guitars, including the 1970 Gretsch, the only one she considers to have a male personality.

Sue Nami was on the electronic keyboard by the time I came back in, and was pounding out beautiful, full throated show tunes and southern spirituals while our odd congregation sang along, arms waving, bar napkins fluttering, hallelujahs hollered and all. Did I mention that it was still daytime?

Sue took a break from the piano. Her feet were killing her. She had worn flats that day in the effort to be a little less over-the-top (Sue is a natural 6’’4”), and really feels much more comfortable in heels. Poor lamb.

Soon it was time to pack it off back home, with much of real life to attend to. I must say I was delighted to be able to engineer the day favorably and participate in this unexpected treasure of an outing. The staff at The Heretic were super friendly and welcoming, the entertainment first rate, the company sparkling and the day just generally perfect.

And believe it or not, Sue and Edie do this gig twice monthly. I will be back for certain.


I hope you all find something fun this weekend.

Jan 20, 2010

After the M.A.C. Attack

I do hope readers will forgive me. Here I am, a busy week later recollecting events at a too slothful pace. Undoubtedly the contents of my mental purse will topple out crazily, and I will lose some of the pretty details. Too busy with the rest of life I suppose. Nevertheless, when I hit the pause button on last weeks trip out for a little facial treatment, I was just strolling out into Lennox Square, looking pretty well in my estimation. At the very least I was feeling well. Lets rejoin the moment here now.

Shoes are all important, and while I do have a penchant for a perilously perched pair 4 inchers (love what they do for the calves you know) I had my mall-ready 3” closed foot pumps, easy on the hard tile floors and for the long distances ahead. The rest of the ensemble, DK sheers, a very high waist stretch lace skirt, and my old favorite Danskin body suit, back-zip turtleneck top. Clingy would be the correct adjective.

Toute l’ensemble is pictured below. Please be kind. I am not much of a photographer, for starters. Take that truth, add a new camera with a flash with a mind of its own, a moody timer mechanism, impossibly small operating buttons, me hampered by false nails, and the results are predictable. I even managed to make myself look like I have a belly, which friends would tell you is simply not the case. And the smile, someday I will learn, I promise.

First stop, Neiman Marcus. Now don’t think for a moment that I am on this kind of a budget, but I must say the aisles here are wide, and the shop is never too, too crowded. This is a great setting to get into the moment, and really fully occupy your best feminine mind-space before really wading out into the busy world. Plus, they do have very nice things there, and not all of them requiring a 2nd or 3rd mortgage.

For instance, the highly desirable Wolford Flora Tights (pictured right), which typically retail at $55.00. I managed to pinch a pair for a mere $19.00, and had a nice chat with sales assistant about leg wear and maintaining ones appearance in the midst of a sad economic decline. Courage my dears.

Now friends there is a lesson – do pay attention here: If you want a little more comfort and ease swanning around in a mall en femme, I can tell you from personal experience that having a needlessly big
Neiman Marcus bag slung over your shoulder goes a good long way. This is the shopping equivalent of spinning up to the valet station in a Bentley I suppose. I felt good before. Now, I felt bulletproof.

A little scour of
Ann Taylor yielded nothing from the racks, but pure gold from a human interaction perspective. The unfairly beautiful sales assistant, six feet tall in socks at least, and happily perched on the 4” pumps I referred to earlier, as I was nearing the door on the way out hailed me:

“psssst … your outfit, is that a dress or a skirt”


“skirt, the top is a separate”

“gorgeous. I love it!”.

Well, we simply had to chat. She was surprised to learn that the
skirt came from JC Penney, which I took to be a complement, even if the folks at JCP don’t. She was happy to report that the AT spring line was going to be just stuffed with things that she thought I would love and that would look beautiful on me. Just a nice, genuine, warm welcome, which seems the norm at this lovely shop, however I am dressed.

I am not sure though that I could have had an equally easy and natural chat with her in guy mode. This towering African beauty was an absolute stunner. A traffic stopper. "Drab" me would have stammered or perhaps gaped in a daft and offputting way. New discoveries about this cross dressing life it seems are always just around the corner.

The much vaunted Victoria’s Secret Semi Annual sale was either fully picked over, or fully stocked with unwearable, unattractive dreck. Moving quickly on, and towards the exit out of Macy’s. I paused to pull my coat back on." Thanks for visiting Ma’am", in a very friendly way from the Macy’s staffer. My first Ma’am! A milestone of sorts, and one that I think I wish upon you all. It was high time for a glass of wine.

Paris in Decatur is a little bar not too far off from home that, until recently catered to the Lesbian set but, unknown to me, had recently switched current and been reborn as a Gay bar. Welcoming of thirsty and sociable people of all denominations of course, but pretty uniformly male on the evening I dropped in.

Travis, the operator of this fine establishment lamented a little about how difficult it is to create a setting where all the different tribes just get along. It is a shame. I tend to like rooms with variety, but here at least there was entertainment.

A regular Paris Thursday fixture is live karaoke, featuring a super-skilled pianist with an inexhaustible inventory of Great American Songbook standards at the tip of his fingers. Of the half dozen songs I stayed for, at least 4 were performed by guys who really knew how to belt out Gershwin, Rogers and Sondheim, and other personal favorites. No cover charge, just a tip jar for the Piano Man. Superb value.

One of the hosts of the evening was an Elton John impersonator whose voice ran to more octaves than I have shoes. He actually makes a living doing Elton, perhaps not in the way he dreams, but doing Elton nonetheless. We traded notes on music in general and chatted between sets. It was one of those encounters you really can’t plan to put in your life, a little surreal and weirdly natural all at the same time. A professional impersonator chatting with an amateur one.

I am going to make Paris an occasional stop – you simply cannot beat live music, and anyone looking for tips on skin care could do worse than taking notes from a well preserved fellow at an upmarket gay bar. Really, I need all the help I can get. If you do live in Atlanta, go visit. You will feel welcomed. Work on getting a song down well, and some nice man will buy you a drink.


More nice stuff soon.

Happy dressing and everything else…

Jan 18, 2010

Radio Yeah Yeah

I know from correspondence with online friends that many of the gifted and afflicted amongst us have a passion for music. Me too. Music is, for me though, a subset of a bigger passion: sound. While Jerzy Kosinski’s Chauncey Gardiner liked to watch, I like to listen. I like to listen to people especially, but broadly, to practically everything although I do take exception to those endless security warnings at airports. As I write this post I am listening to a custom Pandora (the web site, not the planet) radio station built around the music of the late, great and underappreciated Warren Zevon.

On the radio, I am a National Public Radio junky which I suppose makes me a pinko and a pinky. My favorite hour of programming each week is Ira Glass's entirely unpredictable and beautifully produced This American Life. Brave, funny, intimate and pitch-perfect week in, week out. Sundays @ 6:00 PM on many local affiliates, but archived for your loving convenience online
here.

Last nights program, entitled “
Somewhere Out There” features three vignettes on the broad theme of the miracle that any two people on the planet can meet and find meaning. Act 2 of this 3 part suite features the story of Lilly and Thomasina. Heartbreaking and heartening all at once.

This story will hit home for two groups of readers here. You might belong to both of them:

- people curious about gender and what it reveals about us, and
- people with a pulse and even a small dusting of firing neurons.

There is a wave of youngsters growing up in our wake whose view of the world will be so much different than those of us of a certain age. The world makes slow accommodations to these changes. With all of these societal tectonic forces clashing, there is a lot of heat and steam, hurt and hope at the margins. All of that is so beautifully expressed in this small story that I want to share it with you.

Go make your television jealous this evening and have a listen. I would not lie to you, dear friend. If you do, or if you heard the show last night, drop me a line here with your thoughts.


Thanks - Petra

Jan 16, 2010

Hello, I'm a M.A.C., and I am a CD.

Some years ago, when famed RuPaul wore the ambassadorial sash for M.A.C (Make-up Artists Cosmetics) it was a pretty good signal that this company was brave enough to dramatically differentiate, deviate really, from make-up market norms. M.A.C. is a stridently progressive brand too, and puts its money where its pretty mouth is. Since 1994 they have kicked in north of $135 million to the M.A.C. Aids Fund through sales of their Viva Glam product line. Bravo M.A.C. Goodness can be good for business too. They win a lot of young consumers hearts early, and do much to lock them in for life. M.A.C. locked in an older consumer just last week. I thought I would share the story with you here today.

I gave the nice people at the Lennox Square Macy’s M.A.C. counter a call to book a make-over.

“ ... Sure, terrific, what time are you looking at …. Good, I’ll have someone ready for you. What name do you want this reserved for?”

OK. That was simple and unfussy. Nice. I did up my face with liquid concealer, setting powder (Derma Blend, great stuff), glossed the lips, threw on a little cheek color, wigged up, slid a nice big pair of shades over my undone eyes and hit the road.

Fully padded, dressed and heeled I click clacked in at the appointed time, and was warmly welcomed. My technician was going to be ready in 5 minutes, so I was encouraged to look around, and to take a flip through their look book so that they could get an idea of where exactly I wanted to take my face.

The first thing I noticed looking around was the interior promotion signage: All Ages, All Races, All Sexes. You will note that it does not say “Both Sexes”, it says All Sexes. I think this is the most inclusive statement I have ever seen on a corporate welcome mat. You just know you are in the right place, and not breaking any new ground.

Pratur, our cosmetician for the evening, introduced himself, showed me a chair, and we started talking. Eye treatment was complementary with a $25.00 purchase, and a full facial re-do would run only an additional $25.00. In for a penny, in for a pound says I, and so we trowelled my handiwork off and started from scratch. The shop was buzzing with people, really quite busy. Atlanta based readers will know that there is a pretty thick current of people surging through Lennox practically any time of the day. It was only slightly unnerving to have my clearly unmade guy face pretty much out in the open, but do you know, people just kept shopping and really did not pay any mind.

Eyes first, lashes expertly glued on, liner to my completely deforested lower lash line. A tri-color effect for the upper eye with the objective of achieving smokiness. Objective achieved. Brows now shaped and darkened, and the reapplication of cream base and finishing powder was then engaged. It was at this point that I could see the whole effect really take root, and lost the worry that anyone on the planet could actually recognize me as me.

There was lots of general chit-chat along the way. Pratur moved north to Georgia from Florida so that he could enjoy more seasons. I moved south to Georgia in part so that I could enjoy fewer. He noticed my wedding band, and asked if my wife knew. Yes, and I mentioned it was a tough thing to do, took a long time to find the nerve, and a great relief now. He replied that as a gay man, he had some sensitivity to acceptance and sharing struggles, so there we were, strangers with something different in common.

He finished up with the lips and cheeks, and the effect was to me, the best that has ever been achieved with my raw, raw material. Totally happy, I could not help smiling. And yes, they do want you smiling at this point in the exchange when the shopping starters pistol is fired. They eye shadows, some base cream, and a couple of pencils came out at around $70.00, but there is much more than a good amount of inventory for the investment, and a prettier face for the evening.

I kept my eyes open. I really paid attention to technique. I asked questions, and filed answers. In short, I learned enough to improve my own capabilities by a huge leap. There is a money saver right there.

Make-up has always been my biggest stumbling block. I think I pushed it pretty far off the path on this evening. The department store make up counter has always been on my
Stations of the Cross Dresser list (# 5 out of 14), and was a milestone I made ages ago. This time around though I felt much more in a state of grace with myself, and my dressing. Beyond that, the whole M.A.C vibe is so in tune with the special requirements of my market segment, that this entire experience was a real topper. One more odd customer for life for M.A.C, a nice new face for me, and a prettier world for everyone else. I hope that whatever age, race, or sex you are that you have felt the same way, or will feel inclined to give M.A.C. a chance the next time you want to look your best.

Off into the mall, and on with the evening. More later.

Jan 14, 2010

Pantyhose Parade – High Waist Sheer Combat Round II

As promised in late December here, we move on to the SCC (Sara’s Corporate Conference) featuring an epic intra-brand battle of the bulge between Spanx, and her value priced sibling, Assets by Sara Blakely. To recap the procedure, I go shopping. Then I cast a flinty eye upon my sheer thigh, take copious notes, and apply a series of grades to the product . Finally, I run those numbers through a scoring algorithm of such complexity that steam emerges from my laptop vents and I get a nice facial in. The results are shared with you, dear reader, and I feel as though in some way, I am of service. Perhaps the authorities on my home planet will see this goodness in me, and organize the long promised rescue mission. I do live in hope.

In Round One, Donna Karan notched out Ann Taylor to emerge from the Ivy League Conference a glittering winner. This week, its up and over with the girl who started this whole wonderful trend of shape shifting hosiery, the lovely Sara Blakely. Way back in 2001 Sara really quite single-handedly brought a then revolutionary hosiery product to market designed to flatter both the legs and the butts of their bearer. VPL’s were the enemy, and Sara was relentless in her war. I love that sort of moxie, and really admire people who challenge the status quo. It never hurts if they are completely cute either.

Spanx went from strength to strength, broadened product lines, penetrated the shelves of some upmarket shops, won an endorsement from Oprah, got flashed on numerous occasions by the lovely
Tyra Banks, and really grew a nice little business. This attracted the attention of all sorts of bigger vendors who have shamelessly aped the Spanx approach. I suppose that is how the free market is supposed to work, but that is not my arena of expertise. Personally, I am more in pursuit of a run-free market.

To fuel growth and fend off the catty competition, Spanx created a value line known as Assets by Sara Blakely which today stack the shelves of some more down-market general retailers, notably Target here in the US of A. There is a lot of mirroring and overlap between the 2 product lines which gives us all choice. The choices this week are the All The Way Up! High-Waisted Full-Length Pantyhose (pictured at left) and the Assets Perfect Pantyhose High Waist (below right).

These twisted-yarn sisters share a lot of DNA, so lets speak quickly about what they have in common and how they differ from top to toe. I will now switch up sports metaphor from basketball to tennis. Shared DNA? I think we can think of Spanx as Venus Williams, and Assets as Serena Williams, grappling in a leggy tie-break. Game on.

Waist-band: Similar construction, highly elasticized, non-grip material for both. Let serve. Spanx Love, Assets Love.
Torso reinforcement: Extra belly panel in the Spanx, uniform reinforced hosiery approach in the Assets. Spanx 15, Assets Love.
Gusset: The Spanx have a fully lined, trap-door gusset that facilitates (for some) easier calls of nature and an au naturelle approach to what is worn underneath, while the Assets have a typical, closed cotton panel. Spanx 30, Assets Love
Thigh – Smooth compression to 4” below the crotch line, with a clean, unfussy transition to sheer leg portion. Same, same. Let serve, the game remains Spanx 30, Assets Love
Leg Feel: Spandex Lycra© (15-19%) in aggregate for both, but with slightly distinct finishes and feels. The Spanx are more elastic and really adhere, practically glues to the leg, and do not wick very well. The Assets just feel better to me, both to hand and leg. They are more silky, and glide and give a little more easily. Spanx 30, Assets 15.
Leg Finish: They are both mid-sheer, good looking, somewhat dressy tights, but the Assets look a little better, slightly dressier, just a scooch more polished. They also catch light a touch better, and give off a little glamour and glimmer. Spanx 30, Assets 30.
Toe: Sandal toe for the Spanx, lightly reinforced toe for the Assets. More shoe choices for the pricier pair, longer (theoretical) last for the Assets. I am a closed-toe gal on a budget, so the line judge calls a foot fault on Venus and the point goes to Serena. Spanx 30, Assets 40.
Price: Serving for the game, Assets throws an ace. Spanx were defenseless really, retailing at $28.00 to little sister Assets aggresive $16.00.

Game, set, and match to Assets.

A tennis match is typically closer than the score indicates. My grading machine turned out scores for these products that are the closest that any two pairs of tights have been in 1 year plus of hosiery reviews here. They scored within 0.1% of each other, with the Assets getting the barest margin of victory of all times. I will share all the scores with you at the conclusion of this odd epic.

In the meantime, to the mother of these superb, game-changing prodigies Ms. Blakely, I say sincerely thanks. What pride must be yours.

More will follow including a battle between NCAA (Nice, Cheap, All-American) Conference entries from L’eggs next time in the Pantyhose Parade.

Till then, happy dressing and happy everything else.

Jan 13, 2010

More Log Rolling in High Heels

Long time readers will know that I am in the grip of a fascination, shall we say, with undergarments of the feminine variety. And while nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, I have very crisp pre-natal memories of fashion looks that pre-date Woodstock. I love vintage 50’s – early 60’s styles, inside and out. Put these two things together, and I can go without dessert. Which makes me a very big fan of legendary vintage lingerie maven “Slip of a Girl”. Slip is an accomplished and compulsive blogger with a terrific attitude about (or perhaps a happy indifference to) the gender of people who share her enthusiasm.

Her principal blog (linked above) is a daily pictorial treasure trove of lovely vintage foundation garments for everything from toes to tiara. What she cannot squeeze onto the pages of Slip of a Girl, finds a home on ”
A Tad Too Much Tan for Taupe“. Slip thinks of this blog as “… an insider blog for real fans”. Well that’s me. You too I hope.

In any event, Slip gave me a little virtual curtsey last week when she bestowed the “Glamourous Blog Award” to Voyages en Rose. I practically burst my long line bra with pride. Thanks Slip! Of course the honor comes with responsibilities, which net out to thinking a little bit about glamour, and spreading a similar class of love around to 10 worthy bloggers.

For those of you listed here, I really do not mean to add any work to your busy days, but I encourage you to follow the same protocol. This sort of niceness leaves all sorts of bread crumbs around our too vast blogistan and always have the impact of introducing your regular readers to blogs they may not found without your help. And you know how we all feel about a little spike in traffic and a new follower or two don’t we? So, go ahead, and pick 10 of your own, drop them an email, copy the lovely pic from this post, and give yourself and others a nice pat on the fanny.

So here is my quick 10, first, 6 friends …

Vanessa Law’s
Crossdresser Heaven
Jessica De Leon’s Jessica-Who?
Gabrielle Hermosa’s My CD Life
Claire Delilah Jane’s CDJanie
Tricia Dale’s Three Go Mad in Manchester, and
Jerica Truax’s
The Girl Inside.

And now, 4 fashion specialists

The whole lovely team at
StockinGirl
Mademoiselle Frou-Frou at Frou-Frou Fashionista
Danae and Alison at Knickers Blog, and enfin
James Lillis of Black Fame at
Too Many Tights

These blogs invariably make my days brighter and the whole world just a touch more Glamourous (adore that Queens' English spelling). Thanks to all of you, and especially you Slip!

Lastly, while you are here, if you have not voted in Leslie Ann’s
poll this week, please, pretty please do. She is getting a statistically useful data sample on the question of left-handedness amongst the CD/TG set. Go and be counted!

Happy dressing and everything else...

Jan 11, 2010

The Gifted Cross Dresser

Much to relate, but I have to tell you dear friends that Petra is in a state of flux. Petra of course continues to refer to herself in the 3rd person, so all is not entirely awry, but enough things have changed that she has lost her blog moorings just a tad. (ed. please come back to the first person voice).

First, I have been terribly busy work wise. Most of this is self inflicted. I had ample time in December to dive into a project that I had contracted for, and I frittered the time away. Well, there was the whole sharing my cross dressing with Mrs. Bellejambes, all the holiday activity and etc., but I did lose myself. As a result, Week #1 of the new decade was all catch up. I did happily find the time to maintain one of my resolutions by writing, not from Petra’s perspective, but from a more gender neutral authorial perspective. As I mentioned in my New Years welcome post “
Resolved, Rinse, Repeat”, this too will take time from these Voyages en Rose.

The real roadblock to productivity here is more complex than all that though. This blog has functioned as a terrific vent for pent up feelings, and a platform to give voice to some findings about my embrace of cross dressing. With these true and beautiful things out in the open with my wife though, the impetus to write and share has dampened a bit. There is much that I could write about, but I find myself stymied. The natural course of my story would lead to discussions about how this is all affecting life at home. This is sensitive stuff. I have not figured out the how much, or how to boundaries yet.

You see, in a very real way, this blog is now a shared enterprise. So allow me some time to work on that, while I work on the pressing matters of the real world. That world is very much with us all, and no less for me.

I am happy to share some of the less sensitive and private, more trivial and surface-y things though with you here. Mrs. Bellejambes has done some shopping for me. At Christmas time a small treat from Soma. I was touched beyond words. And a little flattered too, being given credit for a cup size that I do not fill out. A trip was required to sort things out and right size the merchandize. I was solo for the return trip and in drab mode. It took longer than you might think though because the sales assistant who had accessed Mrs. Bellejambes’ purchase record and was having a hard time reconciling in her mind exactly why I had selected a bra that would not fit my wife. Some things are best left unsaid. Mrs. B shops there often and while I do not mind outing myself as a cross dresser to relative strangers, I do not want to out Mrs. B as the spouse of one without her weighing in on the matter.

The
Leesa is pretty, fits beautifully and is on sale friends for a mere $11.99 which is a considerable whack down from the original $42.00 tag.

Just days ago, arms stretched under the weight of a half dozen bags after a routine shopping sortie, she told me there was a little extra treat for me. Lo and behold, a lovely pair of peep toes. They fit like a glove and were a real steal at the Talbots outlet. I am happy to report that myself and the Mrs. share a shoe size. I cannot wait for our first squabble about who has dibs on these beauties.

These two acts of kindness signal a willingness to engage with the full me that is above and beyond the call of duty. I am dazzled by her in new ways it seems each day. This willingness to engage raises the bar for me. I have much to do to continue to earn the understanding and support of my wife.

I will be thinking of those things over the next couple of weeks quietly and to myself. Mrs. B is visiting family overseas. There will be a little Petra time, yes, and perhaps a story or two here. More importantly though, now past the shock and elation of the successful sharing exercise, now past the rush of holiday and business chaos, now in a more contemplative frame of mind, I will be working on how to be a better whole me, a better husband. The blog stuff will be on a low simmer, but you will see me here time to time.

Happy dressing and everything else…
 
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