When I started my transition in 2017 I really struggled to find a style in the high street shops that I felt comfortable with. Suddenly living as a woman brings with it many challenges. To begin with I focused on wearing contemporary clothes and fitting in, I just wanted to be accepted but I really didn’t like the contemporary styles at all, at one point I looked in the mirror and saw skinny jeans and a baggy sweat-shirt and just thought there was no point in transition at all, everything felt wrong.
I found a local boutique that sold vintage style clothes and had the most wonderful afternoon trying dresses on, the lady who worked there was amazingly supportive giving me honest opinions as to what looked good and what didn’t, after about four hours I bought four dresses, two from Collectif, one Hell Bunny and a Lindy Bop. They were so glamourous I wasn’t even sure where I would wear them but I had never worn clothes that made me feel so good in all my life.
In the summer I put on one of the dresses I’d bought and went to the Twinwood Festival and it was like seeing the light on the road to Damascus, everyone was wearing 1940’s and 1950’s vintage outfits, I thought they looked incredible so stylish, glamourous and feminine, I was dumb struck. I just knew this was the look I identified with but I had no idea what was going to come.
I quickly started shopping for the retro and reproduction brands, everyone in the shops was incredibly supportive and helpful especially Collectif and Vivien of Holloway. I have never been treated badly or made to feel inferior in a vintage shop or fair, all the staff and sellers are wonderful and I consider many as my friends now. Soon my wardrobe was full of vintage style clothes. One of the most important things I learnt is to dress to flatter your body shape, like most women I know I hate my body it doesn’t have the curves I want but I am quite thin so I try to emphasise the waist by wearing tight wasted outfits, tuck tops in if they are baggy and use belts to create definition.
By chance I met Lisa Luna Hawkins who started the Collectif Love group, in Collectif of course (it was practically my second home), we got chatting and I said wouldn’t it be lovely if some of us could meet up so I started organising meet ups, we’ve had quite a few now, usually between ten and twenty of us, lunch, a few hours in our favourite shop then cocktails, the shop even lays on drinks and snacks, they really have been wonderful. I’ve made such good friends with the Collectif girls we jokingly call ourselves the Collectifettes!
Last September I had a day in Southend and spent most of it in Rockamilly, I had such a fabulous time, I can’t tell you how many outfits I tried on but they were all fabulous, Stacie was so helpful with lots of advice and even took photos in front of the beautiful flower wall. I bought a lovely dress and a coat, I also bought my first Erstwilder Brooch and at the end of the year I had to come back for a lovely Flapper style dress for a 1920’s vintage dance.
Vintage has become so much more to me than clothes, it has given me a sense of myself as a woman, allowing me to express my femininity in a way I feel comfortable even though ironically I stand out in a crowd more than ever but I like to hope it’s because I look fabulous! People are always going to stare at a Trans person but I feel more able to deal with it now. Trans people simply want to be recognised as the gender they feel, very simple really, don’t stare say hello, I’m very friendly.
Vintage has brought me the most wonderful circle of friends and coupled with Swing Dancing that I took up two years ago the most incredible social life, more than I ever dreamed possible. My biggest fear in transitioning was being accepted by women but the love and support I have had from this community has completely overwhelmed me (it’s bringing tears to my eyes just writing this down).
As a Trans Gender Woman I suffer with Gender Dysphoria this can act like depression, it makes you fearful and anxious of the world, I often want to hide away but every day I choose an outfit to wear, trying to coordinate my wardrobe and accessories in different ways every day, I take a photo of myself in the outfit and post in the various Facebook groups I’m in. I can’t easily explain how therapeutic and healing this process is. I didn’t have an easy journey to be me but I can be joyous that I am me and that joy seems to explode through my outfit photos in what my friends have come to call the “Melody Pose”.
It took about two years to grow my hair longer and recently I started posting in the Facebook group Vintage Up dos for Modern Girls. Hair has been the one part I couldn’t do vintage wearing modern wigs but now I am learning to do wet sets and up dos, I’ve even had my hair dyed Copper Red to give the best approximation of the wonderful Rita Hayworth I can possibly do.
Last year I went to Twinwood for the third year and I could not believe just how many people said hello and chatted because they enjoy my Facebook posts, people really seem to identify with and connect to the joy I like to share. I truly feel the vintage community has become my place, a place where all women support one and other and I feel safe and loved. Vintage style, dancing and the community is simply everything to me.
Love Melody x