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Dressing Up — With The Occasional Woman

| Dec 30, 2013
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A hearty hello and compliments of the season to all you ladies out there. I am Lorraine Anderson, A.K.A. The Occasional Woman. My business is making sure YOU look good, and your clothes fit. I make clothing and costumes for the crossdressing and transgender community, and will also alter your wearables. I have been asked by the lovely (and infamous) Angela Gardner to write a monthly column on clothing, dressing, fit and style.

I thought I would start with some basic clothing terminology and my own insights — as I am assuming many of you did not have the double-edged sword of a mom saying “You are not leaving the house like that, young lady!” I will endeavor to take on that role. First, some definitions and suggestions!

no-white-brasFirst off, one must have the proper undergarments. It’s like the chassis on a car, or the framework of a house — if the understructure isn’t right, what is on top won’t look or be right. We start with a well-fitting bra. It should never ride up in back — that means it is too big or just worn out! It won’t do the job of keeping “the girls” perky and in the right neighborhood. A correct bra wraps snugly around the ribcage just below the actual breasts, containing whatever you have that needs containment. And — let’s get rid of WHITE BRAS! Brassieres should be either skin color, black or whatever matches the outer garment. (Or red.)

A slip is an undergarment that keeps a dress or outfit, if unlined, from clinging to you in an unsightly manner. It allows your outer garment to glide cheerfully over you, and can be nice and slimming. They come in full slips with straps, or as half-slips, which look like anemic skirts.

Hosiery: Never go too light — it makes your legs look bigger and weirder. Do NOT make the mistake of wearing white pantyhose, unless you are prepared to give someone CPR or perform the Heimlich Maneuver. White stockings are for nurses, or people dressing up as George Washington.

Now, some definitions.


Click for larger view.

Sheath (Click for larger view)

A sheath is a basic straight dress, without sleeves or a waist. Looks best on the less-curvy figure, unless you are Sofia Vergara. She looks great in anything.

An empire waist dress has a short bodice (the top part) that ends just below the bust line. It then proceeds down to have a skirt attached. This is particularly attractive on a medium-busted person, and can camouflage a tummy that is a bit more generous.

Empire dress

Empire dress

A shirtwaist in an old term for a dress that has a very defined waist. A skater dress is kind of an updated version — 1950s housewives were frequently portrayed vacuuming in the shirtwaist with a giant puffy skirt and pearls; the skater dress is more form-fitting and has a sassy little skirt on it. Adorable, especially if you have an “hourglass” figure.


Shirtwaist dress

A drop-waist dress has a long bodice, coming to about 6-10 inches below the waist. Think 1920s “flapper” dress. They are good for the more straight up and down figure.


Drop-waist dress

A gown or formal is a fancy long dress. Whee!





a line skirt

a-line skirt

An a-line is a universally flattering cut, fitting well at the waist and then flaring out a bit. This skirt is generally worn at or just above the knee.

pencil skirt

pencil skirt

Pencil skirt — this one fits close and tight! They frequently have a built-in slit at the back, so one can walk without hobbling. If it cups the butt too tight, it can look rather ho-ish — which is fine, if that is the look one is going for. If you want to look chic and classy, go a size up and let it skim the figure. Your choice!

A peasant skirt is very full and long — think Woodstock, or last century Romania. Cute for a Phish concert, but if it is too bright and patterned, and you are not a wispy girl, you do run the risk of looking like a billboard.

A mini skirt is short and either sassy or hookery. It’s up to the individual.
A midi skirt is long, between calf-length and a bit longer, best worn with some snazzy boots.


A blouse

A blouse

Blouse is a term for a less casual top — they often have fill sleeves, cuffs and a collar and buttons.

A knit top is usually more light-hearted, like a grown-up T-shirt.

A shell is a straight sleeveless top, most often worn under a suit.

A sweater is, well, a sweater. Unless it is a dress, in which case, it is a sweater-dress.

A jumper

A jumper

A jumper is a sleeveless dress, meant to be worn with a blouse or top under it, unless you are in England — then a jumper is a sweater. (Editor’s Note: The jumper style is called a pinafore in the U.K.)

Sweatpants should only be worn at home, in a gym or while painting things. Or raking leaves, or going to the emergency room.

A cowl neck is akin to a long, loose turtleneck — and it can hide a multitude of sins!

Today’s Tip

By far, the most important way to make you and anything you wear look wonderful is to simply stand up straight, and be proud of yourself — this will make even a burlap sack look 95% better!

Thank you for your reading, and your interest in looking your best!


Lorraine Anderson
The Occasional Woman — One of a Kind Dresses
for the Once in a While Woman

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Category: Style, Transgender Fashion, Transgender How To

The Occasional Woman

About the Author ()

I am a native Californian who has been based in the Philadelphia area since 1984. My first CD fashion creation was a gold lamé dress for the now esteemed editor of this publication. Since then I have made tons of fabulous frocks and other fashion apparel for the crossdressing and transgender community. Contact me for custom clothing or alterations via email: Visit my Facebook page, @alterationsbylorraine

Comments (5)

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  1. tasidevil tasidevil says:

    Hi Lorraine,

    I always love to read comments to a column like yours as it helps me understand where I need to go as a fashion blogger and actually how difficult it can be to let people know where information is to be found. We have an extensive section in Sister House on all about fabrics ( and actually a section on how to wear everything from a pencil skirt to a scarf ( And thank you, Helene. Guess I need to add “jumper” to my fashion glossary ( Actually I have a denim jumper with a long sleeve red shirt that is comfortable and feminine….just love it. I’ll have to check if my on-site translator knows the difference between an American and a British jumper 🙂

  2. Lorraine

    Firstly Happy New Year!

    It was quite refreshing to read such straightforward and good advice on the basics of clothing for male to female cross-dressers. I also enjoyed your humorous approach as you generously shared your knowledge.

    I can admit I was initially confused by the jumper dress as I’m in Scotland then read your note on translation for the UK 🙂

    I feel vindicated by your advice on bra colours having tried for many years to dissuade other cross-dressers from choosing white bras, thank you for saying it with firm authority.

    I look forward to reading more of your advice.

    Bye – Helene Barclay x

  3. Suzanne0557 Suzanne0557 says:

    Thanks for the basics. Very helpful for we had no training in the finer things.

  4. Useful information, and I love the tongue-in-cheek comments – they made me laugh, and I’m all for that!

  5. besweet besweet says:

    Lorraine, thank you so much for your very informative column. These basic terms are most helpful to the community. I’ve suggested a column that explains fabric terms, what they feel like and what they do (or don’t do) for our figures – maybe care problems with each fabric type. This topic may spread over a number of columns, I would think. I bet you’d be the best contributor to handle this subject. What do you think? Thanks! LYNDA

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