Here’s an e-mail I recently received from a dapperQ that expresses feelings common to those of us who don’t feel comfortable in either the men’s department or the women’s department of our local department store:
I hate going shopping in person so much that I never do it anymore. In fact, I haven’t, basically, since I was a teenager. I depended for major purchases on the help/advice of my mom, who, predictably, gave me ambivalent help getting what I actually wanted–at best.
While dapperQ is teaching me many of the implicit tricks to buying clothes and dressing myself, I can still be paralyzed with fear: fear of going alone to a new place, fear of the difficulty of asking for what I want from people I don’t know–fears I don’t understand, since I’m a proud and visible butch.
Shopping online is a safe haven for me, but it limits what I buy to what I’m already looking for, and without the chance to try things on (another psychological hurdle for me), there’s a high rate of things not quite fitting.
Over several Tweets @sloppydelicious wrote: It helps to build a memory of positive butch shopping experiences. One time that I was nervous buying boxers but then the cashier got positively excited about my selection. And, kinda obvious, but network with other masculine-o’-center folk about places to shop that are welcoming.
@hardcorps80204 wrote: Depends “why” the terror. But taking friends who like to shop (perhaps gay male variety) can make it more fun.
@mrkate sent in some great advice that I asked her to expand, dear reader. So with no further ado, Mr. Kate says…
My best and most trusted advice for you: take someone with you (not your mother!), possibly someone else who identifies masculine of center, who can provide solidarity and clothing critique. My pseudo sibling and fellow dapper dresser has been the best thing to happen to shopping expeditions for me since I could buy my own clothes. It is amazing how something that’s scary and paralyzing can become less so when you take someone who is actively supportive with you. Just yesterday I took my own advice and took my pseudo sibling with me down to our local suit shop because I was looking for a tux shirt. (Mr. Kate is pictured right in said tux shirt.) I was totally intimidated just by the idea of going by myself, but going with him felt like something I could actually do. Having him there helped me be able to tell the sales clerk exactly what I wanted. I have often found that most sales clerks don’t really care what they are selling or to whom so long as they make a sale.
I know that when I started shopping by myself it was also easier for me to go to stores that sold all manner of clothing, instead of going to a place that sold only masculine clothing (like Target, Macy’s, Marshalls, or H&M.) Not only are these stores usually large and usually populated with shoppers, but they also give you a choice of dressing rooms. I also like to ask folks whose style I like where they shop and what stores they find friendly or unfriendly. Word of mouth has only added to the awesomeness of my wardrobe.
In dapper solidarity,