I have never been what you might call a snappy dresser. I hid in oversized clothes for years, and most attempts at dressing up just added 20 years to my age and a sense of huge discomfort. I did try, especially in the last few years, to dress in a femininine way, particularly at work. Largely because I felt so unfemininine inside, and was convinced that somehow it would leak and People Would Know. So I did my best, wearing make-up every day, choosing dangly earrings and accessorising furiously. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but for me every little spray of Impulse, every touch-up of lip-gloss in the Ladies’, every compliment I got on a blouse I had bought reluctantly, was another death knell to the little person hiding inside of me.

That does sound a bit over-dramatic, doesn’t it? Clothes are just clothes. Baubles are just baubles. But when the image you are projecting is so drastically different from that scared inner self, clothes are as much prison as armour.

I started binding during the summer of 2010, flattening my chest, and very much improving the way I felt about the way I looked. At around that time, I stopped trying to pretend that I was this feminine being, most notably at work. It was due to be my last term of teaching, and I was desperately unhappy, and just couldn’t keep up the pretence of court shoes and eye-shadow. Of course the students at my school noticed. I increasingly became the butt of lesbian jokes, despite the fact I’d recently got married and changed my name to Mrs. Ok, ok, you and I know I married a woman, but that wasn’t common knowledge amongst my pupils. Though they sure as hell suspected it. So I dressed reasonably smartly and androgynously, and put up with comments like “She’s just bitter cos I’ve got what she’ll never have” (male student pointing to his dick).

Finally, leaving the classroom, I could present myself as male full-time, which led to a whole new problem – I dressed like my grandad.  Of course, jeans and a t-shirt are fine for down-time, but being smart for work was tricky for me. Men’s trousers sit strangely on feminine hips, tending to ride upwards, so I’d end up with a very high waist. Hence my newfound celebration of sleeveless jumpers, covering the waistline, and also helping to disguise the bound chest. All very well – clothing as armour, yet again, but not very sexy.

Testosterone is slowly changing my body – my shoulders are broadening, my hips are getting smaller, as is my bum (well, so I’m told: it’s a bit hard to see round there). My tummy is a little bigger (think man smuggling mini-wok), but I’m keeping my weight down, so hopefully I won’t end up looking like Andy Capp over time. As a result of all this, trousers are fitting far better, and the reliance on sleeveless jumpers has practically disappeared.

Chest surgery has, of course, made a huge difference to the way I feel about myself, and changed how clothes fit and feel. As much of a stereotype as this may be, my outside and my inside are starting to match up, and this has made shopping for clothes far less of a trial. In terms of trying things on, I now look in the mirror and think “wow – you look pretty good”, rather than “oh god, it’ll do”, which is far healthier for the soul.

My final problem remains – the clothes may be fitting properly these days, but I still have no style! Beyond jeans and a funky t-shirt for casual, and shirt and tie for work, I am clueless about what to buy. So many years experiencing buying and wearing clothes as a chore have led me to become a nudist have given me a deep-seated distrust in my ability to get it right.

Ages ago I asked a couple of lovely friends to take me shopping, but never had enough money to do it. Thanks to my birthday, I think the time has come to hit the shops in earnest…