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Sunday 20 November 2005

Buying a coat

It hit zero today, as I wined earlier, but fortunately, I had the foresight to go out yesterday and buy a coat. It took most of the day, alas. I'm skinny, but with long arms and I didn't want to spend too much. Before, I left for here, I posted something about wanting to get as many clothes as possible before I left, because of not knowing what it would be like to cross-shop. Oh, what a fool I was.

First of all, only one guy gave me a kind of disgusted look and that was the extent of anything negative. Much better than home. (People are reading me as female now because my hair has gotten longer.) Also: blazer-type jackets for sale at every store. In velvet(ine). In corduroy. In my size. Picture: blue velvet blazer. Royal blue!! Oh my god!!!!! There was a whole store for very scrawny slightly femme-y guys who still wanted to dress like it's still the mid-to-late 90's! I was a size medium there! They had tweed jackets with elbow patches, something I spent months looking for!!! For only 230€, ahem, yes. I had to leave without buying anything because it was lovely, but it was just too much money.

There's a store called the C&A which has ads in the metro where they show whatever their featured sale item is. This week it's a black corduroy jacket for 30€. I'm going back to buy one tomorrow, but their coat selection, alas, didn't fit me well. But every fashion in the store was really nifty, as far as I could tell. A city where I can shop for men's clothes where it isn't suspect for men to wear anything other than trainers or sweatsuits!

Anyway, after a lot of looking, I walked into a fairly fancy-seeming store and tried on a tweed coat in a size medium. It was too big. But a sales person came over to help me. At home, I try to duck sales people because they're not entirely friendly. The woman clearly thought it was a little odd that I wanted to try on men's coats, but was happy to help. She went and found me a size small coat in black. It fit very well. I bought it. At the register, she went through the script, kind of laughing as she did so. Did I want men's gloves to go with my men's coat? How about some men's dress socks? She would have smiled and sold me some if I'd said yes. We chatted a bit in frenglish. She wanted to know how to say, "would you like anything else?" in english.

Sometimes, it's really good to be foreign. I have no idea about modern french cross dressers and what their experiences are like (I've seen some around in bars and whatnot, but not had a conversation). But I think I get away with a lot because I'm foreign and people expect me to be kind of different. That's true in Paris and it's also true in Nebraska.

Anyway, I have never before enjoyed shopping for clothes that I can remember. Right now, I am pondering buying a whole new wardrobe. And coming to Paris from anyplace else in the world when I need clothes.

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Charles Céleste Hutchins said...

Yes, you were right. I think my worrying hurt your feelings. I would have listened to you if your tone had been a bit less defensive.

I had just gone the week before to an ftm support group as a questioning person. And while there an old guy told a story of being hauled to jail in San Francisco for wearing argyle socks, as the law said you needed to have at least 3 pieces of "gender appropriate" clothing. Alas, his arrest wasn't really very many years ago.

So when you said "cross dressing police" as a joke, it wasn't entirely funny. And apparently it is 'illegal' to be transgender in france. However, they stopped burning crossdressers at the stake after that Joan of Arc snafu and seem to have become gradually friendlier ever since.

So the moral of this story si that I should listen to you more often and that you were a very snappily dressed child. Let's see some pictures!

Timanna said...

I like C & A. I bought some boxers there in Munich and nobody was weird to me.

Charles Céleste Hutchins said...

Um, the bishop Cauchon, who oversaw Joan's trial was a French guy. And she was burned in France. Remember that the Burgundians were aligned with England. Alas, I don't have my Joan of Arc books with me.

Her trial was conducted in French and relied on some determinations made by the scholars at the University of Paris. Alas, she was killed by her own nation, although the concept of "nation" wasn't well developed at the time. More she was killed by her own language group.

The Armagnacs didn't exactly rush to her aid, either, or pay her ransom, which they could have done. (Too busy making great distilled wine beverages, I guess.) Her oddness was getting kind of embarrassing and Charles wanted to persist in taking terrible advice rather than mounting a good offensive. Her usefulness was ended.

FWIW, all of her snappy men's clothes were gifts from happy admirers. And her downfall. She was pulled off her horse and captured by somebody who got ahold of her cloth of gold cape.

A better example of the nastiness of the Hundred Years War would be all the contract soldiers plundering the countryside in between gigs. It was a terrible war and it was almost entirely fought in France, but I don't know if that makes the English entirely responsible. I mean, Charles' claim to the throne was definitely in doubt. He could have just dropped it. The Anglo-burgundians were all set to institute a parliamentary-type government. They had the best art and music and the most progressive ideas. France might have been better off if they'd won.

I love Joan of Arc now that hundreds of years have passed, but at the time she was really very reactionary and I don't know if I could have supported her.

In other news . . . have you ever used a men's room in France? I'm thinking of cutting my hair again, at which time I will resume passing for male unless I put on a ball gown.

Charles Céleste Hutchins said...

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a relapsed heretic. (Only _relapsed_ heretics could be burned.) The official charge was cross-dressing. They got her to sign something saying she would not make war anymore and go back to wearing women's clothes. A few days later, she was dressed in men's clothes again. So they burned her.

There is speculation that her clothes were taken away from her, forcing the relapse, but there is a record of her defending her actions, saying that if she was going to be in a military prison and among men, it was right that she be dressed as one.

So, no, obviously it wasn't her cross dressing that lead the Burgundians to want to burn her, but it was the pretext that they used.

The reason I was thinking about using a men's room is because, when my hair was shorter, women would see me washing my hands and walk out of the bathroom, check the sign, figure I was confused, and wait outside for me to leave. At times when I was waiting in line, there was just general nervousness or whatever. Nobody challenged me, they just thought I was in the wrong place.

I passed most of the time, unless I spoke. This lead to a lot of looong apologies from service people, which I could barely understand and which were extremely irritating.

This was not while packing or binding, but just having short hair, and, um, shaving my sideburns and face. Man, that makes a difference.

Now I am not passing so much, since my hair is longer and I quit shaving. Winter clothes might help more too. I think people just saw my collar and jacket and thought "guy." Now everybody is in coats. It's need to accessorize.

I didn't ever feel unsafe, just awkward, I was wondering if switching bathrooms would be more or less awkward.

French women tend to be really femme, at least in how they dress.

Charles Céleste Hutchins said...

"i suspect it will be harder for you to pass as male in france than it would be in the states."

I'm being repetitive here, sorry. But no, it was much easier. I could pass without trying, whether I wanted to or not.

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