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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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goat said...

see, i told you it'd be ok :-P heh.

i like C&A. i bought my wool coat there last year. i am very unhappy that the weather in england doesn't allow me to actually wear that coat for more than 3 or 4 weeks a year, because i love that coat. like you say, their styles are pretty cool. and that's C&A. it's nothing special; it's a department store.

aaaah. the french have good taste :-) i miss france.

(on a side note, as a kid mom dressed me in a lot of french clothes. this got me tortured a lot in north carolina, because north carolinian kids in the eighties most certainly did /not/ have taste.)

Les 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.

goat said...

i like your conclusion as to the moral of the story and agree with it completely ;-) . also i like the phrase "very snappily dressed", especially in the context of children. ah, if only i were more snappily dressed now! alas, i am not.

come to think of it the /way/ in which i was snappily dressed as a child was very gender-neutral (which may have been part of why the american kids tormented me about it, since i was getting said torment during my several-year time period of being asked "are you a boy or a girl?" by giggling morons). the french are strange (but at least i sort of understand the way they're strang, which is usually more than i can say for a certain other culture i grew up in ahem).

i undoubtedly have pictures of me being snappilly dressed as a child, involving polo collars (this was the 80s after all) and stripey shirts and corduroy pants, but they are sitting in a box somewhere. actually for some reason lately i keep wanting to post pics of me as a child...

goat said...

oh hey, the english burned joan for cross-dressing, not the french! those damned anglois! *waves fist around* the french wouldn't have burned her for cross-dressing. i suspect that at most they would've made bitchy comments behind their mailed gloves as she rode by. but probably not. i mean, she was joan. she kicked the anglois' asses at orleans!

(i'm feeling a bit prickly about anglo-french history this week cuz i had this random conversation with a very francophobic englisher last week who tried to claim that the english had far better reasons to hate the french than vice-versa, conveniently ignoring the fact that england had invaded and occupied france for something like two centuries - or more - and their burning joan /is/ something which mom told me about periodically when i was a kid to illustrate all that nastines...)

joan was cool.

Les 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.

goat said...

well, i believe you re: joan ... but as you say, there wasn't really a "french" nation at the time. not that it wasn't the same cultural group, cuz it was. (god, it took /centuries/ for the burgundians to be unified with the rest of france.) and no doubt her oddness was embarrassing, as you say... like all cultures the french have a selective memory about history and their heroes, and it's easier to just be like "the english burned our saint!" and i mean technically the burgundians as you say were allied with the english. (i'm splitting hairs, i know.) i guess my point is just that i doubt her cross-dressing was the motivating factor, at least for the french, in burning her, but i mean i'm not a 15th century french person. i just tend to think of medieval french ppl as being far more blasé in some ways about things we (as late victorians) treat with suspicion and fear.

actually france has a rather interesting history with cross-dressing historical figures. the chevalier d'éon (who i mentioned in some other comment) was actually employed by the government as a spy, and despite everyone's extreme confusions about what sex s/he "actually" was, s/he seems to have gotten along pretty well (s/he switched between presenting as male or female several times; i think an autopsy established that s/he was physically male but i'm not sure, and who cares?). then there's george sand the writer, of course, who cheerfully got along in the 1830's and 40's dressing as a man. i can't really think of comparable figures in anglo-saxon history...

i've never used a men's room in france. i suspect it will be harder for you to pass as male in france than it would be in the states, because since the french tend not to care as much, and also tend to actually look at people carefully, i think it'll be easier for them to tell that you're "actually" female (ah, theoryish quote marks). this doesn't mean you'll get harrassed, though. i mean i expect you'd get shocked looks. i really don't know. personally i don't see why you'd /want/ to use a male bathroom, but i do understand that it would be freaky to walk into a woman's bathroom if you feel at risk of harrassment... i don't know. i still think you're far less likely to be seriously hassled in france than in the states. again, french conceptions of gender are really pretty different, and they don't freak out as much when gender categories are threatened. and they're not a particularly violent people, unlike (imho) anglo-saxons.

but enough about that.

Les 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.

Les 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.