Lingerie Tips for Trans Women and Other Transfeminine Folks

Harmonica Feather Prism via Bluestockings Boutique

Harmonica Feather Prism via Bluestockings Boutique

It’s no fun trying to find cute lingerie when you’re a trans woman. The vast majority of lingerie is designed for cis women’s bodies, which makes it difficult to know what will fit well or look good on yours. This is especially true when you’re doing your shopping online. Getting fitted and trying on lingerie at a boutique can be really helpful, but it’s hard to guarantee that any given boutique or fitter will be trans-friendly. On top of that, there are fewer style options available for folks with small busts and large band sizes, like a lot of trans women. Early in my transition, I pretty much gave up on the idea of wearing anything that I couldn’t buy for less than $15 and then give away if it didn’t look right on me. That meant I had lots of cheap sports bras, profoundly boring panties, and the occasional mis-fit push-up bra.

The problem with this system is that most of the girl underwear I owned was tolerable in terms of my dysphoria and gender-feels, but it wasn’t especially comfortable and I wasn’t thrilled with how it looked. I wanted to love the clothing that I wore next to my skin every day, and choose what to wear based on style rather than whether or not it made me feel sad. Fortunately, I was encouraged to join a queer-oriented photoshoot put together by Bluestockings Boutique, a lovely online retailer that sells ethically-made indie lingerie. Participating in the shoot was a great experience, and affirmed for me that I could, in fact, wear pretty lingerie designed for cis women and look really good in it.



Now that I’ve found the courage to experiment with the styles of lingerie I wear, my sense of what looks best on my body has grown tremendously. There’s a lot of basic information I wish I’d known about buying and styling lingerie when I started out, and I want to share a little of what I’ve learned about the types of lingerie that I like wearing the most.  

Sports Bras

Light sports bras can be especially good for transfeminine people who either aren’t taking hormones or haven’t been taking them for long. While they usually provide some compression, which isn’t great for those of us who want to accentuate our breasts as they grow, sports bras tend to look ‘right’ and cute on any type of chest.

Jennifer Sports Bra via Bluestockings Boutique

Jennifer Sports Bra via Bluestockings Boutique

One of my absolute favorites is the Jennifer Sports Bra by AnaOno, in large part because it doesn’t provide much compression. Designed for folks recovering from chest surgery, this bra is super soft, provides minimal compression, and wears comfortably all day. The pink and black version is both girly and badass-looking, and the slight shirring at the front gives the bra a marked shape, even on less-pronounced breasts. The Kelly is a lacier, more femme bra with a similar design.

Kelly black lace bra via AnaOno

Kelly black lace bra via AnaOno

Pretty, high-quality sports bras (and other racer-back pieces like Harmonica‘s gorgeous Feather Prism bralette) are also great because they’re easy to show off under a lot of shirts. A loose, androgynous tank top looks much more feminine with a sports bra peeking out.

Sophie Hines Cevian Soft Bra via Sophie Hines

Sophie Hines Cevian Soft Bra via Sophie Hines

Bralettes

Underwire bras are sometimes difficult to fit correctly on a small bust, especially when paired with a proportionally larger band size on some trans women, which can result in gaping tops and sides, or side bulges and chafing.  Bralettes come in simple S/M/L/XL/etc sizes, have soft cups without any underwire and are relatively unstructured, which makes it a lot simpler to figure out your size and avoid gaping. They’re also very much in fashion right now and it’s easy to find pretty bralettes in a variety of styles.

Commando soft cup cotton bralette via Commando

Commando Soft Cup Cotton Bralette via Commando

Commando‘s bralettes are great for folks with small breasts; their simple designs are comfy, cute, and look good under clothes. Sophie Hines is another of my fave indie designers. Everything of hers is amazing, but the Cevian Soft Bra was one of the first pieces of lingerie I owned, and it still gets worn at least once a week. Sophie does beautiful work with geometric patterns on a lot of her garments, and the Cevian combines that with the kind of strappy look that I adore. The top straps are also visible above the neckline of a lot of shirts, which a) reminds people that you have breasts, and b) looks really hot.

Narcissus Panties via On the Inside

Narcissus Panties via On the Inside

Bottoms

Underwear is tough for trans girls. Many of us default to a pair (or two) of the cheapest and tightest panties we can find in order to flatten our silhouettes. Wearing really tight bottoms all the time can cause health problems, especially if it’s made from a synthetic fabric that doesn’t breathe well. There are more stylish and safer options out there, but they can be challenging to find.

Foxers forest green boyshort via Foxers

Foxers Forest Green Boyshort via Foxers

I usually look for two things in bottoms: coverage and stretchy fabric for compression. In terms of coverage, boyshorts and boxers are the easiest way to go, and Foxers has comfortable and stylish pieces in either style. Their boxer briefs also have delightful little pockets, a stroke of genius that I will never stop appreciating. Bikini and hipster-style briefs are a little trickier for non-op transfeminine folks, but pieces like On The Inside‘s Narcissus panties or PACT‘s Sagebrush hipsters also provide good coverage (allowing for the vagaries of individual anatomy) because of the lace detailing at their borders. High-waisted underwear like Toru & Naoko’s Frankie panties are also a good choice, because they usually have excellent coverage and provide enough fabric to flatten a bulge.

PACT Sagebrush Hipsters via PACT

PACT Sagebrush Hipsters via PACT

Other transfeminine folks: I’d love to hear from you about what kind of lingerie works best for your bodies and your styles. Please go ahead and leave any comments, questions, or tips in the comments!

Mad Mimi Form

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Alexis

11 Comments on this post

  1. Jannette says:

    As a bra-fitter at Nordstrom, I can make a couple general suggestions, and one specific recommendation.

    The specific bra I recommend is Natori’s Discloser Ultra Light Convertible Bra http://www.natori.com/natori/bras-and-panties/all-bras/disclosure-ultra-light-bra/

    There are a few reasons I especially recommend this particular bra. First, this style has an especially wide gore, which is great for people with broader chests and wider-set breasts. Because it is a convertible bra, the straps are extra-long. This helps because the distance from shoulder to band is usually longer on people with broader shoulders. It is a contour bra, but the cups are flexible, not stiff and not padded. Finally, it is available up to a 38 band, even in an A cup.

    These are features I recommend you look for in any bra style. I will say that Natori bras often have a wider gore than many other brands, but there are definitely more options out there. Off the top of my head, I’d say that On Gossamer is another good option, although I’m not sure they go up to a 38 band.

  2. Anna Marie Robertson says:

    Thank you,thank you,thank you soooooooo much !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I have posted you on my Facebook timeline with a big thumbs up.
    Already have 10 pair of Foxers Boybriefs, these are seriously lovely and if you are wondering, YES- I’m Trans.

  3. Christine M says:

    Thank you so much for writing a column addressing one of the problems for trans women like me. I’ve read your TLA posts for quite some time and am always excited when I see a new one in my inbox. It’s literally one of the very first emails that gets opened. I urge you to please continue addressing the special lingerie needs of women like me as well as educating the cis women that work in lingerie stores. It’s a scary proposition going into a new store or meeting a new fitter not knowing what the reaction might be. Believe me I’ve seen the gambit. Thank you again and best wishes.

  4. Janice D says:

    First time commenting on a TLA post because I had to tell you how excited I was that you wrote this, Alexis! I’m cisgender female, and I appreciate the education on lingerie fitting issues that my TG, TS, and/or Q friends may face. I’m sure some of them would like to talk about lingerie with friendly, supportive, and informed friends as much as some of my cis friends do. Now I feel more educated and less ignorant. I know it’s my responsibility to inform myself, rather than asking my friends to be my sole teachers, so thank you for putting this info out there. Not to mention I love your lingerie picks, full stop. I hope to see you post here and elsewhere on this or other topics soon!

  5. Lynne Kent says:

    Alexis and Cora, I would just like to add my thanks for raising this issue, also thank you to the many who
    have replied to this post.

    Lynne

  6. Annmarie says:

    Alexis and Cora- Thanks for addressing important lifestyle and lingerie issues that are rarely discussed.
    I would like to add though that under the “transfeminine folks” umbrella there are quite a few male-borns who don’t use hormones let alone go through any other body modifications. Those toggling between male and female identities, by choice or necessity, may face similar as well as some other challenges.

    As for “it’s hard to guarantee that any given boutique or fitter will be trans-friendly:”
    Being fussy about fit and size I buy most of my lingerie in person. I would also argue that especially in the current political climate in the US it is important to show presence.
    Shopping as a trans woman may sound scary at first. Yet things tend to change for the better once you are confident, respectful, and businesses understand that you are serious about spending your money.
    Nowadays one can also inquire ahead of time by phone or online and avoid doing business with disrespectful bigots.

    • DDtop says:

      Hi i make you 110% right on not doing business with bigots/dinosaurs our cash is as good if not better than others one being many say is loyalty/repeat business plus many spend more.
      ive friend that is a dress maker now only deals with TG/TV/CD types as says always happy with her items and have many things made but don’t moan about things.
      Another has a lingerie shop gets people in spend ages with them fitting then here them say don’t buy here we can go on line and get them!
      Where as many TG/TV/CD or guys that need get fitted then buy plus more than one and return plus send others.
      Im in the “somewhere” category but need to wear as grown/growing now a 42G/44F cup plus have wider hips for my build? do have hormone issues have a P tumor which gave me very high Prolactin but other things way born.
      Have found some places down right rude but others fantastic plus i ring first to ask always polite plus ask if they’d like me to pass onto others about them.
      If i had a business id cater for every market and make it known on places like say TG websites &male bra wearing etc so know welcome as do one thing stand outside in the street and look at people how many others than Genetic females do you see? Lots so if you could sell/fit bra’s to all those others that pass by how much more your business would grow! ive even had Prima Donna email me about catering for the male market!
      Because even if not TG/TS there is a growing amount of males that need/will need to wear a bra because of meds/chemicals in our foods etc.
      I normally try to buy matching sets as find F briefs fit me better prefer the fuller type like many females do!
      Plus looks smarter even shops ask if i do &when say yes good as looks better!
      so the world is changing just slowly in this area but im pretty sure there is going to be a big change in wear soon with brands catering for Trans/male side.
      Plus to me if a guy wants to wear a bra or whatever great as another one sold more sold more investment win win as think far better than sitting there all day waiting for an old lady to buy a cheap bra!

  7. Jadi says:

    I’ve worn full briefs all my life. I first started wearing nylon panties in my early teens–on special dress-up days. Around 25 years ago a friend inadvertently introduced me to Vanity Fair’s “Perfectly Yours” line of nylon briefs. I have found that the ‘Ravissant’ and ‘Lace Nouveau’ styles are really “perfectly mine.” The fit, feel, and look are fabulous! They are quite durable, very comfortable, and really quite pretty–even sensual. When you feel good and confident ‘all under’ it’s easy to perform and project that confidence in everything you do.
    And BTW, in my opinion, TLA ROCKS!!

  8. Luka says:

    Thank you! I work at an adult store that sells lingerie. We’re trying to make our space more trans inclusive, so I think this would be a great resource. :D You rock!

  9. Brynn says:

    My bottoms for being out of the house are a pair of MeUndies Cheeky Briefs (https://www.meundies.com/products/womens-brief) with a stretchier more compressive pair of something else on top (Barely There’s Fit To Flex Boyshort has done me really well: http://amzn.com/B006QWN260). The MeUndies are super comfy and are naturally breathable and antimicrobial, so despite the fact that I keep everything tight down there most of every day, there’s no bacterial build up or anything, no smell, etc.

    But I’ve never ever found a bra that fits me well that also looks good under clothes. My currently 38AA self I think is just going to have to deal with it or wait until I (potentially) start hormones.

  10. So thrilled to see you blogging here. So thrilled to be part of your journey. So much love. <3

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