Lingerie Tips for Trans Women and Other Transfeminine Folks
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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!