How many changes are you prepared to make to your male self, so that you look better when you are dressed as woman?
This is always a tricky question and it depends, in part, on your own level of bravery and also on the tolerance of the significant others in your life, including your partner, family, work colleagues and social contacts.
If you make a few of the feminizing changes that I will outline below, some people (usually women) may actually "connect the dots" and suspect that you are transgender or a cross-dresser. The majority of people, however, are not very observant and may not add up all the clues.
For those of us that like to go out in public dressed as women frequently and who wish to pass as unobtrusively as possible, this article looks at some of the many little things that will improve your passability, but that will also test the limits of how far that you are prepared to go to achieve a more feminine appearance when you are dressed as a woman.
My aim is not to pass 100% as a woman, very few of us can, but to create a fairly realistic, well-groomed and appropriately dressed female appearance so that I do not draw undue attention to myself when I am out dressed.
Obviously there are things that cannot be changed: your height, the size of your hands and feet, and the presence of an Adam's apple. However there are many things that can be at least modified.
I will start at the top and work down:
Growing your own hair:
It has been my observation that cross-dressers who wear synthetic wigs often look like they are wearing wigs. Human hair wigs are certainly far more realistic looking, but substantially more expensive, however may be worth the expense if you are serious about public cross-dressing. Moderately priced synthetic wigs can look reasonably good, but one must realise that they have a relatively short life span and can end up looking like you are having one long bad-hair day!
Not all of us are blessed with full heads of hair, but those who are have plenty of hair will have the option of growing their hair out. Many of us who were young in the late 1960's and early 1970's had the experience of having long hair as was the male fashion of the time and that was widely tolerated by society in that era.
I had long dark hair back in those days and it made public cross-dressing easier. Later in the 1990's, I had a long ponytail (and beard). As a result, it was no big deal growing my hair in recent years because of my (and my wife's) dislike of me wearing wigs. Not only was it cooler in the summer months and more comfortable, it looked more realistic when I was dressed. However, some degree of frontal recession of my hairline had occurred over the years. As a result, I bought an artificial fringe that matched my own now greying hair.
To have my hair looking good and well cut and styled, I found a hairdresser who was familiar with cross-dressers and trans-women. She did put streaks in my hair once but this was not well received at home. I have learnt how to blow-dry and style my hair, including using heated rollers to give greater fullness to my hair.
I tie my hair back in a ponytail when in guy-mode.
The choices with clip-on earrings are so limited and they hurt after a few hours, that is really worth considering getting your ear lobes pierced.
So many men (including tough bikie types) get their ears pierced these days that it is now widely accepted. For the faint-hearted, you might get one done (usually your left ear first), and then get the other done a few months later when people have become used to the idea.
I am rather proud of the fact that I had both my ears pierced while en-femme.
Removal of chest and arm hair:
Hair removal from visible areas will often create a dilemma. I was fortunate enough to never have been a particularly hairy person, so removing the limited chest hair that I had was not a big issue. I shaved at first, then had a few sessions of laser which reduced the hair considerably. I followed this with regular waxing and later epilation - you quickly get used to the initial pain. I have virtually no regrowth now. This allows me to wear low-cut tops and to show a bit of cleavage.
Removal of arm hair can be a bit more noticeable and more likely to draw comment. Some cross-dressers use clippers to simply reduce the length of arm hair. Myself, I now epilate regularly and the regrowth is sparse and the surviving hairs are much thinner.
Breast forms and cleavage creation.
What did we do before breast forms? They are one of the greatest inventions ever for cross-dressers. I have twoi pairs of varying sizes that I have bought over the years. I love showing a bit of cleavage as it greatly enhances one's passability. People are also more likely to think that you are on hormones. I love to wear rather low-cut tops and dresses.
I position the breast forms in such a way that they push my mild degree of gynaecomastia into a nice realistic cleavage. Doing this make me look like I have real breasts and people are more likely to think that I am living full-time as a woman.
Corset to create a waist
Womens' waists are almost half the size of their hips. With hip padding and the use of a corset, a fairly realistic female shape can be created.
A good corset, worn properly, does not have to be painful. It should tight enough to give you a waist, but not so tight that you have trouble breathing or causes you pain. I find that wearing the corset over a high-waisted girdle is both more comfortable and stops the girdle slipping down.
Having a female shape makes you feel more feminine and, as a result, encourages you to walk with a more feminine gait.
Plucking/waxing/tinting your eyebrows.
The eyebrows are a very important aspect of the female face. They define the upper part of the face and enhance the eyes.
I have plucked my eyebrows intermittently over the years, to the point where they are now almost too thin. If you have thick bushy John Howard style eyebrows this will detract severely from looking feminine. You will need to thin them out and shape them a bit. A beautician can help with this.
Occasionally, I get my brows professionally waxed and tinted. No one ever seems to comment on the shape of my eyebrows. It is worth getting a waxing done, if only to remove a "mono-brow" or to thin out the eyebrows a bit. It does not hurt, well only for a second.
Beard removal - shaving/laser/electrolysis
If you have a dark blue-black beard this will show through your foundation, unless you use a heavy-duty concealer like Derma Blend. You can also diminish the blueness by covering the dark areas with an orange lipstick.
As you get older, the beard becomes much greyer and much easier to cover and less visible after a close shave.
Here is my shaving method these days. It takes me at least 5 full minutes to shave. I exfoliate first before shaving and this helps with getting the closest shave possible by removing dead skin cells around the hair follicles. I shave the each area in multiple directions until I can feel virtually no stubble. I then moisturize and check for any areas of roughness.
There is an old adage among cross-dressers about beards. "If you can feel it, you can see it."
The results of facial laser for beard removal are rarely reported as satisfactory from my experience. Proper electrolysis is the only guaranteed way of beard removal. It hurts both the face and the wallet, but it works if you are very serious about having no beard.
If you wear glasses most the time, then you really need to buy a pair of female style glasses. Most male glasses... well, they look like male glasses and detract your female appearance.
Growing and shaping fingernails.
This is where one often pushes the limits. There are just a few millimeters between what is acceptable fingernail length for men and what is expected of women.
I often get asked, "Do you play the guitar?" when more observant people notice my longish fingernails. When asked, I quickly obscure my left hand, display my right hand and say (in all honesty) "Yes". I did play rhythm guitar in a school band as a youngster and still have a guitar that I occasionally play these days.
One of my joys of recent years is occasionally getting a professional manicure (and pedicure), including nail polish. Manicurists can do a much better job than I can do. I reserve this for occasions where I will be dressed for at least two days.
Be careful to remove every trace of nail polish when you go back to guy-mode.
Hip and bum padding.
Many good-looking cross-dressers fall down in this area, as they do not pad their hips and end up with a straight up and down boyish figure.
A woman's hips are as wide, if not wider, than their shoulders, whereas a male generally has broad shoulders and narrow hips. Getting this ratio correct is very important to look more like a woman. I want my bum to look big - something that women generally hate - but it is the real shape of most women. I tend to use more hip/bum padding than that comes with padded girdles.
Do you remember the joy the first time that you shaved your legs? If you have never done this, you will be overjoyed by the feeling, but then worried about wearing shorts in summer.
Only you can decide which is more important to you: lovely smooth hairless legs or the hairy ones that need two pairs of stockings to hide them. A stated interest in bicycle riding or swimming will be required to give you a legitimate excuse for hairless legs.