Tag Archives: Victorian Bustle Dress Mana 188

It was acceptable in the ’80’s. The 1880’s?

31 Jul

Surprisingly only 48 hours later, I’m back writing again. Which is amazing as I NEVER finish anything I start. I get fed-up. I don’t have faith in it. I abort it, like it’s an unwanted alien foetus. I’ve had some very generous comments about my writing, which was surprising, so I hope this will be as interesting.

Thank Cod (& I don’t use the word of that sacred..and overfished…fish lightly) for the musical duo; Boards of Canada. Their ambient soundtracks convey any world I wish to inhabit at any time. They got me through my dissertation on the rather dry subject of 3d multi-camera technology. And they allow me to immerse myself in fantasies. Currently I’m listening to this mesmerising track – “Muckinabaht” (haha, take that spell-check!) which conjures up images of stumbling upon a faded 1950’s ballroom on abandoned ocean liner. Check it out – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIY0c_OmcOY

Right now I’m mulling over why I feel I’ve lost a connection to the late Victorian era. I feel I’ve lost many connections over the past few months. My mind is like a bank (or “monitor stack” for those of you who work in TV) of hundreds of monitors, and one-by-one since November their vibrant screens have been replaced by un-relenting static. One such feed to disappear has been my age-old connection to Victorian & Edwardian femininity which has haunted me quietly since I was around 10…. although my mum has confirmed that one of the little oddball things I used to do when I was 7 was stare for ages at an oval portrait of a Victorian lady in a bustle dress.

I recently found the portrait at home. The lady wears a green dress in the 1880’s “natural form” style. If I were organised, I would include said picture in this very post, to illustrate the anecdote. Alas. I don’t have a plan. And so I didn’t. And so there isn’t a picture. But there will be….at some point in another post, probably unrelated.

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(A fashion plate depicting the short-lived natural form style which became popular from around the late 1870’s to mid 1880’s, before dying out & being replaced by the “hard-bustle” IE: the style that made a woman look either like a snale or a generous bottomed Goddess depending on your view). 

Anywho. My question is – why does a chap born in the 1980’s somehow feel an affinity for a gender I’ve never experienced and a time I’ve never lived in? Maybe its a past-life, maybe it’s just my over-achieving imagination. But…grrrr & argh, it’s so intriguing & confusing. I always feel an odd sense of melancholy when I read about young women from those eras’ or see their pictures. Sort of feels like I may have lost something but it’s too unpronounced to trace it’s source. I damn well felt kick-ass and more powerful and more energised when I dressed up as a pseudo-Victorian woman (on a VERY limited budget & with little skill). Many crossdressers like to feel weak & powerless when they dress up, but I feel the opposite. And if I’m in a tight-laced corset and a bustle dress…I feel I can *cue Jeremy Clarkson voice* conquer The World. The BBC. Even my chocolate addiction. And possibly The Stig on the race track.

There is also something deeply moving & poignant about being a woman in those times I feel. I don’t seem to care about women from any other era. As I tell my mum who loves the 1920’s and ’30’s and ’40’s “I don’t do Art Deco. Art Nouveau is as far as I go.” Yep, it’s all about the 1870 – 1914 for me. Yes I am that specific. I may even throw in a month – March 1914 there you go – just to be super OCD.

Image (That’s a picture of me taken a few months ago wearing my favourite flared dress…erm…honest… Anyway, I’m sorta smiling as I was excited about Panasonic’s newly released 3d television camcorder – the AG-3DP1, even though I knew I couldn’t afford it. Actually…)


(…the Panasonic AG-3DP1. Panasonic’s first fixed-lens 3d camcorder for broadcast use, available for £30,000 squid. Good camera, nice convergence control which helps to create usable 3d pictures. Though the fixed lens limits what you can get a decent picture of – closeups or wide shots? Forget it.  I have used it at the Olympics on tests though and it worked ok. Hopefully I am the first blog to combine a a brief TV camera review WITH a discussion on skewed gender AND turn-of-the-(last)-century fashion for ladies).

There’s just something so awesome & powerful about the depiction of femininity within those times. Yep, It must have been fairly repressive and a bit pants to be a woman from any class of those eras (though I must say if someone offered me a life where I got to stand around looking decorative & hold social events every year I would trip over my servant in my rush to have that).

That is all I can say really. I don’t have any analysis. After the general ambience of antique femininity floated around for a few years, I managed to get quite close to feeling quite connected on a more physical level. Yes, all crossdressing is essentially is wearing some fabric with a bit of social meaning embossed onto it, but it certainly seemed to shift my perspective on things. I also for a very short space of time managed to perfect putting my hair into one of those Edwardian up-do’s which I think look amazing. It felt wonderful to re-create their hairstyle on me, very natural, and it felt “right”.

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(oh. And. One of my first “roll models” before I even became aware I was seeing them as such, was this lady. I can’t find the damn name for the painting, the artist, or it’s date (though I guess it’s around the 1870 – 1890 mark, due to her costume & it looks like an Impressionist painting). I used to imagine I was this lady whilst serving in many catering establishments. Finally last October I cut my hair EXACTLY like it is in this picture, & went to work with it like that. It raised eyebrows and I certainly didn’t look like your average chap but damn did I enjoy feeling a bit more feminine).

But since my strange internal change I can’t place, and my hair loss I can’t stall, I feel I’ve lost that connection. I don’t feel ambivalent towards the depiction of femininity of that time…I just feel dead where that emotional interest used to be. Oddly, nothing has flooded in to fill the void. If I am becoming more male in body and mind and this has forced out the femininity issues, then surely I should be feeling more kick-ass & generally pleased as punch? But I don’t. I just feel. Homeless in my head. I don’t feel happy in my form. And I don’t have any place to run to in my head anymore. I can’t escape to that etheral, foggy, deamy place of antique femininity, it does not exist. I feel I’m finally after 27 years of managing to always escape to a dream world – I’m now in the real world. And it sucks. And it feels horrible.

Some dream worlds are harmful. I used to suffer from OCD…and that was harmful in that I turned me into a recluse alot of time. When I kicked that I felt liberated. I strove to break those OCD rituals and through patterns. But the feminine internal dream world and those feelings… since they’ve gone I feel I have no power left. I can’t seem to generate as much enthusiasm for anything anymore.

I’ve woken up to a world that constantly cloudy. I may be awake finally. But like Sam Tyler in Life on Mars – I don’t feel I am alive anymore. That discreet feeling of being connected to femininity used to brighten up my day, power me through all the bollocks of life. Internally I could feel that I was a girl & later on, a woman from those times, and these feeling were somehow compatible with being a biological straight average male. Once again though, now they’ve gone….I don’t feel my mind is my own. I’ve been invaded by…. something: Reality? Age? I’m not sure. But 1870 – 1914 is dead. And all the women in there are dead. When I wear the bustle dresses I’ve made, the experience feels empty. But I don’t feel liberated. I feel lost.

I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, I just seem to loose more attributes of myself that I care about. Bearing in mind that I’m only 27 and in great physical health…I shouldn’t be noticing any losses. But I’ve felt life has been pulling things away from me since I started puberty. It began with my imagination & ability to channel my creativity, then got to work on strangling my open emotions, then hardened my face, and recently has stripped me of my only expression of my internal femininity which I’ve been openly allowed to have over the years – my hair.

I feel that the latter has crossed the line, it’s too many losses to accept as being male, when I’ve been skirting the boundaries of being a “real” male for years anyway. It’s caused a sort of “constitutional crisis” within me, as it’s forcing me to address what makes me tick & who am I.

I feel I must go after the feelings of femininity I had, I miss them so much. I feel too much like an organic machine without them. Amazing to think that thoughts can lead to the destruction of the vessel that they travel in, potentially. So…if I did seek to regain those feelings – I would essentially be delving deeper into myself. But isn’t that a bad thing? An introspective thing to do? Afterall, I have spent three years breaking out of my shell, fighting fears & breaking habits to get into the wider world. I guess it depends on what one feels is their reality? If one’s fantasy becomes their internal reality…. then as long as that makes that person function in outer-reality, would that make it the right thing to do?

Ultimately speaking, If I were to submit to a feminine biology, would that make me stable enough & happy  enough internally to be able to function better outwardly? I have no idea. Currently I feel like a fractured man & some crude draft of an unfinished woman. What makes a person? Biology or thoughts and feelings?

I’ve recently found out that lots of men suffer from “crossdreaming” which is where they want to be the other sex. The ideal version of themselves are conventional sexy women like Cheryl Cole for instance. I turn up with pictures like the one below and say “Well. This is me.” They I’m weird. “How can such a woman from such a time feel like an identity they may say?” This is hilarious. It appears I am chief oddball. Among oddballs. Strangely, this makes me smile.

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(One of those famous “Gibson Girls”. Named after the illustrator who created the Gibson Girl as the embodiment of upper-working/middle-class female perfection of the very late Victorian/early Edwardian epoch. I’d love to riff on this look and wear a modernised version to work. Annoyingly I can’t.
But I can actually play golf.)

Every time I tell my self to get a grip and just get on with being male, I think of the Japanese musician called Mana, and how he has pretty much gotten to have his cake and eat it, so to speak. He lives a life of dressing up as a pseudo beautiful Victorian-esque lady whilst dating as a straight (or possibly bisexual) man & bringing home the bacon by performing in his band. It does not matter how he identifies who he is. It just matters that he “is” and that he functions well as a human being. I wonder with rising anger – “why can’t I be someone like that?!” Even if it’s on a woefully smaller scale. Even if I were to be a poor quality, low-budget version of Mana, I’d still prefer to that life progression to my current trajectory.
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(Mr Mana. I’m not actually sure what pronouns he prefers. I wonder what he/she sees themselves as).

Those damn Victorian & Edwardian ladies coaxed me into their world when I was an impressionable child, kept me intrigued up until I had the courage to impersonate them (yeh, yeh, Little Britain style I know) & just as I felt I had obtained a reasonable feeling & look within the limitations of my physical form. BLIP. I found myself suddenly alone. And painfully aware of the massive gap between how they were and how I am. I feel I’m at the point of no return. I am now undeniably male. My masculinity has penetrated my core & it feels alien & hostile. I feel like that core is solidifying into something hard & cold. I desperately feel like I must find a way out, to feel warm & soft again, to live again, possibly even more abundantly than before. I feel like the replicant in Blade Runner demanding “I want more life!”

But who’s life would I be living, mine? Or a real-life version of an 1880’s woman?

(but anyway sod life and gender and historical stereotypes, who’s for some visual titillation? Hope you enjoyed these ramblings)

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