The Best Lingerie for the Transgender Community

01
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Transgender Undergarment Needs

Nicki Vrotsos, a woman of trans experience, models black lace lingerie. Photo by Own Your Sexy/ Produced by Hurray Kimmay

Perhaps more than any other apparel item, undergarments play a role in our personal gender identity. In an interview, Nicki Vrotsos, a trans* woman and aspiring lingerie model, states: "I think undergarments have an ability to help shape someone's gender, especially if a new and different gender is being explored. It can be an incredibly validating way to feel more comfortable in your skin throughout all stages of transition." There are many things in life that a transgender person may struggle with, and shopping for undergarments is one of them. Undergarments can be used to explore how you present yourself to the world, and who you are in private. 

"To find undergarments as a trans* person can be a daunting and mentally exhausting task because there can be feelings that you don’t actually matter involved in the process," continues, Nicki.

Below are a few items that people in the trans* community have cited as their go-to, most useful items for supporting their transition, exploring their identity, and redefining their gender. In many cases, the options are not specifically designed for the trans* community, and wearers have had to "make do" with what's available. Several products are intended for medical use, or cater to the cross dressing community. Brands like HommeMystere and Xdress are targeting natally male, cisgendered men who like to wear "feminine" style lingerie. Devlin, a trans* feminine woman, shared this: "An issue for me is that in order to find cute underwear that performs according to my needs, I often have to go to websites catering to cross dressing. Cross dressing certainly isn't a negative thing, but the sites usually feel a bit fetish-y and I just don't feel particularly good about shopping at them." 

This list is intended to offer some insight for shoppers and to inspire designers to create undergarments and shopping experiences with those of trans* experience in mind. Think of it as a great starting point. Several of the small brands who stood up to provide these shopping destinations and were contacted for this article are struggling, looking for funding, or are relaunching soon. There is much to do in this portion of the lingerie industry.

Along the way, several people of trans* experience have offered their insight. As with any garment, wear what makes you feel your best and like your most "you." 

Please note that this article includes an asterisk after trans* to include all types of transgender experience. 

02
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Bralettes

Hanky Panky bralettes
Hanky Panky

Bralettes are especially wonderful undergarments for those in the trans* community for many reasons. For example, after augmentation surgery, breasts can be quite firm compared to natural breast tissues. That means that stiff molded cups or firm underwire bras may not match up perfectly, and can cause discomfort. Many women of trans* experience who have breast implants have found bralettes to be comfortable and sexy. A wire-free bralette is often stretchy and can accommodate many cup sizes and bust shapes. In addition, bralettes are very fashionable, and wearing one can help a person who wants to feel feminine like they are on trend and beautiful.

Alternatively, a bralette provides light support and minimal shaping and lift. Because of this, the resulting look is one that many gender fluid or non-binary lingerie wearers find especially pleasing. Some people may find themselves in a more gender fluid portion of the journey, like Pooya Mohseni, an actress and transgender woman: "I feel that I went through an androgynous phase which also included very utility-oriented panties and sports bra type of things until I made a full transition and moved into satin and bikini bottoms and strapless bras." 

Keep in mind that there are many different kinds of bralettes, including more sporty or athletic types, and lace or fashion forward styles. In addition, there are pros and cons to wearing them, and many in the trans* community have found them to be useful and thrilling to wear. Because of their recent popularity in mainstream fashion, finding one that suits your personal style, size, and physical needs is becoming easier than ever before.

Two (of many) bralette brands who are especially trans* inclusive: 

  • harMonica - Made in Brooklyn, this company feels that undergarments need updating. Its designer, Monica Ditzler says her bralettes and shorts are especially suited for the trans* community because "everything in the collection has stretch, so the same piece can be worn by many different body types."
  • Hanky Panky - Made in New York City, this gender inclusive company has made it known that they welcome customers of all experiences and identities. Senior Designer, Larissa King, adds this: "everyone deserves to feel beautiful and comfortable while embracing their true selves." 
  • Bluestockings Boutique - This small online business carries an ever changing collection of several brands, products, and designers who cater to the LGBTQI+ community.

03
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Gaffs and Tucking

Miraclesuit Panty
Miraclesuit

When it comes to transitioning from anatomically male to female and/or masculine to feminine, a lot of focus is on the lower half of the body. "Tucking," or placing the male genitals away from view is a common practice. And while many panties made from firm material can create the smooth front silhouette, a gaff is specifically designed for this purpose. Several layers of strong material help keep things tucked away. As discussed above, these items are most commonly found on cross-dressing sites, like the assortment of gaffs at Cross-dress.com. Alternatively, lingerie company Chrysalis, which has designed a high waist "T-String" gaff in the past, is currently creating a new round of fundraising through Kickstarter. 

Some trans* women and trans* feminine persons cited using athletic tape (not to be confused with gaffers tape used for lighting and theatrical events) as their preferred method for tucking their genitals. Gaffs and panties with built-in mesh offer an alternative, and perhaps more stylish, comfortable, and safe option. 

Some male to female interviewees suggested using shapewear such as Spanx, or other compression shorts and shaping bottoms. Pooya explains, "Pre gender reassignment surgery, I used to wear a girdle/shapewear type of underwear to tuck. I did that for years and it was painful at first. I got used to it, even though it made it so much hotter in the summer." In addition to their usefulness for tucking, these undergarments can also help create the hourglass silhouette most commonly associated with traditional femininity. 

04
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Binder

Danae
Danae

For those transitioning from anatomically female to male and/or those transitioning masculinely, a common request heard is an undergarment that will minimize the look and shape of breasts. Some men of trans* experience will elect to have their breasts removed, or hormone therapy will result in smaller breasts. Others wear a tight, compression style sports bra underneath their clothing. Others still have found binders to be very effective. Binders are an undergarment made specifically to "bind" the breasts down. A modern alternative to the old school binding (and perhaps dangerous) method of wrapping the bust with gauze or tape, these new designs are made in several styles like a tank, bandeau, or crop top.

Keep in mind, the snug material is designed to flatten, and can often be difficult to put on and take off—especially full body, very firm, over-the-head styles. One such wearer described a fainting spell brought on by a too-tight garment in an article on trans* undergarment in The Guardian.

On the other hand, feedback suggests that binding is a great option for those who want the traditionally flat chest look of natal males. And because they are seamless, they can often be worn underneath clothing without anyone else noticing. This provides peace of mind and a clean look for many outfits. Most of these options are very plain and are offered in only basic colors. They lean very heavily toward a more functional and less fashionable design, perhaps because their purpose is more about hiding rather than accentuating. Either way, new innovations and more styles are desperately needed in the lingerie and undergarment industry for the portion of a trans* man's and/or trans* masculine individual's life.

A few places to purchase binders: 

  • Danae - This European company has several undergarment items for trans* community, including several binders to choose from. Their Trans-Vormer collection even includes a swimsuit! There are varying styles of firmness, depending on how much the wearer would like to flatten the chest. And there is even a front zip style which can make putting it on and taking it off easier than going over the head.
  • Underworks - This company specifically carries shaping undergarments for many needs. Trans* people looking for a binder may find just what they're looking for in their array of compression tanks and shirts. The shopping section is intended for cisgender men with gynecomastia, which the Mayo Clinic describes as "swelling of the breast tissue in boys or men, caused by an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and testosterone." Yet, many people transitioning to a traditionally masculine silhouette can use the products to flatter their bust and top torso. Alternatively, a binding bra in the "women's" section is another option. 
  • All Is Fair in Love and Wear - It's worth noting this independent company for their commitment to safety when it comes to binding. In fact, they have a guide for learning how to bind safely. Their website states: "We are setting the standard for safety, comfort & aesthetics in binding, as we believe that binders should be as comfortable, effective and attractive as the people who wear them." Please note that this company is currently in a production freeze with plans to return at a later date.

As an alternative, you can also find compression sports bras or a minimizer bra for a less severe option of flattening the bust. As with any garment, be sure to wear what fits well!

05
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Underwear, Periods, and Packing

Play Out Underwear
Play Out/Nomi Ellenson

Despite the name "boy short," this popular short style is a common choice among the transgender community, embraced by those of all genders. There are many types of boy shorts and they can be worn for many reasons

For example, several brands have created boy shorts for those transitioning from anatomically female to male to wear with a special "packing" accessory in the groin area. For instance, Origami Customs hand-makes "shorts for Trans*masculine folks which are specifically designed to be worn with a "Packer" or a Stand-To-Pee (STP) device." 

Additionally, undergarment brand, Play Out, believes that "gender is a social construct and that everyone should be able to feel comfortable and sexy in their underthings." Owner, Abbey Sugar continues: "So to that end, we specifically design our styles, colors, and graphics without consideration for 'boy' or 'girl' colors or shapes, such as pastel colors, or lace or flowers." In fact, their trunks are created to be worn with or without packing. ​

Several transgender individuals have found underwear designed for periods serve them well! At their most useful, this underwear can help those who are transitioning to male during menstruation.

06
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Pocketed Bra

Red Fern Lingerie
Red Fern Lingerie

A pocketed bra is a bra with a pocket inside of each cup designed to hold a prosthesis or breast form. 

Many of these styles were designed for people to wear after breast cancer surgery and mastectomy. Wearing a bra and breast forms is either a temporary or permanent solution for a breast cancer survivor to regain the shape of breasts under clothing. Often times, survivors have relayed that having the shape of breasts—even if not having actual breast tissue—helps them feel more like a woman. The same is true for women of trans* experience. 

Pocketed bras and breast forms can help a person transitioning from anatomically male to anatomically female gain a traditionally feminine silhouette. Those of trans* experience have said that wearing this type of undergarment has been helpful for many reasons: from determining the implant size before augmentation surgery to exploring their newfound identity in private before sharing with the world. 

A few brands and bras with pockets: 

Danae - Once again, this brand comes through with tops and simple bras in sizes that can fit a larger back, with pockets for prostheses for breast forms. The styles are more on the simple and smooth side.

Red Fern Lingerie - Though made by a breast cancer survivor, the designer, Tina Doueihi, says that she has several trans* customers, including Michelle, whom she recently interviewed. Tina says, "I feel transgender is the last of the taboo in the lingerie industry" and aims to provide undergarments for anyone who is seeking beautiful undergarments.

Anita - One of the largest options for pocketed bras in many sizes and styles, including some pocketed swimsuits. 

Sophia Rose Intimates - This independent brand has a smaller size range and style options to offer, yet their beautiful and comfortable designs are a welcome site for many. 

07
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Waist Cincher and Padded Undergarments

Hourglass angel waist trainer
Hourglass Angel

The search to create the ideal feminine silhouette continues for both cisgender, transgender women and/or trans* feminine individuals. For trans* feminine people especially, sculpting the natal male figure into that of a typical feminine shape can be a challenge before hormones or surgery. In addition to push up or padded bras, many have found luck experimenting with waist cinchers and padded undergarments, including underwear.

Waist Cinchers and Trainers: Try the assortments available at Spicy Lingerie, Squeem, and Hourglass Angel.

Padded Underwear and Enhancers: Try the assortments available at Danae, Hourglass Angel, Underworks.