Sunday, 16 September 2012

Fancy Dress

Colin was grumbling again.  It was like listening to a stuck record.  What am I going to do here? How is the office going to cope without me?  Why did I let you talk me into this?

I sighed.  With regard to the last question, I was beginning to ask myself the same question.  Perhaps I would have been better off coming on my own.

The idea of going on a six week cruise around the world had seemed perfect at the time.  Colin and I were in our early forties, our two twin boys were all grown up and off on a year's backpacking trip for their gap year before university, and it was our 20th wedding anniversary.

Colin had been a good catch for me.  We had met at university.  We could not have been more different.  I had  been outgoing and vivacious, a real social butterfly.  I had studied fashion and designed my own clothes even then.  Colin had been a law student.  Very serious and hard working.  He had preferred studying in the library or debating to being in the student union bar.

But once we had met, we had hit it off and we married as soon as we both graduated.  Colin progressed well in his career, perhaps a little too well for my liking as his work seemed to take precedence over family life.  But, on the whole, he had been a good husband and father and he had  after all supported me financially.  He had even encouraged me to set up and run my own on-line fashion business, which was beginning to take off.

Another reason for the cruise was to get Colin away from work.  He was a workaholic and he had not had a proper break since when the boys had been small.  Colin had been most reluctant to leave his practice for six whole weeks and it had taken all of my persuasive powers over a period of weeks to break down his resistance.

Now I was wishing I hadn't.  The cruise ship was a floating pleasure palace, filled with non-stop amusements and entertainments.  And Colin kept saying how utterly bored he was!

I made him come to one of the ship's many bars.  Perhaps a few drinks would help him unwind a little.  Whilst we were there, we met an american couple, Hank and Betsy.  Hank was a huge, but largely silent man whilst Betsy was tiny in stature but had a huge personality.

Betsy and I became friends straight away and got to talking whilst Hank persuaded Colin to try indoor golf.  I was glad for a little time away from Colin as his constant moaning was getting me down.

Betsy told me that she and Hank had been married for 31 years and had a boy and two girls, all grown up now.  Hank had owned a lumber mill in Iowa, but had recently sold it for a healthy profit.  Hank and Betsy were enjoying what they hoped would be a long and happy retirement.

We talked and traded our life stories for quite some time until our menfolk returned.  Colin seemed to have struck up a friendship with Hank.  He was even smiling for the first time since the cruise began.  We agreed that we would all meet up for dinner.

As an added bonus, Hank and Betsy were first class passengers (Colin and I were in second) and so as their guests we got to eat in first class.  We had to dress for the part mind you.  Colin wore his tux and I wore a frock and heels along with a pearl necklace that had been left to me years ago by a long dead aunt.

We had a most agreeable time.  Hank and Colin really seemed to have hit it off and Colin went to the bar with Hank so as to leave us ladies alone.  Betsy and I agreed that all we would all take part in various activities and functions together.

Betsy asked me, with a smile, what Colin and I planned to do for the fancy dress ball.  It was the highlight of the cruise as unlike most of the other parties where a strict dress code was enforced, anyone could come dressed as anything.  No holds barred.

I confessed that I must have missed the literature on the fancy dress ball when I had booked the cruise.  We certainly hadn't planned for it.  Colin and I literally had nothing to wear!

Betsy leant over conspiratorally "Hank and I have done this before, you know.  Do you know what our favourite outfits are?"

I admitted that I had no idea.

Betsy smiled again "We like to switch things around.  Y'know, I put on a tux and Hank wears a frock.  Not each others clothes of course, they'd never fit!  But we have our own switcheroo outfits.  Why don't you and Colin try it?"

My mind was still whirling from the idea of seeing big old Hank in a dress "Oh, I don't know....I don't think Colin would want to wear a skirt".  The idea seemed ludicrous.

"It's only a bit of harmless fun" Betsy persisted "Apart from me and Hank, who else do you know on this boat?  Who's going to care less how you are dressed".

She had a lot of good points.  I was warming to the idea of trying something different and unusual "Why not then?"

"Attagirl!" said Betsy.

"But....where am I going to get suitable clothes?"  Colin was taller and slimmer than me and I'd never fit inside his tux.

"Silly girl.  We're on an ocean liner.  It has plenty of shops.  Meet up with me tomorrow and we'll go shopping.  We'll get our men to give us some space".

It was the weirdest shopping trip of my life and I was a veteran shopper.  Betsy insisted on sorting me out first so we went to a tux hire shop where I was measured just like a man would have been and I tried on a tuxedo with the shirt, bow tie, cummerband, socks, shoes and even male underwear.  It was quite a strange experience to behold myself in the mirror, dressed as a male.

Pleased with the purchases for me, we moved on to the women's clothing stores, which were more numerous.  I was able to estimate Colin's size and we picked out a suitable outfit for him.  I couldn't believe as I looked at lingerie, dresses, shoes and jewellery that it would be my husband and not I who would be wearing it all.

Colin's reaction when I had to tell him about the fancy dress ball and the gender switching idea was what I had expected. Namely, incredulity, followed by anger, but I eventually talked him into at least trying the outfit on.

There was no question of him shaving his legs or anything.  Colin refused point blank to do that.  But he put on the white lace panties, matching bra, tights (that Betsy had called pantyhose), a cream silk blouse, a black skirt with red rose patterns on it with a white belt and a gold fastener and a pair of low heeled shoes with shiny gold buckles on.

Except for the fact he looked like a woman with a man's head on her shoulders, Colin looked pretty good.  He was slim and willowy.  His legs looked slender and feminine under the skirt and tights. He had small hands.  It was odd that in over twenty years of knowing him, I'd never noticed that before.

A strange mood had come over Colin.  He seemed quiet and shy and yet made no move to stop me when I applied make up to his face, filled his bra cups with fake boobs and fitted a long blonde wig onto his head.  I enhanced his image further by applying false manicured nails to his fingers and added a few bits of costume jewellery.

Colin made a very convincing woman.  Not a beauty, of course, but nevertheless quite pretty and lovely.  From the back, it was impossible to tell that my husband occupied the female trappings. He must have felt odd and very conspicuous, as I did, dressed in a tuxedo.

But he made no protest or any move to take off the garments.  He even seemed happy for me to take his arm and lead him out to the fancy dress ball.  There we met Betsy and Hank.  Betsy was dressed as I was whilst Hank was dressed as a southern belle in a red dress, bonnet and crinolines.  Hank looked nothing like a woman.  He was simply too big.  Betsy was too tiny to pass as a man.  Betsy and Hank looked far odder than Colin and I.

But then again, there were many other people dressed even more bizarrely. As superheroes, celebrities or as clowns.  Gender switching seemed tame by comparison.

The evening was enjoyable and a complete success.  Colin, I noted, was also enjoying himself and received quite a few compliments on his appearance.  We danced together, with me playing the man's part and him taking that of the woman.

In the early hours of the morning, we got back to our cabin, exhausted.  I helped Colin out of his outfit and I put off mine.  It had been a very interesting and fun experience, I thought as I prepared for bed, but it was purely one off event.  Everything would return to normal.

How wrong I was.

Colin seemed to be completely hooked by the feminine lingerie, and rather than wear his own admittedly boring underpants, he slipped on a pair of black lace panties and decided to wear a pair of tights too underneath his usual male ensemble.

I wanted to say something, to make him take them off, but I shrugged.  Nobody could tell what someone else might be wearing under their outer clothes.  Everyone just naturally assumed that everyone would conform to what was normal for their gender.

Colin went about the ship dressed that way and no-one was any the wiser but I still felt uncomfortable with the knowledge that I knew.

In hindsight, I should have put a stop to Colin's secret cross dressing, for even for the remainder of the cruise it began to get a little out of control or, at least, out of my control!

Once Colin realised he could get away with wearing ladies underwear, he began to push the boundaries further.  To my consternation, he visited the lingerie stores on the ship and bought up more underwear including stockings, suspender belts and basques.  Out of sight of other passengers, he would put his purchases on in our cabin.  It was quite disconcerting to see one's husband clad in in a basque, stockings and high heels.

Colin mastered the art of wearing high heels and stilettos remarkably quickly but then he had always been very bright and a quick study.

Colin made some other purchases too, such as dresses, blouses and skirts and he again wore these in the privacy of our cabin.  He was not quite yet brave enough to go en femme in public.  I was astonished at how feminine Colin's tastes were. The lacier and frillier the garment, the better, and he made my own wardrobe look quite dull in comparison.

I consoled myself that, for one thing, Colin was not thinking about work.  He seemed to have found a new obsession.  And, whilst he was enjoying himself in his new outfits, I was free to spend the rest of the cruise doing what I liked and without him moaning about how bored he was.

Time seemed to accelerate and before long the ship was making its way to its final destination: England.  Colin seemed distraught that the cruise - and his opportunity to dress up - was coming to an end.  I was relieved.  Perhaps this meant that his new craze would come to an end.

With great reluctance, he packed away his clothes and other accessories. He had bought so much that he had had to purchase more luggage to accommodate it all.  Perhaps it could go to charity, I thought.

Once again, I was wrong, for once we got home, Colin set to work clearing out his wardrobe and drawers of some of his old male clothing and installing his new feminine finery in its place.  He had to keep some suits, ties and shoes of course for work, and some leisure wear, but most of his clothes were now women's clothing.

I was greatly dismayed by this development and tried to put my foot down "Colin, please, you can't keep dressing up as a woman...."

"Why shouldn't I?" he said "If I enjoy it?  You've had the benefit of being allowed to wear what you want all your life.  Why shouldn't I be allowed to do the same?"

As always, his logic was irrefutable.  Why shouldn't a man be allowed to wear what he liked and enjoyed wearing?  Women were allowed to wear both skirted garments and trousers and had been for many years now whilst for men it was still only acceptable for them to wear trousers.

But, of course, in our gender-oriented society, it was not as simple as that.  I feared that, one day, the neighbours would see Colin in a dress.  Then that would mean that our friends would find out, which would also mean that Colin's employers would be bound to find out.  Colin would lose his job and we would be shunned socially.

The following day after we had arrived back, Colin returned to work.  He looked like a respectable solicitor in his suit, tie and shoes, but I winced at the knowledge that underneath all that he wore a pair of lace panties.  He had thrown away his male underthings and would henceforth only wear panties.  My efforts to dissuade him were fruitless, so I could only hope no one would ever find out.

Over the next month, Colin seemed to be completely focused on work again.  Until the weekend, which he would spend either dressed or otherwise out shopping for new things.  I focused my efforts on my on-line business.  If Colin lost his job, I would have to support us both financially.

Within a few months, Colin had decided that it was time to hook up with other men with the same predelictions as himself and he used the internet to find CD events.  At odd weekends, he would disappear with a large amount of luggage and I wouldn't see him again until Sunday night.  I quietly wondered what he got up to with his new friends.

Six months after the fateful cruise, Colin announced that he was going away for a week on one of his CD events.  This time, though, he wanted me to go with him!  At first, I refused.  I had no wish to spend a week amongst a load of men dressed as women, even if one of them was my husband, but Colin pleaded with me.  It would mean everything in the world to him if I would come just this one time and if I didn't like it he wouldn't pressure me to attend another event again, he promised.

Reluctantly, I gave in.  He was my husband, the man I loved, and he needed me to support him just for this one time.  It was be the one and only time, I vowed, convinced that I would hate it.

The first day of the event came swiftly upon us and before I knew where I was, I was in a hotel filled with men dressed either in over the top frocks or as more mainstream women.  Some of them looked nothing like women whilst others looked more womanly than I did, but most of them looked mostly like women - until you got close up and noticed stray bits of stubble under the make up or a very visible adam's apple.

The "girls" as our men liked to collectively call themselves, went around together.  But I was not alone.  Far from it, as most of the "girls" had brought their female wives, girlfriends and significant others with them.  We real women stuck together and had drinks and chats whilst our "girls" took part in beauty pageants and other activities laid on for them.

Amongst the women, I encountered differing attitudes to their man's activities.  Cynthia, a lady of upper crust origins whose husband worked as a stockbroker but who was currently strutting about in fishnets and high heels, was clearly unhappy. "He's not the man I married!" she would say, as a kind of mantra "At first, I thought it must be another woman.  All that lingerie, and stockings and all that, but when I realised that the other "woman" was him....".  Cynthia shook her head sadly.

Sue, a bubbly hairdresser, held the completely opposite opinion.  Her Trev "Makes a bloody brilliant girl.  He becomes Tracey and the perfect girlfriend for me.  I get the best of both worlds - a man to take care of me and worship me and also a girlfriend to talk to about anything I want".

Most of the other wives, me included, were kind of in the middle.  We were still coming to terms with it all.  Some of the women moaned that even though their husbands had been dressing for years - decades in some cases! - they still had no idea how to use make up, put on a bra or walk in high heels properly.  Some men, we concluded, make pretty poor specimens of womanhood!

But not my Colin, I had to admit.  He had a staggering amount of clothes and accessories already, even he had only been at it for about seven months.  He could already make himself up pretty well without any help from me and he could certainly manage bras and high heels as though they were natural to him.  Watching him dress one evening, I was astonished at how quickly and completely he transformed himself into a convincing woman.

He was, I noticed, a bit of a star at these events.  He usually won (or came a close second) the beauty pageants and he turned heads as he walked about the hotel.  He was already well known amongst the CD set.

It was, all in all, a wonderful week.  It was not only fun seeing the men clad and behaving as women, but talking and socialising with the wives and sharing our worries and concerns was a real panacea for me.  On the last night, we wives all got rather merry, even the uptight Cynthia, and had an enormously enjoyable time.  It was a relief to let my hair down.

But it was time to go back to the real world.  Colin, I noticed, was a little morose as he packed away the last of his frocks and loaded up the car for the return trip home.  I could sense that his desire to experience womanhood was growing.  This could become a problem later, I realised.

A more immediate problem arose for our boys were at last coming home from their expedition.  Colin did not want to risk damaging his relationship with his sons by his dressing up and so he reluctantly put all his things in the loft and out of the way.

For the three months between the boys returning and their departure for university, Colin reverted to being a man full time but at times I could sense his longing to slip into a frock.  To his credit, he managed to avoid any slips, but the day after we dropped the boys off (they were going to the same university thankfully otherwise we would have been on the road all day), Colin's dresses and other things were rescued from the loft.

Later that evening, Colin was wearing a peach coloured dress and high heels and walking about as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.  I looked at him in dismay.  This dressing up was getting out of hand.  I decided that it was time to talk about it, so on the following day, after we had eaten, before Colin could head upstairs to change into something more feminine, I asked him to sit down.

"Colin.....this business of you dressing up as a woman.  You clearly enjoy it and I have to admit it's been a bit of fun.  But it's got to stop".  I said firmly.

Colin's reaction was to burst into tears.  I instinctively went to hug him.  He said, between sobs, that he would die if he couldn't be allowed to dress up.  I told him not to be so silly.  It would be a painful wrench for him not to be able to indulge himself, and it wouldn't be easy, I told him, but he would get over it and things would return to normal.

But Colin shook his head.  He was not giving it up and I couldn't make him, he said.  I was shaken by these words.  The basis of our relationship, which had been so stable since the day we had married, if not before, was changing.  I wanted things to go back to the way they were before but Colin didn't.  For the first time in many years, we were at odds with each other.

I played the only card I had left, and it nearly broke my heart to have to resort to it but he had to be made to see sense "Colin, if you don't give up this obsession, I'll......divorce you.  I married a man, not a man who dresses as a woman".

Colin looked at me as if I had just slapped him "You don't understand at all" he said "I don't want to be a man anymore, I want to be a woman!"

I was once again in shock "Don't be absurd.  You aren't a woman.  You can never be one.  You were born as a man.  You don't get to choose what sex you are so we all have to live with being men and women, even if we aren't happy with it!"

But Colin was defiant "If I choose to live as a woman, no-one can stop me.  It's what I want"

"Colin, if you DO do that, you will lose everything.  Your job, your home, your friends, your sons, even me, because what you are suggesting is bonkers!"

"Not to me, it isn't" he said simply "So, I'm going to do it.  Starting tomorrow".

I stared at him in disbelief.  So, this business about being a woman was more important to Colin than our marriage!  That was in effect what he was saying.  I rushed upstairs, packed a suitcase and left.  Colin begged me to stay, but I couldn't.  Not after what he had just said.  I drove off, leaving him standing on the drive and didn't look back.

The next few weeks were a kind of limbo.  I went back to my mother's house.  My father had died two years earlier, so she was glad of my company, although I wasn't in the best of moods alternatively crying or raging against the idiot I had married.  I looked into the possibility of divorce. The woman solicitor I saw said I probably had a good case and that I'd probably get the house and a decent amount of alimony.  But I decided not to make a firm decision yet.  Maybe Colin would come to his senses and agree that he had been foolish.

To my bewilderment and consternation, Colin made no attempt to contact me during that time.

The boys had worked out that their parents had had a falling out but when they called me I just said it was a stupid argument but without revealing the real reason why.  For some reason, it was important to me that Colin was not exposed to ridicule or shunned by his own sons.

Three weeks after I had left, I decided that I needed to return to the house - I no longer viewed it as our marital home - in order to collect the rest of my things.  I would live with mum for a while, probably divorce Colin and buy my own place with the proceeds, all of which would take time.  I went back during the day, as Colin would be at work and at the moment he was last person I wanted to see.

I was surprised, on arrival, to find Colin's car on the drive.  With a sinking heart, I realised that he must be home.  It was not really that surprising as if Colin did go to work in a skirt and heels, he wouldn't be employed for much longer at his firm.

I opened the door to the house to find what I expected - and feared - I would see.

It was Colin, but he looked nothing like he did when I last saw him.  He wore a cream silk blouse, a  dark grey skirt that came down to just below his knees, black tights (or stockings) and black court shoes.  A grey jacket with a gold broach completed the ensemble.

What Colin was wearing was no surprise, but the rest of his appearance was for he had had his eyebrows plucked into the classic feminine arch, his ears had been pierced and fitted with gold earrings, his nails had been filed and painted in a dark red shade and he wore full make up and a long black wig.

He even had a bosom, though I guessed that it must be entirely artificial.

I couldn't help but look at him.  His femme presentation was flawless and exactly right for him.  Colin hadn't been silly enough to try and go for a sexy or over the top look.  Rather, he had gone for a more mainstream image.  He looked and dressed exactly like a sensible lady solicitor of his age.

Actually, I had to admit that he was quite pretty and had great legs.  I was glad I was currently wearing trousers as my own legs would not look as good as his.

But, I remembered the reason for my visit and it was not to gawp at my husband in his lady things.

"I've come to get the rest of my things" I told him "I won't be long and then I'll be gone".

"Maggie, please" Colin said "Won't you stay a while?"

I wasn't inclined to, but firstly we had things we needed to talk about, like the divorce, and second, I was dying to know how Colin was.  A few minutes later Colin and I were sitting having a cup of tea.  It was a very odd reunion with him all dressed up.  I asked him how he was.

Colin said that he was better than he expected to be.  He had gone to work the day after I had left, dressed as he was now and he had predictably caused a furore.  He had been suspended, issued an ultimatum to return to work dressed normally.  Colin had refused and been sacked.  He said that he would be taking them to court for unfair dismissal.  He was currently setting up his own legal practice though that would take some time.  He had spoken to the boys and like me had not told them the real reason why we had split up.  He missed me and wished I would come home.

I gave him my news and as I did so realised that I still loved him.  He had been really foolish but also incredibly brave.  Even now, he was trying to rebuild his life, but in his new persona.  He had even assumed a female name, Coleen.  He would always be Colin to me.

He begged me to come home.  I knew that he needed me, now more than ever.  When we had married all those years ago, we had promised to stay true to each other and to stand with each other "Through better and worse".  Well, I reflected that I had had 20 good years of marriage and now I had to accept that with the appearance of "Coleen" we were about to embark on the "worse" bit.

I moved back in the following day.  Mum was sad to see me go but happy that I was going back to my husband.  But it was very strange co-existence at first.  I had to accept and share my home and even my bed with "Coleen", with her hairless body, her painted nails, her perfume and her fussy, frilly nightdress, and yet remember that this feminised creature was still my husband.

Until Colin got his new practice sorted out - he was waiting on his severance money from his old firm - he was stuck at home.  I got him to wear frocks rather than his lady solicitor outfit.  I was also determined to make him do more around the house.  He could wash his own clothes and underwear for a start.  I also got him dusting, cleaning and hoovering.  As usual, Colin was a quick study and soon knew how to do all the household almost as well I as I did.

Colin eventually got his money and rented a small office out of which to run his new practice.  Unusually, he hired a male secretary, Barry.  Barry was not bothered that he was working for a transvestite.  In fact, he was grateful, as he told me when I popped in to see Colin that he had found it very difficult to get anyone to hire him.  There was still a huge stigma around a man being a secretary.  Colin was prepared to give him a chance and vice versa.  Barry proved to be a loyal and hard working secretary.

Colin's practice took off.  As well as handling the usual legal stuff, Colin had found a niche market in dealing with cases involving transvestites and transexuals.  Under the skirts, stockings and high heels, Colin was still a hotshot lawyer.  The practice grew and Colin's new partners and staff had to accept that "Coleen" was the boss and could wear what she liked!

In the meantime, my own internet business was flourishing, so between us, Colin and I easily made enough money to maintain our lifestyle.  We had had to tell our boys about "Coleen" but whereas in my childhood cross-dressing was still a big taboo, our boys grew up in a more enlightened age, and were more understanding than we had hoped for.  Gradually, they stopped calling Colin "Dad" and began calling him Coleen, which pleased him greatly.

There were (and always will be) awkward moments between Colin and I.  I could live with the idea of "Coleen" but sometimes the reality caused frictions and problems.  Take, for example, the occasion when Colin and I had to attend a party to honour the fact that Barry had become engaged to a female secretary.  Colin had rushed out and bought himself a gorgeous frock, all in blue silk and ribbon, and dressed himself in it.  With his slender, hairless legs, small hands with painted nails and a clutch bag he looked like a million dollars.  I wore a dress, heels and make up too and looked positively dowdy beside him.  It was the woman who was supposed to dress up and look good.  I wasn't very happy with Colin that night.

And there were many other times.  I had married in what would then have been a very reasonable expectation that man and woman would retain their traditional gender roles and dress.  Gender roles were changing as women became better educated and could earn, and that was no bad thing.  Successful career women with a househusband were becoming more common and accepted.  But to genderbend traditional dress was another thing.  When we had been married we had been proclaimed as "Man and Wife", but now my husband was opting out of being a man where did that leave me?  I certainly wasn't a man and how can I be a wife when there is no man?  This was a question I had no answer to.

Looking at Colin getting into another frock, slipping on a pair of heels or sitting at his vanity to apply his make up, it seemed incredible that this man, who had been brought up as a male for the first 40 odd years of his life, could so suddenly and completely switch over to femininity.  I remembered years ago, when I had been a schoolgirl, I had hated being made to wear the thick, heavy grey skirt and big clumsy shoes that had defined my gender.  I couldn't have imagined any boy ever wanting to wear such things.  It was startling to realise that, based on my own experiences so far, there was probably at least one boy at that school who wanted nothing more than to wear that skirt.

And, what did the future hold?  Colin now looked so convincing as a woman, and he had begun taking hormones so that he could grow real breasts, reduce his musculature and give himself so more womanly curves and he had even taken to wearing a corset of all things, that he was bound to get asked out by men.  Where would it all lead to?  To him dating men, maybe even, after first divorcing me, marrying one and becoming a real wife.  It was mind boggling, but not impossible.

As I struggled to come to terms with the changes in my husband, it occurred to me that I needed to change too!  If my husband was a woman, then the logical thing was for me, if not to become a man, but more masculine.  It was quite appealing, actually to eschew the femininity that my husband had hijacked.  So, I got myself male clothing, and determined to wear it all of the time.

Colin loved it.  It was, apparently, his fantasy that he should switch and become the woman and wife, whilst I took the man's role and dress.  Now it was my fantasy too.  With my hair cut short, I looked a lot like a man.   With both of us looking convincing in our new genders, we could remain as man and wife, but with me as the man and him as the wife.

The End