at work en femme again

(I wrote this piece shortly after Halloween 2003.)


Two weeks before Halloween, Human Resources announced that there would be Halloween festivities at work including a costume contest. Naturally, I was overjoyed at the opportunity to dress at work as my gender of choice again. I say “again” because three years ago, the company-sponsored Halloween festivities included a costume contest. I dressed in fairly convincing office-girl drag and won the contest hands down.

After this year’s announcement, a few people who were familiar with my award-winning costume asked me if I was getting dressed again this Halloween. The women who asked actually were encouraging me to do so. I played coy saying that it didn’t seem that anyone else in our building was dressing; I didn’t want to be the only one in costume. In reality, I did not care if I was the only one in the state in costume; if the company said it was ok to appear in costume, then I was not going to miss the opportunity to do so.

I started shopping for a new outfit and found something darling on the Jessica London web site. It was described as a “Helen Blake mock two-piece dress. White collar, long sleeves and three rhinestone buttons. Polyester. Dry clean. Made in USA from imported fabric.” It had no waist, so I thought I would be able to wear it without foundation garments and not have folks wondering if I was wearing foundation garments. The dress was on clearance, so I ordered it and it arrived four days before Halloween.

The Mrs. said it looked like “a schoolmarm dress.” I didn’t mind that, but when I tried it on, it was too big. Not only did I look like a schoolmarm, but I looked like a schoolmarm in a muumuu.

I should have ordered it one size smaller, but it was too late to send it back and get a smaller size in time for Halloween. So, three nights before Halloween, I had to find an outfit to wear that would fit the office-girl drag category. Note that in addition to spending the day at work en femme, I planned to go to the mall during lunch, so I did not want something too outrageous and that would eliminate my real short skirt outfits.

After trying on a half-dozen outfits, I decided to wear my navy blue pinstriped suit. I always looked good in it and even though its skirt is short, the outfit is so office girl drag that I could get away with it. With the suit, I planned to wear a black lace blouse, black 3.5-inch stiletto pumps, black pantyhose, and my blue faux pearl necklace, earrings, and bracelet set.

Halloween eve, I Naired my legs, arms, and chest, packed my purse, and organized everything I needed Halloween morning so that I could get ready as fast as possible and get to work between 7:30 and 8 AM.

Halloween morning, I was up at 4:45 AM. I showered and shaved with a brand new razor blade and then began doing my makeup. It takes me about an hour to do my makeup and Halloween was typical.

I was dressed by 6:30 AM. I took the dog out to do her morning duty and retrieved the newspaper. Back in the house, I fed the cats and the puppy and did my nails. I used Revlon’s self-adhesive nails. They are pricey, but they are great. No glue, no sticky tabs, and they stay on tight. I have never lost one.

I was just about ready to go, when a minor disaster occurred. As I was adjusting the pantyhose on my left leg, I caught a point of my faux gem ring on the pantyhose on my right leg and it started to run. The run was on my upper inner thigh, so I figured it would not be noticeable and I used the old trick of applying some clear nail polish to the run to make it stop running.

I grabbed my purse, got in my car, and drove to work with Shania singing Man, I Feel Like A Woman blasting on the CD player (to put me in the mood). Thirty minutes later, I parked my car in my usual parking spot at work and got ready to exit my car. I noticed that a fellow who sits three cubicles from me was just getting out of his car and heading my way to get inside the building (my car was parked near the entrance).

I said to myself, “Well, here goes,” and I got out of my car just as he was passing. I said hello in my normal voice and he returned a hello without any sign of recognition.

I know he knows my car. We are usually among the first people at work and just the day before, he mentioned something about my car, but he had no clue who I was. I thought, “This was going to be good” and it was.

People who saw my costume three years earlier, recognized me right away, but the folks who had not seen me en femme before had no clue. It was very humorous when they learned who I was. The majority had to be told who I was; very few figured out whom I was.

The costume contest was a flop. Only three other people showed up in costume. Morale has been poor for a while. We have had some lay-offs and the folks in the factory were working three- and four-day weeks for a while, so there are not a lot of happy campers around that felt like participating in a company-sponsored costume contest.

Despite the low participation, the contest went on. We each received numbers to wear and we were escorted around the company for all to view. After folks saw us, they were supposed to vote using the numbers we wore. The categories were scariest, funniest, and most original, so there were four contestants vying for three prizes.

After we began our tour, one of the other contestants suggested that I say “hello” in a butch voice as we walked around because she thought the folks might think I was just another girl from HR escorting the contestants. And so I did.

When the votes were totaled, I received the most votes, but HR decided to give all four of us prizes, which was real nice of them to do. One of the women who encouraged me to dress joked that I probably won the “scariest” category. I asked why and she said that although the women thought it was great that I dressed like a woman, a lot of guys probably thought it was scary because they found me attractive. I never thought of it that way!

I had a great experience. I got a few “you look too good” comments, but I just took them in stride. The most attractive woman in our company, a tall “to die for” blond, visited my cubicle and wanted to check out my makeup job. She was surprised that I did my own makeup.

For some reason, I mentioned the run in my stocking and how I stopped it with the nail polish trick. She asked me how I knew to do that and I told her the truth, that is, I had read it somewhere. As soon as I said that I realized she would wonder what I was reading, obviously not Mechanics Illustrated! She just said, “Uh huh,” and then she said I looked “hot!” I think she suspects I do this a lot. A couple of other women mentioned that I had “great legs.”

During lunch, I drove to the mall. As I sat in the car fixing my makeup, I noticed all the women entering and exiting Filene’s. What a bunch of slobs! Most of them looked liked they were doing the laundry at home and suddenly discovered that they had to go to Filene’s and buy some detergent! I could not believe how poorly most of them were dressed. I did not see one skirt or dress. I did see some women dressed nicely in slacks or pants, but they were in the minority.

I was way overdressed, but I said, “what the heck” and entered Filene’s. By now, the balls of my feet were screaming because of the high heels I had worn all morning, so I switched to a different pair of shoes with a lower chunky heel. They were a lot more comfortable, but were actually a little loose and the right shoe slipped off my foot a couple of times while I walked around Filene’s. That sure makes it difficult to walk gracefully!

A lot of people read me, but no one confronted me. I ended up at the Mac makeup counter. The saleswoman was very helpful and I bought two items that I needed. Then, I left the store and went back to work.

It was an interesting day, but I don’t think I will do it again. One of the female contestants suggested we attend next year as bride and groom (her the groom and me the bride), but I think I will pass. If I showed up in drag again, I think people will really start to wonder about how I dress on weekends, so next year, I think I will attend dressed in a male costume. Something macho like a hairdresser or fashion designer!