Oh Tranny boy, the tights are calling

Shopping for clothes can be nightmarish if you're a woman, let alone if you're a man who likes dressing as one.

'Always be sensible and discreet,' advises Janett Scott, president of The Beaumont Society, a self-help group for transvestites and crossdressers.

In her sixties, she has been a crossdresser most of her life and knows the pitfalls. 'I've heard some horror stories. One man went into a cubicle to try on a dress, but the zip got stuck. When the young shop assistant went to unzip him and saw his hairy back, she screamed.'

There are certain ways to go about shopping for women's clothes if you're male, says Janett. 'For example, some high street shoe shops, like Saxone, sell large women's shoes. Go to the counter and explain that you'd like to buy a pair for yourself. They'll usually be happy to help you out and try shoes on in the stock room.'

It also helps to go shopping on a quieter week day. 'On Saturdays shops get in younger staff who tend to be giggly. Also, if you do ask to try something on, explain that you're a crossdresser, not a TV. A TV is assumed by many to be a sex pervert. Crossdressers are seen as more mature and just like ordinary women.'

If all this still sounds too nerve wracking, there are some shops that cater specifically for transvestites and men who like to cross dress. There are also various TV groups at hand to boost confidence.

Cover Girl Shoes, 44 Cross St, Islington N1 (071-354 2883) Mon-Fri 11am-5pm/Thurs 11am-7pm.

Cover Girl has been selling shoes, corsetry and wigs to the capital's TV community for the past eight years.

'We make all our customers feel at home here, there's no cause for embarrassment,' says shop owner Jean Brandon. Shoes start at pounds 38, range from size 4 to 12 and are mainly high heeled glamour in red, white or black leather.

Boned Victorian corsets, satin panty girdles and bras are on sale as well as hip pads and bra fillers. These come in a range of foam, cotton wool and silicone. The silicone pads start at pounds 100 and can be bought over the counter or ordered (they take two weeks). The large and varied stock of synthetic wigs start at pounds 35 for a short bob.

Fantasy Fayre, 22 Camden Rd NW1 9PD (071-916 2100) Mon-Sat 9.30am-6pm/Sun 11am-5pm.

Though it looks a fairly small from the street, this is a large, 600ft sq haberdashery with a huge selection of trimmings for clothes and home interiors.

'We're a glorified John Lewis haberdashery,' says shop owner Ann Bhuglah. 'We do get a lot of cross dressers coming in to buy things for their outfits and are happy to advise on what to buy and what goes with which kind of fabric.'

Most popular are her feathered boas, sequins, braids, beads and jewellery. They also sell a selection of bra paddings for bras and dresses which start at pounds 2.95.

Kentucky Woman (0276-676898) Mon-Sat 9am-7pm By appointment only.

'I started out making corsetry for real girls who I thought wanted to look like Madonna. But real girls don't want to look like Madonna - transvestites do,' laughs shop owner Sandi Hall.

Up and running for 18 months, it is a small studio in Camberly that looks like the backstage dressing room for a Fifties stage musical.

Hall makes all types of day and evening wear to measure as well as a large selection of Victorian ballgowns, maid's outfits and other 'fantasy' wear. Her line of satin corsets include waist clinchers, deep waist nippers and full-length corsets which reach over the hip line - from pounds 55 to pounds 150. Court shoes and synthetic and natural hair wigs are on sale (pounds 85-pounds 200) and a large selection of breast prostheses (pounds 210-pounds 350).

Girls Like Us, Studio 18, Aberdeen Studios, 22-24 Highbury Grove N5 2EA (071-359 2289) Tues-Sat 10am-6pm Appointments only.

Run by Piroska Cavell and staffed by female photographers and stylists, this is a photographic studio and dressing service exclusively for transvestites and cross dressers.

A photo-session costs pounds 95 for four hours or longer and includes a full hair and face makeover, a choice of clothes and a professional modelling photo shoot. There is a wide selection of day, evening and fantasy wear. A mail order

catalogue will be available.

Samples will be on sale to try on, model and order direct. Cosmetics and wigs are also available. A dressing session without photos costs pounds 75.

Hair Raisers, 105 Cleveland St W1 (071-580 7666) Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm By appointment.

A huge selection from the natural and modest bob to the pantomime 'Dame Shirley wig. The shop sells to all, but is frequented by the TV community and has a private fitting room for those wanting to try wigs. A pounds 5 fitting fee is charged if no purchase is made.

Most favoured by TVs for day wear are the more natural-looking wigs and scrunched hairdos. Those in the club world come in for Afros and more extravagant numbers. Prices from pounds 35 to pounds 100.

TV SOCIETIES

The Beaumont Society helpline (0582 412220). President Janett Scott passes on regional contacts.

Transessex (0268 583761). Based in Basildon, this society holds monthly social meetings and produces a newsletter.

The Transvestites Guide to London, Way Out Publishing, PO Box 941 SW5. A 106-page TV's bible which lists clubs, pubs, hotels, and events happening in London. For a copy send an A5 SAE with a cheque or postal order for pounds 9.95 made out to Way Out Publishing.

TV BARS/CLUBS

The Philbeach Hotel, 30 Philbeach Gdns, Earl's Ct SW5 (071-373 1244). A long-standing glam TV haunt in Earl's Court. Expect fancy Regency decor (columns, glass awnings) and a strange, secretive (very Poirot) coat check person.

Fanny's, Ted's Place, 305a North End Rd W14 (071-385 9359). Basement bar where lesbians, TVs and crossdressers drink, schmooze and hang out.

Madame Jojo's, 8 Brewer St, Soho W1 (071-734 2473). Legendary TV cabaret club where leggy knockout waitresses are all TVs.

(Photograph omitted)

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