Some of you might know that I’ve recently started writing monthly posts for The Lingerie Addict, a lingerie-focused blog that has an emphasis on inclusion and challenging the homogeneity of the lingerie industry, while seriously celebrating all the wonderful pretty things made by lingerie designers and manufacturers out there. My first post was a round up of companies that make binders, garments to help flatten breast tissue for trans, genderqueer, and non-binary folks. I felt strongly about recognizing the queer-owned companies working hard to make lots of options available to folks with many different bodies, genders, and styles, particularly on such a prominent and mainstream blog.
At the same time, writing about binders felt like writing about a world I wasn’t letting myself be part of. I have, hesitantly and without a lot of confidence, worn a fairly basic GC2B tank binder under my more casual clothes: worn-in button front shirts and heavy wool sweaters, things with a bulk and a shapeless androgyny to them already. Even if I wasn’t consciously aware of it, I had internalized the idea that I could only bind if I eliminated anything coded feminine from my wardrobe that day. While I have fun with the performative aspects of gender, performing masculinity to that degree fit awkwardly on me.
At The Lingerie Addict, I wrote:
For many folks who identify as transmasculine, non-binary, or genderqueer, binders offer a fulfilling – at times necessary, at times imperfect – way of shaping our bodies in order to meet, make, or play with those gendered connotations. What someone might look for in a binder is, therefore, as varied as the huge, wide spectrum of gender expression.
It felt like time for me to figure out how that might work for myself. I’m not trans, but I might be genderqueer. Either way, the joy in gender for me comes in all the play available: in the dramatic, the colorful, in luxurious textures and unexpected pattern mixes, in silhouettes that proclaim rather than try to hide the fullness of my body.
With all that in mind, I set out to create in binder top that would bring me more joy than my utilitarian plain grey one. After all, I figured, none of the rest of the underthings in my drawer were unadorned grey; why should this be? I was inspired by the mesh-front binders offered by ReBirth Garments. I would love to get one of theirs, too, someday; I used them as inspiration not to create a copy without credit but for the pleasure of puzzling out construction details.
I started with hot pink power mesh from Imagine Gnats. This stuff is so gorgeous! Soft, moderately stretchy with good recovery, and the most amazing hot pink fluorescent, too bright to capture in photos. I bought a few yards, so expect to see it again.
With that I paired two different metallic swimwear fabrics from The Fabric Fairy (the most AMAZING source for swimwear fabric in the US). One became the back panel and the other the binding.
There will be more construction details coming soon! I plan to launch a blog entirely devoted to the Sew Queer project that will host personal essays and tutorials based on the intersection between sewing and queer identity. A mesh binder tutorial will be one of the first posts! (Side note: if you’d be interested in writing for Sew Queer or becoming involved in another way, send me a message!)
To sum up, though: I started with the Kaye bra top from Seamwork, lengthened the waist, lifted the neck, and changed the back style lines. The front is three panels of power mesh, which are sandwiched at the side back seams between the pebbled swimwear fabric and a layer of black mesh. I treated my lighter silver fabric like bias strips and bound all of the edges — I wanted the bolder look that gives, but using fold over elastic would also work.
Getting a fully flat chest is not going to be achievable for me, no matter the binder. But that’s not really the point here! I could easily do this same garment in more of a sports bra shape, with the lift women are told we’re supposed to want. But there’s something delightful about ignoring that, about wrapping myself up snugly in something that holds tight to my body and yet proclaims it, loudly and in highlighter colors, as something to which you should pay attention. I’m excited to let it be seen, at the edges of a muscle tank or underneath the straps of my overalls, to pull it on in the hot summer months when I’m at home and want only happy and light things on my body.