You don’t normally associate crime fiction and clothes. Not many detectives are noted for their fashion sense although Hercule Poirot was always immaculately dressed. Nevertheless certain crime fighters are remembered and are even famous for particular articles of clothing. Who can imagine Columbo without his crumpled mac or Sherlock Holmes without his deerstalker (never mentioned in the stories) or Jack Frost without his pork pie hat. Certainly in televised crime shows the detective has a “uniform” which becomes part of his or her character even if it is just the patterned jumper made famous by a certain Scandinavian show.
Of course most fictional detectives are male and blokes aren’t supposed to be interested in clothes. It is not sexist to suggest that a greater proportion of women than men take care over what they wear. Many women may be happy in a pair of jeans and T-shirt in many locations but the choice of which clothes to wear for particular situations is perhaps more important for women. The appearances of Miss Marple, Cagney & Lacey and Scott & Bailey are distinctively feminine., Trousers are now an important component of every woman’s wardrobe but there are still gender differences in clothing. The cut, texture, colour and pattern carry signals which almost everyone picks up unconsciously.
Clothes are important to Jasmine Frame in Painted Ladies because she is transsexual. There are many trans-women with no interest in clothes whatsoever. Being female is a mind-set, something felt internally, and their outward appearance is a secondary or minor aspect of their gender identity. For many of the transgendered, however, getting their appearance right is a boost to their confidence. Wearing appropriate items of clothing coupled with suitable cosmetics can help the trans-woman “pass” when out amongst the public. Thus, while skirts and dresses are less frequently worn by “real” women, they form a staple in the wardrobe of many trans-women.
Getting the choice correct is something a real woman grows up with from childhood. A transsexual embarked on transition from male to female may still be learning and sometimes they may get their appearance wrong, either appearing over- or under-dressed for an occasion, to their embarrassment and possible humiliation.
To find out where Jasmine stands in this every day dilemma of how to appear to her colleagues and the public you’ll have to read Painted Ladies (to be published in September as an e-book and paperback).