Fluorescent lighting and a standard, floor length mall-mirror make for the tiny torture chamber that is a department store dressing room.
It’s a place where most of middle America has experienced the disturbance of meeting your reflection half-dressed in ill-fitting polyester blends and cotton pineapple patterns trying their best to find the most direct route to your body type. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not-so-much. Bathing Suit Season, Denim Sales, Prom, and the like, are all little obstacle courses, a Where’s Waldo romp through the racks of color and size in search of the perfect uniform for 21st Century self-actualization, somewhere in which exists Identity Incarnate. We hope at least. When, finally, probably between crop top and poodle skirt, emerges the perfect vintage blouse that makes you look both careless and purposeful, a thrill surges through your body, while instant relief and gratification roll off your shoulders as you walk down the street experiencing something we like to call ease, confidence, pride.
Maybe it’s a new dress. Maybe it’s your Grandpa’s slick cap that’s making a serious comeback. Maybe you just throw on a T-Shirt and Jeans and it feels right every time. Or maybe that’s a sensation you’ve never quite experienced. Suited is a new documentary that explores that feeling of being empowered by your clothing through the story of Rae Tutera and Daniel Friedman, the creative minds behind Bindle & Keep, a tailor shop in Brooklyn dedicated to making custom suits for gender nonconforming customers.
For many trans and nonbinary folks, just the act of getting dressed in the morning entails a struggle that never crosses the minds of most cis gendered people. Tutera and Friedman are working together to change that. And they have big plans.
“We are going to make sure that anyone who wants to feel great in clothing, can. No matter where they are. Even if they’re in the Yukon territories, South America, Utah. We gonna make sure that no one has to come to New York City to feel great in what they’re wearing,” says Friedman about his hopes for the expansion of Bindle & Keep. Right now, though, we can see what kind of huge, personal changes they’re making for several subjects in this elegant documentary.
“I never thought it was possible. I always had to cobble things together,” one of the doc’s subjects, Mel, explains about what it means to wear clothing that feels made for her. Having a suit that presents a picture of the person in sync with their own identity lessens the amount of energy that goes into dressing for a society that doesn’t make room for unconventional. “It was just a non-issue and I think that’s the most important thing.”
The documentary explores the lives of several individuals having that full experience of the outside finally matching the inside. From producers Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, Suited just begins to scratch the surface of a community finally beginning to be heard. Konner says of working on the project, “It changed the way I feel about the world. I took for granted how easy it was for me to get dressed in the morning and I don’t any longer.” Suited is now available for streaming on HBOGO.