Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Female Masking: Dressing For Success by P. J. Wright

Something a little different for you this week, as we suit up, adjust our faces, and explore the world of female masking. This is something that really slipped into the mainstream over the last year-and-a-half, with a Channel 4 documentary, Secrets of the Living Dolls, and several newspaper articles that followed - all of them exploring it primarily from a fetish or cosplay angle. While I don't deny that aspect, I immediately saw a potential for transgender expression, so I decided to talk to the people who live it, love it, and write about it to learn more.

If you have yet to read this month's issue of Frock Magazine, then I urge you to give it a read as soon as you're done here - I think you'll find my article on Female Masking and the Trans Community a great sort of primer, and a natural lead in to this week's feature.


A double treat for female masking enthusiast today, as we not only feature a review of P. J. Wright's novel-length tale, but an interview with the author!

Dressing For Success is a bit of an oddity in the genre of female masking fiction, in that it's a full-length novel that takes a serious, yet sometimes lighthearted, approach. It's a story that could have been told using the trope of the perfectly proportioned crossdresser, or even the surgically enhanced bimbo, but P. J. Wright uses masking and bodysuits to actually tell a more grounded, more realistic tale.

That's not to say it's all completely realistic, and that there's no element of fantasy here. Wright's idea of a masks and bodysuits is a tad more advanced than science is currently able to produce, but the amount of detail invested in NuGen's product actually makes it plausible. Peter is just as skeptical as the reader, especially when he takes the flimsy bit of plastic out of the box. We share his struggle to put any faith whatsoever into the product, and then his amazement as the detailed instructions for preparation and use do, ultimately, deliver a perfect illusion of femininity.

Part of what I loved so much about the opening to the novel is the way Peter distances himself from Pamela. Although he's inside her skin, he 'sees' her as a different person entirely, and takes great delight in watching her in the mirror, as if her movements weren't his own. Thanks to the technology, she fits perfectly, and a chemical spray delivers a perfect feminine voice for up to 8 hours at a time. Sure, he might pick up on naturally feminine movements a bit too quickly to be plausible, but he's not so perfect that he pushes the bounds of credibility.

There are 5 sections to the novel, each of them its own story that's a part of the greater whole:

  1. Girl, Monday Through Friday - this is really the heart of the story, establishing the premise that requires Peter to pass as Pamela in order to land a job, detailing the NuGen technology, and exploring the challenges (and delights) of living a double-life.
  2. The New Model - introduces a second bodysuit into the mix as Pamela strives to deliver on the perfect, unknown, undiscovered model that a famous fashion designer demands to fulfill her advertising campaign for his new line of lingerie.
  3. Much Ado... - this is a side story, a perfect little intermission, that really has fun with the core themes in the novel, exploring not only the definition and interplay of gender, but a very literal war of the sexes.
  4. Pas De Deux - probably my favorite part of the novel, this part introduces a third bodysuit, a great little comedy of mistaken identities, and a delightful romance that doesn't betray or negate anything that's happened to Pamela so far, but which furthers both Peter's evolution and the novel's theme of gender equality.
  5. Femme Fatale - this was actually a pleasant surprise, a darker, slightly twisted development of the core story, touching on elements of the first two parts, and weaving everything together in a climax that definitely pushes the bounds of fantasy and disbelief, but which works well to bring things full circle.

All-in-all, Dressing For Success is a fantastic bit of fiction that makes great use of female masking and bodysuits to tell the story, which has some genuine insights into what it means to be transgender, and which takes a refreshingly realistic approach to relationships. While there are some erotic moments, this is largely a dramatic romp that's entirely suitable for anybody with an interest in the genre.

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