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Buying clothes

What is buying clothes?

Trying and purchasing new clothes and footwear that better fit your needs, wants, and preferences.

What does buying clothes do?

How do I buy clothes?

Making significant changes to your wardrobe can be intimidating! This article will talk about how to find your size, find clothing for you in that size, alter the size of clothes that are too big or small, customise things to better match your gender, and reduce your clothing costs.

It is normal to make mistakes when buying clothing - expect to find you have bought some things that you won’t ever wear or won’t wear more than once. You can help out others by donating these clothes to charity or to your local trans clothing exchange/swap.

Finding your size

There is no standardised sizing system for clothes, and a “32” will be a slightly different size when bought from each retailer. You will need to find the correct size for you in each place you buy clothes. Look for the words “size guide” or “size chart” on the website of the retailer. Some stores now offer an online service where you describe existing clothes you own that fit well, and they recommend which sizes of their clothing will likely fit you well.

If you are planning on taking hormones, dieting, or exercising, your size may change over time and you may need to buy more clothes. You may be able to save some money by not buying too many clothes right now.

Finding clothes in your size

If you are having difficulty in finding the style of clothing you want in a size that is appropriate for you, have you considered:

  • retailers that stock small sizes?

    UK high street retailers offering XS sizes in their Men’s section include H&M, New Look, Topman, and Uniqlo, and some specialise in clothes in smaller sizes such as Bantam Clothing.

  • retailers that stock clothes intended for taller people?

    UK high street retailers with collections for tall people in their Women’s section include Dorothy Perkins, GAP, New Look, Next, and Topshop. Some retailers specialise in only offering clothing for taller people, such as Long Tall Sally, The Tall Collective, and TTYA London.

  • online retailers?

    Often retailers will have much better stocks of smaller and larger sizes available online than they do in their physical stores. Retailers that only operate online, such as ASOS, will often have a very wide selection of sizes.

  • children’s clothing?

    The children’s section of many retailers will contain clothes that are suitable for smaller adults.

  • unisex or ambiguous clothing?

    Many items of clothing with a more casual style are considered unisex, and are worn by people of any gender. Smaller sizes of these clothes can be bought from the Women’s section and larger from the Men’s section. Examples include many styles of hoodies, t-shirts, jeans, and jogging bottoms. This also applies to some footwear, such as trainers and boots, which will often be virtually identical in versions sold in Women’s and Men’s sections of retailers. Some retailers also sell unisex underwear, which you read more about on our buying underwear page.

  • retailers that don’t divide by gender?

    Some retailers don’t divide their clothes into gendered sections, like Outplay, Femme Forte, Beefcake Swimwear, or VERV London. There’s a useful list of these retailers in this article from The Evening Standard.

  • retailers specialising in clothing for trans people?

    Some clothing stores online specialise in producing clothes specifically for trans and nonbinary people. Some examples of these are both&, fittome, and Tomboy Toes. Some retailers stock swimwear intended specifically for trans people, such as Spectrum Outfitters, Trans Shop UK, and Zoah. There are also retailers of underwear designed specifically for trans people, which you can find information about on our buying underwear page.

  • clothes designed to fit well regardless of gender?

    Some retailers specialise in clothes designed to fit people well and make them comfortable in their bodies regardless of their gender, such as Bull and Dagger, GFW, and King and Allen.

  • menswear styles made for women?

    Some retailers specialise in selling menswear for women, such as The Butch Clothing Company and Thomas Thomas.

You may find you are more comfortable in clothing that disguises your body shape.

Finding clothes that meet your needs

Some types of clothing come with specific features that you might find useful.

You can find more information on our buying underwear page about underwear that allows tucking and packing.

You can find more information on our bras page about underwear options that allow inserting packing or prosthetics.

You can find more information on our binding page about clothing designed to reduce the appearance of your chest.

Altering clothes

Alterations can change the fit of clothes, which can be particularly useful for shortening leg and sleeve length.

The cheapest way to do this is to do it yourself. You can find lots of easy to follow video tutorials for how to alter trouser leg length, sleeve length, and skirt or dress length. For some clothes it may be possible to do this without any sewing by using hemming tape, an adhesive tape that you can use to adjust the length of some kinds of trousers without needing to sew. You can find hemming tape in most large UK supermarkets or buy it online.

You can also get alterations made professionally. Most stores that offer dry-cleaning services, such as Johnson Cleaners or Timpson offer an alterations service. You can also find local and national companies that offer specialist alterations services using a search engine or maps service.

Some UK high street chains and online stores provide a free alterations service for items bought in their stores:

If shoes are too large for you, you may be able to slightly reduce their size by adding insoles or heel grips. You can get these professionally fitted to your shoes by a cobbler if you need. You can find a cobbler local to you using a search engine.

Modifying clothes

If you are only able to find a limited range of options in your size, you could modify the clothes that are available to better fit your style. You can normally find supplies to do this in the haberdashery section of a department store (e.g. John Lewis), hobby shop (e.g. Hobbycraft), or an online specialist retailer.

Some options available to you are:

  • replacing laces: A easy and quick way to customise shoes and boots is to replace the laces with ones of a different colour.
  • dyeing: You can alter the colour of many clothes by dyeing or bleaching them.
  • printing: You can add designs to clothes using transfer paper, which lets you iron on a design you have printed from your home printer, or if you’re feeling more ambitious you could even try screen printing.
  • replacing buttons: changing the buttons on clothing to ones of a different style.
  • decorating: adding pin badges, patches, sequins, beads, or decorative bows to clothes.
  • getting out the scissors: Using a pair of scissors, you can turn a t-shirt into a tank top, or jeans or trousers into shorts. If you are able to sew, you can make this look more professional by adding new hems.

How much will it cost?

You can browse free clothes donated for use by trans people:

Some areas of the UK have clothes swaps or exchanges, where trans and nonbinary people can find clothes that have been donated by other people who no longer need them and swap them with ones they do not want. You can do this online on the G(end)er Swap N’ Shop Facebook group. LGBT+ organisations, student unions, and LGBT events will often run in-person clothes swap events - if there isn’t one coming up, you can try asking them if they would run one. You might also want to look into events run by G(end)er Swap CIC.

You can also find bargains in charity shops, some of which now even offer online shopping, such as Oxfam. Other options include vintage and second-hand stores.

If you have clothes you no longer need that are in good condition, you may be able to make money to buy new clothes by selling your existing ones online using sites like Vinted, Depop, or Rebelle.

Where can I learn more?

For more clothing support, resources, and advice for LGBTQ+ gender non-conforming and trans people based in the UK, check out the G(end)er Swap CIC website.


This page is illustrated using a photograph by Sara Kurfeß available at Unsplash.

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