Friday, September 2, 2022

Brick and Mortar with Compassion

Curves by Rago
By Paula Gaikowski

Florence Fashions brings one back to a time when femininity was a true art played out in the fashions of the day. Every lady had her own dress and lingerie shop – a place where she was welcomed, advised and fussed over. Whether it was a formal gown or a dress for work. it was there she would find the right dress, shoes and foundations.

Florence Fashions was founded in 1965 on Main Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts. It wasn’t long after they opened when a nervous and self-conscious gentleman walked in and asked for a girdle that might help his (clearing throat sound) “bad back.” Florence was happy to help and the word soon got around that there was an understanding and kind lady who would help girls like us. By 1978, The Tiffany Club of New England was formed and Florence Fashions began advertising in their newsletter.

Over the years, Florence Fashions has maintained their original identity as a lady’s dress and lingerie shop. Barbara has taken over from her mother and still provides a charming and delightful shopping experience. A true enclave of femininity and glamour. In that way, it differs from other stores that cater solely to the transgender community. 

The day I wandered into the store, I was greeted warmly and asked for help finding a new wig. Barbara went right to work asking questions, looking at my photos and lining up possibilities. We tried on scores of wigs. Her enthusiasm made me feel relaxed and I enjoyed the experience even more. I contrast this with other boutiques and transgender specialty shops that seem frustrated when after three wigs you haven’t made a decision. She was having as much fun as I and it was contagious. I finally found the one I wanted. 

Just as I was getting ready to check out, I noticed a rack of Rago shapeware! Yes, I blame Stana for this one. After she raved about her Rago longline bra and Rago high-waisted girdle, I just had to have one, too!

Barbara prodded me to try some on – mind you, it didn’t take much persuasion. The next thing I knew she was handing me girdles and bras, zipping me up and hooking me together in a whirlwind of activity. I finally was measured and correctly fitted for a bra. I finally found the set I always wanted, a high-waisted girdle and black longline bra, both in black. 

Before we were done, Barbara insisted, \I try them with breast forms and with my wig. We even tried on a few dresses. I was overjoyed, never have I been treated with such respect and dignity when shopping for women’s clothes. 

Those of you who live here or travel to New England, I highly recommend a trip to Florence Fashions. Although specializing in bra fittings, the store offers all manner of clothing from sportswear to classic gowns. The shop itself is replete with wigs, breast forms and lingerie. The well-stocked aisles display towering stacks of finery for all women. You can be assured that along with a new look, you are sure to leave with bit more dignity and self-confidence in who you are.

(Rago is now offering 15% discounts to Femulate fans and readers. Just use the stana15 discount code when making a purchase from the Rago website.)

Source: Boston Proper
Wearing Boston Proper

Femulating in India
Femulating in India


  1. It's so nice when we are welcomed! My first was in 1979, and was driving across state, 6 hrs, for a Halloween Party 🎉 at a Med School where my former roommate was studying.
    Got dressed up in Black smooth fit no pocket pants, heels, with a nude satin top and a crimson red short bolero jacket., Ready to travel but with no wig. A woman had just moved her shop to a strip mall that was less expensive (lasted 10 years).

    Walked in at opening 10 am, was treated extremely well, bought many items over the years.
    Great first time outing.

  2. Sounds wonderful, Paula!

  3. I love Indian clothes and have had shalwaar Kameez and still have a saree, but I don't look nearly as pretty and elegant as this lady


  4. Florence's was a stop for me at least once a month ~ always helpful and gracious ~ i so wish there were more places like that !

  5. Paula, you make me want to take a road trip to Massachusetts! How special for you to encounter Florence, who was a good, non-judgemental businesswoman. I'm proud that I raised my kids to be that way, and now they're passing that lesson onto their own kids. And clearly Florence passed that lesson onto Barbara. PLUS, it's just plain good business. We girls carry good "cash money" in our purses and we're willing to spend it when a welcoming business has products for us. Thanks, Paula, for letting the Femulate community know about this special store.

  6. My first visit to Florence's was is 1992, I was 25 years old. I remember waiting in my car for about a half hour, trying to get the courage to actually enter the store. Finally, I opened the door and went in with my heat pounding out of my chest because I was so nervous. I was immediately greeted by Florence herself and my nerves were put at ease. She asked me if I was looking for something specific and I replied that I wasn't but was just curious about the store and came to check it out. She then led me to the back of the store and began to show me all kinds of bras, panties and girdles. At that moment, her daughter Barbara came out of the back room and introduces herself to me. She was, and is, gorgeous! Barbara started flipping through the racks and held up a black mini-skirt and said that she thought I would nice in it. A female customer came in and Florence went to assist her and left me in the hands of her daughter. Barbara led me to the dressing room to try on the skirt. That day I was wearing a black bra, black lace panties and a black garter belt and stockings under my drab male clothes. No sooner did I get the skirt on, when Barbara opened the curtain to check out how I looked and how it fit. She very complimentary. Shed had another mini-skirt in her hands that was pink and asked me to try that on as well. Se stayed in front of the dressing room with the curtain opened and watched me remove the black one. At that moment she gushed over how pretty I looked in my lingerie, specifically how pretty my panties were. Before I had a chance to thank her for her wonderful comments, she grabbed my hand and led me out of the dressing room and onto the sales floor. "Mom! Look how pretty she looks." she called out to Florence. So there I am, Walking around the sales floor in front of three women in my underwear, talk about thrilling! Like Paula, Barbara went and got some breast forms and put them in my bra. An amazing feeling. I must have been there for almost two hours with Barbara just bringing me garment after garment to try on as well as wigs. I ended up buying a girdle and a wig that day. Every other visit after that was basically the same, incredible service, complimentary and sexually invigorating!

    1. Melissa, good on you for enduring the 1/2 hour and finally entering Florence's. I'm reminded of going dressed to my first Trans*quility meeting here in Baltimore and taking about 1/2 hour just to cross the sidewalk in front of the building. But we both made that trip and the rest of the story is our own femme history! But my breaking that (non-existent) barrier and entering my "Mikki comfort zone" didn't include being hauled out and displayed in my undies to the owner and other customers in a store! What a great story, girl!

  7. If only I'd known about this place when I lived in Woburn.

  8. What a special post! I first visited Florence’s a little over a year ago. Barbara immediately made feel so welcomed. I was in male mode, nervous and was “ just looking today”. After I had left, I knew that I must go back… I did a few weeks later and on that next visit I found myself trying on so many different outfits just as Melissa describes. Barbara is so wonderful, I am amazed and flattered that she remembers what I bought on my previous visits and can’t wait to see what she pulls from the racks for me. It is such an incredible pleasure to shop at Florence’s (Barbara’s) and am always beaming with new purchases in hand as I walk out of such a friendly, welcoming place for someone just beginning to come to explore, know and yes, love their transgender self.

  9. As a teenager in the 1960's and a young adult in the 1970's it was all I could do to gaze in the windows of a women's shop in Queens, NY. There was a bus stop in front of it and I just waited and waited for the bus to arrive as I sneaked glances at he mannequin attired in foundation garments, slips and dresses. Years later and 3000 miles away I still could not muster to go into a local women's shop that had a small welcoming sign that said we were welcome. That was how repressive society was back then. It would have been wonderful to have experienced a shop like that.