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Transgender Law Student Talks Bespoke Suits in New HBO Documentary

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 14, 2016 3:59 PM

Choosing the right suit requires some surprisingly complex calculations. Do you go with something fancy and bespoke, letting your (supposed) success shine through in Italian tailoring? Or something more subdued and affordable, to show clients that you won't gouge them for every last penny? Do you go with solids or pinstripes? Mad-Men-skinny or 80's-Power-Suit-boxy? Blue or gray? (Never black!)

And if the suit makes the man, picking a suit can be even more difficult when you're a transgender lawyer. And HBO's new documentary "Suited," features just that: Everett Arthur, a 3L at Emory Law and a transgender man, who found the perfect fit with New York City's Bindle & Keep, a bespoke suit maker focused on crafting very fancy suits for women and the LGBT community.

Suits for Everyone

Everett Arthur is one of six people to be featured on the documentary, which is produced in part by Lena Dunham of "Girls" fame (or infamy), and which focuses on the impact of Bindle & Keep. The shop started making suits for gender nonconforming customers when Daniel Friedman, the shop's tailor, was approached by Rachel Tutera, who runs a blog called The Handsome Butch.

According to a 2013 profile on the store by The New York Times, Tutera had a simple request: "Why couldn't Mr. Feldman, with his expertise in men's suit, make them for women like her -- not women's suits, but the same gear he was making for guys, with the masculine profile, but fitted to women's bodies?"

Friedman took Tutera up on the offer and soon made a name for himself making suits for the lesbian and trans community (and beyond: Bindle and Keep sells suits for all sexualities and all types of gender (non)conformists.)

Arthur read that Times profile just a few months before heading off to law school and became interested in how the suit shop was "facilitating this important discussion" around gender. Bindle and Keep's work only became more important when he attended a fashion show at Emory, meant to clue clueless 1L's into proper interview attire.

In an interview with Creative Loafing, Arthur says he "quickly realized that because I was trans, I didn't fit into either category that Emory was representing. I reached out to B&K completely afraid that I would not be employed because I did not fit the South's idea of how a lawyer should be dressed."

Arthur got more than a suit, though. He got invited to participate in the HBO doc as well.

And though bespoke suits don't come cheap -- Bindle and Keep's garments cost $795 to $1,195 -- Arthur says they're worth it:

Prior to getting bespoke clothing, I was constantly hiding. I was unsure if I could exist as myself. The first time I put on my B&K suit was the first time I fully saw myself. After that moment, I felt (and still feel) joyful to wake up each day and live my truth.

You can watch Arthur share the rest of his story on "Suited," airing next Monday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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