Lena Dunham's Suited Shines a Light on Something Often Taken for Granted
Emily Greener is the co-founder of I Am That Girl, a non-profit organization aiming to raise the standards for how girls treat themselves and each other. After profiling Lena Dunham for the July #innerstyle column (now available on newsstands and for digital download), Greener got the opportunity to screen 'Suited,' the documentary Dunham produced with director Jason Benjamin. Read Greener’s review of the film below, and tune in to 'Suited' when it airs on HBO Monday, June 20 at 9 p.m. ET.
What struck me most about Suited—the Lena Dunham-produced documentary about Brooklyn-based tailor Bindle & Keep, which caters to the trans community—was a thing so many of us take for granted: waking up and putting clothes on. For so many of us, it’s this easy, simple, and fun thing to do, but for others, it could be the most dreaded part of the day. And it’s something that has to happen every day.
VIDEO: Watch the Trailer for Suited
I learned about everything from the struggle that comes from being a woman who prefers to dress in men’s clothing (as Dunham’s younger sister does, who is featured in the film as she pursues a purely androgynous identity), all the way to the workplace and familial discrimination that can accompany being a woman who identifies as a man. On the one hand, the film provides an interesting perspective into fashion and how much one body type differs from another. On the other hand, it gives a real, up-close-and-personal understanding of an everyday experience that for some is filled with shame, confusion, and fear. Custom suiting seems pretty simple, but watching Suited helped me realize that it’s not something that this particular group of people always have access to.
And so it got me wondering: What does it look like in the form of accessible fashion? Once you fit a certain amount of bodies in the trans community, can you gather enough data about sizing and styles to make an entire line? There are a few cool companies out there with similar intentions, like Wildfang and Greyscale Goods, but watching these people put these suits on and seeing them light up and grow taller was really powerful, and shows the need for more companies like this. I experienced this same feeling when Diane von Furstenberg’s team dressed me for the DVF Awards—someone putting something on you that looks really nice, and for once feeling exactly how you look. There is a really important element of fashion that can put a stride in your step that translates into you being a more successful, confident, and powerful person, but there is a whole contingent of people who have never felt that way. Things like this take it to a new level, and that was really awesome to see, because you could just tell that they had never felt like that before. I was left wanting to know more about their story once they left in their new suit. I would have loved to follow them out the door and see where they went.
I’ve seen this struggle in my own organization. We have all kinds of girls and guys who are part of this community, and in fact, we are about to evolve our brand color from pink to coral because the community has really shared with us that they don’t want to be put in a pink box. For some of them, it’s a gender fluidity issue, for others, it’s more the principal of the matter. Suited didn’t get super-political about gender, it just got really specific about this deeper layer of someone’s life. What’s really exciting is because we now live in a time where gender is fluid, we’ve had that conversation enough where a piece like Suited can exist. That shows progress. HBO wanted to make this story, and did so beautifully, and in such a compelling way. For someone like me who doesn’t wear suits, I can watch it and fully relate, empathize, and be intrigued and interested—it does all the things one would want any story to do.
HBO invested money in this and they’re airing it on TV, which says, “We believe it’s going to get ratings, we believe it’s significant, and we believe people want to watch this,” which are always the signs of a story needing to be told. People don’t typically watch stuff because it’s the “right thing to do,” people watch something because they want to watch it. At I Am That Girl, we always say, doing good should be good for business, and Suited is both, and that is the brilliance of great and important storytelling.
—As told to Jennifer Merritt