Bindel & Keep
Jason Benjamin’s “Suited” is a look at Brooklyn-based tailoring outfit Bindle & Keep that tailors suits for those outside of the gender binary. For transgender people tailored clothing is not a luxury but it many cases a necessity and an affirmation of identity — a release from the unwelcoming cisgendered conventions of retail clothing. We meet six contrasting clients through the measuring and fitting process and hear personal testimonies making this quite a film. It will begin airing on HBO this summer.
The business was founded in 2011 by Daniel Friedman, a straight cis former architect who turned to tailoring with the initial intent of making clothing for the Wall Street crowd but this changed when the met transmasculine Rae Tutera, who joined his business as an apprentice before persuading him of the commercial potential in a high-end couturier for the trans and genderqueer community.
Since then, the company has grown even larger than the doc implies: It now employs a team of tailors in the Big Apple and Washington, D.C. and has a nationwide client base. Each of the film’s case studies is introduced via the website appointment form that brings them to Bindle & Keep for the first time and it outlines their essential dilemmas in a section headed “The More We Know.” The first client that we met is Appalachian-born transgender male nurse looking for a wedding suit for his impending marriage to fiancée Joanna: His is the narrative in which the film most extensively invests and we follow not just the wedding preparations, but a medical procedure important to his personal self-realization as a man.
We hear supportive testimonies from Matteson’s straight-laced family. Everett Arthur, an African-American law student from Atlanta is next and we see that he faces both parental and professional discrimination for his decision to live as a man. He wants and needs a courtroom-ready suit. There are four other customers that gender-nonconforming cabbie Melissa Plait, who wants to see out her 40th birthday party in pinstriped suit; transgender adolescent Aidan Star Jones, who wants suitably masculine attire for his upcoming bar mitzvah; and attorney Jillian T. Weiss who needs a suit Then there is Lena Durham’s younger sibling Grace who lives with an androgynous identity and wants a “dark wool suit … to run around in.
What I wish we were able to see is some of the tailors’ own art and craft and to learn about the suits’ unique shaping and construction.“Suited” is a compassionate study of personal transformation from the inside out and perfect and present what has already been made. Transitioning is mainly about having one’s body brought into line with a person’s true identity and one of the issues is that trans men and women see that traditional gender specific clothes do not suit them and their new lives. When Rae Tutera transitioned from Rachel, he approached Daniel Friedman about making him a custom suit. Rae was so very impressed with it that he asked Daniel to take him on as an apprentice tailor to learn the trade, and he never left.
Now some five years later, Daniel who is a straight man and Rae have garnered quite a reputation and a group of customers. Rae and Daniel have developed a deep understanding that they need to know exactly what their clients hope to achieve with their new clothes, and when we see their customers joyous faces, we realize that they are doing a wonderful and needed job.