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His strong suit: ‘Girls’ staffer makes doc about gender-variant clothes

for Brooklyn Paper
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He is going beyond “Girls.”

A boom operator on the Home Box Office show “Girls,” has created a documentary about a Clinton Hill clothier who creates bespoke suits for transgender men and other gender-variant people. The film “Suited,” screening on June 16 as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Cinemafest, follows a number of clients of Brooklyn tailoring company Bindle & Keep in order show the links between fashion and identity, said the film’s director.

“It is about self-realization and empowerment. I thought that if the audience cared about the characters enough, these moments would be very powerful to witness,” said Jason Benjamin.

He made the film while on breaks from recording sound for the popular cable series about Brooklyn women in their 20s. “Girls” creators Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner contributed their own money to the project so Benjamin could shoot a sample reel, which expanded into a feature-length film.

In his documentary film, Benjamin conducts in-depth interviews with Derek, who needs a wedding suit; Aiden, a transgender boy from Arizona whose grandmother convinced their rabbi to let him celebrate a Bar Mitzvah; and Jillian, a transgender woman attorney who needs a power suit for an upcoming case.

Rather than focusing on how the suits are made, the documentary looks at the way that clothing creates a desired self-image. Benjamin said that the skills of the Bindle and Keep tailors go beyond their talent with a needle.

“What struck me was the amount of emotional intelligence it takes to make a suit that someone feels comfortable in,” said Benjamin. “It’s not just taking measurements and picking fabric, it’s about understanding how people feel about their bodies. Many people can make a suit, but not many can be emotionally available enough to make someone feel comfortable.”

Benjamin wants the documentary to contribute to people’s understanding of the transgender community and of gender fluidity.

“I hope the film is seen by young people who are taking this journey, those who know them, and the parents of gender-nonconforming people,” said Benjamin. “I hope it provides a possible model of success for those who are dealing with this in their lives.”

“Suited” at BAM Rose Cinema [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. June 16 at 7 pm. $16. It will also screen on HBO on June 20.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Sue from Park Slope says:
It's about time someone brought to light the discrimination of high end fashion against the trans world. For years we could not buy bespoke suits - only unspoke suits, the clothes that dare not speak their name.
In the world today there are no more than a few dozen trans super-models. We can hardly be seen in fashion outside of the runways of New York, Milan, Paris, Tokyo, Moscow, LA, and Sydney. Other made to measure tailors only see us a bodies with measurments. They can only make clothes that fit our inseams, bust and waist measurements. This doesn't suit our special needs. My clothes makers need to address my identity as unable to form an identity. Why masculine, feminine, or inbetween - some of us don't fit into those categories, or are still unsure if we do.
Bespoke suiting is a human right! To deny us this is what Hitler would do. I am already feeling crushed by the bigoted commentary that will come because I dared to speak out for our community!
June 13, 2016, 4:28 am
Mustafa Khant from Atlantic Ave says:
Sue, do you dress to the left or the right?
June 13, 2016, 10:06 am
Mitzi from Park Slope says:
Wow Mustafa, a muslim who hates gays and women - how unusual!!! *rolls eyes*
June 14, 2016, 10:24 am

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