Is Packing and Binding for me? | The History & The Benefits

Many trans men, nonbinary people, butches, or gender non-conforming people pack and bind to alleviate dysphoria, but there are more benefits than that to packing and binding. In this post, we’ll look at the history of clothing to change your shape, and some of the benefits you might not have thought of that come with packing and binding.

The Codpiece – The Original Packer?

Packing is using something to create a bulge in underwear which gives the look of having a penis. This can be done in a bunch of different ways, from some balled-up socks, to a realistic looking prosthetic, to special underwear like the Paxsies All-in-One Packing Boxers.

You can read more about different types of packer and how to pick one that’s right for you here.

Purposefully creating a bulge or emphasising the penis is nothing new. Codpieces have been used for centuries, originally as a covering for genitalia, but evolved into a way to emphasise them through excessive padding and decoration. The height of elaborate codpiece fashion was in the 1540s, even being included in suits of armour.

Though codpieces are no longer contemporary fashion, they are still used as part of leather subculture and heavy metal.

You can read more about codpieces here.

metal band performing on stage, they are backlight so their faces and outfits can't be seen

Corsets – The Original Binder?

Chest binding is using something to bind breasts and create the look of a flatter chest. This is usually done with a specialised chest binder (such as those available here) or Trans Tape. It can be dangerous to bind with homemade materials, as it can constrict breathing and movement too much.

You can read more about binding, how to do it safely, and how to choose the right binder for you here.

Corsets are a supportive undergarment, usually used by women but also available for men, which changes the silhouette of the wearer. Generally, this is to narrow the waist to give a more defined hourglass shape, but can also be to create a more tubular shape de-emphasising the waist, or to flatten the breasts. The earliest evidence of a corset being used is from 1600BC, and the Victorian Era in England was the height of their popularity.

In the 1920s, flappers used corsets to flatten the chest and help create the more boyish look they were known for. Bras designed to emulate the flat chest look, such as the Symington Side Lacer, became popular as the flapper style became more common.

You can read more about corsets here.

Of course, the similarity between codpieces and corsets, and modern packers and binders doesn’t make them the same thing. But it’s important to remember people have been using specialised clothing to change their appearance for hundreds of years, and while some use packers and binders as a stop-gap measure before top surgery or bottom surgery, others might use them just because they like the look they give. Whatever your reasons for packing or binding, it can still have a lot of benefits!

Photo by @dels on unsplash. 2 people at a pride parade, one is wearing a rainbow flag as a cape, the other is wearing a rainbow tutu and a black corset

Benefits such as:

  • Improves your posture – wearing a chest binder can help you correct your posture and stand up straight. The firmness makes it a lot more obvious to you when you slouch or sit badly, making it a lot more comfortable to sit or stand in a natural way.
  • Clothes fit better – a packer might not seem like it would make much difference, but some trousers are designed to have something in the crotch area, and wearing a packer can help them fit much better even if it’s not super obvious to look at. Similarly, many clothes are designed for a flat chest, and wearing a binder can help them fit well and avoid the annoying gaping button-up issue.
  • Costumes/cosplay – depending on who you’re dressing up as, packing and binding can be a subtle way to help get your costume just right, especially if you’re wearing an off the rack costume rather than one you’ve made for yourself.
  • Confidence – until you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to explain how something as simple as wearing a packer or binder can boost your confidence all over. Even if it’s not obvious to them why, the people around you will really pick up on your increased confidence and comfort in your own skin! And when the people around you think you’re happy and confident, it plays into their interactions with you, boosting your mood further. It’s a fun little positive feedback loop.

Two non-binary students looking at each other in a school hallway

So if you’ve ever wondered if packing or binding might be for you, hopefully you can see you don’t need crippling dysphoria to do it. Using clothing to change your perceived body shape is nearly as old as clothing itself, and there are plenty of reasons besides alleviating dysphoria to try it! Just be sure to stay safe, and don’t push yourself to do anything your uncomfortable with. Your safety and comfort is top priority, and whether you pack, bind, both, or neither, you’re awesome the way you are.

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