Dressed To Impress
By David-Elijah Nahmod, August 2016 Issue.
In HBO’s trend-setting new documentary, Suited, viewers are introduced to a Brooklyn-based garment maker whose business is custom tailored to its LGBTQ clientele.
Directed by Jason Benjamin (boom operator for HBO’s hit series “Girls”), the film is currently airing in rotation on HBO and sister channels HBO2 and HBO Signature. The film can also be viewed online at HBO.com.
The documentary begins at Bindle & Keep, a custom clothier co-owned by Daniel Friedman and Rae Tutera, where suits are designed to fit the sometimes less-than-traditional body contours of its transgender, androgynous and gender
The company was born in the aftermath of Tutera’s difficult search for a suit to wear. Tutera, who is also comfortable with both male and female pronouns, identifies as a transgender, gender nonconformist.
Friedman, a straight cisgender male who takes great pride in his work, admits on camera that his life has been far more interesting since Tutera introduced him to the needs of the LGBTQ community.
Bindle & Keep co-owners Daniel Friedman and Rae Tutera.
As the storyline progresses, we meet seven of Bindle & Keep’s clients, all of whom courageously reveal their private lives – not only to Friedman and Tutera, but also to Benjamin’s camera.
Derek Matteson is a straight-identified transgender man who needs a suit for his upcoming wedding. The filmmaker drives back to the rural Pennsylvania home of Derek’s parents, who share photos of his childhood (pre-transition). His parents admit that their son’s transition was a difficult adjustment for them, but as his mom points out, your child is your child and you love them no matter what.
Viewers will also meet Jillian T. Weiss, an attorney in need of a suit to wear to an upcoming federal court date. Then the conservative world of the legal profession is underscored by the story of Everett Arthur, an African-American law student from Atlanta who recalls being the only queer person in his high school. Having recently transitioned, Everett is in need of a suit that will impress his professors and potential employers.
Bindle & Keep co-owner Rae Tutera measures Grace Dunham (sister of Lena), for a suit.
One of the most touching stories is that of Aidan Star Jones, a 12-year-old transgender boy who has traveled from Tucson, Ariz., with his grandmother, Judy Shepard Gomez, to choose a suit for his upcoming bar mitzvah. As a lesbian, Judy empathizes what her grandson is going through.
Friedman and Tutera listen to each of their clients intently – and show viewers that there’s more to meeting the needs of their clients than simply taking measurements. Their dedication to customer satisfaction is a lovely thing to see.
What makes this documentary so moving is the non-judgmental, casual manner in which Benjamin introduces the seven Bindle & Keep clients who agreed to appear in his film. We not only learn their personal stories, but also get a first-hand look at the gender spectrum. Fashion, like many aspects of life, is far more complex than “male” or “ female.”
Produced by Lena Dunham and Jennifer Konner (who launched the L.A.-based production company, A Casual Romance), Suited is a human interest piece, an educational tool and glimpse at the challenges – and progress – of the transgender, androgynous and gender nonconforming segments of the LGBTQ community.