Review: In ‘Suited,’ Searching for Clothes That Truly Fit


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Daniel Friedman, left, and Rae Tutera in “Suited.”

Credit
Jojo Whilden/HBO

“Suited” concerns a Brooklyn garment maker, but it’s half over before you see any custom-made clothes, because it’s not primarily about the clothier at all. The documentary, showing Monday night on HBO, is about the customers and the paths that brought them to the company, Bindle & Keep in Park Slope.

The business specializes in making clothes for clients who are transgender, androgynous and have other gender-nonconforming identities.

“No one contacts us and says, ‘I want a fitting,’” says Daniel Friedman, the company’s founder. “They just say, ‘This is my story.’ ”

Mr. Friedman explains that when he went into the clothes-making business he was expecting to serve a traditional Wall Street-type clientele, until Rae Tutera, who is transgender, apprenticed with him and then became a partner. The film, by Jason Benjamin (with Lena Dunham as one of the producers), introduces several of their customers, who are forthright about their histories and the relationship between how they identify and what they wear.

“I know that when I feel best, people don’t think I’m a boy, and people don’t think I’m a girl,” says Grace Dunham (Ms. Dunham’s sister), whose preferred dress is “super-androgynous.”

Mr. Friedman is equally straightforward when discussing the customers’ needs and expectations.

“We should know about how you feel about your bust,” he responds, “because the suit can either accidentally or on purpose emphasize the bust, or it can de-emphasize the bust.”

The mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., a week ago provides an accidental juxtaposition that gives “Suited” an extra layer of poignancy. Many who died had, like the “Suited” clients, long felt marginalized, and for L.G.B.T. Americans, the massacre has become a symbol of the violence and hidden hatreds that are part of everyday life, while also accentuating the importance of safe spaces like Bindle & Keep. Most of the clients in “Suited” are coming to the garment maker because a milestone is imminent. One customer is turning 40. Another is getting married.

“Suited” doesn’t completely dispel the impression that it’s an elaborate free advertisement for Bindle & Keep — there are no dissatisfied customers here — and there’s a gentrified-Brooklyn feel to this particular take on the struggles of gender nonconforming individuals. Prices aren’t discussed in the film, but there is a whole universe of people who can’t afford a custom-made outfit.

Those caveats noted, the film has plenty of illuminating moments leading up to, of course, a concluding fashion show. As Rae Tutera puts it, “For a lot of people with all kinds of bodies, and all kinds of identities, clothes can make or break every day of their lives.”

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