Lez Get Dressed For Work: Beginnings

Because you deserve to be the best dressed homo in the office. 

Header by Rory Midhani

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Hello and welcome to the first ever edition of Lez Get Dressed For Work, in which we’re going to be talking a lot about work clothes. Why, you ask? Shouldn’t we be talking about something more substantial like how to even get a job in This Economy? Well, yes. But also: any job, no matter how shitty or fabulous, no matter if it’s something miserable to make money while you wait on your dreams or if it’s actually a job you’ve been dreaming of your whole precious life, is going to suck if you don’t feel good about how you look. Think I’m being superficial? I might be, a little bit, but I personally have never had a good day while also not feeling good about how I look. It’s just so distracting. And you’re here to work, not worry about your clothes. I’m here to worry about them for you!

via wildfang

via wildfang

I’ve had some pretty bad clothing crises in my life, and I’ve also had a lot of different kinds of jobs. Within these different jobs I’ve done a lot of navigating to find the balance between my visible queerness and professionalism: visual clues about the fact that I’m a big dyke, like my generous body hair, don’t often go well with nice jobs — not because a place is necessarily homophobic, but because the clothes that I’d have to wear to reveal that body hair would be inappropriate. I actually learned this one the hard way so I’m going to tell you about it. My first job out of college was at an abortion clinic. It was summer and approximately one million degrees out, which was made worse by my fifteen minute walk to the subway. So I wore shorts. They were from Express and gray pleated so I thought that that made them business casual. They were also way more professional than anything I had worn during my college job at a well-known sex toy store. That day my boss came into my office (one of two times she came to my office in the year I spent there) to give me a lecture about how she couldn’t let me “walk around like that.” I was (silently) outraged, and immediately assumed that it was because she didn’t want people to see my extensive blonde leg hair, which in my young mind meant she was clearly homophobic.

In hindsight, obviously, she just didn’t want me to wear shorts (and they were pretty short) as an employee of an abortion clinic, because, professionalism. She also probably didn’t even notice my leg hair because it’s blonde? The point was that my bare legs were attracting attention because they were bare and it was a medical facility. But I had spent so long cultivating this queer identity and trying to stand out and get noticed that I didn’t realize one major part of being an adult: at your job, you’re not really supposed to make a visual scene (with some exceptions that I will address shortly). So that’s why getting dressed professionally is so hard: you have to look Nice but you still want to look like yourself but you also can’t be a distraction from the actual work taking place because (usually) it’s not about you. Stressful!

via tomboyfemme.com

omg hi we’re hair twins via tomboyfemme.com

I currently work at a place where the opposite is true, and I’ve found that to be equally stressful. Everyone looks hot and fabulously unique every single day and every outfit is more gorgeous than the next. But at the end of the day, there’s still a difference between a fabulous outfit in a stylish work environment and a fabulous outfit for not-work. And that difference is what this column is going to be about. You know how there’s that one (or more if you are lucky!!) hot homo at work who always looks so fucking cool and appropriate and like she was literally born wearing perfect oxford shoes and silk shirts, even if it’s 9am on Monday and not being in your bed is making you want to die? My goal is to get you to be that person. Not the one that wants to die. The first one.

via clairerafael.tumblr.com

via clairerafael.tumblr.com

So to do this in a way that meets all of your needs, I’d really like it if those of you who are having clothing crises every morning (been there!) would let me know what kind of place you work and what your gender presentation is like. Or, if you feel great about the things you wear, let me know so I can share that knowledge with the world. We’ll also inevitably be talking about hair and makeup, so let me know if you have questions about that. If not I’ll just riff. You’ve probably noticed by now if you’re still reading that I’m talking about work environments at which one doesn’t get dirty, aside from your hot sweaty bod and your smelly feet (oh is that just me? Sorry). I hope to eventually tell you about the best clothes to wear to jobs that involve physical labor, but I’m going to need one of you experts to tell me about it first. Okay? Thank you.

For now I’m going to tell you a little bit about my business casual strategy. It has a lot to do with button up shirts. Specifically, the top button. I feel strongly that any button up shirt — be it your favorite flannel or your most expensive silk — looks professional with the top button done (and the other buttons done too), tucked into pants and with a nice belt. As long as the shirt fits you well, is ironed, and doesn’t have any major holes or stains, this will make you look like someone who knows things. Promise. It’s also a good way to spend that treacherous first two weeks of a new job before you get paid when you can’t afford new clothes yet. Know what I mean?

via tomboyfemme.com

via tomboyfemme.com

When you can afford new clothes, I want you to invest in some high-quality basics. High-quality isn’t a set thing, of course, so do whatever makes sense for your financial situation. My favorite, favorite (overpriced) basics come from essentially two places: Madewell and Everlane. Both of these places sell women’s clothes that function well across a broad range of gender expressions. If you invest in some classic pieces, like a solid colored silk oxford shirt, you will have it forever and it will always be appropriate for that thing that’s giving you a clothing crisis, like an important editorial meeting or a job interview or the day you have a fancy work event after work. I feel anxious just thinking about the fact that my go-to navy blue silk button down is at the dry cleaner right now. I just need it all the time. Oh that’s another thing: I actually only have one silk button up shirt because hello, expensive. It’s just that life-changing.

That being said, this is infinitely more complicated than just having a go-to shirt. That’s why this is a weekly column and not one post in which I attempt to sum up professional lesbian fashion as a whole. Because obviously there’s no such thing as “professional lesbian fashion.” Just a lot of queers with a lot of different jobs and a lot of different anxieties about how they look. We’re all in this together in our own different ways.

the future is bright via pursuitist.com

the future is bright via pursuitist.com

You can email me at [email protected] if you have feelings that you don’t feel comfortable sharing in the comments. Lez do this thing.


Header art by Rosa Middleton 

 

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Gabrielle writes facts and feelings from an old brick house in an outer borough of New York City. When she's not writing about lesbians, she's editing/writing/producing things at her day job in the beauty department of a well-known online style magazine. In her spare time, she helps organize the New York City Dyke March and makes up songs about her dog.

Gabrielle has written 96 articles for us.

100 Comments

  1. Thumb up 10

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    Loving this already! I am always amidst clothing crises for work, because well, I like to be comfortable and able to move around! Any ideas you have for high school teachers in Texas (aka cant look too queer but am really really queer) I would appreciate. Hip, functional clothing that makes me feel like myself even when I have to teach Darwinism as a “Creation myth” in world geography. Thanks!

  2. Thumb up 1

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    Loved this! I wish I worked in an office and actually had the chance to wear fashionable things… I am a nanny, so I work at someones home, with a toddler….MESSY MESSY MESSY and so much fun! my work clothes have to be practical first, fashionable second (or not at all lol)

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      I have sort of the same problem where I’ll wear something nice and then belatedly realise I’m teaching art/something else messy on that day and have to avoid kindergarteners with paint on their hands for the whole day.

      My usual decision making process with picking an outfit is like “Does it look professional?”, “Will it cover my butt when I bend over to talk to a four year old?” and “Can it survive getting paint, glue and snot on it?”

  3. Thumb up 1

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    as a medical worker …my uniform is always blue pants -navy blue…and a white shirt…I would wear double pleated pants, nice shoes that can withstand lots of walking and standing patients up (Eccos are the best)..I found wearing a belt ( ugh) a nice complement to the pants and button down shirts from Patagonia in hemp or cotton the most durable..and I always had the top two buttons undone because it got so hot…. I always felt the best dressed amongst the scrubs everyone wore. my BFF always wore her frilly dresses as an RN and I always wore the pants as the Physio..we looked totally dissimilar but none ever got us mixed up and we got a lot of respect from the way we wore our “uniforms” proudly. I threw out the white shirt and wore all sorts of patterns…now where are those florals? ….

  4. Thumb up 2

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    Ah- I need more of this article! Have always worked for places where nice jeans/black pants and non-tshirt meant you were done — I am temping at a fancy fancy office now – suit or equivalent level of fanciness is expected every day. I need all the inspiration I can get – especially for hot weather as it will be summer soon in D.C. Also in a similar vein, anyone have good advice on transporting fancy clothes to the office, people who bike and people who have long public transit commutes?

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      Seconded on the shoes. And my SO runs to work every day with a tiny backpack, so he just stuffs clothes in it, keeps an iron at work, and gives things a quick once-over with an iron when he gets there. Haven’t decided whether that’s sustainable for me, but putting it out there. Also depends on how fancy your clothes are. (lace? decorative baubles? I’m not the bauble type, so I don’t really know how to transport those things.)

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        Not too too fancy – I’ve been doing suits with blouses or button up shirts and office-y dresses. My commute is a 2 mile walk each way. I like the iron idea for the future but not really workable for my situation unfortunately. Mainly I want to figure out a magic strategy to bring my suit jackets and shirts with me on the the walk to change into at work and not have them be super wrinkled. As to shoes – I do flats here so that doesn’t take up too much room. Everyone in this office does flats – the floors are polished concrete and the street outside is full of construction.

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      I bike to and from work, and find that rolling everything is the best way to transport clothes in small spaces AND avoid wrinkles. Things might be a little wrinkly, but that’s okay in my (very casual) office. Your mileage may vary.

      Another option is to keep some number of suit jackets, etc, at the office and change once you get there. You can swap them out on days that you don’t walk to work. This could be a good combo with wrinkle releaser.

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      I keep a black blazer, a grey blazer and a charcoal sweater at work as well as my work flats. i never wear these fancy things outside the office anyway. And I never bring the blazers home, i get them dry cleaned in my building. Pants (or skirts if you wear them) can be rolled up. If you do it properly (smooth out the fabric every time you give your pants a roll) they should be pretty wrinkle free.

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    Though I generally tend towards more masculine dress, I’ve found that heels are a must and the trade off being slightly more feminine to look taller is worth it for me. It’s hard to find heels that aren’t very feminine but I’ve had a lot of luck with Born. I have two pairs from them that look classic, clean and aren’t too tall. Also they’re still made like real shoes so you can take them to a cobbler and get the heels replaced which means that they will effectively last forever. I’ve worn mine every week for the past five years and have gotten the heels replaced twice.

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    I’ve been struggling to figure out what to wear in a few different scenarios, so I’m glad this exists! My partner and I started a non-profit and are in the beginning stages of networking (not that you ever stop networking). It’s a girls’ sport and empowerment camp, so during the actual camp we will have a set shirt for camp coaches, counselors, etc. During the networking, meetings with interns, fundraisers, and more is when I’m a little lost. Because I helped start this thang, I know I can set the tone for what to wear on our own time, but in front of potential campers’ parents and funders I need some help! I want people to take me seriously but don’t want to be too stuffy because we work with kids (6-12) and wearing something super formal seems off somehow… I should also mention that I identify as butch (soft butch to be more specific). All the clothes in my closet come from either the men’s or boy’s section. Any thoughts on this at some point would be helpful! Thanks!

  7. Thumb up 2

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    So excited for this! I’ve stepped up my game in my few years as a full time office employee post-college (aka I own more than 2 pairs of work-appropriate shoes), but I still don’t own a single pair of pants that really fits me. Specifically my curvy parts. I love dresses & wear them a lot but sometimes I want to pants it up, you know? I’d also love some suggestions for suit-style vests – where can I find one?

    On the bright side, someone described me as “edgy” a few days ago so I think I’m doing ok at maintaining my queer vibe. Either that or I’m just the only 20something woman in my small town with short hair.

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      Depends on how authentically suit-style you want your vest. I own at least one from H&M that I would describe as suit-style from the women’s section, and seen a few in the men’s section that I wouldn’t mind wearing if they fit. Problem with the women’s section is they go through odd phases where one season everything is mauve and covered in lace and the next it’s All Colorblocks All The Time. Men’s is more stable.

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      I spend a lot of time vest hunting. I’m poor, I love vests, and they aren’t super popular right so it’s not that easy. And this summer I’ll be working in a law office, but it’s public interest work so I won’t have to wear a suit everyday- just in court, so I’ve been stocking up on vests and button ups. There’s a goodwill boutique near me, which is goodwill but they funnel their higher end donations there, and I stop in once a week. I’ve managed to collect quite a few nice vests for pretty cheap.

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    My latest and most heartfelt wish (besides touching Jennifer Lawrence inappropriately) is dressing more professionally at work. Hence – this is very timely/relevant to my interests. I feel like I’m being overlooked for promotions because I don’t dress AS well as others (by others, I mean men. I work with all men and one ditzy blonde. I’m screwed.)

    ANYhoo– I have a “disproportionate” badonkadonk. I mean, this thing is like a shelf. I’m having a very hard time dressing myself how I would like (casual boat wear? Maaaaybe.) because I have no place to buy pants. Men’s pants are always too long in the crotch and women’s pants… *insert snort of derision here* .. But, I am mostly-always optimistic, so I’m always looking!!

    (p.s. I watch allloooot of HGTV, and lately I think The Property Brothers would make great gay fashion advisors. They’re a walking genetic mix of business & casual. We could exchange tips & gossip while building a new fusebox. ..Rawr.)

  9. Thumb up 2

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    Anybody got ideas for office-appropriate pants that aren’t either a) skintight or b) possessing a waist up in my armpits?

    The slacks I own are nice but rather movement/skin breathing-restricting, and it’s getting old fast. What I wouldn’t give to be able to wear cargos at work…

  10. Thumb up 2

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    This is possibly one of the best ideas Autostraddle has put out there. I struggle with clothing crisis every day. I am a writer in Los Angeles and I usually sit in a back room with no windows with several other people and rarely see the light of day. My biggest issue is I tend to wear sweats 7 days a week because I don’t really have a reason to dress up. However, I am very femme and live in one of the most fashion conscious places in the US, so looking dowdy and like I just came from a mental institution is not the best way to present yourself in Hollywood. So my question is, what type of clothing should I wear to present myself as power lesbian in Hollywood, but still be comfortable?

  11. Thumb up 4

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    Howwwwww do people tuck in their shirts? I mean this as a genuine, please-help-me question. Most women’s button-up shirts I’ve tried on end too high to be tucked into pants. I prefer wearing men’s shirts anyway, but since my hips are the widest part of me by far, it ends up looking odd.

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      I have to leave the bottom button on most men’s shirts unbuttoned and then I can tuck the shirts in, and that seems to work really well for me. I also am pretty hippy but I don’t have a lot of chest or anything, so this tends to work well for shirts that fit everywhere but the hips.

      Or look up the “front tuck” (aka frat tuck, which makes it sound terrible). Basically in a SLIGHTLY more casual environment you can just tuck the very front of your shirt, over the belt buckle. This requires a bit of panache to pull off and not look like a frat boy, obviously.

      Women’s buttonups do not like me because I have a long torso. Actually all women’s tops really don’t get along with me for the same reason, so I feel your pain.

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    Yes please to this series! I recently got a new job at a big nonprofit — I used to work in a department where jeans and a hoodie was a perfectly acceptable daily outfit, and now I get asked to go to Important Meetings with Important People at the last minute that I have no idea how to dress for.

    I like to blend gender, like a deep v-neck with men’s pants or a men’s polo with a no-frills skirt. Straight people tend to think I’m butch, but I don’t feel that way about myself. The rest of my team are feminine women who wear suit-style dresses and sweater sets and always look sharp.

    Also I recently gained and am trying to lose some weight that makes getting pants to fit an exercise in absurdity. Tucking in a button-down sounds like hell right now.

    What’s a suddenly-fancy queermo to do?

  13. Thumb up 2

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    THAT HEADER ART IS AMAZING. Rosa, you’re so talented!

    also this makes me send a hundred thank yous to the employer gods for working at the chillest non-profit while still living in DC. everyone on the metro may think i’m a student or a tourist in my toms, jeans, and v-necks, but i do not have to wear poly-blend skirt suits and i am thankful for that. Hillary does it best, anyway.

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    I work at a place that’s business casual. If I wear a button up and a blazer, I look pretty out of place. I normally have a nice pair of jeans and a blouse. That itself is pretty confusing. If I could wear an oxford shirt and a blazer I feel I could blast “I’m here, I’m queer!” a lot more easily.

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    oooohhhh I am the most excited about this!
    I work in a profesional office where I need to look all smart and clever, but I refuse to wear heels unless I’m on court duty. So keeping it casual enough to be comfortable, but with a few bits of clothing always kept in my boot (aforementioned heels) so that should I get called to court I can alter what i’m wearing there and then.

    really looking forward to this… my wardrobe is bursting but feel that I havent quite nailed my style yet.

  16. Thumb up 1

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    This is brilliant! I am always struggling for things to wear at work. I just started as a teaching assistant at a university and the people I work with are mainly older academic types and phd students so the dress style tends to be a bit all over the place. The guys generally just wear jeans&t-shirts/dress shirts but I am pretty high femme so that isn’t really an option for me. I just find it difficult to judge what is appropriately smart for teaching but not so smart I will really stand out, especially because I am one of the youngest staff members.
    I am also finding it impossible to find button down shirts that fit over my rather generous chest but don’t make me look like I’m dressing up as a ghost for Halloween. Any suggestions in that area?

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    I work as an administrative assistant for a freelancer, so I work out of my boss’s home and it’s pretty casual. That said, it is summer, and I don’t want to have to wear long pants for the next three months :/

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      If it works with your gender presentation, I cannot suggest cotton skirts enough. I’m not particularly femme (at all. I don’t even own makeup), but sandals with a cotton skirt is appropriately work-looking AND feels like wearing pajamas.

  18. Thumb up 1

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    I am all sorts of excited for this. Dressing for work is a constant struggle. Looking forward to having you as a guide!

    As for what type of work environment I’m in: I work for an architecture firm doing business development and marketing and, as such, am expected to be the “face of the company”. Scary. This makes trying to have my own style bleed through a hard thing. I am a huge proponent of cardigans and pencil skirts. Maybe this column will help me find a way to express myself further!

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    I love this topic! I work at a really chill design startup. Before I came into work on the first day, I was told that the dress code was “pretty much anything goes,” but that most people just wear jeans. On my first day, I wore a button-up shirt and nice jeans and shoes, just to be a little dressed up… but… the dude sitting next to me was wearing cut-off jean shorts and a tank top with the arms cut off and a baseball hat. So, it really IS “anything goes”, turns out.

    Having said that, I was recently promoted and my role is now more client-facing, which is exciting. So far I haven’t gone to any physical meetings with clients yet, but I think I might be doing so in the future. I’m going to have to figure out how to tweak my work wardrobe (which currently doesn’t look different from my non-work wardrobe…) to be more professional on those days, so that will be interesting.

    Side note, the co-founder of the company is a super badass lesbian and every so often her and I have queer inside jokes and references that nobody else in the office gets. (e.g., discussing the merits of the movie movie “Lost and Delirious”). Good times. But anyway yeah, I’m really grateful that that part of things isn’t an issue, since I often wear stuff that “looks queer”.

    Looking forward to reading more in this series!

  20. Thumb up 4

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    I don’t know if I can express how excited I was to see this column – I’m a ‘free college t-shirts and jeans’ to soft butch person in everyday life (tbh I’m terrible at/don’t care about fashion and can’t be assed to spend more than five minutes on my clothes in the morning). I work in the music industry so normally nobody gaf, but my intern supervisor emailed us with “Dress is what we call “Neat/Trendy Casual”. No need for dress clothes, but nicer blouses, no hoodies encouraged.” I’ve been surviving with a couple button-ups but I definitely need to get some new clothes (both winter and summer) since I feel like I’m scraping by on the bare minimum here.

    tl;dr bless this column

  21. Thumb up 2

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    Your shorts story makes me so sad. :( Shorts in the workplace are a weird thing to figure out, and some people are ok with it and some aren’t.

    But at the same time I’d probably be like you and be IS IT ABOUT MY FURRY LEG HAIR, JERK.

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    I am dreading graduating next year and having to get a “real job”- I don’t want to wear skirts/dresses everyday, and I also hate dress pants. My fingers are crossed for an outdoors-related job because “business casual” will be the death of me!

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    Ugh, clothes. I have no sense of style and not even really sense of my gender presentation. I actually say that my gender identity/presentation is “lazy” and I’m not kidding – I’m not trying hard enough to present as femme or as butch. I’m just here, demanding to be comfortable (which sometimes means skirts, always means boots/flats/sandals).

    I work as a graduate instructor at a university, but I’m in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, so very few people give any fucks what I wear on the daily. However, I have to go to conferences (where the dress code is often SUPER unclear), I sometimes have meetings with folks in other departments where my dress might matter.

    Basically, I need tips for looking put-together while being comfortable and not feeling pushed too hard toward femmeness or butchness. I love the idea of cotton pants and a belt and a button-up, but I have NEVER found a button-up that actually FIT me and didn’t gap in the boob area.

    So … help?

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      I so feel your pain! A lot of people in my department work on Gender&Sexuality so the dress code is pretty relaxed but when I went to a “proper” law conference last month I just had absolutely no idea what to wear!
      My shirts also tend to gap in the boob area but if they are a reasonable size so I can pull them over my head without unbuttoning them entirely I have started just putting two or three stitches between the buttons to stop the gap issue.

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      My boobs frustrate pretty much anything with buttons. You can put a shirt underneath and leave the top buttons undone as far as necessary. In the colder months putting a sweater vest over top hides the gaps. You can also just throw a blazer over whatever to dress it up a little when you have a meeting.

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        I haven’t worn a smart shirt since school, and am dreading having to work anywhere smart. Luckily I’ve worked lots of casual places, and I am pretty femme so I can wear blouses, which tend to fit me much better. Anything tailored clearly isn’t tailored for me.

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      I’m with you on the gender presentation. My own alternates between “too lazy to give a fuck” and “deliberate choice not to give a fuck”.

      I sew those little sew-on snaps in between the 3rd and 4th buttons on my gappier shirts. It mostly works.

      I would very much like to find a pair of non-jeans pants that actually fit, though. They’re always either huge in the waist, too tight in the thighs, or the crotch is so long the waistband overlaps my bra. Therefore, I have not tucked a shirt in since I was ten, because I need my shirt out to hide the fact that my pants are rigged in some way to make them kind of maybe seem like they might have fit someone roughly my size in the distant past.

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    OMG I am so excited for this! I am always having clothing crises, all the time. I don’t like wearing makeup, but people peer pressure me to all the time for interviews. (I’m currently between jobs, so I’m interviewing a bunch). I LOVE LOVE button-ups, and wish I could find cheap ones so I could have more to wear all the time. I’ve never buttoned all the way up, but now you’ve made me want to do that next time. Can we talk about shoes too? I can’t walk in heels, so I usually go with flats. But sometimes I don’t feel professional enough (all the time)! Gah. Thank you for making this column!

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    Oooh, this is great! As it happens, I have two jobs: one that’s in an easy, office-type setting, and one that’s messy and labor-intensive! I tend to oscillate between femme and tomboy-ish. While I can usually find clothes for my office job, I have problems with my legs and cannot wear heels, so I’d like to find some good office-appropriate shoes. I’m also pretty clueless about finding a way to signal that I’m queer without going totally masculine or dressing inappropriately.

    I’m completely lost about what to wear for my labor-intensive job. I work in animal care at a biology lab, so there’s lots of picking up heavy things, scrubbing out aquaria bigger than I am, handling raw meat, and cleaning up after animals. I can’t wear anything that I’d be heartbroken about ruining, but at the same time, my boss expects me to dress professionally.

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    Ahhh YES. Thank you for this. I need to dress business professional always in my fancy office. I’m the youngest employee by 20+ years so I really struggle with deciding what is appropriate but still fun for a 22 year old. (Also I’m the only female queer at the company so I feel the need to dress a little more…well queer to make up for that).

    Suggestions for a business professional for a femme queer are greatly appreciated!

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    Hey, it’s my first time of an article popping up right when I desperately need it. I’m a trans lady who transitioned during my current job, so I have no idea what interview clothes look like for a woman. I’m working at a job where I can wear basically anything that isn’t fantastically revealing, but I need to work somewhere else that pays more once I get back from A-camp.

    I’d be totally down with working at a clothing boutique or something, where I can wear all my outfits, no matter how queer, but I might end up having to work an office job. I’ve got suits, but I don’t know if it’s weird for women to wear suits? Are neckties a weird thing too? Or bow ties? Is a dress too casual always or does it depend on the dress? What if I wear a suit jacket over it? So many questions!

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      I don’t have tons of experience with job interviews but I always think a tailored dress or skirt/shirt combo is pretty much the perfect interview unless it is a job where everybody wears a suit. Wear it with a smartish cardigan or suit jacket if you are feeling fancy and you are pretty much sorted.

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      Suits are great, or you could just wear the suit pants/bottoms you have with a nice button up shirt for interviews if it’s not SUPER formal? Work with whatchu got, you know? If you can invest in a pencil skirt or two, though, they look awesome (if that’s your thing, I highly approve of pencil skirts on other people).

      I’d wait on ties/bowties til you figure out an office climate. Bowties are the shit but yes, some people consider them to be weird on women. Personally I think they’re just cute and quirky on everyone. When you’re not sure, though, maybe a nice chunky necklace so you’re wearing something fun? Usually you won’t have the top shirt button buttoned (or even the top button doesn’t exist on women’s clothes, which blows my mind) so you can wear a necklace under or over the shirt depending on the size of the necklace and how far down the neckline goes.

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      I have been taught that you ALWAYS wear a full suit to an interview, no matter what (neckties/bowties encouraged if that fits with your gender presentation). This could just be DC culture though which skews hyper conservative as far as clothing goes. But my experience has been no one ever gets in trouble for being over-dressed at interviews, you know?

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    Sustainable unisex clothing help please! Now that I’m a grad student who works and attends conferences I need grown up clothes, but hate purchasing goods made by people who are being exploited so I can have a pretty top. I’ve tried American Apparel but their business practices and advertising upset me and I’d rather not give them my money.

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    I would love to see some attention paid to ModCloth-like femmier dress fare. They have a lot of cute stuff that reads as queer, and there are few things that make me feel more professional and cute for work than an A-line skirt and a fun print.

    (Not that I like clothes or anything. NOOOOOOO)

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    This is the best ever. I hope you put up some posts filled with excellent advice soon! I’ll be starting work as a middle/high school teacher in the fall. I want to look nice and professional, especially because I’ll be a young and inexperienced teacher. The school is way out in the country, as opposed to NYC or LA, so being on the cutting edge of fashion is not a necessity.

    I love button up shirts paired with pants and flats or small heels. My problem is that I’m only 5’1, so it’s really tough to find pants that fit, even with tailoring. I also struggle to find simple button down shirts- like men’s dress shirts, but for women. Any help would be much appreciated!

    Gabrielle asked about gender presentation- mine ranges from slightly masculine of center to femme, depending on my mood and the weather.

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    I’m trying to transition into a guy-dominated, geeky field and totally need fashion advice! I normally dress really punky- boots, miniskirts, band t-shirts- and have a weird haircut. I’m also kind of chubby and have an epic bust, so button down shirts, the staple of grown up wardrobes, are out of the question for me. Seems like the standard uniform for dudes in the job I want is a punny t-shirt, nice jeans, and expensive hiking sneakers. I’d like to look like I fit in, which means not too much emphasis on my femininity (since girls are so rare in the field), but not just look like all the dudes, either.

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    Long-term lurker here, so first and foremost, hi. :)

    (Trying to get this comment done with before I can talk myself out of it. Again. So here goes…)

    I’m not a real life member of the work force yet, but this is sort of extremely relevant to my interests (confusion, really) at this point in time, so I’m going to go ahead with it anyway. I’m 19 and halfway through my second year at medical school, so right now, as far as wardrobe is concerned, I pretty much roll into whatever clothing is clean and relatively uncreased in the morning (within the campus-wide smart casual(?) dress code, that is). I tend to lean towards the soft butch side of things, so I mostly wander around in jeans, v-necks, button-up shirts, boat shoes, All Stars, trusty leather jacket, that sort of thing.

    I am pretty worried about next year, though (3rd year begins in the first week of January). We start ‘clinicals’ and are all supposed to be decked out in business/office-type dress. I need to tread the line between clothes my ‘unaware-of-my-not-quite-hetero-tendencies’ mother will be willing to purchase for me (broke student) and what I’m comfortable wearing. Eventually, I’d love to get to the point where I can rock a suit without any insecurities, but I’m not out to the campus folk yet, save for the handful of queer kids, although I have been told that it’s not exactly a mystery…I’ve left myself a couple of months to pull myself together so I don’t have to stress out about it all at once. Help. Please and thank you. :)

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      If your mum takes you shopping, you can pick stuff she’d like and then sneak back and exchange things. I’ve done this before, but I guess it depends how comfortable you are deceiving her. I don’t think it’s particularly immoral, but can see why it might not sit right.

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      An easy middle ground is some button up shirts, cardigans (if you’re uncomfortable with some of the femme ones, but need to stay in the women’s section, check out “boyfriend cut” and you can just tell your mum that it is fashionable). Try those with a pair of of chinos (try colors other than light tan), which will look great, might be comfortable for you, and could be mum-approved. If you want to butch it up more, buy yourself some ties, bow ties, or some fly belts and out them on after your mum sees the outfits. Also, more butch-looking button ups can appear “straighter” if you unbutton 1-2 buttons,

      Good luck!

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        Thanks for the advice! I have actually been able to get by with the ‘boyfriend cut’ clothes on occasion, but sometimes it’s a bit of a headache to have to hunt around for those when there could be an entire other section of the stuff available to me as well. I do manage to grab the odd item from the guy’s section, provided I employ some stealth and toss my choices at the till without drawing too much attention to myself. That unbuttoning trick also seems to work pretty well for me, too. :)

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      Hi Thrash,

      I’m a pharmacy student in the States, and we’re required to dress professionally while doing clinical rotations, too. I generally wear dress pants or cotton trousers in a dark color, oxfords or wingtips, and a dressy button-up shirt, and we’re also required to wear the short white student coat. Most of the women in the program wear much more feminine clothes–dresses, short skirts, and ruffly tops are very common–so I stand out a little. And the guys have to wear ties, and I feel a little under dressed in comparison, but a tie isn’t really my thing. It’s a little too warm usually to wear a cardigan over a shirt and under the white coat–it’s just one layer too many–which is too bad because cardigans and v-necks are great for looking a little more put together.

      I don’t know about where you are, but here it makes at least some sense to buy trousers and flat lace-up closed-toe shoes because they are comfortable and clinical sites might require them–most hospitals require closed toe shoes, for example. So maybe you could explain your clothing preferences to your mother with that line of reasoning.

      At work (in a pharmacy) I wear clunky shoes with thick orthopedic soles to avoid aching feet, and lots of no-iron wrinkle resistant things to save time and money. I feel like I look beyond frumpy and I hate it, so I guess if anyone has tips on how to look stylish and sexy in polyester blends and granny shoes, I need them.

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        Your clinical rotation wardrobe is pretty much exactly what I’d want to be wearing next year! I’m kind of certain that I’ll be feeling a little out of place about it, too, seeing as the female medics here tend towards more feminine dresses, skirts and such, as well. I’m South African and we’re heading into Winter now, so packing on the layers isn’t going to be a problem in the least bit. You’re also spot on about using hospital requirements as motivation for my clothing preferences, and I’ll probably be playing that card quite heavily when I actually have to go out and buy stuff…

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    I looking forward to the insights that you will share through this column. I’ve already gone out of my way to like Everlane’s Facebook page even though I’ve never purchased anything from them. I took a moment to check out their site after reading about Everlane in your article and I can’t wait to purchase my first silk blouse (although, at $80+ each, I know that waiting is inevitable.)

    Question: One could say that I lean feminine in my gender presentation, but I really do not like wearing heels that are higher than 2 inches. Do you have suggestions for where to buy affordable, well-made shoes in refined, classic styles? I love a solid heel/sole. Ultimately, I want to feel like I can run in my shoes no matter if they are pumps that I’m wearing with a skirt or loafers. Your suggestions, please?

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      You could check out the “Dufay” pump by Tsubo if you are looking for pumps… They are a Comfortable Shoe Brand and are wonderfully cushioned (like it’s actually shocking how comfortable they are), with a low heel. Also they are a classic heel but I feel like they look ever-so-slightly edgier. I would love to see more recommendations for comfortable, super-short heels myself.

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      I don’t do heels, but I do do nice looking flats with thick soles to make me look taller. Clarks is a good place for that. And everything I’ve bought from there fits the criteria of well-made, refined, and feel-like-you-can-run-in-them. :)

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    I like to mix femme and butch. My basics: black-on-black button up, pinstripe pencil skirt, patterned tights, and flats; but I can also get away with shorts, jeans, and khakis, and purple hair, at my office job. Cardigans, sweater vests, and ties are fun. Wingtips are great for women.

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    I always struggle when there’s happy hour after work. I have no idea what to wear to bars in general, and when the outfit has to do double duty as a work outfit, I’m at a total loss. I feel like I always overshoot on the professional side, and I wind up looking out of place at the bar.

    I work at a business casual place — lots of button ups and polos paired with dark wash jeans for me, pencil skirts in the summer. I’m friends with a lot of freelance artist types, which means a) they always look totally cool and my button up/jeans combo looks totally frumpy next to them, b) we go to a lot of dive bars so everyone can afford to get nice and drunk, and c) I have a lot of anxiety about wearing professional looking clothing around them because I don’t want to look like I’m showing off that I make more money than them? If that makes sense? …Yeah. It’s a real problem.

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    I think this is a great idea!!!
    I’m still studying to be a vet, but I do work as a volunteer, most of the time I have to use the plain green( or other color) uniform they give me when I start, Any tips on looking queer using that? xD

    Also any good tips on looking queer as a femme? (fuck femme invisibility!)

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    I’m so excited to see this column! I am loving the comments and looking forward to reading some tips!

    I’m a high school teacher where the attire is business casual, and my typical pieces include: flats or oxfords, pants, pencil skirts, button ups, sweaters, blazers, and the occasional dress. I absolutely agree about the importance of buying high-quality, versatile basics. Places where I’ve had luck fitting my somewhat androgynous style include Banana Republic (their weekend chino pants have been my amazing pant staples for work) and Gap. I’ve also had luck getting some good pieces from J Crew, though I generally only buy from the clearance rack, and they’re not as consistently a match with my style.

    Accessories can be a great way to queer an outfit up. I have brightly colored belts and scarves as well as some neat jewelry pieces that work with a business casual outfit and give an otherwise ‘typical’ outfit a little excitement.

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    My gender presentation is a mix of masculine and feminine. Anything too femme just makes me look like I’m in drag. But honestly I’m more concerned with looking proffessional comnbined with comfort. I have joint problems which mean I have to wear shoes that are sturdy, balanced and can fit my insoles (I have a wardrobe full of gorgeous heels and I tried wearing a pair out to the theatre a few weeks back and was limping by the time I got home a few hours later) so I’m standing properly and not turning my fucked ankle every few steps. I’m also always too hot and live in fucking Scotland where we have every season in a day so my clothing needs to be made of layers (which, when its not too hot for part of the day can be great coat, cashmere sweater and button down – sorted, but when its only a little cold stretching into blazing hot I have no idea what to wear).

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    OMG yay I need this bad! I work at a film studio with lots of young twenty-somethings wearing trendy clothes (and straight girls with short hair and flannel which is very confusing for a gay girl with bad gaydar), but technically it doesn’t have a dress code, which I take liberal advantage of when I need to be at work in 15 minutes and I’m still in bed. This means mostly jeans, flip flops, tshirts.

    Anyways, yea, I imagine people would take me more seriously if I dressed more professionally, especially if it’s convenient and can be put together in pieces so I don’t freak out when I have to buy a whole new wardrobe. Also something menswear inspired because I like menswear but am a small Asian woman who does not fit in actual menswear. At least I don’t have the hip/bust issues a lot of women apparently have since I am a cylinder.

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      The straight girls with short hair and flannel thing is so confusing. My entire field is filled with them and so when I went back to college I thought I’d struck lesbian gold (they all seem to like medieval history and have cats too! It was so confusing!).

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    such a helpful column! do you have any suggestions on what pants to buy? when shopping, i feel lost in a sea of pants: what pants are feminine, fashionable, unique, comfortable, and professional ALL AT THE SAME TIME? HELP!

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    I just got a fancy new job where I’ll have to wear a suit every day. I tend to be pretty femme, but I’d still like to give off a queer vibe. Any tips?

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    Thank you so much for starting this column! I’m really skinny, tall, don’t have a butt at all, long torso, have soooo much trouble finding stuff to fit. I like to wear suits to work and I like low cut slacks but have a lot of trouble finding blouses with tails long enough to tuck in (the long torso thing) cuz I’m definitely a size small on top. HELP!

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    I have my first gig teaching a class at the local junior college next month and I’m nervous, so I’m using my wardrobe to get my game face on. I’m going with mostly menswear for comfort / practicality / preference. What do you guys think about blazers over drainpipe jeans (skinny jeans with gathered ankles)? Probably wingtips altering with ballet flats. Skirts are a no because I don’t like showing any leg haha, but we’re talking about Phoenix in the summer so I need lightweight and I’m afraid my layered blazer looks and tight pants will be uncomfortably warm. Any ideas on alternatives? I’m built like a bean pole, so it should work for that frame.

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    one of the nice things about being in the Navy is already knowing every day what you have to wear. We do from time to time get people who dress like a bag of ass or look sloppy. These people usually stick out in a bad way and there are no shortages of people who will tell you to correct yourself.

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    This is going to be so helpful! I work for a super-conservative piece of the government in DC, where the dress code is the businessy side of business casual. We have been told not to wear v-necks, patterned tights, or open-toe shoes because they are “unprofessional.” I consider myself a practical femme, so my clothing needs to be both comfortable/easy & feminine – right now I wear a lot of professional dresses with cardigans. Suggestions of where to get good blazers would be most welcome.

    I am also constantly trying to put myself out there as The Queer One, so tips for gaying it up would be excellent. So far I just wear a giant rainbow bracelet and a lapel pin with the US/gay pride flag on it. My favorite moments are when coworkers ask “Oh neat pin, what country is that?” and I get to reply GAY COUNTRY!

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    i’m a bit behind the times on the blog comment thread — but i would love help with pencil skirts! i love them but i have the worst time figuring out where to buy them from. mostly i buy the jersey-knit ones from american apparel, but i would rather buy from a different company.

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    I’m late to the party but was just wondering of anyone able to enlighten me- are the silk Everlane shirts incredibly easy to wrinkle? I have a difficult time finding work tops that will remain suitably uncreased after a morning bike commute with a backpack on. Any help bestowed would be greatly appreciated!

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