19 Un-Femme Dresses for When Pants Just Aren’t an Option

According to the recent Autostraddle reader style survey, a whopping 30% of you don’t wear dresses! And while I respect your dedication to pants, I also understand the tyranny of waistbands (even elastic ones). Below, 19 items of clothing that are called “dresses,” but are really more like extra long tee- and sweatshirts.

This cocoon I plan on wearing all winter long.


Get it from Uniqlo (sizes XXS-XXL) for $20. Also available in olive or navy.

A tee dress with some nautical flair.


Get it from ASOS (sizes 12-28) for $29.

This soft ‘n’ slouchy number.


Get it from Target (sizes XS-XXL) for $25. Also available in black and beige.

A hoodie dress to bring out your inner Sporty Spice.


Get it from Forever 21 (sizes S-L here, 0X-3X here) for $20. Also available in burgundy.

And a little something for V-neck lovers.


Get it from Old Navy (sizes XS-XXL) for $27. Also available in black, navy stripe, orange, and blue.

This super comfy maxi for if you’re goin’ commando.


Get it from Boohoo (sizes 12-20) for $24. Also available in grey or black.

A hooded mini for the worst of hair days.


Get it from Charlotte Russe (sizes XS to L) for $21.

This little sweat-tee hybrid.


Get it from Forever 21 (sizes 0X to 3X) for $18. Also available in pink.

A Chuck Taylor dress to match with your sneakers.


Get it from ASOS (sizes XS-XXL) for $36. Also available in black here.

And a big, blue, wearable blanket.


Get it from ASOS (sizes 12-28) for $35.

This very sunny sweat dress.


Get it from ASOS (sizes 0-14) for $36.

Or this polo for you preppies.


Get it from Lands’ End (sizes S-3X) for $35.

This cherry red cutie.


Get it from H&M (sizes 2-16) for $30.

This terrific tank tunic.


Get it from Old Navy (sizes 1X-4X) for $40. Also available in black, teal stripe, or blue.

A short ‘n’ sweet sweat dress.


Get it from Rebdolls (sizes L-4X) for $33. Also available in green and pink.

The perfect tee to wear without pants.


Get it from Old Navy (sizes XS-XXL) for $27. Also available in grey, black, orange stripe, pink stripe, and navy dot.

This blush-colored beauty that’s not too too pink.


Get it from ASOS (sizes 12-24) for $24.

A special piece for sleeve devotees.


Get it from Old Navy (sizes XS-XXL) for $30. Also available in red, green, and black.

And finally, a little something soft and swingy.


Get it from Old Navy (sizes 1X-4X) for $45. Also available in red, orange, or black.

Nora is a writer and shoot producer living in Brooklyn. Send her links to weird clothing and dog videos to nora [at] autostraddle [dot] com.

Nora has written 53 articles for us.

45 Comments

  1. I have recently joined the leggings are pants camp and am def in need of some of these dresses/long shirts/sweaters for the fall! Leggings are the way to go and I wish I had realized this sooner. The red “sweat dress” is right up my alley.

  2. As a person who pretty much ONLY wears leggings and tees and long tanks, I will admit to owning EVERY old navy dress on this list (I think). They are all t-shirt material and v comfy. I will also say that if you are a person on the shorter end of the spectrum, they are fairly long. Like, all of them go past my knees by a bit which I don’t love. But I still recommend them with my whole (smol) heart.

  3. Thank you for this. I had been thinking about trying to find dresses that aren’t too femme. Because some days I just don’t feel like putting on pants, but I don’t really feel girly either. But the last time I did that, I pulled a dress out of my closet that was really more femme than I wanted to be that day, and I felt very conflicted about it.

  4. I love all of these! I just made myself a lovely fleece tank midi dress yesterday. Even with darting the boobs it was only 6 lines of sewing. It’s so cozy! It will be the perfect thing to wear after water aerobics when it’s too hard to put on leggings.

  5. I have two sweatshirt dresses that have cowl necks that I wear with leggings all winter long. They are my favorite. I got them at Target and expect them to come out with new colors/styles again later this year.

  6. great article. i, too, am worried about this recent trend of women wearing pants. what must their husbands think? don’t women know that it’s unacceptable to never wear dresses? thank you for helping to correct their errors of their ways. hopefully those ‘butch’ women realize they can be just as happy in an ‘unfemme’ dress.

    • Hi rxy, thanks for this! I thought you might enjoy the following recent dress-free articles. You’ll notice the first article, like this one, emphasizes physical comfort — which I’m sure you recognize is important in general, but especially so if standard pants don’t fit your needs as a plus-size person or a wheelchair user.

      Five Kinds of Jogger Pants for Any Occasion


      Sew Your Own: Pants Projects for Any Skill Level


      Otheralls Are The New Overalls and They Are Seriously All Over


      6 Super Shops for Building a Dapper Vegan Wardrobe


      Style Thief: How To Dress Like Moon Lin


      Four Tips for Dressing Dapper When You’re Petite


      4 Dapper Plus-Size Sewing Projects for Beginners and Pros

        • I guess I lost your point in the condescension. I know this is the internet and all, with its anonymity and celebration of snark, but it would be much more helpful to me as someone who wants to serve a diverse audience (personally or by way of guest writers) if you told me what it was you wanted to see that would represent you and fulfill your sartorial needs. You can do it here or through email — mine is nora@autostraddle.com.

          • The problem isn’t diversity of content – it’s not that there are Too Many articles about dresses and Not Enough articles about other kinds of clothing – it is that you opened this article with “hey I hear a lot of you don’t wear dresses let’s fix that!” when not wearing dresses isn’t a Problem for most people who choose not to?

            Not to mention equating “unfemme” with like… cozy/untailored clothing, which would seem to imply that femmes who ever wear sweatpants don’t measure up to your Femme Standards and that butchness means being more concerned with comfort than style (which falls into really bullshit stereotypes about how women with short hair have “given up” etc etc)

          • Thank you, @CPJ, for the straightforwardness and clarity in your comment. Unfortunately, this says nothing about a “fix”; it’s simply giving people more options, in case they’ve eschewed traditional ideas about who should wear what/are interested in exploring the boundaries of their own style. As for your second point, the articles linked above should make clear that nobody here believes butches don’t care about how they look; I simply decided to steer clear in this post of details like ruffles, princess sleeves, and nipped-in waists intended to create an hourglass shape. Honestly, I thought the idea of extra long shirts you can just throw on, go, and be comfy in (which isn’t “giving up,” it’s being a person unconstrained by others’ ideas of how you should look) would be a nice middle ground.

          • “eschewed traditional ideas about who should wear what” no offense but the idea that women should wear dresses is actually the MOST traditional idea?

            Like you just seem to be hardcore projecting what you perceive as comfort along with the idea that this comfort is the “middle ground” between butch and femme and it’s just. bizarre. and unnecessarily insulting when there were a thousand other ways to frame this article that would have been neutral and fine!

          • Like the idea the OBVIOUSLY dresses are the most comfortable thing to wear so anyone who doesn’t want to or CAN’T due to a variety of reasons are being constrained by their “traditional ideas” and the “boundaries” they’ve exerted on their style and it just seems like a judgement that’s ridiculous to extend to a piece of clothing. 30% of the users of this site don’t wear dresses! Good for them! Make this article for the people who do!

          • @CPJ There is no way for me to know about your personal experiences and feelings around pants, but I believe they’re valid. I now realize there’s also no way you could have known how a friend who has been a pants-only person for as long as I’ve known them got a dress similar to the ones above this summer, and expressed such happiness at not having to wear pants in such hot weather (and sadness that dresses continue to be seen through such a gendered lens), and got me thinking that I wanted to offer that option to others. Policing or invalidating your expression is absolutely the opposite of what I ever want to do, so I’m sorry that I made you feel the way I did. I want everyone to be comfortable in their clothing, both in the most literal sense and in a larger one.

  7. 1.) implying… femmes don’t also wear these things? leisure couture is no longer a thing now?
    2.) that 30% of us are largely happy not wearing dresses. if this were geared more towards people who cannot necessarily wear pants due to disability – my mother, for example – i’d be approximately 2045824852% more understanding, but that’s not remotely the tone here. the title is “19 un-femme dresses for when pants aren’t an option” but doesn’t tell us WHY pants might not be an option – implying that there is some occasion other than limited mobility/other disability concerns where it would be completely acceptable to rule out pants. this sounds ridiculous and like i’m throwing a hissy fit about nothing, but consider this: i already face professional and personal opposition for dressing the way i do. on a regular basis. no matter whether i’m in my flyover home state or sunny california. it can be at my conservative job, it can be in a leftist/antifascist activist community where we’re supposed to be Above That, it literally doesn’t matter. stumbling on articles like this just really underlines the fact that The World Does Wish We Would Just Change

    Autostraddle has grown like increasingly hostile towards butch dykes like me – Nora’s comments replying to people who are upset alone are enough to illustrate this – and there’s a reason I no longer read or purchase from the store. When I was really young and just came out I was SO excited to find a website that catered to lesbians and bi women, including lesbian trans women and bi trans women, and made some minimal gestures towards those of us who are disabled. Like. SO excited. Now it’s just a nightmare site full of Hot Takes for those of us who don’t ascribe to the growing idea-tide that’s like “actually performing femininity [read: different from being femme! yet the two terms are so often used as interchangeable!] is Radical. it’s The Butches That Are Wrong”

    • But that’s the thing; I don’t think what you’re saying is ridiculous or a hissy fit about nothing. Shannon acknowledged the significance of pants to women and other queer people in her recent sewing post (linked above), which I was so glad to read, but I didn’t realize was necessary to repeat here. The “pants aren’t an option” line was meant in good spirit, to acknowledge the diehard comfort corner of the internet. Like a Tumblr meme about “leg jails,” only not, since as a fellow leftist/anti-fascist, I don’t think jokes relating to incarceration are funny. Not “dresses are superior to pants,” just literally, you decide for yourself that pants are not going on your body today. I’ve heard from a number of people that comfort is their #1 priority, so I thought the intention here would be clear, and I apologize that it wasn’t.

    • Also, to get back to the “options” bit — if the below is something you’d like to write about at length, the honest truth is that I would love to publish it.

      “i already face professional and personal opposition for dressing the way i do. on a regular basis. no matter whether i’m in my flyover home state or sunny california. it can be at my conservative job, it can be in a leftist/antifascist activist community where we’re supposed to be Above That, it literally doesn’t matter.”

      • Nora, the problem isn’t that you wrote a post about “comfy” dresses, the problem is that you directed that post at the “whopping 30%” of your readers who do not wear dresses and do not want to wear dresses. If it’s a comfy dress post, sell it as a comfy dress post. But you explicitly, in your opening lines, targeted it at women who have no interest in these “options.” You’re back pedaling now but it’s still right there at the top of the page.

    • Maybe consider just some of us don’t get the option to wear pants and might appreciate a dress that doesn’t make the dysphoria feel like fox trying to claw it’s way out from under a coat?

        • Yep, this. If this was presented as just a list of dresses for androgynous folks that aren’t super feminine, no one would have batted an eye. Instead, it opens with a weird dig at women who don’t like or wear dresses for no reason at all. It also seems strange that it’s tagged as “femme fashion” when even the headline specifically says that the article is intended to be about stuff that’s “un-femme.” It comes off as incredibly tone deaf and, yes, disrespectful.

  8. Hi Nora! I’d just like to say that as a person who prefers to present in an androgynous way but sometimes wants to wear dresses, I SUPER appreciate that this post exists, and I’m sorry that there seem to be some people who can’t tell the difference between “here are some options for those who might want them” and “you have to wear these dresses or else!”.

    • This comment is way late but me too! This post inspired me to buy a dress (slash very long dress shirt) and wear it twice. I wish people would generally be more inclined to give Autostraddle the benefit of the fucking doubt because you deserve it.

    • Then why not just post the same content minus the random, irrelevant commentary about the third of the readers of this site who have chosen, probably for a variety of reasons, not to wear dresses? It could have been titled, “Dresses for Folks Who Like Dressing Androgynously,” or whatever, not included the weird dig at women who don’t wear dresses and been perfectly great. Snarking at people who have, in all likelihood, heard variations on this theme for years from family, friends and society at large doesn’t seem especially helpful or, despite the wording of the opening paragraph, respectful.

      I used to check Autostraddle for new articles multiple times a day, but stuff like this helps make the point, subtly or otherwise, that it may not actually be a space for me or people like me. If I want to listen to someone disregard my clothing preferences and suggest dresses for me to wear, I can call my mother.

  9. Oh, look! It’s the literal last conversation I had with my mother about what I’ll be wearing to my own wedding, complete with, “I respect your dedication to pants… but here’s a bunch of dresses you should check out.” Just the kind of thing I come to Autostraddle to read. Because if there’s anything that gender nonconforming and butch women need, it’s more people telling us to wear dresses.

    Just… seriously? This could have been posted without the needless dig at women who eschew dresses because we’re gender nonconforming (or just, you know, don’t like dresses) and been a perfectly fine, helpful. Instead it’s… well. This. Yikes.

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