Lez Get Dressed For Work: The Suit-Not-Suit

Because you deserve to be the best dressed homo in the office. Read previous posts here.

Header by Rory Midhani

lez get dressed for work_640

So let’s say right now you aren’t at A-Camp and instead are sitting at your desk reading Autostraddle wishing you were at camp. Cool, same here. Cute girls are running around in matching camp t-shirts in nature and you and I are (probably?) in different places but are both staring at a screen. It’s like we’re looking at the same moon. Only it’s not the moon because we’re stuck inside, at work, in our work clothes. Great!

kimberly at work

look at that face though and everything will be okay

Maybe there are some people around you wearing suits. Are you wearing a suit too? Do you have to?

Unless you work in a super fancy shmancy corporate office where you have to wear a nice suit every day, you probably have some confusing wiggle room about how much of a suit to wear to work. Honestly I think having to wear a suit makes life a lot easier: you know you have to get dressed up and it’s pretty much set how to do it (now, finding things that actually fit you within that category is obviously a different story). But if your work environment is somewhere in between suit and not-suit, you have approximately an infinite amount of things you could wear and how are you even supposed to decide on anything?

I find it helpful to have a go-to, formulaic silhouette for these situations. Today I’m going to tell you about my personal version of it, and you’re highly encouraged to share your own. For me, when wearing a suit approximation, it’s important that the outline of the outfit looks like a suit: pants (or skirt!!), collared top (which we’ve talked about), blazer, oxford shoes. But it’s actually not a suit because it’s not a set, and that’s where your personality can shine through.

A suit is technically made of clothing from the same cloth. It’s really matchy matchy. If you don’t have to wear a perfectly matching suit, I want you to try something: go in the exact opposite route. In putting together your suit-not-suit silhouette, you shouldn’t be looking for gray pants to match a gray blazer, because the materials will be slightly different and the colors slightly different and it will thus look slightly sloppy. You should be looking for a bright blue blazer to go with those gray pants, or something could even have a pattern on it. Get creative if your office allows it. Bright colors are fun too.

The exception to this is black. If the blacks match, the materials can be different and it’s fine because black is a magical color. But if it’s not black, the worst thing that can happen is that it matches-ish, and you don’t want there to be anything ish about your outfit. So if it’s made up of very different colors yet complimentary colors, you’re color-blocking! Literally just blocks of color. That’s really in style right now and I don’t see it going anywhere. Also, stripes.

Okay, so now we’ve established why your pants and blazer can/should be different. Let’s talk about shapes. My number one issue with the pants that generally come in pants suits is that wide, flowy leg situation. If you’re into that, I applaud you and I’m certainly not criticizing you. However. Your work clothes should be a fancier, more professional looking version of what you would normally wear, because you are still you under all that. I don’t ever wear flowy, wide-leg pants, and so the thought of suddenly donning a pair just to look professional is pretty counterintuitive.

Make a note of this: if you wear skinny pants or even super-straight legged pants with your blazer, you will look like a rockstar. I actually think wearing skinny pants and a hot blazer is the number one secret to sexy office style. It’s so simple and yet I don’t know why more people don’t do it. Tapered ankles, you guys. Life changing. You can even taper your own ankles if you know how to sew. If you don’t know how to sew, time to learn! When searching for skinny work pants online, try searching for “cigarette trousers.” If your office allows for it, even go for colored skinny jeans with your blazer. Levi’s legging jeans are a personal favorite of mine because they are tight but of a thick material, unlike jeggings, and they are just a teeny tiny bit slouchy, but not so much so that they look unprofessional. They just look fucking cool.

via wildfang

i mean this is really good right via wildfang

If you like wearing skirts better than pants, the same tapered rule actually applies here in the form of pencil skirts. Have you ever seem a femme in a pencil skirt not looking hot? I certainly haven’t.

Blazers can also double as really fantastic transitional jackets. I’m sorry to say it’s not summer yet (at least not in New York) and so you can wear your blazer as a light jacket and it will be great. Your blazer can be as traditional as it needs to be: meaning, it can be kind of a moto jacket or even a denim jacket if the situation is casual enough. Or it can be standard, which I promise will still look cute if you’re following the instructions so far. Look at this outfit and tell me you’re not feeling a confusing combination of lust and envy. This could be you on the way to the office:

The Sartorialist

don’t you just want a poster of this? via The Sartorialist

In terms of shoes, I promise I will get more in depth with this in the future but my go-tos are all flat and lace-up. I love a good menswear-inspired shoe especially because I’m so femme that often my footwear is what I rely on to balance my look out. Also few things say office homo like rocking a tomboy femme style, and boyish shoes are a comfortable and stylish way to do just that. I’m literally never going to where heels to work and you can’t make me. Okay? Thanks. Also OMG look at these cute shoes!

Okay, so what do you think? This is just my interpretation of a suit-not-suit that works for me. What works for you?

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Gabrielle Korn

Gabrielle Korn is a writer living in Los Angeles with her wife and dog.

Gabrielle has written 95 articles for us.


  1. I definitely love this! I am really not a suit-person (or an office-job person) but this makes me feel like maybe, *maybe* I could do it if I really had to. TBH my work attire differs from my regular clothing only in amount of skin showing. As in, knee length studded shorts and a metal t shirt rather than short! studded shorts and a sleeveless metal t shirt

  2. I really do like the general ideas in this article but I don’t think it came across the way it might have intended to. This is hardly an inclusive list. If you aren’t skinny like all of the pictured models, what kind of pant cut should you look for for a similar look? Will general straight leg pants even work for someone who is chubby and/or has large hips? More pictures would be great. What about a picture of someone wearing a pencil skirt? What about shoes for people who don’t want to wear menswear-inspired shoes? What about patterns and big tits?
    Again, I do like the general look but it comes across as a little sloppy if you don’t have more details and aren’t really trying to connect to more people. Obviously you can’t address every little thing but even an attempt to cover more bases would be helpful. I do love this site but come on. I know that Autostraddle can produce better work than something that feels exclusive to only a few people and kind of recycled.

    • I agree, more pictures – though I think that frankly chubby people can wear whatever they want as long as they wear it confidently. Granted, someone with a huge waist to hip ratio will have to try HARDER to find well fitted jeans than someone without (no matter WHAT size jeans those are in both cases) but both myself and my wife only buy skinny styles (though obvs straight leg reads more masculine if you want that in your life). And I mean, we shop at Old Navy! I’m sure there are better ones out there if you’re not broke as hell. :P

      There are a lot of skinny and straight styles that are cut for curvy hips too, if you check out plus size websites.

      That said a blazer (or most things!) with a pencil skirt looks smart as hell.

      My best fashion finds are from tumblr where there’s a huge size acceptance community. Check “fatshion” “fat positivity” “plus size” etc etc – the answers to things like straight leg pants and what patterns look good will answer themselves, I guarantee it, even if it takes some hunting to find someone with the same body type as yours.

      Anyway, this isn’t at all to argue that this article didn’t need more diversity, just to put in my .02.

  3. I agree with Des and would like to add that suits and skinny jeans are very *warm* and i would love some suggestions for hot-weather variations of a tailored look. I have some navy pinstripe shorts from Gap, but I can’t wear those every day. Obviously hosiery is too warm but bare legs can look informal, and maxi dresses are beachy rather than office …

    • Cosign. I’ve got dressing for work down, but dressing for work without slow-roasting my flesh? It is too fucking hot and I have no ideas. My workplace mandates long pants and it’s uncomfortable to the point of being a real distraction.

      • Thanks for the feedback! I have a list of topics to cover, and dressing to avoid overheating is definitely on the list. I actually think the topic deserve its own post, as being uncomfortably hot while trying to look nice is such a thing. However, many people work in offices that are super air conditioned and thus feel cold all day, so this layering look was more geared towards that situation. I hope to be able to address your concerns in future posts. <3

  4. My trick for transitioning into slightly warmer weather while still being wearing my skinny jeans is ankle-grazers. I’m always suprised by how much a bare ankle will help keep me cool while still being work appropriate! But then I’m in Ireland and our warmer weather is like 2 degrees up from our winter?

  5. “Have you ever seem a femme in a pencil skirt not looking hot? i certainly haven’t.” lolz!

    it’s a fact of life, like gravity

  6. I love-love-love this look, but may be eternally jealous that I will probably never be able to pull it off the way the women in these photos can.

    I’m short, pear-shaped, with large thighs from playing soccer my whole life. I think anyone can rock any style (& I certainly try), but it’s hard not to internalize the message that you’ll only look good in it if you are a skinny/lanky person. Because of that I wish more body types were included in this article, too.

    • Thank you for the feedback and I’m sorry that this post fell short for you in that way! Relying on existing resources to provide a diversity of body types is challenging when talking about such specific things within fashion, and I’m hoping to eventually start incorporating original photography into this series so that this stops happening.

      • No disrespect, but “existing resources”? Don’t you have the entire internet at your disposal? The picture via ‘But I’m a Tomboy’ is obviously not professionally taken, and there are TONS of photos of women who are shaped differently that these representations spread about online looking summer dapper as fuck. I know this because I look at them often!

          • I don’t so much like what that person had to say about tight-jeans. They only posted on photo of a person rocking them who would not qualify as skinny.

            If you have a soft body, most likely you will have curves like “muffin tops” when wearing tight clothing. You can try to use undergarments to decrease the the visibility of these natural curves, but they are there whether we like them or not.

          • ah see now we take what we will from it. I read a positive article that emphasised all important fit, and if it doesn’t fit off the peg reminds us we can adjust.

            mostly i just picked the article for the fabulous pink jeans in the last photo. i tried to find the original blog but my crappy connection didn’t let me download her image heavy site (something to consider when we berate our AS article writers for not rewarding us with enough piccies)

    • I’m a size 20, with big thighs, a belly, and a size 42DDD. Skinny pants and a blazer totally can work for bigger girls too! I like a skinny pant with a slightly higher rise to hold in the muffin top, and a fitted blazer that nips in at the waist. It gives me this amazing hourglass figure, especially if I do black jeans and a dark blazer.

      • I have hips up the wazoo and I can wear a skinny or slim pant. Usually slim fitting men’s, e.g. slim straight cut. My butt doesn’t actually fit in inexpensive women’s/junior’s clothes, also I’m somewhat masculine of center.

  7. really love this. this week have been going through a backlog of previous advices – and this rocks so much. Now i have fresh ideas again.

  8. I agree with what others have said about including a bigger variety of body shapes…
    However! I think the best point made in the article is when you said that “Your work clothes should be a fancier, more professional looking version of what you would normally wear.” Exactly! I find a lot of people, myself included, can dress ourselves great for casual wear… we know what we like and what makes us comfortable and have figured out what suits our body shapes best. Then translating that to office wear the thread is lost a bit… I have a hard time finding cuts of clothing in more formal wear that match the style and fit of my casual wear. It seems like there is a lot less selection unless I suddenly start spending a TON of money.

  9. Thoughts:
    -I want to get this tattooed on my forehead so everyone knows it because I’ve been saying it for forever: “Make a note of this: if you wear skinny pants or even super-straight legged pants with your blazer, you will look like a rockstar. I actually think wearing skinny pants and a hot blazer is the number one secret to sexy office style. It’s so simple and yet I don’t know why more people don’t do it. Tapered ankles, you guys. Life changing.” I still TO THIS DAY complain about how my cousin didn’t tailor his fucking suit for his wedding like two years ago. Just taper the goddamn legs!
    -I never realized how awesome and hilarious that header art is
    -I need that floral blazer on my body right now, but preferably in my size
    -Those shoes made me drool
    -Also, I teared up a little just seeing that picture of the small dog because we had to put my small precious dog down on Monday and I’m still smarting. But we don’t have to talk about it because BLAZERS! Just saying: cute ass dog.

  10. nice, I don’t actually work, but I am a student teacher and I do have to dress nice when I go to the school since if I use my regular clothes I’ll just look like another kid.
    I think I need to go shopping. I think I have one blazer. well, two, a suede and a tweed (tweed-ish really) and I need to come up with a few outfits

  11. Oh seriously more about masculine wear?
    Every lesbian I know dresses like a dude and it’s just not flattering to me! It makes them look dumpy and tacky.
    Embrace your womanhood girls! Why must you all look so..well..bad?

    • yeah because everyone is here to find out how to flatter you and embrace their womanhood

    • Did you SEE that picture from the Sartorialist? Do you seriously think that the woman in that photo looks bad?

      Because I don’t know how anyone could believe that.


    • If you want to find out how to dress for the office (or anywhere else) and you are cis and gendernormative and girly, you have the entire internet and every magazine on earth.

      Also for real no one in this post looks dumpy and tacky. Take your hate somewhere else.

  12. Oh I am in love with the brog shoes!
    I love suit jackets but don’t think they suit me, I’m very slim but I think they would look better on curvier women. Maybe I have to find the right one is all!

    • No way, suit jackets can defs suit slim women. Keep searching for the right fit- it’s worth it! :)

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