Lez Get Dressed For Work: Yes, Virginia, There Are Professional Tops That Aren’t Button-Ups

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

A lot of people spend a lot of time and energy trying to look like they just rolled out of bed: perfectly messed-up hair, flannel thrown on just so, and maybe a little bit of smudged eyeliner, depending. Going to work is pretty much the opposite. Unless you are a morning person (what does that feel like!) you are probably familiar with the exact minimum amount of time you need to make yourself look professional; and likewise, the maximum amount of seconds you get to spend in a blanket cocoon with your eyes closed (omfg I’m so tired right now).

Today I had one of those days where I really stretched out that staying in bed time. When I finally crawled out of bed like an old homeless hamster, putting on clothes that weren’t my pajamas just felt bad, so I wore the closest things to pajamas I could justify: my softest nice skinnies with my Madewell silk boyshirt, untucked, and suede booties. I wore a gold bow tie necklace and between all those things I somehow managed to look like I’m a professional grownup, I think. This is a close approximation:

Wearing this outfit reminded me of something: you know how I keep telling you guys to tuck your shirts in? A lot of you responded to that advice by saying you’ll never feel comfortable tucking in, and I totally feel that. Actually I personally do it like 50% of the time. I’m not all that tall but I have a long torso, so it’s a rare shirt indeed that is long enough to actually tuck in. Also there are days like when I have my period or I ate a lot of pizza the night before when the thought of tucking it in really just makes me want to cry, so.

if this butch leaning on a thing doesn't have to tuck her shirt in, you don't either

if this butch leaning on a thing doesn’t have to tuck her shirt in, you don’t either

If you’re of the non-tucking persuasion, just pay close attention to where your shirt falls. If it falls above the top of your pants, wear an undershirt and tuck that one in. Actually even if it appears to meet your pants perfectly, wear an undershirt and tuck it in: you want to be able to lift your arms without showing off your tummy to all the ladies (this is work, not your women’s studies class). If it hangs down past the top of your pants, and you like to wear belts, make a note of what the bulk of the belt does to the way the shirt falls. If you can see the shape of the belt through the bottom of your shirt, maybe don’t wear it, and put on pants that don’t need a belt. (That’s just a pet peeve of mine. I hope it continues to be implied that you should do whatever you want that is also work appropriate. But really I feel like you shouldn’t be able to see a belt shape under your shirt.) Also, in general, you should probably be wearing an undershirt with your button up because guess what? That gapping problem? It happens to mostly everyone I’ve ever seen in a button front to at least some degree.

via lesbian a la mode

Copyright Alex Elle

Last week I suggested getting things tailored if you’re one of the majority of people for whom off-the-rack clothing doesn’t fit perfectly, though I know that’s not very helpful advice since what we all want is to have this be as easy and cheap and painless as possible. This can be especially difficult with button ups, with their attendant gapping problems. A friend of mine suggested actually sewing the parts of the shirt that are gapping and then pulling the shirt over your head like a popover. But if you’ve given up on button ups, that’s totally fine and reasonable! Let’s talk about what else you can wear to work.

One of the reasons button front shirts look professional is because they have nice collars. There are plenty of regular shirts with nice collars, too. American Apparel in particular, although they are in many respects an eyebrow-raising institution, makes a lovely Silky Collar Tee that I may or may not have in two different colors (hey, if you love something, buy it twice, right? I got mine at a thrift store!). You can tuck or untuck, and it also looks amazing with high-waisted pants situations, which is a really good look if you’re femme and into being a little bit retro and also showing off your curves.

[LINK] via American Apparel

ugh this is so perfect via American Apparel

Maybe you don’t want to shop at AA because of your good politics. Collared tees are totally a thing that are relatively easy to find with some dedicated googling. Look, I’ll even get you started:

If the peter pan silky tee thing is too femme for you, Topman has some great polo shirts that, if buttoned up all the way, have the equivalent effect. You guys honestly I really don’t like polo shirts, but something about when Topshop does it make its okay to me. I’m going to have an entire post about shopping in the men’s section some day, so please hang tight. If none of the above appeals to you, you could always also go for a striped top of high-quality material, which doesn’t necessarily have to have a collar because it already looks so fine. Did you know that stripes are a neutral? It’s true.

via lesbian a la mode

this is cute you could wear this tomorrow via lesbian a la mode

Next week, let’s talk about ways to queer a suit. Hint: it’s not actually going to involve wearing a suit.

Header art by Rosa Middleton.

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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. Oooo!! Peter pan collars <3

    I love these dressed for work posts! While so many of these outfits are so cool and very hip, my office is still very formal and conservative. Any ideas on how to update my seriously plain black skirt suits? Blah corporate america…

  2. The best place for workwear I’ve found in the UK is Pepperberry. They’re an expansion of bra store Bravissimo, and sell their clothes in standard sizes, along with a ‘curvy’ rating – curvy, really curvy, super curvy, super duper curvy. This means it really is possible for someone like my girlfriend, with E cup boobs, to find a shirt which fits and doesn’t need a top underneath. It’s genius, and I wish all high street shops had this sizing idea.

    • I hadn’t even considered Pepperberry, I’m not plus size and have DD/E cup breasts, I haven’t worn a tailored shirt since I was at school because they don’t fit. I can get away without looking super smart for my current job, and I have a couple of blouses I can wear, but a shirt that fits would be amazing. Thank you!

      • If you have te large chest/shirt gaping problem, there are a couple of Polish brands that have a similar sizing system to Pepperberry, and they are much cheaper! Both have work appropriate tops without too many frilly bits. Try http://www.buibui.pl and http://www.urkye.pl. it’s amazing how much better shirts look when they fit at the chest AND the waist.

  3. What’s the current stance on American Apparel? It’s one of the few (generally affordable) companies manufacturing things in the US but, on the flip side, Charney is pretty questionable. Are there other issues that come into play? I’m not an AA person, but these are things I would like to know about.

  4. I use double sided tape (the kind that comes with the plastic to shrink-wrap your windows in the winter, idk what it’s called) to fix gaping button-ups. It works perfectly!

  5. This series is so helpful. I just began working in a professional office space and honestly was a little clueless about how to dress appropriately without feeling like hiding under a giant paper bag. Thanks!

  6. I love the look of shirts (which in my office should be tucked in 100% of the time, no ifs or buts) and I used to wear them a lot but then I realised I hate ironing more than I love the look of shirts.

    Jersey tops – the thicker, more formal kind of jersey – have been a godsend in that regard. I was wearing something like this under a suit jacket today – http://www.anneklein.com/Rouched-Shoulder-Top/91009910,default,pd.html?variantSizeClass=&variantColor=JJ055XX&cgid=90316516&prefn1=catalog-id&prefv1=anneklein-catalog – strictly no ironing required.

  7. Pepperberry is not very cool, they have some basic pieces that are okay. Asos curvy is a better site and they have interesting clothes, way less dated!

  8. The peter pan silky tee thing is amazing. What I always struggle with is that I tend to have a classic girl-next-door-who-is-very-straight kind of way about me when I dress like that. Or, you know, all the time. I absolutely hate it. And then when I wear shirts like the third picture from the top (which I own), I just look like I am swimming in those kinds of button ups and feel like they don’t fit me the right way.
    I have queer wardrobe self-confidence issues and Lez Get Dressed is acting as my therapist.

  9. If any of you live in the KC area, i know a good reasonably priced seamstress that could tailor your clothes!

  10. This is slightly off-topic since I have nothing to add re: shirts, but you guys, I just bought these Sperrys off the department store clearance rack, and they are my new favorite thing that I own. (Disclaimer: I must stress that they were nicely discounted; Sperry is not generally an affordable brand.) Queering my shoes a bit has made me feel more at home in otherwise femme outfits.

  11. About the bulging belt situation, a friend of mine introduced me to buckling at the side a few years ago. Instead of threading a belt through the belt loops like usual (starting where you button your fly), start closer to the hip with an end result like bit.ly/18OoBfI. My body shape is rounder than some, but since I started buckling closer to my hip (either one, pick a hip!) I have stopped having a problem with a bulging belt buckle.

  12. Awesome! Now talk about work shoes. I’m tired of wearing shoes without socks in them, like Sperry’s.. I want a shoe that fits and it is comfortable, but that looks professional. Where do girls find men-like dress shoes that fit?

  13. My VERY favourite work shoes are the “Vans Pritchard” they are smart and unisex shaping and as they are able to be skated in they are incredibly comfortable. They come in heaps of different colours just search around. I bought mine off vans.com 2 years ago and the suede still looks new!


  14. Love this column! I’m starting my new career very soon (speech-language pathologist!) and want to look professional and polished. I’m a busty gal and have a hard time finding button-down shirts that fit, but that American Apparel blouse is just perfect. I may pick up a few in different colors.

    A column on shoes would be so very helpful! I have a hard time finding shoes that are comfortable, professional, AND stylish. I typically wear Sketchers sneakers, but unfortunately they’re not appropriate for my workplace.

  15. omg I tried on that American Apparel top at a secondhand store and it was only $6 but I didn’t get it because it was too see-through #whiteshirts #whyyy

    I always tuck in my shirts…… into high waisted skirts.

  16. The bow-tie outfit screams “Matt Smith/Doctor Who!”
    Lose the cigarette, though.

  17. I have nothing of value to add other than…I love clothes. May Edith Head bless this column from fashion heaven, where I imagine she does nothing but create fabulous outfits for the stage shows Fred Astaire and Doris Day put on.

  18. This column is so great! & I’ve totally worn that exact American Apparel outfit to work!

    An issue for me, though, is that I prefer to wear dresses most of the time, and I have a difficult time making dresses look professional & still “me.” I’m into what I think is a pretty common queer femme look–vintage or vintage-style dresses with heavier shoes, oxfords, or boots. I mostly dislike wearing heels or very feminine flats. How can I style dresses to look more work-appropriate while still wearing a more masculine shoe? Can I?

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