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So You Want to Remember What Clothes Are? Here’s a Guide to Updated Basics

Have you recently found yourself staring into the vast abyss that is your closet or dresser or (let us be honest) floor, wondering what on earth clothes are? How do they go on a body? Why do they go on a body? We’ve been inside for a long time, and if you are anything like me, memories of anything approaching a personal style have slowly faded away, replaced by a rotating crop of sweats and novelty t-shirts.

Which is not to say a rotating crop of sweats is not a personal style — it’s not like I’m getting rid of any of mine, heaven forbid! But I do want to start thinking about adding some new things to the mix, so if you are also feeling that way, but worry that you have lost the ability to do so, you have come to the right place!

“So You Want To…” is a biweekly fashion guide, aimed to help you find the perfect looks for things like: exciting events (finally meeting that cutie you’ve been FaceTiming with for six months!), aesthetics and vibes (butch bottom summer!), pop culture personas (Fran Finecore!) and, well, whatever else I dream up!

For this first installation, I figured we’d keep it simple — a guide for some updated basics, with a rundown of the trends you can expect to see this summer. Think of it as a building block for our future forrays, yeah?


Jeans

Here’s the thing about jeans: once you find a pair that works, it’s hard to go out of your way and try something new, because, well — shopping for jeans is the worst. But! If there was ever a time to get a little wild, it’s now!

Some of you might be excited to see that we are slowly stepping away from the skinny jeans that have held a chokehold on Our Culture™ since the mid aughts, and that is true! If you are still dedicated to ’em, maybe try this high-waisted pair from Universal Standard? They are a touch more relaxed in the knee and hip, generally less binding then the skinnies of old. This straight leg pair, also from Universal Standard, speaks to my desire to introduce more structure while not being totally restrictive, perhaps they speak to you too? Prepare to see a blend of 90s and 70s styles this summer, as evidence by the high-waisted, light washed, baggy excellence of this pair from ASOS, and the cropped flare (flare!!!) on this black pair from Nordstrom Rack.

Soft Pants

Did you think I was gonna say no more soft pants, like some kind of cruel fashion tyrant? Soft pants are here to stay, but I do want to update them a bit! Like these high-waisted joggers — casual and understated, and would pair effortlessly with any top or shoe you can imagine. I am also living for this athletic inspired moment (blame this image) and these side stripe joggers are, quite frankly, sick.

Also coming back with a vengeance is the pinstripe, if you can believe it. I am a little wary of it, if I am being honest, but this navy pair is compelling! And if you like your soft pants a little looser around the ankle, these twill pull pants will absolutely turn heads, even if you pair them with your silliest novelty t-shirt.

Dresses and Jumpsuits

Remember what I said about the 90s? Prepare to see that influence in dresses big time this summer — note the baby doll ruffles on this green mini and to the oversized, Laura Ashley-esque florals on this black midi. Both of these would look incredible with a pair of Docs, but you know that. Are you not into dresses, but still want to throw on a single item that is breezy and cool? Hello neutral jumpsuit, I love you. Also! Overalls: They’re back! I think this black washed pair feels a bit more grown up than some of the others I’ve seen, but honestly? There is only one thing you must keep in mind when preparing to rock a pair of overalls: if you wear a yellow shirt under a denim overall, people will 100% assume you are very into Minions. Do with that what you will.

Shirts

Are you looking to get into fun, all over patterns on shirts? Well, I have good news! For those who lean more masc, this bumblebee short sleeve dress shirt is delightful, and would look great with any of the jeans up top. The more femme inclined among us might be interested in this giraffe print top — it is a great way to lean into those 70s aesthetics! For those who aren’t afraid of a bit of skin, why not go fully off with this knitted tank? If baring the bod isn’t quite your style, that is A-OK because this black and white top is incredible and perfect for the warmer months ahead.

Shoes

Remember shoes? They are the things that go on your feet when you — stay with me — leave the house. Wild, right? The trend for shoes right now is platforms and in a big way. I’m giving you two different options, a classic Van with a restrained bit of elevation as well as this cotton candy colored Baby Spice dream shoe. Both are guaranteed to have you (carefully) strutting your best stuff.

Craving a sandal? Well, I am a lesbian, so I always think Birkenstock’s are in style, and now it seems the world has finally caught up! If you already have a pair — I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you do — why not try ones with metallic touches? Finally, I am entirely, absolutely obsessed with these loafers, they are making me think I should commit to a Miami Vice slash Robin Williams in The Birdcage energy this summer — maybe you should, too?


WHEW! How are we feeling? Excited? Inspired? Overwhelmed? All of the above? I’m starting to think that dressing myself might be possible after all!

If you have a vibe or a mood or an event you’d like to see a guide for, drop ’em in the comments!

Christina Tucker is writer and podcaster living in Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter or Instagram!

Christina has written 90 articles for us.

46 Comments

  1. hello what a perfect column for reluctantly re entering life!

    could you do “cute shoes for disabled butches who need lots of support and ease of access but are tired of the same pair of slip on Skechers I’ve had since 2015”? v specific buuuut I’m tired of buying the same pair of Skechers over and over

      • I would LOVE to read a deep dive on this. I have a question relating to my own disabilities, but I don’t know whether other folks with disabilities have this issue: I can’t wear things that squeeze around the middle of my body, which causes problems specifically with pants and bras.

        I can’t wear high-rise jeans. Mid-rise jeans sort of work/don’t hurt too much? And I can’t wear soft pants that have an elastic waistband–it has to be just a drawstring. I’m not sure pants like this exist? My current pajama bottoms/indoor pants are ones that had an elastic but were cheaply made such that I was easily able to cut and remove the elastic waistband while leaving the pants (with drawstring) in tact. I’d love to find other pants options.

        As for bras, I mostly don’t wear them, and luckily I’m small enough that I don’t need them for support. I sometimes feel self-conscious about my nipples showing, so my current solution is to just wear a bra that’s too big for me, which sort of looks weird because it moves around a lot, but it works fine I guess? Again, would welcome other options. (I’m considering trying pasties? But they seem like a whole complicated thing to figure out…)

        Like I said, I’m not sure if this is an issue other disabled folks even have. But if anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears!

        • Hi, I have found Sloggi zero feel bras (I think I actually have the ‘top’ style not the bralette) and they are amazing. I can wear one all day and hardly notice I’m wearing it. And I hate bras usually, and only wear due to the nipple issue you mention.
          These ones are elasticated but have a very gentle fit on my body so no noticeable squeeze.
          Not a great range of sizes but maybe worth a look?

      • absolutely! i wish i could wear men’s pajama pants all the time because they’re soft and have enormous pockets for all my crap, but alas, life goes on and hard pants must be donned

        for an extra challenge, corsets for chest support but that are affordable and also easy to put on with no fine-motor challenges like hook and eyes or knots to tie? i have had zero luck

  2. As an irrepressible bug enthusiast, I think that these bumblebees look a little off, and that if I were to guess which bug they are really representing, it would be some sort of bee fly ( https://bugguide.net/node/view/185 )

    I am a masculine-of-center dresser always on the lookout for more insect and floral clothing though, so I LOVE seeing things like this!

  3. All in for butch bottom summer! I love that you’ve got styles for different presentations within each category. Also, what do you think the chances are that I can get away with soft pants for a wedding (specifically, my own)? I’m thinking the chances are quite low, but those pinstripes give me hope.

    • I’m no style expert but for your own wedding? It’s literally your party, you can wear soft pants if you want to! And also I think if you find the right pair of joggers or a similar style that doesn’t look like sweats (even if it feels like it) and add your favorite fancy shoes, maybe with a heel if your into that, and maybe a sleek blazer you are wedding ready. And one more time for those in the back: if it’s your wedding wear what makes you feel like you! Go rock some wedding joggers :)

  4. Queer office wear! For those of us who were lucky enough to WFh but won’t be WFH permanently. I’m specifically interested in grown-up tomboy femme looks and professional looking soft pants.

    Also – bras. I haven’t worn one in like a year but will need to wear one once I’m back in the office.

    Also this is great. Even though just seeing those jeans made my whole body tense. Not ready for them yet.

  5. Ooh—adding to the shorts request: any chance you could include shorts with at least a 7-9 inch inseam. So hard to find outside the men’s section (and hard to find the right fit inside the men’s section).

    • Yes! I can wear shorts to work if I want to, no one cares, but I don’t really wanna wear my short shorts in the office. longer shorts that look cool and don’t have a super feminine look to them are what I’m looking for. not opposed to men’s shorts but I’m worried they would be way too long on me.

  6. I’ve come to that age where the things I wore as a teen are back in fashion once again. Just horrified of the thought that people will try to bring back super low rise jeans that barely covered the pubes, those were so uncomfortable.

    During the lockdown I did what most of us did and had a major closet clean out. I’ve decided to stop following fashion and go with my own flow. And since I love historical fashions and crafting, that has lead to handmade items inspired the last 1500 year of (European) fashion to make it’s way to my closet (or in my project planning). It makes me so very happy.

    For all fellow sewers or people who’d like to try: Bernadette Banner has an excellent “pirate shirt” tutorial on her youtube and it so cool for all of the genders and a good beginners piece.

    But I do love all the florals and the midi skirts and the cottage core vibes I’m seeing like the second and third pic under dresses, I’m totally on board with that. All I really need to buy is shoes, and I hate buying shoes so very much.

  7. I’m so tired of wearing loungewear. Yeah, I could wear real clothes at home but it’s not the same.

    Also I’ve sewn a whole new wardrobe the past year and a half and I want to show it off to random people, not just my social media.

  8. I’d especially love to read a post on fun AND sustainable fashion for people across the gender spectrum! Give me patterned button-downs and kooky coveralls from brands that aren’t ASOS. :)

    • Thank you for brining this up. I was really disappointed in this article for highlighting ASOS. ASOS is awful with labor issues (at every point in the supply chain), ethics, as well as environmental, all of which particularly impact women of color and children. Ethics vary by brand dramatically when it comes to Nordstrom Rack. Shopping affordably and ethically is so difficult, but it matters. It also matters which brands are highlighted in these articles.

  9. Looking forward to getting more clothing ideas for venturing out into the world! I’m plus sized (US 26ish?) and very apple shaped, so pants are hard, but dresses don’t work for me gender wise. So far super skinny jeans from Old Navy (plus a stretchy belt) have been keeping me going! For some reason their non-denim pants always sit weirdly on me, though. Would love some ideas for clothes that are functional for different body shapes!

  10. could you do one on queer tops for folks who have had top surgery or otherwise don’t have breasts? because i’m on the smaller side and very much don’t have a chest (weird genetics) so none of the queer brands fit me, and most mens brands don’t carry funky button down shirt prints in an xs

    either that or non-high waisted pants/shorts

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