Saturday Morning Cartoons: Formal Wear

Welcome to Saturday Morning Cartoons, a segment where four artists take turns delighting you with their whimsy, facts and punchlines on Saturday mornings! Our esteemed cartoon critters are Cameron GlavinAnna BongiovanniMegan Praz and Yao Xiao. Today’s cartoon is by Cameron!


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Cameron is an illustrator hailing from Ohio. When she’s not drawing, she’s probably very, very quietly having loud thoughts about: queer things, her eventual shop, what to watch next on Netflix, food, names for her future pets, and tumblr.

Cameron has written 76 articles for us.


  1. i feel this so hard. i demand gender neutral (and like SERIOUSLY gender neutral, not masculine clothes for women) formal wear!! I deserve to be dressed up!! WHERE ARE THE CLOTHES FOR US?

    • I think they’re in Tilda Swinton’s closet. Which I cannot afford. But I would gladly live in.

    • All the world’s a stage, and all the people merely players.
      Clothes are the costumes, they are a part of a role.
      Genders aren’t clothes but they are roles.
      And when you are to play a role there is of course a costume.

      The comic is self is analysis, or perhaps a better word would be a critique of the gender binary present in formal wear.
      The genderization of clothes one could argue maybe hap.

    • The majority of designers adhere to and reinforce binary/cisnormative gender presentations.

      Clothes aren’t gender. But clothes are gendered while I’m decidedly not so much.

      That’s my problem, that’s my analysis.

    • Yes, the way we present ourselves is different from gender identity. But the way we present ourselves does affect the way other people perceive us, and the decisions we make in presenting ourselves are going to feel more or less correct not only based on our personal aesthetics, but also based on the way we want other people to perceive us. And that can intersect with gender identity, especially if a person’s gender identity is different than what you’d guess from the way their body looks. I love more “feminine” aesthetics just as much as I did when I identified as a woman, but more and more it feels like I’m going to have to give that up if I don’t want to be treated like wearing pink and lace means I’m all for the assorted baggage of womanhood or even the concept itself.

      And even just in terms of what goes on in one’s own head when picking out their clothing, it’s a little uncomfortable to have to pick between very gendered clothing intended for men and very gendered clothing intended for women. It isn’t just about whether you personally think dresses or suits look better. Picking between them while being a human that doesn’t feel like a man or a woman can absolutely feel like you’re being asked, “but what are you really?

      I understand how this might be important to you, but it really seems like you’re going into it assuming that discussing personal presentation from a nonbinary perspective is going to be frivolous and sexist. Maybe do not.

  2. Has anyone watched “Suited” on HBO? The trailer makes me tear up. I kind of want to start a program to send people to NYC and pay for a really great suit for them. Everyone deserves to have clothes that fit and make them feel affirmed and happy.

    • I’ve been going to Bindle&Keep for almost 2 years, and they are making my wedding suit. They are the most lovely and wonderful people. I literally almost cry or want to break things when I have to get dressed up for anything because it’s all always wrong and I just want to wear my damned tshirt and black jeans. Working with them is as close as I ever get to feeling like someone is seeing and hearing ME and understanding what I want to be wearing. I won’t pretend that I don’t still feel weird and kind of insecure putting on formal wear, but let me tell you, the tux they made me turns some friggin’ heads.

  3. Ugh, I am feeling this so much right now. I finally landed a really good job, but they need “business casual” clothing and I’m plus-size and no masculine clothes fit without looking frumpy and all femme clothes feel like I’m in a clown costume. And all the shoes I have cut up my feet!

    Thanks for making me feel less alone.

  4. Oof I feel ya, I scoured the damn Internet for a formal suit that would fit me -and not cost $1000+- and all I found were some floral bowties. At this point I’m tempted to wear an actual T-Rex suit. In fact, sign me up.

    • I wear a dinosaur onesie to like 50% of parties I’m invited to because it’s easier than choosing clothes. I’m a pleasant friend to have.

    • You caught me. The endgame isn’t to fill in/navigate the T-rex zone. It’s to be the T-Rex you want to see in the world.

  5. The gender neutral formal option or T-Rex section is bow ties and a fancy dress half cloak or capes…you know like a 3 layer velvet with satin lining

    “look to the past if can’t find the answer in the present or the future. Lonness”

    • I vote for the promotion of fashion cloaks/dress robes as a legit formal wear option for our community

  6. I feel this so hard. I had to buy some nicer clothes this spring for attending my sister’s college graduation, and it was tough. For now I generally wind up buying the most neutral-looking vaguely nice thing I can find in the women’s section, since that’s what (currently) fits; not sure what I’ll do once I’m on testosterone and my body is a different shape. Burlap sacks? But seriously, I’m a grad student in comparative literature, and I have moments when I wonder about whether I should leave academia purely so I don’t have to worry about dressing up.

    • Or stay in academia so you can dress more eccentrically than you’d have to in the business world.

      • Eh, yeah, that’s a possibility… but WHAT IF I could just be a hermit in the woods and never interact with the outside world? (thank you, anxiety brain, for that contribution.)

  7. I didn’t think academia was too dressy, Will. Maybe it’s more so on the Arts side rather than Science?

    But yeah, I feel the pain.

    • I find that the humanities are a little more so than the sciences, and then there are things like interviews and conferences and such to worry about… It seems like people get more leeway to wear what they want once they’re established in their careers, so I suppose there’s always that to look forward to.

    • I don’t know, my perceptions might be colored by the fact that I grew up in a place (northern Idaho) where jeans were appropriate literally everywhere, except maybe maybe in court. So basically everywhere I go now seems too fancy to me.

  8. The T-Rex ate my formal wear!

    I feel this, even though I’m mostly lazy femme. I really dislike wearing uncomfortable clothing – like high heels or dresses more complicated than a sundress – and formal wear often is physically uncomfortable, even if it fits your gender presentation.

    I will say, now that I think about it, my favorite dress up outfit is a pair of classy wide legged pin-striped pants, low heeled boots and a comfy but dressy enough top that does not need to be tucked in. In other words – my fave dress up outfit is in the t-Rex zone.

    • And now all I can think of is Jurassic World, picturing you running away from the T-Rex with a pair of classy wide legged pin-striped pants, low heeled boots and a comfy but dressy enough top that does not need to be tucked in.

      If you’re in THAT T-Rex zone, it doesn’t really care what norms you may or may not be meeting. It nice, but keep running!

      • Hah. Honestly many dress up occasions would be enlivened, if not outright improved, by having to run from a dinosaur.

  9. This. This is how I feel almost all of the time. It’s like I have no way to express myself with clothing because none of it is really me.

  10. I feel this so hard. Usually I just end up in “women’s” pants + heels and “men’s” on top because then at least people have to stop and think before clearly gendering me. But it would be sooooooo nice to have better gender neutral formal wear options, especially ones that are affordable

  11. I feel like it requires a delicate mix of clothes from either side of the spectrum, expertly combined and perfectly tailored…. which is why I wear the same damn t-shirt every day.

  12. DRESS in clothing the is family friendly not XXX. BUT dress in what ever makes you feel good and what makes you feel like YOU. Only you matter not what people think. Your feelings and your gender of the clothes you wear don’t. Only you yes,YOU matter and your happiness matters.Who you are and who you will be matters. Clothing is less as a expression but is of a statement. Live for you, be happy.

  13. This is just so conservative as a thought. Women have been mixing up clothes for ages as they are gender fluid, always.

    Why not address the real issue at heart? That some men want to wear dresses and stilettos?

    • Hi! You totally missed the part where this is written by a genderqueer human! However, I’m low on male tears to add to my morning coffee, so I appreciate your remark!

  14. So while I made my current career choice for valid personality and job satisfaction reasons, I will say that having a uniform is definitely a perk for me. Hey Caitlin, want a job wear you will either wear a polo shirt or scrubs for your entire career? Yes please. Picking formal clothes is on the whole not a fun experience for me. Who wants to label themselves every bloody morning?

    • People who make, “Hi! My name is:_____” stickers? I didn’t sleep tonight. My humor regrets nothing.

  15. Yup. When I was looking for business-casual stuff, a very astute and helpful person pointed out that the reason that the pants I was envisioning as gender neutral are actually in the men’s section is the ‘male as default’ thing going on. So that helped me – sometimes the stuff that’s actually gender neutral is labeled ‘men’s.’ For my sister’s wedding, I went for damned dapper at the rehearsal dinner and femmed the fuck out for the ceremony. So it worked out to some gender fuckery on people who were at both. But it took a lot of thought and consternation, and my partner an I both had ‘backup’ outfits in case we really couldn’t do the dress when it came down to it (we both ended up wearing dresses). For the dress, I ended up getting a kind where I could wrap the top myself – I wore a sports bra underneath so my chest was really flat, and the way I wrapped it, my shoulders, upper arms, chest, and legs were all covered. People loved the dress but they’d never seen anything like it because it seems impossible to find a dress that doesn’t leave one of legs, cleavage, back, and shoulders really exposed. Every time I went to the bathroom (which was frequent because I was drinking water all the time to calm myself) I was very alarmed at myself in the mirror because all the makeup. I also sort of had some bad body issues that I had in high school and thought I’d left behind come back in the weeks before the wedding in anticipation of femme-ing up (shaving, heels, pink dress, etc). In the end, I am very happy I did that for my sister but never again!

  16. This exactly. This is why I stopped going to the few formal events we have at work (I am lucky and can wear jeans and a 98% of my life).
    Thanks for such a perfect illustration!

  17. On at least the shoes front I’ve found that brands like Clarks and Børn especially are pretty good at hitting that nice neutral formal zone. I have a pair of Børn flat women’s dress shoes that are that perfect midpoint between femme and masc while also being extremely walkable!

    This isn’t the exact pair that I have but it’s really close:
    (I can’t wear heels for very long and even a lot of flats and loafers can hurt my feet–I’ve got that Haglund’s deformity going on which makes shoes rough–so I always have very specific needs for dress shoes especially, and these work great!)

    This style is also nice because it’s really flexible for that entire top half of the chart. I wear mine with dresses, with suits, with anything business casual and I always feel really confidently dressed up while also being able to be active and mobile in them.

  18. I feel myself negotiating this even as someone who feels pretty comfortable looking femme (like, I wear skirts a lot of the time), just not into being extra girly. It’s very hard to find business casual tops that aren’t either button ups (I just don’t like them) or frilly. Especially if you get most of your clothes from clothing swaps and thrift stores… I don’t mind looking like a girl, but I think I’d feel more like myself in something a little more neutral than what I end up finding.

    Maybe a good topic for an Autostraddle fashion post? Where do you find non-casual, affordable clothes that don’t scream gender?

  19. For anything in that middle zone you might have to design it. Some possible sources of inspiration are pantsuit Janelle Monae, (which are men’s suits, but with some not traditionally masculine colour schemes and prints), or maybe kilts?

  20. I don’t think most people understand the extent to which clothes fuck with your mind and ability to be. I would love to always be comfortable in the clothes I wear. I’m getting more to that point, but it has taken me 25 years. People (my parents, some friends) seem to think I overthink clothes choices or make too big a deal of it (i.e., let’s just go already), but it is because I feel a physical reaction if I am not comfortable in what I am wearing.

    I like toeing the line about what people expect “masculine” or “feminine” clothing to be. My choice of formal wear is often a dress and (mens) oxfords. I guess I am lucky that I can buy men’s and women’s shoes. I hate button up shirts and would not wear a tie (but definitely appreciate them on others…), but I want pants cut the way mens pants are cut, but my hips are too wide to wear mens pants. I think the only way to find gender neutral clothing is to mix and match in order to find what you consider to be gender neutral.

    I’ve been astounded at how much more confident I feel when I am in clothes I like, and wish that everyone could do that. I’m starting a new job that requires more business clothing, and don’t know what I am going to wear. If only jeans were acceptable…

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