Style Thief: Kat Sandoval in Black Tie

Friends, once again, Sara Ramirez has slain us all. Her role in Madam Secretary as the fashionably butch Kat Sandoval is the gay culture my queer heart of color needed. The best way I’ve been able to think about Kat’s style is “theatrical.” From far away, she looks like your everyday dapper butch, but the closer you get you notice these amazing details! A paisley tuxedo, rainbow french cuffs, skull cufflinks! Everything about her makes me drool.

What I love about this look in particular is how much Kat’s style plays with gender. Most of what she’s wearing is menswear tailored for her body, and I think there’s something we can take from that in our personal styling. What’s most important to me about clothes is that they make you feel like you want to feel, not the gender they’re supposed to be for. Quite a few of the pieces in this style guide are menswear and that’s for a lot of reasons. Primarily, the look is inspired by “men’s style”. But also, the fashion industry hasn’t quite caught on with the fact that there are plus-sized women and non-binary folks out there who feel drawn to the aesthetic. There can be an association of fatness with high femme, and as a fat person who isn’t high femme, I hate it. Wearing men’s clothes is something that helps me play with my style because they often include pieces in sizes that fit me, since I can’t count on brands for androgynous and masculine-of-center folks to have many options in my size. As a non-binary person, hopping between the genders in clothing departments has been affirming for me, although I know that isn’t the case for a lot of folks, especially trans women and femmes who are already facing gender discrimination. I want to encourage everyone to look at this style guide as just that – a guide. Let it inspire you to find a look that fits your gender expression and nods to Kat Sandoval, but don’t feel hemmed in by the gender binary as you build your look.

Tuxedo Jacket

1. Ludlow Jacket, $525, Mens’ XXS-XXL. 2. Crosby Jacket, $525, Mens’ XXS-XXL

The jacket is classic. Black. Obviously. If you want to play with a fun collar, I love the Ludlow jacket from J. Crew. If you can find a black paisley jacket (check your local thrift store), grab it and get it tailored. The fit is what really makes this stunning though, so even if you buy it brand new, make sure you get it tailored by someone you trust.


1. Riley-Fit Pleated Sleeve Shirt, $52, Women’s 0-16. 2. Bell Sleeved Shirt, $49.95, Women’s 14-28. 3. Thomas Mason for J. Crew Tuxedo Shirt, $138, Women’s 000-16.

The shirt is where you put the first bit of va-va-voom into your outfit, especially if you’re going for a more muted jacket. If you can find a shirt with rainbow French cuffs, especially if it’s under $300, please let me know. Otherwise, I think getting a bell sleeve or a classic tuxedo shirt could be a cool way to add something special to a pretty classic look.


1. High Waist Tapered Pants, $40, Women’s 12-24. 2. French Girl Slim Crop Pant, $79.50, Women’s 00-20. 3. Tuxedo Suit Pants in Burgundy Velvet $64, Men’s 26W (last size left!).

Okay, so you want something high-waisted that shows off a little bit of ankle. ASOS also has one size left of these burgundy velvet paisley pants and if they fit you, I beg you, please go get them! Really you just want something covering your butt. I just learned that the shorter you are the less breaks you want in your pants, so if you’re short and go for a full length pant, be sure to get them tailored. Also! J. Crew’s boys’ department has the Ludlow tuxedo pants in children’s sizes if that’s your jam.

Shoes and Accessories

1. Rainbow Ascot, $12.99. 2. Talking Picture Oxford Flat, $49, Women’s 5.5-11. 3. Crystal Skull Enamel Pin, $8. 4. Ludlow Balmoral Tuxedo Shoe, $298, Men’s 7-13

I was thinking about how to adapt the amazing cufflinks and cuffs from the original look, and I think the best way to mirror this in your everyday life is with an ascot and a lapel pin! Ascots are totally black tie appropriate and also ridiculously opulent. Do it. Make a bold stance. The lapel pin is the perfect way to draw people in for a closer look, and then of course they’ll notice all the little details they missed from far away. You want a classic oxford shoe, something that really supports your outfit. If you’re a little extra, wingtips never hurt anyone.

I hope you feel inspired to go put together your own black tie outfit now! Be sure to tune in on Sunday to see Kat Sandoval live on your TV. What better inspiration for your week than a woman in a tux???

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Ari is a 20-something artist and educator. They are a mom to two cats, they love domesticity, ritual, and porch time. They have studied, loved, and learned in CT, Greensboro, NC, and ATX.

Ari has written 330 articles for us.


  1. “But also, the fashion industry hasn’t quite caught on with the fact that there are plus-sized women and non-binary folks out there who feel drawn to the aesthetic.”

    I mean also just women? Maybe plus size means different things to you and I, but I’m not plus size but men’s clothes still don’t fit properly because they’re not tailored for women’s bodies regardless of your size.

    Sorry if this is nitpicky, I get that you’re trying to be as inclusive as possible but sometimes I feel like Autostraddle is just avoiding talking about butch/masculine women.

    • this whole post is about butch style, i don’t understand what you mean by avoiding talking about butch/masculine women this WHOLE POST is dressing in butch style???

      also this quote you pulled is directly talking about women’s clothing companies specifically making “butch” clothes, not mens’ clothes? i’m saying i chose men’s suits to style this look because it’s easier for a fat woman/nb to find clothes in the mens’ department that fit us (and i mean basic ass fit, like the ability to get onto my body at all) than it is to find them in the women’s department. like, i can’t fit into 95% of wildfang’s merchandise, but i can find a shirt from j.crew’s men’s department to fit me.

      like the whole thing is about butch women.

    • I don’t know if Autostraddle is avoiding anything, but that’s a good point.

      Fit is also a height issue, which I don’t really see addressed a lot, even though it definitely affects the wearability of menswear for women.

      I wonder what options are out there for short people who are into menswear or a menswear-inspired look. I’d also like to see options for tall people (I’m a tall woman; my height’s the male average in my country).

      • I would love it if in the vein of style thief, Autostraddle did a post with tips on how to shop in the men’s section at various sizes. Like what a curvy size 14 might translate to in men’s sizing, and how to figure out pant length, and the best way to approach men’s shirt sizing.

        Because while some of the tomboy clothing lines are awesome, I’m on more of an Old Navy budget for some stuff, and it’s helpful to be able to ballpark more effectively. (Some things I’ve learned from trial and error, like how Old Navy skinny men’s jeans seem to fit better because I get the all-important normal size pockets but also don’t have a shit ton of baggy in the crotch).

        • I love this idea! I recently tried to buy my first pair of men’s jeans and ended up crying in Target because nothing fit and it was just so disheartening. (In hindsight, I definitely could have prepared better, but it was a pretty bad experience.) I’m trying to shift my wardrobe in a more MoC direction so I’m going to have to figure this stuff out eventually, and I’d love an AS style guide assist!

    • hi! because there are a lot of brands and content out there that are about moc style for smaller people (Wildfang/shopping in the boys’ section/etc), I was really happy to see this post specifically referencing how hard it can be to find MOC fashion that looks good when you’re not small! So thanks, Alaina!

      • (Signed, a person who would dress much more MOC some of the time if there were more options available to me)

  2. I’m beginning to dread fashion posts a little bit because of this ridiculous The Man, the Son and the Donkey nonsense that pops up every time.

      • I said a “little bit” as in like 0.01% of rubbing alcohol in container of some delicious liquid.
        Rum and coke with fruit juice. Maybe mango.
        Some one craft a cocktail inspired by that tux and Sara Ramirez please?

        Cause that’s as close as my short torso’d broke ass is getting to that tux.

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