What I Wore: Navigating the Heternormative Patriarchy (Part One)

Welcome to What I Wore, a series where I explore fashion as shelter in traditionally heteronormative and patriarchal spaces.

The Hardware Store


If there is one thing I am unwavering on it is this: I will die in a hardware store before I ask a question. Also, why am I going to hardware stores so much that I have a steadfast rule about them? I don’t know, but if every experience I had at a hardware store were a Vine it would be a shot of someone peeking around the end of an aisle asking if I was finding everything okay, then a shot of someone jumping up from behind a counter asking if I needed any help, then a shot of someone peering through shelving from another aisle asking if they can help me find anything, then a shot of someone driving by on a pallet lifter asking if someone’s helped me, on loop, forever. I’m confident that when I walk into a hardware store by myself as a woman a silent alarm is set off by the benevolent front desk attendant, so to ward off unsolicited questions I go full rogue – butch it here, femme it there, volunteer at your local cat hotel here, dunk on your grandma there. The brain scrambler of outfits.

Except nothing is confusing enough to stop an orange vested hardware employee from asking if you need help. Nothing.

The Auto Shop


Going into an auto shop as a woman not knowing exactly what the issue with your car is can be daunting, not to mention expensive. I hoped this outfit consisting of bike shorts, a loudly printed turtleneck, an old soccer hoodie, granny boots and a ball cap would say, “Hey, this girl knows sports,” and also, “She’s bananas.” I thought it might afford me the assumption that 1) since I know what sports are I also might know about cars and 2) attempting to upsell might be dicey. For good measure I mentioned the water pump and the power steering fluid reservoir as possible culprits, which is a classic move.

I was given a price that matched the average repair cost I’d found online and even had the taxes taken off. This all could have been easily explained by the fact that I looked/look about 17 and they felt bad for me, but I’m going with fashion!

Also, if I may, for those of us that explore traditionally femme channels of expression who may also be of the mind that things involving the automotive world are beyond our reach: if we have the ability, patience, skill, and steady hand to ombre our eyebrow hairs, we can fix anything on our cars.

The Straight Bar


When I want to go for a drink at a bar where I know the crowd will be overwhelmingly straight, I take great strides to ensure a look that says I’m both sexually unavailable and attempting to convert you to a new religion. That way, even if my body language doesn’t speak for me, my outfit does. Of course, the best way to communicate these two separate but not necessarily unrelated ideas is monochrome pairings. One night I wore a shade of white (the ultimate monochrome palette) close to chiffon, a high collar, and a modest up-do that together screamed Guilty Remnant.

This outfit was a success and I was able to watch HGTV on mute in peace.

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Los Angeles based writer. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 208 articles for us.


    • this is thrift store buy, and guessing from the tag that says “connected” in mistral font, it’s from the 90s!

  1. I would definitely wear the auto shop look out of my house, & I’m not really what that says about me.

  2. this post changed my life
    i laughed 3x
    last time i got my oil changed it cost like $70 is that normal
    the guy commented on my scarf

    • ahaha riese! oil changes should be 20-30 tops unless you drive a ferrari or something. i’m so mad at those guys rn

    • Noooo it’s not normal! And also, you’re one Youtube video away from changing your own oil. It’s real simple.

      • *depending on your car

        I have a Honda Civic and let me tell you, the oil filter is incredibly wedged way back in there are is NOT easy to access. Like, it literally took two of us to find the dang thing (one of whom actually knows a decent bit about cars), and my friend also got burned an hour after not my car not driving anywhere because the tank was so close to the engine.

        If you have a teeny car, I do think it’s good to know HOW to change your own oil, but frankly it can be a lot easier to have someone else do it because they can lift the whole car up for better access instead of using a jack, which doesn’t always allow for the best access.

        • I second Hollis’ oil change wisdom. I couldn’t change my oil as I’d need a lift. A full service including oil change only costs me £40. Damn Uncle Ed!

  3. I want to wear all of these. But specifically, if you were to approach me in the Straight Bar outfit and say, “How would you like to join my religion? You get to wear this exact outfit,” I would say, “Yep, I’m in.”

  4. I too am convinced home depot has a ‘lady without a man’ alarm at the front entrance.

    Also, those outfits are all the most wonderful things.

  5. The hardware store one!! I always wear something that covers my legs (pants or a very long skirt) to hardware stores. The male store workers seems to think you know what you’re doing more often if you don’t appear to have skin on your legs. Wearing shorts? I clearly don’t know the difference between a power drill and a light bulb. Wearing pants? Well at least I probably know what a hammer is.

  6. I love your military level planning stealth in staging your customer characters.
    The casual nonchalant use of water pump and power steering fluid reservoir as “possible culprits”, is a classy move. More please.

    • sometimes it really is as easy as that. i said that once and the guy went, “wow, someone in your family must be in the car business.” ahahaha

    • there is seriously so much going on with this turtleneck- cacti, camels, flowers, cats, triangles, tiny boxes!

      • As you may be able to tell furom my avatar, I am a crazy cat lady, so loving the cats. I am also a lofur (yes, that is a cat pun) of purrints with loads of random things going on in them – my Mum once bought me magnificent purrjamas which had bowties, the evil eye and nightcaps on them. They were, unsurpurrisingly, significatly reduced, because efurryone else was clearly like wtf :p Also it reminds me of Klimt, which can nefur be a bad thing!

        Unfurtunately my outfits sometimes mean I get men coming up to me purretending to be interested in my “style” but really just staring at my breasts and physicatly blocking me furom moving pusst them. There is one man in my city who has now done this THREE times, and it is wearing thin – if you’re so interested in me as an individmewal, how do you not remempurr that you’ve hit on me so many times? He doesn’t even have the decency to be intimidated, like most guys!

  7. I practically live at the hardware store. It’s even a joke in my family that my mom considered “going shopping” to be going to the hardware store.

    If you write your list on a scrap of 2×4, no one will ask if you need help. They will only ask what you’re working on.

    I have only ever considered whether my outfit is clean enough to wear into the hardware store because I usually go mid-project.

    • If I’m midproject if figure I’ll get less offers of “help” if I go in a boiler suit covered in paint, silicone sealant and sawdust…my only concern is not messing up my car seat. Second the 2×4 advice, pencil behind the ear also helps avoid unwanted assistance.

    • A flannel with saw dust on it and some wood-stain on your hands is also a great way to get by. Also, pliers in your back pocket.

  8. I love this so much….
    “When I want to go for a drink at a bar where I know the crowd will be overwhelmingly straight, I take great strides to ensure a look that says I’m both sexually unavailable and attempting to convert you to a new religion.”
    I need to work on that.

  9. What Do I Wear To The Straight Bar?

    This is a question I find myself having to answer much too frequently, so thank you for giving me some suggestions!

  10. For what it’s worth, though, people at the hardware store will literally get in trouble if they don’t ask every fucking person walking by if they need help. I used to work at Home Depot, and we actually had secret shoppers that would ding us on that if we were offering help to everyone and their mother. While the sexism is definitely notable in how this plays out or how you’re received (men accepted my help far less frequently and typically with a high degree of skepticism), try to keep in mind that retail expects workers to be overly helpful to everyone to almost an annoying level.

  11. I love all your outfits!

    I wear something similar for straight bars, although it’s more ‘catholic school 1895’ (high necked severe lace, a long braid, barely any skin showing). It really works!

  12. that adidas jacket is so ?!?! good ?!?!?! also I have fought people on the fact that adidas (not new balance, DEF not nike) is the queerest activewear lifestyle brand, but *army green* adidas is next level, and I applaud you

    • cecelia it is with a heavy heart that i tell you this is not My Jacket. it is however in my shared closet, from the 90s, thick canvas material, and with military grade metal clasps. it’s so beautiful. and i agree with you re: adidas, despite what health goth will lead you to believe.

  13. Very much needed the straight bar outfit yesterday. I was at a poetry gig at a bar and the host said ‘okay, you have a fifteen minute break – flirt amongst yourselves’ and the guy standing next to me at the bar says smoothly ‘so i guess i’m meant to flirt with you now’ and i replied ‘um….i don’t think that is a good idea. but i’m sure there is someone here who would enjoy that’ and then i walked away LIKE THE AWKWARD CHILD I AM

    • I think he was the awkward child! I am mewsually too British to tell people to go away or to leave myself (I like men, but object to random strangers making me uncomfurtable)

  14. Uggghhhh these outfits are so great. Simultaneously femme, cute AND repulsive to straight men?? You win at life.

  15. Erin I HAD NO IDEA I needed this badly in my life and then you wrote it.
    My life is forever changed.

  16. I have a whole new appreciation for how thoroughly ignored I am in the local hardware store.

    Which is really convenient since about 90% of the time I’m in there it is just to get out of the rain while I wait for my boss to show up and open the door where I work a few doors down. And the other 10% of the time I am browsing for things I can’t afford for some fever-dream DIY idea that would never work.

    I love the auto shop look so much!

  17. Auto shop look is excellent! I feel super lucky to have trustworthy guys that work on my van these days. Such a shame some try and scam folk. Glad your use of terminology combined with outfit of bananas sports nut got the job done.
    This whole article had me laughing out loud, can’t wait for more.

  18. This is amazing. Love all of these outfits and their purposes. Also where did you get the “Straight Bar” boots??

    • i got these at a secondhand store and i love them so much but when i look up the company, 6 Ports, there is no mention of them. nothing! they used to be a nice caramel color with a beige sole, but ive worn them to the bone :/

  19. Also Erin i clicked on your author profile to remember which other articles you wrote and realised they’re all GOLD. I’m so glad you’re here :D

  20. This is so amazing and gorgeous. I need help with outfits for: queer events where I want people to think I’m smart but also hip but not too hip that will also protect me from biphobia? And: trader joes. Also: being a new parent at a new school and I want people to think I’m smart and hip but not too hip and also a little queer and also protected from bi erasure.

    • I cross stitched a bisexual flag necklace and made a bisexual flag heart brooch, but I haven’t yet found anything that protects from biphobia and bi erasure.

    • i think you’re allowed to wear literally anything to trader joe’s, but nothing will stop the employees from asking you what you were up to today or what your plans are this weekend/tonight. nothing.

  21. The degree in which service advisors will sell you work depends on what they see with your car and your car’s history as well. If you want to avoid getting hit up for all sorts of work then bring some bags with you like you have to be somewhere. Tell them you don’t have long that if you could get out in under an hour. That will prevent them from selling you the world. Sure they can attempt to sell you work but at least then you can leave and decide if you want to do it now or later. Hint this only works for minor maintenance. Major maintenance isn’t gonna work. Remember they have your car and parts may not be available for a while.

  22. I always ask questions in hardware stores because I’m very ADHD and unable to find things in all the Visual Noise and lemme tell u

    Nobody knows less about where things are in Home Depot than your average Home Depot employee

    They Don’t Give A Fuuuuuck

    • gotta say, that all depends where you’re located. gotta give a shoutout to the folks who work at my local Home Depot in Twentynine Palms, CA. they are awesome. have gone truly above and beyond for me so many times!



  24. Also I’m just v impressed by fashion people because my new years resolution this year was literally just “delete color from wardrobe because matching is too hard”

    Guys it’s going so well

    I own like ten black t shirts, one pair of black canvas doc martens and like three different styles of pants and it’s made my life much simpler, Let Me Tell You

  25. “I take great strides to ensure a look that says I’m both sexually unavailable and attempting to convert you to a new religion.”


    And as someone who might–as of next week–be one of those orange-vested parakeets, I deeply apologize. They’d try to get me fired if I don’t ask you the magic 3 times.

  26. you are a treasure, and also, perhaps ironically your straight bar outfit would make me 100% want to hit on you so I think there’s a solid dual purpose here

  27. “attempting to upsell might be dicey.”


    “I take great strides to ensure a look that says I’m both sexually unavailable and attempting to convert you to a new religion.”

    The best part is your winning use of conjunction in this sentence. I just, please, I must know more about this religion!

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