You Need Help: Looking Alternative To Help Your Career

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you seek advice and we try our very best to give it.

This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful. But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too.

For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today is a very special You Need Help: Special Fashion Unit.dotted-divider2Q:
My manager thinks it would be good for my career to push my edgy/alternative look. I already have an asymmetrical alternative lifestyle haircut, but besides that I look pretty boring. How do I look more “edgy” without looking like I’m 15 years old?

So your manager wants you too look a certain way eh? It’s funny, most people get told to look less “alternative.” I’m not sure what job you found where looking “edgy” is a bonus, but rock on. I suppose this makes sense if you’re an artist/musician/stripper/bartender. So, let’s see!

First of all you should get a couple of tattoos. Just kidding! That’s the worst idea ever. Since it sounds like it was your manager’s ideas to fire things up and not yours, don’t do anything permanent! You could think about getting a piercing or two, but even that is something you’ll have when you’re not at work and could potentially leave scars. Even dying your hair is something you have to carry around with you all the time. With that in mind, be true to yourself! If you’re happy with the way you dress you don’t have to change just because your manager says to. That being said, remember that she’s asking you to change how you dress, not who you are. We all have to put on our “work clothes” sometimes.


Since your manager is the person who thinks you should try to look more edgy, I suggest you ask him/her what they had in mind. This is actually good advice for anyone who’s is asked to dress differently for work. It’s absolutely appropriate to ask “What specifically would you like me to wear?” This seems awkward and forward but it’s absolutely acceptable. Maybe you’ll find all your manager thinks you need to spice up your look is a leather jacket and some combat boots. You’re the one being asked to spend money to change something about your appearance, and therefore you have a right to know what they specifically want you wear so you don’t waste your time.

Now that we have that sorted out, it’s time to think about your look. For starters, think about what you want to look like. There are a lot of ways to stand out. Maybe you want to look like a pin-up or sort of mod. Maybe you want to look a little goth or kind of punk. Maybe it’s time to up the ante on your hipster appeal. Maybe you want to look really really really gay. Whatever you decide, it’s best to choose a look that’s somewhat consistent with your lifestyle, i.e. not wearing a shirt for a band you’ve never heard of. This will probably blow up in your face. Additionally, ease into a new look. Nothing is worse than spending a ton of money on new stuff only to decide that you just hate what you see in the mirror.

To start off you might want to try some makeup. If you’re a makeup wearing kind of girl, we have a great makeup type article. If you are not the makeup wearing type, that’s totally no big deal at all. There are plenty of non-makeup ways to change things up in your look.

Accessories are always a great way to create a more alternative look without spending too much money. A white V-neck and skinny jeans looks very different with high heels, a cardigan and a pearl necklace than it does with a pair of Nike Dunks and a bandana around your neck. Perhaps you just want to start with a couple of leather cuffs or a few new bandanas. Maybe a bomb ring to make you stand out. Even just a couple of necklaces can look really edgy. How about some boots? There are tons of adorable, queer, alternative, awesome boots out there. You might be shocked how much more you stand out with just a few small accessory changes.

Once you become comfortable branching out with accessories, you can start to think about new clothes you want. You can certainly get stuff cheaply second hand or from cheaper clothing stores to start out. The key is the be brave about what you’re wearing. You want to wear a vest over a leather jacket over a zip up over another vest? Go for it. Keep in mind layering and pairing articles of different lengths.


Finally, I totally understand your concern about looking 15. When I dress super trendy I sometimes worry I look like a junior high kid let loose in Forever 21. You didn’t say exactly how old you are, but there are general guidelines to follow to keep from looking like a baby. Basically the key is to avoid anything too tight, short or bare. Additionally, you want to remember that you’re going for a look, not a costume. Too many accessories are one thing in particular that will put you right over the edge. Trust yourself. If you look in the mirror and you’re first instinct is “I’m too old to wear this,” you probably are. Finally, choose an outfit based on where you’re going. What looks alternative at a concert is very different from what looks alternative at a wedding. Keeping that level of appropriateness in mind will ensure that you look and feel your age.

If you really get stuck with putting together a look, you can always check out the girls of I’ll Have What She’s Wearing.

If none of those help, maybe check out some of these articles:
+New Year’s Eve Fashion Part One: What To Wear That’s Not A Suit Or Tie
+I’ll Have What She’s Wearing: Jess
+I’ll Have What She’s Wearing: Ericka
+Autostraddle Accessory Guide: Part 1
+Autostraddle Accesorry Guide: Part 2
If you have more fashion questions you’d like to see me cover, I encourage you to write me on ASS or ask me anonymously on the autostraddle fashion formspring. If you have a quick question like, “Does wearing green and purple together make me look like a goblin?” then you can also tweet me @OhHeyItsLizz.


To send your question via ASS personal messaging, choose an editor: Riese | Laneia | Rachel
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*If messaging is down, email us! There are so many options, you guys! You could send carrier pigeons!*
For 100% anonymity, contact us through Formspring: Riese | Laneia | Rachel

Please keep your questions to around, at most, 100 words. Due to the high volume of questions and feelings, not every question or feeling will be answered or published on Autostraddle. We hope you know that we love you regardless.

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Lizz is a consumer, lover and writer of all things pop culture and the Fashion/Style Editor at She is also full time medical student at Brown University in Providence, RI. You can find her on the twitter, the tumblr or even on the instagram.

Lizz has written 261 articles for us.


  1. “If you look in the mirror and you’re first instinct is “I’m too old to wear this,” you probably are.”

    Shit. That’s my every damn day.

    • To explain further; people upload photos of their looks, with details of where they got what they’re wearing. You can search the looks based on colour, brand, item of clothing, material etc (not style though, unfortunately).

  2. According to J.K. Rowling, green and purple are colors wizards and witches use to identify one another when wearing Muggle clothes.

  3. You know what’s edgy? Rulers. Very edgy. Also, very practical. It’s the ultimate lesbian accessory.

  4. A bit unrelated but does anyone know where I can find a blazer that’s big arm friendly? Most blazers don’t fit my arms they’re a bit on the upside down bicep side and while I’m working on it my sister’s wedding is coming up soon and I really need something cute to wear that hides what I like to refer to as my hams. Thanks for the input. :]

  5. “When I dress super trendy I sometimes worry I look like a junior high kid let loose in Forever 21.”

    Bugger. That’s kinda the look I was going for.

    Having missed out on being a queer teenager, I’ve been trying to embrace my youth – at age 31. Is this actually a quarter/mid-life crisis?

    • Yeah, I’m 29 and I dress exactly how I always wished I had the guts to dress when I was 14. And I’m loving it.

      • 26 and I frequently look at five year old girls and think “if only I could get that dress in my size”.

        • I can’t even count the number of times I’ve walked through the kid’s section at Myer or Target or whatever and been like WHY IS THAT NOT IN GROWNUP SIZES WHYYYYYY

        • I hear ya, I saw this cute tweenager in a pink satin dress, with a frou frou flared skirt and layers of wired chiffon underneath, she was obviously on her way to a very special occasion. When I said I wanted it, in a slightly breathless manner,my (now ex) girlfriend looked at me like an insane person (I am, but not about clothes).

        • While I sympathize with the sentiment..I now have to work extra hard to get the “dizzy = 5 yo girl” thoughts out of my head. It’s really adding a total “creepy” factor to my internet crush.

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