Corporate GenderQueer: If I had to dress formally for work

What would I wear if I worked in an office or wanted to “dress for success” in my current job? A comment from Regan on Instagram got me thinking about this, so you know it’s bound to become a post!

As a teacher I can wear a wide range of styles. There are people who dress more casually than I do and also much more formally. The base rules are that you need to be able to run, reach, sit on the floor and go outside everyday. A decade ago I worked at a public school where we had to pay $2 on Casual Fridays to wear denim – nowadays plenty of teachers wear leggings as pants. I’ve leaned more casual over the years, but sometimes I do wonder what my look would be if I wanted to become an administrator.

Let’s imagine! This is very hypothetical for me, so please chime in with your own wisdom in the comments! (I’m assuming that I have more money than I currently do, when I work this higher-level job.)

My “Corporate GenderQueer” Pinterest board!

STEP 1: Wear lux natural fabrics.

You know I love a bit of polyester… but I think that silk, bamboo, wool and even rumpled linen look more elegant. If I did all my shopping at Core Fabrics, they would steer me to a very chic wardrobe.

All of these fabrics are from Core Fabrics.

STEP 2: Trade cute prints for texture.

I will always wear prints, but I might trade the cutesy cat or palm tree prints for solid colours with interesting texture. I’d keep the multi-coloured organic prints and stripes that I love most. (I’m wearing this design on a t-shirt today, with a plaid shirt and jeans. Not exactly luxe.)

STEP 3: Swap jeans for other pants.

Thank goodness Muna and Broad have many elastic-waist options to choose from! I’m sure I’d also have a few pairs of slim-but-not-tight dark jeans in the rotation too. The jeans I currently like definitely read very casual, which I think is common with clothes on fat bodies. Tight clothes look hypersexualised and loose clothes can look “messy” because our bodies go from thick to thin over small spaces.

Muna and Broad are the queens of secret pyjama pants!

STEP 4: Add collars, welt pockets, pleats, and other sharp details.

I think Style Arc would be my go-to: plenty of classic details but with a twist.

All patterns from Style Arc.

STEP 5: Pay people to sew what I don’t want to make.

I’m honestly already thinking of this. My partner is officiating a wedding in June and I wish I could be bothered to sew him a custom camp shirt… but I really can’t. Surely there is someone out there who would enjoy the process and want to get paid? I could definitely see paying someone to make me a suit rather than trying myself.

STEP 6: Buy a steamer.

Duh. Actually, as I wrote this, my favourite style YouTuber Audrey Coyne posted a video about tools that upgrade every outfit including a steamer!

Both earrings are from Copper Canoe Woman, and indigenous artist in the US. I have 4 pairs of her earrings and get compliments every time I wear them!

STEP 7: Collect handmade statement jewellery and bold glasses.

I rarely wear the house without big earrings, and I never leave without glasses! I think that accessories would bring the fun to outfits with more classical elements.

STEP 8: Chic flat shoes for my wide feet.

Good luck on this one, hypothetical me. It’s hard enough to find sneakers that fit! Maybe I’d just buy nice sneakers and try not to get them dirty while on yard duty.

Check out my “Corporate GenderQueer” Pinterest board if you want to see more of my ideas! (I know these outfits aren’t fancy enough to be corporate, but I like the way the name sounds!)

One final thing I’ve been reflecting on later is how my whiteness plays into how people perceive me. It occurred to me that one of the reasons I feel I can get away with my current casual style is because of white privilege. In other words, white skin and straight hair read as “professional” without me having to dress the part. I wear oversized hoodies and t-shirts with political messages (like Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ messages) regularly at work, and I can imagine that on someone of a different race that could come across as “angry” instead of “engaged”. Food for thought, isn’t it?

Clothes are a powerful tool in how we express ourselves and how other see us. I enjoy reflecting on how to use that power, but it is equally easily get furious and depressed about how stupid it is that we are judged so quickly on our outsides. Just as I’m white, I’m also able-bodied and small-fat, which makes everything easier for me. There aren’t many non-binary fat role models who dress corporate though, so it still feels like breaking new ground.

What would you wear (or have you worn) when you need to dress to impress at work? We all have unique styles, bodies and situations, so I’d love to hear from you!


19 thoughts on “Corporate GenderQueer: If I had to dress formally for work

  1. I know you’re not actually building this wardrobe, but if anyone is, SAS Shoes does some very nice (and very pricey – at least for me!) professional flat shoes for wide and extra wide feet. You can’t always get every style in store in Canada, but they do ship to Canada if you fall in love with something.

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  2. I like your suggestions. A great sewist I follow is “Diary of a Sewing Fanatic” (I think) She makes great looking clothes that could work in the corporate world.

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    1. Thank you Theresa! I love Carolyn from Diary of a Sewing Fanatic! Especially since she excels at sewing what she wants to wear, without getting sidetracked by the newest trends. She is such a fun and elegant person!

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  3. Ooh, I love a good wardrobe/style thoughts post! I can totally picture you rocking your Corporate GenderQueer looks, they sound like a natural extension of your current style. Your ideas sound totally do-able, and I can definitely picture you in some bold glasses. Part of me would love to dress a bit more formally for work, but in my casual environment, I wouldn’t feel comfortable “out-dressing” those above me in the office food chain. I know, we’re told to dress for the job we want, but I would be dressing for a job that doesn’t exist in my place of work!

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    1. Is there a different job you want? If there is I hope you go for it… and if you are happy right now, at least you can take joy in the lovely quality garments you make yourself even if they aren’t fancy! 😉

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  4. Before I retired as an academic, I often had to wear slightly more formal gear. I basically had a uniform: mostly black bottoms – RTW stretch woven (bengaline) pants that look just like Style Arc Sage pants and conveniently come in petite so I didn’t have to shorten them ((I also had a tan and burgundy pair of same), black stretch woven straight and A-line skirts of various lengths; mix and match stretch tops – patterned or black jacket, plain or patterned tops. Opposite feet problem – long narrow flat feet difficult to fit, definitely only flat shoes. Definitely boring, but required no thinking, little that required ironing (only me made wovens fit my I/J cup), comfortable and professional.

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    1. That sounds like a very user-friendly wardrobe! Now that you don’t have to wear that kind of stuff, what garments bring you the most joy?

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    2. Everything except the skirts and jackets are still worn lots, but I’m doing lots of cycling (10-20km/day) so cycling skirts and jackets instead of work ones 😅🤪
      Just received fun performance knit prints so venturing into making sports bras, and cycling Knicks, and outerwear.

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  5. I really enjoyed this post! It’s super timely for me I’m in the process of job hunting and the clothes are definitely giving me anxiety – trying to envision what I’ll need without knowing the environment plus trying to shop RTW while fat is not fun! Eeesh!

    I feel like this would have some relevance to another of my challenges at the mo – smart casual wedding attire! It’s so helpful to visualise and really think through the activities required: squatiing down, bending over, dancing, standing, sitting – all very similiar between weddings and work – haha! So double thank you for this post!

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    1. Good luck with the job hunt! It really is so similar (and wedding wear too!) – how do we encapsulate ourselves in one outfit that can work with the scenario and make us feel fancy but still ourselves? Clothes are complicated when you think of them that way. Hope you can sew yourself at least one tiny part of your interview outfit so that you know you have the full support of the sewing community with you!

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      1. thank you! I will definitely try to incorporate something I’ve sewn. I love the idea of envisioning that (tears up) it’ll totally boost my confidence, when I go for interviews!

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  6. Great post! I am nowhere near genderqueer but I love the ambiguity it brings. Where it becomes easiest for me as a non-gq person to slide into approaching them as Person, and throwing out the preconceptions.

    Dressing genderqueer really highlights some of those preconceptions, doesn’t it?

    Anyway I think/hope you’ll like this person. She’s been reducing Aussie audiences to tears for years!

    https://hannahgadsby.com.au/

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    1. Oh I love Hannah Gadsby! She became famous here after a big Netflix special a few years ago. A great Aussie export!

      I love the way you phrase genderqueer as just thinking about dressing as a person. That’s exactly how I feel. I’m a person who likes coloured hair and makeup, so my heart yearns to balance all that femme out with a bit of a masc twist in my clothing.

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      1. Oh I’m so glad you know of Hannah Gadsby, Definitely an Aussie export to be proud of.

        And yep that makes sense to me about balancing in all out.

        I remember talking with a queer friend about the style of lesbianism she called ‘butch’ and how that could end up with country women mis-signalling to a city queer that they were butch. I hadn’t realised that till then, that women in the country wearing things and acting in pretty much the same way as men in the country can look to an outsider as genderqueer. I’m used to wearing and enjoying the look of clothing practical for outdoor activities. Yep there’s some pretty, girly workshirts out there, and nice hats and boots but by the time you’ve spent a day hot, sweaty, and wading through some kind of muck, you’re not too worried about ‘look’ or the fact that the practical workshirt has pretty flowers under the dirt, but the outfit’s practical performance. Which traditionally is what has been demanded of most male wear in western culture.
        Eg these shirts – for a day out wrestling stock or driving a huge mining truck pink is rather nice but also a bit redundant coz the end of the day you’ll be washing the hell out of it to get the dust and muck out of it anyway. Though nice for when the rellies are coming over for a christmas barbie or something right?
        https://www.ritemate.com.au/products/category/OIBLKLLF-shirts

        If I couldn’t sew I totally would shop for my outdoor adventures here. I’m so in love with the femme FIT of these styles, and the practical plain hardwearing fabrics and colours. I gather it’s aiming for the tradie market more than the horses and archery etc I do, but the beauty of it is it would work for anything.
        https://sukworkwear.com.au/collections/all-products

        I do enjoy going from that pragmatic ‘country’ look that’s all about messy activity protection from the harshness of the environment, all the way to doing the whole ballet 9 yards of leo, tights, satin shoes, bun, and pretty chiffon skirt. Or tango swirly and sultry with killer high heels.

        Speaking of dance, Flamenco dance gear is a fantastic range from ultra dignified femme to the trousered Sara Barras look.

        (scroll down for the pictures of her in the trousers!) https://alchetron.com/Sara-Baras

        Nothing like a dance performance for an excuse to dress up in a full-on out there expression of style 😀

        Hmmm can you tell I’ve thought a lot about this?! Perhaps I should just write my own blog post on it LOL!

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  7. I kind of unconsciously moved from being a maniac for prints into being a maniac for texture as my personal style…matured? Evolved? It wasn’t really a conscious decision, it just started being what I gravitated toward in the fabric store. I do still like a good print, but novelty prints are not my thing anymore. So good call on texture.

    re: shoes. Have you ever tried Duckfeet? They don’t have that streamlined loafer silhouette like your sample shoes, but I have two pairs (the T-strap Mary Jane style & classic lace-up Oxfords) & I love them. Comfy on my wide feet, look great with everything, pretty much indestructible. You can even have them re-soled if you wear them into the ground but the uppers are still in good shape. Which I guess is true of most shoes, but it’s actually a service they advertise. They will even sell you the sole so you can take it to your own cobbler or do it yourself if you’re handy like that.

    I too would love to expand my wardrobe into the jewelry realm. I’ve never really worn it because I don’t have pierced ears, & I guess I have wide fingers? Rings never fit me. I have a ton of tattoos, most visibly on my chest, wrists, & hands, so I didn’t want to cover them up with necklaces & bracelets, but I think actually I just didn’t want to spend money on jewelry. But I admire it a lot on other people, like super-chunky bib necklaces, or colorful resin pieces or whatever. I want to do that! My style is very maximalist, & I feel like I’m missing a big piece by not wearing jewelry.

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  8. Ooh, fun theoreticals! You may have already read it, but Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom addresses some of what you mention above in her essay on the capital of beauty. It was in her own words a ‘thick’ read, and it definitely got me to think more about how some of my preferences can be a privilege as well as a statement.

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