Dolphinlegs asked: So I’ll soon be transitioning from a student to a professional, and I looked around and was like “hmm, I own no professional clothes at all.” And I really have no idea where to start. I was wondering what tips you have on dressing for a professional job interview/ dressing professionally in general. I’m not really the type of lady who would feel comfortable wearing a suit and tie, but would prefer something a little less masculine. Perhaps something on the more “soft butch” side?
To me, the difference between dressing “soft butch” and full-on masculine is the way the cut of the clothes fits your body. The actual pieces; slacks, button-ups, ties, blazers, pocket squares etc, are all the same. But I’d look for professional menswear inspired clothes that fit your gender presentation. You’ll probably have the most luck in the women’s section. There are tons of more feminine suit and tie combos out there that are cut to show off curves, and then everything in between.
Here are my tips for establishing your new wardrobe as an aspiring soft butch professional. You might tailor this further depending on your field and location. If once you start working there you see people being more casual, follow their lead and take it down a notch. But as far as first impressions go:
- For pants and blazers, choose conservative colors such as grey, black, navy, army green, and khaki. For shirts and sweaters go for white, burgundy, blues, grays, light pinks, and greens. Ties and pocket squares can add pops of color, but nothing too bright or crazy.
- Blazers and sport coats! Maybe even with elbow patches. Check out H&M, Topshop, J.Crew, Marimacho.
- Khakis/ dress pants: Go to town. Once you find a cut that you like, don’t be afraid to buy it in multiple colors! I love the fit of the Gap’s pants. Zara’s are also sweet. Don’t roll the cuffs.
- Unless you’re interviewing at the most prestigious legal firm, rock separate pieces rather than full-on suits. It’s cheaper, and easier to combine things that fit well. See Blake’s piece on suit separates.
- For footwear: derbies, brogues, oxfords, fancier saddle shoes, wingtips, and loafers are all great choices. No sneakers, boat shoes, or sandals.
- You’ll need at least one black belt and one brown belt. Avoid big, decorative buckles with angel wings and skulls etc. on them. Match your belt with your shoes.
- Sweaters and cardigans are great, but go for higher-end sweaters that fit well and don’t look frumpy. Check out the ones at Everlane, Banana Republic, J. Crew.
- Make sure your shirt fits well; getting it tailored if necessary. Depending on the level of formality, you might need to only wear long-sleeve shirts. If it’s less formal: In the summer, short sleeve button-ups are a good choice! (Ta-da) Stay away from polos, shirts with western detailing, and flannel. Always keep your shirt tucked in.
- Don’t shy away from neck ties and bow ties! They can break up an outfit and add another element or color or texture. But keep it snug with the top button buttoned; not loosened.
- Carry a briefcase, portfolio, or professional backpack.
- Iron! It makes a huge difference!
Did I leave something out? Add it to the comments!
Ox-1 Portrait Briefcase with detachable backpack straps, formink.com for $59.00
Congratulations! With the right outfit, you are halfway to being a Power Queer.
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