A Guide to Office Attire for Nonbinary Professionals

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Almost everyone knows what business-casual attire looks like for men and women. However, for nonbinary and gender non-conforming professionals, finding ways to fit into that dress code can be frustrating.

That’s often because most companies still use gendered dress codes. So, how can you look and feel your best while complying with a dress code?

 

Discuss Dress Codes

One of the easiest ways to wear clothes that make you feel good and fit the company dress code is to talk with your supervisor or manager about it. Advocate for yourself and other nonbinary/gender non-conforming people in the office if you feel safe to do so. If you’re starting a new job, bringing up gender-affirming attire can help you get a feel for the kind of culture you’ll be stepping into.

Often, a simple conversation can go a long way. Many dress codes are outdated simply because they haven’t been looked at in years, not out of current management’s beliefs. Bringing it up to your employer provides them with an opportunity to look things over and make necessary updates.

Talking openly with an employer can also help to build a positive relationship with that person in the company. They could end up being a mentor to you who can positively impact your professional future. You can help them make necessary changes that allow for more inclusivity, and they can teach you everything they know about the business.

 

Build a Gender-Affirming Wardrobe

You might not have an “ideal” wardrobe in mind yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build one. Maybe you tend to lean toward more stereotypically “masculine” suits, or maybe you want to wear looser-fitting, flowing fabrics that promote professionalism and comfort at once. You can go with specific brands that cater to nonbinary individuals, or put together a few pieces that make you feel comfortable and confident. Not sure what to include in your wardrobe? Keep the following in mind as you select the best pieces to fit your needs:

  • Determine work necessities

  • Choose from items you already have

  • Get a few “work wardrobe” essentials and accessorize as needed

  • Get thrifty to find unique pieces that fit your style and personality

If you’re still not sure how to create the perfect wardrobe, utilize as many resources as possible, and don’t be afraid to talk to others in the community who might have had to deal with similar situations.

Most importantly, make sure you’re mapping your way to mental clarity by considering how you really feel about gendered dress codes and what you can do to combat those social norms while remaining professional. Take note of how you feel about the “status quo” of dress codes, identify areas of concern, and come up with effective personal solutions that allow you to be yourself in the workplace.

When you’re able to do that and you work in an environment that is supportive and accepting, you’ll spend less time worrying about what to wear and more time feeling confident in your wardrobe.

 

 

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Adrian Johansen
Adrian Johansen
Adrian Johansen lives, writes and thrives in the Pacific Northwest. Her writing, which often focuses on sustainability and social justice, has been published on Abilities.com, The Biomimicry Institute and elsewhere.