Guide To Gender-Neutral Attire
There are many gender-neutral clothing options available for all forms of business attire, from casual to formal. While it’s important to observe your company’s dress code, you don’t have to sacrifice individuality to find clothing that makes you feel comfortable and professional. In this article, we discuss what gender-neutral attire is and offer tips and examples for any type of business setting.
What is gender-neutral clothing?
Gender-neutral, or gender-free clothing, is attire that avoids what is traditionally considered hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine elements. Gender-neutral clothing is appropriate for any person to wear, regardless of the gender with which you may identify. Slacks or pants are one example of gender-neutral clothing. They can be dressed up or down depending on the office environment and you can pair slacks with a wide variety of tops, shoes and accessories for a more individualized look.
Tips for gender-neutral attire in any professional setting
First impressions matter, whether it’s a job interview, a networking event or the first day at a new job. It is certainly possible to look professional and still feel comfortable and confident that your clothes express your unique personality.
Here are a few tips for selecting clothes for a professional setting:
Clothes should be clean, in good condition and free of wrinkles, holes, lint, pilling and excessive fading.
Clothes should fit properly and not be too tight or too baggy.
Make sure that any piercings or visible tattoos you have align with company guidelines.
Add some color and personality to your outfit with accessories, shoes and layered items, such as cardigans and jackets.
When in doubt, consider how your coworkers dress and follow the same general principles. For instance, if no one wears jeans you will probably want to reserve those kinds of outfits for weekends.
Tips for gender-neutral attire in specific professional settings
Gender-neutral clothing should support your effort to look polished, professional and comfortable. You can incorporate gender-neutral clothing into your wardrobe for any professional situation. Here are some tips for deciding what to wear in specific settings:
Dressing for a job interview
Do a bit of research about the company and their culture. If possible, find photos of people in the office to see what they are wearing and dress one step more formal than they are. For example, if the company accepts casual dress, you should select a smart casual or business casual outfit. If you are interviewing for a more traditional industry, such as finance or law, you should wear professional attire for your interview.
Dressing for your first day on the job
It is typically appropriate to err on the side of business casual unless there is an industry standard. Once you are able to observe the way others dress you can adjust your clothing accordingly. It is also appropriate to ask the recruiter, HR manager or hiring manager if the company has a dress code.
Dressing for a conference or networking event
Notice the tone of the messaging around the event (including invites or emails you may have received). While they might explicitly state any attire requirements, you might also be able to gain context about the event. For example, if the messaging seems highly professional, you might err on the side of formal dress. If you are attending the event with others, ask them about the way they might dress.
Read more: How To Dress for a Job Interview
Honoring employer dress codes
An employer's dress code dictates the style of clothing employees should wear to work. Gender-neutral attire can also be applied to any employer’s dress code. Here are several examples of gender-neutral clothing you could wear for different dress codes:
Casual dress is the least formal form of business attire. This is common among creative industries and tech companies. Gender-neutral tops that are casual include t-shirts, henleys, sweatshirts and colorful tops. Casual bottoms include jeans, khakis and chinos. There are many styles including skinny, straight leg, bootcut and wide-cut you can use to change up your look. For shoes, you might wear tennis shoes, boots or sandals.
Even if your workplace allows casual dress, you should still pay close attention to how people dress in your workplace. A good rule of thumb is to mimic a person’s dress at the professional level you aspire to be. You can also dress in a“smart casual” style, which incorporates both casual and formal pieces to achieve a more stylish look. Generally, you should still avoid tank tops, flip-flops, workout clothing and anything that is torn or highly distressed.
Business casual attire is the most standard form of dress code and it’s a good default option if you’re unsure about what to wear. Slightly more formal than casual dress, business casual standards include button-down shirts and pullover sweaters with chinos, slacks and khakis. You may also be able to wear well-fitting, dark-colored jeans in some settings. Gender-neutral, business professional shoes include boots, loafers, oxfords and clean, professional-looking sneakers.
Business professional clothing is often the most formal workplace attire, commonly required by more traditional industries such as finance, legal and other client-facing roles. A good suit is the best option for business professional settings. Depending on your preferences, you might wear a tan, navy or black suit jacket or sport coat with a matching pair of fitted trousers. Business professional suits should be dark or neutral, with lighter-colored tops or shirts.
Avoid complex patterns and bright colors, and opt for close-toed dress shoes with or without a heel. You should also consider carrying a professional bag, portfolio or backpack to store personal items and cell phones. Other accessories include watches, belts and simple, minimal jewelry.
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