Feminine/Masculine Balance For a Professional Wardrobe

Anonymous asked: "My work wardrobe consists primarily of jackets, ties, and button-downs, and while people sometimes call me 'sir,' I identify as female.

"My job is about to send me to a conservative region in South Asia where concepts of “man” and “woman” are pretty sharply defined. I need to look professional when I’m over there, but it would not be socially acceptable for me to be walking around in a tie and jacket. Any suggestions for androgynous work clothes that are neither overtly feminine nor masculine?"

To be honest, this is a challenging thing to do. People often see gender presentation on a spectrum, and it can be quite difficult to land right in the middle. I think of it as a balancing act. Androgyny to me is part feminine and part masculine, and I mix elements of shape, style, and fabric weight to find that perfect spot right in the middle. To others, androgyny feels genderless. You’ll know when you get it right for yourself.


You can still wear you jackets and buttons downs if you are able to balance them by textile. More masculine articles of clothing are made with wool, tweed, and heavy cotton; they are thicker material than the chiffon and lighter materials used to make more feminine clothing. Try pairing a wool blazer with a lighter shirt to balance the pair.

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The key is to not go the extreme with your attempt to balance. Most of the time, less is more.  A button up and slacks is fairly neutral ground. It’s like slight details like buttoning the top button that may make the ensemble appear more masculine. Rolling up the sleeves to the shirt may also help to create a balance. 

The women’s suit is often wide-legged and cut for a curvier figure. This can skew an individual to appearing more feminine. I would suggest a men’s tailored suit with fitted leg to balance the fit of the women’s suit and the straight lines of the men’s apparel.

Blouses are also an option if you feel as though the button up will appear to0 masculine. If you pair an open neck blouse with a blazer, it contains both feminine and masculine traits. If you feel uncomfortable in blouses, you may look into crew neck shirt, which can be worn by the masculine, feminine, and all those between.

And last but not least, patterns! Play with your patterns solid colors can often appear too bold to be in middle ground. Mix and match your patterns to add playfulness and that semi “effeminate” touch to your look.

There are millions of combinations and ways to balance an outfit. Try out a couple of these suggestions and see what feelings right to you. When you get just the right balance for you, you’ll know!


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