In the Closet: Dressing Professionally as an LGBTQ/Non-Binary Grad Student

In graduate school, students are instructed to dress professionally as we take on novel challenges, such as teaching or presenting work at conferences. For students who feel nervous about being thrown into the ring of academia with little preparation, professional clothing can be a great source of confidence-- not only in the ways we are perceived by others, but in the ways we perceive ourselves. For students who are transgender or non-binary, or who present in sex- or gender-incongruent ways, wearing identity-congruent professional clothing can be an especially affirming experience. This affirmation would ostensibly persist into downstream cognitions and behaviors associated with positive outcomes (e.g., increased self-confidence could facilitate better public speaking). However, there may be special considerations and limitations to consider in non-binary professional dress for graduate students.

What we wear affects how we are judged by others. In first impression contexts, clothing cues align with adjective trait descriptions-- especially in situations where stimulus traits give credence to impressions (i.e., Lennon & Miller, 1985, Lennon, 1986,  Zanna & Hamilton, 1972). Professional clothing conveys a profusion of positive traits, including legitimacy (i.e., Evetts, 2011), authority (i.e., Brase & Richmond, 2004), credibility, competence, intelligence, and preparation (Carr, Lavin, & Davies, 2010). In teaching contexts, especially, professional clothing may impact the way students learn, behave, and view teachers. One study, conducted by K. David Roach (1997) focused specifically on attire worn by graduate teaching assistants. Professional teaching attire was associated with students’ positive impressions of their TAs, as well as their levels of affective and cognitive learning. Additionally, professional TA attire had an effect on students’ self-reports of misbehaviors (i.e., tardiness, cheating), such that there were fewer misbehaviors in the presence of more professional TA dress. 

Our clothing choices can also affect our judgments of the self. A growing body of literature on the subject argues for enclothed cognition: Our clothing influences our cognitions by mapping onto associated abstract concepts and symbols, which, in turn, shapes our behavior (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). The same study found that participants who wore a lab coat showed increased levels of attention in a comparative visual search task-- but only when the coat was framed as a doctor’s attire (as opposed to a painter’s attire). Furthermore, Karl, Hall, and Peluchette (2013) found that people reported increased feelings of confidence and authority in formal business and business casual attire than they did in just casual attire. However, people reported decreased feelings of friendliness and creativity in formal business attire, which was hypothesized to be due to lack of comfort. It would stand to reason that professional or work-appropriate clothing influences our own cognitions and behaviors in positive ways-- but only when that attire holds symbolic meaning and is sufficiently comfortable. For people who identify as non-binary, wearing gender-incongruent clothing could be a horrifically uncomfortable experience; hypothetically limiting any positive feelings associated with different iterations of professional attire. This bears consideration: How might those limitations affect students who are unable to find appropriate, comfortable, identity-affirming attire?

Indeed, attire impacts the way we view ourselves and others. However, this presents a unique challenge to students whose gender expressions are not congruent with their sex. Even androgynous clothing is often gendered in its tailoring: For instance, darts are typically sewn into button-down shirts to enhance body curves (which are typically associated with feminine silhouettes). Further, unisex accessories bear gender markings: Men’s briefcases, for example, are bulkier, harder, and made in a limited range of colors; whereas women’s briefcases are slimmer, softer, and made with more interior pocket space and in a variety of colors (eBay, 2016). As a consequence of such stylized markers of gender, even in ostensibly unisex fashion items, non-binary students may choose to buy clothing and accessories designed for the gender they identify with. However, this may give rise to an undesired effect. Research on first impressions by Howlett, Pine, Orakçıoğlu, and Fletcher (2013) found that photographs of men in tailored suits garnered more positive appraisals than photographs of men in untailored suits. Faces were not included in the photographs, absolving attractiveness of potential mediation effects. Because most clothing is designed exclusively for cisgender bodies, though, non-binary people may find it difficult to find ready-to-wear attire with a proper fit. With that evidence in mind, there arises a clear need for well-fitting, quality clothing to suit all identities.

Non-binary clothing is important for the maintenance of identity and belongingness. Because professional dress signifies institutional culture and importance of one’s profession (Evetts, 2011), it is vital for non-binary students to fit in by gaining access to professional clothing congruent with their expression. That is still not an easy feat: In one study of queer women’s experiences purchasing attire, nearly half of all respondents reported feeling ostracized and frustrated at the lack of clothing options and advertising directed toward queer women (Reddy-Best & Pedersen, 2015). For students who have difficulty finding appropriate professional wear, lack of options can create a double-edged sword of disinclusion: Both from the academic/professional world, as well as the fashion world.

Regardless of gender expression, all graduate students deserve to have identity-aligned professional clothing options. Listed underneath is a compilation of gender-neutral (and gender-affirming) attire for all bodies. 



Sharpe Suiting 8560 Sunset Blvd #507 West Hollywood, CA 90069   Website Twitter Facebook Instagram Youtube Phone number: (323) 985-8895

Sharpe Suiting

8560 Sunset Blvd #507

West Hollywood, CA 90069







Phone number: (323) 985-8895



At Sharpe we create high quality suits and dresswear with an intellectual approach and a classic feel. Using Andropometrics™: our trademarked formula for measuring ALL body types, we focus on tailoring our suits to fit your specific style and shape, no matter how you identify. 

With our body metric prediction software, you can now purchase custom formalwear from our seasonal collections with just a few clicks. Our online Virtual Tailor experience predicts both male and female body measurements by utilizing one of the largest data sets of human body measurements in the world using algorithms tested and proven by thousands of custom fittings to-date. 

(Bonus info: Contact Sharpe Suiting for info about potential rebates!)




Kirrin Finch is a conscientious clothing company, founded by Brooklyn-based couple Laura Moffat and Kelly Sanders Moffat, that meets the growing demand for gender-defying fashion by creating menswear-inspired apparel designed to fit a range of female bodies. The inspiration for the business was borne out of our own frustration at being unable to find clothes that match our personal style. As women who tend to gravitate towards button-up shirts and bow ties, we often find ourselves envying the clothes in the men's section, but are always frustrated because they are not designed to fit a woman's body.

The name, Kirrin Finch, was inspired by iconic fictional tomboys "Georgina Kirrin" from The Famous Five series and "Scout Finch" from To Kill A Mockingbird. Both these characters embrace the tomboy spirit and are not constrained by society's views of how a woman should behave or dress. You'll probably notice that each shirt takes on the name of a tomboy character. 

(Bonus fact: One half of the Kirrin Finch team, Laura, advanced through the ranks of academia to become a neuroscientist before starting this company! All the more reason to support this awesome brand!)

  HauteButch 465 Stony Pt. Rd. #221 Santa Rosa, CA 95401   Website Twitter Facebook Instagram Phone number: (866) 842-8824 Ext. 2



465 Stony Pt. Rd. #221

Santa Rosa, CA 95401






Phone number: (866) 842-8824 Ext. 2



HAUTEBUTCH is an innovative, design driven Lifestyle brand, which defines the butch aesthetic by offering fitted menswear inspired fashion, footwear and accessories.

We are creating a new standard in fashion with an attitude to match. A standard that translates from the runway to the boardroom and out to the streets.

We tend to deemphasize busts and buttocks, instead focusing on incorporati-ng little eye catching/smart details from menswear and blending it with a feminine fit to embody our own sense of harmonious style.

Butch clothing is an outward expression of an internal attitude and we endeavor to accentuate and empower the entire spectrum of butches, studs, and tomboy styleseekers, in their myriad of identities, expressions and presentations, by designing and producing a very unique collection of fierce and visible fashions made especially with them in mind and heart.

We embrace the following vision for HAUTEBUTCH: to push beyond the boundaries of fashion trends to promote visibility and acceptance of and within our communities while illuminating the diversity found amongst our butch/stud/dyke/boi/MOC/queer/tomboy fashionistas/fashionistos. 

Fashion is but one realm where masculine identified women choose from the myriad ways in which they express themselves externally. Each day, we are
presented with a powerful opportunity to define ourselves on our own terms by
being true to ourselves, based on our choice of clothing.

HAUTEBUTCH is focused on elevating the mainstream consciousness and
opening minds to embrace a clientele that deserves a brand all its own...We
celebrate visibility and truth therefore we strive to see HAUTEBUTCH be made available to masculine identified women and others in the mainstream and offered on a worldwide platform. 



This journey started about a year ago when we launched on Kickstarter. We released a pair of slim-straight, androgynous jeans and when we exceeded our funding goal, we knew that we had something there was truly a need for. Following our Kickstarter campaign, we had more people purchase our jeans and give us testimonials on how their jeans made them look and feel; then we knew that we had something really special!  Some of our loyal customers have even purchased their 2nd & 3rd pair of jeans in the same style & wash!

Our mission was to create denim that not only looked good and provided functionality but to also provide jeans for every BODY. It was important to us to make sizes 26-48 available. Our jeans also are also gender-neutral. We didn’t make them to just fit one body type or gender. In a sense, this is our way of creating denim equality.

So where are we now?

We want to incorporate a business model where we can provide new, fresh items at a fraction of the cost. We are crowdfunding all of our newly released items and for a limited-time  they will be offered at wholesale pricing, which is a huge savings to our awesome, loyal customers.

So what is our ultimate goal?

We want to create an androgynous clothing line that is fashionable, functional, affordable and accessible to all.  Today’s fashion demands are changing and we know that one day there will be a section in main-stream department stores where it isn't just limited to men’s and women’s sections. Help us revolutionize this gender-neutral fashion movement.





NiK Kacy is a fashion line inspired by the fashion needs of both its founder and the larger LGBTQ community. NiK Kacy, who identifies as gender-fluid, queer and trans, designed their first collection of "masculine of center" gender-neutral shoes in order to provide a solution for the on-going problem of individuals unable to purchase men's styled shoes due to limitations in sizing set by the shoe industry based on gender.  Their first collection, named "Fortune", consists of 5 classically masculine looking styles, now modernized with colorful contrasts and re-proportioned to fit those who identify in whatever spirit they deem fit.

NiK's desire for gender equality extends further by expanding their label to include an upcoming "feminine of center" collection, featuring high-heel styled shoes in the same European unisex sizes ranging from 34-47 (US women's 3.5 to men's 14), as well as, a unisex accessories line, including holster wallets.

NiK Kacy has been featured in numerous publications including Fortune and Forbes Magazine, The Huffington Post, Footwear News, SheWired, Autostraddle, Curve and DapperQ. They successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign in March of 2015 to fund the creation of their Fortune line and hopes to develop a truly gender-neutral footwear and fashion collection so that all people can express their authentic selves without being boxed in a gender binary. 

NiK Kacy's philosophy is simple... fashion is about style, and style is not limited by gender or gender expression. 

In addition to their passion for making gender-equal footwear and accessories, NiK also passionately works on projects that make a positive impact in the LGBTQ community. Their goal is to be able to donate a number of styles in various sizes from each collection to the Los Angeles LGBT Center's Youth Center Community Closet, so that LGBT youth who utilize the life improvement services there, such as GED accreditation and job search services will have access to professional shoes for important events like job interviews and graduation ceremonies. Many LGBTQ youth are left homeless due to neglect and homophobia from their families. The Center provides much needed services that help these young people create a better life for themselves and allows them to be in a safe environment so they can be their authentic selves.

NiK Kacy, the founder/entrepreneur/designer, also has been a longtime committee member and host for the LA LGBT Center's annual An Evening with Women event which raises much needed funds for all the women's services at the world's largest LGBT center. In their spare time, NiK has also produced and directed a short documentary, "It Does Get Better" which they hope can help raise awareness for the LGBTQ community and promote visibility and community amongst our brothers, sisters and allies. 




Tomboy Toes is an online retailer with a commitment to helping women, trans men, and non binary people with smaller feet find formal, traditionally 'masculine' shoes in styles that fit their bodies and make them feel confident and composed. Our mission is to help people complete their wardrobes with footwear that suits a masculine-of-center style regardless of how small their feet are. We deliberately carry our lines of shoes in vegan leather to allow for people to make ethical fashion choices as well as to offer these typically high-end styles at an accessible price for a greater range of people. We guarantee the fit - if your shoe arrives and it isn't the right size, we'll exchange your shoes for the right size at no extra charge. Our number one priority is customer satisfaction.





Shapeshifters creates handmade, custom-fit chest binders for all genders and all sizes.



As the creator of Better Products and the GenderMender line, I strive for a high quality product so that you can have a high quality experience. I began making prosthetics for gender expression for myself, close friends and family who were in need of prosthetics which felt, looked and behaved naturally. Breast forms, nipples and packers which were available to us were unflattering, unnatural, made of dangerous materials and meant to be hidden under clothes. Other options were exaggerated costume pieces. Myself, friends and family deserve to feel natural and sexy, and that is what I set out to provide.

GenderMender breasts, nipples and packers are hand sculpted with care, not a computer generated design limited by inorganic geometric shapes. I have designed them with a great amount of care to mimic a natural breasts, nipples and penises Because I choose the highest quality materials, GenderMender Breasts, nipples and Packers do not have a plastic barrier between you and your prosthetic allowing them to have a natural skin texture. High quality materials also allow different layers of color and texture to be integrated eliminating the possibility of leaking or leaching unsafe chemicals which stain garments.

People are unique and come in many different colors and shapes. I am dedicated to continuing to develop products to suit Your Unique You.

GenderMender breasts, nipples and packers are not manufactured in a factory. They are handmade with care. I am motivated by your positive experience and hope my products will enhance your look and your life.





One Moon Jewelry is committed to designing uniquely stunning pieces that are perfect for persons of any gender. Whether you prefer sparkles, simple, or somewhere in between, One Moon Jewelry can make your dream designs come to life. Our most popular piece is our gemstone beaded Pride bracelet that was born in the wake of the tragic Orlando shooting. At One Moon Jewelry, all pieces are crafted with love.

(One Moon Jewelry has partnered with the OUTgroup Project to offer their stunning gender-neutral Pride bracelets at a discount! Use code OUTGROUP20 at checkout for a 20% discount - but be sure to act quickly; there are limited quantities!!)



Basow, S. (1980). Sex-role stereotypes: Traditions and alternatives. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Brase, G. L., & Richmond, J. (2004). The White-Coat Effect: Physician Attire and Perceived Authority, Friendliness, and Attractiveness. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 34(12), 2469-2481. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2004.tb01987.x

Carr, D. L., Lavin, A. M., & Davies, T. L. (2010). The impact of instructor attire on college student satisfaction. College Student Journal, 44(1), 101–111.

EBay. (2016, March 3). The complete briefcase buying guide [Web log post]. Retrieved October 27, 2016, from

Evetts, J. (2011). A new professionalism? Challenges and opportunities. Current Sociology, 59(4), 406–422. doi: 10.1177/0011392111402585

Howlett, N., Pine, K., Orakcioglu, I., & Fletcher, B. (2013). The influence of clothing on first impressions: Rapid and positive responses to minor changes in male attire. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, 17(1), 38-48.

Karl, K. A., Hall, L. M., & Peluchette, J. V. (2013). City employee perceptions of the impact of dress and appearance: You are what you wear. Public Personnel Management, 42(3), 452-470. doi:10.1177/0091026013495772

Lennon, S. J. (1986). Additivity of clothing cues in first impressions. Social Behavior And Personality, 14(1), 15-21. doi:10.2224/sbp.1986.14.1.15

Roach, K. D. (1997). Effects of graduate teaching assistant attire on student learning, misbehaviors, and ratings of instruction. Communication Quarterly, 45(3), 125-141.  

Reddy-Best, K. L., & Pedersen, E. L. (2015). Queer women’s experiences purchasing clothing and looking for clothing styles. Clothing & Textiles Research Journal, 33(4), 265-279. doi:10.1177/0887302X15585165

Zanna, M. P., & Hamilton, D. L. (1977). Further evidence for meaning change in impression formation. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 13(3), 224-238. doi:10.1016/0022-1031(77)90045-2