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3 Outfits I Wear When I’m Dressing for Other Women

Purple fuzz and artfully placed sunsets.

04.04.17

I started dressing for other women at the age of four. Every time I had a playdate with my friend Veronica, I insisted on wearing a particular, red-striped smocked dress. I remember one occasion when my mom told me it was in the laundry and I shed a few stoic tears. In the mind of my four-year-old self, the dress was a mirror of Veronica’s personality — her energy, her preferences, her strawberry-colored hair. I didn’t make those connections at the time, though. Wearing the dress just felt right.

Now I have a name for what I was doing. “Dressing for other women” is such a thing, and for good reason. Out of every philosophy for how I choose to dress and why, it is the one I identify with the most, more than “dressing for myself,” even. If I truly committed to dressing for myself in its most literal sense, I would probably wear a 24/7 rotation of leggings, oversize rainbow sweaters and thick socks (with Allbirds sneakers if I was going outside). Mmmm. So comfy. And that’s the crux of it: Without the context of other humans whose opinions you respect and whose appreciation you enjoy receiving, clothes are just clothes — purely utilitarian.

When I’m dressing for other women, it becomes a wholly creative exercise. My closet takes on brand-new potential, a cupboard of ingredients I can improvise into whatever delicacy I want without agonizing over rules or prescriptions like the idea that an outfit should be “flattering” — a quandary I personally associate with dressing for the male gaze (not to get all Laura Mulvey up in here).

But I’ll stop with the telling and get to the showing, because that’s what you’re here for — right? Behold a breakdown of three outfit recipes for scenarios in which I frequently dress with women top of mind.

1. My place of employment, where the cashew supply is growing and the X-chromosomes are flowing.

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Isabel Marant Etoile dress, Wanda Nylon coat, Tory Burch sweater vest, ASOS sunglasses, Roxanne Assoulin earrings, Charlotte Olympia shoes

Of the many pleasures derived from working for a company wherein a significant percentage of the staff is composed of women, one is the built-in cheering squad for my decision to wear a sequin sunset across my nipples whenever the fancy strikes. Plus a clashing floral dress, metallic purple shoes and, for good measure, mismatched earrings.

2. A G.N.O. — an acronym referring to the mysterious collusion of adult human women in the twilight hours, possibly for the purpose of tearing up a dance floor in a figurative but also literal sense if pointy heels are involved, which they often are.

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Saks Potts coat, Etro dress, Outdoor Voices leggings, Aurelie Bidermann earrings, Mercedes Salazar bag

We have Céline and Balenciaga to thank for the recent propagation of leggings worn under fancy dresses, but I’ve been doing it in secret ever since I realized I hated tights a.k.a. the moment of my conception. With the addition of a spectacular lavender coat that looks like something teens on Instagram would eat and a highly impractical wire-apple purse, I’m ready to drink Old Fashioneds and boogie to the beat of Ed Sheeran.

3. The artist formerly known as brunch and currently known as a contest with myself to taste test every variety of egg preparation the West Village has to offer.

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Sonia Rykiel pants, Sandro blazer, J.Crew shirt, Chanel tank, Chloé boots

If I had to assign this outfit a character, it would probably be “retired sailor who enjoys short power walks on the beach and long TED talks about the surprising science of happiness,” which is not entirely beside the point. Because one of my favorite outcomes of dressing for other women is learning my style doesn’t have to exist inside a box and is mine to mutate as I see fit. One day it’s a retired sailor and another day it’s Miranda Hobbes after Lasik. It can be messy at times and I definitely don’t always feel like I get it right, but I do have the certainty I’m delivering my creative output to a safety net of support and encouragement — the open minds of women who appreciate what it means for me to let my clothes say what I can’t, lips that might tease but never mock and eyes that won’t squint when the results of my experiments shine too brightly in the corner booth of a crowded restaurant.

Photos by Seher Sikandar; check out her website here and follow her on Instagram @rehes.

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  • Kirby

    Harling! These are the coolest photos of you! I wanna hang them all on my wall

    • Harling Ross

      awWWWwwww SHUCKS

  • Haley Nahman

    Slide #3 is getting blown up billboard-size for my wall

    • Kirby

      I may have just made that one the background on my computer

    • Harling Ross

      would make a nice mouse pad too

  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    True story: one time Harling wore a particularly “witch-like” dress with red boots to work (it looked great) because she was “going out to dinner that night with a friend who always made fun of what she wore.” Pretty sure that is defining dressing for other women.

    • Harling Ross

      yes confirmed that is a true story

  • Amelia Diamond

    “And that’s the crux of it: Without the context of other humans whose
    opinions you respect and whose appreciation you enjoy receiving, clothes
    are just clothes — purely utilitarian.” WAY TO PUT IT INTO WORDS HARLSBURG

  • Samantha Lee

    Love your declaration that your style doesn’t have to fit into a box. Sometimes I see people who have such a defined personal style, one they’ll commit to for years and years and years, and sometimes I feel a bit envious. But then, I realize that I don’t want to “define my style” and place that kind of restriction on myself. Sometimes I like wearing all black. Sometimes I like wearing colorful vintage dresses. Sometimes I just want to wear an oversize sweater and leggings. It’s too much fun.

    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  • Jackie Homan

    Harling omg these outfits are AMAZING and so is the writing as always and also the photos!!

    • Harling Ross

      jackie!!!!!

  • Julia

    Real question though: Where do you get all of your rainbow sweaters? Because the best I can come by is a Brandy Melville tee with one stripe of rainbows across the middle.

    With great thanks,
    An inquiring woman who wants to dress for other women

  • Selina Moses

    I never dress for men. It’s limiting because men tend to have a notion of what they think women ‘should’ dress like. I like dressing for myself but I do like dressing for other women. It’s just so much fun, especially as she’s more likely to appreciate it than he is

    https://retrocasual.wordpress.com/

    • zldn

      Yup, if we dressed for men we’d wear skinny jeans with a white t-shirt/shirt during the day and a LBD at night (notallmen).

  • mapillski

    My dad saying “…but those things don’t go together” regarding my outfit was the tell-tale sign that I had a successful “dressing for other women” look as a teen. Usually it was a graphic tee under a sundress with metallic ballet flats.

    • Hellbetty666

      I don’t like ballet flats, but I have read your comment about eight times and that outfit sounds adorable!!

    • Harling Ross

      I love that recipe

  • Hellbetty666

    a) every single one of these outfits is glorious
    b) my favourite dressing for other women outfit is my army surplus flying suit which I’ve customised. All my female friends love it. I wear it zipped open to the waist with a push up bra underneath and it’s hilarious to see blokes’ reactions (they’re like, “tits, big tits, but she looks like a militant feminist, BONER CONFUSION”).

    • Harling Ross

      a surplus flying suit sounds amazing

  • Brianna Rape

    Such amazing shots!!! How is each and every MR team member so photogenic???

  • Inaat

    Finally! I am so tired of girls in tight dresses and high heels insisting they are only dressing for themselves. It’s not necsesseraly a bad thing dressing for others, like you, if I wasn’t I too would only wear those worn-to-death leggings and giant sweater that never leaves my home and I change into the second I step inside my home. My workplace is almost only women with widely different styles, and that makes dressing and reinventing myself so much more interesting. Thanks Haley!

    • Inaat

      Not that tight dresses and heels are a bad thing, it just seems so uncomfortable to me I can’t fathom wearing it solely for my own pleasure.

  • calloway4545

    Such kind of dresses are also so comfortable for women. I think this is our option to choose the best and more nice one for ours. I like this dress and i know most of the women are also like these to wear.

  • Mary Steev

    Such sort of wearing apparel is also so easy to wear comfortable for adult females. I think we have our option to choose the best dressing style. I like these types of dressing style and I know most of the women are also like these to wear. But it’s not affordable for us because it’s very expensive. So why we don’t use any discounting sites like as Savings.com, Retailmenot.com, ClothingRIC.com, Coupons.com, Couponbend.com, Dealspotr.com. If you are going to shop via these sites you get clothes on wholesale rate.