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Work It: How Dovetail Is Challenging the Women’s Workwear Category

Women have put up with workwear’s “pink it and shrink it” approach to design for long enough.

Dovetail Workwear, the female-led workwear company founded by Kyle Begley, Sara DeLuca and Kate Day, has positioned itself to become a one-stop shop for functional, durable and figure-flattering workwear for women. Formerly called Moxie & Moss Workwear, the company relaunched this month with a new moniker, expanded collection and wider distribution plan.

The Portland, Ore.-based company is also facing a burst of momentum as more women—or “industrial athletes” as the brand describes its clientele—break traditional conventions and join male-dominated career paths. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, trade, transportation and utilities is now the second largest employer of women in the U.S.

There’s a growing interest in functional clothes for women in non-traditional occupations, Day said. “To look at workwear as a category just for construction workers is narrow minded,” she added.

More women are joining workforces focused on renewable resources, as well as the entertainment industry, where occupations like stage hand work requires comfort, durability and functional pockets, she explained. And there are the crafters—be it artists and ceramists, or glass blowers and furniture makers—that favor the convenience of a well-considered pant.

What began as a side hustle to better accommodate Begley’s and Day’s needs as landscape artists, has turned into a flourishing apparel business with DeLuca leading design and product development. As women working in physical environments, Day said they noticed that the traditional women’s workwear category consisted of big companies basing their women’s styles on men’s cut. “The fits were horrible; the fabrics were stiff and uncomfortable and they didn’t work on women’s shapes,” she said.

Dovetail Workwear has developed its products, brand and mission collaboratively with female field testers around the country, ranging from construction workers and auto mechanics, to artists and firefighters. More than two years of testing and research helped hone the company’s first women’s workwear item, the Maven Slim work jean, and inspired other new products and features.

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women in work wear jeans
Maven jeans by Dovetail Dovetail

“Our three tenants are fit, function and durability,” DeLuca said. With that in mind, Dovetail focuses on innovative fabric technologies, including durable and abrasion-tested stretch canvas and denim. Through Dovetail, DeLuca said she believes workwear has an opportunity to step outside of its duck canvas, heritage rut. Inspired by the outdoor and athletic worlds, she said the company is examining how it can enhance and modernize workwear with fabrics that are more performance-driven, lighter and stronger.

“Denim is the cornerstone of workwear, but our take is a modern take,” Day added. Fabrics provide the base, but the company “obsesses over every detail.” Pockets are strategically placed to accommodate where a woman might put her hammer or phone. Features like gussets, secured pocket components and reinforced areas don’t go unnoticed by customers, either. Nor do details like darting and contoured waistbands intended to flatter the female form.

When the company launched last September, it sold out of its 1,200-unit product run in two weeks. “We’ve scratched our heads and wondered, did we really tap into a gap?” Day said. “But what it really comes down to is that women have put up with what’s been available to them. They’ve gotten by because there’s nothing else out there.”

Collaborative work with groups like the Oregon Tradeswomen and SkillsUSA have helped Dovetail nurture a loyal following online. Day said the company will maintain its direct-to-consumer e-commerce business since it’s an ideal channel to test product and launch exclusive styles. However, with the support of a new sales team, the company has plans to make its foray into wholesale this year.

Given retail’s diverse options, Day said there’s ample potential with traditional farm and ranch stores, classic work wear retailers, home and garden stores, fashion boutiques and outdoor specialty stores. Dovetail will attend its first Outdoor Retailer in July, where it will show an expanded collection of tops, bottoms and accessories. “There’s a lot of crossover between work and outdoor pursuits,” she added.

There, Dovetail will introduce the straight leg Britt Utility pant, the relaxed fit Day Construct pant, the Freshley overall and the Givens work shirt. All pants and overalls are available in sizes 000-18 with four inseam options, and the brand is working on a plus size pattern that will bring its range up to size 24. There are also plans to add a knit collection of simple base layers and a few accessories like reversible beanies, belts and gloves.

Dovetail’s founders are fully commited to growing the brand. All three women have quit their jobs to take on—and challenge—the women’s work wear category full-time.

“This doesn’t feel like a job; it feels like a mission,” Day said. “Women are overjoyed to put on products that have been made for them.”