For centuries, women have been contributors to agriculture and its associated blue-collar industries. They’ve overcome plenty of obstacles to establish equality in the workplace, showing society they can be every bit as hardworking and resilient as their male coworkers. In spite of the leaps and bounds made in the world of working women, there had long been one particular area still lacking — workwear that works as hard as them. And it was this inequality that two lady landscapers from the Pacific Northwest decided to address. Their company, Dovetail Workwear, has responded to the workwear plight that affects so many laboring women.
Kate Day and Kyle Begley founded the Moxie and Moss Landscaping Design. Working full-time in wet and muddy conditions made them realize that workwear for women wasn’t functional or tailored appropriately — it simply wasn’t up to par. As most farm women can attest to, the “workwear” offered specifically to ladies can have important differences compared with what male counterparts have available: Fabrics are thin and cheap, there’s an appalling lack of usable pockets, and, adding insult to injury, items are typically offed in useless, stereotypical colors and patterns. As many women had before them, Day and Begley often resorted to the men’s ill-fitting clothing to get by. Apparently, the apparel industry decided, for whatever odd reason, women didn’t need clothing that was industrial strength and professional. And if they weren’t happy, there were always offerings in the men’s section. It was this attitude the pair inevitably decided to change.
“We wanted something to be rugged, tough, heavy duty, and well-fitting,” Day reflects. “We were hauling 30-gallon buckets, working in the mud, and using tools, then within the next minute we’d need to meet with a client or contractor. You need to put your best professional foot forward and look like a business owner. With the apparel we had, it certainly didn’t check the box of feeling like it fit well and looked good.”
The duo often worked alongside their friend and client, Sara DeLuca, another woman who loved working in the outdoors. As fate would have it, DeLuca also happened to have a background in the design and the apparel industry. Day and Begley frequently discussed issues in the clothes they were wearing, and jokingly suggested developing a pair of their own pants. One day, DeLuca showed up with a set of sample fabrics and introduced her friends to a pattern maker. The threesome decided to traverse this entrepreneurial path, creating their own “perfect pant” — the Maven Slim.
Read our reviews of several amazing Dovetail Workwear items here.
While continuing their landscaping, Day and Begley found themselves bombarded by workwomen in all kinds of fields asking about the pants they were sporting. And from there, Dovetail Workwear was created.
“They would tell us the exact same story, all the same things that we’d always been frustrated by. And it happened so many times, it opened this kind of dialog,” said Day. “There were women in fishing, construction, carpentry, and welding doing all this great work but being frustrated by their workwear. That’s when we really saw we went from solving our own personal problem to noticing there was really a gap in the mark.”
The team at Dovetail views apparel as a vital tool in physically demanding jobs. And when that tool is ineffective, there are safety and performance issues. Day attributes societal stereotypes and workwear designers catering to the larger male-centric workforce as contributing to the lack of female-specific options on the market.
“I think women just kind of put their heads down and do their work. They don’t complain a lot are just often kind of satisfied, buying whatever was out there,” she said. “They have a million other things to do and are too busy to spend time scouring the market or complaining. Instead they’d just buy the men’s stuff and tailor it or make it work. I don’t think the market had heard them very well.”
And the feedback Dovetail has heard from its customers has reflected their appreciation. For many of them, it feels as though they are being seen and heard on a personal level, honored for their labor with clothing that is appropriately conforming to their bodies.
All of Dovetail’s products are born from both the tried-and-true experience of the founders and the stories many of the customers have shared over the years. The Dovetail team works closely with clothing testers in different industries. This helps keep them very focused. They ask questions on every new design , such as: Can you work in it? Does it have the function and performance it needs? Are they putting something out there as good as what’s in the men’s category?
With this work ethic in mind, Dovetail Workwear has expanded significantly. It offers a full wardrobe of outerwear, tops, and pants. The latter is the company’s specialty, being among the most technical and necessary categories in today’s market. Dovetails also hopes to expand its offerings, and to explore deeper into plus sizes.
Day says she has been spearheading the effort to expand their retailers across the country. Their goal is to one day be in retail in all 50 states. Dovetail can currently be found in many outdoor and farm-supply stores, including Farm-Way Inc. and, recently, Boot Barn. And of course, they also sell a lot of products directly off their site. By increasing the diversity and availability, they hope to produce high-quality workwear to be used in all kinds of working conditions, climates, and industries.
“We’ve given working women 300,000 deep, functional pockets, and we’ve only just begun,” the founders said. “It’s an honor to work hard to clothe women who are giving it all they’ve got. To help empower women in their jobs is incredibly motivating and inspiring for us. It’s a dream come true.”
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic agvocate, professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.