For many women in construction, finding workwear that fits and is appropriate, and maybe even stylish, can be difficult.

This is true for women in the field as well as the office. While men have similar challenges as far as finding clothes that are stylish and appropriate for their line of work, fit, especially for clothes for a jobsite, typically isn’t an issue for them.

The importance of fit for women in the construction trades
Whether they are on the jobsite daily or only occasionally, women in construction need functional clothing and personal protective equipment (such as safety shoes, gloves, and hi-vis vests) that fit well. For women in the construction trades, this includes durable pants that have plenty of pockets and perhaps hammer loops. It’s not as simple as buying a pair of men’s work pants. When women wear men’s work pants, they often find that the waist and hips don’t fit properly and the crotch is baggy.

Leaders in construction workwear, such as Carhartt and Dickies, are classic choices. However, other companies, including women-owned businesses, are making strides at bringing fit and style to functional workwear for women. Dawson Workwear, Xena Workwear, and Dovetail Workwear are leading brands.

Workwear that moves

Just like work pants, women in the construction trades often struggle with the fit of men’s safety shoes. Finding durable, versatile, and lightweight safety shoes made for a woman’s foot can often be difficult. One way that companies are meeting the challenge of outfitting their female construction workers with appropriately sized and designed personal protective equipment is by inviting workwear companies onsite for an ordering event.

For example, Saf-Gard Safety Shoe Company has a fleet of more than 65 Shoemobiles, each carrying more than 1,600 pairs of shoes. This allows customers time to try on a range of styles to find the fit that works best for their comfort and safety. Mobile store managers provide personalized expert assistance. The “women’s focus” shoemobile carries over 25 styles of women’s safety shoes. Other themed shoemobiles include, “Met-Guard” with MG rated safety shoes,” “composite toe,” “waterproof,” “slip resistant,” and “puncture resistant.”

Workwear companies have also teamed up with women’s construction organizations for fashion shows. In March, Cosawove Workwear collaborated with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Indianapolis Chapter for a fashion showcase in honor of Women in Construction Week. The event showcased the latest collections from brands, including Blaklader, Portwest, Thorogood, Xena Workwear for Women, Kodiak, and Timberland Pro, and featured Cosawove Workwear’s signature mobile boot trailer.

Dress for Success

Charitable organizations that provide young, new, or disadvantaged workers with suitable business attire have been around for decades. Typically, they provide professional attire, dress pants and shirts, a suit or skirt and jacket, and accessories such as ties and bags, that is best suited to office work. However, some organizations are helping women get started in nontraditional careers like construction, too.

Dress for Success has been around since 1997 and has expanded to 139 cities in 22 countries and has helped more than 1.3 million women work towards self-sufficiency. Many of their chapters accept work boots which can be expensive for women just beginning a career in construction or other industrial fields. For example, recently, the Women’s Energy Network Greater Pittsburgh and Cintas teamed up with the Pittsburgh chapter of Dress for Success to provide steel toe boots for women in construction, energy, and agriculture industries.

Advocating for all women in construction

Of course, not all women in construction work in the field. Many roles, such as bookkeeper, human resources, or marketing spend most of the day in the office. Others, such as project managers, architects, and general contractors may spend time in the office and on the jobsite.

NAWIC supports all women in construction with advocacy, networking, mentorship, education, and leadership training opportunities. Members benefit from the shared knowledge and experiences of more than 5,500 members at all levels of experience. Contact a chapter near you to learn more.