If only Rosie had Dovetail Workwear Back Then
In honor of Women’s History Month and with International Women’s Day on March 8th, I bring you another women-owned business—Dovetail Workwear. This company is thriving by filling the gap with workwear designed by women, for women. When Dovetail Workwear’s PR firm contacted me about the new Hadley coverall touting it is perfect for the female bicycle mechanic, I couldn’t help but think of Rosie the Riveter.
In WWI and WWI, women stepped up and filled positions traditionally filled by men. These included working with heavy machinery in steel and lumber mills and ammunition plants, while others worked as repair and maintenance personnel for aircraft. Back then, women had no option but to wear overalls and coveralls designed for men. Not only didn’t they fit right, but ill-fitting clothing could be a workplace hazard and potentially get caught in machinery.
Dovetail Workwear’s Hadley coverall provides not only female bicycle mechanics the option to wear comfortable, high-quality, and durable coveralls but all female mechanics (e.g., motorcycles, planes, cars). Honestly, you don’t need to be a professional mechanic to wear these.
The company sent me a pair and I wore it all day. It never restricted my movement. The material wasn’t stiff; it was soft against my skin and had some stretch. The Hadley comes in short ($169) or long sleeves ($179), a full range of extended sizes from XXS to 2XL, and two inseams, 31″ and 33″. And don’t get me started on the pockets. So many pockets and they are nice a deep. Nothing will fall out.
The only thing I would change on the Hadley is a little longer zipper on the long-sleeve version. At 6 feet tall, it was a little hard to get out of the top half as it got a bit stuck when I pulled it off my shoulders. But other than that, it’s a great piece of workwear.
An Interview With the Co-founders
Dovetail Workwear started with three founding members, Kate Day, Sara DeLuca, and Kyle Marie Begley. Kyle returned to her work as a landscaper designer, so Kate and Sara are considered the company’s current co-founders.I sat down with Kate Day and Sara DeLuca, co-owners of Dovetail Workwear and asked them a few questions.
Sheri: How did you come up with “Dovetail” for your company name?
Kate/Sara: Dovetail Workwear was inspired by the highly crafted dovetail joint in woodworking. Typically used in high quality furniture, dovetail is the joint with a perfect fit, not even needing glue if done well. Our brand ethos is all about craft and attention to detail and, of course, great fitting product for women is our north star.
Sheri: As a women-owned company, tell me a little about each owner’s background and how all three of you came together.
Kate/Sara: Seven years ago, Kate and Kyle were running a residential landscape design business and working in Sara’s backyard. The three would commiserate regarding the lack of good workwear options for Kate and Kyle that looked professional in meeting with clients and contractors and peformed for the physical tasks of their work. What started as a conversation during a backyard water break soon turned into fabric swatches, patterns and prototypes. As soon as the three started wearing the prototypes, women constantly stopped them in the street and asked for something similar for their work as a carpenter, geologist, electrician, engineer, plumber… fill the blank.
It was clear what started as a side project to fill the individual workwear needs for Kate and Kyle was indicative of a glaring lack of adequate women’s workwear options in the market. The big century-old workwear brands had overlooked and underestimated their female customer for years. Traditional work brands had not kept up with the times nor the growing numbers of women working and thriving in traditionally male denominated fields. Who better to lead the charge for better gear than a women founded brand? A brand that doesn’t just see women’s workwear as a “market segment” but a brand born from the women themselves who couldn’t find adequate gear. A brand designed, field tested and focused solely on her.
Sara DeLuca has spent 25 years in the apparel industry, with a speciality in progressive, sustainable brands that work with premium fabrics and crafted details.
Sheri: Your demographic is women in occupations typically male-dominated—for example, female bike and car mechanics. The release of your new Hadley coveralls fills a void for quality, fit-appropriate apparel for this demographic. So how did this product come to be?
Kate/Sara: Since launching the brand, we have forged relationships with women who are groundbreaking in their fields and share our philosophy about bringing better products to market for women. Faye Hadley, a skilled automotive technician, educator, and co-host of MotorTrend’s All Girls Garage, was one of those women. Like many women, she had literally re-sewn men’s or boy’s products to suit her needs for years. She was a perfect partner to collaborate on the design of our coveralls and new mechanic’s workshirt and she graciously donated her time over the course of the development of the program from brainstorming through wear testing.
Sheri: I love that you even mirror the design of women’s cycling bibs by offering a drop seat for your overalls. Was that a game changer for your customers?
Kate/Sara: Absolutely. The Freshley Overall has been a cornerstone for our brand, bringing better fit and pocketing to women’s overalls. It only made sense to add the functionality of the drop seat so she can answer nature’s call without having to disrobe and get on with her work. If overalls had always been designed by and for women, this function would be commonplace, just as a zip fly is for men. Dovetail is all about a future where these types of details are a given, just as equity on the job site should be a given.
Sheri: Let’s talk about the Dovetail fit, function, and durability. How does the fit differ from workwear designed for men? Is there a need to change pocket placement when designing for women? And I assume extended sizes are essential, too.
Kate/Sara: Contrary to the age old belief that workwear must be made from stiff and heavy fabrics, Dovetail believes you shouldn’t have to compromise rugged work gear for comfort and performance. Fit for women is radically different than fit for men. We design for women from the ground up – just the right pocket placement, rise and hip to waistband ratio. It’s a never ending challenge to design silhouttes that will fit the beautiful diverse range of women’s bodies. But we love a challenge; we’ll never stop until we get it right.
To serve the women’s market, extended sizing and multiple inseams are a non-negotiable. If you cannot create work gear for the size 2 and size 20 woman, you aren’t really servicing the women’s market.
Sheri: Share your commitment to corporate sustainability.
Kate/Sara: We work with suppliers and factories that adhere to the company’s values as they relate to human rights, labor standards, the environment and anti-corruption. Sustainability means for us assessing the impacts of apparel manufacturing holistically. Whether it’s our low-water rinse finishes or increased use of recycled (and now prioritizing biodegradable) fibers, or reducing plastic packaging, we are committed to treading lightly and minimizing our resource usage and carbon footprint.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women’s cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri’s full bio or visit her web site sunflowersandpedals.com.
Mike Togo says
Love a working girl!