Workforce

This Women-Led Business Is Redefining Construction Workwear

Female landscapers in the Pacific Northwest have designed the perfect pair of work pants—plus, other clothing and gear for women in the trades.
By Grace Calengor
July 13, 2023
Topics
Workforce

It started in a garden on a warm spring day. When landscape designer Kate Day moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2009 after growing up in New England, she was “really excited about how everything grew here. It really brought out my green thumb.” She worked in the dirt and flowers with friend and fellow landscaper Kyle Marie Begley, and in 2013 the pair decided to open a landscaping business. Shortly after, while working in the yard of client Sara DeLuca, the friends ran into one major frustration: their workwear.

Many woman who use traditional workwear will most likely agree there are problems with sizing, style, durability, functionality and overall fit and feel of workwear for women—if a brand even sells workwear for women. Many women are forced to opt for a men’s label and make it work for their bodies.

THE PERFECT PANTS

With a professional background in the apparel industry, DeLuca heard their frustrations, and the trio set out to design a better pair of workpants for women “that we felt really great and really empowered to work in,” DeLuca says. The women spent a year developing the perfect pants for their own personal needs—gardening, landscaping, etc. “There was no business idea behind it,” Day says. They just needed a pair of workpants that fit and functioned. Thus, the Maven Slim Pant was born. It was a perfect mid-rise design with plenty of pockets and just enough structure while still allowing for comfortable movement.

“Women everywhere, strangers in the street or the nurseries or the store, would stop us and ask us what pant we were wearing and what brand they were," Day says. "The repetition of the same pain points and their problems finding workwear happened over and over” says Day. Since 2018, Dovetail Workwear has been designing and producing functional, fashionable, and durable gear that supports women in trade, outdoor, transportation and beyond.

Today, the brand is run by co-founders Day and DeLuca and boasts a range of pants, shirts, overalls and other gear, all available in a variety of fabrics—from flame retardant to thermal to moisture wicking to durable denim and classic canvas—and styles. Since the beginning, the women aimed to encourage women to enter and succeed in non-traditional occupations, fulfill their personal potential and thrive in their work by designing workwear that would support their success and compliment all body shapes and sizes. Dovetail’s sizes range from XS to XXXL, 00-24 and can go up to a 36-inch inseam for certain styles. There is even maternity wear in the works and jackets for your dog.

DeLuca says, “Size inclusivity is something that as a brand has been a huge focus for us from the beginning. We are constantly working to improve our patterns and features, so they work across a wide range of body shapes and sizes. We cannot overlook that if we truly want to service the women’s market—which is really hard and challenging as a small brand, but we embrace it—you cannot say you are a women’s brand unless [size inclusivity] is a core part of what you are trying to do. It doesn’t matter if you are size two or 20; women are working hard and they deserve good workwear.”

While the flagship product will always be the pant, the most popular product has proven to be the Freshley overalls. Functional, fashionable and comfortable, the overalls provide women with full body coverage; they're available in select colors with a drop-seat feature to make those long days on the jobsite simpler and more sanitary.

On the design and development process of such a diverse and pioneering clothing range, DeLuca says, “We design for the industrial athlete. She needs workwear that can perform to that level. We take the creative side and innovation really seriously. That harkens back to the fundamental premise of the brand, about not accepting any rules to what workwear has been and about trying to define what it should be for the future.”

SAFETY AND PRODUCTIVITY

Dovetail has brought DeLuca full circle, from a childhood on the farm to her professional career in apparel to her building her own empire on the nexus of the two. For Days, Dovetail has taken her from a backyard garden in Portland to the backyards, front yards, jobsites and beyond of women across the country (and in Canada, too).

The pair hope that Dovetail will continue to take other women places they never thought they’d go either, by simply showing them that they matter in the workforce. “So many factors go into making the trades more attractive to women,” Day says. “Child care, safety, fair pay, etc., but also apparel. If you say to women, ‘Come work for us,’ but hand them men’s pants, it doesn’t reinforce a place of belonging.

"Your clothing is just like any other tool—critical in safety and productivity," Day continues. "Apparel really makes a difference. Some older women have told us that they wish they had Dovetail Workwear, that it would have made a difference in their mental outlook and physical ability. It is such a beautiful thing that younger women today won’t know that exclusion. That they will always have great options and won’t feel overlooked and undervalued.”

Providing the largest women’s offering of any workwear brand, Day, DeLuca and Dovetail are “working on issues that are really underserved.” The company will celebrate its five-year anniversary this September, but it hopes to continue to empower women for the next 50…and beyond.

by Grace Calengor
Grace Calengor is senior editor of Construction Executive. Prior to joining ABC in April 2023, she was managing editor of The Zebra Press in Alexandria, Virginia. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, in 2020 with two bachelor’s degrees in English and classics, and a minor in comparative literature.

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