How can I look more "tough"?
November 17, 2013 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to incorporate a bit more edginess into my work look (I work in a creative field, and as a lady, I want to project a bit less sweetness and a bit more edge). What are some ways I can do this? Open to any appearance-related suggestion-- clothing, hair, makeup, accessories, etc.-- with the exception of satanic face tattoos.

FWIW I'm a lady in my mid-30s, 5'4" and proportional, curvy build.
posted by enzymatic to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (36 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
....It's kind of hard to think up things you can do without some idea of what your current appearance is like. any way you can post a typical picture?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:35 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Without seeing what you look like: eyeliner, mascara, vertical lines to clothes and jewelry (not quite dagger or spike like, but that vein..) and leather instead of other materials for accessories.
posted by RainyJay at 6:44 PM on November 17, 2013

I cut my hair off and dyed it blonde (pop culture reference; I went from Zooey Dechanel to Tilda Swinton) and I read waaaaay tougher now. Edgy. Hip, even. It's both weird and exhilarating. In my creative work I have found a lot of success recently. I don't that it is wholly or even mostly related to the radical image change, but I don't think it has hurt, either.
posted by minervous at 6:46 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Without knowing how you dress already, some basic advice is to stay away from cotton sweaters, pastels, and fussy jewelry. I think a very nice black leather jacket worn instead of a suit jacket, metallic jewelry (hard geometric shapes, slightly larger in scale), and black tights all read as "tougher" and less cutesy.
posted by aspen1984 at 6:47 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Doc Martins? I just got some and instantly feel tougher/edgier.
posted by too bad you're not me at 6:47 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ideas that come to my mind are: wearing black, nice pair of black boots - along the combat style, silver jewelry - something like these earrings. Dark hair - tinted red or purple. Haircut with razor cut edges (choppy ends).

These items via pinterest are what I would consider stylish and edgy. You may want to browse more of those boards for inspiration.

I am a professional that doesn't really work in a creative field - but do dress edgier than almost all of my colleagues.
posted by KogeLiz at 6:47 PM on November 17, 2013

Asymmetrical haircuts and haircuts with shaved bits tend to read edgier, especially when paired with less than natural colors.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:50 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Speaking as a non-edgy dude:

- an asymmetrical haircut with slanty bangs or something
- guage earings
posted by domnit at 6:50 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Open and honest female aging is so rare as to be edgy. If you colour your hair to hide grey, stop that. Don't do anything at all to obfuscate your age.
posted by kmennie at 6:51 PM on November 17, 2013 [12 favorites]

Frye Engineer Boots.
posted by Sara C. at 6:52 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I cut my hair short and had it dyed purple this summer (I also turned 29 -- decided to do Ridiculous Hair before I'm 30 and am not sure I'll give up blue/purple/looking like a Troll), and feel more confident because of it. I think my confidence comes through as "toughness"/"edginess".

also boots or chucks over maryjanes, more structured clothing, and a confident attitude :)
posted by worstname at 6:53 PM on November 17, 2013

Boots like these, darker colors (blacks, deep navy and olive and maroon, charcoal gray), pointy heels instead of round toe, asymmetrical cuts, sharply cut blazers and jackets (no rounded shoulders or ruffles or pretty details). I feel like if you wear brighter colors they should be in a high contrast way not toned down. Definitely recommend a good pair of chic black booties worn with tights and a skirt or cropped trousers. I don't know about a really crazy haircut - do what feels comfortable to you - those can look dated or awkward pretty easily in my opinion..
posted by citron at 6:54 PM on November 17, 2013

Best answer: I have a colleague who definitely comes across as edgy (she's one of my dearest friends at work and I don't think she's actually all that edgy, but for a 50-something mom of two, she reads as incredibly edgy!). She has a short, asymmetrical haircut that's dyed a dark, dark black with some sort of red tint over the black. She always wears very trendy nail colors like gray or navy. Most of her clothes are dark and her jewelry is strong -- there's just nothing frilly or sheer going on in her wardrobe. She wears heels and/or wedges most days, too, and dark eyeliner with very little makeup otherwise --definitely no lip gloss or shimmery highlighter.
posted by katie at 6:59 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

A few things that I think look more tough and edgy on women:

- makeup with more contrast: darker red lipstick, mascara. More reds and purples than pinks and peaches.
- a really good short haircut with some angles
- funky boots and shoes with chunky heels.
- clothes in darker shades -- wear more black
- dramatic jewelry, especially rings and necklaces.
- edgy eyeglasses, if you wear them. Dark and architectural.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:01 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My style is "prison matron at a very expensive prison." I don't wear more than two pieces of jewelry at at I've, one being my wedding ring. I don't wear pastels, beige, off-white, nor ruffles, frils, embroidery, most prints, and a very few accessories. I usually wear 1 big accessory at a time. Edge also has to do with attitude, posture and expression.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:10 PM on November 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

Stand up straight.
posted by windykites at 7:11 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Dark nail polish.

I am the same size and shape as you so I assume that you feel a similar pressure to wear retro/fit and flare silhouettes because they're considered "most flattering" -- don't do it. If you must be nipped in at the waist to feel dressed (this is me 90% of the time), go with a high waisted pant or an unfussy leather belt (e.g. over a sweater or tunic).

Also, at 5'4: heels.
posted by telegraph at 7:13 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

My style is "librarian with a death ray" or, a bit like Ideefixe, "Georgia O'Keefe running a women's prison." I have short hair, big-framed glasses, and I wear a lot of gray and black tailored shirts and shirt dresses with clunky, serious shoes and boots.
posted by vickyverky at 7:25 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sharp haircut, with clearly defined edges, looking crisp and put together.
Well done nails (or blunt clear polish nails)
Heavy jewelry, men's jeweley, a man's watch with a band to fit you.
Darker colors generally and emphasis on contrasts.
Strong makeup if you wear makeup, or no makeup.

I think of Janelle Monae who looks tough but still feminine. Or Grace Jones, tough and not so female, or Tilda Swinton who looks feminine but also tough.
posted by jessamyn at 7:27 PM on November 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Clean and tailored clothing, especially military-inspired shirts and jackets. Lots of black, grey, navy and olive green. Motorcycle and combat boots. Geometric and sleek haircuts. Dark matte lipstick.
posted by deinemutti at 7:29 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also seconding stretching up to guaged earrings. Wont happen overnight, but you don't have to go HUGE to get some quite cool, natural material stuff.

And nothing says "edge" like actual physical strength. Because that's the kind of edge your project rather than wear. I suggest Convict Conditioning to everyone, especially those who don't wanna work out in a gym full of strangers.

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:47 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anything with a splash of tomboyness, like a "boyfriend cardigan" or a jacket/blazer.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:33 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The edgiest person I can think of right now was once described to me as, "trying way too hard to look like she's never curbstomped anyone."

Her blouses had high collars and long sleeves that buttoned closely at the wrist. Her pants were usually black jeans or work pants (like, Dickies, though I never saw a label), always with a high waistline and boot-cut or straight-leg. Everything was completely opaque, logo-free, dark, sharply pressed and cut close to her body, but using princess seams and darts and such, not skin-tight elasticised fabric.

But then she also had a very short haircut, almost a buzz cut, wore Doctor Marten shoes, and did something (probably weightlifting) that raised pronounced calluses on her hands. When she wore a jacket it was a real motorcycle jacket, with leather thick enough to stand up on its own and a piece of black felt glued onto the back. I don't think, in a year and a half, I ever saw her wrists or collarbones.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:46 PM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The best "biker style" leather jacket you can afford.
Short leather booties, like the timeless Acne Pistols.
A metal watch.
"Boyfriend" blazer.
These all look great paired with more feminine pieces.
posted by like_neon at 1:30 AM on November 18, 2013

Check out Nadia Bolz-Weber's style. Tattoos, piercings, toned arms frequently shown off in tank tops, strong glasses, black/dark wardrobe. Low slung jeans, wide leather belt, big belt buckle, boots.

I thought she had short hair, but on closer look her hair is actually long. But she keeps it pulled off her face in such a way that it gives the impression of short, edgy hair.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:47 AM on November 18, 2013

Speak in the lowest voice that feels natural.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:00 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Asymmetry in general - hair, jewellery, clothing. Solids over prints. Textures work if you don't want monotony. Boots. Metals (NOT metallics). Piercings (even things like tragus - small but with impact).

Unpolished works as well, actual roughness in skin, in hair, in clothes. Going grey is good. Rocking the scars, the pocked skin.

And yes to intonation, inflection modification. Pull back on the questioning tone, the aural equivalent of exclamation marks. Master the art of silence.

Don't wear anything you have to fuss with - skirts that ride up, need resettling, relacing, tightening, yanking up and pushing down.

Startling glasses, even if they make you look fat/manly/jowly. Coloured ones are actually good for this, given the prevalence of hipster frames.

(I am curvy as fuck, waist-length hair, but with a sidecut, no makeup/mascara + tinted lipgloss for swank, minimal jewellery I can swing a look that's a shit tonne more edgy than the reality of 'thirties, mother, on my way to grocery shopping or the library' - particularly with the boots I've fallen in love with) (I eschew pretty much all retro gear nowadays - it's expected for anyone with a rack and I'm over it).
posted by geek anachronism at 3:08 AM on November 18, 2013

Following on from Jessamyn's examples - Annie Lennox looked edgy and a little androgynous, but still feminine.
posted by mippy at 3:48 AM on November 18, 2013

Also consider body language. A female who uses more "masculine" body language is going to read more tough.

If you look at the pictures of Nadia Bolz-Weber, notice how she sits and stands. Standing, she leans casually with her arms crossed (signalling aloofness) or with her hands stuffed casually in her front pockets (a typically male posture.) She often sits with her knees spread wide apart, taking up space like a man rather than making herself smaller like a woman.

If you ever read a "how to flirt" or "how to be sexy" book aimed at women, you will find a lot of advice on how to stand, sit, move and gesture in a super-feminine way. If you want to look tough and edgy, do the opposite.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:54 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh and one more thing... you might want to stop referring to yourself as a "lady," unless you are so tough-looking that you can pull it off ironically.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:00 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

If your hair is curly or wavy, straighten it. And keep the ends trimmed.
posted by K.P. at 5:08 AM on November 18, 2013

Angie at talks often about adding edge to outfits with fantastic examples. Check out some of her blog posts:
Biker jackets
Doc Martens
On what makes an outfit "cool"
posted by yawper at 8:29 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a pretty edgy look. First of all, when I see people with blue hair/gauged out earrings/sidecuts/etc I don't think "edgy." I think "trying too hard" and "haven't grown up past high school." Maybe I was too edgy in high school (had a pink spiked mohawk, ripped fishnets, thigh high doc martens, etc) so I just see people doing shit like that as immature. To be truly edgy you don't need to try hard, you just need to own it.

I wear a lot of skinny jeans and knee high boots. I have a black, fitted leather biker jacket. When I wear dresses or skirts, I almost always continue to wear my knee high boots and pair them with black fishnets or other dramatic stockings. Jewelry with hard, dramatic, geometric lines. Black eyeliner and mascara, very little make up otherwise. My clothing shows off a hint of my tattoos but I'm never looking all tatted up.

Also, work out a lot. Get some hard, chiseled muscle in your upper body. Also get a sweet pair of sunglasses. I wear these.

Target has an amazing collection of wardrobe pieces and accessories. Go shop there, in the young women's section.

Finally, be a little bit of a bitch. Enjoy it!
posted by corn_bread at 9:38 AM on November 18, 2013

Best answer: Sharp haircut, with clearly defined edges, looking crisp and put together.
Well done nails (or blunt clear polish nails)
Heavy jewelry, men's jeweley, a man's watch with a band to fit you.
Darker colors generally and emphasis on contrasts.
Strong makeup if you wear makeup, or no makeup.

from jessamyn above - exactly what I had in mind! If you want to bring this "edginess" into your new image subtly - to avoid being asked every five minutes what's happened to you - start with a sharp-edged haircut, above the shoulders. I think the asymmetry is fine, but maybe for your second round of The New Me. All the rest of jessamyn's suggestions are spot on - they'll make you a commanding presence.

Pretty exciting.
posted by aryma at 2:15 PM on November 18, 2013

Until a few years ago, people always thought I was about 5 years younger than I am, and I had a very sweet, cute look. I cut off my hair two years ago - went from shoulder-length curls to a very messy pixie - and it's made a world of difference. I also tend to wear darker, less cutesy clothes now. Oh, and I want to get my nose pierced!
posted by anotheraccount at 2:45 PM on November 18, 2013

Best answer: I work in a very male dominated industry, and definitely don't believe in dressing masculine to look tough. I definitely dress in a way that says "don't mess with me", have been told so by many of the techs I work with, and manage to do it in a number of ways that scream "fierce", without giving up my femininity - unless of course, that's what you want.


- Dresses should be structured, show your body shape, tailored to fit well. No jersey/t-shirt type materials, I prefer dresses made from suiting fabric. Think sharp lines, you want your dresses to fit the way a good suit would fit on a man.

- Skirts should be pencil shaped, high waisted, blouse tucked in.

- I don't wear shirts as I find them too boxy on me, but use blouses in vibrant, bright colours. Make sure they fit perfectly and don't pucker.

- No itty bitty floral prints - if there's a print on my body, it's LOUD! If you're going for edge, make sure all the patterns you wear have "edge" to them. Think large vibrant florals, thick/bold pinstripes, herringbone and houndstooth.

- Pants are skinny, tailored, "cigarette" length OR touches the arch of my heel. If a pant has belt loops, pop a belt in them. No creasing in crotch area, and a little bit of elastic helps them to not ride.

- Hair & makeup - simple and sleek, OR over the top. So I'll go poker straight hair, a blunt fringe, minimal look makeup, or curly bouncy hair with a winged eyeliner and nude lips.

- Accessories go a long way. Google "corset belt", "peplum belt" and generally high waisted belts that will give you the look of feminine body shape whilst looking a little edgy. A string of pearls can look so ironic with the right outfit. Bold earrings, or tiny studs. I like the look of an oversized watch and some bracelets and bangles next to it (google "arm party").

- Shoes - I wear points or almond toe shoes whether in boots, heels, or flats. I think they look more polished and less sweet. A little hardware on shoes goes a long way (metal accents).

- Handbags - structure, structure, structure. You want a great handbag that does not slouch around your body, but looks like a piece of sculpture standalone.

- Thick rim glasses, if you get the right pair, can look amazing and lift your cheekbones. Especially good for when I don't feel like wearing makeup but want to up the look a little.
posted by shazzam! at 5:38 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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