An Insightful Journey To Becoming Her Authentic Self
Rennie Quarles lives on Long Island with her wife, Marcie, and their 1½ year old daughter, Thea. Rennie is a highly dedicated and successful sales professional in the diagnostics industry. She currently works at a Fortune 500 diagnostics company as a Regional Manager of Business Development. She is also a big advocate for gender equality, and Rennie and Marcie are long-term members of the Human Rights Campaign.
Rennie is well known by her friends and co-workers for her stylish androgynous look. During the workweek, she is often seen rocking a tailored menswear-inspired suit, while on weekends she is comfortable kicking back in board shorts and a t-shirt. We talked to Rennie about her style and how that has evolved over time, and what that all means in the context of having kids. We even had her friends weigh in, unbeknownst to Rennie :)
How would you describe your style? What kinds of clothes do you gravitate towards?
I would say my style is preppy/dapper/surfer. I generally wear custom suits to work, as I am a sales professional, and I feel that looking good and feeling confident is really important for my work. On the weekend, I feel more comfortable in board shorts, t-shirts or button-up shirts and fun sneakers. I tend to gravitate towards men’s clothes in general. I am really drawn to patterns, color and texture and these are most often found in men’s clothes. I am always looking for things that are unique. There is nothing worse than going somewhere and seeing someone with the same outfit.
We asked some of Rennie's friends to describe her style:
"Rennie's style is unmatched by anyone else in our circle of friends. She has this comfortable edginess to her -- she is chic yet casual, defying the standard norms of what a woman should wear."
"Describing Rennie's style wouldn't conform to any bucket -- she simply wears what is true to her. From her sunglasses down to her socks, she smartly dresses in a way that allows her awesome personality to burst through. I wish I had half of her style sense. Simply, she always looks damn good."
"Rennie is able to subtly highlight a certain sexy feminine quality in traditionally masculine styles or looks. She is not trying to look like a dude - because she's not one. And I think her short, fun, sexy hair only reinforces the feminine sex appeal in a surprising way. She's creative and playful in her choices and I love it."
"One of the best dressers I know. Her style is totally authentic to Rennie -- a woman confident in her own skin, happy in her heart. I think her style makes a statement without trying to do so."
How would you say your style has evolved over time? How has that been influenced by your job as a sales professional?
When I was a child the number one thing my Mom did for me was let me choose whatever I wanted to wear (we can see that from the picture on the below!!!). I would say that was a gift that has not stopped giving. This gave me the self-confidence to wear more tomboyish style clothes. I was heavily involved in sports, so it was natural for me to always have a pair of sneakers on.
When I went into sales I was not out about being gay and I was very concerned, because I was living in North Carolina, a state considered to be more conservative than states like New York and California. I didn’t want to be disqualified from a sales opportunity because of the way I presented myself.
When I moved up to New York, it was an opportunity for me to be more free and to present my true self. It was less about what people were thinking and more about me being confident with my identity. I did away with wearing heels and weird awkward fitting suits. I remember sitting at a sales meeting where I asked one of my mentors what she thought about my suit and short hair. She looked at me and said, “You need to be you.” She was so right. Now I get many compliments about what I wear at work because I feel more confident about what I am wearing and I think people can tell. It is not that what I am wearing is necessarily that awesome, it is more the way I feel about it and the attitude I project. When I go to a big sales meeting, I wear a Bindle & Keep suit and it makes me feel on top of the world. I had to break the pattern of trying to fit into society's mold for what a woman is expected to wear and shift to being my authentic self. Marcie helped me do that. She would say, “You are two different people, you have work and home. Don’t get me wrong I love a woman in heels. But you look so much better when you are wearing Oxford's, because you radiate something different.” She challenged me to wear work clothes that I actually felt comfortable in versus what I thought other people would be comfortable seeing. Rennie's friend Lauren Verrusio said it best, "Her style works for her because she is confident and comfortable in who she is -- so when she gets dressed, it's a perfect fusion of her super sweet spirit and her stellar style."
What has been your overall experience finding clothes that fit your style?
The more I have been able to define my style over the last 2-3 years, it has become a more frustrating situation, because I can never bank on going into one store to pick out an outfit. I often spend time hunting around. I get ideas from the men’s section and I will piece together the outfit from multiple stores or catalogs. It is always a process. I was in Top Man a couple of weeks ago, and their women’s stuff isn’t my style because it is hippie, and flowy. So I went downstairs to the men’s section where I saw lots of things I would love to have, but of course I couldn’t fit into anything. It was annoying!
It is rare that I have a super satisfying experience. I always just accepted it as a reality, but recently I realized how much extra effort I have to go through compared to other women. It is totally frustrating. I am not the type of person who gets down about it, but now when I think about it, I do get bummed out. I deserve better, and that is why I try to support companies that understand that not all women want to wear feminine clothes in order to feel sexy and confident.
How has having a child and being a Mom impacted your personal style and identity?
An unintended positive consequence of having a child is that I feel more empowered than ever to be and dress my authentic self. I want to teach Thea that whoever she decides to date or whatever she decides to do, that she has the emotional tools to do all those things. She is not going to do that unless she has Moms who are living their lives authentically. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. With Thea, we give her the option to wear whatever she wants. She has both what are considered traditional boy and girl clothes, and she gets to choose. We don’t want to pigeon-hole her. When she puts on a dress, she is twirling around, skipping up and down and she is so happy. It makes her feel great and that is the goal at the end of the day.
How has your gender expression impacted your decision whether or not to get pregnant?
It has significantly impacted it. There was a clog in the dam, if you will. I went into the relationship with Marcie, knowing that I eventually wanted to have a baby myself. After Thea was born, I saw how much it physically transformed Marcie's body. I had this ‘oh shit’ moment where I was thinking, f**k what am I going to wear when I get pregnant….I am going to be wearing stretch pants and over-sized button-up shirts for nine months. The whole thought of me moving further along the scale from more masculine to a seven or an eight in terms of femininity was scary. The decision to have a child and transform my body felt like I was going against everything that I had worked so hard to change over the last few years; there is nothing more feminine than having a child and being pregnant!! So to be able to understand and realize that I am going through all the same things I went through as a teenager now all over again. I thought I’ve been here before and I know how to handle this. I listened to a podcast called, “The Longest Shortest Time” and read the book “Pregnant Butch.” Both those things really helped me get my arms around it and realize that other people had gone through the same thing. Now I feel comfortable with the idea of being pregnant and I am ready for whatever that entails.
If you could talk to yourself ten years ago, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
I would tell myself to take it easy and not be stressed about the metamorphosis that is occurring and everything will work out better than you envisioned. The way you dress has been a cornerstone of what you love to do, so don’t shy away from that.
Thank you Rennie. I think many people, including Kelly and myself, can relate to your struggle and path to finally feeling comfortable in your own skin. We are inspired by your journey and hope others can gain as much from your insights as we did.