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Nicole Freshley, Artist

Nicole Freshley painting.

We are celebrating 5 years of Dovetail, highlighting the women who have helped build workwear by, for and with women. Meet our founders, employees, pant namesakes and wear testers. Learn about their work with Dovetail and see what they are doing now!

How did you originally get introduced to Dovetail?

In the summer of 2017 I was working at a back country wilderness lodge and, on a week that I happened to be gone, Sara (one of the Dovetail founders) came out to the lodge on vacation. When I returned, my boyfriend (at the time) told me all about Sara and how she was starting a company that was developing workwear for women. He had listened to me rant for years about the lack of professional, functional workwear for women and knew I’d be excited. I tracked down Sara’s contact info and reached out to her right away – I just wanted to be connected with the type of woman who had recognized a significant need in the market and was going to do something about it.

Nicole Freshley hiking in the backcountry.

What kind of work were you doing at that time? And now?

At that time I was growing organic veggies for the wilderness lodge. Growing produce was how I’d supported myself for several years. Now I work full time as an artist. I launched my art business in 2019. I’m a landscape painter and my work focuses on wilderness as well as the working rural landscapes that surround us here in the West. I try to paint outside regularly – I have a little paint kit that I take hiking, backpacking, and back country skiing with me – but most of my work takes place in my studio. To ensure I don’t spend too much of my work week indoors I tend to sprinkle some other things into the mix. This year I’m assisting a friend with noxious weed surveys on remote timber and ranch land and I still garden for myself and for some elder friends.

Nicole with one of her paintings.

As a namesake, what feedback or wear testing did you participate in?

I got to wear test the very first Dovetail product, before Dovetail was even the company name. It was an earlier version of the Maven Slim jeans. I still have that pair and have spent countless days in them gardening, hauling brush, hiking, painting or just two-stepping at the local watering hole. I’ve always loved them for how functional and useful they are while working, plus how easy they are to dress up and wear out to the bar.

I’ve also gotten to wear test every single Freshley Overall version! I still have the prototype I wear tested - the first iteration of the Freshley. The straps are backwards - the stretchy fabric is on the chest side so the buckles slipped and I had to sew them in place – but those overalls have held up beautifully over the years.

Nicole smoking salmon.

What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do?

Security. I don’t want to reinforce the stereotype that artists are bound to struggle and suffer, because I don’t believe that stereotype. But, launching my art business and running it in the early stages has required accepting a lot of risk and letting go of security.

What are the top five things that are always in your pockets?

Pocket knife, phone, chap stick, Hi-Chews, a bobby pin.

What are you doing when you’re not working hard?

Hopefully hiking or back country skiing with friends, digging clams with my dad back home, or baking/eating pie.

Nicole Freshley digs clams.

How do you encourage other women to start doing what you do?

If I can do it, you can do it. You just might have to take on a little risk, let go of the idea that you’re an imposter, accept that people want what you’re offering, and be brave.

Let’s get deep. Workwear specifically by and for women—what does it mean to you, how does it affect your life, and why is it important, philosophically?

For years I bought overalls and work pants that were made for bodies different than mine, because I couldn’t find any that were well made for someone my size. I’d have to hem pants and take in the legs, and I’m not a seamstress so they never fit well. Altering overalls is hard. It really, really bothered me if I noticed within a brand that boys’ clothing (or footwear) was made with sturdier material and more functional pockets than adult women’s “work” clothing. The indirect but powerful message sent, and received, when you can’t find a professional product that works for you is: “You don’t actually belong here”. Good workwear keeps you safe, is comfortable, helps you feel professional in your role, and gives you confidence. It is so important for women to have all those benefits, and especially when they are in a trade or job where they may already feel extra judgement or a need to prove themselves. Good workwear gives you the luxury of forgetting about it entirely and focusing on the job at hand.

Nicole gardening tomatoes.

Has anyone recognized you wearing your namesake clothing?

Yes, and it’s a fun experience. When it happens it’s inherently by women who are familiar with Dovetail clothing, and that means they’re likely cool women doing cool things. I am so inspired by women here in my community and beyond, and it makes me smile when I see that these hard working women have chosen Dovetail to help them do their jobs. I think of my friend Emily vaccinating her calves at all-day brandings (while also nursing a baby) wearing Freshley overalls, and I am truly humbled. Or Jess plowing the farm with her team of mules, or Annie setting up her jewelry business at the farmers market – there are so many amazing women out there wearing Dovetail clothing and I’m beyond honored to be connected to them in some small way.