should you disclose that you’re fat when you’re job-searching?

A reader writes:

I realize this may sound weird as I’m not in the U.S., but here goes. I’m fat. It’s a fact, it’s obvious, not that I won’t lose any weight, but heh, for now, I’ll make do with what I am.

In the meantime, I am looking for a job. The problem is I realized (too late, as I had a job back then!) that I’m more suited to either “dull” office work (that is, no phone) OR direct customer service. And that’s the part that I think causes an issue. I already missed out on an opportunity this year because all the women in the shop are always made up and look “better” than I do. In the past, I also got told at a job fair that they don’t do their uniforms “over a size 12” (the sneer back then was quite remarkable).

Now, obviously I won’t put “fat” as a characteristic on my resume, as it would probably look quite stupid there. But I was wondering if you or your lovely readers would have ideas as to how I could bring it up at some point if, for example, I get into an email or phone discussion with a hiring manager? Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a few “luxury retail” positions open up, asking for fluent English… hence the fear of being inadequate despite having the required experience.

P.S. No worries about my self esteem. I usually laugh when I realize how big I am and the fact that I don’t “see” or “feel” it in my own body.

Don’t bring it up.

The people who are going to discriminate against you because of your weight will do so regardless — but they aren’t going to tell you that in response to an up-front disclosure, and you’ll likely just have an awkward conversation. The people who won’t discriminate against you because of your weight are going to be put off by your assumption that they would, and you’ll end up with another awkward conversation, plus probably  leave them feeling vaguely uncomfortable about you (not because of your weight, but because it’s such an odd thing to bring up in a hiring conversation). And you don’t want to make people who are considering hiring you feel uncomfortable.

I suppose there’s an argument to be made that you could do this in such a disarming, charming way that someone who would otherwise be biased against you would change their mind (particularly if their bias was of the softer, less conscious variety), but in general I think this is just something that you don’t raise in the hiring process — just like any other physical feature that shouldn’t affect your ability to do the job. I think your better bet is to demonstrate how awesome you’d be at the job, let anyone who won’t hire overweight people screen you out, and help the people without that bias to recognize that you’d be a good fit. Not everyone does have that bias, after all — and you don’t want to lose sight of that.

{ 234 comments… read them below }

  1. Bryce*

    It may sound like empty platitudes, but it’s often true: There will be employers who will not hire you because of your weight (or insert any other issue here). That is OK: those employers are the wrong ones for you. The RIGHT employers for you will hire you.

  2. Kelly O*

    Being heavier also doesn’t mean you automatically start schlumping around in sweats and messiness all the time. I see people who make the argument that a “fat person is undisciplined” and make assumptions about all sorts of things based on those beliefs.

    I worked with an attorney once who was heavier, and she told me that she always felt like she had to work harder to appear put-together because people DO make those assumptions. They had no idea she was taking medication that made her weight more difficult to control (she was not obese, just heavier – more like the 18/20 I am now.) That stuck with me, and even though I’m a bit OCD about the way I look when I leave the house, since I’ve gotten heavier I think about that more.

    The way I see it, anyone who would discount me because of size is probably someone I don’t want to work for anyway. Just like I wouldn’t want to work for anyone turned off by my wearing a cross necklace, or who doesn’t like people with glasses, or who thinks I should invest in some self-tanner. I’ll present my best self, that’s without question, and I recognize the importance of appearance, it’s just that I won’t compromise who I am.

    I also understand the assumption that healthcare would be more for a heavier person, which is also not always the case. Again, a case of making assumptions based on our own experiences. We all do it, it just doesn’t mean those assumptions are accurate.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, I think the health care is often just a hook to hang prejudice on and make it sound logical. I’d be curious about comparative employment prejudices in, say, Canada and the U.S., since obviously the health care issue isn’t the same in both. (And I’m guessing that the OP isn’t in a country where the employer provides health insurance anyway, since that’s pretty uncommon outside the U.S.)

      1. Sandrine - OP*

        Hi everyone :D

        To answer that particular bit, fposte, I’m actually in France where health insurance is twofold, social security and “private” insurance. You can get the “private” part even if you’re low income, in which case you’re in a special category.

        When you’re employed like I am now, your employer can provide medical insurance that may sometimes be mandatory because of some law I don’t understand, which means that you cancel anything you have but don’t pay penalties and just get your employer’s plan.

        I am actually on my own plan and on my employer’s plan at the moment because I plan on leaving soon :) .

        1. fposte*

          Hi, Sandrine! I’m sorry you’re having trouble in job-hunting–I think you’d be awesome at sales. I’m totally with Alison on not saying anything in advance. It’s not that people are surprised that you’re big and would be okay with it if they’d had time to adjust (which is a really icky thought in its own right). I would find it disconcerting in an candidate, in fact, unless it was put in a context where it was relevant, like you wrote a Plus Size in Paris blog or something.

          Come interview time, if the shop’s range includes clothing for women your size, you might actually be able to treat your size as an advantage–maybe you can be prepared with information about larger-size market share and annual euros spent in that area?

          I did wonder a little bit about “the women in the shop are always made up and look “better” than I do.” My impression is that a lot of luxury retail, especially in apparel and beauty, can really emphasize that high-gloss polish. If that’s something you’d find a chore (I personally would find it quite a nightmare) that might be more of a restriction than size.

          1. Sandrine - OP*

            The shop comment was actually in reference to my last internal application.

            The company I work for opened a “flagship” store at headquarters, and for a while I thought this was perfect, stay in the company but move in a different division, win win for everyone. Then I applied, got told I didn’t get the job for various reasons, which in the context were rather weird, and one day my boyfriend came to pick me up and told me “Yeah, given the way they look, you didn’t stand a chance” .

            Another coworker had been in the shop before and had commented on it to our boss, and he half-heartedly admitted that okay mayyyybe there was a liiiiiiittle bit of selection in the looks department, too.

            1. fposte*

              There are definitely places where there’s a premium on looks in the sales force, that’s for sure. I just would be realistic about how dominant that is at other places you might apply to and whether you’d be game to sign up for that kind of presentation not just for the interview but for your working days there. It’s easy to think of it just as a hurdle to leap for the interview, but you don’t want to leave just to end up in another job that’s causing you more grief than you find it worth.

              1. Jamie*

                I agree – the interview is one thing but it’s important to vet whether or not it’s an image you want to maintain.

                Some people love being done up all the time, and some people are more comfy in the neat and professional realm.

                This may surprise people, but IT isn’t as glamorous as people seem to think. If we have an extra couple of hundy to spend we tend to buy gadgets and our wardrobes are typically a bit on the bland side.

                With the exception of shoes – a huge perk to me for my field is the ability to get along beautifully in business casual and sweaters…but jazzy shoes because and IT has to be eccentric, dammit!

                I personally would be miserable if my job performance rode (even in small part) on regular facials, my nails, or never leaving the house without my lucky spanx – but some people absolutely love that kind of thing. Just make sure you’ll be happy.

                1. Sandrine - OP*

                  Thank you!

                  I don’t think I’d mind the makeup so much… but the clothing, aargh :P !

                  I love looking “professional” (aka “little black suit”) but I actually tend to want to look like a parrot most of the time. I don’t look *weird* (or at least I don’t think so :P ) but I tend to stick away from dark colors.

                  People have told me in the past that at least black can hide the weight a bit, but I’m mostly a happy person so color is the way to go.

                  As for shoes ? My brain says Louboutin heels. My heels say screw you, I want sneakers :P .

                2. Jamie*

                  Louboutin? I would fall immediately – I’m clumsy and those would be a recipe for a broken something for me.

                  Every so often I think about this pair of perfect white Chanel pumps I saw in a store in Honfleur when I was in France.

                  I was over there doing a summer abroad in high school and in the window of this little boutique was this perfect pair of snow white Chanel pumps. But the store was closed for lunch (which my American teenage brain found ludicrous) and we never did return when it was open.

                  It’s been well over 2 decades and I still think about those shoes every couple of months.

                  But I digress – more to the point Louis heels are professional and they feel like sneakers. They aren’t as sexy – but they work for business dress.

                3. Kelly O*

                  Sandrine, you can definitely wear color and have it look slimming. The aforementioned attorney had a beautiful, colorful wardrobe that suited her personality perfectly (even when wearing a dark suit, the somber suit was the last thing you’d notice.)

                  I have evolved into something of a girly girl. I kind of like dressing up, and am experimenting again with accessories a bit more. It’s kind of a joke among my Texas friends, but when I first moved to Dallas several years ago, I was looking at a piece of jewelry and asked “well, don’t you think it’s a bit much?” – the laughter finally died down and someone said “honey, you are in Texas now. There is no such thing as too much.”

                4. fposte*

                  Granted, I know different places have their own standards, but I totally think you can wear color. You just have to wear it smartly, in both senses of the word. It always seems to me that plus-size clothes overpopulate on the opposite ends of the spectrum–basic black or big tenty bright prints with a lot of motion, with not as much in between. And that in between is a great area! I think it helps to favor conservative stylings for brighter colors, and to spend the money on alterations to make sure it really fits right–build it into the jacket budget, especially. But you can do a lot of happy parroting in, say, a smartly cut pink jacket with an teal shell underneath over a pair of neutral trousers.

                5. khilde*

                  I’m just going to say this now before I even read through the comments: I got a book a while back called “Good Girls Don’t Have to Dress Bad.” by Shari Braendel. It has helped me SO MUCH with finding colors that suit my coloring. It told me that my coloring should stay away from black. Aack! But I ditched all my black, got camels, browns, grays (recommended) and I get compliments all the time. The book has tons of other great advice on real women dressing for their shape, style, etc.
                  The author is in Christian women’s ministry, but it’s not schmarmy or weird or shoving religion. It’s a really great book for women like me that have no clue or for women that enjoy fasion already and want to dress their body in the best way God made them to be. So if you are ok with that overall perspective of the book, I’d highly, highly recommend it.

              2. Laura L*

                “It’s easy to think of it just as a hurdle to leap for the interview.”

                This isn’t exactly related, but when I was looking for housing when I first moved to DC, I always made a point to dress the way I would dress on an average day/evening if I were going out to a bar.

                My aunt tried to get me to dress up, but I rarely dress up on weekends/evenings and I figured this was a good way to screen out people who wouldn’t like my style of clothing. My aunt disagreed, but oh well.

            2. Job seeker*

              I am sorry you have been treated this way. I don’t like it when others are judged on the way they look. I am slender and do fix up all the time not just for interviews. I am from the South and we do go in for makeup and stuff. I am kinda girlie and love makeup, clothes and am a health and exercise person. I eat healthy and do five miles everyday. I do this as a middle-age lady wanting to stay in shape and look good for my husband.

              I believe when I was younger, I was hired at a few places because I was considered pretty. I still think some people would say I look very nice for a middle-age lady.

              Just stay professional and try to present yourself as polished and neat as possible. Try to read some beauty magazines for clothing tips and don’t let these people hurt your feelings too much. Good luck honey, you sound like someone they would be lucky to get.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I wish you would come here and teach me all of that! My sister and I were very much on our own with that stuff (our mom was great at teaching us other stuff, but not this particular area), and I wish I’d had a mentor in this area!

                1. Job seeker*

                  You are so sweet to say this. Honestly, Alison I wish so much I knew just a tiny bit of everything you do. I bet you are really good in this area. I could not imagine anything you would not be good at. You are more than awesome to me.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Believe me, I am bad at many things — these being among them! You sound like you’re fantastic at this stuff, and other things too — I would love to have those talents!

        2. Anonymous*

          I guess it’s good to think of it in terms of ‘play to your strength’. While I’m fairly slim, I do have certain physical attributes that make me less attractive for sales-oriented positions, so (and ignoring whether this is ‘fair’), I seek out roles for which I might have an edge over other candidates for other reasons.

      2. jennie*

        Just to address a misconception… Employer-provided healthcare is very common in Canada. The government provides routine and emergency care but prescription drugs, psychologists, physio, dental and vision care and many other things generally aren’t covered (depending on the province) and employer plans pick up the slack. Many employers here are concerned with keeping health insurance costs down through wellness programs, smoking cessation, etc., same as in the US. And discrimination is illegal but it’s definitely a concern, especially with pregnancy since employers are reluctant to take on an employee and then lose her to a 12-month maternity leave.

        1. fposte*

          Thanks for the clarification–you’re right, I had no idea that insurance was so closely tied to employment in Canada too.

          1. Lynne*

            We-ell, it is and it isn’t. You *can* get private coverage through places like Blue Cross instead of through an employer, and because the province does cover a lot of expensive stuff, private coverage is cheaper than it otherwise would be. (And sometimes the province will subsidize prescription drug coverage too, at least under some circumstances.)

            Let’s put it this way: people here aren’t, in general, scared of losing or quitting their jobs because they’ll lose their medical benefits; employer plans fall more under the “nice to have but not utterly necessary” category.

            1. Anonymous*

              Agreed. I’ve read that even uninsured costs in Canada (say, for visiting Americans without travel insurance) can be *lower* than the co-pay on some high-deductible American plans.

            2. jennie*

              I agree that it’s not the same dire situation it is in the US to be without employer-provided insurance, but health insurance is still a big consideration when it comes to benefits packages both for both employees and employers. I was looking at it more from the perspective of fposte’s original question – Canadian employers do have concerns about their employees’ health & wellness just like in the US because it may end up costing them more money in premiums. So an employee without unhealthy habits is ostensibly easier to insure.

  3. Just a Reader*

    The comparison to other women sounds more about presentation and less about weight. LW, are you polished and put together? That goes a long, long way regardless of size.

    If you’re customer facing, looking polished is really important (especially in the luxury market)–so if you haven’t already, invest in some great wardrobe pieces, update your hair and makeup and put yourself together with confidence. Don’t give your weight another thought.

    1. Sandrine - OP*

      As of now, I need to do something mostly about my hair and nails : I want to get gel nails because I tend to eat mine and it doesn’t look good (in previous job searches, for some reason, I managed my nails just fine, but lately I haven’t been able to be calm enough) .

      As for my hair, well, it’s another issue in and of itself haha, I usually put it up in a ponytail when I go interviewing, or I try and comb them in a nice way but since it looks like a lion’s mane, sometimes I can look rather wild :P .

      And for the clothes, well, if I’m honest with myself I’ll say that the problematic part is the vest. I can find nice shoes and appropriate pants, but the vest ? Ugh. Nightmare. I have proper shirts in either pastel or white (including one that makes me look pregnant but it gives the whole outfit shape so I don’t care) , but I need to find a nice suit vest thing. I’m in Paris so I hope to find one reasonably soon.

      1. Jamie*

        Definitely gels over acrylics. Here you pay a little more, but it’s worth it since they hold up better. Since I switched to gels I haven’t had to go in for an emergency repair once.

        My naked nails are sadly looking at me right now, but they know they need a breather in between sets sometimes.

        Personally I find getting my nails done the best pick-me up and the quickest way to feel polished (ha – pardon the pun).

        Freshly waxed brows with the arch just right, nails done, and a pair of fabulous pumps will do wonders for making me feel like a professional grown-up.

        I also think a pedicure is like expensive silk underwear. Even though no one knows you have it, it just does something for the self-esteem.

        1. Sandrine - OP*

          My sisters have been telling me about waxing my eyebrows. This scares me XD .

          I also have some facial hair that I need to remove… ugh. That’s the most hurtful part, but it may be resolved during the year with medication after I get all the testing done to see if I’m having hormonal issues.

          *Gravatar isn’t cooperating. I wanted to show the best picture of me I could find on my computer and use it as an avatar. Ugh!

          1. Jamie*

            My sisters have been telling me about waxing my eyebrows. This scares me XD .

            Doesn’t hurt half as much as tweezing. Oh and I learned this the hard way, make sure the person doing it has her own arches done correctly. People who wear theirs too thin do the same thing to others. You want someone to just clean up the natural shape of your brow, which is the most flattering to your face, and not try to reinvent your entire contour.

            I made the mistake of letting the over waxed wax me once and I looked perpetually surprised until they grew back in.

            1. Kelly O*

              This. A million times.

              And when you find someone good, do not ever let them go. Because seriously I have been looking for someone good since we moved, and am SO nervous about letting strangers wax my brows. It’s like I have to develop a relationship with you, see that you’re not going to mess up my hair too much, and then maybe we’ll talk about my brows.

              Let’s just say I had a traumatic experience and wound up looking a bit like Morticia Addams for a bit there. Not a good look for me.

              1. Jamie*

                It’s like I have to develop a relationship with you

                Exactly, right?? Seriously, I need to have a more intimate level of trust with someone waxing my brows or cutting my hair than I needed to go home with someone back in the day.

                Sex is just sex – but I have to live with my eyebrows!

          2. Chinook*

            See if you can find a place that does threading instead. I have found that it doesn’t hurt near as much and there is no risk of burning. Also, because to is such a unique skill set, I find that most threaders are quite good at it. I don’t what it would be like to find one in France, but here in Canada you can usually find someone who does threading at salons that are in an area with East Indians (which is where the technique comes from).

            1. Jamie*

              They do that at the malls here – right out in the open.

              I never understood the brow threading and massage kiosks (the last place I want to get a massage is the middle of a shopping mall with gawkers) – but they must make money because they’re everywhere.

              1. Kelly O*

                I have a list of Things I Won’t Do in the Middle of the Mall. Massages and eyebrow jobs are fairly high on that list.

                1. Jamie*

                  I totally love that you have that list. That’s up there with my List of Least Favorite Ways to Die which my husband thought was a joke until I showed him the list.

                  That was a peek into my psyche for which he wasn’t prepared.

                2. twentymilehike*

                  I have a list of Things I Won’t Do in the Middle of the Mall.

                  OMG have you seen the places that have DENTAL CLEANINGS in the middle of the mall?!?! I think they were recently exposed for being unlicense and/or unsanitary. Ew.

                3. Jamie*

                  Dental cleanings? Ew. I don’t want to run into Zumies and see someone getting the plaque scraped off their molars!

            2. Julie*

              A friend at work threaded my eyebrows (first time I had done ANYTHING to them), and they looked great! I actually looked younger. She moved, though, and I don’t trust anyone else to do it, so I just tweeze the stragglers. I also noticed that I have to be really careful, or I get “bald spots” that take a really long time to fill in. Anyway, I didn’t realize that people who do threading are more likely than not to be skilled, so I’ll probably try again with a “stranger” and see how it goes.

              1. Jamie*

                If you over tweeze and get he patches here’s a tip. Use powdered liner in the shade of your brows with the thinnest brush you have (and if you don’t have one thin enough trim another until its a couple strands thick.) and fill in with little feathery strokes. Err on the side of a shade lighter if you can’t match exactly as too dark looks fake.

                Another way is to take an eyebrow pencil and sharpen to an impossibly sharp point and fill in with multiple feathery strokes – no harsh lines.

                This will give you a natural look while your brows grow back in.

                1. FreeThinkerTX*

                  Good tips! My eyebrows have a nice shape, but they’re a wee bit sparse; so I use both a super-thin/super-sharp pencil and a super-thin brush, then top off with clear brow gel to highlight/bring out the natural hairs. I get compliments from random strangers on my brows all the time.

          3. Ms Enthusiasm*

            Getting your eyebrows waxed really doesn’t hurt that much, I promise! And I also have problems with unruly hair. The best thing to do is invest in a really good haircut. The older I’ve gotten the harder it has been to pull off long hair so now I keep it above my shoulders. I think that looks the most polished anyway. Its short enough so it doesn’t take forever to dry and straighten (if I wake up on time haha). Once you get it cut it shouldn’t take too much to maintain – just get a trim every 6-8 weeks.

      2. Jamie*

        Stupid question, but what do you mean by vest?

        I know the British use the word to mean undershirt, but what we (in the US) call a vest they call a waistcoat.

        As a woman I don’t think I’ve worn what we call a vest – so I’m wondering if there is a translation thing happening? Do you mean blazer?

        Because if so, then I cannot recommend Liz Claiborne highly enough – her stuff is SO flattering. Seriously, I have a couple of her jackets which make me feel like I lost 25 lbs just putting them on – and don’t get me started on the cut of her dress slacks. Really super flattering and comfortable why still being professional and keeping their shape.

          1. Anonicorn*

            Also, check out stores like Lane Bryant that specialize in plus-size fits. (Paris likely has similar stores.) Even if you don’t know what is fashionable, or even what would fit and flatter you, just ask the staff. They will likely be able to handle everything.

      3. Ellie H.*

        If you have a hard time getting your hair to look neat I highly recommend using a hair straightener (flatiron). It is such a quick fix. It’s way easier than trying to blow-dry it in a neat way which I find beyond impossible despite having generally good hand-eye coordination. Even if you don’t want to totally straighten your hair, or if you have already pretty straight hair, it’s great (and will be even easier) just to use the flatiron to make all the ends go the same way and have it generally neat and smooth.

        I frankly confess that I am addicted to my straightener and use it way more than one is supposed to, to the detriment of the long-term health of my hair, but it makes me so happy to have smooth hair that it is totally worth it to me. (I look like Kitty from Arrested Development in the “Down/off” scene if I don’t straighten it.) You do have to get kind of a good one (which are $$$) for a good result but I find it to be more than worth it.

  4. Not So NewReader*

    I was born wearing a size 14. No, not really, but it seemed that way. I got up to a size 24 before I put the brakes on the situation. It took me years to get down to a 10. (Okay, decades.)
    Here’s a secret- once I lost the weight I still thought of reasons why employers would not hire me. That is when I realized I needed to put more effort into looking for reasons why employers WOULD hire me.

    Yes, there are employers out there that will not hire people with some extra weight. Now, I see there are employers that will not hire people with grey hair! It’s always something.

    OP, focus on your skills. If you are acting like your weight is a non-issue, then it becomes a non-issue to the right employer.

    Keep your look modern. I think I read we should change our hair cut style every five years? Find a place that sells make up at affordable prices- ask for a make over. Give yourself less reasons to compare yourself to other women. Yes, some jobs do require glamor but most jobs just want people to look professional.

    Get those things in place if they are not already- then start looking at the skills you have to offer. Show them how you bring value to their business.

    1. Jamie*

      I think I read we should change our hair cut style every five years?

      This is the first I’ve heard of that. Oh well, won’t be the first style violation I’ve made today.

      My hair only looks good one way – and I’m not going short because I would feel naked. It would be easier for me to change employers every five years and pretend the style is new.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I like my hair the way it is too. I keep it colored because I started going gray at 28 (due to thyroid disease) and I do NOT want to trigger the ageism thing. It’s a little darker now than it is in my avatar picture, and a little shorter. But just because I’m 47 doesn’t mean I have to stop wearing longer hair. I look good in it, d@mmit. ;)

        1. Julie*

          I agree! I started coloring my hair in my twenties (I preferred auburn to brown), but now it’s a necessity because of all of the gray (which, of course, is concentrated in the front). A friend of mine was once told by a career counselor that she should either wear makeup or color her hair (she had been coloring it, but she stopped a few months prior to her job search) for interviews, but I really think that kind of thing is more for the interviewee’s sake. If you feel comfortable and confident in the way you look, and you know you look presentable and professional, that’s what counts, in my opinion. I look at the professional women around me and sometimes think I should start wearing makeup, but with the exception of special occasions or big meetings with people I don’t see often, I just don’t, and it’s been OK so far. But again, if I do wear it, it’s for my sake – so I feel comfortable.

          1. Jamie*

            This talk of gray hair has made me wonder if this has changed.

            When I was a kid I remember people my moms age with gray hair, but I don’t know any woman between 40-65 with gray hair. Men still go natural, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a middle aged woman with gray hair.

            1. FreeThinkerTX*

              I have wanted grey hair since I was a kid. Strands here and there started turning grey in college, and I was so happy that I taped one to my refrigerator to show it off! For years, a grey hair would start growing in, then change it’s mind and go back to brunette. I’ve found tri-color strands (brown/grey/brown and grey/brown/grey) many, many times. (Still do).

              But now that I’m 46, I’m finally getting more grey in. It’s may be 85% brown to 15% grey — and there’s no way I’m coloring it!! (My hair is still really long; I can sit on it if I’m displaying good posture vs slumping in a chair. I hope some day it will still be this long and all silver!!)

          2. mh_76*

            If you feel comfortable and confident in the way you look, and you know you look presentable and professional, that’s what counts

            Yes! Especially the “comfortable…presentable and professional” – confidence can be faked as needed (but better if it’s real).

      2. mh_76*

        Me too. I’ve heard that we should “stay current” (whatever that means beyond avoiding mullets, “dog ears”, flip, beehive, pouf, or any other trendy hairstyle that looked bad even when they were “in style”) but I prefer the “classic” look instead of whatevre the current trend is. I agree with Mishsmom – “an employer who does not hire someone because of something cosmetic like weight or skin color, or whatever – not someone you want to work for”.

        My own hair is short (was long & pulled up or back until I had it cut a few years ago) and that it is how it will stay – short & easy…if my hairdresser becomes unable to cut hair, I’ll have my brother show me how to use a clipper and still make it look decent (no GI Jane hairdo for me…nothing wrong with it, just not my cuppa tea). Nails are short & undone – easier & cheaper than a manicure…and some types of nail polish are toxic. As for grays, when they come (I got the late-gray gene like my mom and her father) I’ll let them come (and some hair dye is also toxic…and my haircuts cost enough already). I don’t want to work for anyone who is concerned about things that are that superficial.

    2. Mishsmom*

      i just have to say i have the same history NSNR – you inspire me with your size 10!

      and for the OP, everyone here is right – look as good as YOU can – an employer who does not hire someone because of something cosmetic like weight or skin color, or whatever – not someone you want to work for. it would be one thing if you were applying to be a victoria’s secret model – i could see the point…but for customer service and that type of thing – your attitude will carry you far :)

  5. Rob Bird*

    I wouldn’t list it, just like I don’t list anything else that doesn’t relate to that job (age, race, religion, etc.). If an employer did see that listed on a resume, or brought up in a phone interview, it would raise a lot of red flags for them as to 1) why you brought it up and 2) how does it realte to the job.

  6. Nyxalinth*

    I’m pretty overweight (size 24) myself, and usually I don’t think about it. I used to wonder sometimes if the reason someone didn’t hire me was my weight, especially if the office was full of younger/thinner people. The only time where I think it might have actually happened was when a person at a temp agency told me over the phone that a job they had was immediate hire, and that I just needed to come down and do some tests.

    When I got there, I got a very disapproving look from the agent (I’d gone in neat, presentable, and professional, no issues there) and was told “Well, we need to pass your resume on to the client and they’ll get back to us if they want to interview you…” I reminded her of what was said on the phone, and all I got in response was a snotty look and some hemming and hawwing, so I dropped it. Needless to say, I never heard a thing.

    For a while I considered that they may have told her they wanted a very specific type (it was front desk reception for a construction outfit) or if she herself had very strong prejudices. Then I just shrugged it off and moved on. Now I always fret it’s my age even though I look a good ten years younger than I am lol.

  7. Joey*

    Don’t. It would be like advertising that you’re ugly or have an irritating voice. I think it also sends a message that on some level you agree it’s relevant.

  8. Aaron*

    I worked in Europe for a month last year and was blown away by the generally nasty comments about overweight people that were acceptable in casual discourse. (Not to wildly generalize or anything, though…)

    Combine that with the fact you’re looking for a luxury retail position, where looks matter a lot even here in the States, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s extremely difficult for you to get a job in the positions you’re looking for. Allison obviously has great advice, and I agree being extra put together doesn’t hurt, but if you don’t land any of the jobs you’re looking at now, you might try to seek out a mentor or two in France, ask them to coffee, and ask them about the issue.

    If the reality is that you almost surely won’t get these positions because of your weight, the sooner you can refocus your job search, the better. That said, I hope I’m wrong, and best of luck!

    1. Sandrine - OP*

      Thank you!

      The fact that the latest positions I saw were “luxury” retail is probably an odd coincidence, which is what prompted the question, but thankfully I’m not focusing on those, as “general” retail will be good.

      I did apply to work for Disney again, and it’s been 48 hours and no automatic rejection. Maybe I’m not blacklisted anymore, ha XD !

      1. fposte*

        Ah, I misunderstood–I thought luxury retail was your focus, not just what had come up at the moment, which is why I was focusing on the lacquering. So…never mind :-). And good luck!

  9. Skylark*

    No, don’t put it but having said that, I do believe fat women have a harder time landing jobs than fat men, as looks unfortunately play a role in the hiring of women than it does in the hiring of men. yet I do recall a Forbes or Fortune Magazine article a few years ago that found that executives in Fortune 500 companies were most likely male, at least 6′ tall, athletic and blond. Anyway, would I hire a fat person? Yes. Would I hire an obese person, i.e someone who is so overweight that he/she walks very slowly, stops after a short distance and breathes heavily? Perhaps not, though I do work with someone–a male–who fits that description and he was that size/condition when he arrived. I fear for him, that one day soon he would keel over in the office, on the street, in the subway, though this is true of anyone of any size. It’s just apparent to me everytime I see him. This must enter the minds of potential managers, and I’m sure it did our managers who were clearly able to overlook that.

  10. Elle*

    As someone about your size, I don’t think most jobs are going to discriminate against you except, unfortunately, the ones you are looking at. Luxury retail is VERY size conscious. And very style conscious. I wouldn’t worry about it in any other job except one consciously staffed by slim, very put together women. Pharmaceutical sales, luxury retail, air stewardesses etc.

  11. Anonymous*

    An admission: At a gut level I’m biased against very fat people, with a feeling that large size represents a lack of self control. But I’m aware of my bias and try to get beyond it so it doesn’t affect my reasoning and fairness. I think I succeed. And it’s easier to succeed when the large person is very well put together in terms of clothing and manner. If they’re sloppy dressers, it reinforces my biases.

    I don’t do hiring but if I did I’d have to work to overcome this bias.

    1. Jamie*

      At a gut level I’m biased against very fat people, with a feeling that large size represents a lack of self control.

      I have three kids (young adults) who are
      Male – 6’2.5″ and 142 lbs
      Male – 6’3″ and 148 lbs
      Female – 5′ 5.5″ and 117 lbs

      Not a one of them has ever counted a calorie, worked out for to change their body, or denied themselves of anything they wanted to eat at any time in their lives.

      They are physically perfect – and that’s what the world sees. And they got that way due to genetics and the luck of crazy fast metabolisms – no effort on their part.

      I know other people (myself included) far less physically perfect to the world who have to practice self control.

      You can be as biased as you like against anything you choose, but when it’s coupled with the excuse that it’s a lack of control I think that’s an easy out. I’d have more respect if someone said they don’t like overweight people because they don’t like looking at anyone who doesn’t fit their ideal, than to attribute it to some moral or personal failing which may or may not be the case.

      Eating disorders can leave you with a life long battle against a messed up metabolism. That’s one example. Some overweight people lack self control, some don’t. Some thin people drink too much and lack self control…some don’t. Some clean people obsessively wash their hands 1000x a day, some don’t.

      I’m not trying to dissuade you from your biases – because people will be biased…it’s part of the human condition. But it’s important to put out there that some people walking around with what society considers the ideal look are just freaking lucky and won the genetic lottery.

      Not only does my daughter have a perfect figure that she feeds almost exclusively with cookies and chocolate milk, but she’s naturally blonde and has never had a zit. She looks better waking up with the flu than I did on my wedding day…so while I am thrilled for her that life is easier for her in some respects due to this lucky break – I also know that not everyone who walks around glowing with beauty has to work at it. :)

      1. Anonymous*

        My biases are wrong and I logically know that. I’m just putting it out there that I have them.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          I am glad that you are self-aware and try to compensate for it. Better than those who lie to themselves and claim they have no bias when they do.

          There are plenty if studies showing that people who have prejudice and compensate for it ate actually more “fair” than those who claim to have no such biases. Ironic.

          1. Sasha*

            I like to peruse Wikipedia’s list of cognitive biases every now and then just to remind myself of all the sinister ways my brain plays tricks on me, and to increase my self -awareness. Awareness is so important!!!

          2. Lore*

            I think this link has been mentioned here before, but just in case: anyone, even or perhaps especially anyone who thinks herself completely bias-free, should check out the IAT (Implicit Association Test):

            You may be amazed at what you discover about your own unconscious or semi-conscious associations. I, for example–raised by a mother who’s worked since I was a small child, with a social circle in which I would say 90 percent of my friends who are parents are in two-career couples–was most surprised by my results on the gender-career test.

              1. Sandrine - OP*

                I tried the one for fat vs thin, and I’m “happy” to report I don’t have a particular bias, I’m right in the middle according to the test. It was quite interesting!

      2. twentymilehike*

        so while I am thrilled for her that life is easier for her in some respects due to this lucky break – I also know that not everyone who walks around glowing with beauty has to work at it

        … but at the same time, unnaturally thin people (not saying that your daughter is unnaturally thin–just that your comment spurred this thought!) still experience these same feelings. I’m on the under-weight side, and having “how thin you are” constantly being focused on can create a lot of mental anguish also. I can’t honestly compare it, since I’ve never been anything other than underweight, but I know that I didn’t wear shorts or skirts for years because I was embarassed by my “twiggy” legs and it became the wrong thing to focus on, distracting me from the right things to focus on. For most of my life I dreamed of being bigger much like my bigger friends dreamed of being smaller. As a teenager, it feels like the end of the world to be different in any way!

        I think someone upthread mentioned focusing on anything superficial or negative has more or less the same result. We each have our stumbling blocks.

        1. Jamie*

          My mom was like this. She was always about 10 lbs underweight and she ate constantly…she used to complain that after each pregnancy the weight just fell off right away and she always wanted to keep some since she thought she looked better a little fuller.

          Definitely not a problem a lot of women could relate to.

          You’re right, everyone has something.

        2. Laura L*

          I’m going to preface this by saying the crap fat women deal with is much worse than the crap thin women deal with.

          That said: there’s really no reason to comment on anyone’s weight, even if they are thin!

          1. fposte*

            This isn’t the sort of thing that makes a good contest, though; crap’s crap and it’s crappy enough for all of us.

            1. Laura L*

              Hmmm… I’m honestly not trying to make this into a contest. But, based on some research about weight-based stereotypes as well as on my own personal experience*, I would argue that overweight people definitely get the short end of the stick.

              *I was very thin as a teenager and a few of my friends were overweight and I noticed a lot of differences in how we were treated.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t think anyone is arguing that thin women have it worse than overweight women — just that it’s crappy for everyone, even if it’s crappier for some than others.

                1. Laura L*

                  In retrospect, I think it sounded like I was criticizing twentymilehike and I really wasn’t trying to.

                  Also, I agree that it’s crappy for everyone. I guess I was pre-empting comments like “you’re thin, you don’t know how lucky you have it.” But instead I did exactly what I was trying not to do.

                  Which is to say, I agree, and apologies for not being clearer!

  12. AG*

    Certainly don’t put it on a resume or mention it before they meet you! But I do think that it’s important to look polished at work, whether you work at a luxury boutique or a Silicon Valley startup. You don’t have to have on heavy makeup or designer clothes, but how you present yourself does make a difference. Doubly so at an interview – you’re expected to be at your absolute best! If your hair is difficult, maybe spring for a blowout or other type of professional style before interviews? Definitely make sure your nails are nice looking (if gels are the way to go, then do it). Don’t let your size get in the way of your looking your best.

    1. Just a Reader*

      Yes–and polished can be SIMPLE. I am on the chubby side and lean toward tailored clothes because they flatter my figure–but I get a weekly manicure, get my hair cut and highlighted every 4 weeks and wear nice, neutral, professional makeup (minimal shimmer at work). I invest in good shoes and bags (hint: Bluefly carries Jimmy Choo) and tend to get the rest of my wardrobe on sale at Ann Taylor or Banana Republic.

      I think this really helped when I was job hunting and it’s certainly been noticed at work. Basically if you can and do take care with your appearance, you come across as capable and appear more confident, IMO.

      1. Jamie*

        You mention bags – that’s a really important point.

        I am not one of those people who will spend obscene amounts of money on a purse (and I hate knockoffs on principal) but a nice back with clean professional lines really pulls everything together.

        It’s the first thing I notice about other women – bag, hair, then shoes. With men it’s tie, shoes, then watch.

        1. Jamie*

          That would be nice “bag” not nice back…although I guess a nice back doesn’t hurt it wasn’t the point I was trying to make and not something I tend to notice!

        2. Just a Reader*

          I love Cole Haan for modern, simple bags. They’re high quality and last forever. I have this one in black and it’s indestructible.


          1. Jamie*

            I love those!

            I am currently using a Jamie B laptop bag, which is nice enough to look like a purse


            My boss saw it and thought of me because the brand was Jamie B and guess what my last name starts with – ha. But I love it.

            Granted, I’m not interviewing – but it’s professional enough for daily use for me and I love not having to carry a separate laptop bag and I can tote my laptop and iPad in what looks like my purse.

              1. Jamie*

                Starting a trend!

                I can vouch for the quality as I’m pretty hard on bags (always overstuffing) but this one keeps it’s shape amazingly well.

                The one downside is it’s large enough to hide one medium sized cat and if you don’t know he’s there and go to hang up the bag said cat does NOT appreciate being roused from a nap in mid-air.

        3. Sasha*

          I have an “interview” purse – a black leather bag that’s large enough to hold folders and a standard-paper sized portfolio. I don’t use it anywhere except interviews (most of the time I carry a beloved grunge-era messenger bag). I got it from Target, so I didn’t spend a lot but since I hardly use it and store it properly, it stays in great shape.

          Yes, the bag makes a difference. One interview candidate came in and was wearing a one-shoulder backpack, in which she carried her laptop. No biggie, it was for a tech support position and we’re used to having people bring in laptops. But she never took the backpack off and wore it throughout the entire interview…it was just kinda weird. It didn’t make me think less of her – she was actually one of our top 3 candidates – but it was odd.

          1. Liz T*

            I was thinking about that yesterday! For some reason a post from way back popped into my head–the one where the interviewer demanded to see inside a woman’s purse to see how organized she was. I suddenly remembered all the times I’d brought out an “interview purse;” that interviewer would’ve found my purse uncharacteristically neat.

            1. Jamie*

              I remember that post – that was crazy.

              My interview purse would be very neat as well – but there’s no way I’d open it up for inspection.

              My lip gloss and feminine protection choices are between me and the cashiers at Walgreens – that’s a sacred trust. :)

              1. Sasha*

                That is so weird!!! I would probably politely excuse myself at that point. It’s kind of like asking them to log into Facebook during the interview – in the Realm of Totally Not Cool.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I have heard of people (not employers) using the condition of the car to gauge the owner of a vehicle.

                I could see myself getting snookered into handing over my purse in an interview when I was younger. What a nightmare. The OP did not miss out on anything when she did not get hired.

            2. Esra*

              Oh good god. I’m weird about being prepared for anything, so the inside zipper of every purse I own has: hygiene products, hand sanitizer, band-aids, dog poop bags, condoms, allergy meds, gravol, stomach medication etc etc. Because if anything ever happens and I get LOST, I’m not getting stuck on an island without gravol and bandaids.

              That would be the worst interview ever whether I let them in my purse or not.

          1. Laura L*

            That sounds demanding. I’m a very casual person, so I tend to default to casual bags, so I need all the help I can get.

        4. fposte*

          Oh, that’s funny, since that’s probably the item I’m least invested in and thus tend not to notice it on anyone else. We’re such a car-commute community that you only see anybody’s bag for a split second, and I carry probably 5-10 books most days, so it all gets buried behind the canvas tote (where the weight rather than the look is the deciding factor) anyway. I do love them as objects–hey, it’s leather and storage, what’s not to like–but as items of apparel, they just don’t ping my radar, either self or external.

      2. Sandrine - OP*

        Well, I thought I had chosen a proper interview bag well… turns out, I didn’t.

        I will have to look into something with a long strap thingie though. I can’t carry the stuff on one shoulder, I need to carry it like those “messenger bags” or something that go from one shoulder to the hip on the other side.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, wearing it like that probably isn’t going to look as polished …. what about a bag that isn’t designed for the shoulder at all and just has a short strap to carry in your hand? Those are more of a pain in the ass to carry, but they might be worth it for interviews.

          1. Sasha*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t go for a messenger bag style for interviews. I would just carry a bag in hand or in my elbow crook. I have chronic shoulder pain so I avoid large, heavy bags on one shoulder – and sometimes it is a pain to carry the bag in your hand, but for an interview you aren’t holding onto it for too long so it’s not so bad.

            One of the best pieces of advice I received about interview bags is to make sure it has structure. If the bag is slouchy or folds over when you set it down, it looks too casual. Pick something that is stiff and can stand up on its own.

          2. Sandrine - OP*

            Aaah, I see where you’re coming from.

            I know I want one “folder” sized to be able to have my resume-and-other-important-papers folder in it (and maybe, just maybe, enough space to cram flat shoes in there to cheat after an interview if I only had heels to wear that day) .

          3. K*

            There are also nice leather totes that have both handles and a shoulder strap (I’ve seen them at Coach – I’m talking about the ones without the logos; the plain leather – and Tory Burch). Something like that would allow it to be carried like a messenger bag usually, but for that strap to be tucked inside for the interview.

        2. Just a Reader*

          Just be careful with those–they can look really casual and can also wrinkle your clothing or catch on the hem of a skirt or jacket.

          Your interview bag shouldn’t be super heavy/crammed with stuff, and you can always carry it in your hand or in the crook of your elbow instead of over your shoulder.

          1. Liz T*

            They also look weird on us busty ladies.

            I don’t care about that normally–they’re what I carry 99% of the time–but I wouldn’t bring one to an interview or someplace formal.

            1. Kelly O*

              Definitely this. It’s way more comfortable, but for interviews and more formal work things, I don’t use a shoulder or cross-body strap. My favorite bag (which is sadly starting to look a little worn) has a wide strap I can use as a cross-body style, and can be removed when I need to take it on an interview.

              I just can’t wear it across on interview day, because it does tend to cause wrinkles in unfortunate places. But one day I can definitely deal with. (And when I get home, it doesn’t matter as much if I have a few extra wrinkles, but it’s nice to have free hands to deal with the toddler getting upstairs.)

        3. Jen in RO*

          My vote is to get an “interview bag”. I also hate wearing bags on my shoulder (all they do is slip and I have no idea how people can dig the keys out of there while holding on to the bag!), but I do have a couple of more “elegant” bags I can use if needed.

        4. Julie*

          I can’t wear anything on my shoulder (neck issues), so I carry bags with shorter handles that I carry on my arm (which also keeps my hands free). For work and for interviews, I usually carry a purse (for my stuff) and a small professional looking tote (for the resume, notepad, folders, etc.). I just feel that my purse is personal, and I wouldn’t want to be getting things out of it during a meeting, even if they were business-related items, like a notepad. I never thought about this before, but I guess this is a quirk I have and not necessarily how everyone else operates. I wouldn’t be judgmental of anyone who did carry business materials in her purse. I just can’t bring myself to do it. :P

  13. Sandrine - OP*

    Just reading the comments are making me feel better already.

    I wouldn’t have put it on a resume or asked point blank, by the way, in my head I was more thinking of (initially) framing it as a culture question or something to that extent.

    Now to budget for the whole thing and ajust everything else accordingly and I might be set :D . Any additional comments are much, much welcome though, as I have a weird relationship with my appearance where I love myself just as I am, but keep thinking others might not, fluctuating between “Screw them” and “OMGWHYDONTTHEYLIKEME *whine*” .

    Well, thanks all the same hehe. And I *might* have figured out the Gravatar thing, so my face may appear in the comments soon. Yay me!

    1. moss*

      Sandrine, I love your comments and wish you all the best. Anyone who would overlook you due to their own personal biases is missing out.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I have no way of knowing for sure, but given the Fiona comparison, I wonder if the issue you’re encountering is less about weight and more about overall polish? That might be the thing to focus on, if you might be coming across as less polished at interviews. (And I’m basing this only on your comments here and NOT on your photos, which don’t seem unpolished. I mean, obviously the one in the link above wouldn’t be professional/polished enough for an interview, but I’m assuming it wasn’t taken pre-interview!)

          1. Sandrine - OP*

            I’ve asked myself the question at times. I use the Fiona comparison as a joke because I’m goofy and, well, more of an extrovert than anything else, yet when I make an effort, even I feel different.

            For the internal interviews at work the coworkers even helped me with the makeup before the interview started and I felt like another person… maybe like a grown up version of myself, so to speak.

            Maybe you’re on to something here though. Got pretty neat pointers as to what I can do here. I like that!

            The sales are starting next week. What a convenient time for me to get an excuse to shop!

            1. Jen in RO*

              Ah, sales in Paris… My boyfriend keeps telling me how his female coworkers (they worked in Romania but for a French company) would all magically have “important meetings” in the Paris office every January :D

        2. Laura L*

          Ha! You’d need straight bangs to really pull off the look though!

          Also, your hair doesn’t seem wild at all! I think it looks fine. I should post a pic I recently took of my hair after waking up one morning. That’s wild. Or maybe I shouldn’t. :-)

    2. Katie in Ed*

      If it’s any consolation, I don’t think you’re alone in having a “weird relationship with [your] appearance.” We don’t live in a world that’s terribly affirming or body positive, so it’s easy to on one hand love yourself the way you are, while still sensing the crush of forces that scream otherwise. A competitive job market only exacerbates this, as it demands that we conform to someone else’s desires/standards.

      We can’t be everything to everyone, whether that involves our appearance, personality, or skills. All we can do is work on the things we can control and let go of the one’s we can’t.

    3. Peaches*

      Hi Sandrine.

      I’m butting in here. I swear I almost wrote this EXACT same question to Allison a few months ago. I was having lots of trouble finding a job in Canada and I think my weight was definitely an issue. I’m originally from Michigan, where it’s illegal to discriminate based on weight, an d I never went more than two weeks without a job offer once I started looking. After moving to Canada, in an area where the economy is actually booming and employers complain of staff shortages, it took me over six months.

      It is cultural…and cultures change as you move around the globe. What finally helped me land an awesome job (TODAY WAS MY FIRST DAY!) was using an employment agency. I used Adecco. They played up my strong suits, gave great references, and got me in the door, coasting on positive feelings that I got a chance to prove how awesome I am without the initial prejudice. Suddenly, I started getting offers.

      I had tried all of the advice on this blog and it did help. I did get some phone interviews and even a few in person ones, but the second they saw me in person, the interview was a polite formality.

      Just…hang in there. Consider using an employment agency or some networking. Also, I don’t want to pry too much because I know this is very personal, but there are some medical conditions which can cause weight gain and other issues. You also mentioned facial hair being a bit of an issue, as well as frizzy hair. If you also carry lots of your weight around your middle, you might want to get checked for Poly-cycstic Ovary Syndrome. If you haven’t tried to have children yet, it might not have been undiagnosed, but it doesn’t mean it’s not affecting you.

      Stay strong. We ARE beautiful and worthy. And we have lots to contribute.

      1. Sandrine - OP*

        Ah! It’s funny you mention Adecco, I updated my profile on their website yesterday and sent an e-mail with my updated resume to my contact at the agency I first went into!

        As for the syndrome, this is actually what I’m going to be tested for :) . Heh, I’ve had weird hair all my life (seriously, from afar, I’d better have my hair dirty as it curls properly and looks neat, but when clean ? BAM, lion mane once dry) but I know there are things that can be done no matter the diagnostic.

        The good news is that I’ll be able to work on hair and nails today after lunch, as my boss approved my two “no strings attached” days off (one for yesterday, one for today as when I feel like cr*p it’s nooooooot good at work) .

        Funny thing is, my boss said, in his email reply to me, that I shouldn’t let myself go into this “spiral” .

        I told him that given what’s happen over the last few months, let’s not kid ourselves, a transfer to another division seems highly unlikely at this point so my resume is updated and I hope to find something new as soon as possible… it felt empowering to say it so plainly without more emotion or anything!

  14. Lana*

    I am not overweight but self-conscious about my appearance, like a lot of people. I just read the comment about the self-tanner and thought that people told me I was too pale before! And I don’t want to go tan but some employer may think I’m not trying to look my best which may be a part of my character. However, I wouldn’t mention the weight at all. Just ignore it and think about the skill set that you’ll be offering and always have a positive attitude. Don’t mention any issues with the appearance unless it’s a disability requiring specific arrangements at work. Good luck!

    1. Kelly O*

      I do not self-tan. I know a lot of people don’t understand why I don’t even use self-tanner, and I do make cracks about my own paleness sometimes.

      But you know, it’s who I am. I am not tan. I burn in the sun (maybe I’ll get an extra freckle or three) and then go right back to pale. I’ve done a self-tanner in the past, and just felt silly.

      Besides, as we are starting to see with my age group, the lack of tan means I’m not starting to look like a leather jacket. Not that I am not a bit envious of those who can, but we all want what we don’t have sometimes.

      1. Chinook*

        I can’t help it but, if anybody makes a crack about my needing a tan, I would reply by asking them if they had a problem with my skin colour? The side of the gene pool it comes from lived for centuries on an island known for rain and not sun – why should I be ashamed of that and hide it?

        The one exception to that rule was when some well-meaning, Japanese ESL students were practising their compliments on me and mentioned I had beautiful white skin. It felt odd and then I realized that I had to explain to them that skin colour is not something we normally compliment people people on in Canada.

        1. Esra*

          Ha! I got that in college. It was so weird after years of getting put down for paleness to have people asking me what my secret was.

      2. fposte*

        I really don’t get the tanning emphasis. It’s so counter-logical and weirdly era-specific. It really sets my teeth on edge when I see it being given out as a “must” for advice with terms like “that healthy glow”–it’s got nothing to do with health, but there’s a whole lot of money invested in making people think it does.

      3. Long Time Admin*

        I don’t tend to tan well, so I pretty much stay out of the sun (I wear sunscreen and/or a hat to shade my face). I’m almost 64, and I get remarks all the time on my nice skin. There’s a forehead wrinkle that’s starting to become more pronounced, but so far I have fewer wrinkles than many women my age.

        If you want some color on your face, use a bronzer blush. Don’t do anything to actually change your skin (self-tanner or tanning bed). It could cause permanent skin damage. And if you smoke, stop. My mother was beautiful, but she smoked for more than 50 years, and had wrinkles all around her mouth from smoking.

  15. EngineerGirl*

    Facial hair, bushy eyebrows, wild hair can all contribute to what some would call a “slovenly” appearance. Sorry to use that harsh word, but that is going to be what people think. These can be deal killers in positions where there is any customer contact. I believe you MUST address it, especially is your bf is making comments. I know, Ouch! But we want to fix this, yes?
    Europeans are also known for tailoring their clothing. If you are overweight this is a necessary investment that will keep you looking professional. Also get some instruction on what styles look best on you. I’m a very curvy gal so I know that some styles, while being in fashion, are not for me. One great site for the “rules” for different body types is Inside Out Style

    1. Sandrine - OP*

      Well, this was a private pic, but I put up a Gravatar especially because I’m actually quite aware of the hair thing even though the eyebrows don’t look *that* bad.

      Might get a tailored vest indeed, in addition to fit I’ll be able to determine exactly what I want anyway, which is a plus :P .

      I don’t think your comment is harsh, sometimes things like that need to be reminded, because life isn’t fair and all that stuff so I’d rather be prepared than disappointed :) .

      1. Lana*

        Sandrine, do you want to lose weight anyway? Or are you content with your weight? I personally don’t think it’s a smart choice to be overweight because it’s a health risk and your body wasn’t meant to be more than it should (it should be proportionate) but if you decide to lose weight, you need to do it for yourself only, not for the employer. Good luck!

        1. Sandrine - OP*

          Not that I don’t want to lose weight, but let’s just say it’s a little complicated to explain without getting into writing a novel.

          Basically, I started getting fat, got over it when I was around 18/19, went into “Screw you” mode around maybe age 24 when I realized I was as worthy as anyone else, just a bit larger, and at the moment, my body image is “weird” : I don’t *feel* fat (because when I look down, I see boobs) , I just *know* I am.

          If I had to choose *one* reason to lose weight now ?

          Economy class on airplanes >.<

        2. Anonymous*

          There are thin people who are terribly unhealthy. Automatically equating extra weight with being unhealthy is part of the problem that leads to discrimination.

          1. Peaches*

            Thank you anonymous. There are actually multiple scientific studies (which don’t get media attention because they don’t fit with a narrative that people are comfortable with) that prove weight alone is not a good indicator of health. One group did a long term study, till death, of “healthy”, “overweight”, and “obese” people. Healthy, overweight and obese people who ate relatively healthy (whole grains, lean meats, fruit and veg) and exercised regularly lived equally long and healthy lives. Believe it or not, many fat people do exercise.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think Engineer Girl was referring to your picture, but rather to what you’d said yourself above :) I definitely can’t see those things in the picture.

            1. Sandrine - OP*

              Nah, I do have hair over the lips.

              In 2001 an American friend even thought I had hurt myself and I replied jokingly with “Nah, just the mustache” and she was terribly embarrassed, but I assured her that really, there was no harm done.

              That problem may go by itself once I get treatment (if what my doctor thinks turns out to be true) but I’m quite scared to get it taken care of in the meantime… there is a beauty salon on the street I live in (that street has everything, ha XD !) but everytime I go past I get so nervous I can’t stomach getting in.

              I did try using stuff for the “mustache” but the product I used made my upper lip a little numb.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                You can even take care of that yourself with waxing products from the drugstore, if you want.

                Obviously you shouldn’t have to if you don’t want to, but I do think that a lot of people will read “visible mustache on a woman” as lack of polish, so it might be worth it.

                1. Sandrine - OP*

                  I need to find a better brand than the last one I used then :p . I’m sure the ladies at Sephora will be more than happy to direct me to the appropriate products haha XD

                2. Another English Major*

                  There’s also Nair for facial hair. It works really great for me and no I do not work for Nair :)

                3. Kelly O*

                  In a pinch you can also use those little razors for bikini lines or eyebrows.

                  Between waxes, I use them to deal with the length of mine (I seriously have some thick, unruly eyebrows if left to their own devices.) I would imagine they could be used for quickie touch-ups of other facial hair if you needed.

              2. Anonymous 3:09 pm*

                It may sound harsh, but from a career standpoint you should work on that hair. It can be taken as a lack of polish on a woman, particularly in more conservative environments. View dealing with it as an investment – and get it right first, then explore how to get that look more cheaply.

                1. Anonymous*

                  Anonymous 3:09 pm: Out of curiosity, what, specifically, do you think needs improvement with her hair?

                2. fposte*

                  Yeah, I didn’t get that either–I thought in the Dora picture it looked very nice. (But then I’m the one who’d never cope in luxury retail.)

                3. Jamie*

                  I thought it looked nice, too. I wish my hair was thick and had body. My Marcia Brady hair holds a curl for about 9 minutes if its not humid.

                4. Anonymous 3:09 pm*

                  @anon Jan 2 7pm

                  My two earlier comments were about the hair over her lips.

                  From a career standpoint, it should be much less visible, or removed completely. That I could spot it in a tiny web image is not good in terms of “polish.”

              3. Anonymous*

                Surgiwax (brand name) for the face. Just heat it in the microwave, wait until it is cool enough to go on your skin, apply, wait 30 seconds for it to harden, and pull it off. I swear to you, it is 5 seconds, at most, of pain. It is just like pulling off a band-aid. It hurts and then it is over immediately. It’s not like doing a bikini wax on yourself, when you realize only after the wax is on that it’s going to be incredibly painful to get it off and how stupid a decision it was not to have a professional do it.

              4. Jen in RO*

                I realize this might be too personal, but are you on birth control? It helps me a lot with “hair prevention”. When I went off the pill, I had to go get my mustache waxed (by the way, it doesn’t hurt that much, but I wouldn’t do it at home… what if you mess up and get the wax stuck to your face?).

                1. Jen in RO*

                  For the record, I do know a lot of women have a hard time with birth control. I’m one of the lucky ones, the pill is amazing for me!

                2. Sandrine*

                  Did it at a salon. Hurt like hell. I can still see the resulting spots :P .

                  Now it almost looks like I hurt myself. Thank goodness I have found a concealer that works for me XD !

                  (Yay to beauty store ladies)

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Hmmm, if you can still see redness a day later, that wax might not be reacting well with your skin. Some people find they’re sensitive to some types of wax but not others. You might try threading next time and see if that’s any better.

                  By the way, your new picture looks great!

      3. Laura L*

        Gah! I can’t really see your hair, but as someone with thick, curly, frizzy hair, I can sympathize. I’ve started using shampoos and products that are made for curly haired people of all races and I like those a lot. I also use some products from salon quality hair product lines, but I don’t like the shampoos or conditioners that they make.

        Your hair looks like it might be straight, though, so not sure if this advice is relevant.

        I like to wear my hair in layers and have it thinned a bit. I did my most recent haircut on my own (shhh, don’t tell) and thinned it out a lot and that kind of helps with the wildness. Although I prefer it to be thicker.

        I can’t tell from your pic, though, what your hair looks like. It might not be a huge problem after all. (Yes, some people hate any amount of frizz at all, but if you’re hair isn’t straight and thin, you’re going to have some and that’s just the way it is).

  16. Lee*

    As a person who is this side of “obese” – a lot depends upon how you dress. You don’t have to wear black all the time but also keep in mind your own body type. I have long legs but heavy thighs however I also have relatively wide shoulders so it tends not to be as noticeable. I wear a lot of necklaces, scarves, and interesting earrings. There are tons of resources out there for dressing to suit your own style and personality. Own your current size and make the most of it with accessories and cuts of clothes that flatter you. Job hunting was nerve wracking for me as well but I found an awesome place I am very happy with. Have fun!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with this. I am currently a 26/28 (and I’m tall, 5’11”) and try to dress for my size while still looking fashionable. It’s not easy because many designers seem to think that someone who is a plus size is not tall. I want to cringe every time I see a plus size woman walking down the street in something that gives her a large, obvious muffin top, shows lots of rolls in the back, or is so tight that the girls are ready to fly out.

      1. some1*

        “I want to cringe every time I see a plus size woman walking down the street in something that gives her a large, obvious muffin top, shows lots of rolls in the back, or is so tight that the girls are ready to fly out.”

        To be fair this is an issue for anyone wearing the wrong size. I have worked with women who were not overweight in anyway (Size 10 or 12) but were clearly in denial that they no longer fit it into their Size 6 clothes. I have also worked with shorter, thin (petite) women who wore suits or other high-end business wear that were too big and /or long, and it also made them look unprofessional.

        1. Kelly O*


          Fit is important no matter what your size. I cannot tell you how many thin women I’ve seen who managed to make an otherwise appropriate outfit look a bit “lady of the evening” because it was a size too small. I’ve seen quite a few larger women who looked even larger because they insisted on wearing tents, thinking it was more slimming.

          What I keep trying to remind myself is that the size on the inside of the shirt doesn’t matter, just how it fits and how it makes me look – no matter what my physical size is at the time. I am also working on finding someone who can help me tailor a few things, and learning how to do a few minor things myself.

          1. Katie in Ed*

            Ha! I just decimated my closet yesterday, actually, parting with all those shirts that have grown a bit too short around the midriff. No more “oh, I can wear a sweater over it/shirt under it” justifications!

          2. Elizabeth West*

            It’s not easy, when clothing manufacturers don’t have universal sizes, and every brand is different. Not to mention if you’re tall–it seems that department stores have catered for years to petite women, but us tall gals are out of luck.

            One thing that I can suggest is to go try on stuff and see what is the most flattering to you. Make notes and try to look for similar cuts/styles, etc. in other stores, if you can’t afford what is there. I shop at an outlet that sells department store castoffs and irregulars, and often find really nice stuff there for less than half the price. Sometimes if I can’t find anything that day, I at least try a couple of things I might not have thought of before.

            Recently I was able to construct a black suit from a Chadwick’s blazer I got there and a pair of pants I already had. Got three blazers actually, $12 each. There is no WAY I could afford them from their catalog. :)

            1. Anonymous*

              My wife is very short and complains that for department stores have catered to tall women for years.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Anonymous, by “tall” I mean women who are over the average. In the US, that seems to be about 5′ 9″. I’m 5′ 11″, so I’m considered tall in terms of sizing. At least, I seem to tower over everyone I meet.

                5′ 3″ is definitely on the petite side. But I’d rather have too much fabric than not enough!

                1. Anonymous*

                  My wife is 5′ 0″ or sometimes a tiny bit less. The stores don’t seem to cater to her.

              1. Laura L*

                Interesting. My Mom is 5′ and she always complains that petites are sized to fit people my height (5’4″). Petites often do fit me well, but I think it’s funny because I’m average height for an American woman, not short.

                1. Sandrine - OP*

                  I’m about 5’4″ too.

                  My “mother in law” (not married yet) has done the hem of some of my pants, which has helped a lot to go to work without fearing I’ll damage yet another pair by stepping on it.

                  In Paris I feel like I’m a giant when I buy pants, it’s as if large ladies were all seven feet tall… and when I buy “short” pants they go a few inches above the ankles, so I just give up, buy regular pants and have them hemmed.

            2. Kelly O*

              I would seriously consider selling a limb to find a pair of pants that are long enough and fit properly on a consistent basis. (And that don’t cost a bloody fortune.)

              I am fairly average height – 5’7″, but have longish legs (and arms, for that matter.) I have to get a tall length hemmed, but the regulars are often just “thismuch” too short, especially in heels. Jackets present a similar problem.

              Although tailoring can be expensive, it can also be worth it. I keep reminding myself of that, and trying to err on the side of buying a bit too big and having it taken in.

              1. privacy commissioner*

                I’m the exact opposite, 5’6″ but with short legs so even petite lengths can be long on me. Not to mention the difficulty finding plus petites. I did take some jeans to the tailor to be shortened and it helped a bunch.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          I know what you mean and I agree. It’s just that in my area I happen to see many more overweight women dressing poorly. Occasionally I do see women who are not overweight that wear clothes that are way too big, too short, etc. That doesn’t look good either.

        3. Anonymous*

          I completely agree, and am currently trying to find new interview clothes, so I also sympathize. Does anyone know of a source for nice, professional clothing on the low end (US size 0-2) of the size spectrum? It’s impossible to find women’s suits/work clothes below a 4 in the local stores, and the online selections I’ve noticed are fairly limited. Thanks!

          1. Kelly O*

            Have you tried Ann Taylor’s petites? My mom swears by them for things like that. Also, if you live near Belk’s, they tend to have a good petite selection – again, my mom shops there a lot and finds some great deals.

            Also, if you are interested, there are a couple of blogs – Extra Petite, and Alterations Needed. Both Jean and Kelly are super-tiny and blog about the issues they have in finding clothes. I just read them because I love both their styles, and the advice can easily go to the other end (plus, it helps me with recognizing fit better.)

    2. privacy commissioner*

      I’d love to hear about suggestions for any resources for plus-size polished dressing for different budgets. One of my problems is I’m very small-chested but big everywhere else so most plus-sized tops look weird on me. And don’t get me started on bra shopping!

      1. Long Time Admin*

        The best advice I ever got was from Clinton & Stacy on What Not To Wear – sometimes you have to try on dozens of articles of clothing to find something that works for you. Then you have a good idea of a style that you can use as a base.

        I get frustrated quickly when clothes shopping, but I keep pulling different cuts, or styles, or fabrics and I usually find something that looks good on me! Be patient when you go shopping and try on TONS of clothes.

      2. fposte*

        In addition to LTA’s excellent advice, I will tell you that your best resource is likely to be a good tailor. If you haven’t had anything altered or have only done, like, pants-hemming from the cleaners, it can seem more daunting than it really is, but it’s such a great way to make an item of clothing really flatter you. I bet you could find a tailor willing to look at some items you have and chat with you about the kind of things that would regularly be done to stuff you buy off the rack and how much it would cost. Then you can just treat it as part of the price of the item–I actually take stuff with tags to the seamstress and check to make sure the alterations would keep the item within my budget; if they are, I drop the item off right then and there; if not, it goes back.

        1. Katie in Ed*

          How exactly does one find this mythical “good tailor”? Most of my experience with tailoring has been really poor, so I’m not sure what kind of service to expect, or what is a reasonable charge for basic tailoring (hems, taking in/out, and the like). Any thoughts/tips?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            What about checking reviews on Yelp? That’s usually the first place I turn when I’m trying to find a good local source of something, and I’ve found some amazing places for all kinds of things that way.

            1. JT*

              Or some style blogs/fora have ways to find good tailors – for example (for men) the Men’s Clothing at and also have people asking about and recommending tailors. Not sure if there is a more women’s-specific place for such info.

              It’s worth noting that there with perfectly good (not great) tailors you can’t rely on them to decide what changes to make – you need to have an understanding of what you need and tell them. This requires reading a bit about proper fit and learning about what looks good on you, or having a friend who is knowledgeable give you some advice/ For men it’s stuff like take in the chest a little, shorten the jacket sleeves so your cuffs show, hem the pants so they don’t pool around your ankles.

              I’m not sure of the details for women but certainly if I was applying for a job in luxury retail I’d spend a LOT of time reading blogs or books or magazines to understand fit.

            2. Anon*

              Readers of the blog Corporette (www dot corporette dot com) regularly ask each other for service professional recommendations in specific cities. I’ve seen requests for tailors, restaurants, health care providers, etc. You might also try Capitol Hill Style (www dot caphillstyle dot com). Before posting your request I recommend checking the blog archives or searching via your favorite web browser.

          2. fposte*

            I went by local word of mouth and tested somebody out with simple stuff and then got more complicated. Ask around; maybe start with people who just went through a wedding, since a lot of times people get tailored privately. I started with small things like hems and then gradually tried more complicated stuff, figuring out along the way what was likely to be worth it for me and what isn’t. One of my most rewarding changes is moving darts around on a jacket or blouse so I don’t have the big fabric bubble over my shoulder blades :-) (and of course if you’re short, a skirt is a lot more flattering when it’s not weighing you down with its length!).

            “Reasonable charge” unfortunately varies wildly from area to area–somebody covering a Manhattan rent is going to charge more than somebody working out of a country garage. The numbers in this article don’t seem off to me:


            but I will note it costs more, for obvious reasons, to hem lined trousers or skirts than unlined, which seem to be the kind they’re talking about there.

            1. Katie in Ed*

              Thanks so much for the feedback, everyone! I think what JT is describing is my biggest challenge. I just don’t know precisely what kind of tailoring I need. How long should this skirt be? Well, I’m not sure. How much should I hem these pants? Beats me. I don’t really make the money for it at this point in time, but if I ever did, I would definitely pay a bit more for a tailor/clothing consultant. Someone who could give me recommendations or suggestions as to how to best tailor my clothing.

              1. Lulu*

                That’s part of my problem – I’m not really sure what can be fixed, &/or fixed for a reasonable price, so I probably do dismiss items that don’t fit well off the rack for reasons that could be altered. As a kind-of-petite-but-not-super-thin person, I’ve grown to despise looking for “professional” clothes because of this process, even though I’d love to look more polished! I just need Clinton & Stacey to come visit…

                That said, for petites, there is a blog called AlterationsNeeded where I know she’s discussed finding a tailor, recommendations etc. (well, the reco’s would still hold for non-petites I suppose! that’s just her blog focus).

                1. fposte*

                  There’s definitely a learning curve, and I shop differently now knowing what’s pretty easily fixable and what would cost more money. I’m busty and short-waisted and short, so I mostly get hems taken up; beyond that, I get sleeves shortened, shoulders “lowered” (sleeveless dresses often have straps that are easy to shorten), and darts rearranged to eliminate back poof.

                  Katie the E., the rule I learned about dress trousers is to leave about 1/2″ from the ground in the shoes you’ll wear with them. I go more like 3/4″ (because I’m a klutz) and still boldly wear the trousers with other shoes, because I’m intrepid like that. With skirt and dress hems, I actually goof around with pinning them up at various lengths and checking in the mirror, but because I’m short I don’t take stuff below the bottom of the knee unless there’s a flounce or other shape-break or it’s very narrowly cut, like a knit dress; mostly I hem across or just above the knee (test to make sure you can walk and sit down comfortably at the length you’re considering first!).

                2. Kelly O*

                  I just read your comment, and I’d suggested Alterations Needed in my previous response (as well as Extra Petite.)

                  And definitely ask. Some people will look at you crazy, but eventually you’ll find someone with a recommendation, or who can steer you to the right person. Attorneys, bankers, and real estate agents or salespeople can be great places to start because they tend to be a bit more polished (as a general rule. I know I am making a broad generalization here. Your mileage may vary.) Or just find someone who you think always looks put-together and polished. If she/he doesn’t know, they can sometimes help.

              2. JT*

                On fit/tailoring:

                Most pants legs are easy to shorten, and sleeves usually are.

                The sides of jackets, shirts and blouses can be taken in, but that might not be cost-effective for an inexpensive blouse or shirt. Waists of most pants and skirts can be taken in. Quality dress pants for men can often be let out an inch or two. Ditto blazers and jackets. I’m not sure if the same is true for women’s pants and jackets. Knit clothes (like sweaters) can be trickier than clothes made of regular woven fabrics.

                The length of the body of a jacket, or the rise of pants, is not cost-effective to alter.

                On the men’s side, a $250 suit with $100 of tailoring is far better for an interview than a $500 suit that doesn’t fit. I think the same is true for women’s clothes.

                As an example, today I wore a suit I got on sale at Uniqlo where I spent just as much on tailoring as on the suit itself… Fit is vital so tailoring should be part of the budget process.

                To Lulu and Katie – if you don’t know what fits right, find out. Read good blogs or books. It is perhaps a little dated, but Elsa Klensch had a book called Style that was good for women’s clothes. Also good is/was the Tim Gunn makeover show (I forget the name) and the What Not to Wear show.

                Approach it as you’d approach resume advice – read/watch, then implement.

                1. Lulu*

                  I gave up on WNTW because they never had anyone with my body type (or budget!), and I usually just sympathized with the subject weeping in frustration ;) I know I’ve mentioned before that part of it is just not being used to dressing that way, so never being sure if something really doesn’t fit right/suit me (& if it’s an issue that can be fixed) or if it’s just an unfamiliar look – I have a hard time extrapolating from books etc to myself. I’ve almost always worked in a legitimately very casual office environment, so have been able to get away with being tailoring-challenged for far too long, beyond shortening jeans. Even though I like the *idea* of being polished (well, in a vintage way), I seem to perceive most clothes as being either “Juniors” or “Something My Mom Would Wear”… I don’t think I even know anyone who owns a suit. Once I start working again, there will be a line item in the budget for a style consult, that’s for sure!

            2. Julie*

              This is interesting. I lived in Manhattan for 20 years (until earlier this year), and I was routinely able to get jacket sleeves hemmed for about $15 (much less than the price mentioned in the Real Simple article). I also had a few dresses taken in for less than what is listed. I love Real Simple, so I’m not criticizing them, but for folks who don’t live in expensive cities, I think the prices for tailoring could be less than you think. Also – regarding finding a good tailor – follow the suggestions here in the comments, and once you’ve found someone you want to try, have them do something small to see how it goes. FWIW, I have had good luck with tailors in dry cleaning stores.

              1. jennie*

                This may be one of those things that is cheaper due to volume – like I find manicures way cheaper in big cities than in my medium-sized town just because there’s so much more competition.

                Plus, I’m often buying cheaper clothes to start with so even paying $15 to alter a $50 item seems like a lot.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Bras. Sigh. So frustrating. Something like 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. Where I live we have outlet stores- Maidenform, Hanes, etc. The sales help is trained to show you how to find your correct size. You do have to ask for the help, though. I brought a family member there after she lost a lot of weight (dr’s orders). They fixed her up in no time.

        1. Your Mileage May Vary*

          One of the most eye-opening things I saw on WNTW was when they taught a large-chested woman that she could get her bras altered by a tailor the same way she does her clothes. I never would have thought of that in a million years!!

      4. Peaches*

        Color clocking is still fashionable. Get a top/dress that has one color (preferably lighter) for your chest area and a different color on the body. this will help create a line/waist where on may not otherwise be obvious.

        Also, you might be bustier than you realize. Most woman are. I professionally fit women for bras for YEARS! Everybody from 30AA to 54H. Most women are honestly about two band sizes smaller and two cup sizes bigger than they are currently wearing.

        For example. If you are wearing a 42B, try a 38 D. If that’s too extreme, try a 40 C or D. It might feel too snug at first, especially if you aren’t used to it, but the right sized bra will create a great figure. Some ladies look like they lost 20 or 30 pounds just by getting the right bra on and getting the girls where they needed to be.

        1. Lulu*

          I think American’s have been trained you can’t be any narrower than 34″ unless you’re below a C, which also doesn’t do anyone any favors. Some stores will just try to convince you that you wear a size they carry rather than what really suits you, so people think they’re a 36B when they’re really a 32DD (or similar, I’m not sure the EXACT equivalent). European labels tend to have a wider size range. Wearing the actual correct size can make a real difference in someone’s appearance (and comfort)!

          1. Sandrine - OP*

            Last time I tried in an American store, I got 44DD.

            Yeaaaaaah. Might try for a smaller size, I can’t go below 44 as I have a rather large ribcage anyway, but yeah, I have to work on that too :) .

  17. gretta*

    As long as you look put together, it doesn’t matter! I hate to judge “fat” people, but more times than not fat people are better looking – their hair and makeup and nails always seem to be perfect, and it’s always the skinny girls that look sloppy – because they are skinny, they feel they don’t have to put any effort into their appearance.

    1. Sandrine - OP*

      Your comment actually gives me hope, you know :D !

      What I have personally noticed when there were group interviews (like at Disney) is that some of the thinnest women would dress as if they were going to party. They sure looked gorgeous, but I was always wondering what was going through their heads as they seemed more focused on their makeup than anything else.

      The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen was as large as me. I was working as a cashier back then and she was a frequent customer. I wanted to be her so bad! Always polished, and even wearing jeans she wore stuff in such a way that the only thing you could do was gape since she was so pretty.

    2. Sasha*

      Well, the current (maybe past decade or so?) trend for younger women is “boho chic” which looks like they raided the reject pile at Good Will, so even if they are putting effort into their appearance (and lots of money), they still look derelict.

      I think classic is always the best way to go – like Audrey Hepburn. :) Simple colors, good tailoring, quality pieces that fit. Appropriate for all situations, especially work.

  18. Not So NewReader*

    Sandrine, what are you doing my friend? You are a brainy-brainy woman! Polish yourself as best you can for the moment and get out there and show the world your wonderful brain! Seriously.

    I am rather plain jane, myself. I don’t have problems with wolf-whistles- haha. I cannot compete on the level of beauty. Next, I have never had a lot of cash. This means I cannot compete on the clothing, make up, and other glitz. I do have a brain.. and a pretty resourceful one at that. That is where I can meet and compete.
    I would never attempt applying for the type of job you mention here. I will not win.
    A couple of things that I picked up reading down through the comments so far.
    Hair- Mine used to kind of look like a steel wool scrubbing pad. Two things worked- I got a layered cut. This helped to reduce the volume of hair. She cut the hair underneath so you cannot tell how much she has removed. And I kept hunting for a good conditioner. What worked for me was a condition from Arbonne. I gave it to my aunt and it tamed her post chemo hair. Good stuff. A little spendy but with the new cut and less hair a bottle lasted me over 9 months. More importantly, I stopped having that conversation in my head “my hair looks terrible today… omg.”
    Work choices. Can you do something with your bilingual ability? You speak English better than I do. Am taking a shot in the dark here but have you looked at United Nations Online Volunteers? (UNOV) I have not looked recently- but I am betting that you could find volunteer work in translating. UNOV posts volunteer jobs from all over the world. You apply to be a volunteer then you apply for the particular job you want. You work on your own computer from home. Yes, its a bit of effort to get started, but not really hard.
    BUT! You would have something additional to put on your resume. You would get exposure to different types of work. You would be using a skill that you have and uh- excuse me– you seem to be taking for granted.
    Do you speak other languages? I think you learned British English? but your American English is just fine, too.
    Clothes. Of late, all mine come from consignment shops. I dress better now than I have in my entire life. I get tired of something- no worries- donate it, get something new. Hint- find out how their sales work. I make sure to shop on sale days- this reduces my costs even more! Just be picky-don’t take home everything that vaguely fits. Some shops are better than others so keep your eyes open.

    Whoops- sorry — long post…

    1. Sandrine - OP*

      Well, as far as shampoo and conditioner… I’ll confess do a dirty secret… I’m in love with the strawberry CVS stuff!

      And yup, I bought 4 bottles of each last time I was in the US (for the price, heh!) and maybe I’ll ask one of my American friends to send me some more. The conditioner is wonderful for my hair and for some reason I love the smell.

      As far as languages, I actually can’t really distinguish between American and British English (the way I speak, apparently I sound “American” , and I have proof of that if peeps want to see that… yeah, I do Youtube too. I’m *that* silly) so I just use words at random. I have a decent level of Spanish and can pick up bits and pieces of other languages here and there (but forgot all my Arabic and Greek :( ) .

      Not sure I have consignment shops in the area, but I’ll look into that as well!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Sounds like you have a natural ability plus a natural interest in languages. I understand you could chose not to use that- but please know that not everyone has that gift. At least give it a little consideration before moving on.

        I had to figure out British English for a job on UNOV. I learned some of the differences. Here’s some examples:

        1. Sandrine - OP*

          Thank you!

          I really, really wish I could use English to the fullest in my job search and everything else.

          I used to want to be an English teacher. Then I realized college was extremely boring (by that point saying college was boring was like saying cats love water, I was extremely disappointed) AND I don’t have the patience to actually teach kids (not that I hate teenagers, but… I have a sister 15 years younger and… it stings. Eeek!) .

          Then I got the International trade degree (almost 9 years ago) and was deemed “too young” (I was 21) to get anywhere with it.

          Guess what kind of job I was called for an hour ago -____- ? Temping, maybe, but for the exact kind of job I learnt about 9 years ago. Since the lady needed someone by Jan 21st, I had to pass on the opportunity as I’m too rusty :( . Oh well!

          If I don’t use English professionnally I’ll still have the blogs and Youtube anyway, and all the fun I can have (like when I read the Harry Potter books before the French translation and would jokingly nag friends about it) .

          Thank you :)

      2. Jen in RO*

        I actually watched a couple of your videos on YouTube last night and your English accent is great! I’m not a native either, but I work with French people (some of them living in the US), and their accent is way stronger than yours.

    2. Jamie*

      I will +infinity to the consignment shop suggestion.

      I started going there when I was a single mom and money was very tight, but I still love it. You have to be careful and pick and choose, but some stores have really nice stuff some even with original tags still on.

      There is nothing like the rush of a crazy bargain. For my second wedding I got a Liz Claiborne chiffon dress for 9.99 brand new – tags from Marshall Fields still on. I just found my daughter the cutest dressy dress for a wedding she went to, also still new, for 6.99.

      The mall is faster and easier if you need something specific in a hurry, but if you have the time to browse you can find amazing things at consignment/thrift shops. I think 90% of my work wardrobe comes from those kind of places and you can’t tell. Fwiw I see no shame in stretching a dollar. Also the ones in my area are non-profit and I like supporting the causes they benefit.

      It also takes the investment out of clothes shopping. If I’m spending $60 on a sweater I need to love it. If I’m spending 4.99 on a sweater I can kinda like it, and if I don’t wear it I just donate it right back.

      1. Katie in Ed*

        Jamie, you really need to stop making me homesick.

        *Wipes away a tear and goes to make coffee out of a Christmas 1989 Santa Bear mug*

  19. Another Frenchie*

    Hi Sandrine,
    As a fellow French woman I feel your pain. I am what I would consider “Average” size in France (size 38 / 40, 6/8 in the US) but I was never into wearing a ton of make-up. certain industries in France attract a certain kind of women and they seem to only hire the ones that look a certain way.
    You sound like a bright woman and if I were you I would try to apply my talents to a different sector. I know work in IT (and have since moved to other parts of Europe and now Canada). And I ended up being the glamorous one in the office without trying haha
    All that to say that beyond polishing your look to appear put together more, you should not have to change to fit.
    Try applying elsewhere and you will probably be happier.
    Bonne chance

    1. Sandrine - OP*


      I am, indeed, going to use everything on the blog and the comments here to work on certain things.

      And I’m certainly applying to other positions. Phone+customer service equals a big fat NO for me now. But even cashier would be neat. Sure, I’ll never be paid like an executive but who cares as long as I’m happy, productive with a roof over my head and a nice citizen paying the appropriate taxes, heh ?

  20. Salut*

    Salut Sandrine,
    I don’t know if this would help, but I have done this. I read an article once saying that most people discriminate against fat people because they subsconsciously make an association between fat and other “negatives” as we have been discussing above. However, the article said, most people, if they think rationally, would agree that a fat person isn’t necessarily bad/lazy/lacking self control and so on. And people don’t like to think that they actually do discriminate! The article I read said that the way to defeat this is by allowing the initial response to be subverted in favour of the more rational side of the hirers. You as a candidate note the issue first to give a mental image and allow the rational mind of others to take over by the time you meet. However, not in a weird way, as AAM points out. It has to be contextually appropriate. For example, when someone rang me to offer an interview, I said “Thanks so much for your call. I’m really looking forward to meeting you. I’ll be the big jolly looking fellow with the yellow tie!”

    1. Sandrine - OP*

      Well so far I actually think I’ve won some interviewers over with the way I interact with them naturally (after a minute or two the stress evaporates quickly and I can look my best) .

      Thank you for your comment :)

  21. Sandrine - OP*

    A small-ish update :

    Yesterday I didn’t go to work (wasn’t feeling well, same as today) and my boss approved my two “free of charge” days off. Since I’m not on sick leave, it means I can go out and do a few things today!

    So I plan on doing the hair, nails and mustache part. Maybe I’ll open the door of that salon after all. Well I know I can do hair and nails but still :P . Gotta hit the shops for shoes too :p .

      1. Sandrine - OP*

        Well, I had… but…

        I can officially report that the mustache thing was THE.MOST.HORRIBLE.THING.EVER.

        My hair feels shiny and new (and much shorter, weee!) and I also have bright red “Make up forever” Moulin Rouge lipstick.


        Shoes, not yet, and I bought a fake nail kit for 20 euros, as the shops are asking around 60 euros for a gel manucure, when I paid around 30 USD for that in New Jersey in May :( .

        Oh well.


          1. Sandrine - OP*

            I was planning on putting the fake nails tonight but then figured it would be better to wait until at least Sunday when I’m off work.

            I’m trying to look at what makeup I’ll be trying over the next few days though. Now that my face looks slightly better, maybe it’ll look at least half-nice haha XD

            1. Jamie*

              If you’re doing your own nails make sure you practice with them beforehand and make sure they won’t come loose.

              They’ve been known to shoot off, especially if using the glue that comes with the nails. I have done my own in years, but I always used a different glue because the stuff that came with never held for me.

  22. Job seeker*

    Sandrine, I saw a couple of your video’s and you reminded me of a girl I worked with a long time ago. I believe you are probably a very sweet person and want to encourage you to work hard at changing things, if this is what you want. If you are not satisfied with something in your life, work your seat off to make changes. If you were my daughter or sister or friend I would suggest this. You don’t seem too happy right now and that alone is reason to do this. Good luck on your job search and take good care of yourself. You are important.

    1. Sandrine - OP*

      Thank you. I’m still recovering from the mustache thing XD .

      The ladies at the salon were very nice and professional, so even though it hurts like heck at least I know I can go back.

      Now to try for makeup… eek.

    1. Jamie*

      So you didn’t get your brows done? Because they look fabulous, I’m jealous actually – hey frame your eyes beautifully. You’re one of those people with naturally defined perfect brows – Definitely jealous.

      Our hair looks fabulous!! I love it – very polished but still super cute and shiny.

      And not that I’m in the habit of critiquing people online, for looks anyway, but you have really beautiful coloring and great features. I’m a pale, pale girl who looks like I have the flu if I’m not wearing makeup (my current flu has pushed me squarely into Morticia Adams territory). I’d give anything for your rich and even skin tone.

      And I have a friend who did the mustache thing and she had redness for a couple of days – you don’t even have a hint of that.

      As soon as I’m ambulatory again I want a makeover…you’ve inspired me.

      1. Jamie*

        That would be “your” hair looks fabulous.

        I’m home sick on my husbands iPad sans keyboard. My typing will improve as soon as I get mine back but it’s upstairs which means it may as well be in Tibet for how far away it feels now…

      1. Sandrine*

        Thank you :D …

        I’m going to try and have my sister-with-the-awesome-camera to take better pictures… with a better outfit, too.

        The good part is I can dry my hair and comb it properly rather quickly now XD … with my long lion mane sometimes even after a full day it wasn’t dry o_O .

    2. Laura L*

      Love it! Especially the haircut and the red lipstick! I need to get some of that for myself.

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