my boss wants to ban skirts, leggings, and v-necks for curvier women — but not for others

A reader writes:

I’ve read some of your posts about dress codes, but I have a slightly more complicated issue. I supervise student employees at a university (all female, in a closed department), and my boss is essentially asking me to hold certain students to a different dress code than others.

Yesterday an employee who would be considered curvy let me know that while I was out last week, my boss told her that she cannot wear leggings. However, we have one employee who is very thin. I’ve seen her wear leggings as pants before and my boss never said anything to her. How do I know? These two employees are friends outside of work, and they’ve been discussing other instances like this, which I’m just now hearing about.

I talked to my boss about it, and in her words, student employees with “more body” (her words, meaning more voluptuous/curvy, I guess) cannot wear form-fitting clothing, v-neck shirts, or skirts/shorts at all. Since our department is closed to the public, we don’t require that they wear business professional clothing, and our only real mention of dress code in the employee handbook mentions no clothing shorter than the knee and no clothing with wording on it.

I feel it’s wrong to try to differentiate what someone can wear based on what their body looks like while wearing it. I was taken aback by my boss’s response, so we came to no real resolution, and we’re supposed to meet next week to talk about it more. How should I approach this with my boss? I think her point of view on this could end up resulting in some sort of sexual harassment or discrimination claim.

Wow. Yeah, that is really wrong, in no small part because it indicates that your boss is assessing employees’ bodies in a way that isn’t appropriate for her to be doing and feels gross.

Your boss may not have thoroughly thought through what she’s suggesting, so point out to her that she’s essentially implementing an office policy that’s based on figure type. Also point out to her that it’s going to be very difficult to communicate this policy to employees without coming dangerously close to hostile-environment sexual harassment — since you’d essentially be critiquing people’s figures, particularly the sexualized portions of them, and indicating that some people’s figures appear more …. vulgar? sexualized? than others’.

And while there are no federal discrimination laws regarding body type, it’s very possible that they could kick in if this policy happened to impact some ethnic or racial groups more than others.

But even aside from all that, this is a terrible idea. Even if there were absolutely no legal risk to this policy, why on earth would your boss want to invite the obvious morale issues that are going to stem from telling some employees they can wear leggings, skirts, and v-necks and other employees that their bodies don’t allow it? There’s no way — no way — that doing that won’t seriously piss off plenty of employees and forever change their relationship with her and with your organization.

In fact, you might try suggesting to your boss that she imagine what this policy would look like in writing — that alone might be enough to illustrate for her how not okay this would be.

In any case, because you work in an organization large enough to have an HR department, your boss fortunately isn’t going to be the final word on this. I don’t recommend going to HR for much, but this is absolutely a case where they should be involved, so that they can immediately shut this nonsense down. An when you talk with your boss next week, you might just tell her that you’re so sure that HR won’t allow this that she should probably talk with them before spending even another minute on it.

{ 376 comments… read them below }

  1. oep*

    Wow. Just wow. I can’t say anything else without a copious amount of profanity, so I’ll scurry back into lurk mode.

      1. Jessa*

        Me too. I cannot think of what can be said. Especially if one of those curvier people is curvy due to a medical reason. This is just screaming for a lawsuit.

  2. nyxalinth*

    I worked at a call center when I lived in Florida that had similar issue, only with this one, it was shoes. The dress code said no flip flops, not matter how nice they looked, and also, no heels higher than two inches. Quite of few of the women in certain ethnic groups (this is relevant) wore 3, 4, and in some cases, almost 5 inch spike heels on a frequent basis. so I asked my manager “If they’re wearing those, and they’re out of the dress code, can I wear my flip flops?”

    “No, I’m afraid not.”

    “So, they can break the dress code, but not me?”

    (Manager looks uncomfortable) “It’s, um, best to not argue with those ladies.”

    In addition to his poor management, I got a distinct feeling he was afraid of being labeled racist in some way and hit with discrimination.

    More on the topic, I have to agree. Either the manager has to exact a department-wide ban on this, or let everyone wear it, and either way, her reasoning is silly and I suspect brought about by feelings of her own insecurity.

    1. Chinook*

      Ironcially, by holding them to a different standard because of their race, woudl that also be considered racist?

      1. fposte*

        Well, legally, everybody has a race, and refusing to permit nyx et al. to wear certain clothes because of their race could certainly be discriminatory.

    2. nooeey*

      Dealt with the same thing in Florida. Dress code says no “oddly colored hair” and yet half of the female floor reps have hairdoes in blue, purple, crimson… A male employee comes in with a blond streak in HIS hair and is fired on the spot.

  3. Kathryn T.*

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a dress code that prohibits, say, visible cleavage or skintight pants. But if you’re going to say that it’s OK for some people but not for others, then you have to come up with a way to clearly disambiguate the two groups — so what are you going to use here? BMI? Weight? Body fat percentage? The tiniest shred of thought shows what a ridiculous idea this is.

            1. Zahra*

              Sorry, didn’t catch the two sentences where the OP said “her”. Most her post was “my boss” without specific gender. However, I noticed that you do seem to default to female pronouns when gender is unknown and I like it.

                1. Zahra*

                  Also, I find that it changes the default image I have in my brain of the “generic person”. “Generic person” usually happens to be a man, middle-aged if we’re talking bosses. “She” means that “generic person” is a woman, any age and since I am one, I find it very empowering.

                2. TheSnarkyB*

                  Zahra – this is totally off-topic, but you might be interested in some of the research that my “colleague” (we met once) does on prototypical identity. I thought of this because you’re talking about the switch in your mind re: the “generic person” and I experience the same thing!
                  Basically, this research I heard about says that when we think “man” most people think of a white man, and when we say “black person,” most people think of a black man. Basically, the argument in this person’s research is that this has negative effects on anyone who isn’t prototypical for a given identity (so, white people who are women, not men; black people who are women, not men, and possibly other implications re: sexual orientation, social class, whatever). Sorry, I’m rambling at this point but it might be of interest to you and others on here, so here’s a link:


                3. ariancita*

                  Yes, linguistic anthropology talks about this in terms of marked and unmarked categories for words and how it maps to social inequities.

        1. TL*

          She could find them overtly sexy without being attracted to them. People do that, they just tend to use nastier words than sexy to verbalize the feeling.

        2. TheSnarkyB*

          Can we just ignore the gender piece of it with regards to whether the manager finds them attractive or not? It’s relevant because it is fat shaming and because most people in this society, whether sexually attracted to women or not, have some ingrained sexism towards women and about what womens’ bodies should look like. It is body shaming and it is sexist, regardless of her personal attraction.

          Also, some of us do the sexing with same-gender someones so… yeah, irrelevant.

          1. fposte*

            As I noted, that’s possible. Statistic likelihood, however, is that she’s straight.

        3. mortorph*

          Even if she were female, that doesn’t discount being sexually attracted to her employees (inappropriately, that it may be)…

      1. Lindsay J*

        Sounds to me like the manager is attempting to keep everyone dressing in a way that is considered conventionally “attractive” for their body type while also not being overly sexy.

        So bigger girls are not allowed to draw attention to their curves in a “positive” (drawing attention to large boobs with v-neck t-shirts) or “negative” (skin tight leggings on a heavy-set girl) way.

        1. Jessa*

          I wish corporations (and schools) would get off of this garbage. It’s rape culture at it’s worst. The message being sent here is that the women are distracting and it’s THEIR fault to fix it not that men are DISTRACTED and it’s their fault to not pay that kind of attention to women’s bodies.

          Yes there is an element of “dress professionally at work,” here but ONCE you make it directly dependent on the body type of the woman, you’re making it HER fault if someone else is distracted. And if she does get hurt on her way in the parking lot that manager is going to blame HER not the person who hurt her.

          If the dress code has a business reason – Please don’t wear shirts that you are falling out of, are so sheer we can see your brassiere, are tube tops, etc. because that’s unprofessional LOOKING and it applies to EVERY person that is able to wear those kind of clothes, that’s DIFFERENT. That’s the same as telling men no sleeveless t-shirts at work.

          But it’s either fat shaming which is just as bad, or it’s blaming the woman for her looks instead of OTHER people for looking. Time to start putting the onus on the LOOKER to behave properly not the LOOKEE.

          And I’m sorry but leggings are not TROUSERS for crying out loud. This has to stop on ANYONE over about 10 years old. I do NOT see an issue with saying leggings require a skirt or tunic top that is no shorter than 2 inches above the knee. Because they’re LEGGINGS not trous.

          1. Judari*

            I think you are reading way too into this. I think for business and internal communication sake the school’s office should just stick to one dress code for everyone but its not rape culture or victim blaming for people to dress appropriately according to their bodies. A v-neck on a heavy-chested woman is going to look different than a v-neck on a flat chested woman. I’m a heterosexual woman myself so I would not be sexualizing them but even I would be distracted. While I think the human form in any size isn’t something to be ashamed of I do think we have been taught in society to conservatively cover our bodies in most situations. Therefore anything out of this norm, as with any norm, would be attention grabbing. People of bigger size or assets simply just have more to cover to fit this norm. It’s not necessarily “fair” but that’s the way it is. I think it’s more fat-shaming when it comes to leggings as they do cover, unless you could clearly see underwear.

            1. Jessa*

              It not unless the spoken reason for the code differential is “it’s distracting.” The point is that the code should read identically for every employee.

              IE No leggings/tight, tight trousers
              No shirts that show any part of the bust
              No very short skirts/shorts (if allowed.)
              Please make sure your clothing fits properly (shirts do not gap.)
              Clothing must be neat and clean and not have any obscene or objectionable printing on it (IE no curse words or sexist or racist language.)

              If you tell person A: they can wear leggings or tight trousers and person B: they cannot wear the same items properly fitted for their body, and your REASON is it’s distracting, etc. You have a PROBLEM. Either it’s fat shaming or it’s putting the onus on the victim for distracting people instead of telling the distracted “quit staring at them and you won’t be bothered by the fact that the really pretty woman, or that woman of size, or whatever, is wearing x.”

              Any two employees should be able to wear the exact same outfit regardless of body size, proportion or “prettiness.” As long as the item fits their body properly. If this is NOT the case then the policy is likely a bad one.

              1. Judari*

                Well one could argue its not properly fitted for their body if it’s showing an excess amount of skin or revealing underclothes. The fact is a person with a smaller chest size is going to be showing less skin in a V-neck than a person with a bigger chest would be in that same V-neck. This is simply because there is more skin to show on the bigger chested person regardless of whether the shirt is too tight or not. The exposure of skin is what’s distracting (as I explained before it doesn’t have to be sexual necessarily). There is no “fairness” when it comes to dressing for your size with this in mind. It would be the same if a smaller framed person with thinner hips had the problem of their underwear/bottom being exposed when wearing pants. A curvier person of the same size might not have that problem because their hips are big enough to fill out those same pants which effectively keeps them up. However that doesn’t mean the smaller framed person doesn’t have to make accommodations such as wearing a belt (like a bigger chested person might wear a tank top) to keep from being exposed fully. It can go both ways, it’s more about being conservative. I’m not saying people wont and don’t fat shame or sexualize others in the work place however, there is a valid case an issue with too much skin being distracting.

              2. Anonymous*

                I agree with you on the larger context of this…

                And would also like to add that somehow in our society it is okay to talk to women about their body size- even at work!

                I am not overweight. I am tall and a size 4. However I do go between a 2 and 4.. do you know how many times I hear things related to my size at work? It’s ridiculous!

    1. Anonymous*

      Eh, I actually do think there’s something wrong with a dress code that prohibits any cleavage — a) because it’s so subjective and b) because it’s going to impact some women more than others wearing the same clothing. More specifically: A) For a lot of people any hint of a shadow between breasts counts as cleavage; remember the story about Hilary Clinton daring to have a bit during a session in Congress? and B) I have a big bust, and unless I wear something that literally covers up to my collarbone, there is likely going to be some point during the day where there’s the tiniest bit of cleavage. So, what’s the acceptable, objective definition of “visible cleavage”?

      1. Nelle*

        Right. “Visible cleavage” is in the eye of the beholder and that eye is necessarily subjective. But I think there’s a way to write such a dress code so that it affects everyone equally i.e. “Only crew neck or collared shirts” or “No sleeveless shirts or tank tops.” That way it becomes more about the article of clothing, less about the person wearing it.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I’m lucky that I have a mole right at the level where I think a top goes from work-safe to social-occasion-only. :D I’m ok with showing sort of the “notch” right at the top of the cleavage–it actually looks way more put-together on my body type (very busty) than if I wore my shirts up to my neck all the time. But if you can see my mole, I need to change!

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            My sisters and I all have a mole at just the right place on our chests, too (I figure we all got sunburned to about that level when we were kids)! We call it our modesty mole. :D

            1. TychaBrahe*

              Actually, it’s probably genetic. My sister and I both had moles just to the left of our left eye. My grandmother had one there as well.

      2. Manda*

        I made a post about this somewhere further down, but I’ll add to what I said here. I’m average height and rather busty. I do my best not to show cleavage where it isn’t appropriate, but it may be a little visible to someone taller than me and not to someone shorter. Or it may be visible to someone who’s standing while I’m sitting.

      3. Jessa*

        It’s not subjective at all, if you can see the separation at the top of the bust, then it’s too decolletee. How hard is that? In a workplace the top should cover the ENTIRETY of the bustline. I don’t need a measuring tool to tell what that is. It differs for every person so you do NOT say “no necklines lower than X.” If I can see any part of the bust, it’s too low. It’s an office, it’s not Hooters restaurant.

        It’s an office. There’s no reason they can’t make everyone wear polo shirts if they want. There are many necklines between very low scoop neck and very high turtleneck. If a stylish top that is not high enough can’t be found…people aren’t looking enough? Even at 3x I can find a tonne of them in the local stores.

    2. Chinook*

      I can see the dress code now:
      “All those with a A or B cup size may wear v-neck shirts. Those who have a C cup or larger must only wear boat neck or round necklines. This will apply to both women and men.”

      1. Sandy*

        My boss at my first job bascially said that. The receptionist and I had the same shirt, and since I was larger on the top than she was, I wasn’t allowed to wear the shirt. She wasn’t as specific, but she said I couldn’t wear that shirt anymore, and I told her the receptionist wore the same shirt yesterday, but it didn’t matter, since she was small chested.
        That same boss told me to be professional I could only wear one earring in each ear…

      2. Manda*

        And that would be very subjective because many women wear the wrong bra size. So in theory, someone could think she’s okay to wear a V-neck top, whereas if she had a properly fitting bra that would not be case.

        But there are so many things wrong with that and I’m pretty sure you were joking anyway.

        1. Chinook*

          I was joking about a dress code based on cup size (though I do agree that a correctly fitted bra can make all the difference when it comes to clothing fitting “appropriately”). I am most definitely not joking about banning visible camel toes and moose knuckles. Unless they are being served on a plate as a delicacy, no one should ever have to see them.

        2. Liz T*

          I’ve been wondering–how do we KNOW how many women wear the wrong bra size? I see it bandied about as fact that some huge majority of us are doing it wrong, but no one ever links to a study or anything. Did Victoria’s Secret make this up? Because they’re TERRIBLE at bra fittings.

          1. Manda*

            I’ve seen figures like, “an estimated 80% of women wear the wrong bra size,” and I really don’t know where the numbers come from. But since the majority of women don’t go to professional fitters (using a measuring tape isn’t reliable and isn’t the professional way), its’ probably a safe guess.

            1. Zahra*

              Actually, a professional fitter will use a measuring tape first and then make allowances for the fact that different bras fit differently on different people. And the actual “right way” to use a measuring tape for a bra is thus: band size equals the number of inches around your ribcage (no +5 inches nonsense). Cup size is one increment per inch of difference between the fullest part of bust and ribcage.

              1. Manda*

                I don’t agree with this. Partly because there are so many different formulas that you never know what measurements a company bases their products on. Also, the best a measuring tape can ever do is give you a starting point. If the size the fitter measures you as doesn’t fit, they have to know why and they have to know whether to change the cup, the band, or the style. Different brands and styles fit differently. Where I go, they start you in the size you’re currently wearing and then go from there. So why even bother with the measuring tape if they have to do it by sight anyway? And if you get measured while wearing an ill-fitting bra, it’s unlikely you’ll end up with an accurate measurement.

            2. Liz T*

              I’m guessing that 80% figure is made up, or extrapolated from a tiny sample size, to get us talking to bra salespeople. (That stat had me get myself measured, only to discover that I’d been right all along, and that the woman measuring me was totally clueless and just trying to sell me things I didn’t want.)

          2. Rana*

            I think it may be because the sizes that are sold in most stores are in a pretty narrow range, and because the formulas for determining sizing are based on a number of assumptions that don’t taking into account a lot of women’s body sizes (like women with large torsos aren’t expected to have small breasts, and vice versa). Given those two things, odds are decent that most of us aren’t wearing the most appropriate band-and-cup combination, either because we don’t know it, or it’s not available.

        3. Kelly*

          Bras are among women’s least favorite items of clothing to shop for. I can count on one hand the number of brands that make bras that work for me personally. Once you find a brand, you stick with it until they either discontinue what you like or change the sizing.

          I work in retail and am not surprised how the obesity problem is affecting what bras are sold in department stores. At the store I work for, over half of the bras are C cup or larger and for size 38 and above. It is tough finding a bra if you have a small cup size and under size 38. I think at least a quarter of the bras we sell are size 40 and above and for D and DD cups. DDD cups are also becoming more common to have in stock in store and not having to special order. Now if you want an A cup bra, that has to be special ordered.

          Most department store employees who work in intimates and specialty stores (ie Victoria’s Secret) aren’t as well trained as they could be about bra fitting and sizing. I think you have to go into a higher end department store or specialty store to get someone who is really good at fitting and knows a lot about bras working on the floor. I had one customer say that she had problems with bras until she went to Nordstrom’s where the person there was very knowledgeable about the whole process and selection and found her some Wacoals that worked. Now that’s all the customer wears, thanks to the well trained Nordstrom’s salesperson.

          1. Zahra*

            Yeah, most stores won’t have the bra size I need. I’m still breastfeeding, so it’s 32J (as in, bustline is 42″ to my ribcage’s 32″). Without breastfeeding, I need a 32F-G depending on fit (so my bustline is about 38-39″). No regular department store will have that, or even Victoria’s Secret. La Senza in Canada tried to make me fit in a 38DDD, but the band was way too loose. I really have to go to bra shops that handle more “specialty” sized bras. The one I go to tells me most of their clients come for the big cups/small to mid band size bras rather than high-end products. High-end products is about 90% of what they sell, but WonderBra & co. don’t make sizes like mine.

            1. VintageLydia*

              I’m a 34 F or G (depending on brand) ordinarily (currently breastfeeding as well so I’m more like an H or I right now.) High end department stores don’t carry my size but the specialty stores sometimes do. I usually just order them from Her Room because I hate going to a store to bra shop.

              I’m still mad I can never find my size in anything other than stark white or black. I’d like pretty polka dots like my smaller friends’ have, too :(

              Though slightly more on topic, to stay more modest, I’m pretty much stuck with tents for tops. Most higher neck tops that are cut slimmer don’t account for large “girls” with a smaller waist whereas something like a V-neck is way more forgiving. I wear camisoles under them but even those are often very low cut. And now that I’m nursing, they have to be accessible either for the baby or the pump so high neck stuff is out of the question, anyway, unless they’re button up. Fun :|

              1. Zahra*

                If you are willing to pay a bit more for a bra, there are a lot of beautiful, fancy options. Take a look at and to start with. Once you’ve got brand names and sizes, you can always Google them off to find other stores that offer them for less.

                1. Amy*

                  I was a 3FF before I had reduction surgery (for context I have a small frame and am 5’9″), now I’m a 32DD . What a lot of people don’t realize is that in terms of cup volume, a 32DD is the same as a 34D or a 36C, etc… So when you go down a band size you need to go up a cup size to compensate!

                  As far as workplace dress codes, not many people would consider my breasts “large” (my friends are surprised to find that I’m a DD), but because of my small small frame, I have ample cleavage ’cause they’re so close together. It just goes to show that dress codes should be about the end result. Aka, “keep visible cleavage to a reasonable minimum” and not “large-breasted women need to wear crew-neck shirts”

                  side note, breasthealthonline (dot) org is a fantastic site/community

                2. Jessica*

                  Another is, which has nice bras at better prices than you can find at other prices most of the time. I just finally figured out my real bra size (went down four inches in band size and up six cup sizes, unfortunately, so I definitely believe that a lot of women are wearing the wrong size…I’ve had several fittings over the years, too) and bought a bunch from this site. It’s a UK site, so the sizing is a bit different — and more reliable — than US sizing.

    3. Lindsay J*

      Yeah that was my first thought with this – and I think where Alison might have been going with telling the boss to think about how this would look in writing – where is the line drawn?

      So employee A can wear leggings and v-neck shirts, and employee B cannot. What happens when employee C is hired and her body type is between A and B? Can she only wear v-neck shirts if she is below a C-cup and leggings if she is under 120 lbs? Does she have to submit photos of herself in these outfits before she can wear them?

  4. some1*

    Does anyone get the feeling the LW’s boss knows how wrong this is? I find it interesting that the employee was talked to about not wearing leggings when the LW was out, if she’s the immediate supervisor.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        Because she takes out her own body issues on others. In the Boss’ mind she is thinking “I would never wear leggings because my legs are so fat, therefore Jane shouldn’t wear them either”.

        Just a hunch.

        1. RLS*

          I don’t think size matters when it comes to this kind of thought. I can definitely see the insecurity issue, but honestly…body shaming really doesn’t discriminate. Large women criticize small women and vice versa. It’s really just the stupid body-shaming, fat-phobic culture in the US.

        2. Lingua Ignota*

          Coming out of lurkdom to disagree strongly. I know lots and lots of fat people (and they’d even happily describe themselves as “fat,” as it’s theoretically a neutral word like “tall” or “short) who have no problem with form-fitting clothing, showing skin, etc. And I know lots and lots of thin people (including my mother, ugh) who think that fat people should hide themselves away in dark, shapeless sacks. My own mother told me that she didn’t like that I wore shorts to her house one time last summer, because I am a larger person and I look bad in shorts. (According to her. I think I look just fine in shorts.)

          People of all shapes and sizes have body size-related prejudices.

          1. KellyK*

            Yeah, my money would be on someone thin or average size who thinks fat people are icky, rather than on a fat woman with her own body issues that she’s projecting onto others.

        3. Anonymous*

          Trust me, plenty of people of ALL sizes irrationally hate and feel disgust towards fat people.

            1. Ann*

              I hate jeggings worn as pants. But I must admit to wearing leggings under skirts and dresses. I work in a very casual office (most people wear jeans). I like wearing dresses and skirts but feel weird without my legs covered, but it’s too warm for closed-toed shoes.

            2. Kelly O*



              I will preach that gospel until the end of my time on this planet. Also, because you can technically fit in something does not mean it fits or you should wear it.

              Also don’t get me started on “nail art”…

              1. fposte*

                On a two-year-old, so is a fairy princess outfit, but I still don’t want to see it on my mortgage broker.

                1. jmkenrick*

                  Plot Twist: what if your mortgage broker WAS your fairy godmother the whole time?

                  Directed by M. Night Shamalyan

            3. Cassie*

              We have a lady in our office who works out during lunch hour, which means she changes into spandex bottoms (workout gear) – but then sometimes she doesn’t change back to her street clothes afterward. She just walks around in her spandex! Who does that?

            1. Beth*

              It was never clear to me whether the OP meant overweight people, or women with hourglass figures (big breasts/hips, maybe big “booties.”) Too many euphemisms. Knowing this gets at the intent behind the so-called “dress code.”

  5. Liz in the City*

    I wonder what would happen if those students (who are friends) went to the university’s school newspaper, if it’s halfway decent. That would be something the administration wouldn’t want to see splashed on the front page.

    If the boss wants to tighten the dress code for EVERYONE, that’s one things (leggings should never be pants, IMO), but picking and choosing based on body type, favorites, and other factors is so awful, I can’t even…

    1. Lindsay J*

      This seemed like the obvious solution to me. Ban leggings as pants, shirts that show visible cleavage (or – since somebody above brought up that visible cleavage is subjective – v-neck shirts etc), shorts shorter than 5 inches and skirts or dresses more than an inch or so above the knee for everybody. Then you have a pretty standard dress code for even most casual jobs.

  6. 7*

    I volunteered in a place where one young lady was singled out (fashion wise) because of her very ample bottom. The resentment and conflict that arose from that soured our working relationship as a group (some people that she should wear a sac cloth and others supported her clothing decisions).

    It seemed as though it was older women that had the biggest issue. Everyone in our group was from the same race so no race issues arose. In a work environment, I could see this being an issue.

    IF the boss just has to get rid of leggings, do it for everyone. And who wears leggings as pants to work anyway?

    1. Elizabeth*

      > Who wears leggings as pants to work anyway?

      College students often have not had exposure to the working world enough to know what is/is not professional attire. I knew people in college who considered it “dressing up” for class if they wore old blue jeans instead of pajama pants.

      1. Anonymous*

        From work study students, I’ve seen:

        no shoes, holes in clothes, serious “bed-head” (I’m not talking artistically-styled hair), bikini as bra (although the real issue here was the shirt that was insufficient to cover the bikini as bra) and the list goes on.

        Leggings are the LEAST of the sartorial offenses in some ways! (I’m looking at you, cowboy boots and mini-skirts)

    2. Aimee*

      “And who wears leggings as pants to work anyway?”

      The person in my company who came to work in cheetah print leggings with suede patches on the thighs and a too-short t-shirt that did not match, that’s who. (No student workers in my company either. We have a relaxed dress code, and I don’t think it technically would have been considered against dress code, but there’s dress code and there’s just common sense about what’s appropriate).

      1. glennis*

        I had a co-worker who routinely came to work in sweatpants and sweatshirts. This was a 38 year old mother of two junior high age kids, and her sweatshirt outfit often had pictures of Winnie-the-Pooh or other cutesy characters. It was appalling.

  7. Dana*

    It seems pretty obvious to everyone who reads this blog that it’s rediculous to have a dress code that is subjectively applied based on one indiduals discretion. But while we’re on the subject of clothing can we all just agree that LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS, and should not be worn as such outside of the gym and yoga class.

    1. KellyK*

      We can probably all *mostly* agree. I think they’re too revealing for my personal aesthetics and concept of modesty, and definitely don’t fall into “work-appropriate” attire. But I’m not going to judge what anybody grocery shops or walks their dog in, as long as they put clothes on.

      1. Dana*

        The problem is, as Kelly L. points out below, is that most leggings are not opaque enough to adequately cover the crack. I don’t want to see nooks and crannies at the grocery story or on the street. If there is full coverage fine, but visible crack and camel toe is wildly innappropriate in any public setting.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, that’s true. I’ve seen people wearing darker leggings as pants and they seemed to be sufficiently opaque (from what I could tell…I generally don’t make a habit of staring at random people’s butts!) to not be seen through. I mean, they very clearly show *body shape* but that’s just because they’re tight.

          But, yeah, wearing something see-through is pretty much the same as not wearing clothes over that body part, so I’ll agree with you that that’s not appropriate.

          1. Jamie*

            All of a sudden I’m not sure I have the same definition of leggings as other people.

            My daughters aren’t opaque at all – they are as dense as yoga pants just perfectly tight and fitted like tights and end at knee, mid thigh, or mid calf.

            I would think anything opaque would be more tights than leggings? Maybe it’s a regional thing or maybe I’m just confused.

            1. fposte*

              Actually, I’m wondering what you mean by “opaque”–yoga pants *are* opaque, meaning you can’t see through them (save the lululemon fiasco). Are you swapping your “opaque” and your “translucent” there?

              1. Jamie*

                I did swap those – thanks. One of these days I’ll learn to proof my posts before hitting submit.

            2. just another hiring manager...*

              You’re not confused! I hear people use leggings and tights interchangeably all the time, even though I think they are quite different!

            3. Sandy*

              I think the problem is that some leggings (workout type tight pants) are supposed to be opaque, but aren’t (like the lululemon issue). I’ve seen more than one woman at the gym in workout pants (designed to be worn as pants) doing squats or bending down and you can see everything. I actually double check all of my workout pants in the store before I buy them to make sure I can bend over in them.
              I always think of leggings as not having feet and tights as having feet, regardless of the opaqueness. Some leggings are stand alone, but some are not.

              1. fposte*

                The feet thing is my view as well, though I also have some chunkier knit things that I would call footless tights rather than leggings. I think there’s a jersey-style fabric (sewers will correct me if I’ve got the wrong term) that leggings tend to come in that’s different than opaque tights, too.

            4. Ellie H.*

              Yeah, I have a couple pairs of leggings (black and gray respectively) that I wear in lieu of pants when doing errands or in a casual social circumstance or something like that. I wouldn’t wear them to work but I don’t think I am offending people. They’re totally opaque.

              1. fposte*

                So long as they’re either not tights-tight or you have a tunic/sweater top that goes below your butt.

          2. Lindsay J*

            Yeah, I wear jeggings as pants.

            However, they are completely opaque and pretty much indistinguishable from a pair of skinny jeans – the only difference is the spandex/cotton ratio (the jeggings are more comfy because they are more stretchy).

            However, there are plenty of leggings that I would not wear as pants because they do not cover the area appropriately enough to be viewed by the general public.

            1. Anonymous*

              I think what’s being referred to as “jeggings” here are basically just spandex leggings with a finish made to look like denim. They’re certainly not pants.

              I do have the type of jeggings you’re referring to though, and they are most definitely pants. They *are* jeans, just (as you said) with more spandex. I love them :)

        2. Cassie*

          I was walking on campus one day and my coworker pointed out this female student walking in front of us – she was wearing a sheer red maxi dress with (I presume) thong underwear. Or maybe she wasn’t wearing any underwear at all.

          Who makes a dress like that, without some sort of lining? And who wears a dress like that without a slip or boy-cut shorts/booty shorts?! I didn’t know if we should be good samaritans and tell her.

    2. Julie*

      I think they’re fine if worn under a modest-length dress (say, knee-length or just above knee-length), the way you would wear panty hose. I agree, though, that wearing them as pants is totally inappropriate in the workplace.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s how my daughter wears them but under shorter skirts. It’s a funky look that she can pull off because she’s a teenager, but what works when going to the mall or the movies wouldn’t fly at work.

        The point is to be able to wear the cute little flippy skirts without showing the world your business.

      2. Kelly L.*

        This. My rule for whether to wear leggings with something is, “if I substituted tights, would I still wear this in public?” I don’t think the leg part of leggings is so intimate that it shouldn’t be seen in public–it’s *less* revealing than hose, after all. But the butt part is not opaque enough to be pants in most cases.

      3. Beth*

        Eh, we’re talking about student workers. Students usually come straight from class in whatever they’re wearing, which is often leggings or skinny jeans.

        1. fposte*

          And as their manager I get to tell them they have to wear what’s appropriate for the workplace regardless of where they’re coming from. It’s their business if they want to wear pajamas to class, but they’re not wearing them here.

          1. kac*

            @fposte, but the issue here isn’t setting rules for general work-place appropriateness, (no leggings as pants to work, closed toed shoes, skirts just above the knee or longer, etc.). What’s happening here is that *individual*students are being picked on and shamed for their body-type, which is highly inappropriate. Either it’s a rule for everyone, or it’s not a rule.

    3. Sascha*

      YES. I participated in a mock interview day a few months ago for students, and some of them wore leggings-as-pants. DO NOT WEAR LEGGINGS AS PANTS TO INTERVIEWS. Thank goodness we got to them before the real interviews.

    4. Anonymous*

      This didn’t say leggings as pants. I wear leggings under skirts all winter cause COLD! And the boss wants to ban all skirts so I’m not going to assume that these were leggings as pants.

      (And if you ban them ban them for everyone.)

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, under a dress they’re like…special winter tights. :D That’s how I like to wear them!

    5. Anon*

      I think it depends on the leggings as well. Some leggings are super thin – almost tights. Others are super thick and a little baggy – almost pants.

      I’m pretty large and I’ve worm form fitting pants (that some might call leggings) with a very long sweater (think down to my thighs) to work. If I were skinny, the sweater would be dress length.. but on me, it just barley covers my bottom!

      I think it looks professional and have had compliments on the combination.

      I think something like this (maybe not with the belt, shoes, and overly bright color) looks perfectly appropriate in a casual work environment:×353.jpg

      Adjust length depending on how much of you there is.

      1. Dana*

        The key to what you’re saying is they cover your bottom. What most people object to is the lack of crack coverage. Leggings with a tunic, or tunic length garment, yes. Leggings with a waist lenth shirt, no. I’d argue that loose fitting, thick knit pants fall out of the realm of leggings. Frankly, I don’t care how tight the pants are, as long as the material is thick and there is no visible camel toe or butt crack all is good.

      2. Tiff*


        As soon as I saw the link I heard that guy’s voice in my head from the commercial.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ooooh, no! If you bend down in that outfit, the butt part of the leggings are going to be exposed. Which should never be exposed in the office. No leggings as pants at work!

        1. Kelly O*

          Thank you.

          I do not want to be available as a consultant to your gynecologist every time you sit down or bend over.

          1. Elizabeth*

            Ditto. The current craze of slits Up To There and leggings as pants so that we could give a reference for someone’s waxer? Ick. (Check out GoFugYourself for a lot of commentary on both!)

        2. fposte*

          The bendover is the test. Just like on cleavage you need to think about how it looks to somebody looking down from a foot higher.

          1. Jessica (the celt)*

            Ha! My husband is a foot and an inch taller than I am, and I always use him as my “Can you see my cleavage too much?” reference! Of course, to make him more reliable as “cleavage police,” I have to phrase it as, “Should anyone else but you be seeing what you’re seeing right now?”


    6. Jaime*

      No we cannot all agree. ;)

      Honestly, I like the legging trend of the last couple of years. I do find it odd, even in TV land, that Jennifer Morrison’s character of Emma Swan wears the same outfit (including leggings as pants) everyday. I think almost all “leggings as pants” outfits are not work appropriate – except in ultra casual work environments. But, as others have said, it totally depends on fabric weight and opacity. I wouldn’t want to see someone where pantyhose as pants because that’s basically the same thing as not wearing pants at all, since pantyhose are usually pretty see through and I’m not for a public “no pants” policy. But leggings, assuming no camel toe/wedgy and they’re opaque are fine for public consumption in my opinion.

      1. Rana*

        I have to admit I agree with you, but then I wear yoga pants regularly and I grew up in the ’80s, when leggings – or their older kindred, stirrup pants – were considered normal wear, suitable even for office settings.

        I think the real issue isn’t the kind of clothing, but whether it stretches in a way that reveals more about a person’s body than is considered appropriate for public view. I mean, heck, “t-shirts” run the gamut from fancy designer linen things to cheapo skin-tight translucent garments with rude sayings printed on them. I think of leggings in the same fashion – some are intended for exercise or to wear under other things; others are basically stretchy knit pants.

        1. fposte*

          Stirrup pants were also generally paired with the long sweater, though–that’s the traditional fashion deal of if you’re tight in one spot, you’re loose in another.

          1. Rana*

            Yeah, if there’s any risk of camel toe, I prefer a longer top (or skirt) myself.

            There’s probably some fashion rule about you can have one close-fitting piece of clothing, or one really flowy piece, but if you make an entire outfit out of either, it’s not so good.

      2. kac*

        Yeah, I wear them as pants all the time too, but only when I’m running errands or meeting a friend from coffee before heading to the gym. I always buy the very opaque variety of leggings, though, and I’d never, ever wear them to work, even on a Friday.

        But again, the issue here isn’t a general level of workplace appropriateness. It’s about a very creepy investment in policing other women’s bodies and it’s definitely bordering on sexual-harassment, imo, b/c this is an issue of sexualizing one particular student’s body. Leggings for all, or leggings for none.

      3. Emily K*

        The intense hatred that leggings as pants evokes in people has always baffled me. Why do people care so much about this thing that approximately 3.5 million websites have been devoted to trying to shame it out of existence? Just dress yourself and go on with your day.

    7. Judari*

      I wear them as pants all the time but usually underneath a tunic or long t-shirt. I think they are fine as pants as long as they are thick enough you cant see underwear.

  8. RLS*

    This would be very difficult for me to remain professional about. As someone who used to be morbidly obese (and I still consider myself curvy at 160 from formerly 280–I’m 5’7″), I refuse to shame anyone for their size. Unless it violates the employee handbook dress code, it doesn’t matter.

    1. KellyK*

      Thank you. There’s plenty of body shame in the universe already, why add to it?

    2. OneoftheMichelles*

      Unless it violates the employee handbook dress code, it doesn’t matter.–(and assuming the co’s dress code is sane) totally agree w/this.

  9. Amy*

    I worked as an oceanfront lifeguard for 6 years, and for the first 4 years we worked under the Harbormaster. The last 2 we worked under the police department, the captain of which decided that “the girls aren’t in shape enough to be showing their stomachs” and decreed that we had to wear one-piece suits instead of the triathlon-style 2-pieces we had worn for over a decade. The one-piece suits were cut so high in the leg and so low in front, I felt more ‘on display’ in that suit than I did in the 2-piece.

    Here’s the kicker: you have to pass a physical test to be a lifeguard, and all of the women on the force were athletes (D1 hockey, d1 lacross, triathlons, rugby, etc). So we were all in fantastic shape, we just didn’t have six-pack abs. Go figure. Nothing we could do about it because we were seasonal employees with very little rights (no overtime, no mandated breaks, etc)

    it disgusted me.

    1. RLS*

      +1!! I work in a waterpark now (unfortunately, no open water cert for me yet…maybe someday…once I live in an ocean state) and the difference between male and female uniforms is disgusting. Most of the female guards I know usually have to buy UnderArmour for their shorts because they’re so dang short and cheap that they chafe, yet guys get the nice long trunks that cause no issue. I don’t understand how you expect “professionalism” out of that, especially when the girls are clearly on display! Let’s also forget that in non-open water settings, and even in some of those, many guards are under 18…so that’s even creepier.

      Fortunately with the park I work at now, the only uniform we *have* to purchase is the shirt, otherwise management is fine with any regular red “guard” shorts and swimwear. I went to and got my own womens board shorts, ’cause…really, the shorts are ridiculous!

      1. Amy*

        what bothered me so much was the obvious commentary on our body shape dictating our fitness level, dictating our uniform. They argued that because we didn’t ‘look’ in shape (aka have 6-packs which is really hard for women anyway to have that low body fat percentage) it wasn’t reassuring to the patrons.

        Who is to say that I can’t sprint to the water, paddle the heck out of the rescue board or sprint swim to someone, and rescue a drowning person just because I don’t have 12% body fat?

        1. TychaBrahe*

          And, without knowing where your ocean is, women who have to get into the water frequently and stay there for a whle shouldn’t have body fat that low. Maybe in Florida you can count on it being warm enough for long enough, but California’s beach water comes from an Alaskan current.

  10. Julie*

    I really like your suggestion of imagining how the policy would look if put in writing. “Employees with a D-cup or larger are not entitled to wear V-cut or deep U-cut shirts” or “Employees with a BMI greater than 28 are not entitled to wear leggings or skirts.”


    1. fposte*

      “Vertical creasing, as in the visible rectus abdominus, is acceptable, but horizontal creasing, which suggests fat rolls, is not.”

    2. Jane Doe*

      “Periodic body checks using a tape measure, calipers, a scale, and other tools not designated here may be undertaken to ensure that employees fall within the designated measurements.”

    3. Natalie*

      And imagining how crazy said boss would get if someone has the “required” BMI, but carries most of that body mass in their butt. Not everyone’s weight distributes the same way, after all.

    4. Chinook*

      “At no point should anyone in the office be sporting a visible camel toe unless they really are a camel.”

        1. Chinook*

          “A visible moose knuckle, just like a camel toe, is only appropriate if you are of that species.”

            1. Chinook - Chocolate Teapot Social Coordinator*

              A moose knuckle is the male equivalent of a camel toe.

            2. mooseknuckle*

              I thought moose knuckle was just a really really big cameltoe.

              Sad to say, I’m overweight, most of my weight is in my midsection, and unless I go for super loose harem pants (which are another ballgame of ugly on the same wavelength as leggings)… will never disappear.
              Some women just…have…more..ya kno.

  11. Stella Maris*

    Just out of curiosity – did this come out of nowhere? Has your boss voiced any concerns of this type before? Is it possible she’s being pressured from above? This is so profoundly stupid and so likely to explode that I have to wonder what caused it.

  12. Catbertismyhero*

    I would just add that in the District of Columbia it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of appearance, so this policy would be a problem here. And the policy is just wrong on so many levels….

    1. nyxalinth*

      Which isn’t foolproof, since if they think you’re too fat or ugly and they don’t want to hire you they can just pull out the old “Another candidate was better qualified for the position” line. How would something like appearance discrimination be proven?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I suspect it comes in play in situations like “you’re getting too fat to represent us at conferences, so lose weight or we’re changing your role” — less often in hiring decisions where, as you say, the applicant really wouldn’t know.

  13. Lingua Ignota*

    Ugh, is my mother the boss in the OP’s question? She told me last summer that she thinks I shouldn’t wear shorts because they don’t look good on me, and in particular that because she thinks shorts don’t look good on me, that it’s rude of me to come to her house wearing said shorts.

    In any event, stuff like this makes me so angry. One’s persons aesthetic preferences are not an objective standard!

    1. KellyK*

      Oh, for crying out loud! I’m pretty sure if I were you, I’d wear shorts to her house *all the time.*

        1. Lingua Ignota*

          Heh. Probably a better plan of action than my current one, which is “worry obsessively about whether Mom will think my outfit is flattering.” :/

          1. AP*

            Ugh I don’t have a sister but I think we might have the same mother anyway. The funny thing is, she has learned her lesson and hasn’t made any comments like that in years but I still worry disproportionately if I know I’m going to see her.

      1. -X-*

        “I’d wear shorts to her house *all the time.*”

        No, it’s her house. You can’t go to other people’s houses doing things they find rude. Not the same as a workplace or other public space. If you can’t abide, don’t go and say why.

        1. KellyK*

          I don’t think the standards of politeness are such that someone gets automatically make you “rude” when you do something they don’t approve of. The mom has decided to take personal offense at Lingua Ignotta’s shorts-wearing and view it as a personal affront. There’s also no way to win, because if she doesn’t ever go to her mom’s house, mom can accuse her of being mean and ignoring her, or causing family drama by blowing off get-togethers.

            1. KellyK*

              But they aren’t actual “rules.” If the mom objected to shorts-wearing, she’d object to her husband and son wearing shorts too.

              1. -X-*

                In personal life we can have rules that are not the same for everyone. We don’t have to be “fair” or uniform.

                “My rule is *you* can’t wear that. My house, my rules.”

                And regarding dictating visitors clothing choices: of course we can. You might consider it rude to make such a rule, but surely we can control what people do if they want to come into our home.

                Geekchic has it right – if you can’t abide, don’t go. “My body my rules” is right too.

                1. KellyK*

                  Right, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t show up wearing shorts. If mom wants to kick her out, then she can, because it’s her house.

            2. GeekChic*

              Then her mom should expect to get treated exactly like I treat my mom (who acts exactly this way). Namely, I never go and visit her and when she criticizes my body or clothing I hang up phone or get up and leave.

              My body, my rules.

              1. Jamie*

                Such a healthy attitude. I’m sorry that it’s necessary though – it’s so hard when it’s family.

              2. Rana*

                Yup. House rules or not, you should treat visitors with respect, whether or not they are family.

    2. KellyK*

      “One’s persons aesthetic preferences are not an objective standard!”

      Also wanted to quote this part, because it bears repeating (and shouting from rooftops and stitching on samplers).

      1. Chinook*

        I disagree – I think we can all agree that a visible camel toe is attractive only to camels!

        1. KellyK*

          Still not an objective standard. If people dress in that fashion, then either they think it’s attractive, or “attractive” wasn’t their goal in getting dressed.

        1. Chinook*

          But if camels didn’t have toes, how would they keep themselves balanced on the sand?

    3. fposte*

      I would actually support your mother’s right to say “no shorts-wearing in my house” if that were the actual rule, but now that she’s managed to turn it into a way to insult her daughter I think you should show up in bikini bottoms.

      1. Lingua Ignota*

        Hahahaha. Yeah, it’s not a house-wide rule. My dad and brother, who are thin, are “allowed” to wear shorts. *massive eyeroll*

  14. Seriously?*

    This makes me very upset. She wants to write slut shaming into a dress code and pressure the women who don’t fit her perceived ideal of the female form into feeling guilty about what nature gave them. Social construct has deigned voluptuous figures to be sexual yet it’s the women who are at fault for being “too sexual,” all because of their genetic proclivity to a curvaceous figure. Has that boss thought about how those girls might be grateful they have an office where they can be comfortable in their body (and show it by wearing leggings)? Or, furthermore, has she ever thought about how exhausting it is to try to find clothes that are professional, look flattering, and make you feel comfortable about your body? As someone with a curvy figure, I spend an inordinate amount of time shopping and weighing clothes options as I struggle to find clothes that are both professional but make me feel good about my body. Furthermore, it is unbelievably frustrating to try to find clothes that fit the above requirements and not have your self-esteem plummet when everything you find doesn’t fit correctly, highlighting the fact that your body is not the “approved norm.”

    I can’t believe the gall of this women. This is just horrid.

    1. Marnie*

      What you said!

      I once had a boss who kept complaining that I didn’t wear suits, like the other manager level women at the company. (I wore dress slacks or skirts, coordinated with a matching blouse and blazer.) I’m not even 5 feet tall and curvy would be an understatement; traditional business suits look ridiculous on me, like I’m dressing up in Mommy’s clothes. He kept on about it until I went to a bespoke tailor and got her to cost out a suit from scratch or a heavily altered one. The bespoke quote was $750.00, and the alterations ran from $200 -$300. I took it to him and said I was sorry he had issues with my clothes, but I simply could not afford to dress the way he wanted. He never said another word about it, and when he was fired several months later I got his job.

    2. Lingua Ignota*

      “Furthermore, it is unbelievably frustrating to try to find clothes that fit the above requirements and not have your self-esteem plummet when everything you find doesn’t fit correctly, highlighting the fact that your body is not the ‘approved norm.'”

      Yes, exactly. And given the dearth of clothing above size 14, let alone PROFESSIONAL clothing, it’s doubly frustrating.

        1. OneoftheMichelles*

          Try size 18 *regular* top, 16 *women’s* bottom.
          Took me 3 months to find one suit that fits (still need to pin down the “tail” in back)…..soooooooo frustrating.

          1. Natalie*

            If your budget can afford it, definitely consider getting it tailored. Good tailoring does amaaaaazing things for how you look in the same clothes. And even cheaper clothes can be tailored.

      1. Camellia*

        That’s why I love QVC! The same clothes, whether they are casual or professional, come in the full range of sizes. So I can get the same cute stuff that my smaller sisters can. And what’s even better, at the same price! Once you find your size in one brand the sizes are remarkable consistent in all brands. And they have all size models, too, which helps to see what looks good on whom.

        Sorry to sing their praises so much but they really boosted my self-esteem when I was dealing with a weight gain due to medical issues and had to basically buy a whole new wardrobe.

        1. Shannon!*

          Toot your own horn! I’m glad to hear shopping with QVC has been such a positive experience for you.

      2. Kelly O*

        Oh lord.

        I was just at the mall today looking for a plain black suit in a larger size and let me tell you, clothing is not kind for those of us who need *ahem* extended sizes.

        I seriously could not find one thing under $100 that was what I needed. Lane Bryant had pants that would work, but the suit bits they had were too wrinkly looking. I am going to just have to buy separates and try to lose enough weight to get in my suits. (Eating your stress is not a good idea, gang. And apparently I’ve been eating the stress of half my office.)

        Seriously though it is HARD to find something that fits properly if you’re not willing to put on an Alfred Dunner pantsuit and hope people think you’re the best-preserved 90 year old they’ve ever seen.

        1. Nancypie*

          Have you tried Dress Barn? They have reasonably priced suit separates in all sizes.

        2. Liz in the City*

          I feel your pain, KellyO (in the slim chance you’re still checking this thread). I’ve had good luck with Talbots, especially since I’m fortunate to live near a Talbots clearance outlet (even lower prices than a regular outlet) and their sizes go up to a 24W / 3X. I also have had hit-and-miss luck with ideeli, which sends me clothes via email (like one-day deals). Mostly good for more casual stuff, but there are some cute things there. Also, I wish Addition-Elle would come down from Canada — seriously cute clothing that doesn’t look like my Nana’s Alfred Dunner separates.

          And no matter why you/we have extra weight, the fact that women are meant to felt ashamed isn’t good or fair. Men get labels like “big and tall” and “husky” and stores proudly devoted to their shape. Women get dark, small corners with the ugliest clothes ever. Plus, let’s not even get started how hard it is to find decent exercise clothes that don’t make you look like a tent (JC Penney has been the best for me so far = cheap and sweat-wicking).

  15. Katniss*

    Who on earth thinks this is a good idea?!

    I had a principal in high school who tried to pull something very similar with my girlfriend at the time and I. Girlfriend had a more ample bust, I had a larger butt. He tried to use our respective “assets” to make his point about the dress code.

    Yeah, he was let go pretty quick.

  16. J*

    Because of the unfair proclivity to view curves as unprofessional, I often wear sports bras to interviews to reduce the apparent size of my bust. I like to think I’m just being paranoid, and that I won’t be judged for that, but other women I talk to do the same thing…

    1. fposte*

      Though I think we may be using “curvy” in two ways in this thread–there’s the old meaning that could definitely include skinny women with generous bra sizes, and it’s also used as a term for larger to plus-sized women. (It doesn’t really matter for the purposes of the OP, of course–the boss is wrong either way.)

    2. Anonymous*

      I’m fat and have gained weight since I last was looking for a job and interviewing. If I was interviewing for places now, I’d probably wear something like spanx so the fat is not as obvious. Yes, I totally believe people get discriminated against based solely on appearance.

      1. Lindsay J*

        Yeah it’s always in the back of my mind while interviewing. Not that I think that they would completely discount me based on my appearance, but well, if the choice is between me and a little skinny blonde girl – all other qualifications equal – I feel like a lot of males doing hiring (and some females) would pick the skinny blond girl.

        (I’m not even that heavy either – I’m pretty average in both looks and weight).

        When I was doing retail there were places I wouldn’t even bother applying because I could tell I didn’t fit their desired aesthetic and I hate the fact that information has come out showing that I wasn’t wrong.

    3. Ash*

      I hate how my breasts look in sports bras (and I have an “ample bosom”), but I find that those minimizer bras are awesome. They provide a lot better support, and my chest still looks great. They’re not any more costly than regular-style bras, you should look into getting one for interviews (or when you wear low-cut tops, or whatever, ha).

  17. JR*

    Another aspect that the boss should take into consideration is that the social media world would eat something like this up. All it would take was for a tweet or post to get out and BAM it’s all over the place. Obviously this shouldn’t be what makes the boss change her mind, but it might be good case to make if all the logical arguments are failing.

  18. Kathryn T.*

    Actually, you know what this reminds me of? The time that Lane Bryant underwear ad was banned for being Too Sexy, during a show / timeslot that regularly ran Victoria’s Secret ads where the models were equally uncovered, or even more so.

  19. Jubilance*

    Everyone has already summed up my outrage at this entire thing. This manager is so out of touch.

    I’m a curvy woman, and trust me, I evaluate every piece of clothing I wear to the office – is it too tight, too clingy, etc. I wear a lot of cardigans and blazers to try to minimize my curves because I want to be seen as professional. I’d be appalled if my manager told me I couldn’t wear certain clothing because of my body shape (I have a natural hourglass shape).

  20. Ruffingit*

    This is just so ridiculous on the face of it that it’s amazing to me the boss can’t see it. Definitely go to HR and, if necessary, run it past the University’s counsel department aka lawyers. If HR doesn’t shut this down, the lawyers sure will.

    The boss in this situation may have already created a problem for herself because she’s already mentioned this to an employee. That was a bad move.

    Who knows what the motivation of the boss is here, but regardless, it’s never going to pass muster before HR or the legal counsel of the university. Before meeting with this woman again, the LW should get back-up from HR first and approach her with it at the meeting.

  21. Ash*

    It’s funny to me (as a curvy woman) when people act as though we have no idea how we look when we dress. We know we have big hips/butt/thighs/breasts/etc., we know how we look, we bought the damn clothes, didn’t we? I agree that people should dress for their body type, and I don’t want to see certain parts of anyone regardless of their BMI, but I would never presume to tell someone how to dress unless they were asking me for advice. If they are covering the three Bs (butt, boobs and belly–thank you Ask Amy!) and it’s their-workplace-appropriate, who cares?

  22. Jane Doe*

    There’s really no escaping body/clothes criticism. The same people who judge women for wearing clothes that show their shape as unprofessional would probably think those same women were frumpy and unprofessional if they wore loose clothing that hid the shape of their bodies. There aren’t enough eyerolls in the world for people who are weird about the shape of other people’s bodies. I can understand not wanting people to wear certain types of clothing at work because they tend to show too much skin, but some people seem to prefer policing what other people look like instead of what they’re wearing.

  23. Anonimal*

    Agree to everything everyone said. Boss is whackadoodle.

    Gigantic aside here….
    However, I did, once, have to speak to a younger staff member because of how she dressed. This was a public facing position (in higher ed) and she often was the only staff member here in the evenings. There was a guard but still, alone. Plus at our desks anyone speaking would be looking down at her. She was young, very pretty, and on the slender side. Her shirts were often too low cut and skirts were too short. Way outside of dress code. When I spoke to her, it was from the standpoint of her safety. “When your shirts are that low cut, they can see directly down your chest. Not only is this unprofessional but could put you in a dangerous situation with the wrong type of person. Same with the skirts.” She was pretty good from then on. Not that this applies to this situation.

    1. Anonymous*

      “Not only is this unprofessional but could put you in a dangerous situation with the wrong type of person. Same with the skirts.”

      Wow, you actually think this victim-blaming mess was the RIGHT thing to say?

      1. KellyK*

        In addition to being victim-blaming and inappropriate, I don’t think it’s actually true that a woman is any more likely to be raped or assaulted based on what she’s wearing. (Whether it might be used as an excuse or a way to discredit her later is a different story.)

        I think Anonimal crossed about seventeen different lines here. All that had to be said was that her clothing wasn’t work-appropriate.

      2. Anonymous*

        This is a great example of something that is said with probably the best of intentions (I don’t doubt the OP was genuinely concerned), but is just…completely wrong and contributes so much to the culture of ‘she was asking for it.’

    2. Ash*

      “When you dress like that, some men won’t be able to control themselves and might sexually assault you.”

      That is basically what you said to your co-worker. That is pretty disgusting on your part.

      You could’ve just as easily said, “That looks unprofessional.” No victim blaming needed.

          1. Grace*

            I understand the point that Anonimal was making. There are women who dress provocatively and they do it for the attention, and yes they are unprofessional. At one law office, we had to deal with a new hire wearing a teddy to work as a top. And we had to deal with another employee who wore sheer blouses, with bright colored bras underneath (i.e. sheer white blouse with bright red bra underneath). Finally, while riding the commute bus to work one morning a young woman from a foreign country was wearing micro skirt (that covered nothing) and jacket combo and high heels. The Hispanic day workers riding the front part of the bus got very aggressive with the cat calls, leering, etc. When we finally got off in the next city, I told her to please dress more conservatively or put a coat over her outfit because I don’t think that’s the kind of attention she wants.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Shouldn’t someone have addressed it much earlier with her from the standpoint of professional requirements? It’s really not an employer’s business what kind of attention she does or doesn’t want on her commute, but it is their concern that she’s dressed appropriately at work.

              1. Grace*

                Well her choice of clothing certainly ruined our normally placid morning commute. The whole commute bus had to listen to those Hispanic day workers go at her for more than 20 minutes.

                1. annalee*

                  The people who ruined your commute were 1. the harassers, and 2. the bus driver, who is responsible for the safety of her passengers, and should have told the harassers to knock it off.

                  Your coworker is not to blame for being harassed, no matter what she was wearing.

                2. Ellie H.*

                  If it was so detrimental to the commuting experience, why didn’t someone rebuke those individuals who were actually making the disruptive comments and therefore were the actual source of the disturbance. Jesus christ.

                3. Anonymous*

                  I also want to know – why is the race of the harassers relevant here?

                  Also, your story below about how you were raised by your parents is completely beside the point here. No one should speak to their employees or coworkers like they’re speaking to their children.

              2. annalee*

                Yes, this exactly. No one’s arguing that people should get to wear whatever they want to work. We’re saying that, no matter how someone is dressed, they are not to blame if they’re harassed or assaulted.

                And why are the race and profession of the people who were harassing your coworker relevant? Would it have been okay for white men in business suits to leer and catcall?

                1. Grace*

                  @Annalee: I was raised with parents who said to us kids, “You think you’re leaving the house looking like that? No child of mine is going out in public like that.” It was good training for how to dress out in public, in the workplace, at social events.

                  We were also raised to take personal responsibility for our actions. My parents would have gotten in my face if I’d ever disrespected a bus driver and expected them to save me from my own stupidity (a stupid choice in clothing). I would have been told to apologize to everybody, including the bus driver.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Grace, I am not sure I understand your point there. I’m sure you’re not saying that women should ever have to apologize to anyone for being harassed, or that other people shouldn’t speak up when someone is being subjected to that kind of thing. (Are you?! Please tell me that I’m misinterpreting.)

                3. annalee*

                  Grace, if you believed in personal responsibility, you would blame the people who were cat-calling your coworker, and the people who didn’t stand up for her (including the bus driver, whose job it is to maintain order on the bus).

                  Men, no matter their race, are capable of empathy, and capable of civility. If you think that they’re animals who can’t help themselves, then you’re either really racist or really hate men.

              3. cncx*

                I agree. I worked as a paralegal in a white shoe firm where a fellow paralegal once wore a sheer teddy with no bra to work as a top (i was first like “Grace, did we work together?”).

                We addressed it from a “the rest of us are in black, grey or navy suits, you need to wear a suit, this is our office culture and dress code” point of view. HR even smoothed it out and was like “we allow short sleeves in summer if you have a blazer for when clients are in, maybe that is where the confusion came from, so we just wanted to give you a heads-up on the dress code.” (Thus giving the employee an out to say on record that she “forgot her blazer” when the senior partners asked) No comments about her body type or choice of clothing, just the policy.

            2. TheSnarkyB*

              1. Leave race out of it (the way you said it also had undertones of classism fyi)
              2. You’ll probably do better in these threads if you refer to behaviors as unprofessional, rather than whole people. (That’s the nicest way I can think of to say that.)
              3. You don’t know why people dress the way they do. Saying that they’re all (blanket statement) “doing it for the attention” contributes to the kind of sexist society that creates a good portion of the situations we read about on here.
              4. +1,000 on addressing it from a professional standpoint. Otherwise, mind your business.

    3. Katniss*

      Just so you know, studies have shown that how you dress does not raise or reduce your changes to be in the “dangerous situation” you’re implying here. People who will sexually assault or harass another person will do so regardless of what that person is wearing, because sexual assault and harassment is caused by the person doing it, not the victim.

    4. JW*

      Rapists are the only people who have the power to stop rape from happening. Please stop putting the responsibility to prevent rape on the (potential) victim’s shoulders.
      There is no need to frame the discussion of appropriate dress for work in this (completely wrong-headed) manner.
      One assumes you had a written dress code to back you up on it being unprofessional. Why on earth would you bring slut-shaming/victim blaming into it?

      1. Jamie*

        Rapists are the only people who have the power to stop rape from happening.

        What a powerful statement.

        I overheard my mom discussing the rape of a family member when I was little. “I don’t care if a woman is walking naked down a crowded street shouting about being a nymphomaniac…NO ONE ASKS FOR IT.”

        Stuck with me for a couple of reasons. One, it was one of a small handful of times my mother ever raised her voice. She was so rarely angry it really made an impact when she was. Two, because I was like 7-8 and had to ask what a nymphomaniac was.

        1. nyxalinth*

          My mom once said she didn’t care if a woman was a hooker, in porn, or as she said “free with her body for free”, she said all women still get to choose, and if someone wants to make assumptions based on their lifestyle or profession, it doesn’t matter. Woman still gets to decide yes or no for any reason no matter what.

        2. Anonymous*

          It doesn’t seem like a powerful statement to me…if the rapist is the only one who can stop rape from happening, and they don’t want to, we’re powerless to their whims.

          They’re certainly the only ones responsible, but that doesn’t mean we should count on them to avoid hurting us and not learn to defend ourselves because we shouldn’t have to.

          1. Another Emily*

            There are things that people can do that will help them avoid bad situations. People should feel that their efforts to make their lives safe matter (because their efforts do make a difference).
            1. If your efforts to stay safe fail, you are not at fault. Only the assailant is at fault for attacking you. (Also noteworthy, we can’t know for sure what safety efforts will work. Nothing works all the time or in all situations.)
            2. If you do not make these efforts and someone attacks you, the situation is still 100% the fault of the attacker. The phrase “only rapists can prevent rape” makes sense and is meant to be taken like this: there would be no rapes if rapists chose not to rape.

            Think of it like driving. When we learn to drive (in BC at least), we learn defensive driving including ways to avoid an accident if you think someone will rear-end you. However, if someone rear ends you, they are 100% at fault (in BC) whether you were driving defensively or not.

            tl;dr Don’t judge someone who was attacked and second guess their actions in a situation that was not their fault.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            What Another Emily says is very relevant. But don’t ever think of yourself as “powerless.” That initiates the wrong kind of fear, the kind that paralyzes you and keeps you from living your life. It’s the kind of worry that stupid media trumpets when they’re trying to sell content: “Killer bees in your backyard!” “Are asteroids stalking the earth?!” How likely is an asteroid to stalk anybody?

            Know that there are people out there that do this and formulate your self-protection strategy, the exact same way you make a plan for natural disasters. Make it, think about it, practice it, and then let go of the worry. Stay alert to your surroundings and who you are with. Pay attention if you should feel REAL fear; that’s what initiates your protective actions. You can’t know what will happen in any given situation, but if you are attuned to yourself and your surroundings, you have a much better chance of either avoiding it or keeping yourself alive during it.

            Real fear is weird; you know you are in trouble but everything gets really quiet and you suddenly know everything and somehow you know what to do. Sometimes that thing is saying the right words to defuse a potential attacker, sometimes it’s run like hell. I can’t explain it any better than that. You know you’re scared when you are calmly thinking “I bet if I hit that plate-glass window hard enough I could get through.”

    5. annalee*

      While it’s usually a kindness to give young employees guidance when they’re new to the working world, telling young women to cover up for their ‘safety’ is gross.

      The idea that women’s clothing choices have anything to do with whether they’ll be targeted for assault is a rather pernicious myth of our victim-blaming rape culture. Some people get raped in their own homes wearing sweatpants, and some other people make it home safely from nightclubs at 3am, wearing sky-high hemlines and heels. When it comes to sexual assault, the only variable that actually matters is whether or not you’re in the presence of a rapist.

      It is totally legitimate to tell all employees that they have to meet certain standards of dress, out of respect for the office, their coworkers, and customers/clients. But when it comes to clothing, the only safety issues that are a manager’s business are the issues that would apply to all employees, like caps for food prep or closed-toed shoes around machinery.

      You can’t tell by looking if that cute young thing in the short skirt is a triple blackbelt. You also can’t tell if she’s a sexual assault survivor who already knows firsthand that pants won’t protect her.

    6. khilde*

      Goodness, I don’t think Anonimal’s story warranted the lashing she got! She was relaying a story of something that happened in the past – maybe she’ll consider the feedback for next time, but no need to pile on since this story is tangential to the real topic at hand.

      I do think it’s probably a helpful thing for young women to be reminded that just because they see themselves a certain way when they dress, not everyone else will perceive the same thing.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s hugely different than implying fairly directly that they might get sexually assaulted. And furthermore, is not something a boss should get into with an employee – even your scenario is far too intimate for a professional relationship.

        While I agree that the OP most likely meant well, intention only gets you so far. She seemed to be relaying her actions as an appropriate way to handle these sorts of issues at work, and (clearly!) many of the readers vehemently disagreed. And when you give an example like that on a public professional blog, you do open yourself and your story to critical feedback.

        1. khilde*

          I re-read Anonimal’s story and took into account more of the “standpoint of her safety issue.” (though I stand by my point that she was really mobbed on rather than given even-keeled critical feedback).

          So here’s a question to consider another perspective: do you think that it’s possible that a young woman in this situation may not have really “gotten it” unless the issue was couched from the safety standpoint? I get it (and agree) that all that should have needed to be said to the student workers was “you’re violating dress code” and the behavior should change. But some people respond better to an emotional appeal than others. However, I don’t know if that still would still be considered victim blaming??

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. It’s never appropriate for an employer to tell an employee that she’s at risk of sexual assault because of the way she’s dressed; it implies that assault victims are at least in part inviting their attack, and that rape is in some way tied to how a woman dresses, which it is not.

            1. khilde*

              Right, I defintely get that and would never, ever presume that a victim is inviting it. So I hope no one misunderstands me there. I 100% agree with JW’s opening statement above.

              Do you think anonimal’s point to her employee about “people can see directly down your shirt” was ok? I’m really not quibbling – I’m just trying to figure where the feedback went from being helpful and appropriate to suggestions of victim blaming. I would guess it would be there, but since I’m not tracking the same way everyone else is I wanted to find out.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think the issue was when it became about her safety — “Not only is this unprofessional but could put you in a dangerous situation with the wrong type of person.”

              2. annalee*

                I think it’s fair–if embarrassing–for a manager to have a private conversation where they draw someone’s attention to an awkward truth about sight-lines, or otherwise advise them of the dress code.

                But if an employee really isn’t going to dress appropriately unless you tell them the bogeyman might get them, then their issues with professionalism and discipline probably run a lot deeper than their neckline.

                1. khilde*

                  “But if an employee really isn’t going to dress appropriately unless you tell them the bogeyman might get them, then their issues with professionalism and discipline probably run a lot deeper than their neckline.”

                  Ha! Yes, point taken. I fully agree with you.

          2. Anonymous*

            Agreed with Alison, that’s a perfect and succint summary of the rape culture issue. I also want to add more generally that “an emotional appeal” should never be utilized at work from employer to employee. Either the behavior changes or there are tangible consequences. This is not a mother begging her teenage daughter not to wear low-rise jeans; this is a professional relationship.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, good point. The manager doesn’t need to “convince” the employee. She just needs her to comply with the behavior change requested.

            2. Kit M.*

              Yes. That’s what would most infuriate me about the comment if it were directed at me. Not the implicit victim-blaming, but it being condescending and paternalistic. This is like if an employer took you aside and told you, “You shouldn’t drive that color car because it’s more likely to get pulled over.”

          3. Lindsay J*

            You tell the person they are violating the dress code and if they do not come into compliance they will face further disciplinary action. Then, if they continue dressing out of dress code, you discipline them.

            If you’re the manager, you don’t have to worry about making emotional appeals to get people to do what is expected of them. You lay down the expectations and the consequences of not meeting the expectations, and then you follow through with them.

            If you’re not able to do that then something is either wrong with your management skills or your workplace for not giving you the tools to be able to manage effectively.

    7. Camellia*

      Wow. The only thing appropriate or necessary in your response was, “Way outside of dress code.”

      That was the only thing pertinent and you could have/should have stuck to that.

    8. Rhoda*

      No a short skirt will not put you in a dangerous situation.
      Dangly earings could put you in a dangerous situation because they could get caught on machinery.

      It bothers me when people can’t see the difference between stereotypes and the actual possibility of clothing/shoes/jewellery causing harm.

      1. Grace*

        @Rhoda, I respectfully disagree. I don’t know where you live. Where I live we have a lot of Hispanic male day workers. If a woman wears a short skirt (including on the commute buses) she is targeted by them for leering, cat-calls, all kinds of remarks in Spanish and English (none of them good), following, etc. Yes, they do interpret it as sex for sale or for free. Can women who dress perfectly sensibly be the targets of sexual harassment and assault? Yes, of course.

        1. Ellie H.*

          I don’t think anyone is arguing, or would argue, that a woman wearing a short skirt or a low-cut top is as unlikely to attract attention as is a women dressed in, say, a pants suit.
          As many women can attest to, one can and probably will get catcalled at some point while wearing sweatpants, gym clothes, giant parka coat, etc.; but in general, we can probably agree from our general observations of the world that clothes that show more of one’s body tend to attract more attention from a person already inclined to give that kind of attention than non-revealing clothes might. What people are arguing is that it’s not fair to blame a woman for a disturbance caused by other individuals in reaction to what she’s wearing, or to say that the clothing is somehow the source of the harassment in and of itself.

          1. Grace*

            Thanks for your articulate post. I agree with almost all of it. I part company, however, with this:
            “What people are arguing is that it’s not fair to blame a woman for a disturbance caused by other individuals in reaction to what she’s wearing, or to say that the clothing is somehow the source of the harassment in and of itself.”

            Nobody put a gun to a woman’s head and made her wear provocative clothing. She made that choice herself. Why?
            Power? Attention? Competition with other women? It’s hypocritical for a woman to wear provocative clothing and then cry “but I want to be respected for my mind and not my body”. Laughable.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              This is offensive, and you are reinforcing attitudes that normalize and excuse sexual assault. I really hope you’ll reexamine what you’re advocating here, but meanwhile please cut it out.

            2. Flynn*

              Maybe she has no other clothes because she’s earning the money to buy them. Maybe it’s laundry day or someone hid her stuff as a joke. Maybe she’s so used to being catcalled it doesn’t even register as related to her clothing. Maybe she’s never been catcalled and didn’t realise she might be harassed for it. Maybe she classes the people harassing her as the sort of rude moronic flies that just come with living in that particularly climate and not worth caring about.

              Just because you judge people by their clothing doesn’t mean they have to judge themselves by reading your mind.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Making a point of naming the race of the harassers twice is implying that their race is relevant to the story, when it is not. Just like it wouldn’t be relevant to mention if they were white, black, or Chinese.

          1. Grace*

            AAM: This is the machismo culture that we deal with in our area so that’s why I named it. They see the world very differently than the rest of us.

            1. Liz T*

              Apparently, you see the world exactly as those men did. Certain clothing = deserving of harassment.

              1. Jen in RO*

                No, she sees it as certain clothing = harassment. Undeserved, but something that has a high likelihood of happening.

                1. Flynn*

                  ” It’s hypocritical for a woman to wear provocative clothing and then cry “but I want to be respected for my mind and not my body”. Laughable.”

                  Pretty sure she thinks it’s deserved. And if one of those girls gets raped, obviously it would be their fault too *eyeroll*

                2. fposte*

                  Either way, it’s going for “people shouldn’t elicit harassment” over “people shouldn’t harass.”

            2. Flynn*

              So? We had a local issue with builders on a university project whistling at girls walking past.

              Solution? They got told to stop by the university. End story.

              In your world? Everyone should have taken the long way around so as not to be whistled at, while also wearing a giant sack (except for the guys, presumably, who could wear anything they liked).

              1. Liz T*

                Thank you–brilliant. People who want to blame women for harassment and assault never want to talk about what actually works.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              Well you’re talking about culture, which has nothing to do with race. Plenty of macho males in plenty of cultures of all races. Hang out with some lily-white, Amurr’can redneck good ol’ country boys in my area sometime. >_<

              But this is a universal phenomenon in all cultures, where men sometimes harass women (and women do it to men too). It's just rude all around, no matter where you're from or what you look like.

        3. TL*

          1) Catcalling women doesn’t mean they’re going to rape the women. So they probably don’t actually think that the women are like quarter machines for sex.
          2) I can’t imagine those men would exhibit kind of behavior in front of their respected relatives, even if the same woman in the same outfit walked by. The fault is with the men, not the women. Furthermore, I’d bet money they know their behavior is not okay; it’s just nobody’s enforcing it.
          3) Race has nothing to do with it. Construction workers everywhere have a bad rap for catcalling.

          1. Natalie*

            Interesting (to me, I guess) aside – catcalling is so pervasive in construction that a lot of boilerplate construction contracts specifically call it out. I don’t remember the exact wording of our contract, but it’s a very lawyerly way to say “your construction workers better not yell at women”.

    9. MJ*

      Adding to what everyone has already said, I can pretty much guarantee you that no rapist who would take advantage of a young woman more or less alone at night, is going to change their mind and decide it’s not worth the hassle of raping them because they’re wearing pants instead of a skirt.

    10. H. Vane*

      My husband finds it really offensive when people say things like this. It implies that men are mindless sex-beasts that lose all control at the sight of skin. It’s not true, and is disrespectful to both men and women. Rapists are rapists by choice, and it has nothing to do with what the ladies happen to be wearing.

      1. A teacher*

        Amen! It’s late so I don’t know if anyone will read this. I run several miles several times a week and I wear running pants similar to leggings and a tighter top. Come summer it will be shorts and a tank. People stare. People catcall. I’m average sized…lost 40 lbs since starting but I’m not going to change what I wear because other people are stupid. They make a choice to yell out, I wear what I wear because its functional as a runner. Seriously, I don’t know how much more of blame the victim this society thinks is okay.

  24. Helen*

    I would suggest to the boss that an updated dress code be circulated to all the students. If they don’t need to wear business casual, fine, buy they should be reminded that no gym clothes or active wear, such as yoga pants or leggings, should be worn. They should also be told no armpits or cleavage should be showing. Then it is up to each individual to determine if their clothes meet that guideline, instead of the boss deciding who can pull off which types of articles of clothing. The boss is not doing the thinner student any favors by implying that it is ok for her to wear leggings either. Maybe the boss thinks they are more flattering on her, but they aren’t professional for anyone, even in a student job.

  25. Jesse*

    At my last job, we had a similar issue with dress code. Too many of our female employee wore leggings with shirts. So my male coworker wrote a policy.

    Among other things, legging and pantyhose were banned.

    Here’s how I handled it: I did a Google Image search for all the banned clothing, and put that in a word document. Then I looked around for the “in” style clothing outfits—to highlight the objective nature of how the clothing is worn.

    I agree that leggings cannot be used as a substitute for pants. While that style might look good on someone who is thin, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. But I didn’t want to ban them because the girls WERE using them as an alternative to pantyhose during the winter.

    The result?: Leggings weren’t banned. Instead we dealt with it on a case by case basis. Since it was only two or three girls that were wearing them as pants.

    1. Chinook*

      They banned pantyhose? Did that mean you could wear skirts/dresses with bare legs? Cool!

      1. Judy*

        Yes, that’s interesting. The places I’ve worked with dress codes specifically say that you have to wear hose with skirts.

        In fact, I was warned at one when I was pregnant, that another woman who was pregnant was… gasp… caught by HR wearing knee his with a long skirt. She had to go home and change. If I were going up the stairs, in a skirt with knee his I needed to make sure the wrong people were not climbing the stairs behind me.

    2. KellyK*

      Why not just say “no leggings as pants, but leggings under skirts are fine”? Dealing with it case-by-case might make some people feel singled out, or make it hard for people to know what’s actually appropriate? (Jane tells me she got sent home for wearing leggings, but I wore leggings with a skirt yesterday. Did they just not notice? Can I wear that again?)

    3. LPBB*

      Wait, pantyhose were banned??? Was it pantyhose without anything else (ie a skirt) or pantyhose in general?

  26. Tiff*

    Ugh, what a haint.

    I’m a curvy woman. Large bust, large behind. I’m not bad, I was drawn this way.

    I am aware that what looks innocent on others will not look so innocent on me. Occassionally I will alter my clothing choices to reflect that, but I NEVER dress against my curves. I can’t bring myself to purchase clothes to “hide” my curves. That said, I do avoid wearing leggings as pants, and I avoid deep v-necks without a tank top underneath. I won’t pretend that I can wear the same clothes as a size 4, A-cup woman and still look professional.

    But I would be furious if a manager allowed it for some but not for others. Dressing for your body type in a professional setting is something a mentor can do with ease. A “rule” coming from management is taking it too far.

    1. BCW*

      So I’m just trying to understand, not argue. You are saying that you fully understand that if you wore a V-neck with no tank top, that its unprofessional, whereas if a smaller woman did the same its fine. But if its a rule you’d be mad?

      I guess I don’t understand why you’d be mad when you are admitting that you understand it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Because the rule should be about coverage, not specific garments that some people can wear and some people can’t. And I don’t want an employer scrutinizing my body to decide what side of the v-neck rule I fall on. Expect me to be appropriately covered, trust me to figure out how on my own, and talk to me privately if there’s an issue. But don’t tell me that body type A can wear X, while body type B cannot. Because I don’t want an employer even thinking about my body, let alone making rules based on it.

        1. BCW*

          Then doesn’t it leave a grey area in perception? I’m just saying I know from experience different people have different ideas of what is professional/classy/acceptable. Woman with a C cup could think what she is wearing is acceptable, lets say V-neck. So then how does a manager tell her she isn’t dressed professional, when they have no problem with the smaller woman wearing the same type of shirt. I mean I get that its about coverage, but either way its someone’s perception of whats too much right?

  27. BCW*

    This sounds really bad, but the sentiment I can somewhat understand. When I taught the women had a much more loose dress code than the guys. We had to wear shirts and ties, they could wear more loose blouses. I distinctly remember one day a certain teacher who had a larger chest came in wearing a certain shirt. Lets just say my room fully of 13 year old boys, it was noticed, A LOT. Problem is if another, smaller chested (sorry if that term isn’t proper) woman wore a shirt with a similar style or cut, it wouldn’t have been nearly as much of a distraction. I know the principal had a talk with her.

    So to a point I can kind of see the point. However enforcing where that line is is very tough. Sometimes the same thing on different people definitely has a different look.

    1. KellyK*

      Sure, things look different on different people. It’s totally reasonable to say “no visible cleavage” even though that will limit some women’s shirt choices a lot more than others. (There are certainly women who can’t wear any V-neck shirts without running afoul of this rule.)

      But if something is inappropriately short or inappropriately tight, it doesn’t suddenly become appropriate on a smaller person.

      1. BCW*

        Exactly, I agree. But using your V-neck example, isn’t in so many words saying that women with bigger chests can’t wear something their smaller chest counterparts can wear? And isn’t that essentially what people are arguing? That you can’t say a size A can wear a v-neck, but a size DD cant.

        This is one of those times that I agree its so much easier being a guy in the workplace. Less options, but far less gray area.

        1. fposte*

          I still think it’s kosher because it’s a consistent *concept*–nobody’s allowed to show cleavage, period. A rule doesn’t have to make it equally convenient for everybody to meet it (public transport people don’t get a pass on coming to work on time, for instance). It’s not about issuing a costume wardrobe and making the five-foot tall woman and the six-foot tall woman fit in the same size skirt–it’s saying to both of them that skirts must be below the knee, even if that means the first one’s skirt is 20″ long and the second one’s is 30″.

          1. fposte*

            Though Nicole above had a good point about describing in clothing terms (“only crew necklines and no v necks”) being better anyway.

          2. Zahra*

            Actually, public transit is unionized in my city and part of the deal is that they get a pass on coming to work on time, assuming that they were taking public transit to get to their starting point and had allowed enough time so the bus is *supposed* to get there on time according to schedule. There was a big to-do a few years ago when a circuit was ill-timed, resulting in big delays. The drivers went in mass to one stop to go to work, got late and the circuit timing/number of buses on circuit got adjusted.

        2. Jamie*

          It’s not about size or limited styles of clothing to certain people. Professional dress means adequate coverage and if you leave it to individuals to figure out how to meet that standard you aren’t issuing decrees on individual items of clothing.

          So if employee A wears a v-neck and it’s appropriate and professional that’s fine. But if employee B wears one and it shows way too much at the neckline for work the conversation is about meeting the standard of coverage – not about the fact that it’s a v-neck.

          And reasonable people know things fit differently on different body types – no insult in that. I’m 5’7″ and my sister is 5′ even. If I could wear her pants I certainly couldn’t wear them to work unless I was entering a Pee-Wee Herman look alike contest. That doesn’t mean I’m less of a person because her pants would be short on me any more than it makes her less of a person because she would trip over half a foot + of hem in mine.

          People just need to dress for their size and shape – whatever that is.

          1. LPBB*

            I am a busty woman with a small frame. I also absolutely loathe crew necks. I find them constricting and I think they draw more attention to my chest, rather than less.

            I prefer to wear v-necks with a contrasting cami or something else under them that adequately covers my cleavage. Some kind of blanket ban on v-necks, especially if it was for women with C-cup and above would be so insulting.

            I am a grown adult and I am a professional. I understand that displaying my cleavage is not appropriate. I dress in a way that flatters me but does not cross the line into inappropriate. That is what the focus should be — on whether or not everything is appropriately covered, rather than issuing blanket bans (within reason, I believe spaghetti straps will always be inappropriate in the workplace unless the A/C is on the fritz at the height of summer), especially if those bans have some kind of subjective condition attached to them.

        3. KellyK*

          Only in the same way that a taller woman can’t wear a tunic and leggings combo that would be okay on a shorter woman, because it shows the taller woman’s butt, while coming down to the shorter woman’s hips.

          I think it’s very different to have one observable standard for everybody than two different standards depending on body type.

          Making it an *observable* standard also helps eliminate the bias where heavier women are sometimes judged as being dressed more provocatively while showing the same amount of skin.

          What the OP’s boss is requiring is two different standards. Leggings as pants are okay if you’re thin; bare legs are okay if you’re thin. That’s very different than saying “no visible cleavage” and letting employees figure out with their own wardrobe and their own mirror what they need to do to meet that.

        4. Amy*

          If the dress code said “no skirts shorter than knee length,” there would be a lot of skirts that my 5′ coworker could wear off-the-rack that would be way too short for 5’10” me. That doesn’t mean that the dress code is unfair to tall women. It means that we need different pieces of clothing to meet the same objective standard.

      2. Anonicorn*

        It wouldn’t necessarily limit larger-chested women from wearing V-necks either. One word: camisole. (I don’t mean the kind that look like night clothes.)

        1. KellyK*

          Yes, camis are your friend. Though honestly, I have trouble finding ones that don’t still show a little bit, but I’m a big fan of Cami-Secrets (basically a fake camisole that attaches to your bra).

    2. Kim (Career Advisor)*

      BCW, I get where you’re coming from. There are some clear cut rules in dress codes, but there are a lot of unwritten rules that usually fall under the term “appropriate dress” and are applied to different body types unequally all the time.

      For example, there are some women who could reasonably show up to work not wearing a bra and not have it be obvious or distracting. There are other women for whom, because of their body type, this would be considered inappopriate dress.

      What usually happens in the case of the “inappropriate” dresser is that their (uncomfortable) manager lets them know about the issue privately. I haven’t heard of anyone writing up a policy to enshrine that conversation as a rule for future occurrences, though, and obviously when you bring it to that level it seems ridiculous. But those types of conversations happen all the time!

      I’m not saying the boss in this scenario was right, but I do think it’s weird to call such a practice outlandish when individuals are treated differently in terms of dress expectations due to body type all the time.

      1. TL*

        My high school wrote a line in the dress code about appropriate undergarments needing to be worn (Yes it was that vague) because of a free-spirited, generously endowed teacher.

        1. anonintheUK*

          I once had the joy of pointing out to a trainee that although there was no reason why she should not wear white linen trousers to the office if she felt like it (*I* would be covered in ink and coffee), I would advise a different choice of underpants. Hot pink with red dots is visible. Very visible.

          1. Maire*

            Hmm, I don’t think that was accidental.
            Me and my friends used to do that when we were 15 yrs old on a night out. Disgusting, I know.

            1. anonintheUK*

              Possibly you are right. Still, most of the office don’t want to see your underwear. And if 2 people DO decide they want to see each other’s underwear, they can do it on their own time.

              1. Nutella Nutterson*

                “And if 2 people DO decide they want to see each other’s underwear, they can do it on their own time.”

                Oh this is excellent. And a whole other question for AAM, and kettle of fish from HR. ;-)

        2. Anonymous*

          One of the people who works with at my location part-time and is a college student came in wearing a white sleeve- and strap-less white shirt today. It was obvious she wore nothing underneath it. Yeah, she was short and probably an A-cup, but it was still not appropriate. She’s going to med school next year, and she still hasn’t got the clue she needs to dress more like she would when she became a doctor, so people will take her seriously. (It’s more her height that is a factor in people respecting her, than what she is wearing.)

          And, to follow up on other comments, as a large-chested tall women, if I had worn what she had worn, not only would it have been not covered my belly button it probably wouldn’t have covered half my breasts, so there would be no way in h*ll I would have worn it. Even tho on her it was iffy, on my it would be a no-no.

      2. Maire*

        Yes, I totally agree with this. Certain body types draw more attention to the clothes they are wearing than others. Obviously, I don’t agree that the manager should be making distinctions between overweight and thinner people. However, it’s possible she doesn’t even know she’s doing this; she may just notice the “inappropriate” clothing the heavier person is wearing because her body type draws attention to it.

      3. Natalie*

        “I’m not saying the boss in this scenario was right, but I do think it’s weird to call such a practice outlandish when individuals are treated differently in terms of dress expectations due to body type all the time.”

        IMO the issue with this proposed policy is that the manager is making assumptions about what clothing will be appropriate based on either how fat or how busty each particular worker is, rather than setting rules about coverage. By these assumption-based rules, a large woman can’t wear a skirt even if anyone would consider it professional, but a thin woman might wear a v-neck shirt that is unprofessional and be considered fine.

        1. Natalie*

          Just to give an example where this kind of assuming can back fire – by pretty much all measures I’m average sized. My BMI is smack dab in the middle of the “normal” range and I’m a B cup. But I have a pretty big butt, particularly for my frame. Under this proposed policy, I could apparently wear leggings as pants with no problem, even though under any normal dress code policy that would be ridiculous.

        2. fposte*

          It’s the “no skirts” thing that really puts into Crazytown for me. Since when is a skirt inappropriate office wear?

          1. Natalie*

            Yeah, that’s super bizarre. And actually, now that I think about it that could be a sticky situation, discrimination-wise. Some women do not wear pants for religion reasons.

    3. RLS*

      I am not an educator, but I have regularly heard both male and female friends of mine who do work in educators refer to their dress code as “teacher-appropriate.” It just means more skin has to be covered, from what they’ve told me. Aka nothing below the neck, above the wrist, or above the ankle, without special circumstances (ie, field trip, broken HVAC, spirit days, etc) or additional layers (such as a vest). I could very well be wrong, but I think that applies to both genders as well. That’s how I interpreted it.

      1. KellyK*

        Above the wrist? Wow, where were they teaching? I thought the area where I grew up was fairly conservative, but I can’t picture anyone objecting to seeing a teacher’s elbows. (Though, “air conditioning” at both the school I attended as a kid and the one where I taught meant “opening the windows.”)

        1. Jessa*

          Many Christian run schools, even more Muslim run schools and Jewish run ones as well. Even if they hire laypersons to teach (many do for non-religious subjects and many even hire persons of OTHER religions,) they will usually want a dress code for them that is far more conservative than normal.

          The below the elbows is a particularly Jewish modesty thing for instance.

          1. KellyK*

            Okay, that makes sense. I was thinking of public school (since that’s where I taught). Of course a religious school would have religion-based modesty standards.

  28. Marmite*

    This made me think of two things;

    1) I used to work with a teenagers on a daily basis and my employer had a 4 Bs rule – no bums, breasts, backs, or boxers – for both the teenagers and the employees. I’m all for that, but they then issued us with new uniform shirts, which for the ladies were dangerously low cut. I had to wear a vest underneath to adhere to the second b!

    2) I hate leggings as trousers on anyone over the age of 10. It would be okay if people wore longer tops with them, but most don’t seem to. I had a colleague who wore tight leggings as trousers frequently. Whenever she bent over a desk her bum was very much on display, the material of the leggings was just not thick enough to stretch over her bottom and her underwear was extremely visible. She happened to be a larger lady, but that’s not a good look on anyone, particularly in an office.

  29. MrsKDD*

    I work in HR. Just imagining this policy being put into place in any organization nearly brought on squeezing in my chest. *huffs into paper bag a few more times*

    1. bob*

      Don’t breathe from the paper bag because you’re just rebreathing carbon dioxide which is distinctly unhelpful.

      1. Waerloga*

        Nahhh It’s to slow down thier breathing, and decrease the rapid pulse. Common technique for hyperventilating.

        Take care


  30. nyxalinth*

    I’m curvy, and pear-shaped. I avoid leggings and skinny jeans like the plague! Now, I would wear a flowing (not baggy!) dress or skirt over leggings but you’ll never catch me wearing them otherwise. I’m not fond of looking like a pine tree–only pine trees ook good like that :P

  31. Manda*

    I’m a curvy girl. Not overweight. Just the hourglass type. I just want to point out that it’s actually hard to find clothing that properly fits my body – especially when it comes to work-appropriate things. I don’t want to wear low cut necklines that show cleavage. (I don’t care outside of a work setting.) The trouble is, higher necklines tend not to fit as well. V-necks allow more room for the fabric to move wherever it needs to be. With higher necklines, the fabric around the shoulders often doesn’t sit right. It is really hard to find a happy medium that fits right but isn’t too low. So yeah, I’d be a little peeved in that situation.

    1. cncx*

      This. I have a large chest and clothes are cut for women who have normal sized chests.

      i wear tank tops where i can, but even tank tops these days are cut low, it is so hard to find something to hide cleavage at work.

      I can’t stress enough how hard it is to find something that both fits my chest and is cut right- I have literally five work shirts that do not make me look like dolly parton and fit right and it took me a year to find them. I am always looking so that if I find something I get it for when one of the other shirts dies. Someone calling me out for a v neck would make me rage because I have tried the best I can but sometimes the merchandise simply does not exist in stores. I can only imagine how someone my size would feel at the beginning of a career, trying to get a wardrobe together, I can imagine there would be a few months of v neck fails.

      1. fposte*

        If you can shop online, do it. That’s where you’ll get the variety and the extended lines–Old Navy, J.Jill, etc., always have plus-size higher-neck knits for layering and sweatering (cheap men’s undershirts/tanks from Target are also worth a look). I know a lot of people aren’t comfortable shopping on line, but it’s got to be more pleasant than going for a year without being able to find a shirt that fits you.

        1. virago*

          A small company in Texas called Jailyn Apparel offers a really nice, if small, line of button-up shirts tailored to busty women with proportionately small waists (closely spaced buttons, plus darting and seams that allow the shirt to skim your figure without clinging to it).

          I can vouch for this 3/4-sleeve shirt , which hits the sweet spot between “workplace-appropriate” and “imaginatively designed.” I especially like the mandarin collar — never have liked pointy collars — but if you like pointy collars, Jailyn has two classic 3/4-sleeve shirts in French blue and black.

          (And no, I don’t work for Jailyn or its founder, Jodi Schreiner! I was just so thrilled to find a button-up shirt I could wear w/o creative safety-pinning or a cami underneath.)

          P.S. If Jailyn is out of your price range, you do have an option if you sew. I have heard that the Kwik Sew 3199 blouse pattern also has an empire waist seam, like the Jailyn blouses, and allows home seamstresses to make adjustments for bust and waist size.

    2. EB*

      Camisoles or fake camisoles will fix your v-neck issue. I have a bunch of both that I wear with v-necks because I have your same problem. Some are merely skin tight cotton tank tops from old navy that cover the cleavage dip under less formal wear. Others are lightweight shells to wear when dress necklines and armholes plunge, others are those “as seen on tv” triangles to go across when it’s too hot for layers. This keeps me able to wear shirts that don’t bunch weirdly, but also maintain a professional neckline.

      The black shells (really skintight stretchy matte black t-shirts) let me wear a couple of sheer black dress shirts I have because I’m covered underneath, even having my cleavage line covered (I have a long sleeve and short sleeve shirt I use for this depending on the weather). Because the undershirt has capped sleeves, the only skin showing through is on my arms. This lets me pull off a more hip, formal, non suite look (when paired with dress slacks) with the flowing look many of the sheer shirts have without sacrificing modesty or even showing bra straps (what happens when many people wear the camisole beneath).

      Just saying there are ways to tweak things so they are work appropriate.

  32. Mishsmom*

    is it really just about the clothing? i mean, who gets to decide what garment or style you have to wear? and if OPs boss was a man (or even woman) who thinks men can wear pants and women should only wear dresses and never pants – there would be such an uproar! otherwise it’s a free for all – and so when this boss is gone, another comes and says “x can’t wear red, it’s not her color, y can’t wear blue, i don’t like that color” and the one after has their own opinions. IMHO, it’s the same issue. it is entirely inappropriate for a supervisor to decide what specific clothes their employees decide to wear. soon this boss will want to decide what hair styles these women can have, who can eat what, where does it end?

  33. FD*

    I sort of wonder if this is almost the flip side to the situation described in this post:

    I don’t know how to link to a comment thread, but in the comments, Alison commented:

    “This is a good point. This isn’t about the lack of a bra so much as it’s about her inappropriate appearance. It’s possible that some women could skip the bra and still look professional (through a combination of body type and clothing selection).”

    Let’s say that the employee in question has been wearing clothing that is too tight to be appropriate on her. A better manager would speak to her in private and set out that while they may not have a very strict dress code, it’s expected that they not wear unprofessionally tight clothes–instead of trying to make a blanket rule that curvier employees must not wear certain kinds of clothes, regardless of fit. But as we all know, not all managers are good at their job.

    I wonder if it may be a botched handling of legitimate issue, as versed to a picking on people with larger body types issue.

    1. Anonymous*

      It’s still tricky because the thin employees have probably been (and will continue) wearing clothing that is just as tight as the heavier employee, but on them it wouldn’t be considered “unprofessionally tight” because they’re easier to look at. It still comes down to treating people differently based on their appearance. Unless it’s specifically stated as anything that clings to the skin no matter how much skin there is in the first place, and fairly enforced.

      Same with the bra thing, really. It’s much more likely that heavier women will have heavier busts, so saying that it’s okay to go braless if you can pull it off is still really leaning toward only policing what heavy people wear. One commenter said she didn’t want to see nipples, and that’s probably about as neutral as it’s going to get (since it’s gender neutral and specifically addresses what’s visible instead of whether the visible part is only okay on certain people).

  34. Pamela G*

    I would prepare for the next meeting with your boss by
    a) pointing out that restricting garments for certain body types but not others is discriminatory and could lead to sexual harassment claims etc, and you’re sure HR will have an issue with this too
    b) drawing up some sample dress guidelines to discuss based on what you think your manager was objecting to with the curvier employees (i.e. by garment: ‘no leggings as pants, no short skirts’ or by coverage: ‘no visible cleavage, no see-through clothing’ etc).

  35. Anon*

    I’ve worked somewhere that a rule about cleavage defined by inches from the collarbone or something. Like, less that 5 inches if skin from the collarbone.. I don’t remember but I know it was specific.

  36. Cassie*

    Leggins should never be worn as pants. When I was in ballet, we sometimes had to wear unitards as costumes – they’re basically like leggings in the bottom half, but completely opaque. I hated them – they make everyone’s legs look lumpy. Only the thinnest girl in the company with string-bean legs looked remotely ok.

    It’s ironic because some other costumes were tights with leotards and I felt more comfortable in those than in a unitard. As a teacher once remarked “you are basically in pantyhose and a bathing suit”.

    So for me, in addition to problems about the sheerness of the fabric, there’s also the tight-fitting-ness of leggings that I don’t like. (I’m not a fan of low-riding skinny jeans either, but working in a college campus means I’ll see plenty of them anyway).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Same with skating, except our bathing suits have skirts. :) Unitards look weird. But we wear legging-type pants to practice in all the time. Of course, the skinny girls DO look better in them than I do. :P

  37. Waerloga*

    This topic is , as has been mentioned many times earlier, odd.

    I now work in an area where surgical scrubs are banned from any public area (there goes my 10 outfits), yet skirts with no hose are fine (which to me is “wrong” only because we work with human sera/blood products, and to me it’s a safety issue).

    What I am trying to say is that different environments and cultures have different view points of what is acceptable, what is professional, and while dress codes exist, they need to be equally applied to all.

    Some are based on safety issues, but once you get into the realm of “professional”, that’s a subjective issue.

    So dress code for me is blue jeans and T-Shirts, and yes, sometimes suits but not at “work”.

    Too much fuss for something so minor.

    Take care


    1. Cassie*

      Our campus has a medical facility so we see people in scrubs and white coats all over campus. I even saw someone working out at the gym in scrubs. It kind of grosses me out – I imagine hygiene is one reason for having people wear scrubs (aside from it allows people to identify employees rather than patients from a distance). I see people riding buses wearing scrubs too. They’re probably not doing surgery in those scrubs, but still.

  38. glennis*

    I love Allison’s suggestion that you ask the boss to think about what this would look like in writing. I would hope that that would make it very clear to the boss that this is an impossible policy to define or implement.

    And definitely, if the boss persists, please do consult HR.

  39. OP-Dani*

    Thanks for the advice Alison and everyone! So much to read through, but I appreciate your help.

    Just for some background, my boss is probably in her early 50s and is “average” size, and I don’t think she is coming at this from a jealousy standpoint or anything. She’s just really this inappropriate.

    It just so happens that everyone in our department is female, and I get the feeling from some of her comments in general that for much of her career she’s worked with men. I’m not sure how it relates, but I bet it does.

    I’ve only worked in this department for 3 months, so I’m still learning the culture here, having worked for this university for over a year. I think I’m going to have to pull the HR card on her next week. We’ll see…

    1. Waerloga*

      If you would be so kind, please update AAM if you could.

      Thank you and take care


  40. kill molly leggings*

    I agree with your boss. Perhaps its unkind, but its a bitter truth; its unattractive, unappealing and bad for business. Women’s should wear what they feel AND LOOK good in. Whats’ the point of overflowing a nice pair of leggings with thicker legs when those legs would look way better in something else? But all of that aside, from a business perspective this man couldn’t be any more correct. No one wants to purchase from or work with someone who in unattractive. That’s not even basic business sense, that’s common knowledge.

    1. fposte*

      Wow, I just couldn’t let this stand as the last post in this thread. Aside from being an incredibly…blinkered…view, it’s demonstrably untrue. Look at the most successful businesspeople in the world–Bill Gates isn’t exactly an oil painting, is he? There are undoubtedly people who will only work with or purchase from teh hott, but the irony is that people who genuinely feel that way are going to be more difficult to integrate into an organization than people who aren’t cosmetically adorable.

      1. KellyK*

        +1 to everything you said.

        It’s also not at all relevant since it’s student employees at a university in a closed department. No one’s buying anything from them.

    2. VintageLydia*


      I second fposte. This comment is horrible on so many levels.

  41. VictoriaHR*

    I was at a career fair presenting my company’s opportunities to high school students, and one young lady was giving a presentation across the aisle from me to prospective employers. She had very ample assets and had leggings on, so I could tell that she was wearing black panties. Not. Good.

  42. Kelly*

    Most adults who work in a public facing setting are adults and should have adult-like judgment about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate work attire. I work in a department store and this is the time of year where we have the most issues with what is and isn’t appropriate for work clothing and footwear wise. Corporate decided it was a brilliant idea to add some clarifications to the already restrictive dress code in April. Now we can’t wear sleeveless tops on their own and they had to include a provision saying that excessive cleavage was inappropriate. The first one sucks IMO because it gets hot in the summer and when you are doing something all the time, it’s hot wearing even a light sweater over your top. The second one sounds like some of the older women in my store complained about what little cleavage was shown and got a response. Flip flops and sneakers were already banned as being unprofessional. The first I understand, but the second makes no sense because you can find black sneakers that look dressier and are easier to stand in all day. It’s ultimately up to the HR person and supervisors to decide what is appropriate and what gets you sent home to change, so there’s a lot of leeway depending on who’s around. The HR person doesn’t think Birkenstocks are appropriate but one supervisor wears a similar shoe so she either needs to tell that supervisor to wear something else or let everyone wear Birkenstocks which are the best sandals for standing in all day.

    There are a number of bigger women who work in my store. Shortly before the revision was announced, one person was wearing a cowl neck top that exposed her boobs a great deal. No one said anything to her, but she must have been spoken to because she has been covering them up. This was the same person who complained about someone wearing a colored top without a sweater. At least that person’s boobs were covered up. Another person wears the FitFlops during spring and summer months. To me they are not appropriate because of the rubber material and the fact they are flip flops, but I don’t believe anyone has said anything to her.

    I’m just waiting for the HR person to say something to me and a couple of other girls about wearing the Toms canvas slipons. I have them in gray and another has them in khaki, both of which are work appropriate colors. They are more comfortable than some of the shoes sold at work and cheaper too. They’re also more attractive than the ugly Danskos beloved by a couple of individuals, and more comfortable, as well.

  43. OP-Dani*

    An update:

    When I met with my boss yesterday, I simply told her that I was pretty sure what she was doing is something that HR wouldn’t support, and she said that she was just trying to foster a professional environment.

    I told her if that’s the case, let’s just try to come up with a new dress code for *everyone*. She’s open to it, and I hope this is the end of this fiasco. Thanks everyone!

    1. Another Emily*

      Good job steering her away from the danger zone. I hope it works out. Hopefully she understands how her original idea came off. I understand if you didn’t push that point though.

  44. Jennifer*

    My situation at work had nothing to do wear showing cleavage or wearing leggings but the heels that I wear.Typically I wear a skirt suit or dress,not to short,fairly conservative for a insurance office.Since I live in the southern part of the country its warm most of the time I wear high heel slides or mules.They match my outfits and all.But I had a superviser tell they are not appropriate for the office and looked like a street walker.Since than Ive been wearing pumps to work but It really makes mad…..

    1. Amy*

      “Looked like a streetwalker” is not an appropriate comment for anyone to make in the workplace, ever, under any circumstances.

      That said, I agree that slides and mules are not professional shoes. They’re casual sandals, like flip flops, that are good for weekend and casual wear, but not a part of a business dress code. If your office requires clothing more formal than yoga pants and jeans, I’d say that casual sandals such as slides and mules are too informal to fit the dress code.

  45. Colleen*

    As a curvier woman (triple D), I wear V-necks all the time as high necklines look ridiculous on me. For example, a turtle-neck actually makes me look bustier. There’s lots of V-necks I can wear without showing actual cleavage. I would have to leave a job that disallowed V-necks, because I only have a couple of scoop-necks to wear and would run out of laundry in about three days.

Comments are closed.