my coworker won’t stop commenting on my clothes, handbags, and finances

A reader writes:

I could use some advice in dealing with a rather rude coworker. I am getting married next year and planning a wedding. I do not talk about my wedding at work to really anyone unless they bring it up and I keep it simple. I don’t like to talk to much about it or anything in my life. I like to keep my personal life just that, personal.

One coworker who is new to the office constantly comments on everything I have, from my shoes to my scarves and handbags. Our workplace has a casual dress environment so I am not dressing fancy at all. (She is the office bully and comments to everyone but lately I am her victim of choice.) Her obsession lately has been my handbags. I have several Michael Kors bags and she comments on each of them. “I have no idea how you are paying for a wedding when you keep buying bags!” Or “How many bags do you have? I have no idea how you can possibly even afford to have a wedding!” She has not said these comments once to me; they are almost daily.

My finances are none of her business, nor is my wedding. I am not going around the office crying poor me that can’t afford anything. I find it insulting to me, my fiancé, and our families. I work hard for everything I have including those bags. And I shouldn’t have to justify my lifestyle to anyone. Wedding planning is a stressful time and I don’t need any more stressed added to it. Do you have any advice of how to nicely tell her to mind her own business?

You’re taking it way too personally. She’s obnoxious and nosy; that’s about her, not you. Don’t hear these questions as a demand to justify anything or as criticism of you; hear them as what they actually are, which is her announcing, “I am a nosy, obnoxious person.”

As for what to say in the moment, ignore her or say, “Yes, I know, all my handbags are shocking” or “It’s incredibly boring to keep talking about this. Can we move on?”

Stop letting it bug you and she’ll probably move on (and if she doesn’t, she’ll continue looking ridiculous to anyone observing while you look above it).

{ 248 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    I just think of it as good practice for people giving unsolicited parenting advice :)

    I have people comment about all the nice trips I take. We use miles and I’m really good at getting great deals and negotiating, but I don’t feel the need to share that, unless someone asks.

    I’ve had people flat out ask me how much the wedding is costing. Erm??? I usually don’t mind giving a range, because I figure they just want to know how much things cost in this area.

    Bottom line: some people are super weird about money. Just live your fabulous life and don’t worry about them :)

    1. M. in Austin!*

      There’s a nice way to ask about money/some other personal stuff!

      For example, I’m fairly new and my coworker took a 2 week vacation. We only get 2 weeks for the year, so I was curious how she could swing that and not be SOL come the holidays. So I just asked if she had to use all of her vacation/what her holiday plans were. She said she worked with her manager and only had to use 1 week of vaca and for the rest of the time-off she worked an extra hour every day to make up the hours beforehand. I didn’t know we could do that, so I’m glad I asked!

      If you say things nicely and frame it in a “I want to learn” kind of way, some people are usually happy to discuss/share! Know your audience and know which lines you should NOT cross! (varies from person to person!)

      1. Koko*

        But of course, the problem is usually that the people who ask these rude questions don’t actually want to know. The “How can you…?” is just a jealous/passive-aggressive way of suggesting that the person is somehow wrong for doing it.

        “How can you afford all those nice things?” (when I can’t?)
        “How can you find time to have fun and still do your job?” (when I’m working all the time and never get to have any fun?)
        “How do you feel comfortable letting your kids play alone outside?” (which I would never do because I care so much more about my kids)

        Sometimes those questions are motivated by genuine curiosity from someone who wants to be able to do the same. Often they’re motivated by jealousy from someone who doesn’t like that you’re collecting a perceived benefit that they can’t or don’t believe they can collect.

        1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          Yep. Or they are trying to ferret out how much money the OP’s finance, parents, or future in-laws have.

        2. M. in Austin!*

          Yeah I totally agree. I would never ask any of those questions! But sometimes, people ask questions on topics others may find “inappropriate” because they want to know if they can do that as well/how to do it/how you made it work/etc.

        3. Oryx*

          Yup, this happened to me last year when I took two weeks off at Christmas and I was asked “How I managed to swing that.”

          Um. I had the PTO and asked my supervisor and he said yes?

          But, yes, I think it ultimately was them being jealous that I 1) had that much PTO and 2) was able to take off that long from work. I know the one person who asked has a position that requires coverage so it always becomes a “thing” when she takes off. My position, not so much.

    2. Angora*

      My stepmother has a great answer for nosy people.

      She asks “Why do you want to know?” or “Why are you asking?” Most people realize they are being nosy when she asks back.

      You be forced to tell her it’s none of her business if the question you give doesn’t help.

      1. Phyllis*

        My brother has a great response to questions he doesn’t want to answer: “You writing a book?” Of course, the answer is no. He says, “Then why do you want to know?” If somebody is snarky and says, yes, then his response is, “Leave that chapter out!” You can’t help but laugh.

        1. bionicblzzrd*

          My dad is notorious for using that line when someone asks him a question he does not want to answer !

      2. JM*

        yes, that is what I do too. I will ask back. sometimes, she or he will keep asking next time, and I will just need to tell her/him ” you dont need to know about it.”

  2. Livin' in a Box*

    I had a coworker like this. She called my winter coat my “two paycheque coat” and was strangely obsessed with it. It was annoying, but I ignored her, and she went away (to bother someone else about their coat, probably).

  3. Turanga Leela*

    Another approach for in the moment is to respond as if she has complimented your taste. Her: “I have no idea how you can afford all those bags!” You: “Thanks! I love purses.” And then go about your business.

    I’m also a fan of telling people directly that you don’t want to talk about it, but I’ve found that a non sequitur “Thank you!” also works really well for rude/weird comments.

    1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      That’s what I came to say! I love the look on people’s faces when you take a shot as a compliment and thank them.

      Been ages since I’ve had occasion to use that one.

      But if this doesn’t work the OP should just ignore her. I’m not a fan of firing back snarky retorts in person, but if I were I’d suggest the next time the co-worker seemed so concerned about her finances I’d kindly assure the coworker that she has no intention of passing the hat at work to pay for the wedding, so she doesn’t have a thing to worry about.

      1. Arbynka*

        I like it. I confess I am horrible. If she asked me how come I can afford to pay for wedding while buying all these bags, I would say :”I am operating a drug cartel out of Columbia. It is pretty profitable side business. I am actually thinking of branching out to Canada”

        1. Anjum*

          i like the sarcastic retort. i’d come up with a new one each day.

          though i feel the OP’s pain – I would be really annoyed by this experience. the coworker is likely jealous as all get out, and is passive-aggressively trying ot make the OP feel guilty about how she spends her money. If i got fed up hearing it, I might just say directly, “you seem to be obsessed with my accessories. Do I need to call security to make sure they are safe from your clutches??” or “perhaps if you prioritized handbag-purchasing, you could buy one of your own!”

          Why do people always have to comment on how others spend their money?? especially in a work environment… it’s so inappropriate.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      Yep, this is a great solution. “I have no idea how you’re paying with a wedding when you buy all those bags!” “Aren’t they beautiful? I just love handbags.” Smile like you have “Fuck you!” written on your teeth, continue on.

      And geez, what a weird thing to obsess about. Michael Kors bags are very pretty, but it’s not like you walked into the office with a custom Birkin or a Kelly bag. I wonder if she’d obsess the same if you had Louboutin shoes on or a $7,000 pair of earrings or something.

      1. PlatypusPrime*

        Smile like you have “Fuck you” written on your teeth”

        This is so perfect… I kind of want to cross stitch it and frame it. Or get a tattoo that says it.

      2. Annie*

        I agree, it’s weird to pick on Michael Kors bags as being extraordinarily extravagant. I mean, if the LW has a dozen of their $10,000+ croc bags, then yeah, I would be curious as to how she could afford it unless she was obviously quite well off, but most of their bags are in the $100-400 range. Not cheap, but I could totally see an average person having multiple MK bags if they saved their pennies and prioritized it, and/or kept an eye out for sales. Or a person with a wealthy family or spouse might have received several bags as gifts. I’ve been laughed at before for my $1000+ designer purse, which I agree is a bit ridiculous for someone of my (relatively low) income level, but it was a present from someone who could afford it and wanted to treat me.

        Regardless of any of those reasons though, it’s totally rude and inappropriate to ask. Perhaps she’s just being snoopy, perhaps she’s wondering if you got a great deal, perhaps she’s casing the joint, who knows. But by saying, “why do you ask?” she’s forced to admit that her question is irrelevant and unprofessional, or possibly she has a legitimate and friendly reason. Either way, you’re being polite and professional.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        I would have trouble saying this without either (a) sounding like I was actually a thief or (b) sounding hostile, both of which I would try to avoid at work. I’d love to see someone pull it off, but I don’t think I could.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, if I were going to answer with untruths, I’d go for cheerful absurdity rather than sarcasm. “It’s good to have an oil well, amirite?” “Michael sends me all his bags because I’m so special!” “It’s so much less pretentious than just having the valet follow me around with my wallet.” If you’re the kind of person who enjoys that, it can turn her questions into an amusing game for you. The problem of sarcasm, aside from the hostility, is that it takes the situation too seriously. This is silly. Fob it off with a “Thank you” or be silly in response.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Exactly. If you’re sarcastic, you’re expending emotional energy, and really you just need a way to deflect the coworker’s comments.

          2. Angora*

            Thought of one … “don’t tell anyone, but I won the lottery.” Than deny it when she spread the rumors.

    3. Squirrel!*

      The last time I had to use the trick of thanking someone for a “compliment” was in elemtnary school, which is probably this co-worker’s maturity level. How sad.

    4. Mints*

      I don’t know if I’d do this, but another untrue answer is to say it cost $3 or some ridiculously low price. “It was a quarter and a smile at Goodwill.”

    5. Melissa*

      This is what I do! I had a colleague like this and it was also purses, strangely enough. I would just smile brightly and say “thank you!” because what can you say to that?

  4. SouthernBelle*

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see why her comments warrant any kind of response other than a cocked eyebrow, slight smile/half laugh and a mosey to your office/cube/workstation whatever. Why engage if she’s inconsequential to you?

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      That’s how I’d handle it.

      I feel for the OP, because I find the “personal finances” nosy coworker to be the most offensive kind. But I agree with you – silence is the best way to deter any future questioning from this one. She craves interaction and belonging. Don’t give her any reinforcement.

      1. Anna*

        I think what it’s showing is that there are many ways to respond so the OP can pick the one she’s most comfortable with.

    2. Layla*

      I have a customer who makes all sorts of comments – ignoring them doesn’t really work for him / me.
      They just continue and repeat the next time I see him. Sigh.

      Sometimes it’s not questions so I can’t exactly say “why do you ask ?”
      I think I shall say thank you , even when it’s clearly inappropriate for the comment. Ha!

  5. EvilQueenRegina*

    I used to have a co-worker like that. Philomena once noticed another coworker, Katrina, taking her bag out with her for smoke breaks and kept asking why. Katrina tried to ignore it but Philomena was quite persistent. In the end, one day when Philomena saw her and said “Ooh, I see you’ve got your bag again today,” Katrina turned round and said “What has that got to do with you?” That shut her up. Philomena used to keep commenting on someone else’s ties as well.

    1. hildi*

      I never understood your name until I started watching. GAH! I just started Season 3 and am obsessed. I need to hurry and finish so I can catch up and be on track with season 4 so there are no spoilers. We might have to talk in the Sunday open threads…..

      1. Melissa*

        Season 3 is better than Season 2, IMO. It’s a great show, but yes, you have to finish season 3 – and don’t look at any Once stuff online, because even the promotional pictures will be spoilery! It was that way with seasons 2 and 3 as well.

        1. hildi*

          Good to know! It’s been so hard to not look up info about characters, etc. We’ll have to talk in the Sunday open thread!

  6. hildi*

    Her comments are specifically designed to get an emotional reaction out of you so you’ll either defend yourself or counterattack. If you do this, then she continues to have the upperhand and you are responding to her. You need to shift the dynamic. And I think the best way is to ignore her. Like literally meet her comments with silence. I used to feel bad about doing something like this because I want there to be harmony and I don’t want to hurt anyone or damage a relationship, etc. etc. But then it hit me: People like this are not anyone I esteem enough to want to maintain a good relationship with. If that makes any sense. She clearly isn’t interested in your feelings or in continuing good relations (versus someone that just makes a thoughtless, but harmless, comment). So, don’t engage with her. She’s playing a game of power and by you saying ANYTHING you’re playing by her rules. Silence is your ticket to your power here.

    1. D*

      Very true!

      Basically, this person is pretty insecure to even be taking so much notice about what handbags you have, and equating that with how you earn and/or household income you have.

      If I encounter people like this, I just kind of shrug say “yeah, I do have a lot of bags” and keep walking or just say you’ve got to get back to work, put your headphones on, and start typing away. I pretty much act like the person is not saying anything interesting or useful (since they aren’t).

      1. Dasha*

        I agree with D- I think “Yeah, I do have a lot of bags” is the perfect response or I also like Artemesia’s response of “Thank you, I love purses” is excellent as well.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            Now I’m wondering what’s a normal amount of bags for the average woman. I have somewhere between 15-20 but use about 5 regularly. I always wonder if I have the normal amount of stuff – off to google.

            1. Natalie*

              Hmm, I wonder too. Also, do messenger bags and laptops bags and such count? I only have 3 proper purses, but I have a lot of other bags.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                That’s the way I am–I love luggage and totes, but I usually only have three or four (tops) go-to purses at any given time. I buy cheap ones and pitch them when they get raggy.

            2. Jean*

              I don’t know that there is a normal. Whatever suits the person is normal. I suspect that many women have two or three or five, if you count the everyday bag, the dressy bag, the everyday bag in a different color (that may not get much use if the woman in question can’t or doesn’t want to spend a lot of time coordinating her bags with her outfits); and then one or two spares such as the _other_ dressy bag and the previous everyday bag that wasn’t good enough to keep carrying but gets kept just in case. Or maybe there’s a cute fabric bag that works for summer only (and only gets used every other summer because the woman doesn’t always have time to switch out her bag). At least, that’s how my bag collection works for me. :-) I finally got rid of the navy blue bag but I still have both the just-replace and the previously-replaced black everyday bags. It’s obviously time to stare down the contents of the closet!

    2. Artemesia*

      Oh absolutely. But ignoring in this kind of tight setting looks like an emotional reaction. Ignore if you can plausibly be engaged in other things and basically not noticing the dolphin noises she is making. But if it is directly to you then ‘Thank you, I love purses’ or just ‘Thank you’ is the kind of neutral, missing the point, non sequitor that tends to not give payoff to the annoying person. She intended to wound or needle you and you see it as a mild compliment.

      1. Adam*

        True. She could respond with some form of “Thank you”, but that might get annoying by itself after a while. Personally I would just shrug and continue with my day. If she can learn to truly not let her coworkers comments get under her skin it will show, and every reasonable person will be able to tell who’s the one in this situation with a good handle on things.

      2. hildi*

        “But ignoring in this kind of tight setting looks like an emotional reaction”

        Artemesia – really good point that I had not considered. I agree that it could come across as an emotional reaction. So…I amend my statement to include another response is what you guys have been saying: a bland, non-commital thank you.

    3. Adam*

      I agree. With these “pinch, poke” confrontations you two are actually playing by two completely different sets of rules. It’s easy to feel if you don’t respond to her rude comments then you are letting her win. Thing is, she WANTS you to respond and is doesn’t really matter what you say so long as you say something. In that case she wins. If you play by her rules, and say nothing, she gains nothing and will be forced to eventually find another player. And since you said she makes a habit of doing this with everybody else in the office on a rotating basis, everyone already knows she’s being ridiculous and that you won by discouraging her for staying on your case.

      1. hildi*

        “Thing is, she WANTS you to respond and is doesn’t really matter what you say so long as you say something. In that case she wins. If you play by her rules, and say nothing, she gains nothing and will be forced to eventually find another player.”

        ITA. It’s a lose-lose for OP if she responds – with an assertive statement or a snarky one. That’s why I think zero engagement is about the only way to end it. But there are so many levels of complexity in any situation lots of options could work, too.

        1. Anna*

          I don’t really see it as a lose-lose. The coworker will eventually move on, so that’s a win. There may be some fun to be had with the ridiculous responses, so that’s a win. How is it a lose-lose?

          1. hildi*

            Hmmm, good question….well….not everyone sees it the same way, but the way I see it and the level of angst I am comfortable with makes me think that giving her the ridiculous responses is going too far into the pit with her. I just don’t want to get sucked into a pit with someone. And being snarky to my eyes is going into the pit. But I know some people that are really good at the silly retorts and they enjoy doing that. I have never been that type of a person so I suppose that’s why I see it as lose-lose. But obviously it just depends on what a person can tolerate. For my money, not engaging with someone like this is the best option to me. I don’t play games very well :) But good question – it made me consider why I feel that way.

    4. Anjum*

      you are so right. i understand the desire to retort back but you’re right, that’s what she’s going for by making all these passive aggressive comments!

    5. OhNo*

      Alternatively, if silence would be weird (because there are some drama llamas that would spend the rest of the day telling everyone “OP hates me!!! I complimented her purse this morning and she ignored me!!! Wah!!!”), you could try a one- or two-word acknowledgement. Or you can give a purely physical response, like raising an eyebrow or shrugging.
      “You have so many bags!” – Yep.
      “How many bags do you have?” – A few.
      “How can you afford them?” – *shrug*

      Either way, the message is “I have heard and acknowledge your comment, but I don’t think it is worth discussing or engaging with you about. Come back when you have something interesting to say.”

      1. hildi*

        Agree! OP will have to figure out which one her person is. Someone that can be silenced with silence or silenced with blank acknowledgement.

      2. A Cita*

        I like answering “OK” or “Sure” to every rude question. Even if…no…*especially* if the question doesn’t lend itself to that answer.

        “You have so many bags!” –Ok.
        “How many bags do you have?” –Sure!
        “How can you afford them and a wedding?!” –Ok.

        The responses make it awkward. Just like the questions.

        1. Still Trying To Find a Clever Name*

          I love this too. And I think I may answer OK while smiling as if I have Feck You written on my teeth.

      3. Red*

        The blandest and most literal reply seems to work for me when putting off people who are being very nosy/purposefully rude. How many? Enough. How can I afford them? Getting paid. If the person is still really interested, they’re forced to rephrase their invasive question in a way that makes the intent obvious; a really rude person who wants to avoid being pinned with any actionable, articulable (THAT IS NOW A WORD) complaint will drop it after an eye-roll or huff.

  7. Elysian*

    In my family/friend circle growing up, money was pretty freely discussed. If someone got something new, it was pretty common to ask “Where did you get it? Was it on sale? How much was it? ” etc. I was pretty surprised to eventually find out that not everyone is this way. I celebrated my first bonus with a nice handbag that cost considerably more than most people in my family spend on handbags (though still not much be a lot of standards!), and made the mistake of answering questions about it. After that my family just developed an odd fixation with my handbag. Eventually they moved on but every once in a while it’ll come up again.

    I guess my point is that some people just grew up with this being a topic of conversation like the weather. Its possible that your coworker doesn’t mean to pry, but that this is just something that she’s always freely discussed. You’re absolutely entitled to keep your private like private (and are probably better off for it), but maybe try not to take her comments too personally. She’ll move on eventually.

    1. Kay*

      Yes! My parents talk about money and finances with me (and always have) because, as my parents, they wanted me to understand budgeting and the expenses of running a household. It took me a little while into adulthood to realize that it’s not necessary (or even desirable most of the time) to discuss the intricacies of your finances with outside people.

      If this were a young, new-to-the-workforce person, I’d suggest pulling them aside and (politely) cluing them in that it’s rude to ask about finances. However, this doesn’t sound like a young person just being naive. This sounds like a bully and just like the playground, the easiest way to get a bully to move on is by not engaging.

      1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        I would definitely pull someone young/new to the workforce aside and clue them in on this, for the very reasons you two mentioned…it can easily be an honest mistake and they don’t know how offensive other people find this.

        I was raised where asking someone about money was on par with asking what they weigh, or the quality of their last orgasm. Just. not. done. Even though I know some do this I’m still always shocked when someone asks me what I paid for my house, or what my husband makes – which are the two I get most often. I always look surprised and ask them to repeat themselves and then most of the time they do but are clearly aware that it’s not cool…so I let them off the hook by saying something like “who can remember?” and change the subject so the awkwardness doesn’t hang in the air.

        (This doesn’t extend to everything – if someone asks me what I’m paying for gas in my town I’d tell them if I knew – I just never know.)

      2. Reader*

        She’s not young at all.. She’s in her late 40s if I had to guess and has a daughter my age almost. So it’s not being naive or innocent. I did give her that benefit of the doubt for months. But since she started and learned I was planning the wedding all I have heard were these tiny jabs about my wedding.

        1. My two cents...*

          maybe she’s comparing your life style to her daughter’s (or even her own?) in a rude/condescending type of tone?

          i recall discussing my raise-request process with my SO’s mother (a noble postal carrier nearing retirement) a year ago. she just fixated on how my pay rate directly compared to hers. lots of “i WISH i made that much!” type of comments. meanwhile, i’m still paying down my crushing student loan debt…

      3. Elysian*

        Oh, that’s true, too! I never associated it with being young, though that could well be for some people. In may case, I think it was a socio-economic/class-related issue. I grew up very working class, and now that I’m becoming more of an office-type, I’m finding myself realizing that there are so many things that work in one “world” but not the other. In my experience, my working class family and friends discuss money much more freely than my office-dwelling white collar colleagues.

        So its possible, since OP says she’s not young, that she’s just from another background or culture or lifestyle where these things are discussed more freely and doesn’t have the awareness or the cultural capital to realize she needs to stop talking about money in the office.

        1. Mints*

          I’ve talked about this with a couple people before, and I think it’s partly about class. But also we found in common that our families were structured as one unit, rather than parents as very distinct from children (we also had single moms in common). I find it pretty interesting

          Anyway, I figured out early on that some people find this rude, but it doesn’t feel that way to me, either. And I could see myself making this mistake (although probably not at work)

          1. Natalie*

            There are regional difference as well, I think, maybe influenced by what sort of class drives the culture.

          2. Sidra*

            I come from a white-collar background and talking about money was acceptable, though it always stopped short of discussing my dad’s salary. Discussing prices, etc., though was always OK.

        2. Auditoholic*

          I agree. The working class seem to be more open discussing wages. I think this is because (around here anyway) the pay for most working class positions is posted when jobs are open. There is no salary negotiation. My company for example, all production, regardless of experience, starts at the same rate, and length of service is the only way to make more (yearly raises based on performance/attendance). But, at my level and up, there is negotiation involved in the pay rate so you wouldn’t discuss it since not everyone makes the same in the same position.

    2. Sidra*

      Same here. I don’t think talking about money should be taboo! My family/friends and I don’t hesitate to help each other find a deal (or at least not get screwed!) and you can’t do that unless you are willing to talk about money. It doesn’t bother us that some of us have more/less money… It’s not like we don’t already know that, and knowing specific numbers doesn’t change that.

    3. Mander*

      It wouldn’t be weird in my family to ask how much someone paid for something, but it would be more like “I love your bag!” followed by “thanks, I got it on sale for $50 marked down from $150!”, then “wow, that was lucky!”. If someone started harping on it every day then it would be treated as a weird thing to do. Which it is.

  8. Jenny*

    Money and work is a very strange thing. I am a total discount shopper. I watch sales closely, visit outlet malls, belong to several deal sites and I collect coupons. Rarely is anything in my wardrobe more expensive than $30. I recently lost about 10-15 lbs so I’ve had to buy a lot of new clothes for work and there’s one person who always comments about my clothes “Another new dress? Do you go shopping EVERY weekend?” – it’s annoying but yes, it reflects worse on her than me. I don’t walk around going “CHECK OUT MY NEW DRESS!” – if someone is nicer to me about it and says “I love your dress, where did you get it?” I’m happy to send them the link to the discount site but otherwise, shake it off.

    1. Rachel - HR*

      I love when I get the “where do you get your dresses from?” and I tell them and the response is, “Oh, well I can never find anything there.” Sorry…what do you want me to do about it.

    2. Ethyl*

      WTH? I seriously could not even imagine paying enough attention to what my coworkers are wearing to even notice if they had a new dress!

      LW — your coworker broke the social contract first by being a nosy weirdo, ergo you don’t have to be very polite or even respond if you don’t want to. Good luck — lots of useful scripts here!

      1. Nervous accountant*

        Lol is it weird to do that? I notice all the time :-/ i don’t comment on it to their face or really thjnk anything negative even. I just notice what people wear.

        1. Ethyl*

          I mean, I guess I notice what people wear, and I definitely can tell you who is “better” dressed around here, but I definitely don’t take enough notice to think “gee that is an outfit I’ve never seen before” or anything.

          Although I definitely noticed when I worked tangentially with someone who literally wore the same thing every time I saw her. Once or twice maybe it could be a coincidence, but every time we had a meeting (multiple per month) over several months? Definitely noticeable.

      2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        A lot of people do – I don’t. I had to be told someone I see everyday was wearing glittery turquoise eyeshadow.

        I’ll notice sometimes if something is particularly cute (or pink – because people do not wear enough pink so I always smile when I see it), but I certainly don’t notice most things. And I don’t know labels at all – I wouldn’t know most of things talked about here by looking, that’s for sure.

        And it’s funny – but a lot of the women I know carrying “designer” bags are knockoffs. No one in the office has a designer bag, but in the factory you’ll find tons of fake Coach, Prada, etc sold by this guy who comes around the neighborhood out of the trunk of his car when no one is looking. I know people who care about this stuff can tell the difference, but I can’t. I would tell you guys that I am carrying a genuine Vera Wang bag today and I got it at Kohl’s, but I don’t want to brag. :)

        Try not to quiz me too much about how I had enough money to spend about $30 for a bag 2+ years ago (crazy Christmas sale and a ton of Kohl’s cash that was about to expire – you beat it out of me!)

        So you and I can sit and not notice what people wear together.

    3. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I know what you mean. Yes, I bought a new car last year, but there was a company discount. Sure, that fountain pen retails at a crazy price, but I imported it for much less and so on.

      1. 2horseygirls*

        ^ Exactly this! I scour eBay, buy on clearance and still feel guilty from three years ago when I (*gasp*) paid full outlet price for a Coach tote that I have used every single solitary day since (which averages out to $0.41/day currently). Some people don’t believe in previously-loved items – their loss ;)

        I think alternating between “thank you” and blinking blankly would confound your co-worker. Or come up with something really good, said in a very cheerful doens’t-everyone-do-this tone of voice – “My cousin’s niece’s best friend’s mother-in-law is a property clerk at a big city police station. When they auction off the property that isn’t claimed after a violent crime, I make out like a bandit!” Smile big and blink several times, then toodle on down the hall.

    4. Long time lurker!*

      I’m the same way – I’m an amazingly savvy discount and thrift shopper. I know my stuff and I have some AMAZING – and I mean like Jimmy Choo, Prada, Bottega Veneta, YSL kind of amazing – handbags and shoes and other pieces. I paid Gap and Aldo prices for all of it. And I won Canada Goose winter coat in a raffle. Meanwhile, my husband’s entire wardrobe is full of gorgeous designer clothes that I got for him at thrift stores. His favourite shoes are a pair of Cole Haan Nike ones that I got him for $3.

      It’s a pretty good hobby. I dress like a rich lady but still have money left over at the end of the month!

      And I think it’s hilarious when people wonder about my finances. As if it’s any of their gosh darn business.

      1. Melissa*

        Teach me your ways, lol.

        I’m pretty good at getting mid-level designer stuff at cheaper prices (Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Badgley Mischka), and I do love NYC thrift stores for their ridiculous, often new, designer clothes at bargain basement prices. I haven’t yet worked up to the Cole Haans for $3, though; that’s impressive.

        1. Long time lurker!*

          Oh, it’s not just Cole Haans! I have $3 Stuart Weitzman heels (that I wear to suuuuuuuper fancy events), $3 Kate Spade heels… Prada pants for $5 for my husband, a $3 Shanghai Tang shirt for him, three (three!!!) merino wool Banana Republic sweaters for him, $3 each. Two Burberry shirts for my daughter, $1 each.

          My trick: go to the thrift store closest to the second most expensive part of the city. The one in the most expensive part has staff that know all the labels. The second most expensive, not so much. :)

          1. Chloe Silverado*

            +1. My mom runs a consignment store in a nice neighborhood in a small-ish town. Most of her volunteers are seniors who aren’t necessarily up on top designers and subsequently price items well below market value. Despite the list of popular designers and brands she leaves at the pricing station, most of the volunteers see a label they don’t recognize on an item and assume it’s not designer. My mother practically cried the other day when a young woman approached the checkout station with 3 pairs of like-new Tory Burch flats that had been priced at $5.00 each (retail $225). She also sold a Prada leather jacket for $9.00 because whoever priced it made a mistake.

  9. Coelura*

    I agree with Alison – this is so much more about her than you. Silence, a quirked eyebrow, or a comment like have been suggested will shut this down. Just let it roll off your back like water off a duck. As you point out, you are her current target. Wait her out and she’ll move onto a different target. This isn’t worth reacting to internally or externally. Laugh to yourself – she’s so obvious, its pathetic. Shake your head and move on.

    1. Jessica*

      That’s what I was going to say. Or feigning ignorance/innocence: “I’m sorry… were you just… commenting on how I spend my money?”

    2. Gene*

      Not just silence, but stop what you are doing and give a death glare silence and maybe a raised eyebrow (if only I could do that.)

    3. Windchime*

      I usually just give a smile and don’t answer. It’s nobody’s business what I spent on the gorgeous pink quilted lambskin mini-bag with the long silver-toned chain handle. (Can’t wait to carry it!)

  10. BadPlanning*

    It could be an opportunity to invent wildly outlandish stories.
    Q. How many bags do you have? I have no idea how you can possibly even afford to have a wedding!

    A. I have 500. Just like the Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.
    A. We sold our left kidneys. It was so romantic, recuperating together. We might have to do lungs next because the reception is out of control.
    A. Didn’t you know? My finance is a Nigerian Prince and will transfer the money to my account any day now.

    Of course, this way is risky in that the coworker is either overly serious and will start spreading strange rumors about you (OMG, OP is getting a mail order husband!1!”) or will be so amused that she’ll keep asking to receive your ridiculous stories.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      OMG, I love the Nigerian prince response. I so wish I had a situation that it would apply to. HA HA!!

    2. Lily in NYC*

      LOL at all of these. I was going to suggest telling her that she made them herself and is practicing for a new career as a counterfeiter.

    3. Chinook*

      Careful – those outlandish stories can backfire. I swear that the reason that so many people think Canadians live in igloos and have dog sleds is because, when asked, 9 out of 10 Canadians will answer “yes” with a straight face and then be able to give details about sled parking at the border and how cool igloos are during a heat wave.

        1. Mephyle*

          Right. And you know I’m not making this up, viz the discussion on the snow dump in Alberta this past weekend (see the Sunday open thread).

      1. ella*

        Ha! I’m a Quaker, and after awhile, the temptation to just go, “You know what, yes, like the Amish. And oatmeal. I love oatmeal” is kind of overwhelming.

    4. Karowen*


      Thank you, Bad Planning, for helping me get Final Jeopardy tonight. Clue was something to the effect of “This author’s sister said that he had “hundreds of hats of all types which he is going to use as inspiration for his next book’.”

  11. JMegan*

    Literally laughed out loud at “all my handbags are shocking.” It’s almost enough to make me wish I had a nosy coworker, so I could use it some time!

  12. Kate*

    I ran into something similar at a new temp job. In my first 2 days I had no less than 5 people ask me about my bag then say “wow those are really expensive right?”As a temp who didn’t know any of those people I was so uncomfortable. I just sort of mumbled thank you and sometimes that I got it on Black Friday. I ended up switching bags just to avoid it. I don’t understand how people think this is okay.

    Since switching bags isn’t the best option for you I would just say thank you the wedding has been arranged and just walk away. If she gets no reaction she will stop.

  13. Michele*

    I work in fashion so asking someone about what they are wearing is normal. In general people do not ask about the cost of an item since for the most part we all know what the retail of most brands tend to be. It is common office banter to talk about where you can get a good deal and we all know the websites. Part of the reason almost no one in fashion burns a bridge is we all hook each other up with our discounts and sample sale info. No one should pay retail so not worth it even at outlets. Some people are just nosey and rude just ignore her or change the subject.

  14. Anon for this one*

    NOT saying OP does this — just that I have worked with someone who was very conspicuously in love with designer items, and although we do all right financially in the field I work in, it’s not usual for people to wear a month’s rent’s (NYC rent, I mean) worth of bag, shoes, and clothing as it’s a fairly casual environment. This person was annoying, and not just to me, not because of the fact that she had these things, but because of her attitude toward them. I will never forget the day someone complimented her on her shoes and she replied, “Why, yes, I like to collect shoes from other countries.” The nonchalance with which she treated being able to collect multiple pairs of shoes, the price of any one of which could feed a family of four for several months, *when she was talking to a rank-and-file employee*, was what made my brain explode.

    For the OP, it just sounds like a case of we all have our preferred form of enjoyment, and yours just happens to be one that’s more noticeable to coworkers than, say, dining at steakhouses or collectibles that you keep at home. As long as you haven’t been complaining about how much the wedding is costing, and it sounds like you haven’t, she’s being obnoxious, and I like Artemesia’s suggestion of just non-answering with a “Thank you!” as if the coworker has merely complimented your bag.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      Ooh, I knew someone like this. On a rainy day, she walked into the office and said, “Don’t you HATE it when your Manolos get wet?” She was talking to a group of administrative assistants who had nowhere near that kind of money. It showed a breathtaking lack of self-awareness.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Curious me would have blurted out “So how do you preserve your investment?” Because I have no idea how to treat expensive shoes. All of my selections are tough enough to handle everyday abuse.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          That’s nicer than I’d be.

          “Are those last season’s?” “Are you sure? They really look like LAST FALL”

        2. Ezri*

          I’m pretty sure I don’t own shoes that can’t get wet. Is that a material thing, or something? My shoes get wet so my feet don’t have to! Which is good, because where I live it rains every day…

          Most of my shoes are from college, though, where the mentality for me was ‘If I can’t slosh through three inches of water / snow in these, I really don’t need ’em’. :) I’m learning to purchase pretty and practical things, now.

          1. Liz*

            Ha. I often take my shoes off when it’s raining and walk barefoot, mainly because I hate having soggy shoes and having to watch my step oh-so-carefully to avoid those misleading 3″ deep puddles at the curb.

    2. NP*

      I was just going to say, a typical MK bag (from looking on their website) is under $400. It’s not exactly chump change, but it’s not outrageous either. A person could easily blow that much in one month if dining out frequently.

      1. Natalie*

        Plus, any designer handbag at that level is going to frequently available for under $200 in consignment shops, on Ebay, and flash sites. I have a half-dozen Kate Spade bags (same price point) and I paid retail price for exactly zero of them.

      2. the_scientist*

        Exactly- I think people see the “designer” label and automatically think $$$$!!! But who knows how long someone saved up to acquire those things, whether they paid retail or got a discount and how long they have owned them for. OP probably didn’t blow $2000 in a day at Michael Kors, she probably saved up and purchased those bags over a period of several years.

        I don’t own any labels, per se, but I own several pieces (boots, bags, jackets, jewelry, sunglasses) that were quite expensive. If I was wearing them all at once, someone might look at me and wonder how an entry-level employee affords such extravagances (or, because none have an obvious label, they might not think they were costly). The truth? Some were gifts, some were acquired on deep discount, none were purchased in the last 5 years, and all that weren’t gifts were saved for. The flipside is that I take good care of my “investment pieces” and expect them to last for decades.

        1. Michele*

          Exactly. I have had my sunglasses for 5 years. Yes they were expensive but I take care of my things so I don’t have to replace them every other year.

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            Especially something like handbags which, if taken care of, can last decades. And designer handbags are not a totally uncommon holiday or birthday gift. I have a few very nice winter coats I’ve had for years that I got as gifts (probably around the same price range as MK bags.)

            1. Jessa*

              Exactly. I have designer leather handbags that belonged to my mother who died in 1981. I have formal dress clutches that are beaded to a fare-thee-well and belonged to my Grandmother, from the 20s seriously. Bugle bead clutch handbags. I also have my grandmother’s kid gloves. From short to opera length.

              Until I sold them because they were not PC I had pre 1955 fur coats from both gran and my mother. My mother’s because she was heavy, was re-sewn from three jackets that belonged to HER mother. They were cared for during the off season at a furrier’s, re-lined, re-sewed where necessary

              I was taught to take care of my stuff. I have a pair of pumps that I bought in 1979. Yes they’ve been re-soled a couple of times, but they’re fine. I can’t wear them anymore though due to my disability so I gave them to the thrift shop.

              But just because someone has something really nice or expensive doesn’t mean that they paid retail for it, or even that they weren’t gifted it or had it for years.

      3. sam*

        I was going to note that I see Michael Kors at the TJMaxx in Manhattan on a pretty regular basis – it’s one of those brands that gets wholesaled out pretty consistently. It’s a nice brand, but it’s not exactly Prada or Hermes.

        My stepmom used to be an exec at Liz Claiborne (back when it still existed and owned everything from Jockey to Kate Spade to Dana Buchman – they’ve now reorganized under the Kate Spade brand) so I’m still invited to all of the “friends and family” sales, and I’m the queen of DSW and finding the three items at Old Navy that no one else buys that look more expensive than they are. I love shoes and purses, and have lots of them, but almost never spend “retail” on anything. I’ve had people stop me on the street about a fantastic cape/trenchcoat that I bought…at the Gap. (I’m also slightly plus-sized, so I tend to wear somewhat basic black clothes and then “up-accessorize”).

      4. annie*

        This is why I think this is funny – you can look up the price of any designer bag, so why is she asking? I admit I have done that when a relative got a really fancy designer bag she was bragging about, because I’m nosy.

        I do find that in my group, anyone who has a designer bag has one in the $500 and under range, which is kinda crazy but also not totally out of the realm of possibility for middle class folks as a splurge out of their bonus this year, or as a holiday present from a spouse.

    3. Jen RO*

      I don’t know… her reply doesn’t sound outrageous to me. And shoes from other countries does not necessarily mean they are expensive.

      1. fposte*

        I’m inclined to agree. This isn’t on a par with randomly complaining about the gold plating on your BMW–somebody asked her about her shoes and she answered. And even if they are pricey, I don’t think it’s rude to be able to afford things that other people can’t or to fail to hide that fact. It takes more than merely stating or wearing a purchase to be rudely rubbing people’s faces in it–maybe this person was doing more of that at other times?

        1. Ezri*

          I came here to say something similar – sure, I may be jelly of someone else’s paycheck and nice things for a minute (it happens), but I won’t say someone is rude if they are asked about an expensive hobby / thing and respond. She has nice shoes, I have an extensive video game collection. We’re adults, deciding how to spend money is part of being adults.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This is a very good point. Some people like to spend their money on clothes, shoes, handbags, etc. and others on games, books, and nerd stuff (guess which one I am, hee hee). Nobody should try to be the wallet police over another adult.

      2. LBK*

        Yeah…I don’t really get how that’s a bad response. It actually sounds like a pretty good/neutral one. It’s not like she said “Thanks, they were $2000, thank god I have a rich husband to buy them for me!” Who knows? Maybe she does have a well off spouse, or maybe she’s an obsessive discount shopper, or maybe she has a fashionista sister who hands off free samples she gets from clients or stuff she doesn’t want anymore, or maybe she scrimps on all other aspects of her budget to buy shoes because that’s what she likes. And maybe she’s actually an intentionally wanted shoe thief hiding from the law. No matter what, it’s not really your business and I don’t get why it would annoy you because someone has something nice other than jealousy.

        1. LBK*

          And FWIW I have a pretty nice Coach messenger bag that I use as my work bag. I bought it as a special reward for myself when I got the job and I got it for half off at an online discount retailer. My manager comments on it occasionally and I just take it as a compliment and move on – do not engage, not your business to know how or why I spent that much money on it.

        2. Jen RO*

          I have friends who like brand shoes/dresses. They see then as an investment, they save up and get them on sale, and so on. It’s not how I personally choose to spend my money, but hey, it makes them happy.

          On the other hand, I spend my money on travel, so I actually have shoes from many countries! I’m sure that some people at work see my travel as snobbish, but it’s just the choice I made.

          1. fposte*

            I think clothing and especially bags often get perceived as being a frivolous expenditure in a way that, say, jewelry, or cars, or wine, or technology isn’t. (Yes, of course there’s gender stuff at play in that.) So people who’d have no problem with a diamond ring or a new laptop will convince themselves it’s sensible to be huffy about a handbag.

  15. Anonie*

    The person is going to keep making comments until you address her and tell her to stop. You can be direct about it or do it is a funny way if you can pull it off. I have carry high end purses as well some are gifts some I get from outlets and some I buy. When people comment on them I say one of two things: 1) Don’t hate me because you ain’t me! or 2) You need to get you some business and stay out of mine!

  16. Relosa*

    This is a time where I slightly disagree with the advice given. Just be direct and assertive: “Please stop commenting on my bags and wedding arrangements. I have shared details of neither with you and do not intend to. They are not your business and I’d appreciate it if we could stick to work subjects.”

    Saying that “these comments are boring” may just inspire Office Bully to just nitpick on everything or something else obsessively. According to the OP she picks random victims to be subject to her, and I’m just gonna go out on a limb here and guess that OP is not the first person bothered by Office Bully. But I bet not many people have been direct with her, as often completely ignoring people like that in an office doesn’t bode well for culture and performance reviews.

    My point is giving her any route to find another thing to pick on you with will just lead to more bothersome behavior. Shut her down entirely and set the clear boundary on what is acceptable topics of discussion. i.e., work. If she continues, remind her what you asked of her and then after that don’t engage in any conversation that isn’t about work (or within whatever boundary you set).

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      I agree with being direct, albeit polite. A matter-of-fact “It’s none of your business” may work.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      I think that being direct is the best policy when the offending party is engaging honestly. When you’ve got a jerk like in the OP’s letter, I would guess that directly asking to stop would only get you, “Oh, you’re soooo sensitive!” and “I really like shoes…oh, except I probably shouldn’t talk about shoes in front of OP!” This kind of brattitude doesn’t respond well to basic decorum, which is why I think having no emotional reaction is the best way to shut it down.

      1. Relosa*

        Very true, and I have a co-worker who behaves very similarly to this. But the upside is that I put the kibosh on the behavior right away, so anything that continues is completely on him, because anything after that is deliberately antagonistic. Maybe not harassment, but definitely not team-playing either, you know? It may not stop it but the CYA move is there.

  17. OriginalYup*

    Oh lord. I see my former coworker Sue has arrived in your office. My sympathies.

    Truly, I had a coworker like this who would scrutinize me every day. Like literally look me up and down when I arrived at the office, and then loudly comment on my outfit or accessories to the point where I dreaded seeing her because I knew some asinine braying remark was on its way.

    Two things you can do:

    1. Don’t sweat it. You’re taking her words at face value — are my purses so noticeable that this person feels the weird need to comment? Answer= No. If you run her remarks through your mental Google Social Translator, you’ll find that they ALL translate to “I am a rude and intrusive dipsh!t who has no control over my mouth.”

    2. Don’t sweat it. Like others have said, you can make a joke out of your Imelda Marcos fashion collection, or silently stare at her with your head cocked in that politely confused “WTF are you even saying” stance, or you can look her in the eye and say, “Why are you so into my accessories? You talk about them every day.” Hell, tell her you admire the Queen of England’s style and therefore have a purse for every occasion. But whatever you do, immediately put her out of your mind after you do it and don’t give her another thought. Because ugh, she’s exhausting.

    1. BullyFree*

      LOL, I agree ^^^
      I was going to say that I was sorry my best friends Ex-coworker (who was laid off a couple months ago) was hired by OP’s company. The woman drove my friend crazy every day. Looked her up and down as soon as she arrived. Questioned everything. “Where did you get that?” “How much did you pay?” “How can you afford that?” Complained constantly that *she* couldn’t afford any new clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry….so how could my friend?

    2. Another comment on the situation*

      Oh gosh – I sort of see myself in your description of Sue. I like to see what my co-workers are wearing and if I like the outfit, color of outfit, whatever, I try to give out a compliment. My co-workers have great taste in clothes and it is easy to say something positive almost every day to one of them (not all at once because that is exhausting).

  18. KarmaKicks*

    When I first read the title of this thread, I wondered if someone in our office had written in! We have one woman that does this everyday in some way. She’ll comment on shoes, dress, shirt, etc. If you’re dressed a little more “fancy” than usual she’ll ask if you’re going to a party or have a hot date. Those are fashion related comments, but she branches out into making comments about our employees that make me uncomfortable. I deal with her fairly closely and I usually just say a non-committal “hmmm”, ignore her if I can seem in engrossed in something, change the topic, or…and I’ve done this when the employee comments come up…tell her it’s not appropriate to say things like that. She’s older than I am, and in a higher position, and I feel awkward sometimes because I feel like she should know better. But those are just the tip of the iceberg with her. She asks pretty personal questions from time to time that really are just none of her business. It’s not just me she does this to, it extends to our supervisor and other higher ups. Mostly, we’ve learned to deflect or ignore her when things like that come up. She’s kind of like a buzzing fly…an annoyance.

  19. EM*

    I haven’t experienced this exactly, but I have a similar “nosy coworker” who ALWAYS makes comments about my figure/weight every time she sees me eating anything, which make me feel defensive and self-conscious. If I pick up a leftover cookie from a meeting, she’ll say in a fake-nice voice, “Enjoy that metabolism while it lasts! You won’t fit in jeans like those forever!” or “I guess you’ll have to go for an extra-long workout today!” I was so taken aback the first few times it happened because it seemed so passive-aggressive, but now I just smile and say nothing because I am hoping eventually she’ll just run out of things to say.

    1. Laura*

      I get those, too: “You’re thin now, but wait until you hit 30!”, and the like. My stock response is “When I can’t eat these anymore, I plan to get Scotch tape and apply them to my thighs.” They will likely laugh, and – more importantly – they won’t say things like that anymore.

    2. Allison*

      I’ve gotten that from a guy at work too! He was going to the gym and asking who was going to join him. I asked, jokingly, “what’s a gym?” and he replied, “well if you spent a little time in one, you probably wouldn’t need those energy drinks!”

      Eff that. I’m a dancer in my spare time, I sometimes spend 8+ hours a week dancing. I consume energy drinks because it sometimes keeps me out late during the week and I only get 5-6 hours of sleep. Sometimes I want to throw a brick at someone who thinks I need a gym membership to be active and healthy.

        1. Allison*

          Haha, didn’t even think of that scene! But he was pronouncing it properly so it wouldn’t have worked. Maybe I should’ve been casually flexing my amazing biceps when I asked.

      1. SherryD*

        “well if you spent a little time in one, you probably wouldn’t need those energy drinks!”

        Ugh! Gym rats who feel the need to evangelize/shame are THE WORST.

    3. Anonsie*

      I know that feeling, I get this a lot. “Are you really going to eat all that? I couldn’t do that.”

  20. J.*

    If the comments always seem to be financially-focused, my guess is that she’s insecure about whether her salary is adequate. She’s trying to get a feel for what others make by determining the cost of their lifestyle so that she can determine whether she is getting paid on par with everyone else in the office. I agree with all the other commenters’ advice–you can’t take this too personally–but definitely don’t give her any info that will help her benchmark your salaray (ie., “oh well I got it on sale,” “it was a gift,” “we’re keeping the wedding small,” “well, we’re living with family for the time being”) because that’s exactly what she wants. If you don’t think you can pull off a retort along the lines of the Nigerian Prince story, I would suggest responding with “everyone has their guilty pleasures/vices.”

    1. Karowen*

      Your last sentence is exactly what I wanted to say. I spend my money and my energy how I see fit – For me, it’s going out to eat more than I should because then I have more time to play whatever video game has caught my fancy that week. For my co-worker it’s looking for great sales for everything so that she can go on a fabulous vacation every year – and if she’s spending that much energy getting things on deep discounts, she’s going to get the nice stuff.

  21. IndieGir*

    This reminds me of a coworker of my mother, who I’ll call Raylene. For her birthday and for holidays, my dad would usually have a piece of jewelry custom designed for my mom, and usually they’d be made of heavy gold and obviously very good quality. Every time Mom wore one of these new pieces, Raylene would comment “What did you do to deserve that?” Mom finally got so annoyed that she responded “I’m good in bed.” That shut Raylene up, but only for a second. She shoots back “Nobody’s that good!”

    1. Turanga Leela*

      Love this. Shades of Mae West: “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds.” “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.”

  22. Laura*

    I understand, OP – People comment on my fashion choices all. the. time. It’s “I don’t know how you can walk in those shoes!”, or “You know, we have casual Fridays here, heh heh”, or “Do you even OWN a pair of pants?”, etc. I choose to think that these nosy people don’t have enough going on in their own lives to distract them from your sartorial taste. This principle also applies to comments on your love life/finances/number of children.

    You can shrug these comments off with good humour, even if you’re confronted with a person who obnoxiously prefixes “I don’t know how you can pay for [XYZ]” to theirs. Next time she says it, wink at her and say “I’m a VERY savvy shopper.”

    (I also love the comments upthread about smiling like you have “F/// You” written on your teeth. That’s gold, Jerry.)

    1. Kay*

      I have to say I’ve been guilty of the “I don’t know how you can walk in those shoes”… but I can’t walk in heels. I’m clumsy and have in the past sprained both my ankles and I’m slightly in awe of people that can manage heels with such grace because I definitely can’t.

      Of course, I’ve never meant anything by it and it’s just casual conversation, and usually expressed as a compliment, but I certainly hope I haven’t overstepped with it.

      1. Karowen*

        itto! I’m like a newborn fawn whenever I wear anything with height to them (even wedges)…wobbly knees and ankles all over the place, and just epic amounts of awe at my co-workers who can manage it all day in stilettos.

      2. Laura*

        I have no problem with people who mention they wonder how I can walk around in heels all day if its in a genuine, kindly way, like you :)

        It’s the people who sneer at me, the ones who usually go on to say “You’re going to have ALL the back and foot problems!” Go ‘way.

        1. Laura*

          ETA: The OP probably would feel the same way about people who complimented her purses, or asked where she got them, with real interest – Snotty coworkers like the one she’s written in about are the problem.

  23. Gwen*

    Ugh, this sounds deeply obnoxious…I would try to remember that my style is so killer that is has totally captivated a coworker beyond all reason ;) Agreed with others not to play into her attempt to weasel more information out of you; I’d just try to smile and say “I do love accessories/handbags/whatever!” and just leave her without something else to latch onto.

  24. Annie Onymous*

    Oh, man, I had a coworker like that, years ago. I was a secretary at the time, and always dressed a bit for the job above me. One day I left my tweed blazer on a hanger. One of the other women said, “Oh, whose is this?” I identified it as mine, and she said, “Oh, I thought so. You always have expensive looking things.”
    I didnt know how to respond to it then, but I probably should have just smiled and said, “Thank you.”
    As my mom would say, “some people have nothing better to do…”

  25. Rebecca*

    I buy 95% of my clothing and purses from thrift shops. I have Liz Claiborne bags, and was lucky enough to pick up a Tignanello bag for $3.99. I had no idea what it was, just that I liked it. I have a pair of NYDJ brand pants, again, paid $3.00 for them, with tags, and they’re quite pricy (at least in my frame of reference). Just because someone has expensive looking things doesn’t mean they paid full price. And even if they did – what difference does it make? Unless that person owes you money, and they refuse to pay and they’re buying $1000 purses instead, butt out.

    1. Thrifty*

      Yes, if you know where to look and don’t care it’s from last season, you can often get designer pieces for far less than the asking price. And if people comment nicely, I sometimes even tell them where ;)

    2. Mints*

      Yeah, I have quite a few friends that like designer things, but I’d say like 10% of them pay retail and the rest sit on auctions, trawl sale sites, and spend hours at Ross/ TJ Max/ etc. They really like clothes, and are willing to spend significant time shopping.
      (They tell me without me prying, or even asking sometimes, I should add)

      You can’t really tell how much people are spending, and it doesn’t matter anyway

  26. hayling*

    Once and only once have I had a quick response to an obnoxious comment at work. A coworker who was just generally rude (although not a bully in particular) came to talk to me as I was putting my lunch together in the kitchen. When he saw what I was making (which was not that weird, but whatever) he made a face and a rude comment. I replied “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to comment on other people’s food?” and then went back to our work-related conversation without missing a beat.

  27. Katrina*

    There’s the politician response formula- answer the question you want to be asked.

    Q. How can you afford a wedding when you’re buying all these bags?

    A. I really liked the way one looked in the store, but when I walked into the sun light I really feel in love. And the wedding planning is going great; I’m getting so excited.

    I’ve never been a delicate person, so I’d probably just look at her and say, “I find your continued comments offensive. Please stop commenting on what you perceive to be my ability to finance a wedding.”

  28. E*

    I’ve found that a good response to nosy questions (financial or otherwise) is to say “Why do you ask?” This may not work on this person, who seems pretty obtuse, but it shuts down most questioners or gives them time explain why they asked – if they asked what your rent is, they may be looking to move into your area and you can give them a range of what to expect for a 1 BD etc.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      The variant for this when it’s pretty obvious the question is not really in good faith (I think OP is in this kind of situation) is “What an odd question,” with totally flat affect or a neutral smile.

  29. Elizabeth*

    I’ve been known to answer that kind of a question with a total non sequitor. “Oh, thanks. Don’t you love Granny Smith applies for baking?”, for example. The first couple times, they’ll be completely thrown. They will eventually figure out that you’re not going to respond to their questions/statements with any information that they can find useful.

  30. jag*

    Comment: “I have no idea how you are paying for a wedding when you keep buying bags!”
    Respond in a flat tone with a little bit of diss: “I’m not surprised you don’t.”

  31. louise*

    I remember in about 2nd or 3rd grade seeing one of my usually casually dressed teachers wearing a beautiful black dress and heels. Instead of saying “You look pretty!” I repeated something I’d heard someone jokingly say to my mom once when she was dressed up: “You going to a funeral or something?” Yes. Yes, in fact, the teacher was going to a funeral. I was old enough to be mortified that instead of being funny, I’d stepped on her toes. But know what? I’m glad I learned that lesson at age 8! How do these rude co-workers get through life without learning manners?!

    1. Pris*

      I had a co-worker that constantly poked her nose in my business – in her eyes I looked somehow punk rock, which I wasn’t so go figure. Anyway, I showed up dressed in black blouse, skirt, shoes one day and she shook her head and said, “Where’s the funeral?” I looked her dead in the eye and said, “It’s at Forest Lawn at 1:30 PM today. You are welcome to ride along with me if you’d like to pay your respects to my grandmother.” She was mortified, it was obvious.

      My Mimi would have been very proud :)

  32. Clerica*

    This reminds me so much of the “It must be nice” post. Or maybe that was an open thread discussion…anyway. There was a comment about “auditing” someone’s free time. Now they’re auditing our accessories. What’s next? Besides my diet.

    1. Reader*

      Oh she has audited my diet! I drink smoothies for breakfast occasionally Isagenix ones. I got a whole lecture on how I didn’t need to diet! Lol. She has ridiculed everything I do!

      1. holly*

        hahaha, you should tell her you are well aware you don’t need to diet. “thanks, i think i look pretty fabulous, too.”

        >: )

  33. Interviewer*

    She sounds jealous of your ability to afford things which might be out of her reach, combined with no filter. At least, that’s how I would interpret the comments.

  34. Not+So+NewReader*

    “Another expensive bag?”

    Yes, Marge. We talked about this yesterday,too. Shall we get together and talk about this tomorrow, also? What do you think, water cooler at 1:38 tomorrow?”

    [Repeat as needed.]

    Some obnoxious people do not like it when they are shown their own patterns. Responses such as “oh you mentioned that yesterday.” Or “Marge, I will know you are under the weather when I do not have your daily comment about my clothes and handbags.” You could say “Marge, I have been waiting all day for you to come over and say that to me.” Conversely, “Oh Marge, you always ask me that stuff [chuckle, chuckle].”
    Give her any type of response that indicates you see her doing this over and over. I’m willing to be that will stop her.

    Instead of thinking of her as the office bully, think of her as the office bore. She sounds like a very boring or very bored person.

  35. Libby*

    This doesn’t qualify as a direct response, but I was once mildly rebuked with a jovial “Oh, come now!” It worked. It shuts down the line of questioning with a “you must be joking”‘air.

  36. AB Normal*

    I used to have a colleague with the same annoying habit. She’d go around telling people, “it must be nice to be able to be able to do X “, apparently just to try to get a reaction.

    Once she did it to me, saying, “it must be nice to be able to go to Europe every year on vacation”. Instead of trying to explain, I just answered, “yes, it is actually very nice”. I think she wasn’t expecting me not to get defensive — she stared at me for a few seconds, blinking, and then left. She never tried that with me again!

  37. Brett*

    I wonder if raises and promotions tend to be a zero sum game in this workplace. If it were, painting other employees as financial irresponsible could be a rewarding tactic. The one workplace bully I’ve dealt with, is basically trying to Hunger Games himself into a promotion over the last year or so by painting all of his peers as incompetent (which fortunately has not worked, though mostly because no promotions are available).

  38. Cassie*

    Gah, I hate it when people (mostly women) go on and on about purses. I don’t see the appeal of designer handbags, but it’s your money, you can spend it on whatever you want. Just don’t make me listen to you talk about them (same thing with cars).

    If it were me, and I didn’t want to have a conversation about my clothes, my shoes, my bags, my lunch, etc, I end up just saying “yeah” or “mmmm” and turning my attention back to my work. I don’t have to be jovial or anything (courteous and professional, yes; jovial and gregarious, no) so I don’t engage people when their line of questioning makes me feel uncomfortable.

    I guess the direct thing to do would be to say “I don’t want to discuss this” and then go about your business.

  39. Just Visiting*

    The exact opposite of this is just as annoying. I rock the Kohl’s/Target/Goodwill ensemble, and once had a label-conscious coworker who constantly took potshots at me for it. Not just me, but the rest of the younger workers too, although I was the least feminine and least dressy of the bunch. She was in her fifties and a semi-manager so there was nothing to be done. My response was normally “well, I’m dressed, ain’t I?” in an exaggerated Appalachian accent (I normally have a slight one). I gotta admit, I don’t see the appeal of nice bags but to each their own. Just be certain to never complain about your finances, because there isn’t anything more annoying than someone with first-class tastes complaining about money.

  40. Stars and violets*

    I couldn’t get past the part where this co-worker has only been there for a few months and is already the office bully.

    Bullies are very good at spotting the most vulnerable and it may be that because you are stressed about the wedding and clearly of a sensitive nature, that you are prime meat to her. She’s picking on you because it’s fun but it’s also a warning to others in the office not to mess with her. Thus she consolidates her position.

    The best way to deal with bullies is not to be a victim. Easier said than done, I know, especially as you have to go on working with her. The best way is to confront her. Ask her how is what you do with your finances any of her business and then stare her down if she prevaricates. I’m guessing, though, that you may not be up for that approach so I concur with others who have suggested noncommital or non sequitor answers. But the important thing is to act as if she has had no effect on you whatsoever. You’ll either goad her into ramping up the bullying and outing herself (making it much easier to tackle her directly) or moving on to someone else, hopefully someone who doesn’t take any of her nonsense, either.

    Good luck!

  41. V.V.*

    In the words of (my personal hero) Pickles Oblong when rudely questioned about where she bought her hair:

    “Off some whore… I think it was your Mother!”

    Truly Pickles said it so I don’t ever have to…

  42. Pris*

    How about, in your sweetest, most upbeat tone…”Hyacinth, while I am truly very flattered that you pay so much attention to the way I dress and accessorize, I do find it distracting to discuss it this often at work. Would it be ok if we set aside maybe 10 minutes each Friday morning to go over your thoughts and observations from the week all at once?”

    Extra points for having a co-worker ready to snap a picture of her face when you deliver this line.

    1. Ka'El*

      Maybe, say yes, it’s one of the perks of being one of Michael Kors’ fit models – that you get to carry the best of the best. I don’t know if the bags are that great but I must admit that I comment on my work colleague who is huge fan when she buys herself a new bag, but not because I want to know how much she’s spending, but because I’m delighted she’s enjoying it.

      I love to see her dress up and if she’s got something gorgeous it really makes me happy. In fact, I love it when people wear beautiful clothes, I’m not jealous in the least. Perhaps it’s growing up with a mother who aspired to becoming a designer, but for me it’s a real kick to see people make themselves look and feel great.

      The only thing that has annoyed me a bit is that she’s said she wants my Chanel bag left to her in my will (I have an autoimmune condition and take potentially life limiting medication – sort of a catch 22 scenario), but as I’m giving up this particular ‘job’ and starting my own businesses, projects and finally completing my Masters degree I intend to start using my designer bags more often.

      Apologies for digressing…

  43. Elizabeth West*

    Commenting here without reading first, so someone may already have said this, but what a lame assumption that the OP is spending vast amounts on handbags. You can go to TJ Maxx and get Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, and Coach handbags for a fraction of the department store prices. I know because I spent half of Saturday drooling. :P

  44. Ka'El*

    Ladies and the occasional gent, I’ve come to this late but my soon to be ex manager (thankfully but that is another story), creeped me out by telling me how nice my quilted coat was and proceeded to STROKE it. Had she have tried it on, she would have been out of the window… It was in the washing machine that night and will be on Ebay very, very soon as it’s now way too big for me. By the way love the Fuck you smile, which is exactly what I’ll be giving her next time I see her after the exit interview…

  45. larsjaeger*

    Yeah I totally agree. I would never ask any of those questions! But sometimes, people ask questions on topics others may find “inappropriate”

  46. lokee*

    I am going to try this…. If i can, I will feel very cheerful… can you give me some tips for this…with your help I am sure that I will get success in this mission.

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