are patterned stockings unprofessional, how to list freelance work on a resume, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Are patterned stockings unprofessional?

I am at my first professional job after college and have been in this position for about a year and a half. Today when I walked in the lunch room to get some hot water for tea, I heard a guy say “ohhhh, sexy stockings” as I walked through the door he was facing. I’ve never seen him before, but we’re a corporate office and regularly have field employees visiting, so I think that’s who he was.

At first I thought I had misheard him, but the table he was at burst out laughing. They whispered some comments I couldn’t make out, and then the office manager who was sitting at the table laughingly said, “You need to watch what you say and how loudly you say it.” I was really embarrassed and pretended not to hear. I got my tea and got out of there as quickly as I could.

stockingsNo one here as ever said anything to me about how I dress except comments like “cute dress,” etc. I wear a lot of knee-length dresses and with them stockings of various designs and colors. Especially being young, I want to find the balance between dressing professionally and dressing in a style I like. I had to stop myself from writing the word cute, because although that’s what I thought, it doesn’t really sound professional when I write it out. Anyway, I’ve attached a picture of the stockings/tights. Are they unprofessional? Are there any standard rules on solid stockings are more professional then ones with designs or patterns?

Well, first, that guy was way out of line. “Sexy” is not commentary that should ever be offered about a coworker. It’s wildly inappropriate and gross. Hopefully, the people who laughed after his comment were laughing in shock at how ridiculously inappropriate he was, but regardless, please know that his comment wasn’t okay at work.

Now, as for patterned stockings … it really depends on the office and the pattern. There are definitely offices where the stockings in the picture you sent would be too outside of professional norms, but there are others where they’d be fine. More generally, there are offices where relatively conservative patterns like ribbing or diamonds are fine but other patterns (like fishnet or lace) aren’t. So this is a thing where you need to know your own office and its norms. If you’re unsure, you can probably get a better sense if you make a point of watching what other women wear, and/or you could ask someone slightly senior to you (or very senior to you, for that matter) whose judgment you trust and who’s generally respected in your workplace.

As for colored tights, non-neutral colors will generally read as “young,” which isn’t always the most helpful thing to reinforce when you are in fact young.

2. Manager offered to let me expense my dog-boarding costs when I travel

I work for a very generous company, and have a fantastic boss. Lucky for me, my job only requires travel a couple of times per year. I have two dogs that I put into board/daycare when I travel, which generally works out to about $400 for each week that I am gone. Over the last few years, my boss has asked me why I don’t expense the dog boarding since I am not a frequent traveler. I always respond by saying that if I had non-hairy kids, I would have to pay for daycare for them so I don’t think this is any different. However, a coworker really questioned me about this, since it is not “part of the job” to travel, and thinks I should take him up on his offer to cover the expense. What are your thoughts on expensing care for the kids for the occasional work trip – not only for pets but for human children? Any other managers have any experience with this?

I actually don’t think those are the right questions. Your manager has told you directly that you should expense the dog boarding. So you should expense the dog boarding.

If you want to have a theoretical discussion of whether this is something that employers routinely offer, we can do that. But in your particular case, there’s no compelling argument for turning down an expense reimbursement that your employer is freely offering and encouraging you to use. You should use it.

More generally, no, this isn’t a super common benefit. It’s probably more common for pets than for kids, to the extent that it exists at all. But lots of employers offer uncommon benefits, and the fact that they’re uncommon isn’t a reason not to use them.

3. How do people recover from scandal?

Recently, there was a lot of media coverage in my city about the head of a nonprofit who did something against the mission of the organization. It was egregious enough to spur a public petition to have her fired. The comments on the petition indicated that she had instituted questionable policies that led to staff and volunteers quitting and had fired some staff so that she could hire her friends. The media never said whether those allegations were true, but after the board met on Friday, she issued a statement that she was resigning.

This person was very publicly degraded for her actions and was likely left with no choice but to leave the organization. My question is, how would someone in this situation recover professionally? Is that even possible?

It depends on the specifics of what she was accused of, whether it was true or not (and whether she can present a credible “other side of the story”), and how it intersects with the main work she does. What I mean by that last part is that if, for example, her life’s work was fighting animal cruelty and it turned out that she was running a secret dog-fighting ring, then no, she’s probably never working in that field again.

But people do generally continue to be employed after scandal. It’s not always in their original field, and it’s not always doing the type of work they would have chosen (often in much lower-profile positions doing work behind-the-scenes because they might be irredeemable as a public figure or spokesperson but still have other usable talents). But at least from what I’ve seen, they usually they do manage to piece a life back together.

4. How to list freelance experience on a resume

I have a question about how to best list freelance experience on my resume. I was a freelance designer and design assistant for five years after I graduated college (everyone in my field worked on a freelance basis, in case that matters). After five years, I decided I wanted more structure and work-life balance, so I moved into an administrative role at a large company in a completely different industry. I’ve now been in this role for three years and am looking to pursue other administrative opportunities in a more creative environment.

I’m concerned about future employers thinking I’m flighty or a job hopper based on my prior freelance experience (most of these gigs lasted anywhere from two months to two years). Would it make sense to list all five years of my freelance work under one title with start and end dates for that period of time? (For example, Freelance Teapot Designer, May 2008-February 2013.) If so, can I also list my overall accomplishments beneath this one title? All of my freelance projects generally followed the same process and required the same skills (maintaining budget of varying sizes, coordinating vendor schedules to ensure deadlines were met, producing presentations for management team, etc.) Or is it important for me to outline specific jobs, and if so, do I need to include individual dates for each one?

Grouping them all under one overall freelance heading is the perfect way to do, and then you can list all your accomplishments from that time period there. You don’t need to list every specific freelance job you held during that period or individual dates for them — but if it strengthens your resume (it may or may not), you could include one bullet point that says something like this:

* Clients included Teapots International, Texas Rice Sculpture Tournament, Northwest Llama-gram Society, and more

5. Update: My company wants me to return part of a gift from a client

Here’s an update from the letter-writer whose company wanted her to return amusement park tickets from a client.

Both you and some of the commenters hit the nail on the head with your insight that my problem with returning two of the tickets to my client, as the compliance officer recommended, was tied into the larger issue of me feeling generally unappreciated by my company, which is absolutely true.

You also pointed out that the way the compliance officer phrased her response — i.e. as a recommendation rather than a mandate — left some room for interpretation. I re-read the compliance plan once again and found a clause that stated an acceptable alternative to returning a gift would be to share the gift among co-workers. So I ended up giving two of the tickets to a co-worker who also worked on the project with me, and he was surprised and delighted. (Which made me feel really good!)

I then emailed the compliance officer, thanking her for her recommendation and letting her know that I had shared the gift with a coworker, a solution that prevented us from appearing ungracious to the client while also keeping both of us under the gift limit set forth by the policy. I got no further response from her, so I think the matter is closed.

{ 615 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Similar to my request with the post yesterday about hair colors (which came too late to be effective), I know that posts about clothes can easily spin off into discussions about the best place to get clothing item X, etc. — so I want to preemptively ask that people keep the focus on the letter-writers’ questions so that the comment thread doesn’t get unwieldy. Thank you!

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I’m surprised and really, really disappointed in how many people here are eager to police what this young woman is wearing to work – especially given the enthusiastic support given to the woman with the oil slick hair yesterday. Unnatural hair color = cool! Fun! and stodgy old offices should get over it? Black patterned stockings = shocking! Wildly inappropriate! Fetish! Shame on you for wearing these.

      It appears that many people think these stockings are not office appropriate, so if she wants to maximize her respectability I’d recommend that the OP not wear them anymore. But I’ll put a stake in the ground and say that they aren’t “wildly inappropriate,” and she didn’t do anything wrong by wearing them. The only person who did something wrong, the only person who should be embarrassed and who should have repercussions for his behavior, is the man who made inappropriate sexual comments to the OP. Her stockings, even if they were “too sexy,” are not an invitation (for comments, for flirting, for any unwanted attention).

      OP: Wear them again or not, get advice from your own office (not us randoms Inn the internet), but know that you did nothing wrong. I’m sorry this man has made you question your work. That’s unfair and insidious and exactly how women are subtly limited at work. You deserve better, whatever you wear.

      1. Kyrielle*

        What I find interesting is that I had the same reaction – they show too much skin. And then I realized that wearing *sheer skin-tone* stockings, which show more, wouldn’t trouble me at all. Societal programming has gotten to me. :(

        That said, whether the stockings are inappropriate professfionally or not, gross dude’s gross comment is definitely inappropriate, and wildly so. Seriously, that’s the kind of crud you get cat-called with on the street, it shouldn’t happen in your office. Even if you were literally wearing stockings that /spelled out/ the word ‘sexy’ up the side of your leg, it shouldn’t be said.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Perhaps she should mention the dude’s comment to HR and that might spur the conversation on what’s considered professional there?

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              I hope not! A discussion about an inappropriate comment should absolutely not evolve into a conversation about how her attire might have provoked it.

              1. Green*

                Unfortunately there are enough bad HR discussions that do indeed devolve into “What did you do to deserve it?” I reported sexual harassment at a law firm and was told that we should all just not drink so much at the cocktail party (where partners encouraged multiple rounds of shots, of course).

          2. J-nonymous*

            OP #1 – you mention that no one has said anything to you about your tights so far, so I would rely on that information rather than the incredibly inappropriate ‘feedback’ you got from that guy (on a separate note: I’d address that with him).

            For what it’s worth, I work in a very ‘old-fashioned’ office environment (particularly for this coast) where everyone is expected to dress in business attire (read: suit & tie for men) every day. Those stockings likely wouldn’t cause comment where I work.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Hmmm. You know, I think the picture itself is contributing to this. For OP to get a good picture of her own stockings, especially discreetly, she’s sitting down and with one leg extended to best show the stocking so we can see the pattern. This creates a pose that /also/ reinforces the impression, because we’re not seeing the whole person, so we don’t have a face / shirt / etc. to focus on. The focus and aim of the picture – unavoidable given OP had to take their own photo – draws our attention even more to the leg and objectifying it.

          Nothing wrong with the stockings, the shoes, the skirt, or the necessity of taking the picture in that position. It just emphasizes things way more than they would be in person. (And I do agree, the pop of the yellow shoes may also be contributing here, now that others have pointed it out.)

          1. Robin B*

            I agree! I wear these types of tights to work on occasion, and I work for a small community bank. The worst I would overhear about OP’s outfit is that the shoes are supposed to be darker in color than your hemline or hose. Yours do not look like oh-la-la stockings.

            1. Anna*

              My boss where’s these types of tights on occasion and our whole purpose in existing is to model professional behavior and attire to young adults who might need that modeling. Everything else she wears is conservative and professional, just once in awhile black patterned tights. I see nothing wrong with tone on tone patterned tights.

              Having said that, one of my dearest friends whom I met at work used to wear wild paisley patterned tights and it was Too Much, even when she wore them with what would be considered a conservative dress. Our office was a bit relaxed so we could get away with a lot (I had a faux-hawk with pink tips), but for whatever reason those tights were too crazy.

      2. Bwmn*

        Three cheers!

        I mention a situation that happened to me when I was young when I had a beige paid pleated skirt that ended about 2-3 inches above my knee (well below the finger tip test for anyone who cares) referred to at work as my “mini skirt”. It was definitely done in a way that put me on the spot, embarrassed me, and made me question my entire professional wardrobe. I will also add that it was particularly disappointing that this came from another woman in the office, not in my department.

      3. Mike C.*

        I have to agree here, we’re spending way too much time judging the pattern on the stockings and not enough time judging the creepy dude.

        1. MashaKasha*

          YES YES YES!!!

          And can we all agree that, no matter what OP wears, creepy dude will find a way to be his creepy self; especially if he’s being encouraged by his lunch buddies (ugh)?

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          She asked for people to judge the pattern, specifically. That was what her request to us was. I don’t think it’s fair to then condemn people for answering the question she asked us to answer.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            But describing it as fetishwear? Saying it’s only appropriate for the bedroom? Yikes.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I agree with yikes on both of those. (But I also figure that with a big group there’s a whole range of sensitivity and I don’t want to insist that it be calculated exactly where mine is.)

              1. Banana Sam*

                I think the larger discussion of how women’s clothing is policed is extremely relevant, and that people should be less “sensitive” about a pair of tights. Tights like this are worn in my office all the time. Based on the wide range of replies, you can see how hard it is for women to navigate these varying expectation. We should be placing blame for this behavior squarely on the people who allow their biases to get in the way of good working relationships with their female coworkers, and on the person who sexually harassed the OP.
                The guys in my office wear close-fitting tailored suits, but somehow everyone refrains from commenting on their ever-tightening trousers.

                1. Fifi Ocrburg*

                  But those stockings are designed to get attention. That’s why the company made them, marketed them, and why some women buy them. These stockings weren’t sold as thermal leggings, designed to keep icy blasts at bay. For every guy that actually vocalizes his reaction, there’s a dozen who think the same thing.
                  I don’t think they’re work-wear, and I work in entertainment. They are cute and call attention to the legs wearing them.

                2. BuildMeUp*

                  Fifi – Or she thinks they’re cute and it makes her happy to wear them!

                  I certainly don’t decide what to wear on any given day based on how much attention it will get me or how likely I am to get inappropriate comments from men. I wear what I wear because I want to wear it. I like it and it makes me feel good when I look in the mirror. If I wear a pair of patterned tights, it’s because they’re fun and it brightens my day a tiny bit when I look down and see them. It has nothing to do with other people’s reactions.

                3. JennyFair*

                  Assuming she’s wearing those tights to get attention is the flip side of the argument that women need to dress to protect men from lusting after them. It’s sexist and highly inappropriate. Would you say a man’s interesting tie was designed to encourage women to admire his pecs? No, that would be silly, so don’t do that to women. We get to look cute if we want, and believe it or not, we get to dress for our own enjoyment, not that of any random man who looks at us.

                4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  Fifi, yikes. This is exactly the argument that is used to police every decision a woman makes. She went to a bar? Obviously she wanted attention from men. She curled her hair? Obviously she was looking for compliments on her appearance.

                  Sometimes a stocking is just a stocking. She chose it for some reason which she need not explain to the world (including her colleagues, including us).

                5. Susan*

                  I agree. Even comments about not looking young. What’s wrong with looking young if you are young? It’s a bit old fashioned to think that people who look younger are incompetent. There are many young people who are extremely competent, i.e. Mark Zuckerberg.

      4. Artemesia*

        Do we affirm other people’s choice or do we give what we think is good advice? Those stockings would have been wildly inappropriate in offices in professional settings I have worked in; they look like something designed for clubbing or the bedroom. The best advice is to look around and see what other young women in the organization wear, particularly those that seem to be doing well and advancing in the company. These are not likely to be banned because it is more a matter of style than exposure, but if the OP is being told they are inappropriate and in looking around sees that they are dramatically divergent from what others wear then she has to decide if personal expression is more important than career advancement. People rarely tell young women not to wear something inappropriate because it is no fun to do so. I have been the person designated to discuss this sort of thing with female employees as the only female manager; talking to an employee about her skirt length is so much not the way I ever want to spend a day again. The stockings don’t rise to that level of decorum issue and so will likely be ignored by management but may color their view.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Clubbing or *the bedroom*?? That may have been true once, but it’s not universally true anymore, not by a long shot. I work in a professional, conservative environment, and they would *not* be wildly inappropriate in my office. Heck, I’ve seen a judge who is at least late 40s/early 50s wear tights similar to this, and she looked both professional and fashionable.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I don’t think they’re necessarily clubbing/bedroom either. I would absolutely wear them to the mall, out to dinner, etc. I can’t wear them at my specific job, but I don’t think they’re equivalent to turning up in a negligee.

            1. Kelly O*


              While they wouldn’t be appropriate in my rather conservative office, they would be fine in others and certainly not just for clubbing or other adult activities.

          2. AnonAcademic*

            First, OP #1, I think that the people sexualizing your tights are revealing more about themselves and their biases than anything else. It’s valuable to know that some people automatically project imagery like “fetish” or “clubbing” on tights that, worn with a conservative outfit, do not read that way to me AT ALL. In fact, it’s a window into what motivated the gross comment your coworker made – the tendency to jump to the most unforgiving, gendered, sexualized opinion of how women present themselves. It’s similar to how busty/curvy women are sexualized if they were anything vaguely fitted (think Joan from Mad Men).

            I also sympathize greatly with your situation because I was actually spoken to at my first professional job about toning down my “colorful” style. This was in a somewhat uptight region of New England and I was working with seniors as part of my job. It was mortifying, and fairly unproductive because they didn’t give me any specifics, and even told me the outfit I was wearing that day (which was a typical style for me) was perfectly within dress code. Looking back I’m pretty sure it was because of one bad outfit – my weight had been fluctuating and I put on what I thought was a knee length pencil skirt, and wore purple tights underneath. Well, the skirt was a bit small and kept riding up, making it look like I was wearing a miniskirt and purple tights. If it were really that outfit that was the issue (it’s just a hunch) I wish I’d just been pulled aside that day rather than spoken to weeks later after I’d already retired that skirt from my wardrobe.

            The advice above about “one loud/flashy piece at a time” and also being mindful of things like hem lengths and neck lines is a good guideline. I do think the bright shoes are pushy the flashy factor a little young or more “creative professional” which doesn’t sound like the norm where you work.

            1. Different day, different name*

              “I think that the people sexualizing your tights are revealing more about themselves and their biases than anything else.”

              +1 You hit the nail on the head, and said it better than I could have.

      5. Just Another Techie*

        Agreed! And if anything the varied comments here on whether these particular stockings are inappropriate or not are just proof that propriety, especially for young women, is a moving target and you’re pretty much guaranteed to always fall on the wrong side of someone’s line no matter what you wear. OP should decide whether she wants to play the respectability game or not, and make any decisions thereafter from that starting point.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yes, yes, yes. This is an unwinnable game for young women. Our only option is to refuse to play it. Observe what the women you admire and respect wear, interpret that with your own clothing, critically analyze any advice or commentary that comes your way, then choose what you want to wear. It will change over time, sure, and sometimes you’ll get it wrong. It doesn’t mean that your body or your clothes are a problem.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that’s reading something into it that may not be there. They’re appropriate in some offices, not in others, like many items of clothing, and you need to know your office. That’s true in lots of situations, it’s what my advice was in the post, and most comments here are affirming that.

          1. Banana Sam*

            I think maybe you aren’t reading between the lines enough, actually. I’d urge you to reconsider, especially if you manage women. If someone calls me sexy in the office, my conversation with my manager would be about his comments and not my attire.

            You say you’re answering the question, but there are many posts where you tell the OP they’re asking the wrong question. This should have been one of those instances, as the OP is clearly accepting blame for someone else’s terrible behavior.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think it’s a fair point that I should have gone beyond telling her the guy’s comment was unacceptable and telling her it was something she could report, but I also think her question about the stockings themselves was relevant and worth answering.

            2. No Longer Passing By*

              Like Allison, I read the OP’s questions as containing 2 parts: (1) are her tights inappropriate? and (2) is she right to be upset about what the guy said and the other reactions received.

              Although the commentariat may disagree on the answer to part 1 of the OP’s question, I believe that it was clear that the guy and the supporting laughter and comments all were inappropriate, regardless of the propriety of the stockings. I don’t think that it’s useful to hinge one on the other or to ignore either part of the question. Both are legitimate concerns.

          2. Laura*

            Yes. I’ve been to a ton of fetish and goth clubs, I live in an area of London where this way of dressing is not only normal but so common it’s our uniform as it were, so I have a lot of tights like these. I’ve also never worked anywhere conservative full-time in my life. And I looked at these tights and instantly thought that I would never have chosen them back in the day when I used to temp in corporate offices – and those were in London, which is much less straight laced than America.

            Black + interesting holes in them = not office wear unless you work in a very arty industry. It’s the black that adds to it: I have navy fishnets I used to wear with a navy dress and they wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. Ditto khaki fishnets. Dark brown would be fine too. You can get away with much more by avoiding the black.

      6. Ann Furthermore*

        I agree. The creepy dude is the one who was in the wrong, not the OP. That being said, and keeping in mind that I’m now a middle-aged woman, my rule for office dress is usually to wear one thing that stands out, and dress conservatively otherwise. For me, my thing is jewelry, especially earrings. So for my job in corporate America, perhaps I’d wear a conservative outfit with a wild pair of earrings or brooch to let some of my individuality show through. These days my office is pretty casual, and people dress in everything from jeans to business suits, so it’s not as big a deal as it was when I worked in offices with more formal dress codes. The only thing that would raise an eyebrow is wearing shorts in the summer — huge no-no.

        For patterned stockings, my choice would be to wear them with a longer skirt that hit below the knee, and with black shoes. Again — letting my funky side shine through but still on the conservative side. BUT this is how I personally would choose to wear them, and that sure doesn’t mean that the OP is wrong for not doing the same thing.

      7. Michelle*

        I’ve worn patterned stockings/trouser socks for years and it’s never been a problem. In fact, I get many compliments on them. (My doctor even complimented them once!)

        I agree with Victoria Nonprofit (USA) that you should probably get some advice from your coworkers or maybe just check out what others are wearing and do the same if you feel that your stockings are bringing too much/the wrong kind of attention.

      8. Myrin*

        I’m actually honestly surprised that there does seem to be such a thing as “inappropriate stockings” at all (unless they have like, genitalia on them or something), let alone that there are people describing what I see as “simple black-seethrough-y stockings with pattern” as reminiscent of fetishes, parties, clubbing, and dates, none of which would have even remotely entered my mind upon seeing the picture. I can see an inappropriate combination of stockings, shoes, skirts, and shirts existing (as I said in another comment below, I’m very much a fan of dressing more traditionally “boring” with just one “fun” element) but it’s intriguing that so many people apparently look at others’ calves and can immediately go “out of line” because I simply don’t get why that is. That being said, I’m not in the US and this is so weird to me that I’m sensing some kind of cultural divide, which is interesting in itself.

        1. Anonymosity*

          I can think of one thing–I have a pair of black stockings with glow-in-the-dark spiderwebs on them. I probably wouldn’t wear those to work, because they’re kind of silly. They’re for Halloween anyway.

          Though I am wearing a Totoro shirt today, against the dress code, so maybe I’m not the best person to ask!

        2. Kelly L.*

          I’m now remembering Cheaper by the Dozen (is that the right book?) and how the father was scandalized by stockings with clocks on them, because he thought the clock hands looked like arrows pointing up the girl’s dress.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Oh, I don’t remember that part, but wasn’t it also scandalous when the eldest daughter bobbed her hair? (I’m talking the old movie, not the one with Steve Martin)

            1. Kelly L.*

              I think so! I only ever read the book though, and it was a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time ago.

            2. Kelly O*

              Yes it was.

              Although Dad eventually relented and agreed that it was much more efficient to fix in the mornings (after he’d let Anne have someone fix what she did, since she bobbed it herself.)

              I love that book and movie. Here endeth the tangent.

          2. Salyan*

            They weren’t actual clocks (like time), even – they were wedges added for fit that might have had embroidery on them.

      9. Elizabeth West*

        I haven’t read all the way down yet (and you guys always beat me with like 6000 comments before I ever get on here), but I was thinking this the entire time I read the letter.

        If the rest of her outfit is fairly conservative, the stockings aren’t in any way over the top. A club-type outfit (miniskirt, low-cut blouse or one with cutouts, etc., platform glitter heels) with the stockings probably would be, because of the overall effect. But with business clothes? Nah. I think they look cool and stylish.

        The guy who made the remark was a creepy asshole.

        OP, don’t worry about your stockings. If you’ve worked there for a year and a half and no one has said they are inappropriate, they probably aren’t.

      10. literateliz*

        I completely agree, and I’m also frustrated and saddened by the response. These would be absolutely appropriate in my office (West Coast publishing) and in fact I see my coworkers wearing tights like this often, but I get that a) my office isn’t typical enough for that to matter and b) saying that after the parade of comments below AND the original gross harassment probably isn’t going to be enough to reassure the OP.

        So instead I’ll say that I’ve realized today how very lucky I am to work where I do, and I wish everyone could have the same experience. My workplace is 75% women (more like 90% on my floor, which houses the editorial department), and a lot of us are young, and dressing up in cute clothes and bright colors and the occasional patterned stocking is never, ever seen as a barrier to being taken seriously. (On the other hand, there’s no pressure to do so, either – jeans are totally acceptable.)

        I’m especially disappointed in how many people aren’t taking into account in their answers that the OP has written in *because she was harassed in the workplace*. I get that the stockings wouldn’t be appropriate for every office and it may be helpful to gently point that out, but calling them “fetish wear” or “for the bedroom”? It sounds like people are saying “well what did you expect,” and that’s seriously gross. Like I said, I am spoiled by my wonderful workplace, but in my opinion those attitudes are FAR more inappropriate for the workplace than the stockings.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree that calling them fetish-wear or for the bedroom is over the top, but I haven’t seen anyone say “what did you expect?” And yes, that would absolutely be inappropriate if someone did. But I don’t know that they have. I’m seeing a lot of reading that tone into things, but I think that stems from leaving out the context that the OP specifically asked for opinions on these stockings.

      11. hbc*

        I don’t think anyone is saying that what the guy did is anything but horribly, horribly wrong, but he’s not here to listen to what a waste of oxygen he is. I’m guessing if there were a poll, 100% would check off that the guy is an indefensible jerk, while the appropriateness of the stockings would fall somewhere near 50/50.

      12. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, I’m not sure I agree. The OP wrote in and specifically asked us to look at these stockings and tell her if they were office-appropriate or not. She asked for opinions. It’s not judging her for showing too much skin; it’s answering a clear question that she posed about what is and isn’t considered professional office wear.

        Admittedly I haven’t read all the comments yet but I’ve read a lot of them, and the vast majority are in the spirit of answering her question. If anyone is shaming her, it’s certainly not the majority.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I’m admittedly highly sensitive to perceived sexism (intentionally so; happily humorless feminist here), but it seems clear to me that she asked a simple appropriate-or-not question and is getting uncomfortably sexualized commentary. A simple “Not appropriate in my office, you may want to reconsider them” would suffice. Comments about fetishwear and the bedroom are continuing to sexualize this young woman.

          1. manybellsdown*

            People are super weird about stockings, for some reason. I sometimes use the online handle “Bluestocking” and it always gets questions about it being a sexual or fetish thing. When in fact it’s pretty much the opposite – it’s like the 17th century version of “feminazi”!

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              That’s right! I forgot about the Great Pantyhose War of…. some year (on here).

      13. patient*

        Hear, hear.
        My rheumatologist wears stockings like that. I’ve also seen her in traditional 80’s fishnets and standard sheers; none detract from her professionalism. Oh, if it matters, she’s been a Dr for going on 30 yrs (you do the math for her age) and totally rocks her hose.

    2. Grey*

      In this man’s opinion, those are the kind of stockings a woman wears when she wants men to notice her legs.

      But keep in mind I only said “notice her legs” and not “comment on her legs”.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth, in my experience, those are stockings that women wear because they like them. It’s really not about wanting male appreciation.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          THANK YOU! I wear these types of tights because they look cute and my girlfriends at work love them – I couldn’t care less what a man has to say about my attire.

          1. Hurricane Wakeen*

            I think you’re assuming a lot about what another person is trying to accomplish by putting on an article of clothing. Unless I’m going on a date, I don’t put on clothes based on how I want people to look at me. I put them on based on how I feel and what I’m comfortable in that day.

            The premise of your statement is sexist and a little gross, frankly.

            1. Grey*

              Unless I’m going on a date, I don’t put on clothes based on how I want people to look at me.

              I really don’t see where we disagree on anything. You’ve just described two purposes for your attire.

              If you’re willing to confirm that women occasionally dress for attention, why would you think my comment is sexist or gross?

              1. Honeybee*

                Because your comment assume that when a given woman puts on a pair of clothing (even this specific pair of tights) *at all*, it must mean because she wants men to notice her legs. One, there’s the fact that some women aren’t attracted to men at all and couldn’t care less what they notice about their bodies. But two, and more macro, it’s a very man-centric way of thinking about how women dress. Many women don’t think about men at all (or even other people much) when they get dressed in the morning. They’re thinking about what they like and how they like to look, and that their clothes make them happy.

            2. Sandra Dee*

              I wear stockings like that when I’m going out with my boyfriend, because he thinks they’re sexy. I do also wear them to work, with more conservative dress. I also wore them to meet his family. As long as you’re not flashing too much skin or wearing a bad fit, why not be a little sexy wherever you are, if you want to be?
              I also don’t understand what the other commentors mean when they say they dress for themselves because they wouldn’t dress up like that if they were sitting at home. I wear sweats for myself, and when I leave the house I put on makeup and heels because I want others to see me as feminine and attractive. I think everyone wants to feel attractive in some way.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                That’s good for you, and you do you, but please don’t extrapolate you wanting to be seen as feminine an attractive whenever you leave the house to everyone.

          2. No Longer Passing By*

            It’s important to note that, generally speaking, women dress for their own creativity and for the admiration of other women for the creative expression and not for male attention. Except for heterosexual dates and even then the outfit usually has been vetted by a female friend first. Men aren’t really the center of our worlds; I know it’s so hard to believe. Most things that we do fashionwise is either unnoticed by men or unappreciated so I’m always taken aback when I hear these types of comments that indicate that we purposely are dressing to get male attention at school or work.

            I love fashion and always point out to other women, including strangers that I pass in the street, that I love their lipstick color, hair, shoes, dress, coat, bag, umbrella, stockings! I love it! I never think to myself, “well that woman spent a lot of time trying to get male attention.” I think, “wow, she has really good taste and I love her ability to pull off those heels and red coat while carrying a toddler and simultaneously pushing a stroller.”

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I think this right here is the missing puzzle piece. I read, a loong time ago, manufacturers believe that women dress for other women, they do not dress for men. I can kind of see why manufacturers would think this in some instances. More currently, I think that people (both genders) dress primarily to please themselves. Not a slam- clothes can help us feel confident and sometimes a new outfit can give our outlook a lift, too. Now more than ever, there is a push for clothes/footwear to be comfortable. I think that we are more aware of appropriate fit than we have ever been. (A friend was telling me about a company that markets a long tee shirt to solve the problem of “plumber’s crack”.)

          Just my opinion, of course, but what I saw in the 60s started this trend where clothes became about one’s identity, how one wanted others to see them or to know them. I think what we see today is just a logical extension of what has been going on for decades now.

          I hope that this example brings a smile: I remember growing up my elders said “You do not wear jeans, EVER.” Jeans were a symbol of rebellion and for some people jeans were more offensive than saying FU because jeans represented that much rebellion. My parents were both deceased by the mid 90s and neither one of them ever wore jeans. A discussion about sweats would have probably involved a meltdown and an ambulance ride as they would be totally consumed by their upset.
          (am shaking my head)

          Recently, a friend’s son asked why I always wear turtlenecks. Hmmm. Because my house is cold and my fuel bill is sky high? noooo. His conclusion was that I had a neck covered in hickies. Since this is so far removed from what is actually going on, to me this spoke volumes about the plane he lived life on. I told my friend to tell his son that not everything in life boils down to sex. It just doesn’t.

          1. No Longer Passing By*

            Hilarious regarding your friend’s son!

            Regarding your jeans comment, is that why there was such hoopla about Brooke Shields and that “nothing gets between me and my Calvins” campaign (apart from the fact that she essentially was saying that she was commando)??? I also remember Jordach jeans being the rage and my parents wouldn’t buy them for me….

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          Yes! In my early I 30s wore patterned tights to work (usually winter versions) to go with eg a grey skirt and plain blouse, to add a little bit of pattern, and because I really like them. I never, ever thought “this will make people look at my legs”, ever – it didn’t even occur to me, in the same way that it would occur to me that a guy wearing skinnier trousers or a nice belt buckle wanted me to look at them, or that he was wearing short-sleeved shirts to make me look at his pecs. I might have considered how different tights might look on legs, so if the pattern would distort, but they were totally something I wore for me, not anyone else.

          And thinking about this, it’s because I was working on the assumption that I was in a professional environment, and people were focusing on work, not ogling each other. It must be super-stressful to work in a place surrounded by people who are just looking for opportunities to be inappropriate, and then use something like my fun, innocent tights, as an excuse.

      2. Carrie, wearing tights, and now wondering if everyone in the office is fetishizing her appearance*

        In this woman’s opinion, those are the kind of stockings a woman wears when she wants to enjoy her own appearance.

        But keep in mind, I only said “enjoy her own appearance” and not “assume that all women are dressing solely for the attention of men”.

      3. april ludgate*

        That’s a ridiculous assumption to make. We don’t even know if the OP is interested in men. Believe it or not, sometimes women pick out outfits just because they like them without thinking about men at all!

        1. Grey*

          I wasn’t suggesting that any woman who wears those is trying to attract a man. I’m just saying… If she did want male attention, that’s the type of thing she might wear.

          1. Banana Sam*

            It’s been my experience that men will give women unwanted attention for just about anything. It’s time they stop blaming it on women’s clothes and take responsibility for their actions. There reason some men behave badly is because they get away with it.

            1. manybellsdown*

              Almost all of the times I have been catcalled – IE “attracting male attention”, have been first thing in the morning, while walking home from taking my kid to school. Wearing baggy sweats with my unwashed hair in a bun and no makeup. Yeah, it’s not the clothes.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                My sister has always had a lot of catcalling (she’s petite and tiny as well as pretty) but she said she was really surprised when after she had her 1st kid, and was out on babywalks with her pram, hair up, no makeup, it got WORSE. And that, I guess, is because it’s a thing that’s rooted in power/harassment, and she looked like an even easier target.

          2. Maeve*

            I feel like patterned stockings are something other women are going to notice way more…how are those sexier than bare legs?

          3. Zillah*

            Leaving aside everything else that’s messed up about what you’re “just saying,” women should not be expected to retire items from their work wardrobe on the basis that some woman somewhere might wear that article of clothing on a date. That’s not an expectation that ever gets leveled at men.

            I’m just saying.

            1. Grey*

              I think way too much is being read into my comments.

              As we say around here, this isn’t the hill I want to die on.

              1. Honeybee*

                Given that multiple people are “reading” the same thing into your comments, have you considered that maybe you’re conveying a message that is either other than what you intended OR is at least a little bit distasteful to women?

                1. AnonAcademic*

                  Yeah, “if three people call you an a**, put on a saddle” and all that. There are a dozen comments all reading “between” the same lines. I think it would have been fine to say “the tights seems more like an eye-catching date night type outfit than something for the workplace.” Not seeing the difference between that statement and reducing women’s fashion choices to attempts to hold the male gaze seems purposefully obtuse.

                2. Grey*

                  I think it would have been fine to say “the tights seems more like an eye-catching date night type outfit than something for the workplace.”

                  Yes. That’s all I was trying to say. No more. No less. Perhaps I could have worded it as nicely as you did. I meant no disrespect.

          4. Panda Bandit*

            Did you know long sleeved flannels and baggy work pants still attract male attention? Why, it’s almost as if the type of clothing doesn’t matter!

      4. Something Clever*

        I think they’re what women wear if they want their legs tone noticed. By anyone, not just guys. In fact, I think many fashion choices are to impress, or even compete with, other women.

  2. Sara M*

    About #1– fashion opinions differ, but I’m in the Bay Area (generally very liberal on clothing stuff), and worked in a few startups (also very liberal about clothes).

    In my opinion, those stockings are not work-appropriate; they’re something I’d wear to a fetish party. I wouldn’t expect to see a coworker wearing them (except maybe over some solid dark-colored leggings, and then only maybe).

    I’m sure you’ll hear several opinions, but that’s mine. They’re lovely stockings, but not for work.

    1. LeRainDrop*

      Holy moly! Those stockings would definitely not be appropriate in my office. We are a business casual law firm, jeans on Fridays, and in the summer, we ladies frequently wear cute dresses, no stockings, open toe shoes, and similar. Agree with Sara M that those stockings are pretty, but would not be something I’d wear to work. (Alison is definitely right, though, that that guy’s comment was way out of line, and hopefully the office manager talked to him later privately about how that was inappropriate of him.)

    2. Amy*

      Wow, I don’t find those stockings any more sexy/sexual than plain sheer black stockings, and I definitely would not classify them as fetish wear.

      OP1: I thought they looked appropriate for more casual offices from the picture, but based on the strong reactions here, you’d maybe be better off not wearing those to the office. :/

      1. Different day, different name*


        I think since stocking have fallen somewhat out fashion, more and more people seem to view them as fetish wear, at least in the US. I agree with Amy that they don’t seem anymore sexy than plain black stockings, however, and it galls me to say it, I am not sure you should wear them anymore either. Not if people at your office (and here, apparently) view them this way.

        Had it been me personally I would have told this guy something pointed on the spot to let him know it wasn’t appreciated, and taken his comment up the ladder if necessary. I doubt it is his job to enforce dress code, and if those leg coverings are truly inappropriate for the job, the boss is the one that needs to do their job and tell you.

        Bottom line your legs aren’t this dude’s business, and he needs to keep these kinds of comments to his damn self!

        1. nofelix*

          This type of ‘lace’ stocking were very popular (at least in the UK) a couple of years ago. Perhaps new manufacturing methods made them affordable or something. Most women seemed to have a pair. I wouldn’t give them a second glance, however formal the context was.

          1. Merry and Bright*

            Seconded. I didn’t wear them this time round but really because I mostly wear trousers to work these days. But in the 1980s I was a shorthand typist in a pretty conservative insurance office but many of the younger women wore fancy, patterned and even fishnet tights. But then again, 80s fashion came into it. I spent so much money on tights!

      2. Looby*

        Wow- I’m with Amy, if these are fetish wear, fetish parties are a lot more tame than I imagined!
        These would have been completely fine for the dress codes in the offices I worked in when I lived in the UK, working in admin, insurance and academia.
        Now, I’m on the West Coast of Canada and your outfit would probably stand out in my current work place, but only for being a little too dressy- jeans/ leggings are de rigueur here.
        My vote is to keep wearing them!

      3. Doriana Gray*

        Yeah, there is nothing fetishy about those stockings. I saw those stockings and immediately thought “Blair Waldorf.” They read young, so if you’re concerned about being taken seriously due to your age, OP, these stockings probably won’t help your cause. And I say that as a 28-year-old who constantly gets mistaken for high school age and still wears stockings like this to work.

        1. Sara M*

          This fascinates me, because I’ve never seen anyone wear fishnet outside of a fetish context. (Or Rocky Horror or punk show context.) Never in a workplace.

          For what it’s worth, I asked my husband what he’d think if he saw this in his workplace. Startup again, where all they ask is that you not show up naked. He said he’d notice them and assume the person had a date or a party after work that night, and was wearing those stockings for someone else.

          1. LeRainDrop*

            Yeah, that’s more what I think of — not fetish, but well suited for an evening date, art show, or party. Also, +1 that I like your shoes and think they’re totally office appropriate.

          2. Doriana Gray*

            And see, I work in a fairly conservative financial institution doing risk management/insurance work, and we share a building with a couple of law firms, and I see young women wearing stuff like this all the time.

            1. sam*

              yeah – I’ve talked about my fairly conservative-dress workplace before, and even there, there are plenty of women who wear patterned tights. The ones pictured might be a bit on the more adventurous side, but patterns are pretty common these days, particularly among the younger staff.

              That being said, it is generally women on the younger side, who are in more junior positions, who wear stuff like this, so that is certainly a consideration in terms of considering how it may come across if you’re trying to appear older/position yourself for more senior roles.

            2. jm*

              I have a high-ranking co-worker who dresses beautifully. She’s always very professional in her appearance and demeanor. She has a pair of diamond-patterned stockings that she wears with simple, dark-colored suits and closed-toe heels, and no one bats an eye. The stockings are a little non-traditional but she creates a balanced look by pairing them with the conservative suit and shoes. It’s all about the balance.

              So sorry you had such a crappy experience with that guy. What an ass.

          3. Tau*

            Startup again, where all they ask is that you not show up naked. He said he’d notice them and assume the person had a date or a party after work that night, and was wearing those stockings for someone else.

            But it’s not like not having a dress code makes you the objective arbiter of appropriate clothing choices for all jobs everywhere. Those “wear whatever” jobs generally do end up trending towards an unspoken dress code of “jeans, T-shirt, trainers, just whatever you do don’t go too formal”, I think. I’d also find those stockings quite noticeable if they showed up where I’ve worked, but I’ve only worked at places that are a notch or two above startup culture as far as dress code goes; I’d find other clothing that is absolutely standard at more conservative places equally noticeable and out of place. Suits, for instance – if someone wore a suit every day at my last workplace I’d consider them severely out of touch with the cultural norms. That doesn’t mean it’d be accurate to project that onto, say, a laywer.

          4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            My office is pretty lax on dress code — I’m wearing leggings with sharks on them today :) — and I’ve seen women in fishnets here. Usually a very close, small net, so from a distance you can’t even particularly tell they’re ‘nets, but it happens.

            1. Michelenyc*

              I work in fashion and when fishnets were a bit more in style it was completely normal to wear them to the office.

          5. Mockingjay*

            I interviewed for a job with a very large defense contractor. The Hiring Manager wore fishnets.

            I thought it was a little unusual, but maybe I was more put off by her seated posture. She kept curling up her leg so her pencil skirt rode waaay up.

            I often wear colored and patterned stockings to offset plain (solid) skirts and dresses. The patterns are smaller than those shown in the OP’s photo, but still noticeable. I haven’t heard any comments.

            1. Artemesia*

              It isn’t the idea of patterned hose, it is THIS pattern or fishnets or other patterns often marketed as sexyware. A subtle all over pattern in a neutral color is not likely to raise eyebrows. Bright colored tights read ‘schoolgirl’ and stocking like the ones in the picture read club/bedroom. At least to this old grump. Fashions change but if everyone were wearing this sort of thing in the OP’s business environment then she wouldn’t be asking.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Bright tights don’t read “schoolgirl” to me. The “schoolgirl” look is more knee high white stockings, isn’t it? Like the ones that might go with a school uniform?

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  Bright tights read schoolgirl to me because that’s typically who they’re marketed to (and, again, the show Gossip Girl was very big on showing their teen characters in these types of tights and this is when I really noticed they’d become a “thing”). But again, if the rest of your outfit is neutral and your shoes are closed toe boots of some sort, the look can skew a little older.

          6. Stranger than fiction*

            But they’re not fishnet. They’re almost like a sheer herringbone type pattern.

            1. Sparrow*

              THANK YOU. There’s a clear differentiation in my mind between fishnets (which culturally do have more sexual connotations, imo) and “fashion” tights. These are clearly the latter.

          7. Kelly O*

            I’ve worn a very small fishnet in other offices before (when I was younger, if that matters) and never had a word spoken.

            Like anything else, there is a context. A big, open fishnet pattern with shoes you can’t really walk in? That’s one thing. A modest fishnet pattern with closed toe pumps or office-friendly boots? Sure.

            As has been repeatedly said, know your office and your culture. If you’ve been wearing them a year and a half and this (expletive deleted) is the first one to say something, then the issue is him, not your tights.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              A modest fishnet pattern with closed toe pumps or office-friendly boots? Sure.

              These are the only types of fishnets I advocate wearing to work. Under a knee-length dress with nice t-strap low heeled dress shoes, they can actually look really classy while allowing your legs to breathe (and yes to the person who pointed out the fact that you get less runs/snags in them than in regular hose).

          8. Honeybee*

            Well, those aren’t fishnets but I’ve seen plenty of people wear fishnets outside of a fetish context. Especially the smaller fishnets. But even the larger ones have plenty of applications – parties, clubs, dates, casual time. There’s a lot between “work” and “fetish party.”

        2. Elizabeth*

          Yup, definitely Blair Waldorf, and as someone who is 31 and constantly has to remind people at work she’s not 25, that might not be the direction you want to go.
          I think it’s also based on how much of the pattern people see, so those tights with high boots and a knee length skirt, when they are just see the few inches around the knee might be a better choice.
          Honestly would have worn them when I worked for a very conservative non-profit, but probably with boots and a longer skirt or dress.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            This is where I fall. I love patterned stockings, and when I worked in a dressier office, I wore them almost exclusively. But I think the shoe in the picture is creating the “sexier” look, and the stockings in that photo, with the yellow shoe, scream “inappropriate!” to me. However, with a pair of boots– ankle or knee– I think they would go over a lot better.

            1. Ella*

              I totally agree! I think it’s the yellow shoes with those tights that make the outfit less formal. But with darker shoes, or boots, I probably wouldn’t look twice at them.

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                I agree. I think they look fine for where I work (Midwestern insurance company with a business casual dress code), but I’d have to see the rest of the outfit. (I’m in my mid-40s and wear colored/patterned stockings/tights with skirts and dresses all the time.) But boots would make the look a little less “young” and “date night.” Still, I think this is definitely a “know your office” kind of thing.

                That being said, your co-worker should not have commented on your “sexiness” or otherwise. That was the most inappropriate part of this story.

              1. Michelenyc*

                I agree it’s the shoes. A bright shoe with a solid color tight/stocking would work better and a more neutral shoe or boot with a patterned tight/stocking.

                1. BeautifulVoid*

                  This is exactly what I was thinking. One “statement piece” per outfit keeps it professional-looking. Two or more tips sends it over the line for me. From what I can see of the skirt, I wouldn’t have batted an eye at the stockings if she’d been wearing plain, dark shoes.

                  And either way, the guy’s comment was gross and I hope someone tells him how inappropriate it was.

          2. Something Clever*

            Yep, that’s exactly how I wore my fishnets several years ago – knee length dress and boots, so you only saw maybe 2 inches of stocking when I was standing.

        3. Tamsin*

          Well, we know for a fact that in the OP’s case, these stockings DEFINITELY do not help her be taken more seriously in the workplace.

          Personally, I don’t believe those stockings would be considered professional in pretty much any workplace, with the possible exception of a job somewhere in fashion.

          1. Jinx*

            I don’t think we can say OP’s clothes are *definitely* a problem based on this letter. If her boss or a mentor pulled her aside and told her that the stockings weren’t in sync with that workplace, maybe, but we don’t have any evidence that anything happened other than the “sexy” incident. OP should take Alison’s advice to determine whether her stockings are appropriate, rather than assuming they are because of an inappropriate comment.

          2. Zillah*

            We know that one person the OP didn’t know made one inappropriate comment. That’s not necessarily indicative of anyone else’s opinion or how seriously they take the OP, and I don’t think the OP should change what she wears solely because one person who seems to rarely be in the office at all made one rude, sexual comment.

            1. Graciosa*

              Unfortunately, one person making a comment is a very bad sign – mostly because the average person is now educated enough not to make these kinds of comments, regardless of what they’re thinking.

              My conclusion was that there are a lot of people thinking this silently, which does not help the OP’s credibility as a professional.

              1. Zillah*

                While the average person may have the sense not to call someone sexy in the office, it’s hardly unheard of, and I’d argue that most people who lack that good sense are also jerks in general.

                The OP should absolutely look into this, but I don’t think one guy who’s totally fine sexualizing strangers in a workplace he never spends time in really represents “a very bad sign.”

              2. Jinx*

                I disagree – it’s a leap to say that just because one person said something others must be thinking it. There are plenty of rude, inappropriate people out there who don’t exercise their verbal filters.

                1. Graciosa*

                  I completely agree that saying it is inappropriate – but I think you’re missing the point that having people silently thinking “Sexy stockings” and never saying a word is not helping the OP’s career.

                  While they’re thinking “Sexy stockings” they are not thinking “Good presentation,” “Great idea,” or “A lot of potential – maybe we should pull her into the Major Project and see how she does.”

                  I added an unfortunately real example I observed below – including my support for people who choose to make a principled decision along the lines of “To H*** with whatever other people think, I’m dressing as I please” – and I think it’s doing a disservice to the OP to dismiss the risk that many others are thinking these things that they will never be foolish enough to say.

                2. Jinx*


                  Sure, that’s not a good reputation to have. But where’s the evidence that anyone else in OP’s office is thinking “sexy stockings”? One person made a rude comment – one person who is not her manager or (it seems) anyone who she works closely with. One time a coworker made a similar inappropriate comment about my knee-high boots, which I wear regularly and aren’t unprofessional at all. That was just his rude, unasked for opinion.

                  Based on the comments this obviously isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, which is why Alison suggested that OP observe her own workplace norms. I think it’s good to present both sides, but you’re saying that this one comment indicates the culture of her entire workplace. Maybe it does, but from the letter we can’t prove that one comment is a bad sign or that other people in her office are thinking the same thing.

                3. Chinook*

                  ” it’s a leap to say that just because one person said something others must be thinking it”

                  Jinx, I am with you on this. I think the co-worker is out of line but that doesn’t mean others were also thinking it. I could also see something like this happening where I work with the field guys, especially since, in the field, everyone wears protective equipment and overalls. So, if this is someone who a) has never worked in an office before saying it and b) maybe only has seen a g/f or wife wear something like that, his (wrong) reaction would be to say something that would be a compliment to them. Think of them as lacking the “work” filter for their mouth.

                  When I have come across this around here, I have learned to either point it out as rude in a joking manner to give them a way to save face (ex: careful, your “redneck” is showing) or to turn it back on them with something in the same line (literally had a guy call me “sweetheart” in an email and I replied to him as “darling” in my follow-up.) In the OP’s case, I probably would have made an inappropriate comment about how his shoes really show off his legs.

                  The third option is the always useful “what did you say? I don’t get what you guys thought was so funny.”

                  But, if this continues beyond the one slip up, the OP needs to talk to her supervisor about the next step because this type of attitude is why so few women like working in the field.

                4. NoProfitNoProblems*

                  I notice women’s fashion. I think “sexy stockings” or “amazing ombre” all the time, but it does not stop me from also doing my job. Unless someone is wearing a glitter miniskirt, the person who is so distracted by someone else’s style choices that they cannot get work done is the one being unprofessional.

              3. Mike C.*

                No, if multiple people are thinking this, then there are multiple people who need to change their thinking.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  @Artemesia sometimes it’s useful to know that a jerk’s comments really are inappropriate, and that one is justified in being angry or upset about the comments. People, especially women, are so often told they’re too sensitive; it can be incredibly useful to know your calibration is actually just fine.

                2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  It’s helpful because young women often don’t hear this. We’re taught that inappropriate sexual behavior directed our way is our fault – we’re dressed wrong, our body is shaped wrong, our makeup is done wrong, our demeanor is simply wrong.

                3. Mike C.*

                  @Artemesia – it’s useful because it resets expectations for both the OP and others who might think it’s perfectly fine to make sexist comments or otherwise unfairly judge the OP.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But it is also true that there are professional appearance standards in many workplaces, and this is a blog centered on how to get the best professional outcomes for yourself, and it’s reasonable to talk about how things are often perceived, which is often separate from how they should be perceived.

              4. A Teacher*

                Or the OP’s co-worker is just inappropriate with no to limited filter and thinks its okay to make gross comments.

              5. Anna*

                It is not the OP’s responsibility to worry about what others MIGHT be thinking. Her question is yes or no and should be addressed as yes or no: Are the stockings unprofessional attire? Placing it on the OP to worry that others MIGHT be thinking they’re too sexy is heading back in to a form of policing women’s behavior we should all leave way behind us.

          3. BethRA*

            No, we know one guy found it in his power to make an inappropriate comment, and the small group of people sitting with him played along like a bunch of teenagers. We have no idea if others in her office have a hard time taking her seriously – because of her clothing or anything else.

            The stockings maybe out of bounds – especially if paired with edgier shoes – but I wouldn’t take one person’s immaturity as evidence of people’s opinions generally.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Totally agree with the importance of going with what is actually seen and not making presumptions about a larger problem.

              Telling the OP that ten other people believe this and just won’t say anything, does not help the OP. The only person who said anything is Bob. So OP’s responses should be to Bob, not the whole group.

              I have learned, OP, that others will watch our responses to the Bobs of the world. If you can effectively shut it down, you might change the minds/behaviors of silent people by the way you handle Bob’s comment. I have seen this done well with other issues. For example: A coworker has a habit of calling people stupid. One day ONE person, in a loud clear voice says, “Hey, it’s one thing to condemn the action, it’s totally different thing to condemn the person.” And in that moment, everyone in the group is armed with a go-to sentence that FOREVER shuts down the comments about certain people being “stupid”. Powerful stuff and it only took one person to make that change happen.

              In situations where a coworker has made an over the line remark I have a couple go-tos that I have used with some success. There are people that I get along with well over all and I want to keep the relationship in a good place. So I will say something like “Ice getting a little thin where you are standing?” Usually they say something like “Yeah. Scratch that. Forget I said that.” That answer is good enough for me.
              With other people that are not as close, I would let them know that they are over the line. In your story, I might point out that the boss has not said anything and the only opinion that concerns me is my boss’ opinion. Then I might add that he should keep his remarks about people’s appearances to himself.

        4. Emily K*

          I thought way less Blair Waldorf and way more Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary, personally!

          1. Bwmn*

            I really don’t understand the sexual or fetish response to these stockings.

            Secretary in particular made quite a big deal about the stocking she wore, but they were always sheer and then the movie poster had sheer stockings with the back seam. Even someone like Dita Von Teese who’s made a career around burlesque fashion – all of her stocking choices are in the sheer range. Not in lace or crochet.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yup and the back seam ones were totally normal once too! They’ve just fallen so far out of “mainstream” fashion now (because manufacturing techniques have improved and they can make them seamless) and people remember, like, Bettie Page wearing them, because they’ve seen the pinup pics, but not that they also would have been worn to the grocery store by one’s grandma.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                I wear back seam stockings to work too (mine have a little bow at the ankle) – again, I get nothing but compliments at my conservative workplace.

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  @ Elizabeth West They are the most darling things I’ve ever seen, especially since they’re footless! I pair them with ballet flats when I want to go the ’80s throwback route (and the material is fishnet).

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  I remember I found stockings around the time I was getting married that had very fine embroidery on the outside of each ankle. OMG, it was love at first sight for me. I did not get them because in those days the price of the stockings would have been equal to 2.5 hours of pay for me. But I thought they were super special.

              2. KT*

                THIS! Back-seamed stockings were the norm for moms and grandmoms to wear every day, to the point they would draw a line on the back of their legs when stockings were scarce during the war. They are now more associated with a sexy look, which is bizarre, since every woman wore them.

              3. Michelenyc*

                Hasid women where natural colored stockings with the seam up the back all of the time and guarantee they do not give off the sexy vibe!

            2. Koko*

              I think for me it’s the black color rather than the pattern that gives it a sexy feeling. Patterned/fishnet stockings in a neutral/nude tone wouldn’t set off any bells for me, but black underwear (which is kinda what hosiery is) = sexy lingerie to me.

              1. Koko*

                What was that line in 10 Things I Hate About You? Something like, “A girl doesn’t own black underwear unless there’s someone she plans to have see her in it.”

                Whether that is true or not, there’s definitely a perception of it as a “sexy” underwear color.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Huh. I wonder if this was written by a man, since all the women I’m close to have black underwear to wear with dark clothing. :-?

                2. Koko*

                  Hmm, as a woman I do that with light clothes, where dark underwear showing through sticks out like a sore thumb. But if I have dark clothes sheer enough to show underwear through, I usually still want to wear a nude color. The idea is more about lessening the contrast between your skin and bra/underwear than it is about matching the undergarments to the outer clothes. I basically don’t want people to be able to tell what the style/size/placement of my underwear is, which they’d be able to do with dark underwear under sheer/thin fabric of any shade.

                3. One of the Sarahs*

                  Pretty much all my underwear is utility black – my “sexy” underwear is colourful. Just because a screenwriter has weird ideas (in a teen movie OMG!) doesn’t make it Fact.

              2. Sparrow*

                It’s interesting to hear you classify them with hosiery and thus underwear. For me, tights are basically light-weight leggings, which I mentally classify as lighter/classier sweatpants. Tights are a fundamental wardrobe piece for me, and I pick them based on my layering needs, exactly like I might pick out a cardigan for the day. Realizing that people are mentally categorizing them in very different ways actually explains a lot about the widely varied responses here.

              3. No Longer Passing By*

                That’s strange. My mom bought me a lot of dark underwear as a kid because my skin color is darker and black blends better under clothes than white or peach when you have dark skin. I never even knew that black underwear had a sexual connotation. Maybe red, but not black….

      4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


        Our young women are very fashionable and we live in a um, “bold” area of the US (Philly region). I’ve seen stockings like that occasionally and said “nice stockings!”.

        Now, stockings like that are going to be sexy, but I don’t have a fundamental problem with sexy vs scantily clad/body parts that shouldn’t be showing showing.

        Is a v neck sexy on many women? Sure! Is a v neck plunging so low boobies are hanging out office appropriate? No! The problem isn’t the v neck, the problem is what’s not covered.

        The stockings are fine. I cringe a little because they are so nice and you are bound to get a snag so maybe you should save them for Friday night.

        1. AP*

          I’m in Philly as well, and work in a pretty conservative field (corporate side of healthcare) and I really wouldn’t think twice about the stockings. They are stylish and I think any stocking is more formal than bare legs. Is her coworker inappropriate? Yeah, but that’s his problem.

          1. Sydney Bristow*

            I’m in NYC is a big law office and I’ve seen multiple women wearing patterned tights. I wouldn’t wear them to a meeting with a client but other than that I think they’re fine. This is 100% a know your office kind of thing.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            You touched on something there. I was also raised to believe bare legs were inappropriate in the office, yet that’s acceptable in most office today.

            1. Miss Betty*

              Any time I think about bare legs at the office I end up laughing at myself. I was also raised to believe they were inappropriate and was in my late 30s before I ever went bare-legged, and that was because of a major run that I couldn’t stop or fix. Now – I’m 52 – I think bare legs look better than stockings and actually find “nude” or “suntan” or any other leg-colored stocking to be tacky and tasteless. I hate seeing them on other women at work. (No problem with black sheers or most patterns, though. As long as they’re not trying to mimic bare legs, I’m fine with them.)

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Growing up, adult women did not have bear legs in public that was just one of many expectations. In that same time frame, my boss talks about going to a party without her husband, it just was. not. done.

      5. Bwmn*

        I’m in the camp of A) not finding them anymore sexy or sensual that sheer black stockings and B) having worn similar stockings to work. However, when I do choose to wear stockings that I perceive as crocheted as opposed to lace or fishnets – I always layer them over darker colored stockings. I work in the nonprofit world that is probably only a wee bit left of center in terms of being progressive or casual in dress sense – but I’ve never gotten a reaction in terms of layered stockings where the top one is in that style.

        However – in a former job I had a skirt that I read as both professional and somewhat boring in a beige plaid Catholic school kind of pleated cut that ended about two inches above my knee. After having worn it to work multiple times and receiving zero comments, one day someone referred to it as “Bwmn’s mini skirt”. I’m tall, but even so – it was a bit of a stretch in my eyes.

        I think that whenever it comes to women and clothes, there will always be people who sexualized or sensualized outfits whenever they’re given an inch.

        1. Koko*

          Yeah, that Catholic pleat has definitely become pretty inextricably linked to a sexy image, not because of what it is but what it’s associated with.

          I actually have a Catholic pleat skirt that I jokingly refer to as my “power skirt” because when I wear it men will pretty much do whatever I want/cut me any slack I need. (A la a “power suit” that makes you more effective and powerful.) Forgot your ID before going to the bar? No problem. Got pulled over for speeding? Get off with a verbal warning. It’s not overly short or form-fitting and it’s a plain checkered gray and black plaid, but it reads as “sexy schoolgirl,” so I’ve only ever worn it to social events and never work.

      6. Stranger than fiction*

        I agree with you, I don’t see them as fettish at all, but then again, I once knew a man that had a pantyhose fettish with any type – even the old flesh toned “l’eggs”.

    3. Purple Dragon*

      I wouldn’t call them fetish – but I guess it depends on your culture.

      Our previous COO used to wear stockings like this and although it raised a few eyebrows when she first started it was only because no-one had ever worn them before.

      I don’t see anything wrong with them but it’s definitely a know your office deal I think. I also love the colour of your shoes !

    4. Al Lo*

      I would 100% wear those stockings in my office. To me, they’re definitely not inappropriate, and in fact, a few years ago, I had a half dozen or so pairs of lace/textured pantyhose in a few different patterns. It’s a good way to keep the neutral color but still add some flair.

      I also think that fishnets are less of a statement than they used to be. I have definitely worn them to work with a more conservative skirt, which gives the outfit a little kick without veering into sexy.

      On a side note, your shoes are fantastic, and I love them as a pop of color with the navy and black.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I wear fishnets to work, but paired with what people deem my Jackie O dresses because of the conservative, yet stylish, way they’re cut (and most of my work dresses either hit at the knee or slightly below). I’ve been promoted twice in two years of working at my company because at the end of the day, no one in either of the two divisions I’ve worked in have given a crap about what was on my legs. I get the job done, and that’s all they care about.

        With that said, Alison’s right that OP needs to pay close attention to how the women around her dress to get a sense of what’s appropriate for her environment. I may be able to get away with wearing stockings like the ones pictured above in my current and previous division, but there are several divisions within my current company where I’d get the side eye if I walked through their halls dressed like that. It’s a fascinating thing to observe. The female VPs in my previous division wore bandage dresses and knee high four inch stiletto boots to work – none of the women in our corporate office dress like that. Wait, that’s not true – there’s one woman there who dresses like that, and they talk about how unprofessional she looks all the time (behind her back of course).

    5. Treena*

      Yep, I’ve also worked in really liberal/casual offices in California and these stockings would have been incredibly inappropriate. They remind me of something I would have had to tell an intern to stop wearing. Although I wouldn’t limit them to fetish parties only, I would classify them as definitively nighttime event-only wear. Holiday parties, going out to a club, casual evening weddings, etc. are all places that these would be a good idea.

      This is all coming from someone who enjoys fun tights. I had to retire a couple of tights- solid mustard yellow and Christmas red because they were just too bright. Work clothes should not distract people from what you’re trying to do/say. So even though technically my bright tights were “appropriate” I stopped wearing them because they literally made it harder to do my job–countless people were openly staring at them instead of listening to me speak!

      1. Tamsin*

        +1. The real question is whether the stockings are professional. To me, they clearly are far outside the bounds of what is professional by most measures. That does not mean they’re not cute or 100 percent appropriate for non-business wear.

    6. Engineer Girl*

      I’m in the Bay Area, in a conservative industry. Those stockings are NOT work appropriate for my industry – especially with the colored shoes. That said, I have definitely worn patterned tights to work.
      It has to do with the amount of skin showing through the stocking. The more skin, the less work appropriate. A tighter weave of stocking would be more acceptable. The weight of the stocking is also important. A heavier stocking is more appropriate than a sheer stocking.
      FWIW, I have a couple of stockings I purchased at Monoprix in Paris. I have worn both to work. Both are more stocking than skin. Both are black. Both are closer to tights than stockings.

      1. TowerofJoy*

        For me its the shoes with the stockings. I think the stockings could be okay depending on what you are paring them with – a conservative dress and heels? Sure. Bright neon yellow shoes or a really trendy/brightly patterned dress? Eh. I don’t even think that its “sexy” exactly so much as it takes it beyond trendy to flashy. I don’t have a good hard and fast rule for where that line is though so I’m not much help OP.

        Also, I just want to reiterate that what the coworker(s) did including those laughing was NOT okay. I’m glad the manager at least said something, but wow.

      2. brighidg*

        So she also wouldn’t be able to show her bare leg either like if she were wearing a skirt without stockings?

      3. A Teacher*

        Clear stockings (thin nylons) show more skin than these are showing, are those also inappropriate?

        1. A Teacher*

          I think its a know your workplace and from the context given, it sounds like one inappropriate comment from a guy that doesn’t know how to check himself.

    7. ginger ale for all*

      I think they are a bit too night club ish for me but some people can get away with that in their professions. I think the reaction you got says you pushed it a bit too far at your office. Do you have a friend who has worked there longer that you can ask about this and get better feedback on your office norms? It’s a great look but it might be projecting that you are possibly dressing more for after work than work itself, jmo.

    8. AcademiaNut*

      I’m in academia, in the physical sciences and that skirt/shoes/stockings combo would definitely not be appropriate to wear to work. If I were supervising someone who dressed that way, I’d be working my nerve up to have a difficult “dressing so people take you seriously” conversation with them.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It really doesn’t have to be a difficult conversation! I’ve been fine with a “hey, Janet, that shirt is way too low-cut for an office environment. Please wear something a little more conservative”

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I had to have that conversation with one of my male employees about his v-neck shirts on casual Fridays.

      2. Liz*

        Also in academia, and I think it’s more the stockings/shoes combo. Stockings worn with black or other neutral shoes and a knee-length black skirt would have been fine in an office. The outfit with colored shoes is something I’ve seen in some areas, but always on the non-exempt staff in the jobs with no career path. (Many people are very happy in them, and have worked there for years, but if you want to progress that’s not where you want to stay.)

      3. Mike C.*

        Wait, so are the clothes actually inappropriate, or are the people you work with overly judgmental?

        1. Biff*

          Well, we’ve already said that inappropriate is going to depend heavily on the industry/office norms. So if it were generally appropriate, but just not in your department, then it would be overly judgy, but if no one would wear this, then it’s just inappropriate.

      4. Marcela*

        I am in academia, in physics/chemistry, and the combination is absolutely appropriate. I wear things like that all the time and I only get compliments because the rest of the people is more on the jeans and t-shirt camp. I wore things like that even when I was an assistant professor. Nobody judged my outfit.

    9. MK*

      For me, work-appropriate is not about any one item of clothing, it’s about the ensemble. Those stockings work with a conservative suit in a muted color and black shoes? Perfectly fine. But worn with the shoes in the photo, especially if the black skirt is paired with an equally fun top? Not really. I don’t think it’s too sexy for the office exaclty, more that it looks too “party”.

      1. Myrin*

        I think that’s where I’m at, too. It’s like both bright red lipstick and dark eye makeup can be completely fine individually, but when worn together, they might come off as “too strong”.

        (I’d also argue that there’s such a thing as “a type” of person who can wear certain things without it being “too much” while another type can’t – like how I immediately look like a garish clown when I put on red lipstick, yet the same lipstick barely registers on my sister’s face. However, that’s kind of a personal and subjective metric and way too open to interpretation to be considered useful when it comes to professionalism, which is why, regarding work attire, I’d prefer the very clear-cut “one ‘popping’ item of clothing only” idea.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I know I would never pull this off, it just does not fit my personality.

          I remember getting in a discussion with a boss about a peer in another location. The peer wore a wide range of styles. One day she would copy an ethnic style, the next day she would be wearing a very subdued pastel outfit and then on the third day a tee shirt and jeans. My boss said that people were thrown by the lack of consistency in her outfits. The range of styles was so large that it became a running commentary, “I wonder what kind of get-up Sue will have on today?”

          We were not a prudish company AT ALL. People wore revealing stuff or they wore bright colors almost anything seemed to be okay. What drew attention to my peer is that her style had no consistent characteristics. We knew that Jane liked bright colored outfits. We knew that Chris wore short skirts and fitted tops. But they were consistent about it and no one thought anything of it.

          This whole discussion got me to thinking about how I should try to use some consistency when picking out my clothes. It’s just too distracting to be all over the map. And personally, I don’t like being the center of discussions like this, either, so I was really motivated to establish and maintain “my” style. This is when I started thinking about clothes that fit my personality.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            See, I’m like the coworker in your story – my style is all over the map. My clothing choices pretty much mimic the insanity going on in my head, lol. But everyone at my company also knows I’m a writer, singer, and actress, so they chalk up my ever-changing wardrobe (and hair) to being a “cool artist.”

            The other cool take away from my eclectic style is that I’ve met and formed strategic partnerships with a lot of people I probably never would have met if it hadn’t been for them commenting on my clothes. I’m an introvert, and I’m shy, so I’m very rarely going to make the first move to introduce myself to new people at work. But I don’t have to. People see my outfits, especially my shoes, love them, and then strike up conversations with me. The way I dress has actually made me seem more approachable to people, especially other women.

            1. DMented Kitty*

              I’m with you. Sometimes I dress a bit punk, sometimes ethnic, sometimes just smart casual, but sometimes I dress a bit girly. I know my comfort zone and I don’t dress beyond it, but I don’t zone in to one style, either. I just wear what I feel like wearing that day and a lot of what I’m wearing is comfortable to me. :)

      2. Noah*

        This. Sometimes at work you have to pick just one fun element. What the guy said was wildly inappropriate though, no matter what you were wearing.

      3. BRR*

        I’m glad you mentioned this because I didn’t think of that. I know a lot of people who would wear stockings like that would wear them as part of fun outfit. My old manager had polka dot tights and would wear them with conservative dresses and skirts and they looked fine though in a conservative office (men needed to wear ties everyday).

      4. brighidg*

        That is where I am, those stockings with a knee-length skirt and black shoes? Fine. Likewise an above-the-knee skirt and yellow shoes would be fine with plain black stockings to me.

        There’s just a lot going on and unless the LW works at a fashion magazine, it would read as more party wear.

    10. Suzanne Lucas - Evil HR Lady*

      I am about the most conservative dresser you’ll find outside certain religious sects and I’d wear those stockings to church. Where I teach the music to children.

      As long as they are paired with appropriate skirts (i.e. Knee length or close to it) then I see no problem.

      1. Bwmn*

        I had a primary school teacher growing up and her “thing” was always a mix of brightly colored, patterned, and crocheted tights. Never registered as sexy, especially in the rest of the way she dressed.

        I do think that the “issue” with this, if there is one is that they’re being paired with yellow pumps and then whatever the rest of the outfit is. Not so much sexy as the problem but “night out on the town/not in the office”.

      2. Wren*

        When I was a teenager, my music teacher performed in fishnets with an evening skirt (think: orchestra member or classical soloist,) and I totally copied look that for my performance outfit. My mother may have policed my hemlines, but she had no problem with fishnets.

    11. Aussie academic*

      I’m an academic in health sciences and you’d see this a lot in my group, with the only comments being about how great you look and where to buy them!

      1. Busytrap*

        Ditto. At both my conservative DC law firm and the manufacturing company I work now (where heels would get you a second look, but not those stockings with boots or flats), these would be totally fine and solicit nothing but “ooo, did you sneak out to JCrew on your lunch break?” type comments. OP – I really think your office and city matters here. Can you come back and give us an idea of what industry/city you’re in?

    12. Anonymous 123*

      I agree that patterned stockings vary by workplace. Where I’m at, they would be appropriate with trousers or slightly cropped trousers. So a flash of pattern, an inch or two, is fine.

    13. Not Today Satan*

      Yeah, I was really surprised that the response seems more unilaterally opposed to solid non-neutral tights than these. They’re basically fishnet in the look they convey.

    14. BananaPants*

      I work for a Fortune 500 company and while those stockings wouldn’t be against the business casual dress code, people would be pretty shocked to see someone wearing them to work. If an employee persisted in wearing them, either HR or a more senior female employee would have an awkward private chat with the wearer about dressing so that people take you seriously.

      I wouldn’t call them fetish wear, but those are more suitable for a night out at the club with friends than in most office settings, IMO.

      1. Alston*

        To me the stockings are a bit on the flashy sexy side to wear with a dress and flats (and I work in a super chill zero dress code place) however they would be hella cute with boots and a skirt, and somehow I think more appropriate seeming.

        For the record I think this type of stocking is normally fine, this particular pattern looks a bit fishnetty, and I thinks that’s the reason people are reacting to them.

      2. Mike C.*

        Ok, I keep seeing this reference to “dressing so that people take you seriously”.

        Maybe, just maybe, people should be taken seriously for the value they bring to the workplace rather than being judged as a sexual object?

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          And the funny thing is that I would be inclined to wear something like this to avoid that. (I’m rather well-endowed, and flashy stockings with cute boots make me look a little less like a Mae West impersonator.)

        2. the gold digger*

          people should be taken seriously for the value they bring to the workplace rather than being judged as a sexual object

          There is the “should be” and the “as is.” We live in the “as is.”

          1. Marcela*

            Absolutely. But how are going to get the “should be” world if we keep recommending to follow the “as is” rules? How are we going to learn that our vision is warped if nobody says it? Research has shown that prejudice is not 100% obvious and in the front of our minds: even if we make an effort to behave in non racist and/or misogynistic ways, that kind of crap is still in the back of our minds and can be very difficult to completely avoid.

        3. Fifi Ocrburg*

          But how you present yourself visually does serve as a signal. That’s the way our brains are wired. The guy down the hall who never brushes his teeth and splashes on liters of cologne may be a genius, but who wants to get close enough to find out?

    15. MEA*

      I think they’re totally fine. I work at a large, laid back company in Cleveland. Jeans, t-shirts, and flip-flops are the norm. If you showed up in those stockings people would think you were headed on a date, but otherwise wouldn’t care. But I’ve been doing a lot of work in the UK for the past year, and those are quite normal. So much so that I’ve picked up a few pairs and started incorporating them in my wardrobe. I’d also wear those stockings to church.

      That guy, though – so incredibly out of line. And for the office manager to go along with it is incredibly inappropriate. That interaction alone would make me double down on wearing the stockings, but that’s just me. I don’t always take the high road. :-)

      1. Tamsin*

        The guy was out of line. But the stockings are sooooo unprofessional, and it’s pretty clear are out of the norm for her office.

        1. Zillah*

          You’ve said this above, too, but I think it’s still worth noting that unprofessional is a matter of opinion – they may be soooooo unprofessional, but there are plenty of commenters here saying that they wouldn’t be unprofessional in their offices, so it’s clearly not an open-and-shut case. I also don’t think that one guy who the OP has never seen before making a sexual comment should be considered the sole arbiter of what’s professional in the OP’s office.

          1. hellcat*

            Especially since making sexual comments to/about a woman he doesn’t know is hardly the height of professionalism itself. (And those would be unusual, but not unprofessional, in my office.)

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yes, exactly. They are not, objectively, sooooo unprofessional, given how many people here have said they would be fine in their office–or at their church.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          I don’t think it’s clear at all. It was one guy and he was from another location.

    16. PeachTea*

      Maybe it’s just me but I’m shocked at how many people think this is inappropriate. Over the last five years, I honestly can’t think of a time I saw someone in a dress at work without some kind of stockings or leggings. It really does seem like the style nowadays. While I wouldn’t personally go so far as fish nets, I’ve seen similar stockings on my 55 year old VP.

      Walk into Kohls, patterned stockings far outweigh plain. I do agree that colors could be inappropriate. They do really scream ‘young.’ However, I cannot come close to imagining why those stockings are wrong.

      1. Michaela T*

        Yeah, I see these all the time on professionals in my part of the country. Maybe it’s more a Midwest/colder climate thing? Like, we want to stay warm(er) here in skirts but still look fashionable?

    17. Lola*

      Both my husband and I think these are completely fine to wear to work. He works in a slightly more formal office than me– he wears button-downs and dress pants everyday, I can wear jeans and nice blouses/sweaters any time I want.

      If this is fetish wear, that’s a very tame fetish.

    18. Anonnonnon*

      As someone who regularly attends those parties I can tell you that I’d only wear these accompanied by something more scandalous. These seem ok to me.

    19. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I’m gonna cruise the edge of TMI here and point out that most of the folks at a fetish party will be wearing totally normal clothing — that or just about nothing at all.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Though we did have the one woman who showed up in full-on leather Xena gear. Most people can’t afford that! :D

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Nice. I’d love to be able to afford a set of leathers like that! But alas.

    20. Mianaai*

      I think this is something that varies drastically with office culture. Actually, in all of the really informal settings I’ve been in (mostly academia and related areas dominated by men), these would read as “too sexy” and “unprofessional”, but honestly the same thing could be said of basically anything that wasn’t jeans and a t-shirt, including a below-the-knee skirt over opaque neutral tights. In my current office that oscillates between nice jeans + blouse to business casual and is over 75% women, stockings like this are pretty common and wouldn’t get a side-eye unless they were paired with a miniskirt.

    21. Laura*

      It really does depend on where OP works, but I’ve worked at both a casual tech company AND higher education… and those stockings would not be considered appropriate at either workplace. I recommend (solid) black tights if OP wants to cover her legs and still wear skirts.

    22. ggg*

      These don’t read “sexy” or “fetish party” to me (Note: I have zero knowledge of fetish party dress codes). Nor do they read “executive VP.”

      They do read as evening wear — not necessarily clubbing, but the kind of thing you might wear when dressing up for a dinner or a show. Therefore I would consider them inappropriate for daytime, and thus for work.

    23. Turanga Leela*

      Small city, conservative industry (law), and I wouldn’t wear colored/patterned stockings to work. It’s not that these are too sexy, it’s that patterned stockings just don’t look professional to me. OP #1, while you’re figuring out your professional style, I’d think about other ways to bring color and texture into your outfit. You can use colored or patterned clothes, statement jewelry, great scarves… but if you’re young and just getting started as a professional, I wouldn’t wear fun tights to work.

      It is possible that I’m projecting too much from my own experience, since I once wore pink fishnets to a college interview. But still. And for work fashion inspiration, I always suggest looking at Corporette (who is very conservative about these things) and Bridget Raes.

      1. nuqotw*

        LW #1, that dude was WAY out of line. Even if your tights were inappropriate for your office, he was a jackass and I’ll bet he’s a creep to women in general. I’m so sorry you had to experience that!

        Corporette is amazing! I came here to suggest it and TL beat me to it.

        Here is a recent article about tights:

        I am in the commenter consensus group that those tights are not okay at most offices, at least with a skirt. One option is to wear fun tights under pants (a winter thing only) because then they are less noticeable but still have that fun feeling. (I like to paint my toes with unprofessional colors – no one can see them but I feel fun and light.)

        It sometimes takes a little while to sort out personal style vs. professional style – it’s okay and even natural to have two styles emerge as you spend more time in the working world. At this point, I love having a very buttoned-up conservative look for work and a more relaxed style on the weekends but it definitely took some getting used to.

      2. lola*

        But what’s the difference between a statement necklace and patterned tights? They’re both can be attention-grabbing. They’re both near “certain” parts of a woman’s body. I don’t see a difference, honestly. If the tights are a no-go, then a statement necklace is a no-go as well.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          The best I can come up with is that the stockings are unexpected, and a necklace wouldn’t be. I’m not saying it’s logical, but in the places I’ve worked, patterned tights would stand out because they’re unusual, and a 24-year-old woman in patterned tights would look less appropriate and professional than a woman in solid tights. In most of these same workplaces, a statement necklace wouldn’t be out of place.

          There are some workplaces where everybody wears dark suits and subdued accessories to work and a statement necklace would be too flashy, but hopefully the OP knows if her office is one of them.

  3. Sparkly Librarian*

    What are some ways to address out-of-line comments when you’re neither the target of them nor the commenter’s manager? For example, is there something effective and professional that the people sitting at that table might have said?

    1. LeRainDrop*

      Our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training is based on a green zone, yellow zone, red zone concept, and you want to keep your comments “in the green.” So, in our office, someone probably would have said, “woah, red zone, man!” or “keep it in the green” — it’s kind of a light-hearted yet clear way to call it out.

    2. Viktoria*

      Well, not laughing helps for starters, although sometimes it’s an automatic response to an awkward or tense situation. But if you can keep a stony face that’s a pretty good signal to send without having to say anything. Even better with a shocked sounding, “wow.” or “wow, not cool,” or “whoa, that’s inappropriate.” Basically anything that registers your immediate disapproval without actually reprimanding the person.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I wouldn’t go with “shocked,” but I’m encouraging my son to just say, quietly, “Not cool, dude.”

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      A really flat, unamused “wow” works wonders. (And for that matter, in social settings where no one is anyone’s manager.) It’s not obscene, and it doesn’t necessarily open the door to a Giant Serious Debate Regarding The Ethics of Catcalling, but it tells the attention-seeker that what he just said did not boost his status among his peers.

      1. Mike C.*

        I don’t think this goes far enough. There’s nothing to debate here because the behavior is offensive and unacceptable, and just saying “wow” doesn’t address what or why it was bad behavior.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Not my point, man. The debate comes when the commenter gets all bootychafed on getting called out and tries to start arguing why it’s Totally Okay To Say That, Really, This One Lady Says She Likes It.

          And come on. Like they don’t know that it’s bad behavior.

    4. KR*

      I think I would have given him a dirty look or said something to the effect of “Don’t jeer at me, it’s disrespectful.” Even if OP isn’t this guy’s manager, she has a right to her own body and a right to call out misogyny when it’s directed at her like that.

    5. Mike C.*

      I would call that shit out directly, and there’s an expectation here for management to do the same. In fact, if they don’t, they’ll get in trouble as well. No games, no special jargon.

      1. Macedon*

        + 1. Or, + infinity. Whatever math adds up to more people telling this joker, “That’s inappropriate.”

        Not, “You gotta watch out what you say…” or “I think that’s inappropriate.” Straight up, “That’s inappropriate.”

      2. steeped in anonymtea*

        “You shouldn’t say that, it’s not appropriate in a work setting to say to a female co-worker.”. Done.

        1. Chinook*

          ““You shouldn’t say that, it’s not appropriate in a work setting to say to a female co-worker.”. ”

          Nope – “You shouldn’t say that, it’s not appropriate in a work setting to say to ANY co-worker.” (so no comments about the courier in bike shorts either).

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            “You shouldn’t say that, it’s not appropriate in a work setting to say to ANY co-worker.”

            I like this best — it’s very clear. If said in a calm, not cool tone of voice, and then going on with the original conversation, it makes a clear point but also doesn’t make a big deal about it. He doesn’t get any extra attention, because he (at least in this case) isn’t worth it.

        2. Fifi Ocrburg*

          But he didn’t say the woman was sexy, or that her legs were sexy. He said that the stockings were sexy. Is there difference?

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Although, sometimes people use sexy now when referring to a new idea or product or something, which I don’t like either.

          1. Kyrielle*

            This is skating by on a technicality. “Oooh, looking sexy today” and “Oooh, that’s a sexy dress” are not really that far apart.

            Pretty sure he was not saying that the leggings, if folded neatly in a drawer, are alluring. He was saying that what they do to the OP’s legs is alluring…and that’s still a comment on the OP’s body.

      3. A Teacher*

        Same. When students do it (or the few co-workers I’ve seen it in when I worked in corporate America) they get a silent stare with mouth open and then a “Seriously? Really? not cool or not okay” type comment.” Usually they bluster and get red in the face, if they get defensive then I’ll usually keep at it about WHY its not okay.

      4. TootsNYC*

        I think this person could have been a little firmer–like, without the laugh:

        ” then the office manager who was sitting at the table laughingly said, “You need to watch what you say and how loudly you say it.” I was really embarrassed and pretended not to hear. I got my tea and got out of there as quickly as I could.”

    6. Kyrielle*

      What others have said, but also if you want to be a bit more pointed:

      “Excuse me, did you really just say that?”

      “That’s really inappropriate.”

      “I can’t believe you just said that.”

    7. Mianaai*

      In the past, I’ve generally gone with raised eyebrow, stony face, crossed arms, and something along the lines of “Wow.” “Not cool.” or “Gross.”

    8. Lady Bug*

      Depending on how well I knew the coworker I’d probably throw out a “Dude, wtf is wrong with you?”, but I’m not very good at keeping things appropriate in reaction to someone else’s inappropriate actions.

    9. Busytrap*

      This may have been said already elsewhere, but I’m also disappointed in the office manager for laughing along with the rest of the group. I hope it was shocked laughter, but geez. Where were the adults in that conversation? It shouldn’t fall to the poor woman whose body is being talked about to have to say something to the creeper! Whether the stocking were inappropriate for her office or not (and I”m in full support of them!) it’s still a disgusting comment and the guy should have been reprimanded. I’m pocketing these scripts in the off-chance this happens in the future to someone when I’m around.

  4. Different day, different name*

    In regards to the stockings, I am picturing someone telling my septuagenarian ex – boss that her black fishnet hose was “Sexy”. She wore them daily purely for the economical value; the sturdiness of the material meant they could be washed frequently did not have to be replaced as often as regular nylons.

    This was in Japan, where any almost any stocking was better being bare – legged (she enforced a fairly conservative dress code for her teachers) and fishnets were apparently not the marginalized item they appear to be in the States.

    Even if they were, considering it was her business and she signed off on the checks and visa paperwork, I don’t think anyone ever dared mention it.

    Take heart OP1, she would have had this guy’s head on a pike.

    1. Not Karen*

      From what I have seen in geneal, stockings/knee-high socks/etc. are not fetishized in Japan like they are in the US. Where in the US they might be seen as “sexy,” in Japan they are “cute.”

      1. Kit*

        There’s also the matter of trousers on women being completely inappropriate in the office in Japan. This entire discussion is heavily dependent on regional and specific workplace culture, and since none of us work with the OP, none of us can say with any authority at all that they’d be inappropriate.

        In my office they’d be fine.

        1. Different day, different name*

          I just really feel bad for the OP.

          As for trousers, I saw plenty of women in the “office” wearing them. I taught at many different businesses to workers of all levels, and many women wore trousers without sanction.

          (To be fair school uniforms were a different story.)

          As for sexy vs. cute, and Japan, (Not Karen) my original point was about the utilitarian function of the stockings that there was no way, no how, that this boss could be considered either sexy or cute and she wore them simply for the economy.

          I guess what I didn’t explain, was the overwhelming MYOB factor at play. You simply do not comment. It doesn’t matter how you feel, how inappropriate you think something is, when it comes to something like this, you keep it to yourself.

          In my case, no matter how funny I or anyone thought my boss’s hosiery choice looked with her Spring cherry blossom suit, we kept our mouths shut.

          Apparently this guy felt entitled to speak his piece and shame this OP, just the same, he could have just kept his comment to himself. It was in no way productive, all it did was humiliate.

          Bottom line, if what “you” (the proverbial you, not anyone here) are about to say is intended only to hurt, or make someone the butt of a joke, what is the harm of keeping it to yourself? This comment has no standing in public with a stranger, much less the workplace.

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – I’ve always had to pay for pet care when I went on travel. If your boss is willing to expense it then go for it! Enjoy while you can. Use the extra money to pay down a loan, buy a plane ticket, et. This is a wonderful perk.

    1. LeRainDrop*

      Same here — the pet care reimbursement is a great benefit! True story: The first week-long trip I had to take for work, I asked my assistant if she thought the pet care could be a reimbursable expense. If anyone could have made it happen, it would have been her because she is magic. A couple weeks later, I get a call from a lady I knew in the finance department who asked me, “Do you have kids? I didn’t think you had any.” I say, “No, I don’t, why?” Well, my assistant had coded the expense as “back-up child care.” Haha, very creative, but no luck for me!

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Agreed. If your boss offering, take them up on it. You’re leaving money on the table if you don’t. Soon enough you’ll work for someone who scrutinizes and questions every little thing.

      I went to Frankfurt last month, and the hotel charged 5 Euros a day for high speed internet access. I used it and didn’t give it a second thought. My boss was there the next week, and stayed at the same hotel. I got grilled about it when I submitted my expense report: why did I have that charge on my bill when she didn’t? She used the free option and it was fine. You’d think I’d submitted a receipt for dinner with a $200 bottle of wine. We went back and forth and I told her when I was working in the evening I wanted reliable internet access, instead of snapping that I paid it because I didn’t want to use the hotel’s shitty, 1994 dial-up speed free option. Then she was asking questions about my charges for breakfast. Why was mine only 9 Euros when hers was 17? Why would I know that?

      Last year on another trip a co-worker and I had a glass of wine at the airport bar before our flight. We had appetizers and called it lunch, since we had not had lunch before leaving the office. We each ordered the “large” glass of wine, which was the equivalent of a about 2 glasses, and a cheaper option. It had been a very trying week so we wanted to unwind. The company policy states that you’re allowed to have up to 2 drinks with your meal, so we didn’t break any rules. Well, you wouldn’t believe the grilling I got. Why did I buy a $15 glass of wine? I explained it was a large glass, cheaper than 2 separate glasses. Was that all I’d had for lunch? No, I ordered an appetizer too. It went on and on. I finally got a little testy with her and said that I couldn’t believe I was getting interrogated over the one single receipt I’ve submitted for a couple glasses of wine in 11 years with the company. Plus all this stuff ends up getting charged to other departments that own the projects I work on, so it’s not even coming out of her budget, so I don’t know why she cares.

      In general I’m a pretty cheap date for my company and I never spend money frivolously. So it pisses me off when I’m questioned about incurring ordinary, routine expenses as if I’ve been misappropriating company funds.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Holy FSM, if they care that much, just institute a damned per diem and shut up!!

        Although I suppose if the point is to feel more in control, approving each receipt is more fun.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          It’s only my boss that’s like this, at least in my experience. Everyone else is pretty reasonable. My boss is a very frugal person though, and is judgy about how people spend their money. I mentioned something once about how the cleaning ladies had stashed my hairdryer away the day before, and I’d had to go looking for it that morning. I got the total side eye from her and she said, “You pay people to clean your house???” Yes. Yes I do. I’m at the point where I’m comfortable admitting that I really despise housework, and I really suck at it. I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford to pay someone to do it for me. If we fall on hard times and need to cut back, that will be the first thing to go. Until then, though, I’m going to enjoy not having to do it myself.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            We’ve had a cleaning person (once every two weeks, because any more seems extravagant) for years now. But I feel you on the frugality; I still compare price PER UNIT on everything, and get upset every time prices go up, even though I know it’s inevitable. In fact, I use that as a justification to buy in bulk when there’s a sale! Also, as I said in my other comment about work travel, I used to try to keep as much of the per diem as possible, but that was well over a decade ago. Now, I don’t mind paying a little out of my own pocket for a really nice dinner!

          2. Observer*

            Your boss sounds like a piece of work. Someone should point out to her that this level of micromanaging is actually wasting a lot more money than the amounts she’s complaining about. But, wow!

          3. BSharp*

            Having been a cleaning lady, I am 100% in favor of people hiring cleaning ladies (and gents). Obviously treat them well, tip when you can, and thank them profusely, but I wish it was a service one could use and have no social shame. They do a great service that allows you to do Other Things, and I think that is 100% valid and important for all parties.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              I try to be as considerate of them as I can. I normally pick up before they get there — have my daughter pick up her room, get the clothes and toys off the floor, make sure there aren’t dirty dishes stacked on the counters, try and get the beauty supplies on the bathroom counter under control, and so on. When I’m not able to do that (and that’s maybe 2-3 times a year) I leave note apologizing for the house being messy. My husband rolls his eyes, but I always point out to him that they’re not indentured servants, hired to pick up all the crap that we strew behind us as we go along, but professionals hired to do the things I really hate to do, like clean the bathrooms, vacuum, mop the floors, and so on. If I leave junk all over the place that they have to deal with before they can start doing their actual work, that’s pretty inconsiderate.

              At Christmas I always include them on my goodie list when I’m doing my baking, and leave them a care package, with a card thanking them for doing such a good job keeping our home looking so nice. I hope that lets them know that I really do appreciate everything they do for us, and don’t take them for granted.

            2. TootsNYC*

              plus it provides income for other people! (income that doesn’t get siphoned off by the shareholders before it goes to the people working)

              Spread that money around!

          4. Elizabeth West*

            She sounds like one of those miserly people who thinks they walk on water because they’re so frugal. I can’t stand that holier-than-thou crap.

            I would KILL to be able to have someone to clean my house. I feel like all I ever do on weekends is chores.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              It’s not an illusion. We are actually spending the bulk of our spare time doing chores. I don’t see an end in sight.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        It seems that companies get like this when they’re in financial trouble, or sales or down or something. My BF travels all the time for work and has noticed this pattern. Sales are down right now at his current workplace, actually, and they were scrutinizing his flight was $60 more than his bosses. He pointed out that his boss’s cheaper flight was keeping him in that town and out of the office for half a day longer due to the extra long layovers.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          My company’s travel system does a version of this. If you don’t choose the cheapest airfare or hotel option, you have to provide a reason for “declining” the least expensive option. For my Frankfurt trip, there was an option almost $1000 less, going through Reykjavik, Iceland of all places, but the layover was only 45 minutes. One tiny delay or any weather issues at all and you’re screwed. So I booked a more expensive flight, but then had to explain why.

          1. Observer*

            That is different than the hassle over a glass of wine and a $5 internet fee. I think it’s not unreasonable, as long as the process is reasonable.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              Yeah, I don’t have a problem with doing that. I’m more annoyed that it’s even necessary at all, because I always try to keep my expenses under control and don’t choose more expensive options unless there’s a good reason to do so. But I know not everyone does that, some because they don’t pay attention, and probably some because they want to see how far they can push it. So yeah, I know it’s not unreasonable to keep tabs on people in that way, just wish it wasn’t necessary.

    3. KR*

      I agree that she should take it, but she should also ask the supervisor to put it in writing somehow in case someone catches it later on and says it’s not acceptable and tries to make her pay it back. That way it’s in writing that her supervisor OK’d it at the time.

  6. lizb*

    Re #1 … I am a little worried for you that you’ll get a lot of negative reactions here! I love it when people dress to show off their personality, and I hope you keep going, and find a balance point that works for you and your office. A few years ago in a casual San Francisco law office where 99% of us wore jeans or yoga pants, a new hire came in who was a high femme and wore glitter, tutus, heels, dresses, the works. After about a week of adjusting, we all got used to it; and her clothes, while beautiful and unique, were not the most important thing about her and we all went about our business professionally.

    Really, if this is the first negative comment you’ve had about your outfits in a year and a half, I think they’re probably fine. One note, though — the stockings together with the bright yellow shoes are definitely more borderline than they would be with a neutral shoe. If you’re worried about them in the future, try making them the only point of interest in the outfit. Also remember the first part of Alison’s response – that guy was an ass and it definitely wasn’t okay for him to say that. If it happens again, you should say something, either directly to him or to someone else.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      One note, though — the stockings together with the bright yellow shoes are definitely more borderline than they would be with a neutral shoe.

      This is such a good tip. I usually wear a black shoe when wearing patterned stockings/tights precisely for that reason. The stockings themselves will probably draw people’s eyes on their own – adding statement shoes is definitely erring on the side of too much. It’s kind of like deciding between showing off a little leg or a little cleavage – you can do it, but not at the same time.

      1. Felix*

        +1 Was it Coco Chanel who said something like “before leaving the house, take off the last accessory you put on”?

        SUCH good advice. In my business-casual workplace (post-secondary education), your tights would only stand out for being a little nicer than what most people wear. However, the pop of color shoes plus the tights would raise some eyebrows for being “too fashion-y.” There’s a fine line between being current and fashionable (good) and looking like you care more about style than work (bad). This is unfortunate, but definitely a factor in being a woman in the workplace.

        FWIW, I’d keep rocking those stockings, but pair them with a shoe in the same color.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Was it Coco Chanel who said something like “before leaving the house, take off the last accessory you put on”?

          Yup, that was her. And I agree with you – unless you work in fashion, entertainment, or something related, being too trendy can be a problem in the workplace. That doesn’t mean you can’t be fun and hip, but you just need to learn the right balance.

        2. Camellia*

          I notice the same thing about hair. The fashion magazines can be all about “the messy bun”, or “the decontructed braid” or whatever other styles look like they were created with a whisk, but if we wore our hair like that to our business office people would be all about the “did you forget to wash/comb/style/what the what is going on with your hair, woman?”

    2. Cordelia Longfellow*

      Hi OP! I work in an office that’s probably in the middle of the conservative-liberal spectrum, and I have two drawers full of tights because they are such a great way to change an outfit and add a little colour. Most of mine are just solid-coloured, ranging from navy and burgandy to bright teal and mustard yellow, and I’ve got some wonderful tattoo stockings from Etsy. I do have a couple of pairs like yours, but to be on the “safe” side at work I usually layer them with a solid color pair underneath – keep a neat visual flair without inviting stupid comments. I don’t think yours are way over the line, but some offices (and co-workers) perceive any knit/lace tights as racy.

      I also agree with lizb’s suggestion of pairing fancy tights with a more neutral shoe to make your outfit appear more work-appropriate. It’s a great trick to fit in fun wardrobe elements without drawing too much or unwanted attention. I do love your shoes though!

    3. AnotherTeacher*


      For me, the shoes make the stockings stand out. Otherwise, they seem okay with the skirt length and fit. They are very cute. If you were wearing lower heeled, similarly colored boots or shoes, the stockings would stand out less. It’s about balance.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup. I said it above, and I want to say it again here. I don’t think it’s the stockings– I think it’s the stockings with that shoe. Balance is so important.

        It’s hard to put your finger on fashion choices sometimes, so while I can’t explain it, I will say that if you were wearing a basic yellow dress, black patterned stockings and black shoes/boots, it would read as “cute”, while all black with those yellow heels reads more sexy. Heh. I sound like I’m from the 1890s– “Don’t draw attention to the ankle!”

        1. Doriana Gray*

          I sound like I’m from the 1890s– “Don’t draw attention to the ankle!”

          No, but this is true. I have a hot pink ’50s style dress that comes down to the knee and has a black lace trim along the bottom edge. The trim is in a floral pattern, so I went and bought black floral lace stockings to go with them. I of course pair them with black t-strap 3 in heels and wear this ensemble to work and get nothing but compliments from even the most conservative people who work there. Interestingly enough, the compliments are always on the dress because of the bold color (and how nice it looks next to my caramel skin tone) – people barely notice the stockings until I point them out. They blend in with the shoes and the bottom of my dress.

        2. Not me*

          Haha, but you’re right. I’ve had tights like that and shoes do make a huge difference in how it comes across.

      2. Diplomat*

        Agree. I wear patterned stockings a lot, as does a the highest ranking officer in my directorate. I agree the trick is to make them the one “fun” element of the outfit, as others have said. Patterned stockings with a neutral pump (I am a big fan of gray instead of black) and a knee-length sheath and blazer/cardigan reads very differently from a shorter pencil skirt, bold blouse, colorful pumps, and patterned stockings. My general threshold is “Would I want my Assistant Secretary/Ambassador to see me in this?” Sub CEO/Director/whatevs and use that as your threshold.

    4. OP #1*

      Thank you all for the replies! It’s defiantly given me something more to think about. So I’ll steer clear of the colors from now on. But I never even thought about the shoe/stocking combination. What I think I’ll do now is be careful about using more neutral shoes with these thighs. And then also try and watch more what other women in my office wear for a better idea.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Just remember, when someone says something nasty about you, it doesn’t reflect on you at all, it reflects poorly on them. Even if you make a poor choice (which I do NOT think you did in this case), only an ass would draw attention to it, and IMO being an ass always looks worse than any honest mistake.

      2. Not me*

        I wouldn’t worry about steering clear of colors. Color is good! Just think about the combination of things that make a strong impression. I don’t think you have anything to be hugely concerned about; most of what happened was the fault of the visiting 12-year-old in disguise as an adult and his buddies, not you.

        Also, we all have to learn these things somehow. I guarantee everyone around you had some kind of professional dressing misfire when they started out. Probably more noticeable than tights and high heels.

        Personally, I worked with a group that was really relaxed about the dress code, and I didn’t realize the rest of the company wasn’t like this. For a really long time. I am still working on buying new clothes. :-)

      3. AnotherHRPro*

        OP – I think watching what other women wear is the absolute best advice – especially women who are in similar jobs and/or jobs to which you wish to advance. Everyone on here will have various opinions of your tights and shoes, but what really matters is (a) what you like and (b) what is an acceptable norm for your work environment. I work in a fairly conservative environment that is starting to be more flexible. I will occasionally see a few people wear similar stockings and shoes but they tend to be either more junior or in roles like marketing. At my level and higher, it would be very odd to see someone dress like this. That does not mean it is unprofessional, but it would be noticeable.

        Rightly or wrongly, women at work tend to get more feedback and attention for their attire than men do. The best advice I have for women is that you don’t want people to walk away from your business conversation thinking about your clothes, accessories, hair, makeup, etc. You want them to walk away thinking about your ideas, work, contribution, smarts, etc.

  7. JS*

    #5… 99% sure those are Disneyland tickets. I know because I also work for the mouse too in a corporate capacity. Any comp tickets are given to the employees to give out for free, they do not have value attached to them and are not the same as regular passes (they say so on the tickets). In fact they are for the employee’s personal use to give out to friends, family, etc and do not count towards our $500 limit of gift giving. I understand why your employer would be skeptical but I’m glad you were at least able to keep 2 of them.

    1. hbc*

      They don’t have value in the sense that you can’t sell them back, but if I can use them to get in someplace for free that would usually cost me $125, they inherently have value. They probably are seen as worthless if you work for Disney since you’ve got fat stacks of them, but if they truly did not have value, why would OP want them and why would you give them out?

      1. JS*

        I suppose it all depends on the company’s intreptation of “value”. Value is subjective and is subject to change. Like I said before they aren’t the same tickets no matter if they can get you into the same place you would inherently need to pay for otherwise. Just saying in this case you could argue that these tickets aren’t the same and have no face-value it really doesn’t seem like the HR person knows what they are doing since they didn’t even follow up.

    2. Roscoe*

      Yeah, not exactly the same. Its like if you work for an alcohol distributor. You may get plenty of free booze, so it has no inherent value to you, however that doesn’t mean there isn’t value there. Even if someone couldn’t return it, it still is worth whatever the retail price for it is.

      1. JS*

        Not really because in that situation the free booze is the same booze as the paid booze, you are just giving it away for free. The paid tickets are not the same as the comp tickets they are subject to different rules.

    3. Lizketeer*

      Fellow corporate mouseketeer here

      Even though the tickets have no physical value tied to them and can’t be sold/bridged, they do have an inherent value to the company, which is why they are not subject to block out dates like other types of media, and I think that’s the key difference.

      If I remember from the original discussion, there was talk about it being allowed if the cast accompanied the guest into the park rather than giving them tickets. Depending on how entry happened, a different media type would be used, thus changing the value as assigned by the company.

      1. JS*

        Well the cast member allowing them into the park would be the same since you are still given a physical ticket. Also a bit inconvenient because I think you need the cast memeber to park hop. (Although I know a lot of corp people who go let clients in and then leave). Ive never had to use the comp ticket myself since we just get in but I don’t think they are ever given a “regular” ticket since the comp paper has the scanner on it which further differentiates what kind of ticket it is. I have also seen sales gift regular tickets before which I would understand would be under the gift limit but they aren’t subject to that limit with their comp tickets.

        1. Lizketeer*

          I think the legal difference (outside of Disney) is in providing an experience rather than a product if a CM were to just let the individual in.

          My experience is at World rather than Land, and I know our system is slightly different.
          At WDW, the CM only has to be there at the initial entry if using guest passes – from there the guest is allowed to park hop on their own (maybe this is different at DLR?). The issue would then be getting the passes back to the CM at the end of the day.

          But in the end, the receiving company placed a value on the tickets and that’s what the individual has to follow.

          1. JS*

            Oh that does sound different. I just got back from Disneyland and my friends needed to be with me to park hop and I had to show my company ID too. Sounds like it’s more strict at Disneyland. They give you physical tickets and they all say the cast members name and one of those tickets is marked CM so you have to be the one to keep it to get everyone else in and you have to be the one to use it since they compare it with the ID.

            I agree it’s subjective for the company but I’ve seen a lot of people from sales gift comp tickets and get around their rules with the no value loop hole and no retail face value of the ticket.

    4. themmases*

      I’m pretty sure this issue was already discussed in the comments to the original question. The cost to the company to give out tickets to their own park doesn’t determine their value from the perspective of an ethics policy– the tickets’ retail value does.

      Policies regarding gifts and bribery are about avoiding not only impropriety but the appearance of impropriety. The dollar cost to the giver isn’t really relevant here; the value to the recipient is.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        In some arenas the appearance of impropriety is on the same level as an actual act of impropriety. In these settings, OP never would have even been able to accept the tickets.
        Overall, I think that OP found a good solution for her predicament and she gathered some good will from others in the process. Nicely done, OP.

      2. JS*

        But the comp ticket has no retail value. I agree it’s all about perspective but the choice to equate something with value to something with no value doesn’t make sense. It’s a grey area Disney uses for loop holes of exactly this purpose. I work with sales so I know how the sales people find ways to gift tickets. I bet OP could have fought it based on this, I’ve seen it done before.

  8. Student*

    OP #1 – I find it helpful to consider whether clothing is distracting from my objective or not.

    There are some fields, like sales or a handful of other customer-facing roles, where it’s sometimes considered advantageous or normal to wear clothing that draws attention to a person’s (let’s face it – nearly always a woman’s) figure or body parts. Many “creative” fields fall into this category because it’s a form of peacock-style flaunting yourself to sell your personality and your story.

    In most fields, though, it’s inappropriate if your clothing draws attention away from your words or actions. These stockings draw a lot of attention to your legs due to the very busy pattern. This is the same reason that a lacy tank-top under a normal shirt is either modestly or very inappropriate in most jobs – the lace is drawing attention to one’s breasts because it’s a busy pattern against a plainer backdrop. You’ve already received a pretty clear message that in this specific workplace, your stockings are drawing attention away from your professional accomplishments, albeit delivered in a particularly cruel and juvenile way.

    1. lb*

      I find this reasoning extremely old-fashioned and sexist, frankly, as it is applied overwhelmingly against women. Most people who say this are really saying that we should wear colorless, shapeless sacks so that men don’t notice we have boobs. Humans are capable of doing two things at once and it’s infuriating that society treats men like children who can’t pay attention to adult conversation if they see a woman’s ankles. I would also argue that LW1 did not get a clear message that her clothes were undermining her professional accomplishments, since the jackass who made the comment was unknown to her and they had no professional relationship. He was just an ass.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        You may not like it, but it is pragmatic.
        I also think you are promoting a false dichotomy – that you are either sexy or wearing a shapeless sack. That’s pure bull. You can dress nicely without going too far in either direction.
        LW 1 absolutely got a message – and it wasn’t about her accomplishments! That’s the problem. Strangers will absolutely judge you by your appearance. Women already have a problem with being judged less competent than a man. There’s no need to make it worse. That, coupled with youth, are an even bigger problem.
        Like it or not, we get judged by our dress.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Norms aren’t going to change unless we do something to force it! I’m sure the first ladies who wore pants in the office got judged by their appearances too. This attitude is absolute poppycock.

          1. Fifi Ocrburg*

            And men who wear super tight T-shirts as a “gun show” usually do hear about it from other workers–usually men.

        2. Katniss*

          At some point it becomes unreasonable and meek to just follow those rules just because some men men can’t get over objectifying women. Those men need to change, not be catered to.

      2. Graciosa*

        I don’t think women are required to wear colorless (transparent?!?) shapeless sacks, and men can also dress inappropriately for work. I have personally spoken to male members of my team about dress issues more than to the female ones – I don’t think this is restricted to either gender.

        However, there is is a fundamental point at the core of this which is whether or not the image you are presenting at work is *effective* in accomplishing what you want it to.

        If the message you want to present is that of a trend setting fashionista, your dress and other aspects of your style (hair, makeup, accessories) should reflect that.

        If the message you want to present is that of a serious and accomplished professional, your dress and other aspects of your style should reflect that.

        A lot of the differences are subtler than you think, but they are very, very real in terms of having an impact.

        I absolutely dress according to my calendar for the day. What I would wear to command the attention of a large audience is not the same thing I would wear to have a 1:1 with an employee who may need support during a difficult time.

        I think people forget the difference between expecting other people to behave appropriately in the work place (the “Sexy stockings” guy was an ass) and taking responsibility for your own choices in managing your career.

        The OP should absolutely be free to dress as she pleases without being subjected to those remarks.

        But the caveat is that the OP needs to own her choices. I absolutely know women who have been told that their manner of dress was holding them back from promotion – and they were the lucky ones. The unlucky ones are never told, which I’m afraid is much more common.

        I have personally observed a young woman trying to present to a team of male executives while wearing a too-short skirt. The executives made no comment, and politely refrained from looking at her to avoid having anything misinterpreted – meaning that whatever point she intended to make was utterly lost. No harassment – but also not effective.

        The OP needs to take Alison’s advice about giving serious consideration to how successful women above her dress, and then make a decision.

        To be clear, I am not saying the OP needs to dress as they do. What I am saying is that the OP should pay enough attention to make an informed choice. I know people who have chosen to take what they regard as a principled stand about their image – they want to dress the way they want without regard to any resulting impact to their career (including the fact that higher ups are not willing to send them to represent the company in front of key stakeholders). That’s their choice, and I support it.

        But this stuff really is more important than most people realize, and the OP should take it seriously enough to figure out the rules of her company (including the ones that will never be spoken aloud) and make her own decision.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I have personally observed a young woman trying to present to a team of male executives while wearing a too-short skirt. The executives made no comment, and politely refrained from looking at her to avoid having anything misinterpreted – meaning that whatever point she intended to make was utterly lost. No harassment – but also not effective.

          That is still their problem, not hers. If they could only choose to not look at her at all (as opposed to, say, looking at her face instead of her legs?) and therefore couldn’t get anything out of her presentation… that is one hundred percent, literally, their problem. Saying that the executives’ failure to catch the point of her presentation is somehow a failure on her part for wearing a too-short skirt (??? oh no! women have legs! terrible! What, are we talking about the kind of miniskirt that could be a glorified belt?) is exactly the kind of attitude that holds women back.

          1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

            That’s a very nice sentiment to have, but it’s really not helpful. Those male executives had the attitude they had, and wearing a short skirt while presenting to them did nothing to change their attitude and only harmed the woman presenting.

            Unless you’re going to preface every interaction with people by making a speech about how your mind is what matters and how you have the right to wear whatever you want (which is true!!!), you’re not going to change people’s attitudes by just wearing whatever you want and not thinking about how you’re being perceived. This is reality.

            If you want to work at changing how people perceive others have at it, but I think it’s unfair to this OP and to others to just tell her to wear whatever she wants and screw everyone who thinks it’s not appropriate. Because the people thinking it’s not appropriate may be in a position to negatively impact her career.

            FWIW I’m a late 20s female attorney in the Bay Area and I don’t think these tights are appropriate to wear to work. Maybe, maybe ok with knee-high boots and a knee-length skirt. But otherwise tights should be either 100% opaque or 100% sheer, anything else looks like fishnets and isn’t office appropriate.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      I don’t think the tights are inappropriate at all and this guy was being an ass, I don’t think for one moment think he was trying to offer some reasonable and constructive feedback about the OPs dress or appearance. He objectified and sexualised her in front of a crowd for a cheap laugh. To me that’s more problematic than any dress code infringement.

      Women are judged more harshly than men for what they ware but that’s not right and destracts from and undermines there place in the workforce, surely its time for these out dated attitudes to die off?

      1. misspiggy*

        But that’s where it gets complicated, because young women are also encouraged by fashion norms to dress in a way that draws attention to various parts of their body. Would a man wear ripped or see-through trousers? Unlikely, and certainly not to work.

        I think women have a lot of freedom to dress interestingly at work, and comments made by jerks should be dealt with harshly. However, one still has to be aware that the more you signal ‘fashionable/sexy’, the less easy your path upwards may be in many fields. I used to wear tights like that to work, but with hindsight, I wouldn’t.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Re: ripped pants. We have a new admin assistant in our dept. who wore pre-ripped jeans with a huge rip across the knee last Friday. You bring up a good point about this. A guy in an office most likely sees a pair of ripped jeans in his closet and says “hmmm, mowing jeans, not for work” while a woman may think, “I just bought these for $80, of course I can wear them to work on jeans Fridays.”

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah, he wasn’t be constructive.

        I have had to have the conversation with women a lot. I’m a rare woman manager and some of the men prefer it if I can have The Talk with their female employees, so I have. I’ve also had it with men. Actually, this year I’ve had it more often with men.

        1. Triangle Pose*

          What are the men wearing that is inappropriate?

          I’m so curious because I find that even when men wear shapeless, out of date or generally mis-matched and horrid clothing, no one gives it a second thought and would never mention it to them. (I just silently judge their terrible taste and lament the total double standard in that if I skipped putting makeup on that day I’d get a round of “are you sick?” from the same guys who look schlubby every single day…and then I chastise myself for not being more charitable)

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            I was wearing a shirt without a collar and was told that was to casual also I got told my flip flops were not appropriate for the office (never mind I had three broken toes at the time)

            1. Triangle Pose*

              Those both sound reasonable to me. With the broken toes, you’d still have to wear a boot on that foot and then a normal, business formal shoe on the other in my office. Flip flops or any shoe that snaps back on your foot would be a big NO in my office. I prefer it that way, but some places are less formal and people like that. As long as it’s reasonable and consistent, I don’t see an issue.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                I only mentioned the examples as you wondered what a man could be wearing that is inappropriate.

                The shirt was definitely reasonable comment and to casual, the flip flops not so much I had medical advice not to wear anything else.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            One was wearing a fishing vest over his shirt/tie. One was wearing a suit made of demin (colored denim, but still), one wasn’t wearing socks…

              1. Katie the Fed*

                You know, i didn’t even ask. I don’t mind if they do it when we’re in the privacy of our cubicles, but it shouldn’t go outside of that.

            1. Triangle Pose*

              “colored denim, but still” A denim suit! Circa Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, best matching couple outfit ever.

              For the fishing vest, senior men in my office often wear a fleece vest over their collared shirts, it’s very odd and too informal for our environment. Especially when we all have offices and control the temp individually…

      3. Observer*

        I don’t think for one moment think he was trying to offer some reasonable and constructive feedback about the OPs dress or appearance. He objectified and sexualised her in front of a crowd for a cheap laugh. To me that’s more problematic than any dress code infringement.

        Exactly this.

    3. Observer*

      ou’ve already received a pretty clear message that in this specific workplace, your stockings are drawing attention away from your professional accomplishments,

      I disagree with that. The comment was so out of line and inappropriate that it’s hard to take it seriously as a measure of the norms in that workplace. Unless it’s also a measure of the general inappropriateness in that place. I actually don’t think those stockings, especially paired with those bright shoes, is workplace appropriate for most places. But the comment was faaar more out of line. Yes, it could be that he’s just saying what everyone thinks, but it could be he’s just a jerk with no filter and a skewed view of women and the workplace.

    4. Zillah*

      This is the same reason that a lacy tank-top under a normal shirt is either modestly or very inappropriate in most jobs – the lace is drawing attention to one’s breasts because it’s a busy pattern against a plainer backdrop.

      I think a lot of women have missed this memo, so I want to thank you for drawing our attention to it. It’s really very appreciated.

      1. A Teacher*

        So if someone stares at your chest (and I guarantee its not because you’re wearing a little lace edge versus a non lace edge) the woman is “Sending a message” really? I guess I just don’t understand that.

        1. Marcela*

          +1. I don’t like lace and I usually wear solid colors, no contrast at all with anything else but my skin, and yeah, some people look at my chest. Probably I will have to talk to my boobs so they can stop sending messages or atracting attention.

        2. Zillah*

          I agree. Sorry – I think my sarcasm didn’t come across quite as well as I would have hoped.

      2. MsChandandlerBong*

        Sorry, but that statement is completely ridiculous. As a large-chested woman, I *have* to wear camisoles and tanks to hide my cleavage. Manufacturers typically add lace or some kind of trim to make them more feminine. I’m literally trying to hide my breasts, not draw attention to them. It’s totally not my problem, or anyone else’s, if someone else can’t manage to be professional because of a little lace.

      3. Navy Vet*

        I was wearing a turtleneck a couple of weeks ago and had a guy at work staring at my chest. Was the turtleneck tight on my breasts? Yes it was, but there is literally nothing I can do about that situation. (Other than a breast reduction or a baggy shapeless sack of a top) Also, the turtleneck was plain navy blue.

        It literally does not matter what you are wearing. If you are well endowed (or even if you are not) men will eye bang your boobs. every. time. No matter how well you cover them up. So, I’m not certain why lace would be what draws the eye.

        I really think it’s a lack of manners and respect for women that draws the eye.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          So true! And what’s with all this talk about lace being so racey anyway, was my grandmother trying to send a message with her lacey doilies she had all over the house?

        1. Zillah*

          Too dry, apparently! I’m glad you caught the sarcasm, though. :)

          (To clarify: I have many lace camis, and I think that the comment about lace camis being inappropriate in most workplaces is absolutely absurd.)

          1. Navy Vet*

            I caught your sarcasm…lol. But I’m from New England. We are fluent in sarcasm. I responding to the comment that received your sarcasm. ;)

    5. Tiffin*

      “You’ve already received a pretty clear message that in this specific workplace, your stockings are drawing attention away from your professional accomplishments, albeit delivered in a particularly cruel and juvenile way.”

      No, she’s received a pretty clear message that this one particular man does not know how to behave like a human being in public. One comment from an inappropriate jerk should not be taken as gospel.

    6. Mike C.*

      the lace is drawing attention to one’s breasts because it’s a busy pattern against a plainer backdrop

      This “drawing attention” thing is really a bit silly. If someone is going to objectify a woman, lace or funky patterns aren’t really needed. The problem lies with the jerk objectifying the woman, not the other way around.

      1. Banana Sam*

        Exactly. African American hair often reads as “distracting” as well. Should African American women get their hair relaxed in order to be taken seriously, or should societal expectations change?

        1. Observer*

          Ha! You think that’s a rhetorical question, but it’s actually an issue that black women apparently have to deal with.

          That does reinforce the point that this line of thinking really goes way too far.

    7. A Teacher*

      What? That’s like saying its someone’s fault for inappropriate comments thrown their way. No. Just no.

    8. Rusty Shackelford*

      This is the same reason that a lacy tank-top under a normal shirt is either modestly or very inappropriate in most jobs – the lace is drawing attention to one’s breasts because it’s a busy pattern against a plainer backdrop.

      Following this “logic,” any patterned top, whether or not it’s lace, would be inappropriate. Any bright-colored top would be inappropriate. Any top with a design along the neckline would be inappropriate.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Any neckline at all, because a polo neck emphasises the breasts by having no distractions around them

    9. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This is the same reason that a lacy tank-top under a normal shirt is either modestly or very inappropriate in most jobs – the lace is drawing attention to one’s breasts because it’s a busy pattern against a plainer backdrop.

      Ahahaha only that isn’t what happens at all! I use lacy camisoles/bandeaux constantly to nudge my neckline higher than the shirt/dress/whatever over top naturally sits, because I’ve got a hell of a prow and don’t need anyone asking if they should insert or swipe their card (and yes, I’ve heard that). They definitely make things more modest, not the other way ’round. And yes, they’re contrasting.

      1. Chameleon*

        “asking if they should insert or swipe their card”

        Oh wow. That is disgusting. Like, one of the most disgusting things I have heard.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Right? Fortunately, it was in a context where I didn’t have to behave, so my response was exactly as explicit and detailed as I felt it should be.

    1. LeRainDrop*

      Same here. I’m glad things worked out so nicely, probably even better than originally because you shared the good fortune and probably made your co-worker feel really appreciated, as well!

    2. Lindsey*

      #5- I would have asked the compliance officer before gifting to a co-worker, just to be safe.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        We re-gift items to other coworkers that are over our limit at my company all the time, so I wouldn’t have even thought twice about doing that.

    3. TootsNYC*

      agree. The only thing I’d say is that, were it me, I’d be contacting the compliance officer BEFORE I made the offer to the coworker.

      Just because I’m risk averse.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yes. You need to be able to sing, of course, since we usually provide singing llama-grams, and you’ll need your own llama suit. We go to shut-ins and nursing homes, and after singing a message, we usually take time to sit and listen. But there is always more need than llamas, so we always have room for more. Well, we’ll have room for more, once we get that grant.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Oh darn you mean they’re not real singing llamas? That’s disappointing.

  9. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 If your boss says expense pet care then go for it, just watch out of any tax implications, I don’t know for sure but it might be taxable as a benefit in kind

  10. PNWAnon*

    For freelance/contract work, if you’re filling out an online application where the workplace wants you to list all of your employment history, should you list everything individually or keep all of your freelance/contract work as one category?

    1. katamia*

      I’ve always put them under one heading since I’m technically self-employed, and there’s never been a problem. But for all I know I could have been doing it wrong.

  11. Dan*


    If I had $400/wk expenses when I traveled, my boss and I would have frequent conversations about those expenses. Period. We’d stop having those conversations if reimbursements showed up in my bank account.

    BTW, why would you turn down a benefit? My employer offers a 10% 401k match and 4 weeks pto, am I supposed to turn that down because it’s more than other places offer? Fwiw, I accepted the job because those are both part of the package.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Right? We now show up on a report if we upgrade to Business Select on trips. Nevermind that on all my jobs, travel is pass through to the client (not trying to rip off our clients either, but my when I have uncertain meeting dates, it makes more sense.)

    2. LW2*

      Thank you for the responses. The reason I haven’t taken advantage of it is that not everyone in the company would get the same offer. My boss is fantastic and he has ‘the power’ to approve something like this and make it stick even if Accounting objects. My concern (which I didn’t state in my email) is that it may come across as not fair. I’m at the show now and have been putting in 16-18 hour days so it does feel justifiable in that regard.

  12. This is She*

    OP#1 – I work in a very conservative field, and dress accordingly, but I have and wear patterned black stockings all the time — in fact, I think I have the same ones you are wearing in the pic! :)
    BUT — like all things fashion (dress codes/work attire or personal walking-around-in-the-world outfits) it’s *how* you wear it. Interesting wardrobe components should be paired with less interesting ones so that you don’t commit overkill. For example (please forgive me, sorry) the brightly-coloured pointed shoe is already very eye-catching, so patterned stockings on top of that are… a bit much? (Again, sorry – it’s only because you asked!)
    Also, in the photo (and I may have it wrong, hard to be sure) you seem to have on a skirt that comes a bit above the knee; I wear patterned stockings with a pencil skirt that ends well below the knee, and with a black shoe with a low heel, and let the texture/design in the hosiery create a discreet bit of visual interest.

    I don’t think your stockings themselves are at all scandalous, and the shoes are cute (with plainer hosiery, or maybe ankle pants) and skirts slightly above the knee are appropriate almost anywhere — all good components here, in and of themselves, but it may be the combo that has people going “whoa!”

    It’s like they say about makeup — if you’re doing a smoky eye, keep everything else on your face neutral; or if you’re going to rock bright lipstick, then keep the eye makeup discreet. Same concept should apply here. Patterned stocking WITH bright shoes WITH a slightly shorter skirt may just be too much of a statement. At least for the office.

    Anyway, I truly hope I haven’t caused offence, you seem very fashion-forward and that’s awesome. Thanks for the opportunity to channel my inner Stacey and Clinton. :)

    (And yes, like everyone agrees, your coworker needs to be told that “sexy” is not a work-appropriate observation under ANY circumstances. I hope someone reminds him of that officially.)

    1. This is She*

      Haha! I see that Myrin made the same parallel about makeup above — wish I’d seen if before I posted. :)

    2. eemmzz*

      Although I am not even slightly fashionable I agree, especially on the skirt length. A skirt below the knee or maybe a dress would make these tights ok but teamed with the bright shoe and shorter skirt to me it feels inappropriate.

      1. Lady Kelvin*

        Me too. In general I feel skirts with hem lines more than a few inches above the knee are inappropriate for work. There are just so many logistical problems with short skirts, like how to sit at a desk, how to bend over without giving people a show, etc. When the skirt starts get that short you venture into miniskirt territory, which is not appropriate for the office.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I think this is very good advice.

      I don’t agree with advice that tells women to look around the office and only dress in a way that fits in with the rest of the office. That’s probably wise, I’m sure, but eh, screw ’em all, if you want to be fashionable in the midst of a bunch of hedge betters, be fashionable.

      I will add this advice: if you are going to push the norms of fashion worn in your office, please be a serious worker at the same time. Don’t be the flitty new assistant who may or may not be reliable or accurate and also push the fashion norms. If you’re not that good at your job, best to not stand out as someone who spends a lot of time on her wardrobe at the same time.

      If you’re good at your job and people know it? Screw ’em. Wear what you want and make ’em all jealous they don’t have your eye for fashion. :-)

      the middle aged manager who wears black most of the time because it’s easy, but has some amazing, brilliantly colored jackets to try to make up for it, some with sparkly jewel like things

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I don’t agree with advice that tells women to look around the office and only dress in a way that fits in with the rest of the office.

        Eh…I don’t agree with it for someone who’s mid-career or above, but when you’re an early career/entry level worker, being mindful of office cultural norms and slightly tailoring your presentation to fit the environment is probably your best bet. You still haven’t fully created your work identity at that point, so the only data point some people will have of you is, “Oh, that’s Jane who dresses like a Gossip Girl character,” as opposed to, “That’s Jane who is really great at drafting judgments and filing motions on time.” You don’t want to inadvertently halt your own career progression over a pair of tights – it’s just not worth it. I’m a fashion boundary pusher at work, but for the first year at my company, I wore a lot of really neutral pieces until I a) got the lay of the land and figured out which spaces within the company I could get away with being myself and b) gained enough of a reputation as being smart, competent, and capable at what I was doing.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Your advice is likely wiser than my advice.

          STILL: screw ’em.


          Honestly, I got where I am by being ridiculously stubborn about not fitting in and pushing, even creating, the boundaries.

          If you write the check though, gotta be able to cash it.

          (I started my lowly assistant job at Wakeen’s dressing in the old 1987 Banana Republic, back when it was cool before Gap bought them, and the old biddies would snipe at me, asking me if I was about to go on Safari. And …. screw ’em. :p)

          1. Doriana Gray*

            LOL, I like your philosophy – it’s one I personally adhere to every day. But we’ve kind of earned the right to say it at this point. :)

            1. Hellanon*

              I also think the idea of dressing to meet cultural norms in your office is to make the point that you get them – in other words, you’re signaling your ability to pick them up in the first place & work within them in the second. That’s part of the whole wardrobe-norms policing – although not all of it, by any means.

              1. Data Lady*

                Precisely. Sometimes there are reasons why an employee may need to overtly signal that they “get it”. Someone who isn’t a clear cultural fit in other ways (e.g. they’re more introverted than their colleagues or have different political leanings) might get a lot of traction by being really norms-adhering in other ways.

          2. Tammy*

            Honestly, I got where I am by being ridiculously stubborn about not fitting in and pushing, even creating, the boundaries.

            +1,000,000. In my career I’ve played a stacked deck in terms of fitting in – I have almost always been the only woman on all-male technical teams, plus I check multiple boxes on the label “LGBTQ” – so there have always been reasons I can’t do anything about for people to judge me. And, indeed, some have over the years. However, I’ve compensated for that by being darned good at what I do, and by making an affirmative decision that I am, wholly and unabashedly, going to own all of who and what I am, and that those that don’t like it can go and not like it someplace else away from me. Along the way, I’ve found a way to take the parts of who I am that people would judge as boundary-crossing and to weave them into a compelling story that really works for me. As a result, in my current company, I’ve been promoted from individual contributor to team lead to manager, and I have a great reputation among my company’s leadership.

            Sometimes fitting in with the norms and keeping a low profile is the right decision. But I absolutely don’t agree that “never rock the boat” is correct advice in all, or even most, situations. Sometimes those boats just need rocking.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              Such an interesting comment!

              I love this:

              Along the way, I’ve found a way to take the parts of who I am that people would judge as boundary-crossing and to weave them into a compelling story that really works for me.

              My boundary crossing was way less than yours, but I came of age when “The Women’s Dress for Success Book” was the guidebook for women in the workplace and my response was “oh HELL no”.

              It’ll be fun to link to that for you youngsters who don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ll post a link as a reply to this.

                1. fposte*

                  @Elizabeth–there was a joke in Lily Tomlin’s epic show about wearing a blouse with something “sort of like a tie and sort of like a ruffle and doesn’t threaten anyone, because you don’t look good in it.”

                2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


                  Bless me, I had a ton of them. I worked in insurance for 5 years before I came to Wakeen’s.

                  My Banana Republic Safari rebellion comes into sharper focus, doesn’t it? When you realize I’d just dumpstered 10,000 bow tie blouses!

      2. Oryx*

        ooof, yeah we had that flighty receptionist who was not very good at her job but loved to push fashion norms. It was unfair, but her wardrobe only seemed to make her frequent mistakes seem even more annoying and egregious.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Yes, good advice. Kind of like – you can do a short skirt or tall boots, but you can’t really do both.

    5. april ludgate*

      I feel like the fit of the skirt could also make a difference. I’d wear that type of tights with a looser a-line type of skirt, but not with a tighter fitting pencil skirt.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Yeah, I wear these types of tights with fit and flare dresses. The overall look reads cute as opposed to temptress.

    6. OP #1*

      Just wanted to say thank you for all the advice. You’ve given no offense, that’s why I wrote in, to get completely unbiased guidance. I defiantly realize I need to be a little more careful now what shoes I pair with these tights, something I wouldn’t have realized on my own.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            I didn’t mean any offence, the phrase made laugh a little that was all, and people have made jokes about typos I’ve made here before.

            1. Busytrap*

              Agreed! It implies sass and personality while she falls in line with the [stupid] rules. :) Fabulous typo.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Some of the coolest people I know are defiantly careful. (They pick their battles well and they win the battles they pick.)

  13. Former Computer Professional*

    #2 The first time I had to travel for work, I felt weird about getting reimbursed for food. It sounds silly and naive now, but then, all I could think was, “Well, I’d eat if I were home and working there, right?”

    A co-worker explained it thus: The idea is to make it up to you for being dragged away from home. When you’re home, you have more of a choice of what you’re doing. Even if you’re one of those people who eats in restaurants every night, that’s still -your choice-. When you travel for work, you typically lose a lot of options. In my case, work would also cover things like the cost of an Internet connection in the hotel, so you could check email and do work remotely — you were away, but you were still technically *working*. So they covered it.

    I don’t think any of us ever thought to ask for pet boarding to be covered, but I bet they would have at least considered it. Having it offered is a really great thing.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      The first time I had to travel for work…I got the date wrong and missed my flight. I was lucky enough to get on standby pretty quickly, though. I think that was the first time I took a flight by myself, too.

      And for the first few years I never ate out; I’d find a supermarket or even a convenience store and buy stuff in bulk that I could keep in my room (meaning mostly nonperishable except for the next meal), so that I could “save” the per diem. Then, years later, not only was I less hard up, but I finally realized that we were expected to grab food from takeout places, and maybe have a decent dinner out. I started supplementing the per diem with my own money, and finding really nice places to try that I might not pay for if it was all my money.

      Now, most of my trips, personal or business, center around where I’m going to eat. :-9

      1. Tiffin*

        I think that’s awesome! I wish we got a per diem for travel. I just submit all of my expenses at the end. That means that I never get a drink with dinner (a glass of wine would likely be OK, but I’m afraid to push it) and I never go to any place beyond mid level unless I decide to pay for the whole thing out of pocket. I’ve asked for more specific guidelines because I suspect I could go to nicer places than I do (within reason), but I all I get is vague hand-waving.

        1. Former Computer Professional*

          My employer did a reimbursement when I first started traveling for work. If we bought alcohol, they simply deducted the cost from the receipt we presented. The only thing they told us was “We don’t pay for alcohol.” They didn’t care if we did it on our own.

          After a while they realized that dealing with the receipts/reimbursements was a time-consuming headache and switched to per diem. That way, they didn’t have to play Booze Police. It was also easier when going to conferences. If you’ve ever been to dinner with 15 other people and tried to ask for separate checks – even when you ask up front – you will often encounter, “Yeah, we don’t do that.”

  14. Noah*

    #2 – Take the benefit. It was freely offered and you should take advantage of it. I’m lucky enough that the same house cleaning service I use every week can take care of my pets while I’m gone. She stops by twice a day and makes sure they are doing ok. Generally in the evening she’ll bring the kids along and they will play. I wish my company would reimburse the costs associated with that. I guess in a way they do since we receive a daily travel stipend and I rarely use it all for food.

  15. bibliophile*

    I work in a design industry and have frequently worn patterned tights to work. I’ve received plenty of compliments and never had anyone tell me it’s inappropriate. At my firm we had a older female colleague who frequently worn brightly colored tights, so our office is definitely open to a little creative expression.

  16. Kelly L.*

    FWIW, at my job, I went ahead and asked about weird tights because I really like them. I got approved for solid bright colors, but not for fishnet, and I expanded that in my head to any kind of crochet or lace or other openwork.

  17. Katie the Fed*

    # 1 –

    Your coworker is gross and out of line. When I was very new to the work world I had a male coworker loudly tell me my “headlights” were on one day. I didn’t know what he meant and he pointed to my nipples. I was MORTIFIED. Now with the benefit of 12 years of work experience under my belt, I know the right response from me was “wow, did you really just say that? How completely inappropriate. Please don’t talk about my body.”

    So please know that he was out of line, without question. However….those really aren’t work-appropriate stockings. They’re definitely of a more sexy variety, and I don’t think they’d fly in an office. Sorry. They’re super cute for going out though! Just know that regardless of those stockings, he was out of line.

    1. Tiffin*

      “I don’t think they’d fly in an office.”

      I don’t think you can generalize like that. They’d fly in any office I’ve worked in, and I have friends who wear stockings like that to work with no problem as well.

      This is why I really think the best answer is to talk to someone who knows the culture in that particular office well. Things can vary so much from office to office.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Maybe not in your office, Katie, but I don’t see a problem with them.

      You’re 120% right about the comments, and WOW I can’t believe your coworker said that. I don’t think I’ve heard that one since middle school.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I remember the headlights comment. I think half the thing with that is the recipient didn’t know what it meant. So it’s two levels of embarrassment, the remark itself and the fact that the recipient did not know the meaning.
      I thought that had phased out decades ago, but I guess not. I do know that when I heard it said there was NO support for a woman who complained about the remark. “Oh boys will be boys.” To me that meant, “gloves off”. If the boss was not going to do anything, then that meant I could reply in whatever way I wanted because the boss did not care. Once I decided that I would handle things myself, the problem kind of went away.

  18. Myrin*

    By the way, I wanted to say thank you OP 1 for sending a picture – for one, I think it’s really exciting to get pictures here, and secondly, it doesn’t leave the commentariat guessing (as we’re wont to do) about what exactly you’re talking about and keeps the wild imaginations at bay!

  19. NJ Anon*

    #3 Re: Scandal. A former nonprofit head was forced to resign. Publicly she “retired” suddenly. Most people outside the agency figured out “something” happened. She went into a completely different field where she was unknown. So, in a sense, she recovered but no longer doing her “life’s work.”

    1. OP3*

      I think that makes it much easier. To clarify a little, she was the director of an animal shelter and bought a puppy from a breeder. That didn’t sit well with the animal community, and someone started a petition on It had over 1500 signatures and lots of nasty comments. The discussion carried over to FB, and the woman in question filed a lawsuit against two posters for threats made against her and her children. There was a lot of media coverage as well. She was apparently very well connected in the fundraising community, but my guess would be that most or all of those people have turned their backs on her. I just can’t imagine her having a chance at a job in this city for a very long time. Sure, she shouldn’t have bought a dog given her position, but that doesn’t mean she should be unemployed forever. And this was elevated to a really unfair level, IMO.

      1. Myrin*

        What is it with people threatening others and their families? I get being angry at someone for various types of behaviour (ranging from infuriating hypocrisy to actual crime) but it’s really not cool to threaten someone’s children!

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I don’t know – the animal rescue community can be…intense. You should see the paperwork involved to adopt a dog from some rescues – it’s about on par with adopting a human.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Not just the paperwork. The home visit, the references, and in my personal experience, the ATTITUDE. We tried to adopt a rescue and ended up buying a puppy because the rescues made the whole thing so difficult. Good job, jerks. :-/

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Y’all, we are getting way off-topic here, and I’m going to repeat my request at the top that we stick to the letters. Thank you. (And I’ve deleted some of the most off-topic ones since this comment thread is already quite long, and I consider everyone to have had fair warning by my request above!)

            2. Katie the Fed*

              I’m glad I got a rescue to give me my giant mutt. A lot of them wanted me to have a fenced yard, but I was in a condo. She’s the happiest, most spoiled dog that ever lived. She gets long walks thrice a day, the best dog food, a spot in a flannel-covered human bed, etc.

          2. Natalie*

            Oh, I’m aware that they’re intense, far too intense in my opinion. That’s why we got our dog from the humane society. This “scandal” is a perfect example, in fact.

      2. fposte*

        Wow, that’s sort of fascinating, both in the extremity of the response and in the naïveté of her action.

      3. hbc*

        I highly doubt that any organization that doesn’t deal with animals will care that she bought a dog from a breeder, aside from failure to see how her personal decisions might be perceived. So if she was applying to a position in, say, an arts non-profit, I can’t see why anyone would make a connection.

        I think she’s rightly SOL on the animal welfare front, though, and shouldn’t really complain about it. This is akin to being a high level pro life activist and helping your daughter terminate her pregnancy–you’re not really living the values, whatever the legality of your actions.

        1. fposte*

          It’s such a huge misstep that I wonder if the tone-deafness alone might raise eyebrows with other orgs. Sort of like drinking Pepsi in the Coke headquarters, where it’s not that drinking Pepsi is a horrible thing in its own right but it makes people wonder what on earth you were thinking.

      4. Erin*

        Oh my God. What ridiculousness.

        I’m sorry, I know this is getting borderline off topic, but this is one of my biggest pet peeves (no pun intended): When people assume that all dog breeders are puppy mills.

        A family who has been friends with my family for about 25 years has been breeding golden retrievers for maybe about seven or eight years. They’re very safe and professional about it. They did all the research. They spread out the pregnancies so as not to overwhelm the dog. They do research on the people buying the puppies, sometimes even turning people down. The people who buy puppies from them almost always keep in touch, share pictures as the dogs grow up, etc., etc.

        I posted a picture of one of the dogs with their litter on Google+ a few years ago, and people were up in arms. I mean, went completely nuts. Because they knew it wasn’t a shelter dog. “Oh sure those puppies look cute now but they’ll get bigger and be abandoned and have nowhere to go.” What?? How incredibly ignorant.

        That women you know probably wanted a specific breed of dog (God forbid), did her research, and chose a respectable breeder. As if her buying a dog takes away from the work she was doing with the shelter. But people probably equate buying a dog to running a dog fighting ring like in Alison’s example.

        If there is any way you can help this woman out – connect her to the right people, speak up standing up for her on social media, whatever is doable and feels appropriate for you – I hope you’re in a position to do so.

        1. Jessica*

          I think buying a dog when you are the Director of an animal welfare and rescue nonprofit shows an extreme lack of judgement. It’s not about if the breeder is respectable or not. With everything going on in the media with Wounded Warrior Project, we are being reminded that public perception is everything. As the Director of a nonprofit, one of her roles is fundraising for the organization. If you purchase a dog instead of adopting one from your shelter, what kind of message are you sending? Donors not going to donate to your shelter if they don’t think you need the money.

          1. Erin*

            Fair points, especially about it not being about the breeder’s respectability.

            I just feel that this was her personal choice to make and her own money to spend. And, we don’t know the deeper side of her story. Maybe she always dreamed of having a particular breed when growing up and finally had the means to purchase one. Maybe she held off on buying this dog for the obvious reasons, and told herself “If I get X number of pets adopted by the end of the year” or “If I increase adoptions by X% every year I hold this position, then I’ll let myself buy the dog I always wanted.” Maybe she bought this dog with the intention of adopting a second dog later on. I don’t know, I’m speculating obviously, but I think she should be able to choose her own pet.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s a major tenet of most animal protection organizations that you don’t breed more animals into the world (or create more demand for more animals by buying from breeders) when 17 million-plus are euthanized every year for lack of homes.

              It shows major lack of alignment with their mission and values.

              1. Erin*

                Hm, I’m don’t think I agree with that tenet, but don’t doubt that’s the reality. It is what it is. I would want to hear more of the story before even beginning to think about judging her.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I personally would not judge her for getting a dog from a breeder, but for a person in her position to do that is ridiculously tone-deaf. As fposte said above, it’s like drinking Pepsi when you work for Coke. It’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but it’s so opposed to what your organization does that it indicates you Just Don’t Get It.

                2. Bookworm*

                  I hear what you’re saying, and I think it would be wrong to pass judgement on a member of the public buying from a respectable breeder.

                  However, she runs a humane society. The whole point of a humane society is to get animals adopted. The way those often work is that animal control and shelters will refer dogs to them to try and get them adopted. I’ve volunteered with my local humane society, and it’s staffed with people who dedicate their time to trying to save the lives of pets and get them adopted.

                  There are more pets than families, and so that means the staff members have to either watch their charges languish, or in some cases have to euthanize them. It’s an industry people join to get rich, it’s a labor of love and I think it’s incredibly heartbreaking for them to have some these animals killed. After spending all day walking, cleaning and otherwise caring for animals that might end up being put down….you want to know that the leaders have your back.

                  This woman is supposed to be a leader in that industry…so yeah, I think that not adopting and instead seeking out a breeder indicates a real lack of connection with her staff and her mission. It must have been incredibly discouraging for her staff to see that rather than look to the dogs they were trying to save, she made a choice to purchase one. (Not to mention a lack of patience. I mean, unless you want a really unusual breed, if you’re in a big city and you have the right connections with shelters, you can find puppies of many kinds available for adoption.)

                  I’m not particularly surprised that other issues came up, because as Alison has often pointed out, that kind of tone-deafness usually shows itself in other ways, too.

            2. Jessica*

              I agree with you and I think what employees do in their own time shouldn’t have an impact on their jobs, within reason. I think the response (death threats!?) to this particular situation was so full of vitriol and went above and beyond an acceptable response. How quickly public perception can change is scary for me too because I work in nonprofit fundraising. It makes me more slightly protective of my personal reputation.

            3. Creag an Tuire*

              While I agree that the person didn’t make a -morally awful- decision and the threats against her are disgusting (can we just take down now? It’s a bloody embarrassment), but I think it’s the nature of non-profit, “mission”-oriented work that you Just Don’t Get To make personal choices that conflict with the mission, or if you do you make darned sure nobody finds out. As someone said above, you don’t work for Operation Rescue and take your daughter to Planned Parenthood, you don’t work for MALDEF and put a Donald Trump bumper sticker on your car, and evidently you don’t work for a rescue shelter and buy from any breeder ever.

              If OP’s friend wants to continue working in non-profits, she should probably have a short speech prepared about how she learned the important of public perception and iterates her support of whatever organization’s mission (she’s done in animal rescue), but I don’t think permanent unemployment is her fate.

              (Also, Alison, you might want to link to the letter about the woman who made front-page news by falling asleep and crashing the Blue Line into an escalator — I think that covered similar grounds under much worse circumstances!)

              1. Erin*

                Yep, I hear what you’re all saying. Definitely good points. I’m just in the minority on this one, I’ll have to agree to disagree. :)

        2. TootsNYC*

          It’s sort of like being angry because a politician sends her kids to private school.

          That doesn’t mean she feels less deeply about public education–but when it’s her kids, and she has the resources, she may feel obligated to give them the best that she can.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Pets are a little bit different, as is the timing. It’s not like they were asking her to give away the breeder-purchased pet she already owns.

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              Also, politicians ultimately only answer to their voters (or in my state, the FBI), but if someone working for, say, a public school teacher’s union were found sending their kids to private school, I suspect it would be a scandal and put their job in jeopardy.

        3. OP3*

          Erin, I’m not in a position to do that, but I really did feel bad for her, mostly because of how off track the whole thing went. She did do something against the mission of the organization, but it seemed that people who weren’t even close to the situation went way overboard. They may as well have gone down there with torches and pitchforks. That’s what really struck me, and I couldn’t imagine how one has a career anywhere after something like that.

          1. Creag an Tuire*

            By the same token, though, most of those people aren’t even in the same community or if they are, are in a position to hire — and they’ll eventually be distracted by something else. I don’t want to minimize what she’s going through — Brianna Wu can tell you how terrifying it can be to attacked by a Horde of Trolls — but it is survivable.

          2. Erin*

            Well, I hear ya. :/ I don’t doubt the torches and pitchforks imagery. Even if she’s 100% in the wrong, death threats are uh, much more so.

            But thanks for sending in the thought-provoking question about scandals. :)

      5. Jessica*

        We live in the same city — I know exactly what org and Director you are talking about. I also work in nonprofit fundraising. I think that if she looks for a job outside of animal rescue and possibly outside of nonprofits, she’ll be fine.

      6. going anon for this*

        I’m a regular commenter who is going anonymous for this. You will see why. When I started dating my (now) husband, his father was in the middle of a giant scandal. We started dating after he was removed from VERY IMPORTANT PERSON status but before it was legally settled. It was front page news but I hadn’t put it all together until a girlfriend mentioned to me that I should google his dad. It’s been several years and it is better. He’s doing related work, but is by his own choice semi-retired. Personal relationships took longer to repair, but are healing. The worst part is the kinda-PTSD it left his family. I mentioned casually to husband that his dad was on the front page of the newspaper and he FREAKED until I showed him that his dad was just included in a group photo of a local event. Unfortunately every now and then someone will write an editorial and drag his name up as a “don’t want to be like this” type thing. But the reputation he had before (decades of work in this town; in his field) and to be honest a certain amount of male-privilege have carried him through. For the record – this was in the private sector.

        1. Erin*

          Wow, well I’m glad it mostly turned out to be okay. One mistake shouldn’t negate decades of work.

          I know I got off topic (which I really pride myself on not doing on blogs!) today, but it did really make me think about scandals in general, and recovering professionally and personally. Everything is so much more public these days or at least, has the potential to be.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            When the dust settles here, Thinking People will realize there are two stories. The director’s misstep was not a world stopping mistake.

            HOWEVER, the people affiliated with that group showed more about themselves than they might want people to know. These people have shown themselves in an extremely poor light. These are the people who will have difficulty getting jobs. No employer wants an employee that goes on a witch hunt like that. And other people may withhold donations because of the reaction of these folks.

            I think the director will be fine in the long run. Just because she cannot work in that very specific area does not mean she cannot work at all. There are many employers out there that see right through stuff like this and hire the person on the basis of their actually skills and not on the basis of the puppy they bought last year.

            Just as an exercise, google some big names you have heard in the news. See if you can find out what they are doing now. See, upper management people KNOW that there are risks simply because upper echelon people are very visible and therefore more vulnerable to scrutiny/criticism./ridicule. It comes with the territory. So when these upper echelon people interview this director the interview will not be all about the pup. Because they know tomorrow it could be them in the news for some unforeseen reason.

            Oddly, I think that the director will make out better than most of the other people involved in this fracas.

  20. Jozie*

    #1 – I can sympathize. A few years ago, when I was early twenties and a congressional intern, I wore similar tights one day. They were also black, but more of a medium-gapped fishnet-like symmetrical pattern. As I was going from the cafeteria back up to the office, a security officer made a comment about my tights. Not quite as direct as calling them “sexy”, but the way he was looking at them and his tone definitely were ick.

    I never wore those tights again. I’d like to emphasize that no one in my office said anything about them to me, but I was still mortified and did not want to get that kind of attention, especially as a shy person.

    Overall, I agree that this will depend on your office norms and it’s highly inappropriate for a colleague of yours to say such a thing, but from my experience at a semi-conservative trade association, I’d consider those tights a little extreme for the office.

    What I do to try and push the envelope in my office through fashion is wear things like a snow-white oversized quilted sweatshirt with black pants or trendy earrings or a lot of bright colors. Generally I try and not expose too much skin while doing so. YMMV as I could see myself getting called out for being too far from business casual, though.

    The somewhat arbitrary nature of these things is extremely annoying and confusing, though. I mean, think about it…technically those tights show less skin that not wearing tights at all. Above-the-knee boots keep your legs covered and are not much tighter, if at all, than pants but are too sexy for the office. Strange stuff.

  21. Texas HR Pro*

    I’m a fan of hose/tights myself, but the more conservative styles like basic ribbing or diamond pattern. My personal rule of thumb is to find tights that have less than 10% skin showing. Anything more than that is usually to wild for my own workplace.

    Also, that dude was out of line. I’m sorry you felt embarrassed.

  22. Penguin*

    1- This may be a cultural thing (I am from Ireland), but are you sure the comment refered to the pattern? For me, stockings are worn with a suspender belt and only reach up to mid tigh. If you wore that type of stockings, and maybe the top of them was visible through a slit in the skirt, or the belt / suspenders through the tight fabric of the skirt, that would definitely be not-office-appropriate.

    1. Jennifer M*

      I’m in the US and I personally use stockings to refer to thigh highs that either have that really good sticky elastic stuff or need a garter belt. Hose/nylons if the two legs are conjoined and the material is sort of sheer or falls in the nude/suntan color spectrum. Tights if the legs are conjoined and the fabric is heavier/opaque and/or colored. So for example, I might where hose in the summer and tights in the winter.

    2. No Longer Passing By*

      Cultural difference. Because it no longer is so common in the US to wear stockings and garters (the style that you’re discussing), we use the word “stockings” to refer to all types of hosiery and pretty much mean pantyhose. We may use “thigh highs” when we refer to the garter less forms of the stockings that you cited. And it’s pretty hard to find functional type garters now in the US except online. They line up pretty much with daily use corsets (and, similarly, there usually are videos that explain how to wear them), i.e. Not common at all. For the most part, in the US, stockings and garters are seen as a prelude to sexy times and inherently sexy. Personally, I wish that we could go back to them as I hate throwing out hosiery because of a run in just 1 leg. What a waste….

      1. Chameleon*

        I like them too, because as a tall woman I always find the crotch of pantyhose slips down during the day. Super uncomfortable.

        1. teclatrans*

          I hear you.

          I have a long torso and a long pelvis, and pantyhose always slip down my hips and sag at the crotch. Back when I worked in an office. I wore below-the-knee skirts with stockings and garters for exactly this reason.

    3. Alice 2*

      I took it as the conjoined tights. I use parntyhose, tights, and stockings almost interchangeably. The only snag I have in my mind is that I know one is used more for thick ones.. But I can’t for the life of me remember which one it is.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I use tights for the thick ones, pantyhose for the sheer ones, and stockings for both. Stockings also includes, for me, thigh highs, but it does not automatically mean thigh highs. Stockings to me is like the whole umbrella of hosiery that’s longer than socks.

    4. Jozie*

      Oh, sorry, I did use tights/stockings interchangeably. They were indeed all one piece, up to the waist things.

  23. Christy*

    For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t wear those stockings to work without layering them over another solid stocking. Maybe even over a sheer black. I agree with the poster above that it relates to the stocking-to-skin ratio. It also particularly relates to how I’m young for my office, and I try to avoid anything that emphasizes my youth.

  24. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I work at an extremely liberal arts college in the mid-atlantic. It’s so casual that our president is routinely in jeans and a tshirt. Shorts and sandals in the summer. But I think even those stockings would cause raised eyebrows. At OldJob, a giant non-traditional state university, it actually would’ve been okay. So, YMMV on whether it’s appropriate at your place. Take Alison’s advice on asking someone above you. They may have been fine and your coworker was just a jerk and inappropriate. I’m all for taking compliments graciously in the workplace. I was finally able to wear cute spring dress yesterday and one of our facilities crew complimented me on how good I looked in that color when crossing campus. Your coworkers comment doesn’t read as a compliment. While I think the patterned stockings are okay, I think neon colored (as opposed to just bright jewel tones) would read as too young for work. Love your heels in the picture!

    #3-FWIW, in my city’s current mayoral race, a former mayor who was found guilty of giving away gift cards meant for needy children several years ago and was pushed from office is the current front runner. I think it depends on the scandal, the person and the place.

    1. Creag an Tuire*


      I know the city in question, and wow, I suppose there’s a reason it’s mostly famous for depressing crime procedurals these days.

  25. Sunshine Brite*

    OP1: I think the angle of the picture isn’t helping the matter. I thought they seemed a bit much until I looked at how they would probably look if you were standing. They would be fine in my office. I do think that the pointed yellow shoe does elevate the look towards a less standard professional outfit like others.

    1. NoProfitNoProblems*

      I have to agree with that, as well as the increased scrutiny all of us are giving the stockings. If I saw them casually in my office I wouldn’t think twice.

  26. NoProfitNoProblems*


    I am incredibly mad on your behalf at that tasteless boor! I hope you never have to see him again, but if you do, he’s told you something very important about himself and how much he respects women who are supposed to be his colleagues. He being wildly unprofessional himself, you can’t really extrapolate from his comments whether your attire is inappropriate. Now, people in this thread might tell you that your stockings are inappropriate-and based on your office culture, it might even be true-but there’s no way that you should infer that from his gross comments, which make him a jerk of the highest magnitude. There’s a certain kind of person (usually male. Sorry, men in this thread!) who finds almost everything on a female as sexy, from spaghetti straps on a thirteen year old to a perfectly conservative pencil skirt. I would mentally class him in that category and move on. There’s a real possibility that your stockings are indeed too sexy for your office, but that assessment should be made separately from his comments.

    (For the record I think your stockings are perfectly fine if paired with the right skirt and shoes)

    1. Hlyssande*

      Yeah, this. Whether the stockings/tights/hose are appropriate or not is moot in the face of that jerk’s sexist commentary – and honestly, I’m mad at the other people at the table for going along with it. That was Not Okay.

  27. sugared out*

    #1 – I love leggings and tights. A couple of years ago, I probably would have worn something similar to the OP’s. However, looking back on some of the clothing I’ve worn in the past, some of it wasn’t the most appropriate. At my current workplace we dress “smart casual” and while the OP could get away with wearing these tights, I think it might convey that she’s young and would cause her not to be taken as seriously as she would like to be.

    And its not just younger professionals doing this – its well-established folks too. At work yesterday, one of my coworkers wore camaflouge leggings as pants. This person is in their forties. She looked like she was going on a date, not giving a presentation to senior leadership.

  28. CeeCee*

    #1: As a 28 year old, I think your stockings are super cute. I could even imagine them as something I would wear to work with a knee length skirt and cute top. The only thing that I think would make me think twice about wearing them to work is that they appear to have one leg white and the other black. I think it would end up drawing more attention than if they were just a solid color. And, at least personally, I’m not up for the kind of attention where people constantly ask if it was intentional that they were colored that way or spend more time trying to decipher my tights than saying hello and getting to task.

    I’m not the only one that noticed that, right?

    1. Myrin*

      I’m pretty sure that’s just an effect from the lighting and the way the material is stretched over the (bent) right knee vs. a bit more loose on the stretched leg.

      1. CeeCee*

        That makes much more sense! Thank you for shedding some light on that (No pun intended.) It was all I could focus on when I was looking at them.

        I could see myself enjoying some funky, dual colored stockings in my off time, but I’d never consider them for work. Lol.

        Thanks again!

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      No, that’s just because of the angle. Both legs are the same.

      (BTW, I think the stockings are cute, although not appropriate for all offices, but regardless, the black stocking/bright shoe combo makes me cringe because I learned you never wear light shoes with black stockings. Does that just mean I’m old? Probably.)

  29. Oranges*

    These would not raise an eyebrow at my work. However there are obviously work places where they would. That is secondary to the next point:

    Holy crap, that creep is a complete creepy creeper.

    There once was a woman who wore something a little too risqué at our office (tight leggings with lace cut outs which were too high). Do you know what happened? Nothing. Her boss or a closer coworker probably took her aside and told her that those were a bit too much since they have not made an appearance again.

    That swear word retracted was so much more out of line than anything you could possibly wear. If I were his boss that would be an immediate HR write up. I don’t care what he was thinking that sort of stuff is NOT OK.

  30. Pep*

    #1: I agree with Alison that it depends on the office. I worked for a hosiery company that designed and produced pantyhose and tights and in the corporate office it was encouraged (and applauded) when the employees wore the company’s products, no matter how crazy it looked. When we were out courting investors for our IPO I wore bright red opaque tights with my business suit, got tons of compliments from the investors, and we had a successful IPO. Because of the red tights I presume. HAHA.

  31. OP #1*

    Just wanted to say an overall thanks to everyone who commented on my post. I really appreciate the thoughtful unbiased advice on this. I haven’t made up my mind yet about if I’ll continue wearing them to work or not. If I do I will be careful to wear a neutral shoe with them, that was a great observation many of you pointed out. And what I might do is wear a second solid pair underneath, I really liked that suggestion.
    I will also pay more attention to what other women in the office are wearing too. And then work up the courage to ask my boss to double check (she’s an HR Director and generally is the “go-to” person for these types of inquires, I was just a bit embarrassed to check with her. I’m also hoping that if what I am wearing is inappropriate she’d let me know more proactively instead of me having to ask. But I think it can only help me if I do ask so I have peace of mind.

    1. Kyrielle*

      When you bring it up with her, I would be seriously tempted to bring it up in the context of the jerk’s comment, given that she’s an HR director. Because honestly, he deserves to be called on that behavior (and so do all the people who laughed and failed to shut it down, to a lesser degree – and saying it should be quieter is NOT shutting it down, it is in fact complicit in continuing it!).

    2. Macedon*

      No comment on your office’s approach to work fashion – you’re the only one here in a position to determine where you fall on that particular spectrum, and I’m sure your supervisor can advise. However, please don’t let what dictates your discomfort be the completely unsolicited and disgusting input of, frankly, a miserable lout. You could be parading in naked, and the most this guy could and should do is draw your attention to whether you are being inappropriate or out of line with office mandates. You don’t need to know that he finds your outfit ‘sexy’, which – don’t let the shorthand excuse him – still stands for ‘sexually arousing’. That’s just unacceptable.

    3. KT*

      Please don’t let that creeper inhibit you being you. What he said–and how that group–reacted, is wildly inappropriate. It just goes to show that no matter what a woman does or wears, there’s always at least one gross person.

    4. No Longer Passing By*

      OP, are you going to do something about the creeper? Or the Office Manager? You’ll talk to your boss about them?

  32. Observer*

    OP #1 I know that this is not the question you asked but I really want to bring this up.

    Please make a note of what happened (date, time, person and what he said.) If it happens again, please bring it up with someone like HR. It was such an incredibly inappropriate thing to say that if it’s more than a one-off, you should really follow through on that. (And don’t let anyone put it back on you for wearing inappropriate clothing. If it’s inappropriate, it’s on your boss to tell you that. And either way, those kinds of comments are just not acceptable.)

  33. Two pairs of stockings?*

    Several folks have talked about wearing patterned stockings over solid ones. I’ve never heard of that concept. Has that always been a thing that I missed, or is it new?

    1. Erin*

      I think they’re suggesting wearing solid stockings UNDER the patterned ones. So the pattern is still there but less skin is showing. Basically.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      I never heard of that either. That sounds like it would be incredibly hot to me. (Although I have worn stockings/tights under thicker leggings in the winter.)

    3. LizB*

      I have a few friends who’ve been doing it recently — you can get a pretty cool effect if you layer something with an open pattern over something in an interesting color. It’s not too squeezy since open-pattern tights tend to be less squeezy, and it is warm, but that’s a bonus in MN in the winter! I haven’t seen anyone do it in a professional setting, though.

      1. AP*

        I could see that being very stylish. I was picturing myself squeezing into two pairs of tight, control-top leggings and feeling like a sausage in a casing. But the patterned ones are usually more comfortable.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I can see doing that in the winter, but not when the weather is warm. Though I do wear two pairs of tights when skating in a dress–one that covers my feet (which go into my boots) and the other that goes over the boot–not because of exposure, but for a little extra warmth.

    5. teclatrans*

      I used to do this with “nude” fishnets over pantyhose and black fishnets over black tights. The fishnets weren’t very squeezy, so it worked well. I don’t recall but being a “thing,” though maybe I saw it somewhere and it invaded my subconscious.

    6. Panda Bandit*

      It sounds cute and it’s certainly common in stagewear. They tend to do patterned tights with one or more pairs of solid stockings underneath that match your skintone.

  34. Erin*

    #1 – Although I agree your outfit looks very cute and you have a fun style, that might not be the best choice for work. I’d probably stick to black patterned stockings where you almost can’t see the pattern unless you’re looking really closely. Those shoes are also way too bright (again, very cute for a nonwork function). But yeah, even though the color is neutral with the stockings, the pattern is too reminiscent of fishnet, which would definitely not be work appropriate.

    I like to wear black or gray socks with my heels or flats instead of tights if I’m wearing pants (is that weird? it’s probably a little weird), but this is something I had to ease into after observing how other women in the office dressed.

    I’d suggest utilizing fun and funky jewelry to emphasize your style instead of with the stockings and shoes. Except with earrings, I do think earrings shouldn’t be bigger than a quarter. But that yellow that looks too bright on your shoes could look really nice – and appropriate – as a bracelet or necklace paired with a black top.

    #4 – I list my freelance stuff on the top of my resume under “Key results include:” and then it says “Published in X, Y, Z.”

    #5 – Thanks for the update! What a perfect solution! So happy to read this.

  35. steeped in anonymtea*

    For any piece of clothing, I ask myself “Would Audrey Hepburn wear this?”. If no, then not for me!

    1. april ludgate*

      While that may be a good guideline for your personal style, and as much as I like Audrey Hepburn, she’s a bit outdated as a fashion reference point for most of us.

      1. steeped in anonymtea*

        Really? I feel she is timeless. But of course many women feel that Kim Kardashian is something to aspire to, because she has given so much to the world!

  36. Marissa*

    #1: This woman’s style is right up my alley, especially her bright yellow shoes. Can I borrow them?

    I think her outfit was 100% appropriate, considering her skirt is black and clearly knee length (she was sitting down in the photo, so it appeared a few inches above her knee). I’m all for wearing black and/or grey with one pop of colour (shoes, necklace, handbag, or tights etc.). I suppose it depends on your industry whether this outfit is appropriate for your particular office; but in the realm of general appropriateness, this is totally fine. And considering this woman has been working at her job for a year and a half—dressing similarly to her outfit in the picture during that time—I do not see why we are even debating this issue. If this were considered inappropriate for her office, someone would have told her by now. She is merely feeling self-conscious because some jerk made a sexual comment about her. I don’t think we should be heaping more negativity on this woman because of our personal preferences.

    1. CheeryO*

      She asked for input, though, and people are trying to be honest and objective. There are obviously work environments where those tights wouldn’t be appropriate, including mine. They are very cute, but they’re just the tiniest bit evocative of fishnets or lingerie. Whether that is a problem or not depends on your field and location, but it’s not fair to say that it’s negative to point out that she might be doing herself a disservice as a young woman who wants to be perceived as professional.

      1. Marissa*

        I think you’ve missed my point. Going only on the facts from the OP’s letter, she states that she normally dresses the way you see her in the photo. Perhaps it is the first time she has worn those particular tights, but she’s said she often wears other, “stockings of various designs and colors.” If she has been at her job for a year and a half, surely someone should have said something to her long ago. If what she was wearing was inappropriate for her office, I don’t think people would have let it carry on this far. Considering the guy who harassed her was likely from an outside office (and not one of her colleagues finally dropping her a hint), I think the OP should disregard his awful remarks and carry on with her stylish dress.

        When people give their input, I think they often forget to logically extrapolate details from the original letter. If the OP said, “This is my first week on the job, and this is what someone said to me,” then, yes; let us all comment on how ‘fish net-y’ her stockings may or may not be, and advise accordingly. However, since she has been dressing similarly for over a year, I think it is safe to say her style of dress is appropriate for her particular office. Therefore, this was an awful one-off situation involving a jerk from offsite; and she should not stress out too much thinking it was her poor fashion sense.

  37. Peachy*

    #3 I was the victim of a “scandal” a few years ago and am happy to say I have recovered and am working again. Not in the same city or field, but still gainfully employed with a company who wasn’t quick to believe accusations and questionable reporting. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through (emotionally) and had an almost equal level of hardship during the interview process when trying to move on. In the era of Google, something doesn’t have to be true in order to take away a career you are passionate about or a city that you love living in. In the end, the life lessons I learned were invaluable: 1. DO NOT TRUST THE MEDIA. 2. Politics are worse than war.

    1. LibLady*

      There is an interesting book on surviving scandal- “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson which deals with this exact subject.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      My uncle used to work for a well known paper. He said that news articles are simply the reporter’s perception of what SHE thinks is going on. It may or may not be true. Matter of fact, my uncle went on to say that 90 percent of what is reported is NOT true or not the full story.

      The more open we keep our minds, the better off we are.

  38. The Bimmer Guy*

    “Ooh, sexy stockings?” That’s not funny; it’s rude and inappropriate…especially in front of a large group of people.

  39. HRG*

    RE: OP #1 – This outfit would be considered a little odd in my work place, but mainly because women here rarely wear skirts, dresses, stockings and heels because it’s not typical to be this dressed up in the human services field, especially if you’re working directly with clients. If someone did wear these stockings though, I don’t think anyone would really care. We have a fairly lax dress code. As HR I have to up hold our dress code which pretty much means no sweats, no leggings as pants, no short shorts, and no crop tops.

    1. KT*

      The only reason I can see looking twice at her would be the yellow shoes. I just don’t get yellow shoes, but that’s because I’m anti-yellow :)

    2. The Bimmer Guy*

      Tell me why our HR department recently had to remind people that shoes are part of the dress code…

  40. KT*

    #1…look, no matter what you wear, someone will find it inappropriate.
    Some guy will say something gross. See the meme that went around about the woman wearing a full-body parka who got cat-called and followed.

    I have been told I dressed inappropriately because I was wearing a shell and blazer (they said it drew attention to my breasts). I was told to dress more conservatively when I wore straight leg pants (it called attention to my sizeable rear). If I wore anything but flats, I was wearing f-me heels. I was told I looked like I was going to attend a fetish convention because I was wearing a black pencil skirt, striped boatneck long sleeved top, and black pumps with a 2-inch heel.

    It really doesn’t matter what you wear, someone will have a problem with it. Someone will be CONVINCED it’s sexual. Because you’re a woman.

    I wore baggy trousers a button down, and a crewneck sweater and then was told I looked like a frump. There’s no winning.

    There are professional norms of course, like not showing up in daisy duke shorts, but if you’re appropriately covered, just screw it. Trying to please everyone with the right amount of conservatism is a losing battle.

    There’s nothing inappropriate about patterned stockings for goodness’ sakes. If you were wearing JUST the stockings, sure, I may be concerned. But assuming you were actually wearing a top, skirt, and shoes, rock on girl. I always wore them at my super-conservative job for a pharmaceutical company–no one cared. The female vice president wore fishnets to add some personality to her pencil skirts and dresses and every woman there worse at least flesh-toned fishnets (they make your legs look amazing and cover flaws without being obvious you’re wearing anything).

    This just infuriates me. The question isn’t whether your stockings are inappropriate (which is asinine, they’re freaking stockings), it’s whether or not that guy was punished for being blatantly sexist and gross.

      1. KT*

        They’re fabulous. Click on my name for the link to the ones I own dozens of. They make even my pasty lumpy legs look great!

  41. LadyMountaineer*

    Regarding the director fired for a scandal. I did a stint working for a low income school as part of a national program and my colleague was having sex with a student (we were in a middle school.) It garnered national attention (she was very attractive by any standard, he was 13 years old) and of course she was fired and spent time in jail or maybe in home detention. At any rate I saw her around town later as a waitress. These things do blow over and while she’ll never have the idyllic life she once had with the nice house, cars, attractive husband with the perfect job she seemed to be doing okay.

  42. Former Retail Manager*

    I have to say that I LOVE OP’s style. However, I don’t think that the pic sent is appropriate since they to appear to be somewhat fishnet/lacy and on the sexy side. I’d take some of the great suggestions above about alternatives you can utilize without losing your personal style.

    I do adamantly disagree about the male co-worker’s comment. He wasn’t telling the OP she was sexy, which would be odd and potentially creepy. He was saying that the article of clothing is sexy. I don’t see the two as being the same. And quite frankly, he probably did her a favor by saying out loud what at least some, if not most, other people are probably thinking. I’d take his comment as an indication that that particular stocking choice was too risqué for your office culture. I can see the comment being embarrassing, especially when made in front of a group, but it’s a comment about an article of clothing that quite frankly is sexy. Would it have been better if he used the word “risqué” which basically means the same thing?

    And for what it’s worth, if that how the male co-worker saw the stockings, you don’t want that being attached to you professionally….the girl who wears the sexy outfits. Best to err on the side of caution with the wardrobe.

    1. KT*

      No. Saying someone’s clothing is sexy is inappropriate. It’s still creepy and weird and completely wrong.

      It would be one thing if a manager pulled her aside and said “Your stockings are a bit much for our culture. I recommend wearing something simpler going forward”. It’s another for a creeper to say ooooo sexy stockings as a woman walks by. That’s just gross.

      And who judges whether or not an outfit is “sexy”? Many men find pencil skirts sexy. Should women not be allowed to wear them? One guy at work admitted he had a foot fetish and loved when women wore peep toe shoes. Should that style be eliminated too?

      And some women just have figures where everything they wear is sexy and they can’t help it. I’m fat (truly) but have a tiny waist, so even utterly matronly pieces can look downright vulgar on me. Short of wearing a full length sack, there’s not much I can do about that. But I wore a high-neck, long-sleeved, a-line knee-length dress and was told I looked like a sexy pinup girl. What is considered “sexy” is insanely arbitrary

      1. KR*

        I couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying. Also, why should women have to try to cover up their beautiful looks and great fashion sense in order to be taken seriously at work? You can look great AND be great at your job and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are respectful ways to compliment a women without catcalling her like, “Wow Sue, I like your stockings.” or “Hilda, your outfit looks really nice today.”. He could have chosen a much better compliment, but instead he decided to demean her and embarrass her. This guy is a pig and what he did was inappropriate.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        It’s about cut. I am also curvy – built like Wonder Woman. The key is to get tailoring because nothing off the rack fits appropriately.
        I love the website insideoutstyle because the author teaches people how to dress for their body type.
        I see a lot of readers creating black and white thinking. Either something is cute and sexy or it is frumpy baggy. That thinking is limited. It takes more work to dress conservatively when you are curvy, but it can be done.

            1. Banana Sam*

              Apologies-my response was a bit rude. What I should have said was that not everyone can afford tailoring.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                Your comment absolutely was rude. I was offering solutions to a problem that many women face. It doesn’t magically go away because you want it to.
                Tailoring is cheaper than you think. It cost me $8 to have the waist taken in on my trousers, for example. They went from meh to very flattering. They also didn’t gap at the back when I sat down.
                Some bodies aren’t made for off the rack clothing. I pad my clothing budget for it.
                People are also losing track on the “is this the hill you want to die on?” argument. As a younger woman in a male dominated industry I had to face sexual discrimination all.the.time. Fair ? No. But I did make sure that the jerks were without excuse when it came to promotions, assignments, etc. That exposed the discrimination by making their arguments ridiculous.

                1. lola*

                  That’s remarkably cheap. Where I live, it’s $10 to get a pair of pants hemmed and the price only goes up from there. I had to have a bridesmaid dress taken in and it ended up costing $100, and the dress only cost $170 to begin with.

                2. Engineer Girl*

                  We have a lot of Vietnamese tailors that came over as boat people. Many of the older women had limited skill sets so took up as tailors. I used on line reviews to find my tailor. I found that independent tailors are significantly less expensive than store tailors. They are better quality too. And I’d rather give my money to an individual than a corporation.

                3. Banana Sam*

                  It costs me at least $20 to have my pants and dresses taken in, plus the time and effort to go, try everything on, and return when it’s ready. I personally don’t want to have to put too much time into my wardrobe because it’s time I could be spending on more important things. Unfortunately, women have to work 10x harder just to appear “normal,” nevermind that normal is a moving target. I’d rather focus on my work and not my appearance, and others should do the same. That’s the only solution that puts men and women on equal footing, and anything else comes up short. I’m not saying we can’t operate in the gray areas when we have to, but workplace equality is an absolute.

    2. Erin*

      Eh, “those tights are sexy” versus “you are sexy” is splitting hairs I think. “Sexy” shouldn’t be in the word vocabulary, at all.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Sorry but WRONG

      For many reasons that people have already enumerated here. Just…no. What he said was not okay. It was the equivalent of catcalling. At work.

    4. Sadsack*

      Oh my god please. Pointing someone out and calling attention to her like he did is gross and wrong. He did her no favors. Are you kidding?

        1. Sadsack*

          Thank you. I’ll add that this is probably the type of guy who hollers out his car window at random women walking by in pants. I put no stock in the idea that his response should indicate to OP what is appropriate to wear to work.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      He wasn’t telling the OP she was sexy, which would be odd and potentially creepy. He was saying that the article of clothing is sexy.

      What the hell kind of pedantic hair-splitting crap is this? Do you seriously think the guy would’ve been saying the same thing if someone he didn’t find attractive was wearing those stockings?

      Spoiler alert: no. And catcalling is not appropriate at the office. Which is what yelling inappropriately sexual comments at women is. He catcalled her. That’s not helpful fashion advice. What the hell?

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      The only way “you look sexy” and “your stockings look sexy” are not the exact same comment is if the stockings are still in the package.

  43. Ms. Anne Thrope*

    OP1: I’ve read the entire comment thread and have not seen the word ‘harassment.’ Which is weird, considering that what happened to you was essentially textbook sexual harassment. All the stuff about the style of tights is completely beside the point. The guy sexually harassed you and it was NOT ok. If you were standing there naked it still would NOT have been ok. (NB: I’m reposting because my comment went into moderation for some reason and there has now been some talk of how utterly inappropriate this guy was, but I’m leaving this in as it took too long imo.)

    Fwiw, I don’t see anything wrong w/ the stockings. Certainly with the current style of pantyhose as pants they’re fine since you’re actually wearing a skirt. But I and the rest of the commentariat can only speak for ourselves–ask a more senior woman in the office if you want to know for the future. While you’re at it, ask her what to do when you’re the victim of sexual harassment.

    It’s not ok. It’s not your fault. It’s not ’caused’ by what you wear. It’s. Not. Ok.

    1. KR*

      This a million times over. It’s important to keep in mind that this sort of behavior is completely inappropriate and is harassment.

    2. Observer*

      I did not use the word, but that’s why I suggested that the OP document and follow up if it happens again. I don’t think that someone making such a comment (as out of line as it is) is harassment. If it’s a pattern, most definitely yes.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        How quick we are to judge this guy over a single comment. Without knowing him or his prior behavior, I’m not going to label him a “sexual harasser,” as some seem so keen to do. And he may well have said the same thing if it were someone else/someone unattractive wearing the same stockings, but we’ll never know. I firmly believe that an article of clothing can be sexy without the person wearing it being sexy. The two are separate in my mind. No doubt, the comment/his choice to use “sexy” was not ideal, but I think it was an off the cuff gut reaction to seeing something that is not typically seen in their workplace. If it were typically seen, it wouldn’t have warranted a comment at all.

        I’m all about taking instances of sexual harassment seriously, but I don’t believe that’s what this is and these kinds of misunderstandings have the potential to tarnish someone’s reputation, all because he said “sexy” and not “risqué” or “racy.” Would that have made it better? “Oooh, racy stockings.” Seriously…would your perception be different if he’d used a different word? What if a woman had made the comment instead? Different perception then?

        This guy may well be a d-bag who yells stuff at ladies as he drives/walks down the street, but he may also be a guy that had bad judgment in that moment and shouldn’t be labeled a harasser for a single comment any more than the OP should be labeled promiscuous for wearing stockings that seem to be perceived as too risqué for that environment. Give people the benefit of the doubt. We all make mistakes. Hopefully this guy will keep his mouth shut going forward.

        1. Banana Sam*

          This is why sexual harassment goes unpunished so often. This man damaged his own reputation and deserves the consequences that stem from his poor choice. Even if this was a moment of bad judgement he should still expect consequences. Frankly, a manager who displayed your attitude could be guilty of a Title VII violation for not taking harassment seriously.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            This. That comment was clearly inappropriate. If his reputation is damaged, that’s on him. I’m having a hard time framing this guy as a victim if he’s called into HR about his inappropriate behavior.

            I am also really troubled by the “we’ll hope he doesn’t do it again because, poor guy, think of his reputation!” approach. Because his reputation is clearly of more concern than the discomfort of the coworker to whom his inappropriate comments were directed.

          2. Observer*

            A manager with that kind of attitude will almost certainly run into Title VII violation territory, unless he is very, very lucky and has been blessed with an exemplary staff. The guys manager needs to read him the riot act (and then document that he had done so.)

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’m all about taking instances of sexual harassment seriously, but I don’t believe that’s what this is and these kinds of misunderstandings have the potential to tarnish someone’s reputation, all because he said “sexy” and not “risqué” or “racy.” Would that have made it better? “Oooh, racy stockings.” Seriously…would your perception be different if he’d used a different word?

          I don’t understand. Are you suggesting his comment would have been appropriate if he’d called her stockings “racy” instead of “sexy?”

        3. Observer*

          Actually, you cannot “totally separate” comments about what a person IS WEARING from the way THEY LOOK. Pretending otherwise is a good way to provide cover for a lot of misbehavior.

          Using “racy” or “risque” would have been marginally better – because your attempt to pretend otherwise notwithstanding – the word is used in a fairly specific manner, and it’s one that is inherently sexual. This is a context where that type of comment is inherently out of bounds. However, even either of those words would have been quite out of line, because it’s truly inappropriate for a guy to comment on a colleague’s clothing, much less to comment on how titillating they are (unless it’s a supervisor or mentor advising someone on their workplace norms.)

          He may not be a monster, and he may not be a harasser. But, what he said went weeeeell beyond “not ideal” to wildly inappropriate and offensive. And, as an adult, the excuse of it being an “off the cuff gut reaction” would not fly at all, even if it REALLY were a pink tutu and turquoise glitter. I’ve seen 10 year olds with better control than that.

      2. No Longer Passing By*

        If you look at the case law on sexual harassment, you’ll see 1 egregious act in fact can be harassment, although the standard is to consider “the totality of the circumstances.” Is a comment made in the middle of the lunch room in front of everyone and the office manager egregious? I don’t know. But I’m betting that many companies wouldn’t want to pay the legal fees required to find out and would much rather write the guy up and possibly make him watch a sensitivity video and shut the f* up. You seem to assume the the reaction would be to fire him, which isn’t really true. However, he definitely needs to be spoken to even if it’s his first offense. Why wait for another one? That’s just opening the company up to saying that they tolerate a hostile work environment.

        Anyway, I find it interesting that you are more bothered by the potential damage to his reputation than to the actual damage to hers….

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I feel pretty comfortable saying that this one comment would not meet the legal definition for harassment. (If you look at case law, this becomes pretty clear.) However, if it were part of a broader pattern of this kind of thing, it could certainly be a part of a case, just not the entirety.

          But I don’t even think that’s the point here. The point is that any responsible company would want to know about this and shut the guy down (which almost certainly would not mean firing him, fwiw) because he was disgusting and out of line.

          1. Observer*

            I’d be willing to bet that you are correct about this incident not being actionable by itself. But, the OP is better off documenting it, because it is so out of line, that unless the company immediately and effectively shuts it down, it will happen again. Having dates and times to take to HR is good in such cases.

            But, I hope that the company has enough sense to deal with it immediately, simply because it’s just such a disgusting thing to do. If the place is reasonably run, management will realize that allowing such behavior is asking for trouble.

        2. Observer*

          Anyway, I find it interesting that you are more bothered by the potential damage to his reputation than to the actual damage to hers….

          Good point. And this is someone who claims to take harassment very seriously. I’m trying to imagine his reaction had he not been trying to come off as being serious about the matter.

  44. beentheredonethat*

    The guy needs to be disciplined for sexual harassment. No excuse–doesn’t matter what she was wearing.

    My advice to any young woman in the workplace is to dress in a fashion that draws attention to your work, not your appearance. My daughter learned this the hard way after getting sent home from work three days in a row for inappropriate attire at her first job. She had argued and argued with me about the “boring clothes” I was trying to get her to buy and the importance of her ‘personal expression.’ Day one was a white, shiny “pleather” blazer; day two was a strappy filmy sundress that you could see through if she stood in the sunlight; and day three was stilettos and a form fitting sweater dress. They told her if she came in one more time with inappropriate attire that she would lose her job. She finally realized that I wasn’t completely crazy–she needed professional attire. A few years later she is doing well and mentoring younger women who come into the organization about what not to wear. It’s important to look around and take cues from the workplace and not get too far out there with attire.

    This may not be a politically correct opinion, but as a recruiting professional who works with a lot of businesses, it’s been my experience. Pick your battles, and in my opinion, clothes are not what you want to fall on your sword over.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Pick your battles, and in my opinion, clothes are not what you want to fall on your sword over

      This, this this!

    2. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      Cosign 100%. That guy was unequivocally in the wrong and very gross as well. It is OP’s right to keep wearing those stockings if she wants to. However, the world around you is not going to change just because you would like it to, and wearing non-conservative clothing can definitely set you back in the workplace.

  45. Alice*

    To me, it isn’t really that they look too sexy or anything but that they are distracting. So depending on your office they could seem inappropriate just like a hot pink shirt might in an office that encourages more muted colors. I have worn similar tights in the office before and only received positive comments. None of the men said anything inappropriate to me, however, their eyes always darted to my legs because the pattern draws your eyes in and it just made me feel uncomfortable, so I don’t wear patterned tights often anymore.

  46. Banana Sam*

    Would anyone take issue if her legs were bare under a knee-length skirt? How are patterned tights, which add more coverage, somehow worse than that?
    Standards of dress for women often depend on society’s biases. As another commenter said, I refuse to play the game.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s fine, but other people make different choices, based on what they want for themselves and what they do and don’t feel strongly about. If someone is asking for input about whether or not something is going to be perceived as professional clothing, it’s appropriate for a workplace advice blog to answer that.

    2. Observer*

      That’s fine. But, that’s not really relevant to the OP’s question. More importantly is that the OP needs enough information to be able to make an informed choice about the matter. It’s one thing to wear something that will hold her back because she doesn’t realize that it might, and another for her to decide that she’s willing to take the risk.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Net skin coverage isn’t the only determining factor of appropriateness. There are, for better or for worse, styles of clothing that are or are not appropriate for certain settings. After all, a latex bodysuit covers everything buuuuuut that is definitely not office attire!

  47. Mando Diao*

    OP1: Not sure if this will get seen at this point, but I really like those tights! I don’t find them to be inappropriate or provocative in a broader sense. However, I don’t think they’re right for work. I have a lot of clothes that aren’t revealing or sexy but still are not right for the office. I think that viewing them purely in the context of that one guy’s comment is skewing the conversation a bit. I wouldn’t wear a prom dress or bathrobe to work either.

    If you want a workaround that lets you continue to wear patterns on your legs, try leggings. It’s one of my favorite tricks actually: plain dress or skirt with floral or plaid leggings.

  48. Update to gift from client*

    Perfect! That’s a great solution – and, I’ll bet that co-worker felt great. Thanks for sharing.

  49. Another Lawyer*

    #1 I’m young also, and I almost always find patterned/colored tights to be unprofessional, with the caveat that I work in an extremely conservative office in an extremely conservative industry. I think those tights are really pretty but they definitely look too casual for an office, but they would be great with a dress on a night out.

  50. Data Lady*

    Your colleague was gross, unbelievably so. He sounds like the sort of guy who’d be likely to say something that horrifying regardless of what you were wearing…but keeping him from being inappropriate isn’t the goal here. Making appropriate choices that don’t make you feel like you’re compromising your fashion sense is what you want to aim for.

    I’m someone whose shape simply doesn’t work with a lot of the pants that the mid-20’s-early 30-something women in my business casual office tend to wear. I almost exclusively wear tailored skirts and dresses, whereas basically everyone else is wearing ankle pants or skirts in lighter, more forgiving fabrics. So that I don’t look stuffy and over-dressed, I try to make my outfits more casual with patterned or coloured tights. Hell, I think I’ve even worn micro-fishnets* to work, but with a flared midi skirt and ankle boots – so overall a pretty modest look because I wasn’t showing off too much leg. I’ve managed to make things like leopard print pumps or shiny metallic flats work, but again, the rest of my look is pretty conservative.

    I think the best approach is to make only one part of your outfit really eye-catching – interesting tights, bright shoes, or maybe a statement necklace, but not all three at once. This approach gives you a lot of room to show off your personal style without looking like you don’t understand professional norms.

    Sometimes, no one is going to tell you if you’re not getting it right, and sometimes (unfortunately) you might be seen as unable to pick up on cues if you need to ask someone, or the question may make them feel uncomfortable to begin with. Thinking back to the start of my career, I most certainly didn’t dress for success, and I reported to women who would most certainly have put me on probation or fired me without ever mentioning wardrobe concerns.

    *Please don’t wear actual fishnets to work, or any tights that appear to show skin from far away.

  51. MsChandandlerBong*

    OP #4:

    I’ve been freelancing for 12 years, but in that time I’ve had two long-term (3+ years each) contracts. I list contract #1 and contract #2 as separate jobs, and then I have a heading for “Freelance Copywriting/Editing.” Under that heading, I have several recent projects (I can’t list most of my clients’ names due to the nondisclosure agreements I have with them, so I usually write something like “Created landing pages for a personal injury law firm, resulting in a 23% conversion rate”). Ever since I changed to this format, I have been getting more nibbles from potential clients.

  52. lola*

    All these comments make me glad I work somewhere where I can wear statement jewelry, whimsical earrings, dresses with corgis on them and sneakers. Not all at once (usually), but they are all completely appropriate and appreciated.

    1. Kyrielle*

      *grins* Me too. I’m still feeling out what I can wear here, but so far, everything I try fits in. I need to see how ‘silly geek nail wraps’ go, because I’m missing my fancy nails, tho.

  53. FTW*

    Regarding the stockings…
    I have a general rule that lace reminds of lingerie which reminds of the bedroom. I personally avoid lace for work wear for this reason.
    These tights reminded me of a modern lace. I might have worn them, but the rest of my outfit would have been VERY conservative to offset.

  54. EOK*

    In case OP #1 is still reading comments a day on – the CFO at my job, a major listed business, wears stockings just like that!

  55. One of the Sarahs*

    I’ve been trying to think of equivalents that might make guys who only think of “stockings” as sexy*. To me, the equivalent is a table of women laughing at a comments one of them made about a nice belt buckle, with implications about their package. Of course some mean wear belt buckles like that for the effect (a straight male friend wore low-slung jeans with a big Virgin Mary buckle placed just so) but most people, in an office setting, wouldn’t even consider their belt buckle as about anything but something they liked to wear that added a bit of personality to the outfit. I know some women in the thread differ, and have said they are wearing hosiery to be sexy to their desired audience, but I’d bet cash money that the majority of women don’t.

    *As a Brit, the word “stockings’ makes all my straight male friends eyes light up, as they’re either hold-ups or things you wear with a suspender (garter?) belt and have connotations, but someone upthread said they can be used in USA for tights, that join at the top of the leg too? In my experience, men even talking about stockings at work (bar medical settings & support stockings, or eg “my wife asked me to buy her some stockings at lunch, what the hell does dernier mean?”) would be super-frowned on as it’s hard not to see that as sexual

  56. patient*

    I’m sayin’ it again:
    My rheumatologist wears stockings like that! And ’80’s fishnets! and traditional sheer pantyhose! Her hose totally do not detract from her professionalism. She’s been a doc for going-on 30 yrs; however old that makes her, it doesn’t matter because she rocks ’em, and that doesn’t matter either because of the more important thing: she is a good doctor.

  57. Chickaletta*

    #4 I’m a freelancer too, but I don’t use that word on my resume and I’m very careful about using it in a professional setting because of the stereotypes around it (not being taken seriously, not a real job, being flighty, low-income, etc). Instead I say that I’m self-employed or a small business owner, both of which are true because I have an LLC. On my resume my freelance work is listed under one heading “Teapot Designer, Teapots LLC”. I don’t list my clients by name, but I do list my major accomplishments.

    Take more pride in your freelancing! You may find that a lot of employers view it as a step up, so if you’re looking for regular employment again they’re going to wonder why. Be prepared to have a good answer ready.

  58. Faith*

    OP#1 – I’m in consulting and wouldn’t wear these. I try to dress the step between business formal and business casual. None of my coworkers that I’ve worked with over the decades would either. My clients tend to be large corporations or public sector. I think I’ve seen one woman dress ‘fun’ and she was quite young. She was smart and good at what she did, but I could see the looks on the faces of her co-workers at times. It’s a pity that no one ever pulled her aside but the top manager (a woman) who insisted on business professional for her staff (ties for men, suits preferred for both sexes) never mentioned it to her.

  59. Just Answering*

    I believe, as some have pointed out, that it’s the combination of the stockings, plus the dress above the knee, plus (and maybe especially because of) the yellow, pointy shoes. I think the guideline of one funky/cute/different thing at a time is probably a very good guideline.

    Even if we’re talking men, having a fun tie shouldn’t also be attached to an interesting hairstyle, an earring, a loud shirt, etc.

    This would be true in most businesses, barring the entertainment industry or some very artsy places.

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