how should you handle wardrobe malfunctions at work?

A reader writes:

I’ve had the unfortunate luck of several wardrobe mishaps during work hours. I’ve ripped clothing across seams, broken heels, spilled entire meals or drinks on myself, been rained on so hard that I could wring my shirt out like a towel, sat on something that needed to be cleaned off, etc. In some instances, I could leave early to address the problem (spilled entire meal on myself, rained on), and other times, I’ve had to deal with it at the office. (Ripped shirt, pants stain — and I spent the rest of the day carrying my messenger bag trying to hide the giant water stain on my butt. It looked like I wet myself.)

At my workplaces, there was never a “standard” response to these situations. My current manager has suggested keeping a spare shirt or pants on hand. Another manager (at another job) suggested that I go the mall nearby and buy something to wear during my lunch hour. Every time I’ve been in these situations, it’s worked out well enough (except for the pants thing). I now keep a laundry pen at my desk and try very had not to spill things on myself. I’m also prepared to buy clothes to wear for the interim.

What I wanted to know was if there’s a set response to these kinds of situations. Do managers expect that you have a change of clothes with you just in case or that you handle this on your own time? Is asking for the rest of the day off using your PTO reasonable (assuming that your commute makes “going home to get a fresh shirt” not an option, for instance)? I feel like I’m more spill-prone than the regular person, so this is the stuff that I worry about at work!

I don’t think this is something that most people expect you’ll handle any particular way. In most jobs, you get to handle it however you want.

That said, taking the rest of the day off feels like a pretty extreme reaction to me, assuming that you haven’t ripped the entire butt off of your pants or something like that.

And getting rained on or getting a stain on yourself isn’t terribly uncommon, so I wouldn’t let yourself worry too much when that happens. We’ve all been there.

However, since you know that you’re unusually spill-prone, keeping a spare shirt and pair of pants at work isn’t a bad idea. That’s not something most managers would expect you to do, unless your job requires you to appear perfectly polished with only a moment’s notice — like if you have to go on TV or greet important clients with little warning. But if it’s coming up enough to bug you (and it sounds like it is), that’s the most straightforward solution here and it’ll keep you from having to worry too much about this.

{ 459 comments… read them below }

  1. Red Stapler*

    I keep a simple cotton dress in my trunk. One that looks professional enough to wear in the office, but doesn’t need to be ironed so it can stay in my trunk all the time. That way when I spill a whole cup of coffee down my front, which I have done way too many times, I’m ok. I also keep a pack of those stain wipes in my desk.

    1. Cookie*

      Same! I have an emergency dress and matching blazer in the trunk of my car so I’m ready no matter what. I also keep a pair of flats and running shoes in the trunk of my car in case the need to change shoes should arise. I started this habit when I got confused about casual Friday’s (It’s first and third Fridays only, but I thought it was every-other-Friday, which ended up being a problem in a month with three Fridays).

      1. Janice in Accounting*

        I keep flats in my car too, so I don’t wear down my heels when I drive, and they come in handy so often. Glad I don’t have your schedule though–I would never, ever remember which Friday was casual!

      2. JessaB*

        Yeh I have what I call a go-bag in my car. Since we used to live in Florida and often had major storm systems come up in between work and home, mine had a lot more stuff in it (clean clothes for me and Mr B, a bottle with some of our meds in it in case we couldn’t get home, toothbrushes etc. Enough to spend a night at a motel.) But it certainly would have been enough to change at work with.

        1. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          Same, except I’m in California where we have wild fires, floods, mudslides (in that order every year), power failures, the occasional earthquake, plagues of locusts, frogs, water into blood, brimstone raining from the sky…

          Mostly I keep a change of clothes and shoes for emergency situations rather than work (jeans, tennis shoes, t-shirt, jacket) I once dumped coffee all down myself at work. My boss was fine with me wearing jeans and a t-shirt for half a day when it normally wouldn’t be OK but I’m not in a customer-facing position. I don’t keep a change of work clothes.

          1. sam Conklin*

            Okay – you owe me a monitor. Mine has coke all over it.

            Plagues of locusts, frogs, water…. right after Passover. You da man, definitely behind the curtain.. You need to come out from behind the curtain. We need more of you!

        2. Marillenbaum*

          I have something similar in my locker on campus (grad student): It has everything I need should I not be able to get ready at my house for whatever reason. Contact lens stuff, toothbrush, hair things, deodorant…it has come in handy on days when I oversleep as well.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I keep spare pants, sweater, and underpants in a locked filing cabinet in my office. I figure if I really ruin a shirt, I can throw a sweater over it, and I wear sweaters for a good portion of the year anyway, so that’s at least as likely to be what needs changing anyway. (Sometimes even in the summer, depending on the office thermostat and how active I’ve been at the office.)

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        This too. I have a zip-up sweater in a drawer at work in case it’s chilly. In a pinch, I could wear that without a shirt under it.

    3. Rebecca in Dallas*

      A dress is smart! I usually keep a spare sweater at my desk, ideally for days that it’s really cold in the office (our HVAC seems to have a mind of its own), but it’s come in handy times that I’ve spilled on my blouse.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Same. I basically keep an entire backup wardrobe (shirt, and skirt or pants), backup shoes, 1-2 backup cardigans, tights, and a backup suit/suit jacket in my office, and I keep a clean gym-clothes wardrobe in my trunk. I also have a basket of “emergency” supplies—sewing kit, laundry pen/stain wipes, superglue, feminine hygiene products, hair ties and bobby pins, a travel kit with toothbrush/toothpaste and hairspray, first aid supplies, etc. My office is just smaller than a prison cell, so I employ some fascinating storage techniques to make this work. It sounds extreme, but the number of times I’ve been bailed out by my backup stash—or have bailed out a colleague—now numbers in the dozens of incidents.

      If I were particularly spill or accident prone, I would probably have a more comprehensive wardrobe stash on hand.

      1. GG*

        I have a similar “emergency” stash in my desk drawer. After the incident that shall not be named, it now also includes an extra pair of underpants.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          I have a makeup bag in my purse with a few basic makeup items, lip balm, lady products, a nail file, a couple of safety pins, ibuprofen, et cetera. There’s extra underwear in there. Suffice it to say that on the rare occasion I need it, I’m REALLY glad to have it.

      2. Bunny*

        I keep what I call an Arson Outfit in my car so when I spend part of the day at a fire scene I can spend the rest of it hopefully not smelling of burnt out buildings.

    5. Kj*

      Yep, I have a spare dress at work too. I bike commute so the risk of a sudden rainstorm makes it even more needed.

    6. Turtle Candle*

      Ooh, I’m going to have to steal this idea. I work from home most of the time and no one would know if I was wearing an entire spaghetti dinner on my shirt, but it feels like every time I actually am in the office, I pour coffee down my shirt. A little cotton dress would be a lifesaver.

    7. Anon because I STILL get (good-natured) flack for this*

      In addition to keeping some clothes at my desk, the back seat of my car was a catch-all for a variety of events. A raincoat lived there year-round, for example. Because I have the hardest time finding comfortable work shoes, I also kept socks and tennis shoes there too so I could at least drive to/from work in comfort.

      One day I found out at the last minute that I would be driving the head of my organization, my boss, and a coworker to an event. I hurriedly threw everything in my trunk before they came down to the parking garage. Welp. It turned out that in the nearly pitch-blackness of the parking garage, I missed a couple of black socks on my black seats. And there must have been some sort of static issue. I discovered this when we were walking in the building at our destination and saw my dirty black socks firmly attached to my boss’ and coworker’s rear ends.

      Years later, I still keep the inside of my car immaculate.

      1. Thyme*

        The mental image is making me laugh hysterically. That’s so awesome! and embarrassing I’m sure too, but OMG

      2. DataQueen*

        Omg, that’s great! And by great I mean horrible, but you know! My care is a black hole of clothing, and I’m (I know, I know) a smoker, so between the two things I can’t give coworkers a ride anywhere. Luckily, I’m past the stage where I would feel obligated should anyone ask me to give the boss/donor/board member a ride somewhere, but when I was younger there were definitely panicked truck stuffings and the spraying of febreeze.

    8. Jen S. 2.0*

      Yep, it’s not unusual for me to have a bag with changes of clothes in my car. I teach group exercise, so I have workout clothes, I have a party top in case someone wants to go out for drinks on a day I look a little dowdy, spare underwear (I have showered at the gym and discovered this critical omission several times :/ ), spare heels and flats, and a top I could throw on at work. None of them are my favorite items, but they’re all the ones that will do in a real pinch.

      I got a new car and haven’t put the bag back in the trunk. Need to work on that!

    9. Lala*

      I keep spare shoes (flats and heels) in my car, along with a couple of cardigans/jackets, and my winter coat lives there. And granola bars in the glove compartment. The shoes have come in handy several times, including when I broke a heel dancing at a friend’s wedding. I have a sweater and a cardigan at work, too, since it’s a bit of a hike from the parking lot to the office.

      Luckily, the one time I spilled something on myself at work, I was able to run to the bathroom (our staff bathrooms are single-person) and rinse the stain out, then dry it off using the super-strength hand dryer.

  2. FDCA In Canada*

    At my old job our building held both our offices and a production facility, so most of us in the office had a spare shirt handy because it wasn’t uncommon to get oil or dirt or something on your clothes, or snag or tear something. But it wasn’t an expectation, and at my current job the only clothes anyone keeps at work are spare sweaters and changes of shoes.

    I wouldn’t sweat it too much–clothing accidents happen to everyone, and as long as you’re not deliberately using your shirt as a plate to eat off, you’re probably fine.

  3. Jaguar*

    Just out of curiosity, OP, if you’re okay with sharing, how often does this sort of thing happen to you?

    1. Cap Hiller*

      Yeah I was wondering that too. I’ve had minor versions of each of those happen once maybe in the last decade. But if this happens often to you, I would have spare clothes on hand to avoid people knowing it’s happening a lot and coming across like you don’t have it all together.

    2. VintageLydia*

      A few people I know with ADHD are this accident prone. Not everyone I know with ADHD is, but every one I know who has these sorts of misshaps regularly are. (Not saying OP has ADHD. Just noting a possible cause.)

      1. Kj*

        So true! Husband and I both have ADHD and are death on clothes. Thrift stores and clearence racks are my friends.

        1. Casuan*

          Wo… Do you mean I can blame my klutziness on the fact that I’m left-handed?
          Mystery solved!!

          1. Anon for this*

            I know some lefties like this, too. You all use things made for your non-dominant hand all the time! I’m amazed you’re not klutzier.

        2. JustAnotherNonProfitManager*

          Yup – I have cut holes in a shirt cuff while cutting with my non-dominant hand and I’m in the very ambidextrous group of lefties.

          Also regularly spill coffee on self but that’s probably more about being a clumsy oaf

        3. Xarcady*

          I finally figured out why I can’t pour coffee without spilling it at work. The coffee machine is set up right against a wall–which is to the left of the coffee machine. So right-handed people have no problem, but us lefties, pouring with the left hand, bump into the wall all the time with our elbows. One unfortunate lefty broke three carafes before I pointed out the problem to him.

          So now I take a few steps away from the machine to pour the coffee. Which causes much comment–people think I’m headed to the sink to pour the coffee out and try to stop me.

          However, my left-handed ruler defies all righties who try to steal it. Revenge is mine!

      2. AKJ*

        I have ADHD and a reputation as a terrible klutz. One thing I have noticed, however, is that when I take my medication I am much more coordinated. I never thought the two things were related until I forgot to take my meds one day and walked smack into a wall.

    3. Lablizard*

      Not the OP, but I dribble coffee down the front of my shirt at least once a week and get bike grease on something at least once a month because I am clumsy and don’t pay attention to what I am doing. I always have a sweater or a shawl to cover up splills and try to wear dark colors all the time.

      Some of us are just uncoordinated

      1. blackcat*

        “Some of us are just uncoordinated”

        Indeed. I have fallen down entire flights of stairs on more than one occasion. Fortunately, I seem to be both clumsy and, uh, sturdy, and rarely suffer injury from my mishaps.

        1. Risha*

          I always laugh at old movies where they murder someone by shoving them down the stairs. The countless staircases I’ve fallen down over the years, with nothing worse than a turned ankle to show for it!

          1. ancolie*

            I grew up with a ridiculously big concern of falling down stairs because of those old movies and TV shows (Nick at Nite for the win?)!

        2. Nolan*

          Did you used to dance? I’m a former dance kid, dancers are like Gonzo, all sorts of crazy mishaps befall us, but somehow we almost never get hurt. I had to explain this at an old job after falling down the stairs twice in one month. Also falling *up* the stairs on more occasions than I care to recall. And tripping on the floor, and…

          1. Happy Lurker*

            I fall up the stairs constantly…I blame it on my poor fitting shoes, even when barefoot.

          2. Cap Hiller*

            Ha I used to dance and only got hurt outside the studio. I once fell up the stairs and broke my toe

          3. VroomVroom*

            I grew up doing ballet and am surprisingly clumsy – though if you WATCH me do something clumsy (slip, fall, trip, drop something, etc.) I’ve been told that it looks quite graceful in action.

            I’ve slipped down stairs and fallen horribly, and never broken anything more than a toe (knock wood) but do get horrible bruises and scrapes. I once had a bruise on my ass for 6 weeks because of a TERRIBLE fall on some wet stairs when it was raining. Was quite surprised nothing was broken that time!

        3. Lablizard*

          I fell up the stairs once. No, I have no idea how I managed it. I consider clumsiness to be my calling :)

    4. Spoonie*

      If I walk the dogs after I put on my work clothes, inevitably one of them is feeling needy that morning and puts paws on me or a wet muzzle or something. SOMETHING. I never notice until after I get to work. I swear they plan it. They have to know that mom going to work = keeping them in dog treats/food though…

      1. JustaTech*

        My dad once showed up to a new job after saying bye to me and my baby brother at breakfast. What he hadn’t noticed was that my baby brother had generously smeared his breakfast of pureed bananas all down my dad’s tie.
        Thankfully we were still living in a hotel next to the office so he could come back for a fresh tie.

    5. Anonymous for this*

      I’ve had an actual wardrobe malfunction about once every 10 years or so. On the other hand, I’ve had a couple of “accidents” where I couldn’t get to the restroom fast enough, or when I thought it was merely gas (and it wasn’t). It seems to be happening more often than it used to as I’ve gotten older.

  4. Antilles*

    I wouldn’t worry too much about a small stain or the like; that happens and most places wouldn’t blink twice at it. That said, if it’s something that happens regularly, it’s worth thinking if there’s something to prevent it – getting a few extra napkins at lunch to spread over your lap to catch spills, using a thermos-with-lid instead of the standard coffee cup, stuff like that.

    1. JeanB*

      You would not believe the number of times I’ve spilled coffee on myself even using a cup with a lid. I’m starting to think there’s actually something wrong with me!

          1. Zombii*

            My lip used to have a hole in it—and after I removed that piercing I realized I’d forgotten how to drink correctly without a straw. Still can’t manage it unless the intent is spill Coke all over myself. :(

          2. Wwr*

            I had bell’s palsy a while back, and the affected corner of my mouth will probably never seal 100% properly again. It’s always good for a laugh when I forget about my “drinking problem”

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I switched to tea in a totally open mug and two hands. I CANNOT drink coffee out of a to go cup for anything.
        I could have been OP 20 years ago…now I have a lot of shirts with designs on them. I really cannot have solid shirts for very long. I also have a stash of clothes at work, including a blazer, a sweatshirt, a sweater and an extra outfit (and my desk slipper/loafers)

        1. Snowglobe*

          Maybe you already know this, but with to go cups you need to make sure the opening is on the opposite side of the cup from the seam. I spilled all the time before someone told me about this.

          1. Happy Lurker*

            I had no idea, but I have weaned myself down to 1-2 cups (not buckets) of coffee before I leave the house and am much better for it. I will be keeping the hole opening/seam in mind from now on.
            Thank you!

          2. Blu*

            I’m so excited to test this out, I have never been able to figure out why I sometimes end up coffee drips all over.

            1. Jenna*

              I always examine my cup, and move the top so that the opening is not near the seam of the cup. It’s habit now, but, there’s a reason that I check.

      2. Emi.*

        Not so great for hot drinks, maybe, but you can get spillproof cups for kids that look similar to brightly-colored grownup cups with lids. Search for “360 sippy cup”–you can drink out of them from any direction, and they don’t have spouts to blow your cover! :)

        1. kb*

          My son has these! I never thought of using them as water bottle replacements but they’d be perfect for that!

      3. Cap Hiller*

        No I hate lids because it spills or dribbles oddly. Whenever I can I drink coffee with the lid off

    1. Manders*

      Yes! And you can tie a cardigan around your waist to cover stains/water on your butt if the situation is dire.

      1. nutbrownrose*

        And you can tie a sweater around your waist if you buy $10 jeans and they split down the crotch on the first day you wear them…or you get your period and your pants are light colored…

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Yes. I keep a simple black cardigan in my desk for emergencies/cold. I also have a shawl/scarf that can be used to cover a range of issues.

      My other advice is to simplify your wardrobe. I wear black/navy pants or a skirt most days. Dark clothes are pretty forgiving.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        I am all about the dark clothes and layers to avoid noticeable stains (maybe TMI- but I’m also fairly sweaty…. and dark clothes/layers helps for that too!)

          1. lionelrichiesclayhead*

            Me too! My solid clothes are all dark and my patterns are all vibrant and very busy. Perfect for disguising awkward sweat marks.

        1. CG*

          I second all of this. I live in DC and basically just wear black dresses with necklaces and ballet flats all summer because they look professional and they hide the sweat so, so well.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Shawls are seriously one of the best ways to cover up wardrobe snafus.

        1. Gadfly*

          Multi-color patterned scarves–they hide the stains on themselves to a point, and can serve as bibs and can cover a lot of stains up top while being light enough to wear in summer.

      3. OhNo*

        Seconding both the cardigan/sweater idea and picking clothes that will match your most common stains.

        I’ve gotten to the point now where I almost exclusively wear grey pants, because they hide my most common issue (dirt! so much dirt!) best.

        1. The Optimizer*

          I have a black & grey cat, a white cat and a tan dog so I wear A LOT of grey. My grey peacoat is the best purchase I have ever made!

    3. misplacedmidwesterner*

      I was just going to say cardigan! I keep a roomy lightweight cardigan in my office in a neutral color. It helps when it gets cold, and even during the summer it is light weight enough not to be uncomfortable. It’s long (past my butt) and could easily cover up most spills and rips. In fact it has been put to that purpose. Easy to keep stored over the back of your desk chair.

      And seriously those laundry pens or the Shout wipes are a lifesaver. I’m also spill prone and keep them in my purse at all times.

    4. penny*

      That’s what I was thinking. Maybe a longer,neutral jacket that covers the butt or that you could tie around the waist to keep at the office if you do spill. Or the pants & shirt.

      I once spilled my fresh cup of coffee all down my shirt & pants at my first am meeting. Had to run to Target to buy a new outfit. The spares would have been handy to avoid a purchase.

    5. Emotionally Neutral Grad*

      There is also a type of longer cardigan called a duster that comes down to about knee length and should be good for covering anything on the top half of one’s skirt or trousers. If you’re not careful in the bathroom, though, the excess fabric can dip into a toilet bowl fairly easily.

      1. Zombii*

        Ohgodno. Take the duster off in the stall, then put it back on after. (To be fair, I get pretty squicked out thinking about the bottom of a duster touching the bathroom floor at work anyway, so… win/win for this solution.)

    6. Lefty*

      Or a “duster” style sweater, if that’s an option! They’re handy to cover spills on top or (most of) bottom, since they are often calf length.

      1. Lefty*

        Emotionally Neutral Grad- you must have been posting as I was pulling up the page. Great minds and all that! ;)

  5. Ang the SA*

    I am pretty accident prone as well. I keep a couple of outfits that are work appropriate in my car just in case. This was especially helpful when I was pregnant and nursing. I definitely had some leakage when I was pumping at work and it was nice just to go in the bathroom and change shirts and not have to worry about it.

    I think just keeping a couple changes of clothes and shoes just in case is the best idea.

  6. The Optimizer*

    I’m ridiculously accident prone and have an ample chest that catches spills. When I worked in an office, I always kept a neutral colored cardigan in my office. It was great for covering up a stained shirt and could also be worn around the waist if needed.

    I did once have a bra mishap that required an early end to my day, however. Thankfully, my boss was very understanding of my wardrobe malfunction and didn’t give me any flak.

    1. K.*

      I had a bra basically totally give way. The clasps tore out. I can’t go braless (I’m a D-cup), but thankfully I’d packed my gym bag to work out after work so I had a sports bra with me. I changed into that. It was winter and I was wearing a loose sweater so it wasn’t as noticeable.

      1. The Optimizer*

        F here and one of my straps gave out completely. Couldn’t pin it (I tried but the pin kept separating) and I didn’t want to be VERY lopsided all day so I had to go. Thankfully, I was able to work from home once I got there!

        1. nutbrownrose*

          I once had to have a roommate sew the strap of my spaghetti strap dress back on in an airport. Thank god for theatre geeks who can’t help keeping supplies on them.

      2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I’m very busty (HHH) and years ago I had a mishap that still makes me blush/giggle over. I worked as a manager in a women’s clothing store and was working the closing shift. I was about three hours into my shift and an hour into a major merchandising re-work when a couple came into the store. I was also wearing my first ever front clasp bra. The couple was heading to a wedding the next day and the woman needed some help with finding a dress. I had literally just gotten her started in the fitting room and her husband and I were searching the racks for things that would work when the clasp on my bra just gave out. There was this loud SNAP! and then my breasts kind of bounced in opposite directions. The poor guy was stunned, I turned about 14 shades of red and my co-worker got hit by the piece of plastic that had popped out of my shirt when the bra gave way. The good news is: most comfortable shift ever worked! The second I was able to get away I just slipped the bra off, threw a sweater on, and finished my shift. I still get cringy but giggly when I think about it. His face was honestly so shocked when the breasts just kind of did their own thing for those few seconds.

        1. JeanB*

          Oh that’s funny! My front-clasp bra pops open sometimes too but I’ve never had it do it so dramatically.

          1. T*

            Not work related, but I am rather busty myself (G cup) and was once invited to a trampoline party. I bought a new zip front sports bra for the occasion… about 25 minutes into the party, the zip failed and it just *burst* open mid-bounce.

            Part of me wonders how often that happens at trampoline places?

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Oh yeah – back when I wore underwire bras, I had one rip loose and actually snag my shirt from the inside. I did my best to fix it with tape and safety pins and I don’t think I went home early, but I honestly don’t recall.

    3. Kaybee*

      On a couple of occasions I’ve had an underwire pop my bra and stab me. (This was when I was young and didn’t realize that just because I could get a VS bra on my body didn’t mean it was my correct size.) On super busy days, too, when I couldn’t leave to go home or shopping, so I had to retreat to the bathroom to remove the wire. There’s nothing like the pain of being stabbed by your own bra, then spending the rest of the day with one cup supported and the other not. :l

    4. Lizard*

      Haha! My mother had a double mastectomy and didn’t have reconstruction. She was pretty petite as it was so usually didn’t bother with prosthetics, but she did for more formal occasions. Once when she was giving a talk at a conference to a room full of people her mastectomy bra clasp gave way and due to the weight of the prosthetics the whole structure plunged to her waist. Fortunately she thought it was more funny than awful.

  7. Karyn*

    I used to keep Tide pens at my desk at Old Job. Then one day, Boss Man called me from his office and asked me to bring them in. I thought he misspoke and just meant bring ONE in, so I go in with one, thinking it was a spill on his tie or something.

    He was standing there in his undershirt, button-down on his desk, COVERED in Diet Coke. Like, it looked like he spilled his whole 16-oz bottle on it. I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing and told him that no amount of Tide pens was going to help this situation.

    I went out and bought him (with his credit card, of course) a new shirt from the TJ Maxx down the street, which he then kept in his office for future occasions such as that.

    Moral of the story: spare clothes in one’s office are a must if you tend to wear your lunch or, like me, rip your clothes constantly.

    1. Squeeble*

      That is hilarious!

      My old boss got a dress shirt as a gift from a vendor one Christmas (weird, I know), and it wasn’t really to his liking, but he wisely kept it in his office as a backup. A few years later he spilled something and still had that shirt ready to go.

      1. Karyn*

        That is precisely what you do with clothes you don’t like. Backup clothes! Do you know how many backup ties one of my friends’ husbands has?

      1. Karyn*

        I never did get the story as to what exactly he did to cause that major malfunction. He spilled stuff on himself in the future, but it was never that level of destruction.

        1. JanetM*

          My first guess would be a spray from a shaken can/bottle, rather than a spill. But I could be wrong.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I love that he thought “all the Tide pens” would help with this problem. :)

    2. Turanga Leela*

      I’ve had amazingly good luck washing things like this out in the bathroom sink. Just totally soak it with water and scrub with hand soap if necessary. It’s not perfect, and your clothes are soaking wet afterwards, but it works if you catch the spill quickly. I’ve gotten coffee out of a white shirt without a trace.

      1. Karyn*

        Yes! Also, my friend taught me that a tiny bit of Dawn will take out an oil stain, because somehow I always manage to spill salad dressing on myself.

        1. fposte*

          I’ve also found that citrus cleaner will work on oily stains if Dawn doesn’t; just be careful to test the item first.

        2. SignalLost*

          Works on butter, too, if you get melted butter on a shirt you like. Anything with an oil base, apparently, Dawn is great for stain treating.

    3. The Optimizer*

      My best stain story, out of many: I’m on my way to a dog training class right after work. I just have enough time to pick up the dog then stop for a drive through burrito and a horchata for dinner for my 7p-10p class. The cashier hands me the horchata but the lid isn’t secure, so it spills all down the door of my car and splashes on me. There is white, frothy liquid all over my dark green shirt and I have no time to spare, so I went to class. Class starts with the usual exercise of parade your dog around and greet the other students while socializing your dog and moves on to standing up in front of the whole class showing off our training work surrounded by mirrors and looking like….well, whatever one looks like when they have crusty white splatters all over the chest of their shirt. Not my best moment.

  8. Dust Bunny*

    I’m honestly a little mystified by this. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten seriously stained at work. But if you’re spill-prone, keeping an extra shirt on hand doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    1. Manders*

      I think some people are just spill-prone, and it’s especially obvious if you drink a lot of coffee or eat goopy foods for lunch. Most of my work tops are black or dark blue to hide coffee spills.

      1. many bells down*

        Yeah I can’t eat anything without covering myself in crumbs. And occasionally, while distracted by what I was working on, I have missed my mouth with my coffee cup.

      2. JessaB*

        And I come from a family of women who have a bunch of large not too gaudy pins to use for those stains on the shelf. We’re all built large, and it’s nearly impossible to go very long without a stain there. When they invented the Tide Pen we were all in heaven. Because no matter how good you are, if that stain sits til you get home, you never get it out.

        1. AMPG*

          I have a family member who wears a brooch or scarf (or both) almost every day for just this reason! After lunch she shifts it around to hide whatever she spilled.

          1. Gadfly*

            Sometimes the boobs and the elbows try to be in the same place at the same time and stuff just gets spilled.

            An online friend recently mentioned that she keeps extra scarves, all highly patterned, that she can use as adult bibs–little stains don’t show and they can hide anything that gets the top of the shirt, and it is easy to have a spare tucked away if needed. And you can shake off the crumbs.

            I’ve decided it is genius and just have to learn how to pull off dressy scarves with a short neck.

      3. BF50*

        I don’t even think about it any more, but just naturally gravitate to dark patterned tops that hide spills more easily.

        I literally spilled pepsi on my shirt about 15 minutes ago, but fortunately it’s not too obvious with this shirt and it’s mostly covered by my jacket.

        I am mystified by people who wear white. Ever, for any reason. To each their own. :)

    2. caryatis*

      I wonder why OP doesn’t just take the manager’s suggestion to keep extra clothes at work? I just looked and I have 2 work shirts, 3 gym shirts, 3 sweaters, a dress, a pair of pants, and assorted socks, pantyhose and underwear in my drawer (and I rarely spill or rip anything). Much easier and cheaper than buying new clothes.

      (I realize not everyone has storage space at work, but it sounds like OP does.)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I think this would only work if you had a whole outfit (shoes, socks, top), which you do, but I am personally reluctant to tie up a pair of pants that actually fits to keep them as back-ups at my office.

        1. Jessica*

          Exactly! Keeping an extensive spare wardrobe in your desk drawer might be a great plan for those who can just whisk into any store and grab something off the rack, but given what I have to go through to get any viable clothes, i will not lightly take something out of circulation.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      If you’re particularly…chesty…it’s VERY easy. I can’t tell you how many formal dresses I’ve ruined dropping a piece of lettuce or something there. Usually with a nice oily dressing.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Chocolate down the cleavage is my bane. Even a tiny little crumb of it makes a GIANT UGLY MARK.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I really like snacking on blueberries and am constantly losing them down my blouse. I’m always afraid I’ll squish one before I get to the bathroom and can fish it out in private* but it hasn’t happened yet.

          *Sometimes I just check to see if anyone’s looking and fish it out at my desk.

          1. JessaB*

            I cannot eat Cheerios without getting them down the front of my shirt. I’m like a little kid so I snack on them dry, but OMG I must drop/spill at least a few every. single. time.

            1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

              Any kind of small candy – M&M’s, Skittles and Jelly Beans – falls into the black hole that is my bra every time! Yesterday I must’ve fished out 6 or 7 Jelly Beans…all before breakfast. :)

              1. Alter_ego*

                I have this problem with popcorn. About half a bucket falls out of my shirt when I get undressed after getting home from the movies.

              2. MegaMoose, Esq*

                Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had a song called “Heavy Boobs” with the lyric: “Stuff falls into my bra. It’s a little bit of a drag. But when I got to bed at night, it’s like opening a Mary Poppins bag.”

                1. Kaybee*

                  +1000 MegaMoose and Alter_ego. Taking off my bra after going to the movie theater (all that popcorn in the DARK) is really the only time I’m ashamed of myself as a human being!

                2. Marillenbaum*

                  Stapler, ten pencils, paperback copy of Arabian Nights
                  Dog bone, remote control, hardback copy of Wuthering Heights

                3. Mananana*

                  MegaMoose, I just sang your CEG’s song to my husband (in my best Mary Poppin’s voice). He thinks I’ve lost my mind. But it’s just So. Dang. Accurate. Credit cards, house keys, cell, hair pin, fitbit…… the list goes on.

          2. Corky's wife Bonnie*

            OMG…that happened to me last summer….with a blueberry. Of course I was wearing a nude colored bra that day and the stain did not come out. Thankfully it didn’t get on my blouse.

      2. MissMaple*

        Indeed. Avocado is particularly delicious, slippery, and oil-staining! I also occasionally notice a stain in that area once I get home that I didn’t even realize I’d gotten, usually after I’ve been introduced to someone or had to present in front of higher-ups that day. Keeping a long wrap in the office has been of frequent use.

      3. Manders*

        This is why I only buy white shirts from Goodwill, so I won’t be out a lot of money when I inevitably drop something on them. :(

      4. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        Dish soap. Rub dish soap in the oily stain (before you wash it, dry it, and ergo set it) and it will come out and leave no mark. I have had this happen so many times to my bust-shelf.

        1. The Optimizer*

          Just don’t use one that is particularly dark colored – I once stained a shirt with a blue streak from this method!

      5. The Optimizer*

        EXACTLY. I spill on just about every top I won. I just changed a while ago, came back from walking the dog and heated up some soup (similar to ramen or pho with lots of noodles) and sure enough, I have at least 5 little drips on my shirt.

        I don’t wear white. EVER!

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        YUP. I’m also really prone to spilling coffee on myself and to others spilling red wine on me (yup, I don’t spill wine on myself—others do). I have no good answers for coffee or condiment spills, but you can usually get red wine out by pouring a little bit of white wine over it. Something about white wine canceling out the tanins in red wine or something like that that I don’t really understand (but that has always worked for me).

      7. MegaMoose, Esq*

        All aboard the boob-stain train! I’ve usually got layers and can make do, although I did have to go back to my hotel-room and change once after a sloppy-joe incident at a friend’s wedding.

      8. Ellen Fremedon*

        This is why I own a number of scarves in busy mixed-neutral prints. If I’m eating something messy or wearing a dress that will really show stains, I bring a coordinating scarf that I can drape around my neck / over my chest. They look cute, and no one can tell it’s effectively a bib.

        1. Gadfly*

          A friend of mine does that and I think it is genius. I just need to figure out how to wear dressy scarves in a way that works with a short, stout neck…

    4. Oignonne*

      All sorts of factors go into it- what you eat, how you eat (e.g. while multitasking), the weather in your area, how big a stain has to be before you want to cover it up, if you’re already just prone to it, etc. I don’t spill often, but when I do, I prefer to cover it up even if it’s not massive. And my commute often involves some walking and a few times a year I’ll think I’m fine heading out without an umbrella or without a top that hides sweat and be unpleasantly surprised.

      I think at least a spare umbrella and a jacket or other sort of overwear would be a good idea for OP. An entire change of clothes and flats would probably be best, if heels and stains extremely noticeable even with a cover-up are a problem.

    5. pope suburban*

      I don’t know the OP’s situation, but people with medical conditions affecting their fine motor skills or mobility can be more prone to drop things. It’s just one of those things that happens. Keeping extra clothes or a little work-emergency kit around is a pretty good idea.

        1. DevManager*

          I do. I can time my cycle to within a few days based on when I start dropping things randomly and/or running into doorways, etc.

          1. Teclatrans*

            Yes, this! When my sense of proprioception tanks and I start bumping into doorways and fumbling everything, I know my estrogen has dropped.

            Interestingly, ADHD is women gets worse with the drop in estrogen, too. (Which is why symptoms in girls often become noticeable in prepubescence, and why some women aren’t diagnosed until after menopause.)

          2. Anon10111973*

            Oh gosh, yes to the above! So bad I have to wear flats to work, am not allowed to cook because I drop knives and spill things worse than usual.

        2. pope suburban*

          Huh. I had not heard, and now I must undertake a science experiment on myself. This comments section is always so educational! :D

    6. Wwr*

      It’s not really that mystifying. Some people catch a lot of colds, some people are accident prone, some people are tone deaf, some people can’t whistle – variety is the spice of life.

  9. Venus Supreme*

    For me, I always keep an oversized cardigan in my office, so that would help with any malfunctions from the waist up. I’ve also gone out to purchase new clothes in the middle of the work day. I’ve never had any serious pant-rips at work but I’ve definitely had the instance where I accidentally put on my “lounge pants” (AKA black pants with the fabric worn out where the thighs touch) for work. I just powered through the rest of the day and tried to do minimal walking. Are you handy with a needle and thread? Maybe you could keep a mini sewing kit nearby to mend any rips. I know it wouldn’t work for me, though, since I don’t have any sewing skills.

    Story time: I work in a theatre so I have the advantage of having a costume shop in cases of emergencies. We once had a patron unfortunately soil herself and our costume shop was gracious enough to provide her with sweatpants to help with the situation.

    1. Nolan*

      Fun fact: Staplers can be used to quickly mend a seam in a pinch. So, if you’re not handy with a needle and thread, but pop a seam, a stapler can help you get through the checkout line with minimal embarrassment

      1. sam*

        I’ve fixed more than one pants hem with a stapler or tape in an emergency (depending on the type of hem).

      2. Tax Nerd*

        I’m a big fan of Hollywood Fashion Tape for quick-mending seams. It’s basically a 3″ (or so) strip of double-sided tape with backing on both sides. Great for hems that need mending, straps that slip, or blouses that gap more than you realized… I’ve got a little tin of the strips, and I’ve definitely handed a few out to coworkers in need.

        My other fave are Shout Wipes. They get so many more stains than a Tide pen, in my experience, though they are sometimes hard to find in stores. Sadly, though, they dry out after a while, so the one I had in a glove compartment for a year wasn’t much help. But I try to keep a couple on hand for minor spills.

        When that doesn’t work, I often keep a jacket at my desk, or a fashion scarf. Something lightweight that folds up small, and won’t look like I’m about to put on my winter coat and leave. Or if I am wearing a scarf anyway, I remove it for lunch so it doesn’t become a bib.

        1. Marisol*

          I love fashion tape and use it constantly. Not for rips, but to close those low-cut blouses and the occasional high-cut skirt vent.

          Shout wipes I buy on Amazon.

        2. Tarasa McCluskey*

          I have re-wet the shout wipes with my water bottle to great effect in the past. Only on synthetics though.

    2. Elemeno P.*

      I keep a mini sewing kit in my desk, which was very helpful when a seam in my dress burst all down the front.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I do, too! Plus safety pins. And yes, I have actually used a stapler in a pinch.

    3. k*

      If you have no sewing skills, keeping a little stash of safety pins around can be a life saver.

      I once wore a new button up dress to work (the buttons ran down the entire front of the dress). It was only after I sat down at my desk that I realized depending on how I moved there would be huge visible gaps between every button. I was able to find some old pin-on name tags we had leftover from an event, and dismantled a bunch to steal the pins. It wasn’t comfortable but it got me through the day without flashing anyone. Lesson learned.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I once saved a bridesmaid’s entire evening because I had a huge handful of tiny safety pins in my evening purse. I was carrying the white one I’d used for my own wedding, and I’d thrown them in there then, and just never taken them out.

        My MIL came back from the bathroom at the wedding palace where we were attending a cousin’s wedding and asked me if I had a sewing kit in my bag, because she knew it was the one I’d had at my wedding. I mentioned the safety pins and went off to the bathroom, where I discovered that a young woman from another wedding had had her skirt come completely unstitched from the bodice of her gown–a quarter of the way around her waist. She was sobbing and panicking in the bathroom with half her butt just hanging out of the gap, poor kid!

        I stitched her up with all my tiny safety pins–it didn’t look half bad by the time I got done. Apparently several friends were marrying in the same wedding season, and they’d all chosen the exact same gown so their friends could wear them in all the weddings. So I told her how to get it fixed, and suggested she warn them all to simply have a seamstress re-stitch the skirts of all the dresses in place.

        One of my superhero moments.

        1. Chinook*

          My mom, as chairman of the school board, attended numerous grads and got a reputation for carrying a small roll of duct tape in her purse that could be used to seal up drooping hems and gaping seams.

      2. Liz*

        I’m both busty and accident prone — I ordered a packet of safety pins to go in my office’s first aid kit, and it’s been a lifesaver for my similarly-shaped coworkers.

  10. K.*

    I definitely wouldn’t worry about getting rained on; you can’t control the weather, and presumably if it was raining that hard you weren’t the only one who got soaked.

    My friend split his pants across the seam and had to run out and get new pants (NYC, getting new clothes quickly is easy to do). After that he started keeping a spare suit in his office, just in case. I have another friend who sweats easily so he keeps a spare dress shirt on hand in the summer. If you’re really concerned about wardrobe malfunctions, having a spare outfit on hand can’t hurt.

    1. Amber T*

      I left my car windows open one night that there was a torrential downpour. For *whatever reason* I didn’t put two and two together that open windows would mean wet seat. So I plop down right on the nice wet seat (cloth seat cars, extra absorbent) in my relatively light colored pants. Had a very large wet stain on my behind by the time I got to work (luckily they weren’t light enough to become see through). I had packed my gym bag, so I changed into my (bright, obnoxiously colored) spandex and ran to the bathroom and dried my pants in the hand drier. Not ideal, they were still damp for a while, but the color change disappeared.

      1. Erin*

        Emergency towels!!! I always have one in my car. The last one I had I gave away because there was an elderly man who slipped on some ice and cracked his head. Fortunately there was an off duty paramedic around and I gave the towel to the paramedic to stop the bleeding.

    2. Epsilon Delta*

      I wouldn’t worry about being a little damp from the rain, but if you are so soaked that you look like you fell in a swimming pool with your clothes on (which is what sounds like happened to OP), you need to change — at best you will be super uncomfortable, at worst you will be tracking water everywhere and getting equipment wet.

      The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of keeping a spare set of clothes at the office. All I have right now is an extra sweater.

    3. Anonymous Cast Member*

      The only time I’ve gotten completely soaked on the way to work was when I was working backstage in Walt Disney World – I was part of the crew that did costume laundry/setup for Fantasmic and the sky just opened right up as several of us were headed backstage. We were all in company-issued “costumes” (anything you wear to work in WDW is classified as a costume, not a uniform, so I don’t mean we were in performer’s costumes), but we didn’t have time to go back to Main Issue and switch out our outfits without making the night a real pain for ourselves. There was a rack of jumpsuits for the technicians, though, so we all put on spare jumpsuits and stuck our regular work clothes in the drying room until our lunch break.

      I mean, if you’re going to have a wardrobe malfunction at work, a department dedicated to laundry is probably the best place to do it.

  11. Fishgal*

    I have an unusual job (work with fish) I keep spare clothes at work because I get soaking wet pretty frequently but it’s also not a big deal to go home and change (it’s a couple hundred yards away) I just prefer changing at work so I don’t walk home wet. I have taken PTO mid day to go home and shower but that’s another story.

  12. Bend & Snap*

    Spare clothes for sure.

    And if you’re female, a scarf is good to keep around too. It saved me when I went to work with baby poop smeared on my top and didn’t find out till I got to the office.

    CVS brand baby wipes are my go-to stain remover for spills.

    I’ve gone home for a wardrobe malfunction exactly once and it was the kind that required a jacket around the waist; I came right back to work after changing.

      1. LawBee*

        Agree! But men and male-identifying people don’t tend to wear the gauzy loose scarves that are good year-round. Their scarves are, from what I’ve seen, cold weather only.

        fwiw, I am firmly on the side of “wear what you like”, and could give a flying fig if John down the hall wore a floral scarf around his polo shirt.

    1. Kelly O*

      I had to go home once to change – but I spilled an entire waste toner box on myself, down the front of my dress, and had to go home and scrub it off. Essentially I had two baths that day.

      Note, even after scrubbing with my nail brush in the shower, I still had it on me. It took a couple of days to get it all removed. I wound up having to get rid of the cream colored cardigan I was wearing, as well as the nude bra, which was no longer nude.

      Most other things I’ve managed to deal with by either quick shopping trips, or stuff I keep at my desk.

  13. Sketchee*

    Usually I just spill and tear all over my clothes and don’t even notice until I go home. Sometimes forget to wash those pants and wear them stained again. Oops.

  14. SometimesALurker*

    I used to work somewhere that had colonial costumes on hand for special events (a history museum, but we didn’t ordinarily have costumed characters). Both my boss and I ended up wearing half colonial garb at some point during our time there, after a spill or a particularly bad downpour. A friend who works at a science museum wore a bee costume in her office while her pants dried after a spill.

      1. Zombii*

        What part of “keep a bee costume at work to wear while your pants dry” do you think isn’t helpful advice? ;P

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I’m just going to savor this like a fine wine.

      1. Girl Alex PR*

        I work at a hospital and when I spilled my lunch I changed into scrubs. I am NOT a doctor. While walking to a meeting in said scrubs, I got pulled into the OR because someone assumed I was one of our female surgeons. That was fun to explain.

    2. ZSD*

      I imagine parents came up to ask the bee questions about science. “No, ma’am, I’m afraid I’m not in customer service. Why do you ask?”

    3. Whats In A Name*

      Seriously. I can’t stop the tears. All I am envisioning is a big bee with his antenna all flouncy while he answers the phone. “Let me buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz the manager for you. Hold please.”

      1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        Not totally on topic, but I have to share. I once forgot that I had a research interview scheduled with the assistant to Donald Rumsfeld…on Halloween. I took the interview dressed as a giant squirrel.

          1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            It wasn’t a job interview. I was interviewing him as part of research for a client project. But I’m fairly certain most of the military & military adjacent SMEs I interviewed when I worked at that particular lefty-pseudo-academic org thought all my colleagues and I were batsh*t crazy.

            The squirrel suit did win me major accolades in the costume contest…and I learned to keep a spare dress in my bottom drawer, as many have suggested.

          1. Spoonie*

            I chuckled at the bee. The squirrel costume got actual laughter (suppressed because…ya know). That’s beautiful.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          This is the best thing. I am now convinced that I need a giant squirrel costume in my life.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              That is the best thing; seeing it makes the story EVEN BETTER. I know what I’m going to be this Halloween. Also, this is officially my favorite thread.

    4. cataloger*

      I own a bee costume, and now I want to keep it in my desk in case I have a spill and have to change into it.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is the best. It reminds me of that episode of West Wing when Josh passes out in his office drunk and Donna makes him put on fisherman garb while she gets his suit dry cleaned.

      I think I am going to start keeping some emergency clothes at the office after reading this post.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Every part of these stories, and the ones that follow, are making me so happy right now.

      At least your friend has her Halloween costume for next year? (“Bee Girl” from the Blind Melon’s “No Rain” music video)

  15. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    When I was living in Texas, home to massive tropical downpours, 112 degree heat, and breakfast tacos, I invested in a bunch of work clothes from a company called Ministry of Supply (no advert, just like ’em) that makes all their clothes from technical materials that are stretchy, wicking, and stain resistant. Expensive as hell, but there were multiple times when I spilled some tea or got caught sideways by a thunderstorm, and was dry and comfortable 30 minutes later.

  16. Nolan*

    I definitely have a couple articles of clothing that I purchased from Daffy’s across the street (oh Daffy’s, I pine for you!) because I forgot something or had a tear, etc. When stores are close, that’s probably the most common method of coping, though if this happens a lot, I’d recommend keeping some cheap spares at the office as backup.

  17. Ted Mosby*

    I am a young and young looking woman and used to work at a university so undergrads often assumed I was one of them (for context). One day I was taking the elevator up to my lab and wearing a silk button down shirt. It was this very slippery and soft material. One of the undergrads in the lab next to mine, a pretty typical elite school, high IQ, science nerd was there and kept glancing at me and then looking away. He was beet red and sweating. I got to lab and my coworker just bust out laughing. My shirt was so silky the top two buttons had slipped right through and my boobs were hanging out. Of course it was laundry day and I was in a lacy push up bra. Did not go home but the urge was real.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I always have at least 2 safety pins with me for this exact reason. I keep them on my key ring and they serve 2 functions. 1 – when I go running I safety pin my car key to my clothes so I don’t lose it. 2 – to pin up slippery button situations just like this. It’s come in handy more times than I can count.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        I have 2-3 just fastened inside my purse for things like this. Even if I don’t need them, plenty of times other people have asked and I have been happy to help them with a pin.

      2. Judy*

        I’ve taken to sewing snaps in between the buttons of slippery button downs. It helps with the gaps too.

        (sew one on, then attach the other to the first, and put chalk on the back to know where to place it on the other side.)

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Ohhhhh, buttons are the devil! I’ve got a dress that is that perfect combination of super comfortable and dressy-looking… but it has a line of buttons up the bodice and they tend to slip open whenever I breathe. I finally just gave up and started wearing a complementary cami underneath so that it looked like a deliberate pop of color instead of a constant wardrobe malfunction.

        1. Sylvia*

          I’m fairly flat-chested and this has happened even in shirts and dresses that fit loosely (caught in the dressing room with only one embarrassing exception so far), so I have decided it is just not meant to be.

      1. Arielle*

        I have a super cute dress with buttons up the bodice which I discovered were a) not, um, very load-bearing and b) not sewn on well the first time I wore it and they started popping off. What I ended up doing was actually sewing the placket together and then sewing the buttons directly to that, making the whole thing purely decorative but much more stable. (This technique will only work if it’s something you can get over your head without unbuttoning.)

        1. Gadfly*

          I’ve done that–or used hem tape. Loose, silky/satiny blouses with buttons are the worst for slipping open, but because they are loose, this works.

    3. Sylvia*

      This happened to me once at work, minus being told about it.

      I noticed when I walked outside and felt a breeze where one shouldn’t feel a breeze.

      I worked with a bunch of older men who all had daughters around my age. It must have been so uncomfortable. I just tell myself that my shirt came undone sometime between leaving my desk and walking outside, no, it couldn’t have been like that all day…

  18. paul*

    After an incredibly embarrassing event (that I think I mentioned here) I keep a spare pair of underwear at work. I’ve almost always kept an office appropriate sweater too, that’s covered a few stains and the like.

    Most places do understand that stuff happens and a slight stain on the shirt or pants after lunch won’t raise eyebrows, ditto rained on (unless it made stuff see-through I guess).

    I do have to ask though…how often is stuff happening?!

    1. a girl has no name*

      Just last week I had a really embarrassing female issue and needed to run home. I took an early lunch, but I kept wondering how horrifying it would have been if I couldn’t run home. I am going to put a full change of clothes in the car. Great suggestion everyone.

      I also think a cardigan and scarf help with most wardrobe issues.

  19. 2 Cents*

    OP, I feel your pain! When I commuted in the city, it was a near-daily exercise of “keep myself presentable.” I kept an extra shirt in my desk, as well as a long plain cardigan and pashmina, which could both hide a multitude of spills and sins. As for rain, I kept an extra pair of shoes at my desk, so if I got caught in a downpour, at least I had a dry, squeak-free pair to change into at work. If you drive to work, I’d keep an extra change of clothes in the car, but otherwise, just own your klutziness–and keep Tide pens handy and lids on your beverages :)

  20. insert pun here*

    I’ve definitely used a stapler to do emergency seam repair. Works way better than you’d think!

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I’ve used scotch tape! Not comfortable but you couldn’t tell by looking that it was there.

  21. No space*

    What happens if you take public transportation to work (i.e. no trunk to store things) and your desk doesn’t have drawers or enough space on top to keep things like a spare outfit? My desk is wide enough for my monitor and my mousepad. There are no drawers. I’d basically have to carry in a spare outfit with me every day in a tote, cram it between my feet and then carry it home every night.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      Is there anyone nearby who does have desk space you could use? I had a drawer for my spare outfit at work at my last place, but my boss knew I took public transit, so he would’ve been cool with me leaving my outfit in his office if I didn’t have the space for it.

    2. Bye Academia*

      Could you at least keep a work appropriate cardigan or blazer on the back of your chair? Then you’d have something to cover up with in an emergency. Better than nothing.

      1. No space*

        I could, but I’d have to bring it back and forth everyday. I’m not allowed to leave anything on the back of the chair overnight.

          1. No space*

            I think it’s because the cleaning crew moves stuff around a lot when cleaning and items have been dropped and subsequently misplaced in the past. I *guess* technically I could leave something but there’s no guarantee of it still being there the next morning. My manager just told me not to leave anything.

        1. Lablizard*

          Can you carry a bag with some back up basics? I have a messenger bag that I carry in addition to my purse with some emergency great (e.g. headlamp, sweater, shawl, phone charger, flats)

    3. ZSD*

      That stinks. What do you do when you bring a coat? Do you have a coat rack or a cloakroom or something where you hang your coat and could also store spare clothes?

      1. No space*

        Hang it on the back of my chair. Which is annoying, because I have a longer coat and sometimes it gets caught under the wheels of the chair.

    4. Colette*

      It depends how often it’s an issue. I’ve never spilled stuff badly enough that I had to change – but if it happened once every month or so, I’d carry clothes back and forth (or find somewhere else to store them).

    5. KellyK*

      I think if that’s the case, your best bet is to keep a black cardigan on the back of your chair and a Tide pen in your purse.

      Also, giving you a really limited workspace is a choice that your employer made. One of the trade-offs of that choice is that they’re less likely to have employees who always look perfectly polished.

    6. nnn*

      Could you leave the tote with the spare outfit under your desk at all times, i.e. leave it behind overnight? Or is there some risk/hindrance to doing that (other than the usual risk that people sometimes steal stuff)?

      1. Beancounter Eric*


        Unless you stow things in a hard plastic or metal bin, mice can/will chew through.

        I’ve had the critters in my credenza, I’ve had them on top of a 5 foot lateral file cabinet, I’ve watched them scamper along the baseboards of my office in daylight.

          1. Beancounter Eric*

            Rodents will nibble on nearly anything. Fabric, foodstuffs, cardboard, paper towels (came in to find the roll of paper towels on my credenza were nibbled on over the weekend, spark plug wires (that cost me a few dollars), wood trim on a house (squirrels – rats with good PR!!)

      2. No space*

        We’re not supposed to leave stuff on the floor because of the cleaning crew. They won’t clean the space if there’s stuff there, and as Beancounter Eric mentions below, even if we don’t currently have mice, not cleaning might attract them.

        I’m also a little spooked by putting stuff on the floor because at my last job, I shared a little hole in the wall space in the basement with roaches, so…

    7. Nolan*

      Is there a coat rack? When I worked retail in NYC one of my managers would commute to work in street clothes and just carry his suit in a garment bag and change when he got to the store. He didn’t have a private office, so the garment bag just lived on the communal coat rack. Several of us kept work shoes there, and there were a few mystery coats and shirts of unknown provenance that appeared to be full time residents.

    8. Xay*

      I have a lightweight, wrinkle resistant cardigan that lives in my work tote that I carry for off-site meetings and business trips.

    9. Kj*

      If you are female and carry a larger bag to work, you could invest in a silk travel dress that look professional. Most fold up really tiny.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        This is a good idea. You can get a change of underthings, dress and cardigan in a very small package.

    10. Turanga Leela*

      There’s no easy answer, but I would carry a tote bag or large purse and stick a packable cardigan and/or scarf in there for emergencies. Maybe keep them in a pouch so they don’t snag.

      Do you commute in different shoes than you wear at work? A lot of people who take public transit wear commuting shoes and carry their work shoes, so if that’s you, just stick your extra clothes in the gym bag/shopping bag/whatever along with your shoes.

      1. No space*

        No, I typically wear sneakers at work (we’re pretty casual) or sandals, so I just wear whatever I’m going to be wearing at work.

    11. Argh!*

      Use a backpack, keep a rolled up wrinkle-free shirt/blouse in it, and use it instead of whatever else you’ve been carrying. They have loops at the top for hanging on coat hooks. Pants & Skirts are less likely to experience disasters.

      Also, put one of those small clothing repair kits and an extra pair of socks or nylons in one of the zipper pockets in the backpack.

      That should take care of everything, and you can put a folding umbrella in the backpack too.

  22. Doug Judy*

    Once I wore two totally different black shoes to work. I was a new mom and in my sleep deprived state and my rush to get to daycare and work on time I didn’t notice. The heels were about a 1/2 difference in height. I was able to barrow a pair of running shoes for a coworker for the day that didn’t look too bad with what I was wearing.

    I’m a huge klutz OP and just have bad luck so I empathize!

    1. FDCA In Canada*

      I once wore two different sandals to class once in university. There was probably a half-inch difference in height between the heels, and yet I walked all over the campus without so much as noticing. Didn’t even require me to be a mother, sleep-deprived, or anything else, just blanking for a minute while getting dressed and leaving. A friend of mine had to point it out.

      1. SignalLost*

        I put my tights on inside out once and never noticed till a friend pointed it out. My excuse is that I’m terrible about doing what my mother told me to do and turn things right side out before I wash them.

    2. Blue_eyes*

      This happened to a coworker of mine too! She would get dressed with the lights off so she wouldn’t wake her husband, and she just put on two different shoes. Didn’t realize until one of our 3-year-old students pointed it out!

    3. many bells down*

      I refused to buy anything navy blue for YEARS because of how often I’d put on one navy sock and one black one early in the morning, and not notice until lunchtime.

      1. Red Reader*

        after about the fifth time I wore mismatched socks from getting ready for work in the dark, I decided to embrace it. Hah. Now I deliberately buy all my socks in the same style, but in all manner of colors and patterns, and even when it’s not dark, I don’t match them :) Life is too short for matching socks! :)

        1. many bells down*

          That’s what I ended up doing for my daughter, who decided about age 7 that she didn’t like matching socks. They actually sell color-coordinated but non-matching socks in packs of 5 (socks, not pairs) at some stores! Now she’s 19 and still almost never wears matching socks.

          1. Amber T*

            I’m known at my gym for never having matching socks. I bought 3 packs of 8 pairs of socks, all different colors (rainbow, bright pink, highlighter yellow…) and even though there are six of the same color floating around my drawers, I can never find a pair. So I say screw it and grab two colors. (I am that horrible person that doesn’t pair my socks after washing them – I throw them all single and alone into my drawer)

    4. Turanga Leela*

      Same thing happened to me, but the shoes were two clearly different colors. I looked like Harley Quinn.

    5. Adlib*

      I wore 2 different colored socks not long ago. Same style, but one was orange and one was pink.

      Yesterday my aunt wore 2 different boots to church and to visit family. Nobody noticed until she took them off! (To be fair, she realized it before she left the house, but she didn’t think she’d have time to change. I wish she’d told me as I was her ride! I’m never in that much of a hurry.)

      OP, I’m also a person who manages to wear my food fairly often. I don’t go so far as to carry extra clothes, but maybe I should. Not a bad idea now that I read all these comments.

    6. paul*

      I’ve done that 2-3 times. Including last week when I wore one dress shoe and one sneaker. No frigging clue how, thank goodness no major meetings that day.

    7. Kelly L.*

      I’ve done this, but it was with one black and one brown shoe that were exactly the same. I’m one of those people who, if i really like a thing, I’ll stock up in more colors, so I had two pairs that were identical except one was black and the other brown…and the lighting in my old apartment was abysmal.

      1. OtterB*

        I did that too, with a black shoe and a navy shoe in exactly the same style. Didn’t notice it until afternoon some time.

      2. Us, Too*

        Yep, I have done this. Two pairs of shoes in different colors, wore one of each one day.

  23. KellyK*

    Keeping a change of clothes sounds like a good idea if this happens to you often. Usually, if I spill something on myself at work, I’ll dab the spot with a wet paper towel, use soap if water alone doesn’t do it, and then try to dry it off. If it’s a small spot, it will dry pretty quickly.

    I wouldn’t take the whole rest of the day off unless it was close enough to the end of the day that there wasn’t much point coming back after changing. Like if you work until 4, have an hour commute, and spill something on yourself at 1, the day is basically shot at that point.

  24. Amber T*

    What happens when you realize far too late that you’re wearing a white skirt and lime green underwear?

    …asking for a friend.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Oof. I did this in music college–it was a white shirt dress and dark blue undies (we had to wear dressy clothes for master class days). And I couldn’t take them off because I had my period! I had to borrow a sweater to tie around my waist, and thank GOD I didn’t get called on to sing that day.

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Yeah you might have to go commando! Or tie a sweater around your waist and run to a department store for a slip. Actually, you might just have to buy new underwear because hardly anyone stocks slips anymore.

      Funny story, I work in corporate retail. One day one of my coworkers came in and her skirt was *really* sheer in the office lighting. (You know, one of those materials that looks fine in your mirror at home but totally different in the glare of fluorescent lights.) So while she hid in our cube, I went to our lingerie buyer and found a slip sample and brought it to her!

      1. Amber T*

        Lol you’re describing a very cute top I have – it’s very thin, but at home, in natural lighting from my window and regular light bulbs, it was fine. Under the bright fluorescent lights at the office… my reaction was “hello boobs!” and “at least I’m wearing a neutral color bra” when I saw myself in the office’s bathroom mirror.

        1. Amber T*

          The best part was that it had this angled layers, so one boob was completely “bare,” and the other showed far more cleavage than I’m ever comfortable with (but especially at the work place).

    3. The Optimizer*

      White skirt and insanely bright orange panties here. Thankfully, I was in retail at the time!

    4. MegaMoose, Esq*

      And now a particularly embarrassing event from elementary school has resurfaced… and I loved that white dress so much!

      1. Garfield for the win!*

        My embarrassing event was from middle school and involved light purple stretch pants and blue-striped Garfield panties.

        1. So anonymous*

          I was in probably 13 and found myself at a church garage sale wearing thin khaki-color shorts and underwear patterned with large, bright red hearts.

    5. Nerdling*

      I’m flashing back to my high school graduation when I learned (weeks later from my now-husband) that white bras and underwear under a white dress is not camouflaging.

    6. Mononymous*

      My husband was once walking behind a woman who was wearing a black and white striped dress…with yellow smiley face underwear showing through the white stripes. Oh dear. Poor guy didn’t know the woman and didn’t want to seem like a perv, so he didn’t say anything to her, but he was pretty embarrassed on her behalf.

  25. Elemeno P.*

    I wear dresses and skirts every day. At my last job, I was required to go on construction sites on short notice, which clearly is not a match for dresses. I kept a pair of pants, a shirt, and boots in my desk next to my PPE. It worked!

    I currently live in Florida, and my supervisor keeps an extra outfit in his desk in case he has to go outside for a while and gets super sweaty or soaked by a sudden downpour.

    1. SignalLost*

      Yeah, I had to walk around on train tracks in a small tunnel once to get a photo for a brochure I was making. That was the day I learned to keep a spare pair of running shoes at work, because my sandals were not hugely helpful in keeping the rocks and grit out.

      I bought a small crappy ottoman-like thing from one of those school fundraisers and used it to store my spare clothes/shoes, but mostly it’s because my drawers were taken up with more important things like Legos and a minis game I played that was made by the company I worked for.

    2. DiscoTechie*

      The construction sites on short notice is why I keep a company t-shirt/polo, jeans, and work boots in my PPE crate that lives in my car. That and the likelihood that’ll be called out to a site when wearing dress. Happens every time.

      I did have a wardrobe malfunction when I was inspecting silt fence (fabric low to the ground with metal posts for you non-construction types) and caught my khakis on the metal post and ripped them from crotch to ankle. It was a bit of an awkward conversation telling the contractor he was non compliant with erosion control as my pants literally flapped in the wind.

  26. Critter*

    Definitely keep spares. I think you’re getting different responses from people because they’re just thinking of what they’d do if it happened to them. While keeping spares and going out to buy something are both totally valid, it sounds like the former would be better for you, so you wouldn’t worry about it.

    I’m reminded of the time I threw up all over myself on my commute. I had to leave the subway, call my manager, turn around and go home to change. Good times.

  27. Delta Delta*

    I almost always have extra clothes with me, whether it’s in a gym bag or in my car, or at one place I worked, I had a full second wardrobe in a closet there.

    Fun wardrobe malfunctions:

    1. I once fell down a very icy set of stairs onto a very icy sidewalk. I’m a lawyer and was carrying a file full of loose papers that contained client information. I skinned the heck out of my knees and destroyed my stockings, but I DID NOT lose any of my file! Luckily I had spare hose and after I patched myself up with about 65 band-aids, was able to go about my day.

    2. I was once meeting a brand new client. We were standing up. I dropped my pen and crouched down to pick it up. When I did, there was a loud, undeniable ripping noise. I immediately thought I split my pants. I had no choice but to ask client if my tush was hanging out of my pants. It wasn’t; turns out it was the lining of my pants that ripped. We had a really good laugh about it, though.

    3. In high school I went on a field trip and did a one-legger into a hole in a bog, getting my pants muddy from foot to crotch. I also lost a shoe. I had to go to my part time job after school and had to wear my gym clothes. I got yelled at for my very casual outfit but then showed the very very very muddy pants to my boss, who laughed so hard she cried.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      ” after I patched myself up with about 65 band-aids” I can’t even take this thread anymore. It’s that funny. Sorry about your fall.

      1. Jaydee*

        I did that once too. No giant client file, but my client and her daughter were definitely walking out the building behind me, so I had to stifle the urge to scream-swear and claim to be fine as I hobbled to my car with blood streaming down my leg.

        1. hbc*

          Not work for me, but I was jogging on my way to kung fu class, dressed in my white gi, and managed to trip myself on flat ground. I got some pretty strange looks as I limped my way to class in torn pants with a fresh blood stain spreading across the leg.

    2. CheeryO*

      I’m so sorry, but I’m dying laughing at the bog comment. The same exact thing happened to me as a teenager (during summer camp, thankfully, so I didn’t have anywhere to be after). Bogs are very muddy, smelly places.

    3. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I had the lining on a pencil skirt rip very loudly as I was sitting down to have a conversation with a client. We all pretended nothing had happened. I was really relieved when I realized it wasn’t the skirt, but when I got back to my desk and sat down, it happened again! I kept running to the bathroom and trying to figure out how to rip it so it would stop, but it still happened two or three more times.

    4. KR*

      Dying of laughter. The bog thing happened to my dog once. We were walking around downtown after a rainy week and when he walked over a storm drain both his front legs fell in the holes in the grate! His entire belly, chest, and face went straight into a muddy puddle. He was so embarrassed. Thankfully a nearby restaurant that gave us a hand towel to clean him up.

    5. Amber T*

      My ex was traveling for an interview, and he had just gotten his suit dry cleaned. Instead of packing, he just left it in the thin plastic sheet on the wire hangers provided by the dry cleaners. As he was walking into his hotel (just a few hours before his interview), his pants slid off the hanger and right into a nice big patch of mud. So he had to go to his interview in his nice shirt and suit jacket… and jeans. His interviewers laughed about it and were fine, I guess it made him more memorable!

    6. So anonymous*

      I once ripped out the zipper on my pair of dress pants at work (was unzipping it to use the bathroom and it just… came off in my hands). After staring at it in horror for a few seconds, I dug a paper clip out of my pocket and wired it together. Couldn’t use the bathroom for the rest of the day and ruined that pair of pants, but at least I wasn’t flashing anybody!

  28. Blue_eyes*

    I don’t keep clothes at work, but I should probably start. Just a few weeks ago I was out running an errand for work and I squatted down to look at something on a low shelf. As I squatted, my slacks split all the way up the back! Fortunately I had on a fleece which I took off and tied around my waist. Double fortunately one of my coworkers was waiting outside in a car to drive me back to work. I told him I needed to “pick something up” from my house for work and we stopped at my house, I changed pants (put on the pair most similar to the ripped pair), then went back to the office. The best part was when he asked me if what I was picking up was large, and if I needed help carrying it to the car (ha!).

    1. Argh!*

      I keep one of those little sewing kits in my desk for that kind of thing.

      I have also been known to use the stapler for emergency repairs!

  29. Shadow*

    It all depends on what’s most convenient. If there’s a clothing store nearby maybe that’s a better option (or not) than keeping a wrinkle free change of clothes at work.

  30. Potato*

    At Previous Job, I managed to split three (THREE!) pairs of pants at the seam while on the job, so I feel your pain. It was partially an unfortunate coincidence, partially the side effect of a job that was physically taxing on clothes.

    Luckily, I lived close enough that I arranged for my SO to bring me a new pair of pants while I was on lunch the first two times, and the third time was after hours so there were no customers in the store, and I just went about my business as usual. I did, however, start keeping an extra pair of pants in my car.

    In any case, accidents happen (and often seem to keep happening to the same people!), but I think everyone around you *probably* notices the malfunction less than you do. Still, keeping an extra shirt/pants in the car is never a bad idea.

    1. So anonymous*

      I work in retail, and splitting my pants during a shift is my greatest nightmare. I need to find an extra pair to keep in my desk.

  31. Mrs. Fenris*

    I’m a veterinarian, so wardrobe malfunctions are a fairly normal part of the workday. It’s pretty standard to suddenly find part or all of your clothing covered in something vile. :-) I keep several spare scrubs and a complete change of underwear/bra/socks (yep, had every one of those taken out at once a couple of times) in my car.

    1. Clumsy Ninja*

      Mrs. Fenris, we have the same life. My gym bag lives in the trunk with my change of vet office clothes.

    2. many bells down*

      I used to be a preschool teacher … same thing. Anything a human child’s body can produce wound up on me at some point. Fortunately, we were part of a YMCA so they always had a bunch of donated clothing available for quick changes.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      O/T, but my dog was really sick yesterday. . .both ends. I appreciate what you do & sacrificing your wardrobe for the pet messes.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I can’t imagine what it’s like as a vet. I would probably need five changes of clothes to get through the day. Years ago I was bring my 6 month old pup to the vet’s. I smelled something and realized, “This is NOT GOOD.” I looked for a safe place to pull over. Unfortunately, I had to go through a curve first and he fell into the massive diarrhea. At this point, he’s crying and I am starting to cry. I finally got pulled over, and I opened the back door to help him. Boy, he was so glad to see me, he rushed right over and leaned right up against me.

      Peach. Now I am covered with it, too. I couldn’t even get mad, I felt so bad for him. I said, “Come on, buddy, we are going home.” I used my emergency clean up kit as best I could. When I got home it was over two hours of cleaning, I washed him first, then my car, then me and my clothes. It was a very long afternoon.

      It was a new vet I was going to, I called and said, “You’re not going to believe this but…..” I had a bit of a time conveying just how “covered” we were, “No, this is not something a few towels will clean up.”

  32. ThatGirl*

    I keep a tide pen in my purse at all times because I am somewhat busty and food likes to fall in just the wrong spot. I’ve never had a serious enough malfunction that I felt like I needed to go home, but at Old Job I could have worked from home if needed.

  33. Emily S.*

    I think extra clothes sound like a good idea for OP.

    I always keep a sewing kit and plenty of safety pins in my desk. Quite helpful in emergencies.

  34. kbeers0su*

    I’m not that accident prone, but during my first pregnancy and after my first child was born I was a mess. I also had the kind of job where I could bring my kiddo to work for the first few months after maternity leave. So I got spit up on, spilled breast milk more times than I can count (attempting to multi-task while pumping is not a good idea), and had that lovely leaky bladder.

    My favorite was the day I laid my daughter on my table to changer her diaper and she explosively pooped all over my entire outfit just as I took her diaper off. No amount of baby wipes or drying myself off under the hand dryer was going to make that better, so I went home early that day.

    1. Artemesia*

      Yeah with babies and small kids you pretty much have to have a spare outfit. When we would fly with our kids, we always had at least two changes of clothes for them, a change for each of us and 3 times as many diapers as you could possibly need — because at 30K feet there is no mercy.

      For professional travel, I also got in the habit of always flying in something I could give a speech in. It might not be what I planned to wear, but it would do — and at least once I had to speak in what I traveled in, usually slacks and a blazer, rather than what I planned as it was in luggage still traveling on its own little journey. I began doing that when a professional colleague showed up for an important meeting in sweats because his luggage didn’t make it.

  35. not really a lurker anymore*

    You’re making me grateful that I have a locker room, complete with a shower at work. I’ve never USED the shower but I keep assorted stuff, including some clothes in my locker.

  36. Kaybee*

    OP, I sympathize! I also am an outlier for things like spilling things on myself and accidents happening to my clothes/me. I usually keep a clean blazer, scarf and an extra pair of shoes in my office, all black (well, the scarf varies) as that will match my wardrobe 99% of the time. A blazer and scarf cover all manner of sins. Skilled folks may keep a sewing kit around, but as I am not coordinated enough to thread a needle without getting a migraine, so I keep a roll of duct tape around for emergency repairs. The number of times I’ve stepped on the hem of my pants and have needed an emergency re-hemming is embarrassingly high (this usually happens in the bathroom or when I’m doing weird things with my feet at my desk? It’s not like my pants are so long that I’m stepping on them while walking) and duct tape does the trick until I can get them to a tailor.

    Basically, I think through all of the things that happen to me, World’s #1 Klutz, and have solutions ready and waiting. If I know I’m eating out that day or am bring a lunch with the potential for mess, I dress appropriately. For accidents that tear your clothes in a way that you can’t work or just really weird events that leave you dirty (I unfortunately have been the target of birds’ relieving themselves), it should be okay to go home and change. I live about an hour away from work, so this is an ordeal for me, but life happens. I come back though, unless it’s near the end of the day.

    As others have said, for most things, like small stains and tears, most people won’t notice. For all of my angst about my own clothes and the terrible things I put them through, I hardly ever notice anyone else’s (except if someone shows up looking exceptionally sharp), and I’m pretty sure a lot of people are the same way. For coworkers who do have those eagle eyes, just remember that the little hole on your seam or whatever will probably be forgotten almost immediately – most people have much bigger things to worry about! :)

    1. a Gen X manager*

      omg, I’ve done this! clear packing tape works really well too – especially on raveled or split seams! just be sure to take it off before washing and drying LOL

  37. Sibley*

    I’ve gone home and changed. I’ve just plain gone HOME. I’ve gone into the bathroom to fix things, used safety pins, staplers (don’t recommend those). I’ve stood with my back to the wall while pants dried. I’ve gone to the car and grabbed a clean (or dirty but not stained) item of clothing. I’ve made a quick run to the store. I’ve smiled and pretended that everything was normal (you’d be surprised how much you can carry off sometimes).

    I’ve also done these things for various coworkers. In short, you do what is needed.

  38. Squeeble*

    I keep a small sewing kit at my desk (this after a day years ago when I got a small but unfortunately-placed rip in the back seam of my dress). It’s handy if the wardrobe malfunction involves losing a crucial button or getting a small hole in your blouse.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      This reminds me of a time I was on sales calls and walking through a parking garage on my way into a meeting. I thought a random car was stalking me and it turns out it was just a nice lady stopping to tell me I had a huge hole in the seam of my dress and my bright yellow undies were shining thru!

      It was my 3rd appointment of the day – pretty sure the first 2 saw my under roos. My 4th meeting that day was actually an interview for a new job. I’ve never been so happy to be approached by a total stranger in my whole life.

      Now, that also means I was in a pinch and had to buy a $100 dress I hated that was in the only store nearby. Which is another headache. I always carry an extra dress and blazer with me now when I travel more than 20 minutes from home.

  39. Leatherwings*

    In the instance that you don’t have appropriate clothes stored at work (god forbid you spill on yourself two days in a row) the mall nearby seems like a decent option. It’s obviously not ideal to spend money on clothes when you have some at home, but I’d rather spend $20 on a cheap dress in a pinch than go home and use an entire day of PTO on something like that. I’ve never had a major mishap at work, but I have run to the department store nearby to grab a pair of socks after getting soaked in the rain and to get a cardigan when the air conditioner was turned on for the first time (brr).

    1. KR*

      Heck, I had to run to the mall to pick up an emergency outfit once and it ended up being something that I really enjoyed. I never would have bought it if I hadn’t had that wardrobe malfunction and I’m glad I did now!

  40. nnn*

    In addition to all the other suggestions, if you haven’t done so already you could look into whether there are any businesses near your office that sew or mend clothes. For example, some drycleaners do repairs and alterations. They could probably help you in an emergency

  41. Aunt Margie at Work*

    Whatever you do, don’t laugh at the person who was targeted by pigeons on the way back from lunch. Because within three months, it’s going to be you. Yup, hair, blouse, skirt. Ew. Washed up as well as possible and finished up the day. I now work 45 minutes from home (instead of 8), so I keep a spare outfit, cardigan, work shoes, tennis shoes, hat and scarf in the the cubby/closet they have at each cubicle.

    1. Erin*

      Sometimes you’re the pigeon other days you’re the statue. I have a theory that everyone has a bird poop on them at least once in their lifetime.

  42. AnonEMoose*

    I have a cardigan and a large silk scarf in my cube. Those could cover things in an emergency.

    The worse was when I leaned down to adjust a shoe, and the underwire in my bra snapped. Being a busty sort, this was massively uncomfortable, as I now had two sharpish pieces of metal stabbing me in the underside of my breast. Luckily, my boss was female, and let me go home and deal with the situation. Once done, I logged in remotely and finished the day. But that’s the only time I’ve ever had a wardrobe malfunction draw blood!

    I also have a small sewing kit in my purse to deal with something like a split seam or lost button.

  43. Gandalf the Nude*

    I very rarely have catastrophic wardrobe malfunctions at work, but I swear there must be invisible targets on me because the birds in my apartment complex drop on me all. the. damn. time. At least I can go back inside and clean up and flex my time, but I also look like a total flake!

  44. Lisa*

    I have a completely wrinkle free dress that packs down to almost nothing – get something like that and keep it in a ziplock bag in your purse with a pair of fast flats. Then no matter the emergency you are covered.

  45. Turanga Leela*

    Things I keep in my office:
    -A blazer
    -A patterned scarf (aka my “napkin scarf”—I put it over the front of my clothes when I eat at my desk)
    -A file drawer full of emergency supplies, including OTC painkillers, several varieties of feminine hygiene products, and a pack of cheap drugstore underwear

    I knew people who kept a full suit and a pair of heels at work in case they had to go to court unexpectedly.

  46. Elizabeth West*

    Most people won’t notice small stuff–a spot or two is pretty invisible if you get to it quickly and wipe the majority of the substance off / blot it up quickly. Unless it’s a huge color contrast, of course, like spaghetti sauce on a white blouse, for example. I keep a Tide pen in my purse for tiny accidents. As someone pointed out upthread, you can staple a drooping hem until you can get home and sew it. Tape also works if you don’t want to poke a hole in your clothes, if you’re not going to walk around much.

    I also tried to avoid wearing khakis or other light-colored pants at OldExjob, because every time I did, suddenly I would have to change the toner in the copier. I never got out of that task unscathed; toner powder floofed on me every single fricking time.

    I’ve never had to go home, but one time when I was fairly new at a job, I really had to go pee and was about to dash for the bathroom when someone decided it was time to give me a whole bunch of corrective information. I danced around for a second, and then finally had to say, “Yes yes, thanks, I got it, excuse me!” before I had an accident. Well, I made it to the bathroom before it was too late, but when I turned on the water to wash my hands, the faucet sprayed ALL OVER the crotch of my pants. Soaked me to the skin. I blotted as much as I could but I had to go back out with wet pants. Since it was just water, I let it dry and laughed it off, but to this day, I’m convinced at least a couple of coworkers suspected I peed myself. >_<

    1. KR*

      This has happened to me! I solved it by soaking myself MORE with water on my shirt so that it was clear it hadn’t originated from the crotch of my pants!

  47. Archie Goodwin*

    I don’t keep spares around just yet, but I should probably have something I can keep in the car in case of an emergency.

    The only really awful malfunction I’ve ever suffered was the time that I sat down at my desk first thing in the morning and managed to blow out an entire seam of my pants. I borrowed a couple of safety pins from the boss, and as soon as I got home handed them off to my mother for restitching. That was a couple of years ago – I still wear ’em.

    Of course, there was also the time I lost a button on the front of my pants, and ended up safety-pinning them there, as well. I seem to have a lot of pants-related disasters, actually…not sure what that says about me.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Almost the exact same thing happened to me years ago – get to work, sit down, RIIIIIIIIIP. I was not able to safety pin them adequately so I walked around with a sweater tied around my waist all day. Good times.

  48. Falling Diphthong*

    I think a key distinction here is whether this is a one-off bit of bad luck (when you can expect special dispensation to handle it) or a frequent problem (when people assume you will have figured out a solution, and not be treating it as a one-off).

    Since it seems to be the latter, I would keep something at work. Maybe a top and pants that regularly meander to the back of your closet because the color or fit isn’t quite right, but they could keep you decently covered for a few hours in a pinch.

  49. Iura Scriptor*

    I used to buy Tide pens. Then the mothers in the office clued me in: baby wipes. They’re cheaper (even the Earth-friendly unscented brands) than Tide pens, they cover a lot more area, and they get stains out like a dream. As one of my friends so memorably said, “If they can get the s*** off the baby, they can get the spaghetti sauce off your blouse.” Too true.

    1. Michele*

      Baby wipes are amazing. I don’t even have kids, but I have several small packs of baby wipes. They clean up everything.

  50. FN2187*

    While in undergrad, I went straight to a home football game. I worked on campus but had to wear a university branded polo (ugh, polos) and either black slacks or chinos. Nothing too fancy. My college’s godawful football team won the game, their first home victory in…three years? So naturally, the half drunk students stormed the field. I thought, “oh, why not join in, this never happens.” So I jumped over a short chain link fence that served as a front row railing, only to find out the next day at work that my pants had ripped neatly across the seat of my pants, from one side of the very upper thigh to the next. To make it worse, I had no way to hide it. Longest shift of my life.

    I don’t re-wear pants without a thorough inspection.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Ever found previously-worn underwear working its way down the leg of pants you’ve re-worn?

      Right. Me either.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Oh gosh, I once had that distinctive sensation in the middle of giving a presentation to a hundred customers. I was terrified that a pair of my underpants (a cheerful flower print, no less) would plop onto my shoe right while I was in the middle of explaining our security features.

        (They thankfully lodged at the top of my sock.)

  51. Collarbone High*

    My favorite-ever office had ground-floor retail including a department store that always had a clearance rack with deep discounts. It wasn’t uncommon to see someone disappear and come back in an ugly shirt or dress that clearly had been the cheapest thing to buy after a wardrobe malfunction.

    (And, more than once I decided I hated my outfit midday and popped down to see if that store had something better on the sale rack.)

    1. Kelly L.*

      I spilled a massive amount of oily alfredo sauce on my red blouse while working at a college. Thankfully, colleges have bookstores full of logo t-shirts. I was kind of broke, though, so I ended up with the very cheapest one, which didn’t fit me well and was a weird shade of gray that clashed terribly with my skirt.

  52. legalchef*

    I used to keep an extra pair of pants, a shirt, and a bunch of blazers in the office (and a ton of shoes), but mostly in case I needed to run to court and wasn’t wearing court-appropriate stuff. I also kept a little sewing kit (like the type that some hotels will give you) in case of popped buttons, fallen hems, etc.

  53. sam*

    This didn’t involve spillage, but on the subject of buying new clothes…

    I was once working on a massive deal overseas, and when we got to the final push at the financial printers, we basically didn’t leave for several DAYS straight. it got pretty ugly. So from Saturday until Monday…I was wearing the same clothes. Mind you, this was an entire conference room full of lawyers and bankers working around the clock. We finally told the printer to go to proofs, and because the offering document was so large, it was going to take two hours for the proofs to get completed. Most people decided to get food or take a nap. I, on the other hand, marched right across the street to the Marks & Spencer and bought clean clothes.

    The printer had a shower on site – however, you needed to ask them ahead of time if you wanted hot water (ah, England). So I took an ice-cold shower and put on clean clothes. To this day, over ten years later, I still remember how clean I felt afterwards.

  54. LadyKelvin*

    Ironically enough I had/noticed a wardrobe malfunction this morning when I got to work. Let me caveat this by saying I just unpacking my clothes after being in boxes for over 3 months (due to a move) and prior to this I rarely wore business clothes so its probably been 4-5 months since I have seen this skirt. And I wake up and dress at 4:30 am which is about 4 hours before my brain starts firing on all cylinders. I routinely arrive at work with my make-up half done or with mascara on one eye but not the other. I realized when I sat down at my desk that my pencil skirt slit was about twice as large as it was supposed to be and I was showing a bit more leg than I care too. Luckily it is a high-waisted skirt so I can just pull it down to make the slit slightly less high on my thigh, but I will definitely have to sew it back up before I wear it again.

  55. TotesMaGoats*

    I think in general having a spare set of clothes on hand might help with the anxiety and maybe cut down on the spills. I know that’s how my brain works. I’ve planned for something bad to happen and then it doesn’t. I don’t know why but it does.

    I had a skirt split completely across the rear (panels of different fabric) and so I ran to the mall quickly before I had to appear at an all hands meeting. Sometimes that’s what you do. I’ve never really worked anywhere close enough to run home. One time I had to buy a suit because I had a last minute meeting thrust on me with a Governor’s board and I was not dressy enough. Ran to the mall and 10 minutes later ran out with a suit. (Burlington Coat Factory for the speedy win.)

    Unless your attire was totally thrashed and your body was dirty as well (mud, bird poop, etc) then I could see going home to change and taking a little time with it.

    1. JanetM*

      I once ran out at lunch to buy a black dress because my manager asked me to attend a colleague’s funeral with her.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I find it very helpful to plan for emergencies also, and as you are saying I get the added bonus of having less emergencies. I do stuff like this at home, too. I pick up a spare coffee pot at a tag sale so I always have a spare. I am sick of buying brand new coffee pots and having them die in a few years.

  56. SubwayFan*

    I feel for you! I have had lots of mishaps at work with clothes, probably the topper being the day I wore a long non-flowing skirt and took a step too wide that I split the entire side seam. I walked back to my desk, clasping it closed with my hands, and ended up borrowing a skirt from a coworker who fortunately lived a block from the office and was the same size. After that, I kept spare trousers in my desk for the rest of that job. In fact, I kept them at my desk through my next 3 jobs.

    Having a laundry pen is a great idea, but I also recommend having several of them; my most recent mishap involved sliding down a set of stairs and sitting on my lunch. I dashed to the ladies room and wiped it all off with TP, then used a whole laundry pen on the area. Laundry pens do evaporate quickly, so it was only about 15 minutes of having a damp rear end.

    If you work near a mall, I also recommend just going in and getting something inexpensive if your budget allows. You never know about that; that was how I ended up with my favorite pair of black trousers ever, after the side seam zipper on my pants broke open at another job.

  57. Jeff*

    My boss once told me, “Never trust a fart.” If I ever have the misfortune to trust the wrong one, I would consider that grounds for leaving immediately.

    (Sorry for the vulgarity, but I cannot think of a “professional” way to say that…)

  58. MommyMD*

    I keep a complete change of clothes in my car, underwear on up. My earthquake emergency clothes. At work I’m lucky because I have endless clean scrubs available.

  59. JoAnna*

    I once spilled a half-full bottle of breastmilk on my khaki pants 30 minutes prior to a performance review. Fun times.

    1. Sualah*

      I don’t even care about the wardrobe malfunction at that point–spilling the milk! Oh, god! :C

      1. JoAnna*

        I know, right? I almost started crying due to the lost milk. I seriously considered taking off my pants and trying to wring them out to salvage some of it.

        Thankfully I was able to keep a file folder in front of my pants while walking into and out of the performance review (and the stain wasn’t visible while were seated).

  60. Green Tea Pot*

    After falling and ripping the front seam on my navy blue shirtwaist dress (very professional with a blazer), I started keeping a black dress that needed no ironing in a desk drawer, along with a generously-sized scarf.

    When I became a CEO, my office came with a closet, and I kept two jackets there as well, one for dress up and one for dress down.

  61. MegaMoose, Esq*

    I am loving all the stories, but I’ve got to say I am envious of the folks who can buy a pair of pants or a suit on short notice. Not to make this all about me or anything, it just would be nice to have the option.

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      Me too! There’s a thrift store all the way across town but otherwise there’s a weird lack of clothing stores in this area and it’s a considerable hike to get to any of the commercial areas from my workplace anyway.

    2. Norme*

      I have a lot of options a 30-minute commute away, but it’s the rare “work-appropriate” item I can buy that fits without being tailored. Do I wear the ripped dress pants or the dress pants that I’ll need to roll up four times at the ankle?

    3. Epsilon Delta*

      Right?! Shopping for dress pants is like a multi-day ordeal for me. It is hard to find something that fits without being tailored. A skirt or dress might be an option though.

  62. Jade*

    I ripped my pants on two separate occasions at my retail job (fell and tore them both times) and shamelessly duct taped my pants back together for the remainder of my shifts.

  63. Case of the Mondays*

    When I was still in law school and was a paralegal I worked half a day in my softball uniform, including cleats. I started the day in tan unlined dress pants and a white dress shirt and heels. I was sent on a hand delivery about 5 blocks away on a sunny summer day. On the way back, the sky turned black and it just suddenly and without warning POURED. I was drenched head to toe as if I had laid in a bathtub in my clothes. My shirt was now see through even though I had a cami (also now soaked) underneath. My heels had puddles in them.

    I walked in and to tell them I finished the delivery and they felt so bad and were going to send me home. They wanted to find something else for me to wear on my way home though because I had a 45 min commute and would catch pneumonia! My receptionist remembered I had a softball game that evening and suggested I change into my uniform. GREAT IDEA, except now the bosses decided I didn’t have to go home. I worked in a cube in the middle of the office so everyone else was walking around in suits and I’m sitting there in a very obvious softball uniform. It was freezing so you bet I had those knee high socks pulled all the way up!

    1. Michele*

      That cracks me up. About once a week I ride my bike to work. It is a two hour ride each way, so I bring spare clothes with me. I am so afraid that I am going to forget something and have to spend all day in bike shorts that I keep spares of everything at work. If I die unexpectedly and someone has to clean out my desk, they are going to wonder why I have a bra and underwear in there.

      1. LaurenB*

        I once got a few km down the road before I realized I had forgotten my skirt! We have a standing joke at work about the dress code being only that you need to wear pants (meaning a generic covering of the lower body) and I came scarily close that day to not even meeting that minimal standard. Luckily I have a car too so I just turned around, rode home and then just took the car for the day.

        I’m also super impressed by your four-hour round trip commute!

    2. E*

      At college, I was walking to class in an ankle length knit skirt when a rain storm hit. My shirt was dry thanks to an umbrella and jacket but I was still wringing water out of the skirt while sitting in class. Not the best moment.

  64. lowercase holly*

    the one time i ended up with a giant rip in my black pants at work, i luckily had my gym clothes with me and could put on some black stretch pants under my black work pants. hopefully it camouflaged it. my work wasn’t near anything so it was this or go home for the day. so i highly recommend keeping extra clothes at work if possible.

  65. a Gen X manager*

    OP – you’re not alone! I have these things happen all too frequently, too!

    Like others have said here, knowing this about myself (and my life – long commute, long shifts…), I have a set of back up everything and repair things in my office – I loved Princess Consuela Banana Hammock’s description above!

    1. a Gen X manager*

      I LOVE the idea of a non-wrinkle prone dress! I am SO going to add this to my back-up storage!

      1. a Gen X manager*

        I find myself wondering if men deal with this too – ? My male co-worker occasionally spills coffee on himself in the car on the way to work and stops and buys a shirt or pants on the way in, but he’s never said anything else like what OP and I (and others) are dealing with.

        It used to be that boy and men’s clothes were made with more durable fabrics and sturdy seams, I wonder if that is still true – esp in business-wear? Are the fabrics our (women’s) clothes made of generally more delicate and less able to withstand office/work life (don’t even get me started on shoes!).

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          As best I can tell, if a man has to wear a tie with any sort of frequency, they will dip said tie in something. Of course, it’s pretty easy to carry around a spare tie.

  66. Michele*

    I keep a black cardigan in my office. It goes with everything and covers most stains if I spill something on my shirt.

  67. AMPG*

    As someone who’s both been caught in rainstorms and had to wash out embarrassing stains, I’ve learned that you can dry fabric really well with enough paper towels. Put a couple of layers on each side of the fabric and squeeze and blot, switching out the paper once it’s wet, until you can’t get any water out of the fabric. There will still be a wet spot, but it should dry in under 30 minutes.

    1. lowercase holly*

      i do this with wet shoes too when i accidentally wear the wrong shoes on a rain day. shove a bunch of paper towels in there, insert feet, squish squish, remove soaked towels and repeat over and over.

  68. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    So I am wondering how to point out someone else’s malfunction at work, actually. Maybe a month ago, a coworker was wearing badly-fit pants; they wouldn’t go around his stomach right, and so slid below the belt even though the belt was still notched, and ripped a little at the top, showing stomach.

    It’s an open office, so when several of us were walking somewhere, I wrote “excuse me but your pants are torn at the top” in the notes on my phone, tapped him on the shoulder, and showed him that. Was that the right thing?

    1. fposte*

      Assuming it’s something he could fix and that he’d want to know about, that seems reasonable.

    2. SignalLost*

      The rule of thumb is that if it’s an easy fix with materials you have close to hand (wiping your mouth with a Kleenex to get a crumb), mention it, but you can be vague – “there’s something wrong with your pants” – to save face. If it can’t be easily fixed with materials on hand, like a coffee stain on a shirt, because not everyone carries wipes, ignore it.

  69. kcat*

    Add me to the number that keeps a full spare set of clothing at work. I pick clothes that I never find myself reaching for anyway, so I don’t miss them at home. Stuff that fits just a liiiiitle bit oddly, colors that aren’t the best, blazer that’s just a tiny bit worn, etc.

  70. Arielle*

    I have a dress that has buttons all the way up the front (a different dress from the one I mentioned upthread…when will I learn?) and I lost one at work. To make matters worse, it was RIGHT at crotch level so basically the whole front of my underwear was showing. Not one person in the office had a stupid safety pin and I couldn’t even walk next door to Target with my underwear hanging out, so I ended up having to pin the thing closed with one of our big promotional buttons. Which, as fate would have it, said “Ask me about private events.” Luckily everyone had a sense of humor about it.

    This was at a previous job, but having that Target next door was amazing. I was definitely not the only woman in the office who had to go on a mid-day underwear run once or twice after a period incident, and I had a couple of emergency shirt incidents as well.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      “Ask me about private events.”

      Hahaha! That’s hilarious. Of course that’s what the only available button would say.

    2. Norme*

      Couldn’t you have pinned it from the inside? So that the front of the button was against your stomach?

  71. Ann O'Nemity*

    I once had to staple the crotch of my pants. Worst wardrobe malfunction I’ve ever had.

    I had been sitting at my desk and somehow in the process of quickly swiveling in my chair and leaning over to grab a file out of the drawer, the seam in the crotch of my pants completely ripped. I had to shuffle to the restroom in a near panic – stapler in hand, my thighs clamped together. I passed multiple people; all gave me weird looks. In the restroom I did the best I could to staple up the damage so I could make it through the day.

    Now I have backup clothes.

  72. Gen*

    Torn trousers happened so often at the bank I used to keep a box of cheap sewing kits in my desk. Like “I’m not gonna repair the ripped butt/crotch of your trousers but here you can do it yourself”. Some times the repairs looks worse than the rip. One guy sewed his boxers to his trousers, didn’t occur to him to take them off to repair them

  73. Artemesia*

    In 45 years in the workforce I can think of just two instances with wardrobe issues like this — and one was a blue blazer put on in the dark that I thought was black and looked weird with the rest of my stuff and I was going to a colleague’s funeral. The other time was an embarrassing spill. I don’t think this is something that happens to most people as many times as it has happened to you.

    If you constantly are spilling, splitting pants, getting drenched, etc etc then you in particular should keep a set of clothes in your car or office for needed changes. Happens once, do whatever is needed; happens now and then, you need to be prepared for it.

  74. Soupspoon McGee*

    Oh, OP, I feel for you! I cannot keep an ivory sweater unstained for more than a few weeks. Yesterday, my sweater was spattered in egg yolk within about half an hour of wearing it. I’ve split my skirt at work. I’ve slopped things on the boob shelf more times than I can count. I learned to wear a scarf to any work meal so that I can rearrange it or get rid of it afterwards, because there will be food stains. I also used to keep a spare cardigan or two in my office, along with a few pairs of shoes. Now that I wear scrubs for work, I always mean to keep a spare set in the trunk, but I keep forgetting . . . .

  75. jamlady*

    My sister is an EM, so I have emergency preparedness kits EVERYWHERE. Including one at my desk, where I have spare clothes (my workplace is outdoorsy dress, but I’d just pack in a nice outfit that wouldn’t look to horrible if slightly wrinkled if I had a nice workplace dress code). Never hurts to be (overly) prepared!

  76. yikes*

    Once had a pair of linen pants COMPLETELY rip open in the back at work—during an already stressful day, no less. Thankfully I work in a room with a bunch of stellar female coworkers, one of whom ran to the Goodwill down the street and bought me some $5 khakis. So beyond getting extra clothes to keep on hand, I’d recommend having some ride-or-die coworkers.

    1. Beancounter Eric*

      Goodwill – love it!!

      Lightly worn shirts for $5, cold-weather gear (Nice Lands End parka for $10), etc.

  77. Rebecca*

    I am one of those people who can attract stains, dirt, tears, you name it. I keep a sewing kit and a bib (yes, an actual big bib that covers my entire chest and part of my stomach with a velcro neck fastener) in my desk at all times, along with a terry cloth towel. I keep an entire extra outfit in a small gym bag in my bottom drawer, along with extra socks and shoes. Our office is very casual, as in jeans and sneakers casual, when we don’t have visitors since we’re not customer facing. In the summer, I keep extra outfits in case I get caught in the rain while walking at lunch time. And the terry cloth towel is great for towel drying my hair in that situation as well. Other comfort items include a toothbrush, toothpaste, hair elastics, deodorant, and other personal items, in a small pouch just in case.

    Since I have a 20 mile commute, there’s not a lot of time to run home for a problem like a ripped out seam in the back of my pants, so I solve it by bringing extra clothes with me.

    1. Mickey, like the mouse*

      Me, too! I dress my top to match my lunch, and I dress my bottom half to match my cat. Now, if only I could find pants that match the black cat AND hide those white laundry powder smudges.

  78. Taylor Swift*

    I’m not saying this is OP’s problem, because unexpected things certainly happen, but I have one or two friends who seem to be incapable of looking at the weather before leaving the house and it just baffles me. Torrential downpours are usually not a surprise, nor are snow storms or intensely hot, humid days. Dressing for the weather is always going to make you look better than wearing the cute outfit you want to, but being too cold or too hot or soaking wet.

    1. LadyKelvin*

      It depends on where you live I think. In Texas, Miami, and Hawaii torrential downpours came out of nowhere, lasted for 5 minutes, and then disappeared. When I lived in PA and DC, rain was absolutely predictable. In fact, this morning it decided to downpour in the last 10 minutes of my walk with my dog. It wasn’t raining before and stopped by the time I got back home but my clothes went into the dryer while I tried to dry my hair and get ready for work.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I went to college in a wet corner of upstate NY, and you could sometimes map people’s starting positions for the current downpour by whether they were dry, damp about the shoulders, or wringing wet when they arrived at class. (I carried a collapsible umbrella in my pack, but it only helped for strictly vertical rain.) Big sprawling campus.

  79. Tavie*

    I am the queen of this. I once drew a diagram of what would have happened if my kind co-worker hadn’t lent me a safety pin after an unfortunate broken-bra-strap experience. You can see that here:

    (It is SFW but very silly.)

    And once I had a terrible period situation that involved my having to run to Old Navy at lunchtime and purchase pants. Luckily my office was within running-to-Old-Navy distance at the time.

  80. KG, Ph.D.*

    This isn’t quite a wardrobe malfunction, but it is a lesson in having backup clothing! I worked in a very laid-back lab in grad school, so on days when I knew I would be plopped at my computer rather than working on an experiment, I could wear whatever I wanted. One day during the summer, this happened to be…uh…a tube top and a skirt (and I’m 5’10” tall, so everything is basically a miniskirt). It was 90 degrees and humid out, our lab only had semi-functional air conditioning, and I was like, 23, so why not? Anyway, I’d forgotten that we were having publicity photos taken for our department’s website that day. Luckily, I had a T-shirt in my desk drawer with the university’s name right across the front, so I threw that on and stood behind an optics table to hide my lower half while pretending to work on my experiment. The photo turned out really nicely, and it ended up all over promotional materials for not only my department, but also the entire college of engineering. I’m sure glad I had that wrinkled t-shirt shoved way back in a desk drawer!

  81. Momonga*

    Took out a tag in the side of my shirt today. Inadvertently opened up the seam.
    Am wearing a binder clip right now.

  82. Bonky*

    We’re pretty casual at our office, but once in a blue moon I’ll find I have to go and visit another organisation on a day when I’m really not dressed to do so. I keep a smart outfit in a desk drawer for those occasions.

    Our office manager keeps a sewing kit for split seams and the like. It’s used very seldom.

  83. NutellaNutterson*

    I recently had a surprise spill from the most unlikely source: a motion-activated hand sanitizer station. I don’t know WHAT they were thinking, but this sucker was installed outside a large conference room, where people tend to loiter/lean during breaks. I didn’t realize that my rear was underneath the dispenser, and I was very very confused about the sudden appearance of a cold wet spot on my dress. Fortunately it didn’t ruin the fabric!

    Now I wish I had packed a bee suit to change into…

  84. snowball*

    I probably should keep spare clothes at work (but I usually have some combo of workout clothes so based on other comments I could put something together). One day a few summers ago a nice woman in the elevator told me that my dress had ripped at the seam along my back – she offered to get a sewing kit out of her bathroom (genius!) but I happened to have one too and not only did I get that back together for the rest of the day, I still have yet to try to do a better job/get a better seamstress than me to fix it (this is often my mom when she visits) and I still wear the dress.

  85. Marisol*

    After all these funny, empathetic responses, I fear my opinion will seem like the biggest wet blanket ever, but I offer it nonetheless, in case it is helpful.

    However you decide to handle this problem practically, I would avoid putting it on my boss’s radar if I were you, and I definitely wouldn’t try to make it my boss’s problem to solve. Dressing is sort of an extension of personal grooming, and I would imagine this is why companies don’t typically have a policy in place for managing wardrobe malfunctions—it’s something a company would expect a functional adult to handle on their own, using their own resources and judgement, in the same way that employees must come up with a strategy for getting to work on time, or eating breakfast/having caffeine to get them in the right headspace to start work. Employers don’t manage these strategies for the employee. It’s up to us to do it ourselves.

    There’s no shame in needing to change your blouse because you spilled coffee or food on yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with mentioning the problem and how you resolved it if it comes up in conversation. In fact, resolving a problem successfully makes you look competent, so in a way, it’s a win. However, if you fail to resolve an ongoing problem, it makes you look bad, and if you seem unsure how to resolve a personal matter such that you involve your boss, who most likely doesn’t want to give a personal matter any mindshare…this can reflect poorly on you.

    So this is a great question for your peers and for places like this website. I personally would steer clear of asking the boss again though. You want her to notice your great work, not your inability to solve small personal snafus. So decide on a strategy for the next time it happens, even if that strategy is to keep ten identical pairs of pants in your desk drawer, and then you can execute your plan confidently the next time a mishap occurs, without any fussing. Just do it; don’t involve the boss anymore.

  86. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, I hope you’ve been reassured by reading all these great responses – wardrobe malfunctions aren’t just a workplace oopsie, everyone has them so they are very understanding when you have them, and it’s necessary to have a Plan B for the more troublesome malfunctions.

    I know whereof I speak, as my work life has taught me a few things. So in addition to extra clothes, shoes, undies, etc., I always kept a kit at work. It contains travel-size lotion/shampoo/hair spray/deodorant/tooth brush and paste, floss, sewing kit, first aid kit, Gold Bond powder, dry shampoo, baby wipes, a folding blow dryer, soap leaves, disposable razors, nail file and clippers, Febreeze, Shout wipes, Dryel stain remover and pad, double sided tape, safety pins, matches, eyeglass repair kit, Crazy Glue, an empty spray bottle, and a Swiss Army knife.

    Sure I went a little overboard, but every single item came in handy at some point. You just never know when you or a coworker will have A Situation.

    1. Marisol*

      Great list. I stock several such items as I am an admin–so others sometimes come to me for help with malfunctions. I should probably add a few of your items though.

      I would also suggest tampons and/or pads, and I personally keep a camisole in case I discover that a new blouse is thinner or lower cut than I thought.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Normally I would’ve kept tampons and pads in my kit, but my employers were pretty progressive. The restrooms were well stocked, and no charge.

        My kit was built on great suggestions through the years, glad it could help you!

  87. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    When I was younger I kept a spare pair of underwear and black pants (because black went with everything) in a bag in my desk. Because when you needed them, you really needed them.

  88. Not So NewReader*

    Just an added thought, OP, there are several things you can do to lessen some of these events.

    I started using larger cups and filling them only half way.
    I kept my food and cup in a designated area on my desk. Putting things in the same spot seemed to help lessen accidents.
    I decided that I had become lax in checking my clothes when I washed them. I started checking for weak seams, worn fabric and loose hems. With bras I decided I had become too lax about checking the hooks and the straps so I worked on watching these things more closely.

    Part of my problem was my own cheapness. I resented the fact that I had to buy new jeans every six months. I should have bought second hand stuff for the way I wore stuff out. So I pushed my clothes beyond their useful point. Yeah, I saved money but I ended up with more problems.

    They do make little fold up raincoats that would fit into a larger purse or tote bag. You may want to consider something like this also. I have to buy raincoats with hoods because I am dangerous with an umbrella. Plus I hate carrying the umbrella. I even have a fold up tote bag that once you fold it up and put it in its case, it’s about the size of a man’s wallet.

    I am sure once you start looking around you will spot some other clever ideas that will help, too.

  89. nonegiven*

    DH ripped the entire seat out of his pants 3 different times at work and had to come home to change before I suggested he quit paying the extra $2/mo for work pants.

  90. nonegiven*

    Also, a few weeks ago, the weather woman on local TV wore a black and gold patterned skirt with a long sleeved blue polo on the air. We were like, “I wonder what happened to her top?”

  91. Marcy Marketer*

    I left work once at the insistence of my boss when I fell down some stairs and ripped my skirt. Not because of the wardrobe malfunction, but because I was pretty hurt.

    I’ve been working for seven years and that’s the only time I’ve had anything close to a wardrobe issue to need to go home– and I am fairly clumsy. I occasionally do get a stain on myself, but i just work through it. I can’t imagine needing to go home unless I was in a high visibility role selling to clients or VPs.

  92. CTCH*

    Here is my wardrobe malfunction story: I bought this lovely sky blue blouse and was wearing it to work for the first time. I was sitting at my desk, feeling good about how I looked, when I felt a breeze under my arm. I reached under my arm and realized the seam of the blouse from above my elbow to just above my ribcage was WIDE OPEN – a thread must have pulled at some point during the day and now there was just a gaping hole. Just as I was noticing this and freaking out (what I am going to do for the rest of the day, I also had dinner plans after work, etc, etc), my boss (the CEO) walks into my office and plops into a chair. I slam my arm down as flat to my side as possible, HOPING and PRAYING he doesn’t see that the shirt seam is wide open (I am wearing a tanktop underneath this blouse since it is a little sheer, but STILL). Above the din of all the anxiety in my head, I realize my boss is telling me that I am getting a bonus – which is a BIG DEAL at my company. I should have been basking in the recognition of my work, but I seriously just wanted my boss to leave my office so I could run to the bathroom and figure out how bad it really was and make a contingency plan. I realize this can be construed as one big humblebrag, but I do think it is funny how my biggest wardrobe malfunction was simultaneous with some of the best news I have received in my career.

    And thankfully – I have great staff who helped me find someone in the office with a needle and thread and I stitched myself up in the bathroom – poorly but enough to close the hole – and had a good story to tell my friend at dinner later when she complimented my blouse and I lifted my arm to show her the zig-zagging navy blue thread holding it together.

  93. urban teacher*

    Anyone else keeps period pants/underwear in their desk? Fibroids are the worst and I’ve had to keep several backups to deal with bleeding? Not fun.

  94. babblemouth*

    I once had a rip in my trousers right in the butt area about 30 minutes before giving a guest lecture at a university. The campus was isolated, and there were no clothes shops anywhere near.
    I ended up wrapping my cardigan around my waist, and feeling inappropriately dressed the whole time. Though I knew the alternative would have been much worse, it wasn’t very comforting.

  95. JoAnna*

    I once had a pair of shoes literally fall apart on me when I got to work. (They were an older pair but I’d had no idea they were in such bad shape.) I managed to cobble them together with a stapler and some duct tape, but the minute I was done with work I took the bus to the nearest Payless Shoes to buy something I could wear home.

  96. GreenYogurt*

    I just want to share: I used to sit next to a coworker that I could not get along with. She was very accident prone, and often spilled a large glass of Coke across her keyboard. Like, almost weekly. I finally brought her a roll of paper towels and gently suggested maybe keeping a roll nearby all the time might help her. She didn’t take it well. Hence, one of the many examples of why we didn’t get along.

    One day she laughed so hard she peed herself. That’s right, she peed her pants. At work. She wound up running to the Gap (which was like, one building over) to buy a new pair of black pants. She began keeping a spare pair of pants at work , which she called “pee pants” for if (when?) she peed her pants again.

    Perhaps since this poster is so accident prone a Tide Pen, plus looking before she sits or reaches for things, plus a full change of clothes, are the way to go for her. In the olden days when I wore stockings to work, I always had an extra pair in my purse for “just-in-case.”

  97. flipflopflipflop*

    Seriously, after seeing this post – I went to a meeting and had my show break. :D

  98. Hodie-Hi*

    I once sneezed the button from my pants across the public area of the court clerk’s office. I also managed to catch a woman before she walked into a populated part of the office with the entire back of her skirt jammed down her pantyhose.

    My DH has to make a massive effort to eat anything without dripping, dropping, spilling, crumbling things everywhere. Been that way for 30+ years. If only adult bibs–for men–were a legit thing to wear.

  99. Audiophile*

    I’ve certainly spilled my fair share of coffee and food in middle in the beginning or middle of the work day. Usually, in most cases, I didn’t have another shirt to change into and just dealt with it.

    Now they I’m working in a more important role, I’d be more likely to change into another shirt.

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