my boss doesn’t like my maternity clothes, employee wears a blanket for sun protection, and more

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

1. My manager doesn’t like my maternity clothes

I am 30 weeks pregnant with my first child and having some difficulty with my boss over maternity clothes. I work in finance and my office has a particularly conservative dress. Pre-pregnancy, I generally wore a sheath dress, blazer, and string of pearls. I haven’t really been able to wear anything like that for the past few months. Finding conservative maternity clothes has been difficult but I managed to find a few suits and some plain, sleeveless tops to go underneath. I’ve also found some black dresses that worked well with a blazer. (Similar to one pictured here.) I thought everything was fine.

Last week, my manager pulled me into his office and told me that my current wardrobe was unacceptable. I apologized and explained that I thought I was following the dress code. I asked what specifically I needed to change. He said that if I was going to wear a pant suit, the shirt needed to be tucked in and belted. Also that he did not like the look of side ruching or an empire waist on shirts and felt it was unprofessional. I told him that I would try to find maternity clothes that met his discerption but that it would be difficult. He wasn’t convinced and said that my job depends on me being dressed according to his standards. (There are a few other women but none of them have had any children while I’ve been at this job so I can’t look to what they’ve worn.)

Do I have any pushback here? I spent the weekend looking for clothes that met his requirements but haven’t been able to. He’s out on vacation this week and I’m out next week so I have a little bit of time to figure something out. I’m nervous that my job could be on the line.

Wha…?! What you’re describing is totally standard maternity wear (as is that dress you linked to).

I don’t recommend HR a ton, but this is a case where you should talk to HR. Your manager sounds like he has no idea what typical maternity wear is, and he’s getting way too involved in the details of what you’re wearing. (He “doesn’t like the look of” side ruching? I mean, I don’t like the look of the color yellow, but it never occurred to me to forbid people from wearing it.)

Go to HR ASAP and explain what happened and ask for guidance. They should intervene. Make sure that as part of this conversation, you ask them to ensure that you don’t face retaliation from your boss for involving them.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My manager tells me about her concerns with my coworker

I’ve been at my latest job for 8 months now (and had a 2 month maternity leave right in the middle). It’s a very small university office and I’m essentially the main admin. When I got here, I was back-filling a position left vacant by “Victoria” who was promoted within the office. A few months after I arrived here, my manager, “Mary,” who is the direct manager of everyone in our office, began quietly voicing her disapproval of Victoria and telling me that Victoria has complained about her job a lot recently and will probably be leaving soon.

In the beginning, it seemed like she just wanted to make me aware just in case I had to take on any extra workload, but most recently, she seems to roll her eyes and comment quietly about it every time she sees me. She’s even started asking me where Victoria is, asks me to check Victoria’s calendar, etc. I’m starting to feel uncomfortable because I feel like Mary is looking for reasons to fire Victoria and she’s asking me to be on the look out for these reasons (without saying as much).

I feel obliged to be secretive about this (not let Victoria know) because it’s a directive from my manager (literally – “this doesn’t leave this room”), but I also feel uncomfortable being her lookout and the sounding board for her frustration with my peers. I don’t want to be unreliable to my manager and I really love my job otherwise, but I also don’t want to betray my coworkers by somehow playing a part in getting them fired. What should I do? Is this kind of thing within the normal scope of duties for admins?

Sometimes it is, yeah. Mary shouldn’t be rolling her eyes when she talks to you about Victoria or complain about her to you or otherwise use you as a sounding board, but it’s reasonable for her to ask you if you know where Victoria is (knowing that kind of thing is often part of the admin job) and to ask you to alert her if you notice X or Y (especially if you’re better positioned to notice those things than she is).

I’d just stay studiously neutral when Mary is complaining about Victoria, but it’s not unusual for it to be part of the job that she’d expect you to work with her to track problems she’s seeing with Victoria’s work that you might see too. This can feel really awkward to do, but it’s not uncommon that a manager would need to gather information from other people rather than relying exclusively on what she’s able to witness firsthand.

3. My employee wears a blanket for sun protection when we go off-site

Should I say something to my new employee? I’m a manager. My newest employee has been working here for just over a month. She is a new graduate and this is her first full-time job out of school. There are times when we go to other offices or sites for meetings and we carpool to them in a company car or van. Unless it is really cloudy or raining out, my employee uses an umbrella when heading out to the vehicle, and inside the vehicle she covers herself with a blanket or cover and wears a scarf or hat on her head.

Naturally other employees questioned her, and she said she has had skin cancer twice and has to be careful of the sun. My concern is that her showing up at a meeting with external people with an umbrella, huge hat, and blanket will make people question her professionalism and affect the perception of all of us. It does look strange in comparison to everyone else, and people do comment. How can I bring this up to her? Most of our meetings are less than 30 minutes away and she would not have to be exposed to sun for long when she goes.

You shouldn’t tell her not to take the health precautions she feels she needs to take; for all we know, she’s been advised by her doctor to do this. So I wouldn’t get at all into what she does when she’s outside or in a car. But if she’s walking into clients’ offices still dressed that way, you could say something like, “I don’t know exactly what the precautions are that you need to take, but are you able to remove the hat and blanket before entering a client’s office? My concern is that it’s unusual enough that it will put the focus on those items rather than on the work we’re there to do. Or if you do need to keep them on, a scarf would look more professional than a blanket.”

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Avoiding job search confusion if I change my nickname

I have a name with several common nicknames. I’m thinking that I want to start going by a different nickname professionally than I have for most of my life, since the one I’ve used was picked by my parents and rubs me the wrong way a bit. I find one of the alternatives to feel more professional and to be a better fit for my personality (and sadly, in my male dominated and often sexist field, a more gender-neutral nickname at the top of the resume could help me get in the door for interviews).

I can see confusion arising if prospective employers call my references and ask about me with my new nickname. How should I let them know what my references know me as? And is it seen as weird to use a different nickname at work than in your personal life?

I’d handle this the same way that people who change their names after marriage do. On your reference list, make a note like this:

Valentina Warbleworth, past manager at Llamagrams Inc. (knew me as Christy Livermore)

Now, first name changes aren’t as common as last name changes, but if you’re switching from Christy to Chris, most people are going to know those are both nicknames for Christina or Christine. On the other hand, if you’re switching from Christy to Cressida, it might require more explanation (to assure them you’re truly the same person). In that case, I might include a note like this:

* I began going by Cressida in 2016.

5. Can I write “see resume” in my cover letter?

I know that hiring managers take 10 seconds to read a resume. I work with film and editing equipment and I want to put something like “please refer to my resume for specific equipment and software I am familiar with.” Would that help me or is it a waste of time? Would they actually see the resume once I write that?

They’re going to look at your resume regardless, unless your cover letter is a horror show. There’s no need to write “see resume.” There’s also no need to repeat in your cover letter things that are addressed in your resume; that would be squandering this extra page you get. Your cover letter should focus on things that aren’t on your resume.

{ 595 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, your manager is an ass and seems to be using the dress code as an excuse to punish you for being pregnant. Absolutely follow AAM’s advice and get HR involved. That is an amazingly professional dress.

    1. SignalLost*

      Exactly my thought. I can only imagine what he’ll say if OP does find a way to tuck in and belt maternity pants. Probably that it’s unprofessional to have elastic panels in the front of your pants, were you not listening to him?*

      *I doubt this is actually the case with maternity trousers; I’m thinking of maternity jeans here, as I’ve seen those with a stretchy panel in front.

      1. VintageLydia*

        Most maternity pants regardless of style have the panel, but even the ones that don’t aren’t made to be used with belts.

        1. Fellow Moomin fan*

          Some have both the panels and the place for a belt below it. But you wouldn’t tuck your shirt in regardless, of course.

          What a silly manager!

      2. EmployeeAnon*

        At 30+ weeks there are NO pants that are going to work without the over-belly panel. The under-belly band type just fall down at that point.

        1. Justme*

          That’s not entirely true. I’m a plus size woman (who was huge during pregnancy) and I never wore the paneled maternity pants. I wore the ones meant to be worn under the bump for my entire pregnancy, because the paneled ones were uncomfortable.

        2. Anonhippopotamus*

          I wore under-belly pants during my entire pregnancy, right up to 40 weeks, with or without a belt. I’m an average weight for my height.

      3. Bolt*

        I could imagine there’s be issues with the wrinkles from tucking or that it isn’t properly fitted.

      4. always in email jail*

        I had the same thought, imagining the look on his face when she shows up with a buttoned blouse tucked in to her full-panel maternity pants!!

        1. Hurricane Wakeen*

          Especially since half the time that belly panel is beige colored, even if the pants are black or navy!

          1. Backroads*

            Ooh, OP 1 needs to do this with photos. “What, boss? I followed your directions to the T.”

        2. AndersonDarling*

          And with a belt it could look like Santa Clause. Maternity clothes evolved a certain way for a reason, I hope HR explains the nuances of maternity fashion to the boss.

          1. Emi.*

            I hope HR explains to him the nuances of not pointlessly nitpicking maternity fashion based on his own weird personal preferences.

            1. TootsNYC*

              and explains to him that it’s especially pointless because it’s a temporary condition. There are two months to go.

              1. Megan Johnson*

                Even if it wasn’t temporary, his personal taste in fashion isn’t what guides professional norms. This guy’s a butthead.

          2. irritable vowel*

            I had the Santa Clause image, too. The OP should just rent a Santa suit, IMO. It has matching trousers and jacket, it has a belt…

        3. aebhel*

          Same, oh my god. How does this dude think maternity pants work??

          (I am also 30 weeks pregnant right now, so I feel OP’s pain. Fortunately, I work with reasonable people who understand that NORMAL CLOTHES DO NOT FIT OVER MY GIANT BELLY)

        4. GOG11*

          I wear maternity pants because I can’t deal with pressure on my abdomen that regular pants cause. Imagining my shirt stuffed into a belly band that reaches to just below my bust with a belt slapped somewhere in there (does it cut across the butt so it is at the lowest actual pant part? At the top? Split the difference?) made me literally cackle. Thank you for making my day!

          1. Close Bracket*

            I vote for pulling the pants all the way over your belly and putting the belt on top, as in images where a nerdy male is being mocked with his pants pulled practically up to his armpits (think Steve Urkel). Bonus points if you add suspenders.

            1. klew*

              I cackled. Can you imagine the look on the bosses face? “What? Shirt tucked, belt and suspenders for backup”

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously—this made me see red. OP#1, he’s entirely out of line and being ridiculous. That said, get HR involved.

      There is no reason for his sartorial hangups to justify threatening your job when you are dressed appropriately and within the normal (and conservative) boundaries of your industry and your company’s dress code.

      Also, because I can’t help myself—does he even understand how maternity pants work?? He sounds so deeply clueless about what’s appropriate and professional for women that, were this not the workplace, I’d be tempted to make him wear a fake belly and then try to find appropriate clothes for himself.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        He’d just find some big-men’s Tweedle-dee pants and keep being clueless.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Sans-a-belt pants! They can be worn above the belly (up to the armpits) or below (and with suspenders)!

        2. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Tweedle-dee/ Tweedle-dum was exactly what I was picturing! Like… that would look the opposite of professional.

    3. Beth Anne*

      I totally agree. He has NO IDEA what maternity clothes are out there. I bet he has never had a pregnant employee before. I really feel bad for OP#1 because I’ve had a boss scrutinize my wardrobe and it’s AWFUL! :(

      1. Sans*

        Oh, I think he has an idea. I think he just doesn’t like pregnant women in the workplace. I think, to him, just looking very pregnant is “unprofessional”.

        Go to HR. He’s an ass.

        1. RVA Cat*

          This. Also I wonder if he is trying to find an excuse to fire her before she goes on maternity leave.

          1. Amber T*

            That’s what I was thinking. This really reads as “I don’t want to deal with a new mom/maternity leave/figuring out work/life balance” hidden under “dress code violation.”

            Also – “I mean, I don’t like the look of the color yellow, but it never occurred to me to forbid people from wearing it.” Thanks for making me spit out my coffee :p

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                I don’t like the look of my face when I’m wearing yellow but I do love yellow.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  There are a lot of colors that fall into this category for me. “Love the color, hate how it makes me look a whole rainbow of ill.”

                2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  Same — I like some shades of yellow and that kind of greenish-yellow that some women can wear, but I look like puke warmed over if I try to wear it. I have to wear blue-undertone colors (blue, blue-green, blue-violet, bluish pink, etc.).

                3. phyllisb*

                  This reminds me of when my youngest daughter was young. She kept wanting me to buy a yellow dress. Finally, after much badgering, I took her to a clothing store, and tried on a yellow dress. She never asked again.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          +1 this was my take too… He just thinks pregnant women are unprofessional-looking period, and is delusional enough to believe she can look “not pregnant” at 30 weeks.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Granted, I don’t have kids, but I am trying to picture how he could possibly think a shirt could be “tucked in[to pants] and belted” on a pregnant woman. I’m not wrong in thinking that’s not actually possible, am I?

            1. LBK*

              I mean, I think it’s probably physically possible, but not in any way that’s going to look more professional that wearing maternity clothes (to a sane person, at least).

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                Exactly….being able to physically wear maternity pants wth a belt and tucked in shirt is one thing; doing that without looking absolutely ridiculous? Not likely!

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I mean, you could probably do it, but it would look all kinds of dumb (think Tweedle-dee / Tweedle-dum or Humpty Dumpty).

            3. CMart*

              It’s possible, it’d just be completely ridiculous looking.

              Option 1, as discussed above: Following the letter of the law and tucking your blouse into the elastic full belly-panel so now the pants rise up to your ribcage. My vote for the belt would be at the top of the panel, on top of the bump.

              Option 2: Side panel maternity pants that very few people at 30 weeks can wear, due to the elastic just rolling down. Tuck shirt into awkwardly rolled down elastic pants, likely causing a tenting situation with the shirt in the upper torso. Belt loosely under bump?

              Option 3: Unbuttoned non-maternity pants with belt awkwardly attempting to hold everything together.

    4. Artemesia*

      maternity clothes involve easing over the belly (duh) and the two most common ways to do this are ruching and empire waists. There is no great other alternative besides tight body con knits which are probably not the professional look you want in the office.

      This guy has threatened to fire the OP essentially for being pregnant; she needs to be at HR yesterday and frame it just that way. ‘He told me I could not continue in my job wearing maternity clothing; I feel he is threatening my for being pregnant.’

      This guy is not just an ass; he is a threat; he is malevolent.

      1. Cafe au Lait*

        Even tight knits might be out. I’m twenty weeks pregnant and anything less than “flowy” is not allowed on my bump.

      2. Mookie*

        maternity clothes involve easing over the belly (duh) and the two most common ways to do this are ruching and empire waists

        Translation: he doesn’t like maternity clothes or the people occupying them, full stop.

        HR is going to enjoy (in the schadenfreude sense, I expect) these sartorial critiques. I would, LW, absolutely document his many niggles, which make him look and sound positively ridiculous and dainty beyond belief.

      3. blackcat*

        ‘He told me I could not continue in my job wearing maternity clothing; I feel he is threatening my for being pregnant.’

        Yeah, that seems like the important thing here. I suspect it is actually what the guy is trying to do: fire her before she has the baby. He’s just finding an excuse.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yes. I think this is absolutely the tack that the OP needs to take with HR.

        2. Statler von Waldorf*

          I agree with this fully. This isn’t a real problem, it’s laying groundwork for a future firing. One thing about no at-will employment in Canada is that I’ve seen a lot a crap like this from cheap bosses who don’t want to pay notice or severance, because people just suck sometimes. This is a hatchet job.

      4. Just Another Techie*

        I’m glad someone said that. Because my first reaction to that letter was that this is a clear violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (if she’s in the US).

    5. dragonzflame*

      “He said that if I was going to wear a pant suit, the shirt needed to be tucked in and belted”

      BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Clearly this is someone who has never lived with a pregnant woman, or at least paid any attention to their sartorial struggles. And, sorry to say, it’s only going to get harder in the next 10 weeks (I’m currently 38 weeks and my wardrobe consists of two pairs of jeans, a couple of long – ruched! – camis, two black tops, and cardigans). Ain’t no way you’ll be able to squeeze pants under your bump with a belt, especially not without an unsightly penis-like bulge. I haven’t been able to get away with that since about 20 weeks, and even then it was with a terribly professional hair tie through the buttonhole.

      At best, he’s completely clueless, and at worst, I like the word ‘malevolent’ that someone else used.

      1. MamaSarah*

        I found myself wondering how a pregnant person might wear a belt – it’s not like you can “recreate” a waistline! And no ruching?!?
        As my doula told me, everyone us huge at the end. The OP might need a yoga like pant.
        Hugs and congratulation, OP! Being a mom is the best! Your boss is being downright unlawful. Let HR take care of things and enjoy the pre-baby bliss.

        1. Fellow Moomin fan*

          Well, not everyone is huge even at 40+weeks. But that’s none of the manager’s business.

          1. Sled Dog Mama*

            Yes, at 38 weeks with my first I was still wearing prepregnancy pants with a hair tie

                1. Sled dog mama*

                  yep, creates some extra give in the waist band. For me at least my belly was still high enough that I could zip the pants but not do up the waist band, now when she dropped about the end of week 38 all bets were off and nothing fit, fortunately she arrived 4 days later.

            1. Jen*

              A supervisor in my office just had a baby and for the last month she wore those belly bands (big stretchy cloth bands). She said no pants would stay on otherwose.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            Speaking as someone who wasn’t huge, I still could not wear a top tucked in with a belt!

          3. Becky*

            My sister, on her first child, at 41 weeks when she was induced, barely looked pregnant, just a little thicker around the middle that was not noticeably distinguishable as pregnant. My other sister who was pregnant at the same time with child number 4 on the other hand absolutely looked like she had a beach ball up her dress.

            It happens differently in everybody!

            1. Sunglow28*

              Oh yes, twins here. Double beach ball. Never gained anything anywhere else on my body but enormous doesn’t even really describe it!

      2. JanetInSC*

        I agree…the boss comes off as malevolent. Geez, I wonder how he would treat an obese employee who would face the same challenges. Hoping HR schools him!

          1. starsaphire*

            Yep. Been in that job interview.

            When they stand up to shake your hand, eye you up and down, then pretend to look at your resume for a minute, and then say, “Oh, I’m sorry, but you’re not at all what we’re looking for; we need someone with a lot more, um, experience,” and walk you out…

            Or you get the “You are aware that this is a front-facing job with a great deal of customer interaction; we need someone who can present herself very professionally. Do you really think that’s something you’re capable of?” with that raised eyebrow…

      3. BTW*

        I commend you! 39w tomorrow and it’s all dresses and flip flops for me! I couldn’t fit into shoes if I tried! LOL I’m Canadian though and officially on leave now so it doesn’t matter but my wardrobe at work went a lot more casual than normal once the bump started to show. I don’t have a very customer facing role so it was okay with management and my boss, thank goodness. This helped me save a ton of money in the maternity clothes department although I did have a few nice shirts that I tried to wear as often as possible.

      4. Minister of Snark*

        That’s what I thought. “Does he not understand how pregnant bellies work?”

      5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yeah, by the end I had one pair of leggings, two pairs of jeans, several tees, a tunic, two skirts, and a dress. I teach elementary school and the kids definitely noticed! “Ms. The Ginger, that’s the same shirt you wore last time we had class!” Thanks, kid, I know. Also, my feet were swollen and I was so grateful that my administrators were ok with me wearing my sneakers because nothing else fit and I didn’t want to go spend $70 on nice shoes that might be the wrong size in a month.

    6. JamieS*

      Good point on punishing her for being pregnant. I’m wondering if OP #1’s boss is using the dress code to try to force his tastes on employees or using it as an excuse to try to push out OP because she’s pregnant. It’s possible he’s a control freak trying to regulate everyone’s fashion sense but a larger part of me suspects this conversation never would have happened if an unfertilized woman wore somethingt with side runching.

      1. kb*

        If the boss had just pointed out one of the things, I may have thought he was just misguided. Dress codes often say something about tucking shirts in and having a belt, so if he had mentioned that alone I would be more inclined to peg him as an oblivious stickler for the rules (which is still absurd, but not mecessarily malicious). I’ve never heard of a dress code that mentioned ruching or empire waists, though. Those strike me as intentionally going out of his way to ensure LW 1 cannot comply.

        1. Steve*

          Especially with the scrunching. I can sort of imagine someone forming an opinion on empire waists. But I almost literally cannot imagine that a dress code mentions scrunching, or that someone came up with an opinion on it outside the context of a pregnant direct report. The best case here is that the OP’s boss thinks “looking pregnant is not professional.” But it’s more likely that he is thinking “being pregnant is not professional.”

      2. DArcy*

        Given how unlikely it is for a guy to know what an empire waist or ruching even is, much less both of them, I’d say it’s very likely that he specifically looked up maternity clothing features so that he could insist they’re “unprofessional looking”.

        1. JamieS*

          I’d assumed he just pointed at OP and said he didn’t like what she was wearing. If he actually used the terms “empire waist” and “side runching” then it sounds like he’s in the wrong line of work.

    7. Office Mama of One*

      OP#1, not to go against the grain here but if HR doesn’t work out are you able to change the style of dress you wear? I’ve worked with men and women that find the pregnant body off-putting (which is very stupid and infuriates me). I’ve even had a manager direct a pregnant employee to “go put some makeup on” because she was so ashen from throwing up but that’s a story for another time.

      Overlooking the blatant pregnancy discrimination, from what I can gather from your letter is your manager is one of those who finds a growing belly distracting and probably has the misguided reasoning that he might get a glimpse of it sticking out from underneath your blouse. Could you rotate a couple empire wasted midi dresses into your work outfits? They’re more conservative and I on a side note I found them more comfortable during the last trimester and the weeks after bub was born when I still looked pregnant. The dress you pinned is perfect maternity wear but it’s not as conservative. Either way, your manager is ignorant and it makes me angry to think about him threatening your job over something you have very little control over.

        1. Jen*

          If he doesn’t like Empire waist shirts, Empire waist dresses are even further from “normal”. The reality is that is sounds like he wants LW to not look pregnant, lime that episode of Call the Midwife where a woman wore a hide her pregnancy. Of course that is delusional backwards thinking.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        I would say that if her boss does not like the look of the pregnant body and finds her belly distracting, boss should move to a desert island where there are no women. In the meantime, he needs to be told to shut up about LW and what she is wearing. It’s not the LW’s responsibility to find clothes to disguise her belly and shield her boss from her pregnancy. I do not think he should be “humored” in this way.

        HR is the right call, because this screams pregnancy discrimination to me – he’s trying to find a pretext he can use for her firing (“I fired her for her dress code violation, not her pregnancy” but anyone with a brain can see this is because of her pregnancy).

        1. Amber T*

          “Oh nooo a pregnant woman! It’s unnatural! It hurts my eyes!”

          Joking aside though, this is a very standard case of “a woman’s body is distracting to a man; therefore, the woman needs to change.” This argument comes up a lot in high school dress codes, but it doesn’t go away in the adult/professional world either.

          OP, your boss is a misogynist. Get thee to HR!

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Let’s just hope this dude isn’t “so important to the company and current projects” that HR can’t do anything about it ;)

            1. Amber T*

              UGH that was such a frustrating part of the update. That poor OP, glad things ended up working out for him/her in the end though. However, this would be a bit more of a straightforward discrimination case, I think, if HR failed to do anything. The next step right now is definitely talk to HR, but if they fail to do anything, honestly I think it would be perfectly reasonable to lawyer up (assuming, of course, the boss does hurt OP’s career in some way, like a bad performance review or firing… it’s not illegal to stay stupid misogynistic things).

      2. neverjaunty*

        The OP specifically asked how her outfits violated the company’s dress code, and was told 1) to wear styles a pregnant woman can’t wear and 2) that certain items common to maternity clothing offend the boss’s style sense.

        You can’t “overlook” the blatant pregnancy discrimination. If HR doesn’t work out, OP #1 should be talking to a lawyer.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          It sounds as if he objects to the particular features that make maternity clothes maternity clothes. Even though he apparently had to Google to find out the correct terms. Clearly, his objection is to OP 1 being pregnant in the first place.

        2. TootsNYC*

          At first I wondered if he felt that a body-skimming maternity dress was unprofessional. Modern maternity wear is not as flowing as in the past; in the past dresses especially were designed to be voluminous so that the shape of the pregnant belly is more hidden.

          They didn’t even tend to use empire waists–the extra fabric began usually from a yoke that ended just above the breasts.

          Maybe that’s his problem–that the maternity clothes are outlining instead of camouflaging the bump. But that’s a function of modern fashion, and if the OP started wearing dresses from the 1980s, it would look far more unprofessional.

          (Though, none of the maternity tops were tuck-in-able.)

          (here’s an example)

      3. Hedgehog*

        This may be getting too far into the weeds here, but I actually am not finding any empire waist dresses that seem more conservative to me than the dress she linked, especially given that she mentioned pairing it with a blazer. All the ones I mentioned seeing read as either more casual or more social event dressy than conservative finance office dressy.

        1. Karen D*

          It depends on how the rest of the dress flows. My friend has an empire waist dress in a few colors that has a little looser silhouette than the one the OP linked, with pleats under the bust to accommodate the bump, but it narrows back down around the knees, and has a cute vintage stand-up roll collar. Very polished and professional, she’s already hoping they can be taken in somehow post-pregnancy (but I’m betting she’s gonna be so thoroughly sick of them by that point they get ceremoniously burned.)

          My friend’s experience has me wondering if the part the boss is really objecting to is actually a bit … north of the bump. It seems a LOT of pregnancy fashions have crossover or sweetheart necklines, and we all know what pregnancy does to the bust area. My friend was already a bit blessed in that area. She found it to be a real struggle to find necklines that didn’t accentuate her cleavage, let alone cover it altogether (which her very conservative workplace required.

          She finally went to eShakti. Unfortunately I can’t find what she ordered on their site, but I know they added the roll collar for her and made the neckline high enough and the dresses roomy enough to avoid flashing any cleavage.

          1. Minister of Snark*

            This. when I was pregnant, I had to buy what was basically a “lace tucker” described in Jane Austen novels. It hooked to my bra straps and covered my cleavage with certain tops/dresses. I had them in four colors.

      4. lulu*

        I don’t think you’re using conservative in the same way as the OP. In finance conservative means business-like, professional, while you’re saying conservative as modest. So Amish dresses for instance would be conservative in the sense that they don’t outline your body, but they would not meet the dress code of being professional business-wear as OP’s boss understands it. Empire dresses definitely are less professional than the dress the OP linked to.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I think you hit the nail on the head on professional conservative vs. modest conservative. The thing is, in really conservative offices, well-fitted/tailored suits or suit-adjacent dresses (ie. sheath dresses with blazers) are pretty much it. Maternity wear is almost never going to completely fit that look, but any manager who isn’t a POS is going to overlook that. My friends who’ve been pregnant while appearing in court say that they just try for something that looks like a suit on first glance, and then by second glance makes it clear they’re pregnant. The dress linked above kind of looks like a sheath if you squint, which is really the best you can hope for.

          1. CMart*

            Yes, “passing for professional if you squint from a distance” was essentially what I attempted when I was pregnant in a conservative professional dress office. It’s really the best you can hope for, since structured, tailored things are antithetical to the entire nature of pregnancy with the ever-growing quality of it.

          2. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

            I stuck to conservative colors and blazers that didnt come close to wrapping around. That was good enough for my judges. The only comments were friendly jokes about waddling up to the podium and losing anything that hit the floor.

            This guy is a walking discrimination claim. HR yesterday!

        2. DecorativeCacti*

          But that dress does have an empire waist. It calls it “cinched at the waist”, but at least from the front it looks like an empire waist. Do maternity clothes even exist without an empire waist without making the wearer look like a circus tent?

          1. Sadsack*

            Right? I can’t figure what a pregnant woman could wear that is neither if those things and still look good and professional.

        3. Kai*

          Bingo! Conservative has different meanings in different contexts. Conservative for a house of worship is different than conservative for the workplace.

        4. Hedgehog*

          Exactly the analogy I was thinking of. You can dress in a nun’s habit for work (although they presumably don’t come in a maternity version), and it won’t be sexy, but it won’t be work-conservative either.

      5. Observer*

        If her boss doesn’t “like the look” of a pregnant body, then NOTHING she does is going to make a difference. And, as others have said, that is HIS problem, and he shouldn’t make it hers.

        Well, actually, one thing would – not showing up in public. I wonder how old this guy is? I’m old enough to remember people who thought it was inappropriate for visibly pregnant women to be out in public.

        My advice is HR doesn’t work out is to document this and then go to EEOC if she gets into trouble for her dress code violations.

        1. Biff*

          Honestly, you don’t have to be that old to remember that, depending on where you are. Where I lived as a kid (1990s), I don’t recall seeing women past the “cute lil’ bump”… ever. Now, some women who never got BIG would be out and about their whole pregnancy, but for the life of me, I can’t remember a single time I saw someone who was in that “ready to pop” stage. And this was a town in which women often had 4+ kids, so they were definitely pregnant often!

          Obviously, and sadly, apparently this is still a thing. I agree that she needs to document, document, document, go to HR and really make a fuss.

        2. Mints*

          Yeah I think this is it. I read an interesting article a week or so ago (on buzzfeed! Sometimes they do real journalism) about the shift from when women would go away for pregnancies and then come back with a baby, to now when famous women are expected to flaunt and be excited about their growing bodies. I’m 26, and this is something I was aware of, but I didn’t realize how recent. They talked about Demi Moore’s naked magazine cover as a turning point, ~20 years ago.

          So yeah, I think it’s very likely he’s older and has the mindset that looking obviously pregnant is indecent. And instead of articulating “her pregnant belly looks indecent” he’s saying “empire waists are unprofessional.”

          1. blackcat*

            It still definitely happens, even among relatively young people. A friend of mine posted a picture on FB when she was MASSIVELY PREGNANT (she was 100lbs pre-pregnancy and 38 weeks pregnant with two 7lb babies) in a bikini and she got all sorts of comments on how that was totally inappropriate. Zero people had commented to that effect on any pre-pregnancy pictures of her in a bikini (she lives by the beach, so bikini pictures are common). She wasn’t any more exposed while pregnant (the top covered her boobs well), but people thought it was gross and indecent for her to “flaunt” her pregnant belly. She even lives in a liberal area!

            So, yeah, I’m willing to bet the boss is uncomfortable seeing her pregnant belly. It also means he’ll be uncomfortable with any pumping breaks, or any other reminders that certain bodies are designed to grow and nourish babies.

            1. Cercis*

              I remember a HUGE kerfluffle in either Organic Gardening or Mother Earth News magazine when a reader sent in a pic of her pregnant belly painted to look like a jack o’lantern. This would have been mid- to late-90s and maybe even early 2000s. It’s crazy to me. I mean, yes, there’s a TON of skin showing when you’re pregnant – because you have so much more of it, but it’s not indecent to show a belly otherwise. Honestly, I think it’s party to do with fat shaming – I imagine heavier women are shamed if they wear bikinis, etc. Only flat or nearly flat bellies are okay to show.

              1. Hrovitnir*

                Yes, I think it’s definitely related to fat shaming. I also think it’s related to the intense sexualisation of women’s bodies, so the mix of women + skin = for sexual gratification + pregnancy = motherhood = desexualised just breaks some people’s brains.

              2. Observer*

                Actually, I don’t think it has anything to do with fat shaming. More likely a discomfort with “any other reminders that certain bodies are designed to grow and nourish babies.” Or any reminders of how babies are made.

            2. BTW*

              Your poor friend! I wear maxi dresses that a regular person would find at a regular store (have some stretch to them) They hug me and I love it. I wish I could have rocked a bikini but she’s due in a week lol! One night when we were going out I was saying to my husband how I would never wear a dress like that normally because I’m a bit bigger and it would just hug in all the wrong places (pre-pregnancy) But, I’m all belly so it evens me out and I actually look really good in them if I do say so myself haha! I’ve received a lot of compliments. I couldn’t imagine trying to get myself into a one piece swimsuit at 38 weeks pregnant with twins!!!

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Really I never knew that. I thought that only happened when the pregnancy was out of wedlock, and they came back without the baby because it was put up for adoption. (Or hey what a coincidence Uncle Joe and Aunt Sally just had a baby)

        3. Artemesia*

          The ‘old’ excuse no longer works. I am an old who has been retired for several years. There are not many bosses older than me in the workforce. I came of age in the 60s. Anyone my age knows not to make racist comments, is used to maternity clothing and women who are pregnant working (I delivered on Sunday and taught a seminar on Wednesday following myself having taught several classes on the preceding Friday. This was commonplace in my day. The era where women quit work when they showed and maternity dresses looked like tents was long over by the time today’s 70 plus year olds were entering the workforce.

          Old is no longer an excuse for being an ass.

      6. Mary Dempster*

        I’m only 22 weeks pregnant and my boss is lucky I’m wearing pants at all. I can’t imagine thinking the linked dress is not that conservative – I can’t imagine getting any more conservative without going full on Duggar and making the dress floor length and the sleeves long.

      7. Kai*

        Everything you describe in your comment is gender discrimination and the fact that you seem to think it’s acceptable makes me think that your standards for an acceptable workplace are skewed.

        The dress that is linked is perfectly “conservative” unless we’re holding the OP to the standard of religious covering. Conservative in the context of a dress code doesn’t necessarily mean “every part of a woman is covered”.

      8. Another preggo lady*

        Yes but no. I agree this would be an option if boss had only objected to one aspect of OP’s dressing – for example, he had pulled her to one side one day and said ‘I don’t like this outfit. We don’t wear pant suits not tucked in and without a belt here’. As annoying and ‘Well, how did you expect a pregnant woman to wear a pant suit, duh!’ as that is, swapping to an empire line dress would be a solution.

        But the boss here has objected to a whole host of things, ranging from irratating but rational to downright petty, and has waited sometime to build up this list, rather than doing the sane thing mentioned above and mentioning at the time OP was doing something he disapproved of. So I think if OP turned up to work in anything other than her pre-pregnancy work attire now, boss would just find another thing to add to his growing list of pettiness.

        I think HR is the way to go on this one. At best, I think he’s woefully uninformed as to how to dress a pregnant body. At worst, he’s trying to push OP out by nitpicking, which needs to be headed off, like, 10 minutes ago.

    8. Sadsack*

      I think he doesn’t want to be able to see that OP is pregnant. That black dress is really nice looking and very conservative, other than the fact that the belly is obvious. Criticism of that dress and ruching in general makes me think he’d prefer OP to hide her belly more. What a jerk!

    9. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes! The smartass in me would want to come to work with a tucked in shirt and big belt going around the middle of my pregnant belly ala Tweedle Dee (or Dum), so he could see how ridiculous that would look.

    10. Chicken*

      Wow, that manager does not understand either how pregnant bodies look or pregnancy dress norms. I’ve found that even in settings where very formal, conservative dress is generally required (e.g. federal court), people are willing to cut visibly pregnant women a LOT of slack. At some point & depending on your body type, there really isn’t much out there that looks even vaguely professional. I worked in a relatively casual office when I was pregnant, but spent the last few weeks rotating through about three shirts, two of which were super casual (maternity) athletic tops, because they were the only things I had that were long enough to actually cover my belly.

  2. Nobody Here By That Name*

    OP #1: I’d love to know how that manager thinks a pregnant belly can fit under anything NOT an empire waistline. Good luck speaking with HR.

    AAM – in OP #3 It looks like a word is missing. I assume this person had skin cancer twice, not skin twice?

    1. MommaCat*

      Belt on pregnant belly? No, siree, ain’t happening.
      And tucking a shirt in to maternity pants will look dumb, generally.
      Only way I can see the look working is with super low-rise pants, which I also doubt is super professional. Your boss has no idea what he’s talking about.

      1. Sylvia*

        I think he actually does know what he’s talking about, because he’s specifically given requirements that are impossible for a pregnant woman to follow.

        1. SignalLost*

          Almost as though the pregnancy is the problem. OP, I agree you need to involve HR. This is a really strange thing for someone to get hung up on, and I have to assume it’s a proxy for a different issue. You being pregnant in an office where that is apparently out of the norm seems likely to be that issue; that makes it HR’s problem.

          1. Sylvia*

            I think it’s likely that OP being pregnant is the problem. Or something else is the problem, and he is taking it out on OP’s clothes, which is about the dumbest move I can imagine. Anyway, no matter why he’s threatening to fire a pregnant employee for wearing maternity clothes, it’s HR time.

        2. Old Admin*

          “I think he actually does know what he’s talking about, because he’s specifically given requirements that are impossible for a pregnant woman to follow.”


        3. Falling Diphthong*

          He’s specifically given requirements that are impossible for a pregnant woman to follow.

          This is the crux of it. If you hire a tailor to create this tucked in belted pantsuit thing (because no store selling business maternity wear will have such an item) it will fit for a couple of days before you pop beyond its confines. Leaving aside the attractiveness side completely.

      2. Artemesia*

        maternity pants have big ugly stretchy panels which are hidden under those empire waited blouses. This guy is evil.

        1. Been There, Done That*

          Not to detract from the seriousness of her situation, but I’d love it if his mother could be brought into it and remind him where he came from. Also what maternity clothes she had to wear because, hey, dude, your body’s different when you’re pregnant.Graphic description of her 20 hours of labor. Throw in the cute li’l baby picture of him on the fluffy white rug. Just a little fantasy there.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      I think what the manager is trying to say is that in his opinion, being pregnant is unprofessional.

    3. Greg M.*

      I work retail and there’s a dress code with uniforms where it specifies men are to have their shirts tucked in but doesn’t require women to. I’ve always suspected it was basically for this exact reason.

      1. Oh so very anon*

        I am reminded of a clueless former boss who ordered company polo shirts for all staff and decreed that when we were at public-facing events, we would wear the company polos exclusively and they Would Be Tucked In, no exceptions.

        Trouble was, the guy ordered only men’s sizes (because clueless). He had to have it explained by his fairly buxom assistant that men’s tailoring, women’s bodies, and tucked-in shirts were incompatible goals. I believe she ended up having to put on the shirt that fit her chest and then tried to tuck it in to show him how ridiculous it looked.

        This boss wasn’t malicious, just VERY obtuse. I hope OP1’s boss is similar and just hasn’t thought about the ramifications of asking a pregnant woman to dress like everyone else.

        1. Lora*

          There are sadly many bosses like this. And they will aspire to have an opinion about women’s clothing even when they themselves are wearing tattered chinos from their college days (which are now several sizes too small) and a polo shirt with a vendor logo from a vendor that went out of business a decade ago, paired with elderly sneakers and gym socks that haven’t been washed since George Bush Sr was in office.

          I wish there was some kind of budget for Justice and Truth in the workplace that would hire someone to tell these bosses that they, specifically, need to shut up and sit down when it comes to wardrobe choices, but alas.

        2. Temperance*

          It really makes me angry that men’s shirts are considered default. I need to wear a men’s 2x to fit my chest, and then it sags everywhere else and looks like a gross tent.

          Women’s shirts should be default, if anything.

          1. IWasAChristmasElf*

            I worked a retail job where we were all given women’s shirts – my now boyfriend really really didn’t suit them, but at least there’s some justice in the world

          2. Mary Ann Mc*

            Had the same discussion at the retail store where I work. They ordered men cut polos. I have large breasts and small shoulders so the men’s XL looks ridiculous. Add to that they want us to look professional.

          3. the gold digger*

            The guy in charge of trade show shirts where I used to work said our vendor didn’t stock women’s sizes.

            I would get the smallest men’s shirt I could and cut off the bottom 12″. There was still a ton of extra fabric that nicely enlarged my waist and @ss when I tucked the shirt in.

            1. DoDah*

              I had two pairs of ‘trade show pants’—essentially pants that were a size larger than my normal size. I needed the room to tuck in the men’s shirt.

            2. Hillary*

              Wow. Our trade show vendor has options for mens and womens xs to 5x.

              I love the way they do it here (and love even more than I don’t have to work the trade shows). For the big show they get samples in a couple months in advance so people can try them on. The shirts get sent to a dry cleaner near the show a week before, the dry cleaner delivers them to peoples’ hotel rooms. No creases in the button downs and everyone matches each day of the show.

              1. Not a Morning Person*

                I’m willing to bet, and I’m not a betting person, that Gold-digger’s “trade-show guy” was lying about the vendor not carrying women’s sizes. He just wasn’t happy about being called out for being sexist and not considering women.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            I have the opposite problem–the women’s shirts are too narrow in the shoulders and then the waist flares out and looks really stupid. Many men’s shirts actually fit me better. And no, I don’t usually make enough money to have the cheap-ass clothing I can afford altered.

            1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

              I’ve got the same issue. It’s a rare top that I can wear in “women’s cut”.

              That’s why instead of assuming, there should be the option. There is no piece of clothing that fits all body types appropriately, simultaneously.

            2. Hrovitnir*

              Yeah, me too. I have broad shoulders and moderate sized breasts so generally a “men’s” cut is more flattering. I always thought short and flared was just a ridiculous design – until my friend with narrow shoulders, large breasts and a short waist pointed out that she looks like she’s wearing a sack if she wears a men’s top that fits her breasts.

              1. blackcat*

                I am in that boat: I am extremely petite with big boobs. If I wear men’s cut shirts, I look like I’m hiding a 6-month pregnant belly under there. Or I look like an overweight child wearing their dad’s clothes. If I put on my husband’s t-shirts, they stretch across my boobs, come down to past my butt, and don’t even get me started on what happens to the arms. He wears a men’s medium or large.

            3. Hlyssande*

              The time my company ordered women’s styled polos, they were painfully short. On everyone.

          5. SarahKay*

            So much this! I have finally, after two years of asking, nagging, complaining, and generally digging in my heels, got a lab coat in a women’s shape (i.e. shaped to cover my hips) but with all the pockets, comfortable sleeves etc, that come on the men’s lab coats.

            I originally had it suggested that it makes more sense for everyone to just wear the men’s style coats as there are far more men than women on site, so it makes it easier to re-use a coat if I leave. I replied firmly that I see no reason why it’s more acceptable that I should have a badly fitting coat than that a man should! Grr!

            1. many bells down*

              Oh! Have you seen ScottEVest? They offer women’s lab coats (and other women’s clothing) that’s loaded with hidden pockets. They’re pricy but they have a lot of sales, and a “personal shopper” feature where you can chat with an agent to make sure you’re ordering the right size.

              1. SarahKay*

                Ooh, I shall bear that in mind, thank you. Lack of pockets in women’s clothes always infuriates me!

          6. many bells down*

            My job offers women’s shirts – or more accurately “junior” shirts. I have to wear a 2XL and I’m exactly average weight. So half the women on staff are relegated to the men’s shirts because the women’s shirts aren’t made for anyone over about 160 lbs.

        3. Cadbury Cream Egg*

          She should come in wearing a belt over her belly just to show how ridiculous it actually looks.
          I’m just starting to transition into maternity wear for my second nugget and while I probably could wear a belt. It would be very uncomfortable.

        4. Lynn Whitehat*

          I was attending an event that asked us to wear red polo shirts. I don’t own one, so I borrowed my son’s. I was looking in the mirror, and I thought, “I look like a retail worker.” And then I wondered “what does that mean? What am I measuring that ‘looks like a retail worker’?” And I realized it’s the fact that the shirt is cut to a boy’s dimensions, so it is ill-fitting on me. We’re half the people, why is it so rare to find a shirt for us?

          1. SignalLost*

            Really tangential, but I’m a woman who is 6’4″, with narrow shoulders, generous bust, high waist, and generous hips. I can wear boys t-shirts from Target (I have two and they basically fit like women’s cut shirts for some reason, though they are short (everything is short when you’re 6’4″)).

            They’re actually slightly larger than several of my women’s XL tees.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It also has to do with how women’s clothes are tailored; they’re often not designed to be tuck-in-able. Most women’s blouses don’t, for example, have shirttails the same way men’s collared shirts do.

      3. Xarcady*

        Even the military, which is pretty rigid on when and where shirts need to be tucked in, has maternity uniforms with shirts that do not get tucked in, even when the non-maternity version of that uniform would have the shirt tucked in.

        Because common sense.

        And the women wearing these uniforms still look professional and clearly look as though they are wearing a military uniform.

        1. Justme*

          I had to Google that because I didn’t know it was a thing. I actually think that most of their uniform options through pregnancy are workable.

        2. Anon for this*

          I was just thinking she should look at maternity uniforms (police/military) for inspiration to see what they do. I wonder if plus size clothing could help. I worked in a jail and there were some men there that looked like they were 9 months pregnant. They held all their weight in their beer belly. They still somehow managed to tuck in their shirt and wear a belt. Some wore it under the belly some across (which did look absurd).

          OP shouldn’t have to do any of this but if she needs to comply to get by until she can convince them otherwise those would be my suggestions.

          1. Mrs. Smith*

            A pregnant belly isn’t the same as being fat around the middle – I’ve been both, and they’re not the same. That’s a person in there, not just extra adipose tissue, and she cannot simply belt around it or tuck it into a waistband. It’s got a skull and a spine and elbows and all the other parts, and it moves around all day on its own, so treating it like a spare tire (or even a massive beer belly) won’t work. I’m about 50 pounds above where I should be but I can tie my own shoes, but when I was pregnant . . . no way, because it just doesn’t bend in half!

            1. Anon for this*

              Got it. Your description also made me laugh and kind of creeped me out. While I know there is a baby in there, picturing elbows and a skull and a spine is just so weird. Weird in a good way. Not in an ew way but in a woah, science, way.

              1. nonegiven*

                I remember taking the dog to the vet, it was a week or so before my due date. I caught a guy in the waiting room staring as the, probably foot, moved across the top of my belly, visible through my maternity top. I looked down, I could see it, too.

              2. Another preggo lady*

                I think the whole ‘preggy belly does not equal beer belly/tummy rolls’ has been my sharpest learning curve of pregnancy dressing. Seriously, even at my stage (which is a long way off from OP), that bump is hard and it’s not squishing for any fashion trend!

                If the whole ‘Why can’t you belt up and tuck in a shirt?’ thing was the only complaint the boss had, I could almost forgive this as a misunderstanding of how the pregnant body actually works.

          2. No, please*

            I’m sorry, but this will not work. I tried wearing bigger sizes to avoid the banded pants while pregnant. The pants fall down, look like clown pants and belts hurt. Babies inside of a belly are not flexible like excess belly weight. Maternity clothes are the only option.

          3. neverjaunty*

            But she already is complying. When she asked Mr. Jackhole how she was not complying with the dress code, he told her she was violating his personal fashion taste. The problem isn’t finding maternity clothes that meet her company’s dress code.

          4. Observer*

            Plus size shirts MIGHT work, but are also likely to fit very badly. And I can’t imagine any skirt, pants or dress that would work. I wear plus sizes and I was pregnant when I didn’t otherwise need plus sizes. It just not the same.

          5. Kate 2*

            Unfortunately belly fat and a baby bulge can’t be handled the same way. A baby bulge is hard, belly fat is squishy. You can belt the latter, you can put on spanx, and generally squeeze it in and move it around a bit, the former can’t.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              One person I know who did this belted his belt tight (so as to hold the duty belt) so it creates a roll over and a roll under the duty belt and just looked very uncomfortable. The belted under look appeared much more comfortable but it would probably be harder to access the stuff on the belt.

          6. LiveAndLetDie*

            People with beer bellies are still wearing pants where the waistband falls either under their stomach or across it. Maternity pants have a stretch panel in them that goes OVER the belly. You can’t “just tuck a shirt in” with maternity pants the same way an overweight person can with their pants. You likewise don’t get belt loops on these maternity pants.

            Also, plus size clothing is still designed to fit non-pregnant bodies. Some work for both, but not all, and the OP should not be making any concessions for this regardless. Her boss is being an ass.

          7. BTW*

            My mother in law asked this too (plus size clothing) when I was complaining about the price of maternity clothing on FB one day. Plus size and maternity are completely different. As you can imagine, a plus sized body is not shaped like a pregnant body. I actually love the paneled maternity pants… I wish I could wear them all the time they are sooo comfortable haha! Case in point: I wore my favourite pair of jeans quite far into my pregnancy and it wasn’t until I bought an actual pair of mat pants that I knew what I was missing. They fit better, supported my belly and overall were 10x comfortable. And they made me look actually pregnant instead of just fat LOL!

      4. ReanaZ*

        I used to work in consulting, and while my company wasn’t a ‘suits everyday’ one, a lot in the industry were. I don’t think I have EVER seen even a non-pregnant woman wear a suit with a shirt tucked in and a belt, except women wearing butch/men’s styles by choice. All the women’s pants suits I have seen seem designed to wear with an untucked shell. None of my suitpants when I wore pants even had belt loops. I am so confused by this even without the blatant pregnancy discrimination.

        1. Sam*

          Yeah, even when women’s dress shirts are tucked in, they’re tucked into a pencil skirt/dress suit bottom, and a belt is generally not included. Tucking a shell into pants is just not done. So… does he want her to wear only button downs? That’s a nice look, but it’s not “height of women’s conservative business fashion,” more… Amy Santiago. Which is a great look, but not what I’d associate with the more conservative end of women’s businesswear.

  3. Jeanne*

    #1, Your job depends on it because he wants an excuse to fire you. This is only going to get worse. Go straight to HR and be prepared to get a lawyer. This has nothing to do witj clothes. I guarantee it. Did he really know what an empire waist was or just point at your clothes? Tell HR that you will not put up with discrimination.

    1. Jen*

      Unfortunately I think you are right. While it is illegal to fire someone for being pregnant, there are countless statistical data and anecdotes about managers using pretext like this to fire pregnant women. It happens all the time.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Yes- but this may be the most obvious pretext in the history of pretexts. So that’s helpful for OP.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Yes. But if she ends up finding herself actually facing a firing, with this is a pretext, she will have an easier time finding a lawyer to help her.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Sadly, going to HR sometimes is a hoop to jump through to make it easier for your lawyer down the line. It prevents the company from saying that they sure would have done something if only the employee had talked to HR about it.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          True. It’s super obvious and he’s probably going to deny ever saying it. So Op, document this encounter, recalling every detail you can, the day time, etc…and keep it at home in case this blows up and lawyer need it.

      2. Competent Commenter*

        Yep. When I was fired for being pregnant my boss made one odd pregnancy-related comment when I was nearing 8 months. But I was fired for something unrelated 30 days before my due date. She didn’t come out and say it was because I was pregnant. But the pretext was ridiculous and when my dad called her the next day to act as my attorney (he was actually an attorney) the first thing she said was “I would never discriminate against someone” before he even said anything. Discrimination usually hides behind slippery, confusing excuses that make you feel bad.

        1. Jesca*

          So, what happened?!?! May benefit OP to know and I am dying to hear the end of this story! Such disgust.

      3. Frozen Ginger*

        And passed on promotions.

        “Oh well we thought she wouldn’t *want* to be a manager because she’d want to keep her work hours flexible, and unfortunately manager’s can’t really have flexible schedules.”

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Is a word missing from OP#3’s letter? Does “skin twice” mean “skin cancer” twice?

    Regardless, OP, don’t be more restrictive than you need to be. I have a colleague who is fair and prone to burning, anyway, but was also recently diagnosed with Lupus. She cannot be in direct sunlight for more than about 1 minute before her immune system begins to go absolutely haywire, and it’s extraordinarily painful and debilitating for her.

    Your employee may have similar health concerns, and you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you’re more concerned about perceptions of professionalism than your are about striking a balance. Alison’s suggestion is on point, and if asked about her covering up prior to entering a client’s office, I would ask her how she’d like you to note it with others (you don’t owe anyone a full explanation, but if she’d prefer you say she’s light-sensitive, or is doing it for health reasons, then use her verbiage).

    Although it’s unclear if the ADA applies, it might be worth borrowing that framework when you approach your employee. Is being in full sunlight a necessary and core function of her job? Is her attire merely quirky, or is the strangeness impacting other essential job activities? I suspect she appears unusual or even odd, but so long as she’s willing to de-blanket when entering a client’s office building, it sounds like this is a resolvable issue.

    1. Sami*

      I’d imagine if she brings along a professional tote bag for her accessories, then as soon as she’s inside (and away from big bright windows), she ought to be able to store her things until it’s time to leave.

      1. Analysis Paralysis*

        A tote bag for her accessories is a good idea. Most people do not know that standard umbrellas & regular clothes are about UPF 7-10 — they simply aren’t designed to block UV rays. UPF clothing & accessories are necessary for people with sun-related issues.

        I’m so glad that someone mentioned Coolibar below. They carry a wide variety of products for both the office and leisure.
        I hate to sound like an ad, but their products have been a lifesaver (I mean that literally).
        I cannot be in the sun. I sometimes wear their Sun Shirt as a suit blouse and no one is the wiser. Work or play, I use their UPF umbrella whenever I walk outside during daylight hours. Before I walk out the door, I also slip on either one of their hoodies, the Tunic Shirt, Sun Wrap cardigan or Beach Shirt (which is really a very long hooded blouse). Oh, and in my tote bag, I always have one of their white baby blankets in case of emergency (I chuckled when I read OP’s letter because yes, I’ve had to use it in public — though luckily never at the office). Just yesterday I received my new pareo, which I will use like a pashmina around my head & neck. I only wear the gloves, sleeves, flap-hat etc. when I’m working outside or decided not to stay inside when my family goes to the beach (I also take my UPF beach umbrella).

        OP, be kind & compassionate when you speak to your employee. UPF clothing is SO expensive — just a hooded tunic blouse or a wrap cardigan will run about $80. Work with her until she can afford to purchase something work-appropriate to wear during transport to client meetings.
        And pass along my best wishes to her — it can be upsetting, frustrating and embarrassing to get the side-eye from people when you walk around swathed in layers of cloth when it’s broiling hot out, or cower under an umbrella on sunny, cloudy and rainy days (cloudy days are the worst for the side-eye. People can’t figure out why you’re under an umbrella when it’s clearly not about to start raining, and there’s no sun out so people can’t tell that you’re actually creating creating a patch of ‘shade’ — but UV will getcha right through those clouds!). An internet hug to her, if she wants it. And kudos to her for being smart while she’s young, unlike me – I had to learn the hard way that I’d rather be perceived as ‘uncool’ than suffer the life-threatening consequences of sun exposure. Good for her!

    2. Artemesia*

      It is perfectly possible to cover the skin from sun exposure without making this sort of spectacle of yourself. She can year a lightweight opaque garment that shields her skin and a hat without the ridiculousness of wrapping herself in a blanket.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        You’re kind of mixing up the practical (what’s possible) with value judgements (spectacle… ridiculousness…) which OP probably shouldn’t do.

        1. Artemesia*

          I don’t think so. Just as it IS possible for maternity clothing to be inappropriate for the office (not all maternity, some maternity clothing and not at all the things #1 is wearing) it is possible for a sun cover to be unprofessional. A pup tent would work but would be ridiculous and un professional as is wrapping yourself in a blanket. If this person needs to be completely covered when out of doors then she needs a coat like garment that does that. It is not unreasonable to expect someone to look professional even when dealing with a medical issue. (for example, a cast is perfectly appropriate in the office for a broken arm but not one with a penis drawn on it, not that that would ever happen.)

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              But if you were getting into a car with your coworkers and started covering up like this person, wouldn’t you say something to them to put it into context? Like “don’t mind me guys, sun allergy!”

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        Sorry, but this comment really rubbed me the wrong way. I really hope you never have, or have never had, a serious illness that is affected by something as simple as sun exposure. It may seem ridiculous to you, but to people who deal with this sort of thing every day, it’s not ridiculous to try to avoid a serious illness, painful/debilitating medical treatment, and medical bills that are high enough to almost bankrupt you.

        1. Sarah*

          I mean, I knew a woman who had a severe issue with the sun (not sure what it was, but she literally could not be in the sun for the time it took to walk to the car). She wore a very wide brimmed hat and long sleeves/pants with SPF protection that covered everything, no blanket required. I don’t think it’s unacceptable to request professional alternatives that accomplish exactly the same thing.

            1. Steve*

              Yes, and furthermore, if and when the OP does discuss it they need to make it 100% crystal clear that they support the employee in taking care of herself, and that they just want to explore ways to do so while presenting a more professional appearance to clients to the extent possible without compromising her health.

              That said, no client is going to see or care what she is doing in the car ride, so I don’t know why OP is so focused on that.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Also, with respect you are in danger of doing something that is sometimes called wellsplaining.

            I have a serious illness (nothing to do with sun exposure, but it has to do with another everyday thing most people feel they are experts on) and if I had a penny for everyone who used to know someone (who wasn’t me) who did xyz (which might not work for me or be relevant or possible for whatever reason) I might be able to fund a cure for my rare illness.

            Asking if XYZ is possible or has been tried? Might be okay if you’ve stopped to ask yourself if it’s relevant. But people with health problems get really really tired of hearing about how someone else did this or that so why can’t you.

            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              I am with you, but I wonder if the employee could switch from a blanket to a blanket sized shawl, which might be less noticeable? I have a few that I wear all summer indoors because my office seems to believe “meat locker” is a good ambient temperature. People regularly compliment me on them, so I am guessing they do not violate professional norms.

              1. MsChanandlerBong*

                I was going to suggest that, but I wonder if she isn’t using the blanket to cover her hands and other skin not covered by clothing. Even if I wear long-sleeved clothing, it doesn’t cover my hands, and I sometimes end up getting the pink rash on my fingers if I ride in the car without using a blanket. I do think it’s fine to ask her to find a solution when dealing with clients, but I don’t see why what she does in the car is a big deal.

            2. k.k*

              Very well said. People do this to me occasionally for a minor health issue and that is enough to get me really annoyed. I can only imagine how trying that gets with a more serious or noticeable issue.

              1. This Daydreamer*

                I used to get this when I was working retail and got laryngitis. “Have you tried gargling salt water? Why didn’t you just take the day off? Why don’t you get a cup of tea from the cafe? Do you get laryngitis often? How come? I bet it’s allergies. Have you tried allergy medication? Does it hurt to talk? It sounds like it hurts to talk.”


                Yeah, it got old after a while.

            3. starsaphire*

              “But, kale smoothies!!1!” ;)

              Thank you for the term wellsplaining. Having dealt with it for years, it’s wonderful to have language to address it!

            4. Statler von Waldorf*

              Ramona, you are aggressively shooting down other’s suggestions because they might not work in one particular circumstance. While I understand how annoying it can be to be wellsplanied in real life, I feel accusing people of it in a comments section seems both unkind to your fellow commentators and counter productive for providing realistic, level-headed advice for the letter writers.

              1. Ramona Flowers*

                No, I’m not aggressively shooting down anything. I’m saying it’s unhelpful to say: “I knew one person who did this one thing once which means OP’s employee absolutely definitely should also be able to do that.” Which absolutely is wellsplaining.

                If you re-read my comments you may notice I didn’t actually comment on the suggestions themselves. Just the way they were expressed. I do try not to violate the sandwiches rule. I just don’t think this is helpful to the OP. What are they going to do, tell their employee they can’t use a blanket any more as someone on the internet once met someone who didn’t need one?

                1. Statler von Waldorf*

                  I’m failing to see the difference between “I’m saying it’s unhelpful to say” and shooting down suggestions. By saying something is unhelpful, you ARE shooting down suggestions, by saying they are unhelpful and thus not needed.

                  And yes, I noticed you are more interested in tone policing than actually commenting on the suggestions.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  FWIW, I agree with you, Ramona, and I thought the contribution was helpful for avoiding an avalanche of not very empathetic and perhaps inappropriate medical advice.

              2. Jaguar*

                The way people are suggesting solutions is a little presumptuous and obnoxious, but I agree with you. This is the comment section of an advice blog. Complaining that the advice is delivered poorly strikes me as a loss of perspective. There is some expectation on the reader to be able to extract the wheat from the chaff.

              3. This Daydreamer*

                I can see where she’s coming from. I’m sure the employee didn’t wake up one day and decide to wear a blanket every day. She must have tried other things that just didn’t work. We have no way of knowing what she has already tried so coming up with our own theories about how she should handle a vulnerability to skin cancer really isn’t helpful.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I occasionally encounter people walking in our woods wearing what is clearly medical sun protection (wide-brimmed hat, gloves, long sleeves and pants, something covering the neck, with an umbrella). It’s noticeable, but its purpose is also clear. A blanket is an odd option if you’re planning ahead–understandable if you have to improvise on the spot, but she gets to work somehow so this is a several-times-a-day problem she needs to solve. It’s odd–at the minor puzzling distraction level–that she’s doing it with a blanket.

            1. Part-time Poet*

              I agree that a blanket is an odd choice. Sun screen, either in my makeup or from a tube, a large hat, long sleeves, long pants, and sunglasses are how I protect myself after having had three skin cancers removed.

              1. Rainy, PI*

                I have a (fortunately at this point intermittent) intermittent allergic reaction to sun exposure, and am also highly allergic to what was for many years a universal ingredient in sunscreens.

                I had a friend in grad school who had a doctor’s prescription for blackout car window tinting because she’d had three skin cancers before she was 16. But her family was wealthy enough to A) provide that car window tinting and B) help her fight tickets for having blackout car window tinting.

                1. Rainy, PI*

                  Sorry for double use of “intermittent” there, and for also eliding my point, which is that everyone’s needs are different when it comes to stuff like this.

                1. Rainy, PI*

                  I reacted to one of the cheap emollients or something in sunscreens–it wasn’t the PABA, it was a lotion ingredient, because it happened a lot with hand lotions too, which could actually make my hands redden and peel, along with a profound sensation of burning.

                  I couldn’t wear sunscreen until they came out with the spray stuff, and whatever they used to put in has either stopped making me react or they stopped putting it in, because I can wear lotion-based sunscreens again although I typically don’t just because I had over a decade of associating lotion sunscreens with violent pain.

            2. msnovtue*

              Something no one has mentioned is that all the extra SPF clothing & such is *expensive*. I’ve looked into it, because I’m extremely fair and liable to develop skin cancer in the next 10 years, but one long-sleeved shirt can be $50 USD or more. Something you already have, like a blanket or an umbrella, is a lot less of a financial burden then having to go out and re-do a large portion of your wardrobe.
              I’d also be wary of running up against ADA issues, if I were the OP. While possibly somewhat unprofessional, none of the things listed is inherently unreasonable. I honestly don’t think this is a big enough problem to make a fuss about…

              1. YaH*

                A-FREAKING-MEN. I have a UV allergy (as I sit here scratching the water-filled blisters that arose on the back of my hand that was exposed to sunlight somehow today), and I have to use mineral sunblocks *and* UV-blocking clothing in order to not be covered in hives. I am a plus-sized woman. So far I have been able to afford exactly one plus-sized UV-blocking jacket that was on clearance at REI.

                And long sleeves/etc aren’t the answer- I burn & develop the rash through my clothing.

                1. Hlyssande*

                  I’m not sure if this is helpful or not, but my name links to a site that has UV-reflective clothing and rash guards that might be useful? They do have plus sizes, but good gosh it’s expensive.

                  I’m not as sensitive to the sun as some people here are, but the moment I get into the car I’m wrapping a scarf around my neck to cover my upper chest, and/or putting on a cardigan to cover my arms. I use a blanket in winter or when it’s not boilingly hot out, and it’s easy because it’s something I already have in my car to begin with. That may be where she’s coming from.

        2. Artemesia*

          You seriously don’t see a difference between wrapping yourself in a blanket to go to a professional appointment and wearing a garment that covers your skin from the sun. My mother had very sensitive skin, medications that made it worse, and recurrent melanoma. It is quite possible to wear clothing that protects from the sun and thee days there are newer fabrics that make it even easier.

          1. Obelia*

            It is possible, but unless it’s actually interfering with the client relationship, it doesn’t seem necessary to force her out of a particular approach if it works for her, even if it seems odd.

            My OH has had melanoma and works outdoors part of the time, and long sleeves and floppy hat (when he doesn’t have to wear a hard hat) work for him, but that’s *his* comfortable balance between being sun safe and looking unusual on a building site. (I would put him in Factor 1000 + UV-protective clothing + a blanket under a giant umbrella at all times, but it’s not my call.)

            1. Colette*

              This employee is almost certainly hurting her professional relationship, and probably causing questions with the client. She’d be better served by finding a long-sleeved jacket and hat that provide her with the protection she needs.

              What she’s doing comes across (to me) as unnecessarily dramatic – not because she shouldn’t protect herself from the sun but because there are less attention-drawing ways to do so.

            2. Yorick*

              We constantly force people out of some of their clothing choices due to professional norms. There are solutions for sensitivity to sunlight that are not as unprofessional as wearing a blanket, and it’s ok to expect your employees to use them.

                1. Browser*

                  People make all kinds of snarky comments when you walk around using an umbrella as sun protection. I have no idea why, it doesn’t affect them at all, and it’s incredibly practical and simple.

                2. kb*

                  @Browser I think a lot of the snarky comments are because the only points of reference a lot of people have on parasols are the antebellum South or hostorical ladies of high society. They are seeing it through the lens of a vanity or play-costume thing rather than a practical means of reducing sun exposure. That’s been my experience, at least.

                3. Turquoise Cow*

                  I often wear a hat when it’s sunny out – and always wear sunglasses. (I don’t have any illness, I just prefer for my head to be shaded, and my eye doctor agrees that sunglasses are a good idea). So many comments, about the style of the hat, or the fact that it’s “not that sunny.”

                  Similar to when I wear a hat with ear flaps to protect my ears in the winter. I seriously don’t care if you think I look silly – I like not having an earache.

                4. sam*

                  I’ve never had skin cancer, but I get sunburned really easily, and a few years ago I bought an AWESOME parasol. I mostly use it on the weekends in the summer when I’m going to be out-and-about for more than just my morning/evening commute, but it gets tons of compliments.

                  I’ve also noticed more women using them (or umbrellas) in recent years. I think parasols are a fashion statement that needs to come back with a vengeance.

                  By the way, my parasol was purchased at the Frida Kahlo show at the NY botanical garden. It has skulls on it:

                5. Carolyn*

                  @Browser – when I went to Japan last year, it was a dream for me, an aggressively pale vampire princess! So many women were carrying umbrellas as sun protection or wearing long sleeves and even gloves that I didn’t feel like a freak when I bought an umbrella and joined them! It was perfect – I wear serious sunblock all year round and it needs to be reapplied every 90 minutes which is sticky and inconvenient if you are out and about … but the umbrella does its job all day!

              1. fposte*

                Here’s my concern: this is a mild irregularity for the accommodation of the employee’s disability, and the only problems it raises are those of optics; this isn’t somebody insisting she be able to drive her John Deere through the cubicle farm because she doesn’t like wheelchairs. The OP doesn’t know squat about what level of sun protection the employee actually needs, and I’m guessing doesn’t know all that much about the sun-protection level of fabrics either because most Americans don’t.

                I think it’s okay to have a conversation about this, but I would be really concerned about any advice, as opposed to questions, to the employee about what would be better to wear, because most likely the OP doesn’t *know* what would be better for her employee to wear in light of the medical situation.

                1. HR Gal*


                  OP – and all of us for that matter – don’t know the employee’s full situation. There could be very good reasons why a blanket is the best solution for her medically, and why long sleeves/jackets/etc. don’t work as well. The last thing OP should do is interfere with the employee’s needs for a medical condition. So the question shouldn’t revolve around other alternatives to the blanket, but around how to not let this affect her appearance in front of clients.

                2. Sup Sup Sup*

                  I think it does warrant a conversation. The truth is wrapping up in a big blanket is going to raise some eyebrows and superficial as optics might be, bad optics can cause more than superficial reactions. I think it’s reasonable to discuss the situation with the employee and collaborate to see if there might be a better solution (perhaps there won’t be, but the effort should be made to reduce the odd optic). As a side note, I think the wide-brimmed hat/umbrella is self-explanatory and understood as sun cover (particularly when it’s not raining).

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Just wanted to shout out that I really appreciate this comment, fposte.

              2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                Honestly, there are tons of those professional norms that are pointless at best (and classist/sexist/racist at worst). The fact that it’s _been_ a professional norm in the past is not a compelling reason to think, prima facie, it should continue to be. One of my favorite things about our ever-evolving attitudes about workplace dress is that companies who insist that something like wearing a blanket is unprofessional (despite it not having any impact on one’s ability to perform a job well) will be less and less competitive over time as the range of options continues to grow.

              3. Sfigato*

                I contracted melanoma when I was 23. for the past twenty years, I have modified my outfits so that I can be protected from the sun while not looking like a giant weirdo. it’s totally possible to be professional and be covered. Her deal might be more extreme than mine, but I still think it is worth having a discussion about less crazy ways to be protected from the sun. A nice wide-brimmed hat, a parasol, long sleeved work clothes, glasses, etc. can all look professional. Covering yourself in a blanket not so much.

                1. Hotstreak*

                  Absolutely! If the employee needs blanket level protection they should purchase a professional looking jacket that provides that level of protection. People shouldn’t wear bedding at work unless there is no other reasonable way to protect from the sun.

          2. Obelia*

            Btw, I’m very sorry to hear your mom had to deal with that – what a challenging combination of issues. Blankets aside, it is really good to see the developments in sun safe fabrics.

          3. neverjaunty*

            You seriously don’t see a difference between ‘these other things can be more professional options’ and sneering that someone is ‘making a spectacle’ of themselves?

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I suspect she wouldn’t go to these lengths if she had a viable alternative, though. At least that’s been my (limited) experience with friends who are skin cancer survivors, have lupus, or are otherwise photosensitive/photophobic. All of them would prefer not to have to carry so many accessories, but they do because other, less obtrusive, options have not worked for them.

        1. NoMoreMrFixit*

          Absolutely right. I’ve faced melanoma in the past and have what the doctor called “classic British pink skin” that burns very easy. Extremely high risk for repeat of cancer too. So if I am going to be outdoors for any length of time I have to wrap up. For years after my bout I had a powerful phobia about spending time out in the sun without proper cover. The surgeon told me at the time it’s not unusual for people to react that way.

        2. Sfigato*

          When I first contracted melanoma I freaked out and basically looked like the unabomber anytime I went outside, IF I went outside. As time went on, I found less freaky ways to protect myself from the sun. I’m still very vigilant about it, and I have no problem being a little out of place to protect myself.

        3. Janey*

          To be fair, a blanket is REALLY easy to pull on and off. As opposed to standing in the lobby making everyone wait while she pulls on gloves, jacket, hat, etc etc. She may have gotten flack at a previous job for taking up time donning those times, and came up with the blanket solution because it’s the fastest.

          Depending on the office thermostat and local weather, everyone else in the group may be wearing the exact opposite of long pants/jacket/scarf, and so she might feel it’s better to blend in when indoors and just deal with looking weird during those 5 minutes outside.

          Final thought: blanket is much looser and easier to create drafts around the body than the aforementioned sun-proof clothing. If she has problems with heat rash, or gets itchy hives with exposure, that may be another reason she chooses the blanket.

          Conclusion: she needs a nice tote bag to fit her stuff in, and for her coworkers to give her a break. Constant comments about your appearance — whether blanket, outfit, pregnancy, cast, etc — are exhausting.

      4. Mookie*

        a lightweight opaque garment that shields her skin

        That’s not how skin cancer works. It’s not foiled by ‘opaque.’ Sun-safe clothing has a dictionary definition, involving weave, fabric source(s) and textiles, color, and, where available, UPF rating.

        1. GermanGirl*

          And clothing with a high UFP rating that doesn’t look like you’re about to hop on a surf board is hard to come by in most countries. I’ve been told it’s a little more common in Australia, but I haven’t seen a lightweight coat-like UFP-rated garment ever (and I would totally buy one).

          1. The Other Katie*

            Travel clothing companies make them, and they even look sorta vaguely professional and not like you’re off to Lake Tanganikya to find Doctor Livingstone. Check out Royal Robbins and Rohan (in the UK).

            1. LCL*

              Solumbra by sun protections, in the US. No plus sizes though, I have to buy the men’s shirts.

            1. Browser*

              A blanket can be easily removed when indoors leaving her professionally dressed. Surfing gear cannot – unless you want her stripping down and changing in the bathroom at every off-site meeting.

        2. Yorick*

          She can wear a sun-safe garment then. The blanket that was described doesn’t sound like your description.

          1. Mookie*

            I didn’t describe sun-safe clothing. I said it was properly defined by the correct combination of fabric, color, and weave.

      5. MacAilbert*

        Something tells me if that would work for her, she’d have already done it . Using a blanket can’t be easy, comfortable, or convenient.

        1. eee*

          Right, and I don’t know the scenario but it may not always be known to her ahead of time that she’ll need to go outside for work. Wearing a garment that’s specific to sun safety means either wearing it ahead of time, or changing. I do think that something similar to the idea of a blanket can be used without being a blanket–could she get something like a UPF rated caftan or loose abaya that she can put over her body? But then on the flipside, she’ll still have to change out of it. A blanket that can be easily rolled up and stowed might still be easier than that.

      6. Jaune Desprez*

        I agree that the blanket is not ideal, but I notice that the writer specified that this employee is a new graduate who has been employed for one month in her first full-time job. She may not have been able to set aside the money necessary for professional-looking sun protection out of the one or two paychecks she’s received.

        1. Sylvia*


          I was going to comment that I have a relative who wears sun protection for the same reason, and she’s professional and well-dressed. Then I remembered she’s also C-level.

        2. Trig*

          Also, there’s a fine line between blanket and those blanket-sized shawls/scarves that are currently in style. New grad probably has a younger fashion sense than more long-term employees, so it could very well be that she is using a fashionable blanket-scarf that she thinks is in keeping with business-wear, but that more conservative dressers read as just a blanket.

        3. k.k*

          Thank you thank you thank you for saying this. I looked a bit into these types of items once, looking to get a gift for someone. The nice looking stuff gets expensive. If I had to start using that level of sun protection I could see it getting cost prohibitive, and I have a steady income. I imagine there are other medical related costs that come with being a two time cancer survivor as well.

        4. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

          Thank you for demonstrating reason and compassion here. I felt so sad when I read that this employee had been out of school such a short time. How young to have not only had cancer, but twice! I am sure she feels unhappy to be “violating” the workplace norms, but she must also still be dealing with the fear and discomfort brought on by her illnesses.

        5. JAM*

          I’ve had to buy sun protective clothing and it definitely isn’t cheap. If I was trying to build my professional wardrobe and my sun protection wardrobe at the same time I doubt I could do it on an entry level salary easily. Another concern could be that many sun protective clothing pieces might not meet dress code standards so the employee could be thinking a blanket is the best way to be compliant and safe. I’d suggest working with the employee to find a dress code for field days that meet her required safety needs. I’ve been able to get special shoes approved for my workplace and this isn’t that different.

        6. Christine*

          Reference: 3. My employee wears a blanket for sun protection when we go off-site. There are a lot of products out to protect your skin that has a more professional look. There are sun sleeves at:

          This looks like a light weight sweater to me:

          It looks like you’re laying clothes, not that noticeable.

        7. kitryan*

          My company has a one time allocation for new staff to purchase some professional attire when starting their employment (about $500, added to your first paycheck). If something similar is possible in this situation, a sensitive conversation with the employee about the issue could bring up if the employee knows of other, more professional options that would also provide her needed protection could bring up a similar offer, to get her started in building a safe, professional wardrobe.

    3. SadPanda*

      I was wondering about xeroderma pigmentosa.

      And, maybe a linen duster (ala J. peterman) could be a good compromise cover up rather than a blanket? I also like the tote bag suggestion below for her accessories.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I have very fair skin and burn easily, and I also have a number of allergies and sensitivities which complicate matters because the wrong fabric, or fit, can result in a reaction. I haven’t (yet) had to resort to a blanket but it can be surprisingly difficult to find suitable clothing – for instance, looser fitting cover ups are sold for people to wear over beachwear, they often don’t provide enough sun protection, and are often designed with deep v-necks, 1/2 or 3/4 sleeves or other factors which mean they don’t cover you up enough. Proper SPF rated garments are much better in that regard but are often close fitting – I was fine with them until last year, but last autumn I had a serious allergic reaction and one of the knock on effects has been that all my skin sensitivities have kicked up a notch, and I discovered when I wore one for the fist time this summer that there is something in the fabric which in combination with heat causes my to react..

        So I am sympathetic. I’m fortunate in that we rarely have really hot sun here (UK) so mostly I can wear a suit jacket or other normal but not summery clothes for long enough to get out of the sun.

        all that said, I don’t think a sympathetic conversation to ask whether there might be other options such as a loose-fitting coat or jacket would be out of order, but it may be more complicated than you think.

        (I have a linen jacket which works for me, which I bought for a summer wedding few years ago. It probably looks a bit odd, as it’s a bit more ‘fancy’ than normal business wear, and doesn’t always go, colourwise , what what else I am wearing, but so far I haven’t found anything which is more appropriate. And this stuff is expensive!

        1. the gold digger*

          deep v-necks, 1/2 or 3/4 sleeves

          It’s so hard to find items that go all the way up to my neck and cover my arms! I have a lot of sun damage to my skin because of a misspent youth at the swimming pool. My aunt, my sister, and my uncle have all had skin cancers. I am very concerned that I, too, am at risk, and try to stay covered in the sun. (And also, I am vain.)

          Finding workout clothes that cover my body and yet do not send me into heatstroke is very difficult. Regular clothes aren’t as much of an issue because I can wear a coat on top, but it would be nice to wear short-sleeved shirts outdoors in the sun when it’s actually warm enough to do so here.

          1. Chinook*

            “Finding workout clothes that cover my body and yet do not send me into heatstroke is very difficult. ”

            Me too. I swear it was earth shattering to discover Under Armour and other similar brands that allow your skin to breathe and be cooled while staying covered (why can’t they make sports bras for large breasts pout of this stuff? I suspect physics and gravity). Have you tried the stuff they sell for hockey and other winter sports. They look light weight but are meant to cover the entire body as a layer between protective padding and your skin.

            1. the gold digger*

              Chinook, thanks for the great suggestions. I will check!

              RE: Bra design. I sat next to a guy on a plane who worked for a lingerie company. He was telling me all about the engineering components of bra design and it was absolutely fascinating.

          2. JAM*

            I want to chime in that Coolibar has been a lifesaver for me. They have swimwear and even plus size options which is often even harder to find.

            1. Hlyssande*

              Hah, I linked then in my name! They are pretty spendy though, unfortunately.

              …I really want the swim shorts. Because they sound ridiculously comfy.

        2. Chinook*

          Bagpuss, have you tried eshakti dot com. A number of commentators have tried them for dresses and they give you the option of changing necklines, sleeve length and even dress length for most of their items as well as have it made to measure. You can also tell what type of fabric an item is made from and search for items in a certain fabric. I suspect that they may even be helpful if you called their customer line for detailed info on what their fabric contains. Their items are relatively inexpensive and I believe they ship worldwide (as well as having a factory that is monitored for working conditions).

          As for the OP, I would think that a sympathetic conversation with the person would be okay as long as you remember that this is a) a medical requirement and b) someone with a limited income who is only starting to build up a professional wardrobe. Maybe recommending a fake pashmina shawl to replace the blanket and a professional tote for the items to be stashed in when she enters a building as a start. But, unless you are planning on giving her money to help with this medical accommodation, it will take time for her to transition her wardrobe.

          1. Pathfinder Ryder*

            eShakti only ships to the contiguous US and Canada as per their shipping page :(

            1. Cherith Ponsonby*

              They haven’t updated their shipping page – slackers! :) Apparently they now ship to the UK, Singapore, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, and the UAE. (I can definitely confirm that they ship to Australia.)

      2. fposte*

        Linen actually has a pretty low UPF; synthetics are generally superior for sun protection. But I also think we’re falling into the trap of offering suggestions to the employee, who didn’t write in; I don’t think the OP can really give her staffer a shopping list.

      3. TL -*

        I doubt XP because she would have to have a number of other accommodations (like screen and window protections, most likely a night shift). But maybe someone else knows more if it’s likely?

    4. TootsNYC*

      I would think you could require her to switch to a jacket of some kind to go into the building. . A hat is not that much of a problem, but being draped in a blanket looks really babyish.

    5. I'm Okay, It's Okay, Everything's fine.*

      I have friends with Lupus who can’t be exposed to the sun. They generally wear long sleeves (UV protected), gloves a wide hat/large sun glasses, and a scarf, with an umbrella. One thing people haven’t commented on—the employee is a new grad. There is a very real possibility they haven’t had to deal with covering their body in a professional way, or perhaps purchasing a professional jacket + professional-looking everything else would be a burden. Couldn’t the employer discuss the need for more professional-looking covering garments and also offer to expense the cost of said items?

        1. Christine*

          I agree with you. If the individual was sitting an office with a window, they would be required to move them and/or place UV protection blinds/ shades, etc.

          Clothing isn’t purchased by the employer unless the job requires something for safety or an uniform.

        2. kitryan*

          Why not? As I commented above, my workplace has a one time payment to new staff hires for wardrobe upgrades. I thought it was a very cool idea when I started here. It won’t set you up completely, but it gets you started while you start getting paychecks.
          Also, if her issue was back pain, the employer might accommodate with a new chair or standing desk. Combine the ideas and well, if the employer is concerned about the optics of client meetings with a blanket clad employee, give them a ‘uniform’ type allowance that allows them to purchase a couple items (presuming this is an appropriate accommodation for the employee’s specific concerns) that makes it possible for her to comply with the standards the employer would prefer she meet.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, this may just be me, but when applicants write “see resume” in their cover letters, I find it annoying. I’ve seen recent grads do this in their cover letter, and although I cut them slack for (usually) being new to the white-collar workforce, a “see resume” note is almost never done in a non-obnoxious manner.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think one reason why it may be annoying is that it falls into the trap of implying that the hiring manager is an unobservant idiot who cannot be relied upon to identify the strongest candidates and so must be gumptioned into noticing them. In that respect it’s no different to phoning someone to follow up, or trying to hand your application to a manager.

      OP, clearly this isn’t your intention, but it’s worth being aware of. The way around all of this is to tell them, engagingly, why you are right for the job.

    2. always in email jail*

      Our application process includes questions that require a narrative response(such as “do you have experience utilizing the latest regulatory guidelines to inform spout design? If so, please describe this experience”) . Our HR advises that if someone says “see resume” in response to these questions, we are able to count the application as incomplete, since they did not answer the question. And I do.

      1. Princess Carolyn*

        Fair enough, but I’d be kind of grouchy about an application asking me to describe my experience in a separate format when my resume does exactly that. The way that question is phrased, I don’t see how it reveals anything new about the applicant.

    3. Frozen Ginger*

      This probably still counts, but what about saying “as seen on my resume”? Like if you’re describing personal traits such as “I’m very focused on efficiency and have developed more efficient procedures at my current job (as listed on my resume).”

      1. TootsNYC*

        I agree, it’s a waste of space. AND a distraction.

        I would expect that info to be on the resume, so if I wanted to know it, I’d look.

        In fact, if I said, “Hmm, our industry has lots of software and equipment; I wonder if she’s used EditingPlus?” I’d go straight to the bottom of your resumé. If it wasn’t there, I’d look at the top.

        That IS one thing I’d say to people who have those sorts of industries:
        Make a list of what you’ve used and put it in a collected place. So people can find it easily ON the resumé. Because of course they’re going to look there for it. Just organize it so it’s easily found.
        Don’t leave it sprinkled around in the individual listings.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes because, of course they’re going to see your resume. It’s along the lines of saying you’ll supply references upon request. Of course you will. That used to be a common advised thing too but eventually realized it was a given so just a waste of space.

  6. Jeanne*

    #5 is definitely awkward. You don’t want to tell her not to take care of herself but you don’t want clients focused on her habits. Maybe you can ask her to carry a bag to stow everything in at the last second. Many businesses have a small roof over the door where she can uncover or she can do it just inside the door before greeting anyone. She needs to make an effort to satisfy both requirements: covering up and not causing issues for the business.

  7. Gaia*

    Yea, OP 1, I have a strong suspicion that your manager doesn’t so much find your clothing unprofessional as the fact that you are pregnant unprofessional. He is gross. I hope HR helps.

  8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, proceed with caution. Although the issue you’ve raised can happy in any workplace, in my extremely limited experience, this kind of boundary-blurring seems particularly common in the academy. Alison’s direction to be studiously neutral is bang on. I’m sorry that you’re stuck in such an uncomfortable position. :(

    1. Ann*

      This is happening where I work too, complete with eye rolling and disparaging comments about she oversold herself and not working out (on the 3rd day by the way), but city, not academia. The twist for me is, the things I am being asked to note are the kinds of small errors we all make even months in to the job. I want to use my judgement in what i tell her; only focus on the major patterns, not small day to day errors that we all make. Do I go too far?

      1. Amanda*

        It sounds like your boss is looking to fire someone within the “provisional” period because she just doesn’t like them. My confusion in my situation (I’m OP#2) is that my boss has worked with Victoria for 2 years and even promoted her within the office. Literally created a position to promote her into so she could get more experience in our area (We’re in development/fundraising). My boss says Victoria realized soon after she was promoted that she didn’t like her new job and wanted to go back to admin work but…I’m here now. And my boss likes me, she says, so she wants me to stay put. I’m a little baffled myself, I would very much like the opportunity that Victoria has been given when I’m ready for it. I can’t see why she dislikes her job so much, if she does. It’s hard to know the whole story.

    2. Amanda*

      Hey there, I’m OP#2 – I totally agree. I have definitely been trying to be as neutral as possible. There are other nuances that I didn’t bring up in my OP because it seemed like too many topics at once, but I’m also kind of frustrated with “Victoria.” She seems to get irritated very quickly, often closes the door to her office for hours at a time, etc. She’s just generally not a pleasant person. It makes it a little harder to be neutral, but I have been. I try to be honest about where she is and when I’ve seen her when my boss asks me, but that’s about it.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        She may genuinely be an unpleasant person, but I suspect that she’s also aware that your boss has her eye on her or otherwise disapproves of her. I remember having a boss who I knew didn’t like me and wanted to get rid of me, and it was really awful/frustrating, and I became a lot more introverted, less generous, etc., at work. It’s counterintuitive because when someone’s on thin ice, you’d expect them to try extra hard to be pleasant, but negativity from your boss can really get in your head and mess you up.

        This sucks, and I’m sorry :(

  9. Susan*

    #1 – I can’t even picture a 7-months-pregnant woman wearing a belted pantsuit with tucked-in shirt, because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one. I almost think you should wear that to work just to show how strange it would look, except I imagine it would also be quite uncomfortable. I have a feeling that what this manager is actually saying is that he doesn’t like having a visibly pregnant woman in the office. HR should be able to set him straight on this.

    1. INTP*

      Yes, I’m picturing the OP going into work with her non-empire-waist/-ruched blouse, baggy because it’s a straight shirt over a rounded belly and that’s how shapes work, tucked into the soft maternity waistband of her trousers, and a belt attached to nothing worn somewhere above her bump because that’s where it will stay up. “What, this is literally how you told me to dress?”

      Going to HR is the smarter option but I do think the above would be hilarious to see his reaction to.

      1. nnn*

        I wouldn’t be completely surprised if the boss ended up thinking that looked better. Even if we remove any potential maliciousness from the equation, I’ve found that people who are very prescriptivist about style of dress tend to be either blind or indifferent to the fact that clothing that meets their prescriptivist requirements is ill-fitting and unflattering.

        When I worked in fast food, our uniform shirts were large, square men’s-style shirts, and we were absolutely required to tuck and belt them. And the manager wanted them tucked in tightly – not that thing where you tuck just the end and let the rest drape a bit.

        I’m a high-waisted, short-waisted woman. It looked ridiculous on me. But the manager still insisted on a tight tuck with a belt.

        So I tucked tightly with a belt. My belt was directly under the protruding part of my ribs. The bottoms of the armpits of my shirt were right next to the belt. There was all this bunchy fabric looking lumpy inside the pants.

        And my manager said “See, now that looks tidy and professional!”

        1. Chinook*

          Could the fabric being tucked in tightly been a safety precaution as well? I am one of those people that that style would look horrible on but I could see wanting to keep any loose fabric to a minimum if you are around any type of moving equipment or open food that you wouldn’t want it to drag in.

          Then again, that is why the coffee chain I worked for had shirts in women’s sizes as well – so there would be less loose fabric around the waist while still fitting across the chest.

          1. nnn*

            If it was, they never mentioned anything to that effect.

            Which actually ties in with all the dress code discussions – if there is an actual practical function for any particular element of the dress code, it should be shared with the employees. Things like “Nail polish is not allowed because it can chip and end up in the food”, not just “Nail polish is not allowed” and then the employees conclude that you’re just no fun.

            And employees should also be told what the spirit of the dress code is too – things like “The event we’re supporting is going to have a heavy media presence, so we need to look as unobtrusive as possible. It won’t do to end up as a meme!” or “Our clients are from a very traditional, sheltered background and are coming to us at a very vulnerable time in their lives. We don’t want to come across as intimidating to them.”

          2. Observer*

            In that case, dresses would be a problem. And ruched shirts would not be an issue.

            This is not a safety issue.

    2. Is It Performance Art*

      Seriously, his idea of acceptable maternity clothes probably don’t exist in stores. She’d probably have to get them custom made which is ridiculous.

      1. blackcat*

        They can only be bought in Hogsmeade, as they are made from the same materials as invisibility cloaks.

        The only clothes that sound appropriate to this guy are clothes that would make her look not pregnant. Which… just isn’t possible on the majority of pregnant bodies after 25 weeks or so (and isn’t possible on some bodies after like 15 weeks!).

        1. Julia*

          I would have loved in invisibility cloak for my last job, but partially invisible clothing may not be appropriate for work if you catch my drift. ;)

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Best I can come up with is a picture of Humpty Dumpty from a book when I was a kid. Not a good look on anyone, even an egg.

      1. always in email jail*

        Noooooo I’m laugh crying now!!! That’s EXACTLY what he asked for!! (and no offense to you OP, I’m not saying you look like humpty dumpty, I’m pregnant too so I’m taking too much pleasure from this image)

    4. Doug Judy*

      I do kind of have a similar story when I was pregnant with my first child. I worked in the back office of a car dealership and we all had to wear dress shirts that had the dealership logo on it. They paid for “half” but our cost was still $17 a shirt. Once I couldn’t wear my normal clothes anymore I had to buy two men’s XL shirts to ensure they would cover my belly up until the end because I was not buying shirts that I would literally wear for a few weeks. At 5″ tall I looked ridiculous. My boss who was a woman tried to argue with the GM that since customers rarely saw me that I should be excluded while pregnant. He sad no at first. The uniform policy was only in place for a few moths at that point and maybe his reasoning was that everyone would be looking to get out of it. But he saw me one day and was like “Oh that really doesn’t work, does it?” And finally approved me to wear just a plain white collared shirt with a cardigan with the logo on it. I was only 24 at the time so I really didn’t get how crazy it was. I

    5. Emi.*

      But dresses are okay, as long as they’re not empire-waisted, right? OP, may I suggest a “swing dress,” which has no waist at all? See how the twerp likes that.

    6. yokozbornak*

      I keep seeing the image of pregnant Phoebe from Friends in her red, belted “maternity” pants she bought from the thrift store which were really the bottom half of a Santa suit.

  10. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 Try to think of your covering letter as being like you talking to the hiring manager to explain why you are excited about them and why they should be excited about you. It’s a place to show personality – what you describe is a bit dry.

    What in particular is noteworthy about the software you’re familiar with and your competency at using it? Are you familiar with a particularly wide range of applications or especially good at something tricky-to-do? What is there to know beyond the expected basics for your industry?

  11. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No.1 I am well past my pregnancy years but this letter fills me with rage. Your manager is imposing a dress standard on you that is impossible to comply with… “a pant suit, the shirt needed to be tucked in and belted.” on a pregnant belly? No empire waistlines? He either has no clue about maternity wear or is trying to force you to resign or be fired for non-compliance.
    I suggest that you document this. Ask him by email what he thinks is appropriate clothing for a growing belly and take it to your HR department or escalate this matter to the next level.

    1. eemmzz*

      I bet as soon as you send an email “documenting the earlier conversation” creating that paper trail of it may result in him being a bit spooked and backing off (though I still think HR need to know).

    2. blackcat*

      I like this strategy. OP can even ask for specific suggestions (eg send links: “This?” or “This?”).

    3. nonegiven*

      Might be a good idea to take pictures of the clothes other women are wearing that aren’t tucked in and belted.

  12. MsChanandlerBong*

    I have lupus and am extremely sensitive to sun exposure. When my husband and I travel anywhere that is more than 20 minutes from our house, I also use a blanket or make sure I am wearing long sleeves even if it is 80 degrees. If I am exposed to direct sunlight for more than five minutes, I get an itchy rash on my skin. Also, some medications make you more sensitive to sun exposure, so she could be doing it to avoid side effects. Either way, it may be a medical issue, so I’d tread carefully as Alison suggested.

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      I see now that there was a missing word in the letter, so it definitely is a medical issue.

  13. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 What time are your meetings? Are they during the hottest parts of the day (11am-3pm)? People who have had cancer treatment are generally advised to stay out of the sun at those times in particular, and to keep areas that have been treated with radiotherapy completely covered (those areas can be sensitive for years afterwards). I wonder if it’s possible the time of day could be a factor here? Just a thought as I don’t know when your meetings are.

    I’d think of it this way: either your employee has been advised to do this, or she’s really anxious, or other things haven’t worked, or this is just what she prefers. Chances are she’s not trying to seem weird or unprofessional. And is she aware of work norms and generally of social norms in other areas? Unless this is part of a bigger picture, it’s possible she knows it seems unusual to others and isn’t down to a lack of awareness caused by being early on in her career.

    It sounds like you feel a bit uncomfortable, but I do wonder if clients are dwelling on it or if they’re asking a quick question and moving on. And you really can move things on. Just change the subject! Ask them about themselves, talk about the project you’re there to discuss, whatever. Because it may be that it sticks in their mind, but it’s also possible that actually the discomfort sticks in your mind after they’ve moved on. Sometimes you can feel uncomfortable and not need to solve the cause, and this may be one of those times.

    1. Browser*

      The only thing OP should say to the employee is “I understand the need for sun protection, but you should consider looking into more professional options.”

  14. Sue*

    #1, I am an attorney and had to regularly appear in court during my first pregnancy. I wore professional looking dresses but my feet got so swollen, I ended up wearing flip flops (thongs then!) to trial. It was embarrassing but everyone was fine with it.
    Your boss is so out of line but somehow I doubt this is the first time you’ve seen that. You’re getting good advice, take it and don’t be intimidated.

    1. Fellow attorney*

      What? I totally get the flip flops, but you had to wear a thong in the courtroom? Eeek.

      1. Jen*

        Flip flops are called things in some countries (Australia for one) and maybe used to be called that on the US? I think that was what Sue was saying.

          1. Julia*

            Someone trying to check whether that particular dress code policy was being protected would be in for much more than a talking-to from HR.

        1. Liane*

          Yes, flip-flops used to be called “Thongs” in the US, but not for a couple decades at least. When my daughter was in high school, I used the old name out of habit while we were shopping once. She made it very clear that she was going to die of embarrassment and I better never even think that term again in her presence.

          1. Sue*

            Yes, 28 years ago and my kids were merciless if I ever slipped up and called their footwear “thongs”.

          2. Edith*

            In my corner of the US “thong” made the switch from being footwear to underwear in the late 90s/early 2000s. Before that the sandals were thongs and the underwear were G-strings.

          1. Cercis*

            Back when thongs were a type of flip flop (in general there were two types of flip flops the kind that went between your toes – thongs – and the kind that didn’t – flip flops) the underwear was called a g-string (which was a joke on Diff’rent Strokes when Kimberly learned to play a guitar). I kind of miss those days because I can wear flip flops but I can’t wear thongs – anything between my toes rubs HUGE blisters.

        2. nonegiven*

          We called flip flops thongs when I was a kid. It was hard to change over to calling them flip flops.

        1. not really*

          Not in the office described by the writer, no. “Smart” is not “conservative,” and giant florals are not conservative, blazer or no.

          1. Artemesia*

            My daughter who is 5 mos pregnant tried on a dress somewhat like that and said she felt like a 1950s couch. And she is slender except for the pregnant belly. Florals are not very acceptable in a conservative office except perhaps in a blouse with a conservative suit.

    1. Jen*

      I don’t thing suggesting clothes to OP is a good idea. I don’t think her boss would like floral prints anyway (my sister is a.litigator and that would be a no no for court), but I don’t think there’s a magical maternity outfit OP has not thought of that would fix her problems.

    2. Helena*

      LW doesn’t need any clothing tips in this case though. The maternity dress linked in the OP was perfectly conservative and work-appropriate – the problem is that it’s a maternity dress.

      Though if anyone does want maternity shopping ideas, I basically lived in Seraphine for work:

      I would be tempted to borrow my husband’s suit trousers and shirt (so they fit over the bump), and turn up on Boss’s first day back from holiday with them belted under my bump and an innocent look on my face. What’s that Boss? You think this looks a bit silly? And I’d look better in well-tailored clothes cut specifically to fit over my bump?

    3. Librarian of the North*

      That dress is significantly less conservative than the dresses she is already wearing and has an empire waistline which he complained about.

      This is not about her wardrobe.

    4. SignalLost*

      Prints are by definition unprofessional in an office as conservative as OP describes. Also, the question wasn’t “can your readers suggest outfits to make my boss stop commenting about my pregnancy wardrobe?”

    5. R*

      That dress would be considered way too casual for many offices. OP said women in her office normally wear a sheath dress with a blazer and a string of pearls, so I’m guessing they have a very traditional dress code. A casual floral dress probably wouldn’t cut it.

  15. Steph*

    OP1: I would love to have your boss give you some examples of what exactly he deemed appropriate maternity wear. Give him the ASOS website, mebbe? Haaaaaahahaha

    1. J.B.*

      Even moreso if after talking to HR you emailed him asking for clarification and cced HR. Just because I’m evil ;)

      I would gear up to have a conversation if necessary – if they do try to push you out, have a lawyer’s number on hand and see if you can negotiate severance.

      1. Alli525*

        I don’t know that cc’ing HR would be a smart move here – Boss doesn’t need to know HR is now watching him until HR contacts him to let him know he needs to shape up, otherwise this very petty man could start retaliating against her for MORE than being pregnant.

  16. eemmzz*

    OP1. I so wish you could ask your manager to do your clothes shopping for you, at his expense, seeming as he cares so much about what you’re wearing. Sadly though that is a bit of a daydream. I hope your conversation with HR gives your sexist manager a kick up the arse.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was thinking this, or that she should ask for a raise or a wardrobe budget since work clothes are not cheap, and especially since she’d only be wearing them for a few months at most (even if she had several more pregnancies). And of course I’m appalled as everyone else is about this dumb jerk and his clothing ideas.

      Curious, though. If boss were a woman, would we be responding the same way? (Note: I suspect there are few if any woman-bosses who would question a pregnant woman’s wardrobe choice, but it’s an interesting thought experiment.)

      1. Princess Carolyn*

        Maybe I think to highly of myself, but I suspect we would have a similar problem with a female boss asking a pregnant employee to wear clothes that don’t exist in stores and wouldn’t work even if the employee had them custom made. There are certainly women who see pregnancy as unprofessional.

      2. No, please*

        Unfortunately plenty of women discriminate against each other. The boss that let me go while I was pregnant was a woman. She made it clear that she didn’t like pregnancy and would never agree to the most basic accommodations, like a lunch break. So she took me off the schedule. I wish I could have afforded an attorney.

      3. Fiennes*

        If it were a female boss, we’d assume either discrimination or some weird psychological hang-up about pregnancy. Which is more or less our assumption about the male boss, though tilted more toward the former.

        But, as you say, it’s hard to imagine a female boss saying this out of ignorance.

      4. Emi.*

        I think I’d be more likely to believe a female boss were deliberately trying to rule out all reasonable maternity clothes, rather than just saying “Uh, no, that looks bad to me … and that … and that … and that …” (because everything that looks pregnant looks bad), because she’d be more likely to know what exactly they are. So still discriminatory, but I’d guess the mental specifics to be different.

      5. Elsajeni*

        If anything, I suspect a female boss would get less benefit of the doubt — a few people are saying of the male boss “Well, maybe he just doesn’t know anything about clothes and doesn’t realize what he’s asking for is impossible,” but it’s harder to imagine a woman who doesn’t realize that the empire waist on a shirt is what allows it to fit over a pregnant belly. (Not impossible! I’m sure there are women who have never given maternity clothes any thought! But I think we’d be much less likely to assume a woman fell into that category than we are with a man.)

      6. Tammy*

        If boss were a woman, it wouldn’t make her criticizing OP’s clothing choices and making a not-so-veiled threat against her job security one iota more acceptable to me. If anything, I’d be going “OMG, the boss is a woman, she has even less plausible claim to just being clueless!”

      7. Observer*

        I should hope so!

        The idea that pregnant bodies MUST BE HIDDEN is outrageous, and I don’t care whether the person pushing that is male or female.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Good points, all. Women can be sexist too. And definitely anti-pregnancy. *sigh*

  17. MommyMD*

    You are supposed to wear a tucked in shirt with a belt with a big pregnancy belly? Had your boss ever seen a pregnant woman before? Is he from Earth?

  18. Iain "Get off my lawn!" Clarke*

    #3 Have you seen this employee eat? Do they drink from an opaque flask at lunchtime? Have you noticed them sparkling at any time?
    (I know there are serious medical issues, but I could not resist)

  19. Aloot*

    #3: I think you would be doing yourelf, your company, *and* your employee a very great disservice indeed if you don’t talk to her about this. It’s better that she gets the time to find a good and more professional-looking solution while she’s at a company that doesn’t seem to mind it – compared to if her next job tells her to either cut that shit out right now or get fired.

    I wouldn’t beat around the bush as much as Alison’s script does either; let her know that the blanket makes her seem unprofessional *when meeting with clients, including when walking into their site/office from the car* and you greatly recommend that she find another solution for that situation.

    I also don’t understand why she cannot wear a jacket for sun protection rather than a blanket when walking from the car to the client’s office. Yes, there’s the heat, but if it’s a short walk then it’s a great and very professional-looking solution.

    1. Old Admin*

      And then there is water/sweat resistant super duper high SPF sunscreen > 100 in both noncolored and skin toned (makeup) varieties!

      1. the gold digger*

        Sunscreen does not keep me from tanning – it just slows the process. I have to put zinc oxide – thickly – on my face if I want my face to get no sun exposure. (If I am in a situation where I cannot wear one of my many wide-brimmed hats.)

        Not all clothes protect me from tanning – I used to tan through my swimsuit. (I had these weird argyle patterns on my back once that were a negative of my swimsuit design.)

        Sometimes you just need a complete physical block of the sun.

    2. Czhorat*

      I think it would do everyone more of a service of we learned to be more accepting of each other’s needs and of their harmless quirks. Unless the colleague is wrapping themselves on a blanket at an actual meeting it can and – in my mind should- be a non-issue.

      1. Julia*

        I agree. This is one of the nice things about living in Japan – no one giving me the side-eye about being pale and covering up. On the negative side, co-workers and bosses seem to find it acceptable to comment on your private life, like lack of husband or possible pregnancy.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is exactly what we were talking about a few weeks back.

        Yes, it would be wonderful if the world worked that way, but it doesn’t and the OP needs practical advice, which Alison has provided.

        It is not typical to see someone walking around wrapped in a blanket, especially in the summer, and it will raise a lot of questions.

        1. Czhorat*

          The world increasingly works that way, and if we want it to continue to move in that direction we need to do our part.

          That means standing up for our colleague and her need to cover up (and choices on how to do so) rather than dress our own discomfort in concern about how others will react.

        2. fposte*

          I’m a fairly big proponent of “suck it up, that’s why they have to pay you to be here” in general, but given the medical/likely ADA component here I think tolerance of a mild quirk might be preferable to the alternatives.

          What I think I would like to do as her manager is to say “It’s really important to us that you be protected. If there is an alternative sun-protective garment that’s closer to traditional office wear, we would be happy to cover the cost for you.”

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I like this approach the best, honestly. Treat professional and medically appropriate wear as a medical accommodation.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            If it really falls under the medical necessity/ADA umbrella, then I agree with this.

            But I do think the LW will be doing a kindness by explaining how unusual the situation is and providing the employee with better skills to address it in a professional setting.

            1. fposte*

              I definitely think a conversation is worth having; I just would aim for “Hey, let’s talk about what might work here” (and hopefully, given the new grad thing, some offer of subsidy) with a clear message that the blanket can continue to be viable.

              1. cataloger*

                Agreed. If she’s new to the workforce, she may just assume it’s her problem to solve, and this is what she came up with. She may even know about better solutions that she just cannot afford.

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              I don’t think explaining to someone that their medical condition is ‘unusual’ is really necessary.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                Where did I say that?

                If it is in fact an actual medical condition, there are very likely other ways to accommodate it, but until the LW has that conversation with their employee, they don’t know what’s really going on.

                1. Owl*

                  You said “I do think the LW will be doing a kindness by explaining how unusual the situation is.”

                2. Kate 2*

                  I’m pretty sure preventing skin cancer, as others have commented, is a medical necessity, especially when you have already had it twice in your short life.

            1. fposte*

              Thanks. It is dependent on an employer being able to subsidize, which my current actual one wouldn’t, but I figured I’d go for the ideal.

          3. Rae*

            This is the comment I was looking for. The company needs to address this tactfully and with an open wallet. “We’ve noticed that you require extreme sun protection. Our work requires us to be out and about frequently, and it’s vital we appear professional. Would you like our help in finding pieces that may be both more comfortable to you and work with the needs of our business? We’d be happy to supply you with the appropriate clothing and consult with a professional on the matter.”

            I do think it is not onerous to require an employee purchased tote that’s adequate for her things. Having that much “stuff” is not easy, and since (presumably) her life depends on it, much of her focus is going to be on ensuring it’s safety. It can’t be. Even an LL Bean Boat Tote would look professional.

            My concern (that no one else has expressed) is also the liability factor. If this employee is shamed by a client she could easily request ADA accommodations that extend beyond that one jerk.

        3. Kate 2*

          But as a lot of people are saying, clothing doesn’t protect you from the sun, you have to buy special clothing for that. And that clothing is expensive. Which a new hire in her first job probably can’t afford. I’m guessing that this blanket is her only real option.

      3. Sylvia*

        I agree.

        People on this site are generally supportive of employees with medical issues or disabilities, but I’ve noticed a tendency to try to debate the necessity of things that aren’t self-explanatory, obvious medical equipment.

        The person with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, who wore ring splints for joint injuries, was advised to take off her splints by a few commenters. Now the one who wears something odd-looking in an attempt to avoid having skin cancer for the third time should remove that. (I agree that she should find something better than a blanket. She probably wants to, too. See what happens when she’s had a few paychecks before you decide she’s looking weird willingly.)

        If we want to support people with medical issues, it helps to not respond with “But do you really need that? It looks funny.”

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I’ve noticed this with a lot of accommodation discussions on this site. A religious accommodation gets a lot of people talking about “well is this really what that religion requires?”

          1. Sylvia*

            Ooh, you’re right. I must have thought only of medical accommodations because that’s where I relate. There was one OP who didn’t celebrate her birthday for religious reasons. The comments there were interesting.

          2. Rae*

            YES! My employer did not want to give me off Good Friday. I compromised saying that I could stay until 2:30 so I could make it to services. She balked and was like “sally’s also Catholic and she never asks”.

            I told her I was basically like a kosher jew….you could be a good Jew and not keep kosher, but the way that my parish interprets the rules, all non-vital workers should not be working.

            She grumbled something about excuses, wikipedia’d it and then granted the time off. This was in Jan, mind you, so it wasn’t a surprise. It wasn’t even “black out” but I was too young to know that vacation is a right.

            1. HannaS*

              Oh my gosh, the number of times I’ve heard, “Well, I had a Jewish employee who worked on Saturdays.” Or, “Why? You’re not that religious.” Uh…that’s not really my boss’s decision…

        2. AD*

          I think you’re right, but I also think people aren’t really reading Alison’t advice clearly here. She rightfully advised the OP to not question the employee’s attire in the car or outdoors, but to focus on an alternate way to enter a client meeting.

          That sounds like an excellent middle ground. You’re staying out of the employee’s medically-required (or advised) attire outdoors and enroute, while seeing that she can perhaps remove the attire more discreetly before meeting with clients or external folks. There’s no judgement of the employee’s condition, but there’s also an acknowledgement of generally-held appearance norms in a workplace.

          Aloot’s language was a little harsh, but I’m not seeing widespread pushback of people’s medical apparatus or apparel (unless I’m wrong?).

        3. kitryan*

          I think the ring removal advice was to take them off *only for the interview*, which has been in line with other, past recommendations. I recall it in a thread about footwear as well. I think in the interview situation the general recommendations have been that you can either wear the needed thing and mention it briefly, so it doesn’t look like an affectation of some kind, or you can take it off/wear something more standard for interviews and delay the issue until there’s an offer or until you come in to work and explain that you need to wear sneakers for a foot issue or ‘hey, I wear these rings because I need joint support’.
          If I recall correctly, I think the consensus was that either way is fine, depending on one’s personal preferences and tolerances, and wearing the item in the interview can serve as a way to select out of jobs where people aren’t tolerant of needed accommodations.
          I don’t see that as debating the necessity but as suggesting ways to get the job offer without risking discrimination in the interview stage.

    3. Lehigh*

      “It’s better that she gets the time to find a good and more professional-looking solution while she’s at a company that doesn’t seem to mind it – compared to if her next job tells her to either cut that shit out right now or get fired.”

      This sounds to me like “because other people might be assholes in the future you must be an asshole now to prepare her.” Please don’t do this. Other posters have detailed how difficult sun-protective-clothing can be for some people to find, and IMO it would behoove the manager to approach the issue from a place of curiosity and willingness to compromise rather than premature judgment.

      1. paul*

        I think a lot of it comes down to approach.

        There absolutely are other means of protection besides blankets; it’s OK to request she use them. Just be professional and non-judgey in how you do so and give her some time to do it.

        I’ll also say that if an employer needs medical accommodation they need to *ask*, they can’t just expect people to assume that quirks are medical related.

        1. cataloger*

          Are blankets that bad though? I’m assuming something subtle, not a colorful teddy bear blanket that she has tied around her neck like a cape.

          1. Delta Delta*

            I have a couple of shawls that are big enough to be blankets. Something like that might work.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          You, like the OP, are making an assumption without enough information. Sure, the OP should talk to the employee, but she should not go into the conversation assuming the blanket isn’t necessary. You aren’t her doctor any more than the OP is, and we don’t know why she’s opting to use the blanket instead of one of the other options some people here (who are also not her doctor) insist should be fine for her. Before insisting the blanket goes, the OP should find out why the blanket is the option she’s using.

        3. Kate 2*

          As others have said, regular clothing doesn’t really protect you from the sun, the special clothing that does is expensive, hard to find, and comes in very limited sizes and styles (not often work appropriate). The blanket might actually be the best option she can afford.

          1. TootsNYC*

            A jacket, no matter how sporty, would be far more professional than a blanket. And it sure as heck can’t be any hotter.

            When it comes to outerwear, most places are far more forgiving. Maybe a stockbroker or lawyer needs to walk in wearing a cloth overcoat instead of a ski jacket, but the vast majority of us wear whatever coat we happen to have, and nobody judges us based on it.

            Heck, if it were my employee, I might offer to help make an unconstructed jacket out of her blanket.

    4. Frozen Ginger*

      Most jackets wouldn’t cover the employee’s neck, and would do nothing to shade her face.

      1. Yorick*

        The hat is to shade her face, and a jacket could have a collar that covers the neck. The blanket is what people seem to have an issue with.

      2. TootsNYC*

        scarves and gloves can be added to jackets, and they look far more polished. They have to be more secure, too.

    5. Browser*

      Jackets don’t cover all of your skin. They leave hands and neck exposed, at minimum – sometimes more.

      People who aren’t sun sensitive have no idea the damage possible just from having a small part of skin exposed. It’s no big deal to you if there’s an inch of exposed skin at the back of your neck, but to some of us that can cause rashes and serious burns.

    6. Observer*

      Any job that does this is likely to bump up against the ADA and possibly state laws.

      This is a medical accommodation, especially outside. And not all jackets are all that useful, as others have noted. So, sure have a conversation, but skip the dismissive and prescriptive attitude.

    7. Statler von Waldorf*

      I feel like I’m taking crazy pills reading the comments on this one. The reality in the working world is that if you are not a toddler, you don’t carry a blanky around with you. It’s not typical, and it looks very unprofessional.

      I think the lot of you need to read Alison’s commenting rules again. Particularly the part about “Useful comments provide realistic, level-headed advice, and focus on the world as it is rather than the one you might wish existed.”

      1. Kate 2*

        Allison herself said that the employer shouldn’t ask the employee to stop using the blanket in the car, just to make sure that she is taking it off and storing it, perhaps in a tote, before the meeting.

        When it comes to skin cancer, “carrying a blanky around” can save your life, especially when you are a two-time cancer survivor in her twenties. Most people care more about their lives than looking unprofessional for 20 minutes in front of coworkers. Perhaps you should reread the part in Alison’s commenting rules about being kind.

  20. hbc*

    OP1: That just sucks. I suspect he’s not deliberately being malicious but has a subconscious bias against pregnancy or appearing pregnant, so anything that signals pregnancy looks unprofessional. Kind of like how some people find any form of natural black hair unprofessional even though they can’t spell out exactly what rule is being broken. It’s just “No, not that, and not that, and not that.”

    I’d be careful going to HR and making clear that this is about the (supposed) dress restrictions not being compatible with being pregnant, rather than any direct accusation of bias. Most people with these subconscious leanings don’t take well to having it pointed out–they’re sure they’re 100% unbiased and you’re just one of those cranky []those people.]

    1. Washington*

      It makes him uncomfortable? So? Whether he can spell it out or not, he is discriminating based on pregnancy. That should make him uncomfortable.

      1. alexa, set timer for ten minutes*

        Because it’s the job of every 30-weeks pregnant woman (who is almost certainly uncomfortable in any number of ways by that point) to be concerned with the comfort of her boss! LOL. No.

        OP 1, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      No, I think she needs to make it very clear to HR that he threatened to fire her for wearing maternity clothing. This is not about safeguarding his delicate feelings.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. You have to use some of those magic words to get most HR departments off the sidelines. This is being presented to her as cause for firing, so the threat level is high. She needs to make clear that she feels she is being threatened with firing because she is pregnant since the objection is to normal very professional maternity clothes. If it were one thing, I’d just change e.g. if he didn’t want her in the form fitting body con style knit maternity garments which accentuate the bump. But this guy isn’t objecting to a single style, he is ruling out all of the adaptations for clothing for pregnancy i.e. he is objecting to her being pregnant.

    3. hbc*

      To make it clear, he’s being an ass. But a person who *thinks* he is simply enforcing the dress code will respond much more positively to “Actually, that’s not really the dress code, or at least it’s only a minor variation that we need to accommodate for” versus “You are being a discriminatory ass.” Since he can make her life harder in lots of subtle ways, there’s every benefit in bringing it up to HR as neutrally as possible. I don’t like that it’s true, but it is.

      1. Emi.*

        If her HR is at all competent, she should talk to them as clearly as possible, and they can figure out how neutral to be when they talk to him.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Nnnnnnno. To be clear, there are two conversations here.

        OP -> HR: “My boss threatened to fire me because he doesn’t like my maternity clothing.”

        HR -> Boss: “That thing you did puts the company in legal jeopardy. Knock it off.”

        1. hbc*

          I agree with this. I’m not expressing myself very well if it looked like I didn’t. Though I actually prefer something like “My boss threatened to fire me for this clothing, which I believe meets the dress code and is very common maternity business wear.”

          Yes, HR can and should absolutely come down on him that hard (or harder.) I just want them to be the ones to draw the obvious line between his request and the ethical and legal problems.

          1. Emi.*

            Why should they be the ones to draw that line? I would think it would be better for the OP to do it (to HR), to make sure that they take her seriously (including retaliation issues).

  21. Czhorat*

    On OP#3, I’d respectfully and humbly suggest asking yourself why this matters so much to you. If the meeting is indoors, your colleague will certainly doff their hat, remove their blanket, etc. If the meeting is outdoors then it’s likely informal enough that it won’t matter.

    In addition to legitimate medical concerns, this is – at the absolute worst – a harmless quirk. Some of us work too hard to fit our colleagues (and ourselves) into a neat little box of what we think a professional worker should look like.

    Not every situation needs fixing.

    1. Murphy*

      I think the OP stated exactly why it bothers them: “My concern is that her showing up at a meeting with external people with an umbrella, huge hat, and blanket will make people question her professionalism and affect the perception of all of us.”

      1. The Devil Wears Gucci*

        …because highly photosensitive people who NEED to cover up in the sun just SCREAM “unprofessional.” Czhorat is right. This does not effect OP in the slightest and the photosensitive person will de-blanket once she gets inside.

      2. On Fire*

        Would OP feel compelled to address the employee’s wheelchair? Arm cast? Neck brace? Those are things that couldn’t be removed for a meeting, and that might raise questions. A blanket/wrap can be shed as the employee exits the car or enters the building (and perhaps OP could look into dropping off the employee near the entrance so she doesn’t have to cross a parking lot in the sun) and shouldn’t be an issue during the actual meeting.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You’re creating a false equivalency here. The average person is going to understand the necessity of using a mobility aid or having a cast. Someone walking around in 80+ degree weather wrapped in a blanket is not the same thing at all.

          There are bound to be some sort of reasonable compromises here. The LW asked if they should have a conversation with the employee and the answer is “yes, with sensitivity.”

      3. TootsNYC*

        to me the only part of this that is at all problematic is a huge blanket. The hat and umbrella are perfectly OK.

        And a smaller blanket (the size of a large poncho) would be totally fine as well.

        (I forgot about ponchos! That’s what I’d probably offer, is help with making a poncho w/ a high funnel neck, or an attached scarf that can be wrapped around her neck to seal her off.)

    2. Temperance*

      I disagree. LW is this person’s manager, and to that end, she is responsible for her employee. If this person is damaging her professional image by acting strangely, it’s a kindness to give her a heads up.

      There are really lovely wraps and scarves that don’t look wacky like walking around in a blanket does.

      1. fposte*

        As has been noted above, though, wraps and scarves aren’t automatically sun protective; most are pretty poor at it, in fact. The OP really needs to be careful if she’s going to suggest alternatives to a current accommodation for a disability.

        1. Czhorat*

          I find the juxtaposition of responses to the pregnant worker and the photosensitive worker fascinating. In the former case, the community here is (rightly, IMHO) standing up for the individual to dress in a way that fits her condition. In the latter case, there’s much more judgment.

          1. fposte*

            Some of that may be, if you’ll pardon the pun, exposure; most of us have been or known pregnant people, but serious sun risk isn’t big on the American radar. I’ll be really curious to hear what Australian readers think–is sun protection so SOP that they think she’s doing it wrong and needs to be chided for that, will they be shocked at Americans’ cavalier suggestions of scarves, or something else entirely?

            1. kb*

              I was thinking the same thing. My mom had skin cancer a few years back and was really dismayed by US sun-protective brands’ offerings. She got tipped off to Australian brands and has never looked back.

              I think the blanket is confusing to people because to most people blanket–> cold. And if an employee were walking around clients wrapped in a blanket in lieu of a coat, that would strike a lot of people as unprofessional. Now, I think blanket plus parasol plus floppy hat would tip me off that it was for sun protection, but I think a lot of people in the US are a little clueless about sun protection.

            2. Kate 2*

              I agree. I have a combination of sinus/ear conditions that, while each is mild on their own, add up to a perfect storm, and are disabling to a certain extent.

              I can’t bend over to tie my own shoes, I can’t travel for very long without being very sick the next day, I sometimes think I should buy stock in tissue companies, etc. I really have to plan my life to a certain extent, around my condition.

              But people tend to dismiss it as “allergies”. Um, no, the condition that makes it difficult for me to breathe and speak, and even eat at times, the one that rarely makes me think I am going to suffocate isn’t “allergies”.

              It is a life changing, very mildly disabling permanent condition I will have to battle every day for the rest of my life.

              TL;DR Sorry to rant, anyway, I agree with you, it’s like people who say “I have chronic migraines” and some silly person always chimes in “I get headaches too!”.

          2. Emi.*

            I think if we got a letter from a boss who wanted her pregnant employee to wear the kind of professional maternity clothing that this LW is wearing instead of her preferred t-shirts and leggings, we’d be sympathetic to that. No one’s saying this person shouldn’t protect herself from the sun, just that it’s okay for the boss to ask for a more professional-looking method, if that’s possible.

          3. Detective Amy Santiago*

            It’s because people notice things that seem out of place.

            Pregnant people (or people in wheelchairs or with casts) are common sights and don’t typically trip that signal in our brain. Seeing a person wrapped in a blanket in the middle of summer is atypical and it’s going to send up a ‘something isn’t quite right’ alert. It’s no different than seeing someone sitting in church wearing a swimsuit or at a water park in a ball gown.

            I don’t think anyone is judging the employee for taking necessary precautions, but they are rightly pointing out that the method being used is going to attract attention and it is worth it for LW to have a conversation about that.

          4. Falling Diphthong*

            To the extent they parallel, I would argue the consistent response is:
            Business appropriate wear: professional maternity dress with empire waist, a long lightweight coat with turned up collar and wide hat
            Not business appropriate: a blanket, in either case

            And as she is only one month out of school, I think this falls into genuine cluing-in-your-young-employee-to-norms territory: things that land as quirky in college can land as distractingly odd and unprofessional in other settings. As Detective Amy Santiago notes, a medical device explains itself, so fashion that looks like a medical device, while noticeable, also explains itself. Fashion that does not, like the rings to provide finger support a couple of weeks ago–that might need some explanation for the odd choice. If the young employee doesn’t want to always answer “Umm…. why are you wrapped in a blanket?” then something that reads as “ah, extreme sun protection, must be a medical thingy” will be a better choice. It can read as out of the ordinary if the reason for it is obvious–as in, say, the case of pregnant women not tucking in their shirts even if that is the standard for everyone else.

            1. Kate 2*

              Yeah, but as others have commented, if she got garments created or tailored for her, she could actually follow the boss’s dress code, it would just be expensive. Similarly, proper UV protective clothing is expensive. The blanket might actually be the only thing she can afford.

            2. TootsNYC*

              ” something that reads as “ah, extreme sun protection, must be a medical thingy” will be a better choice.”

              I do think the umbrella and hat will do that task.

              But even then, a big blanket might undo that, so that’s why I’d be suggesting a long poncho w/ some sort of neck coverage as well.

        2. SignalLost*

          I’m reading the suggestions for alternatives (for both the pregnant worker and the sun-sensitive one) as coming entirely from the desire of the commentariat here “to help”. Unfortunately, in both cases, the help requested was “how can I address this,” not “what alternatives can you provide”.

      2. cataloger*

        Is she even walking around in it, though? The letter makes it sound like she’s only wearing the blanket in the car (maybe over her chest and arms, as she has a hat or scarf on her head?) and using the umbrella/parasol to walk between office and car. If that’s the case, it doesn’t sound so embarrassing, especially if she can leave the blanket in the car.

        1. fposte*

          I can’t tell–the OP says she uses a parasol when going *to* the van but doesn’t say what she wears leaving it on the other end. I agree that if she’s just using the blanket in the vehicle that reduces the problem considerably and the OP might want to be proactive (with the employee’s consent) in getting the message out that that’s Jane’s accommodation and we don’t gossip about accommodations.

        2. Murphy*

          I can’t tell either, but the OP said “It does look strange in comparison to everyone else, and people do comment.” So I’m not sure if that means clients, or other employees of the OP’s organization, but someone is seeing it.

          (Just for the record, with my comment above, I wasn’t judging either the OP or the employee in question, only pointing out that the OP did provide a reason for their concern.)

          1. cataloger*

            I wondered too who was commenting and how that was happening.

            If it’s employees who know Jane, surely they can be told to quit gossiping about accommodations, as fposte suggests. If it’s external people at the meeting, are they pulling another employee aside and asking “Why is Jane wearing a blanket?” That seems kind of odd too.

            1. The Devil Wears Gucci*

              “If it’s external people at the meeting, are they pulling another employee aside and asking “Why is Jane wearing a blanket?” That seems kind of odd too.”

              Answer: “Jane is highly photosensitive and wears the blanket as an easy medical accommodation. It’s not more odd than Fergus wearing a leg brace or Jane wearing maternity clothes. Next?”

              1. Becky*

                This, this a million times this! Reading some of these comments has been really depressing. I have to be incredibly careful with sunlight (I’ve been burnt in January… in England!) and don’t see why a blanket should be a problem. I have also got extreme light sensitivity- out on client sites I occasionally have to wear hat and sunglasses indoors if the meeting room is too bright and the light can’t be adjusted. I’ve never had anyone say anything other than try to be helpful in getting the light adjusted to what I can cope with, but it certainly feels like a good number of people on this thread wouldn’t be able to get over how ‘unprofessional ‘ I looked…

        3. paul*

          yeah, and to me that matters. So long as she’s got a semi-professional way to store them, and she isn’t wearing them into a meeting…eh. But if she’s coming in to the meeting wrapped in a quilt and just tossing it on the desk or something, that’s a slightly different issue.

          1. Czhorat*

            Yes, but that isn’t about the blanket.

            I wear a hat whenever I’ll be outside because I lack hair to protect my scalp. When I get in I’ll take it off, even if it isn’t a formal, office-appropriate piece of headware.

            Medical need or not, this should REALLY not be an issue.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              If you’re an attorney and you show up to the courthouse wearing a ball cap with your three piece suit, people are going to notice and wonder what the deal is because it’s outside of professional norms, even if you remove it as soon as you’re inside.

              We can argue all day about whether or not something *should* be a professional norm, but the fact of the matter is that professional norms exist in all professions and people who do not follow those norms are going to stand out. And that could possibly hurt their reputation. It may not be right, but it is the reality we currently live in. Yes, we can and should push back against those things, but we’re doing a huge disservice to someone if we pretend they don’t exist.

              1. Browser*

                If you’re an attorney and show up wearing a sunshade hat, which is the ideal option for protection, people are still going to comment. No matter what someone chooses for complete sun protection, it’s outside the norm and people will notice.

                When people comment, say “She is protecting her skin from sun exposure.” That’s all they need to know.

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                No. As an attorney, I can tell you that at least where I live, where the sun can be pretty intense, nobody is going to care what you show up to the building wearing. Nobody cares until you get into the courtroom. A number of older male attorneys here where hats to the building. People understand what hats are for.

              3. Kate 2*

                And another commenter, a lawyer, mentioned that when she was pregnant she needed to wear flipflops in court. She mentioned that it was embarrassing and that people did notice, but they understood. No one here replied that she shouldn’t have done something slightly unprofessional because of a medical need. I don’t see why a person, who has explained it to their colleagues, can do something slightly unprofessional in front of them that she doesn’t do in front of clients.

              4. The Devil Wears Gucci*

                I know a very successful tax litigator who does just that: wear a baseball cap with this suit. It’s become his trademark, much like Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie.

              5. nonegiven*

                DH has been given a bunch of ‘ballcaps’ with the company name on them. He wears a different type of hat any time he goes outside at work and when off work. They did say something to him, but he just said, “My doctor said I needed this.”

        4. TootsNYC*

          if she’s not walking around w/ the blanket wrapped around her, then there is NOTHING that needs to be said.

          And umbrella and a big hat are perfectly reasonable things. And anyone who sees her w/ an umbrella in the sun is going to know what’s up.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I think that’s where my brain is having trouble processing someone with a blanket in the summer. If I saw someone walking down the street on a bright, sunny day with an umbrella, I would instinctively know they were protecting themselves from the sun. My mind just doesn’t associate a blanket that way. Blanket = cold which is why it seems so out of place in this scenario.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              I’ve seen people using umbrellas as shade on a blazingly hot day, and my reaction was “Why didn’t I think of that?”

              If necessary, tell clients, etc. ahead of time that Jane needs extreme protection from the sun.

  22. Murphy*

    #1: Side ruching and emoire waists are literally the only way that maternity clothes are fitted garments instead of just large t-shirts. He wants you to tuck your shirt in? TUCK IT IN? Does he have any idea what maternity pants look like? He’s asking fir the impossible and you should absolutely push back.


  23. nnn*

    The more of these dress code questions I read, the more I think that employers shouldn’t be allowed to take disciplinary action on any point of dress code unless they can provide the employee with a source of clothes that meet the stated specifications and fit the employee’s body (and don’t cost more than a certain proportion of the employee’s salary). I mean, you find maternity clothes without an empire waist!

    1. cncx*

      i worked in a white shoe law firm with a strict dress code and they put their money where their mouth was- we got a clothing allowance. i like this too- if it were REALLY about the clothes, then the employer needs to provide those options either with clothing that meets those expectations or the money to go out and buy/tailor them.

      I still think it isn’t about the clothes btw. i am just saying if it were, then there were other ways to handle this.

      1. The Devil Wears Gucci*

        i worked in a white shoe law firm with a strict dress code and they put their money where their mouth was- we got a clothing allowance.

        Ooo, tell us which one!

      2. kitryan*

        Yup! Similar thing here- for staff at the firm, there’s a medium strict dress code and a 1 time payment so you can get on board and update your wardrobe. Not sure if there’s similar for the attorneys.
        I also agree that the maternity wardrobe issues are so restrictive that it couldn’t really be about the clothes- there’s just nothing reasonable left when you address all of the manager’s points.

  24. Temperance*

    LW4: is there any reason that you don’t use your full name at work? I think using a different nickname is fine, too. A woman in my office has her signature in this format: Ann Smith (Analiese). It covers all bases.

    Endless sympathy in the bad nickname front. My family call me “Chrissy”, which, to my mind, is not a name for an adult woman but for the most annoying character on Three’s Company.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Or even just use the full name on applications — you can say “call me Ann” in the interview (or when you get the job), but it wouldn’t be so crazy when her references refer to her as “Lisa.”

    2. heatherskib*

      It could be that she just doesn’t care for her name. My husband’s legal first name is a typical girl’s name. He uses his middle name. Or maybe there are multiple people with the same first name in that office and she used a different name to make it easier to determine which Heather is the proper Heather- which I’ve done in my own life.

      1. TL -*

        My cousin’s mom was a huge fan of Gone With the Wind and his name is Ashley. He goes by it with no issues, though he’s refused to read the book or watch the movie.

    3. TootsNYC*

      (I loved Chrissy–I thought that character was the best “dumb blonde” that I’ve ever, ever seen.)

      But I agree, I suggest you consider using the formal, non-nickname name on your resumé and with HR/payroll/etc. Then use the nickname informally. It’s easier to change it.

    4. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

      This is something I think about a lot, because I really hate my name. I never did anything about it until sometime in college, when I started introducing myself to (some) new people by a nickname. My name doesn’t have any “standard” nicknames (it’s a “weird” name, from an ancestral culture I don’t have much personal/emotional connection to and that people in the US tend not to be familiar with, which is part of the reason I dislike it), so I use a name that is shorter and starts with the same letter, which is sometimes used as a “standard” nickname for some names phonetically similar to mine and sometimes just given as a first name on its own. In any case, it’s a name that American women my age actually have, and using it made me about ten times more socially confident. I only regret that it took me until the age of 20 or so to realize that this was something I could do.

      Anyway, I always continued to use my full first name on anything that was in any way official: CV, concert programs when I’m performing in a music ensemble, my email “From” field, etc. This is partially because I don’t like the sound of my nickname and last name together. (It’s not objectively bad — we’re not in “Julia Gulia” territory, like in that one Drew Barrymore movie — so it might just be that I’m used to hearing “Firstname Lastname” and that’s why “Nickname Lastname” sounds odd to me.)

      So, since I’m imminently changing careers, I’m a little worried about how to deal with this in the Real World (accounting masters program and beyond), especially because all my instincts of etiquette are geared toward academia and I don’t know what carries over and what doesn’t. Currently, if I have to introduce myself formally (like in a class, or anywhere else where someone is expecting a “Firstname Lastname”), I say something like “I’m Nickname, short for Firstname” so that anyone expecting a Firstname will know it’s the same person. If it’s informal, I just introduce myself as “Nickname” and expect that either it won’t come up or the person will figure it out when it does become important (like if I email them and sign it “Nickname”).

      In general, my model is “what would a guy named James do?” — I assume that they put their full names on their resumes etc. and then say “Hi, I’m Jim” in person if they want to go by Jim. But at least part of the reason that works is the fact that Jim being short for James is a thing and everyone knows it. What I wonder is: if you get an application or other formal correspondence from a “Demeter Smith”, for instance, what would you expect her to do if she wants you to call her “Dee”? Are there ways of informing you of a non-standard nickname that are better or worse than others? I’m in my 20s, so I do worry a bit about seeming childish. (I don’t think I’d bother mentioning the nickname in an interview, for instance, since the chances are good that I’ll never even see these people again. But maybe it would come off as weird if I got the job and only then started introducing myself by my nickname, after not mentioning it at all when I met the same people earlier?)

      And yeah, I have no idea what to ask recommenders to do (or if I should ask them to do anything in particular).

  25. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP#1 – I’ve never been pregnant and am way past being able to, so I’ve never worn maternity clothes. But even a quick walk through the maternity section at Target is enough to show that Empire waists are a pregnant woman’s best friend – why also you can’t tuck a shirt into a waistband and belt it!! Sorry, can’t get over that last part for some reason. I sincerely hope your boss is simply naive, and/or uneducated in maternity wear.

    Unfortunately, I agree with so many others here about his motive for telling you how to dress ‘professionally’ – I think he’s up to no good. Please talk to HR about his demands and the warning about your job. Unless your clothing has obscenities printed on it, or shows WAY too much skin, or is so dirty it emits visible aroma rays, he’s got no business telling you how to dress while you’re pregnant. And please keep us posted. And please take care of yourself!

  26. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

    @ OP#1- Your boss wants you to whaaaaaaat? Wear a shirt TUCKED IN AND BELTED and you are 30 weeks pregnant??? Is he on CRACK????? All the outfits you describe that you have been wearing during your advance stages of pregnancy sound professional to me. I agree with the others, your boss might have some ulterior motives. Get to HR ASAP and let them know what’s going on. Please try not to stress and I hope you have a healthy baby.

  27. Michael*

    #1: The next time he tells you he doesn’t like ruching, tell him, “Well it’s a good thing they don’t really put that on men’s clothes.” Or maybe, “Then you probably shouldn’t buy yourself any dresses with it!”

  28. zaracat*

    #1 If it wasn’t for the implied threats to OP’s job I’d just say he doesn’t have a clue what is realistic for maternity clothing, but this sounds more malicious.

    I was in the military (not in the USA) during a time where they were transitioning from pregnant women being permitted to wear civilian clothing once they could not longer fit in their uniforms to having an actual maternity uniform, but the specifications for this new uniform were very vague and they hadn’t worked out where the garments would be sourced (eg off the rack vs tailored), so for the last 3 months of my pregnancy I was obliged to wear a standard uniform blouse with the bottom half unbuttoned to accommodate my bump, with a giant tent-like pinafore over the top made from the same fabric used for uniform skirts/pants/jackets, and a cardigan which I could not button up. Exceedingly ugly and uncomfortable and no option to just say no, but it was clearly the result of bureaucratic incompetence rather deliberately trying to force pregnant women out of the workforce.

    I’d get HR to push back really hard on this. It’s totally unwarranted discrimination and your boss shouldn’t be this invested in the details of your clothing for what is a natural and temporary condition. Ask yourself, in a comparable situation with a male worker eg having a leg cast that needed to be on for several months and would not allow the wearing of standard business pants, would the boss expect the employee to go out and buy specially tailored pants just for those few months, or would he compromise?

    1. TootsNYC*

      the problem w/ that analogy is that what the guy w/ the broken leg wouldn’t be wearing stretch pants; he’d have gotten formal-looking pants w/ gussets to make them larger to go over the cast.
      And the boss would be saying, “I don’t like pants with that gusset in the side.”

  29. animaniactoo*

    OP1 – as an overweight woman, what I find most objectionable about your boss’ comments is that the styles he is saying he specifically objects to? Are exactly the things that an overweight woman can wear in order for her clothes to have a more flattering appearance to her figure. Especially if she happens to be shortwaisted to boot. And looking good in your clothes is ALSO part of being professional.

    Honestly – I think it’s even beyond that he doesn’t want you to appear to be pregnant. If he’s got a problem with side-ruching and empire waists, he’s going to have a problem with overweight women in general.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Pardon – I am sick and my head is stuffy and that did not come out quite as I intended – I do not mean to imply that pregnant women are overweight, but rather that pregnant women do face some of the same challenges for flattering clothing that overweight women do, and his issues with clothing basically mean that he has issues with anyone who doesn’t look “fit” or “normal body size/shape” in his mind.

  30. TotesMaGoats*

    OP#1-Do what Alison says. Your boss is so far outline of line I can’t even…urg. I feel you on finding work appropriate maternity wear. I was able to be quite casual but even still needed stuff that was more professional for outside meetings and such. Check out Milk Nursing Wear online. I loved their stuff while nursing as it gave me good tops and dresses. I struggled to find professional stuff that didn’t have giant bows on the belly. What woman wants that??!!

    Good luck OP. Your boss is bonkers.

  31. Katie*

    OP #1 – if your boss had been mine while I was preggo …..oh, it would not have been pretty. As a fellow summer pregnancy survivor, I feel like I lived in flip flops and yoga capris. Now, my office is fairly casual, but I had quite a number of comfortable dresses and skirts that I rotated and no one EVER said my dress was not professional. I couldn’t help but laugh and laugh and laugh that he expects your shirt to be tucked and belted. I think you should follow his advice so he can see how ridiculous and stupid his expectations are, and continue laughing all the way to the HR’s office.

    1. motherofdragons*

      I’m almost 5 months pregnant and it’s very much summertime where I live. I’m sitting here in my empire waist maxi dress shaking my head at this boss. If my manager tried this crap with me, I would indeed be laughing my pregnant butt off all the way to HR!

  32. Government Worker*

    OP1, I won’t tell you to start job hunting only because I assume that you have maternity leave arrangements with this employer and it’s a huge stress to switch jobs around the birth of a child. But as soon as you’re back from maternity leave and you have the energy, start job-hunting. This guy is letting you know now that he’s going to give you a hard time for every bit of FMLA leave, every pumping break, every time you need to leave at a specific time for a daycare pickup, every time you’re out of the office with a sick kid. Unless you truly believe this is just an aberration about clothes, you’ll want to job hunt ASAP.

    The generally accepted practice for pregnant women in many workplaces (though far from all) is that towards the end of pregnancy they can elect to wear clothes that are one step more casual than the office standard, and they can rotate a very small number of outfits. Maternity clothes are expensive, especially professional ones, and it’s only a few weeks with a very clear reason to be dressing differently. Decent bosses, especially male ones, mostly go out of their way *not* to comment on a pregnant woman’s clothes or body in any way, even if they wish the pregnant employee would dress a little differently.

    This is making me grateful that I was in grad school during my pregnancy. Even wearing maternity jeans and side-ruched t-shirts I ended up looking sloppy because I had to keep sizing up the shirts – I had twins and carried all the weight out front in my belly. Finding anything remotely professional would have been crazy expensive and a huge hassle at a time when I was already busy and stressed out.

  33. LSP*

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned already, but the side rouching is SUPER common for maternity shirts, because it adds room for the belly, without being baggy. So you’re not really going to be able to find much to meet what this guy wants. He sounds like a pig!

    Also, I have to give a shout out to my former boss, who was amazing while I was pregnant, and even offered up his office for pumping if he wasn’t using it. (It helped that his wife and I had due dates 4 days apart, but he was such a nice guy I don’t think it would have been much different even if that wasn’t the case.)

    1. aebhel*

      Another thing I’m thinking is, if she’s wearing a blazer or cardigan over the tops, how can he even tell there’s side ruching? Generally by 30 weeks, all the ruching is doing is making sure the shirts fit right (also, on what planet is ruching unprofessional?)

    2. nonegiven*

      They didn’t have this side rouching in the 70’s. If it didn’t have an empire waist or a little gathering under the bust to simulate one, it was a tent.

  34. Amanda*

    OP#1 he “said that my job depends on me being dressed according to his standards.”???? WHAT?? This is ridiculous and disgusting. I agree fully with Allison that you should get HR involved ASAP. What he’s doing is discriminating due to your pregnancy. His comments about your clothing are just thinly veiled attempts to harass you over your pregnant body in the workplace. If HR doesn’t take care of it and fast, you could have an PDA/EEOC lawsuit on your hands.

  35. OtterB*

    OP5 re “see resume”. I would not do it for details in general. If the job posting specifies a kind of equipment you might respond to that. My husband has done quite a bit of job hunting over the past 15 years (disappearing contracts, mainly) and is normally applying to engineering jobs where details of experience sometimes matter. He has had good luck with cover letters saying “My complete resume is attached for your consideration, but I would like to highlight some aspects of my experience that are especially relevant.” Then he follows with some points along the lines of, you say you want experience with x and I have done that at employers a, b, and c; you say you want personal characteristic y and I consider that one of my strengths because of this and that. Not responding to everything in the posting, just to the ones that seem key. Otherwise, details of his experience are there in the resume if someone cares.

  36. Grumpy*

    Off topic, but really appreciate the line breaks between comment threads. It makes the discussions much easier to follow!

  37. Case of the Mondays*

    If you wear a pants suit, wouldn’t the blazer cover the waist of the pants so that your boss wouldn’t see if your shirt was tucked or belted? Maybe you could try longer blazers?

    1. Murphy*

      I don’t think the length of the blazer is the issue. OP Is likely wearing the blazer unbuttoned. I haven’t seen one that will button over a pregnant woman’s belly. (There may be some, I’ve just never seen them.)

    2. Jubilance*

      That’s assuming she can button it, and if the jacket is big enough to be buttoned over her baby bump, it’s probably too big in other areas like the sleeves. If she leaves it open, he will see her shirt isn’t tucked in & she’s not wearing a belt.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        That makes sense. I wrongly assumed that a maternity blazer would be made big enough to button over the belly but still be small in the other areas like the arms. Boss is just a jerk anyway.

        1. Jubilance*

          I was recently pregnant and I never saw a maternity blazer when I was looking for maternity clothes. I’m sure one actually exists but I never saw it. Now I’m going to Google and see if I can find one.

            1. Nerdling*

              I had a suit from there (bought seriously, SERIOUSLY on sale because holy crap), and I didn’t button it. I could have early on, but by the end? HA! I wore it with a ruched shirt underneath to give a presentation to my great-grandboss and her equivalent from other agencies. If someone had focused on my clothing instead of the content of my presentation – and threatened to fire me for not having my shirt tucked into my panel-waisted skirt – I’d have been at HR in a heartbeat. Although probably not until I’d either died of laughter or an apoplexy.

          1. aebhel*

            I think generally the idea is that you wear the blazer open; I’ve seen a couple of maternity blazers, but they usually button above the bump and gap slightly over the belly, which is generally a more flattering look than buttoning straight down over the bump (since there’s no way to do that that won’t result in bunching or weirdly baggy fabric).

            But honestly, I think most people just wear their pre-pregnancy blazers with maternity tops and leave them unbuttoned.

  38. Umvue*

    Alison, re: OP1, like a lot of people here I’m really suspicious that the dress code stuff is a pretext for not wanting to deal with someone’s maternity leave and/or changing availability after the child is born. But in situations like that, I don’t know how up front it’s OK to be with HR about that concern. Is this a situation that would call for your patented “concern” approach, e.g. “I’m concerned that in having a dress code that pregnant women can’t comply with, we might be falling afoul of pregnancy discrimination laws”? (Pregnant women seem to be a protected class federally and I know they are in my state as well.) Or is that too confrontational to start out with? Do you start out assuming that HR will back you up on the dress code and only pull out the coy references to protected class if they don’t?

    1. J.B.*

      Just take it to them, and say my boss said this and I’m worried he might fire me over maternity clothing choice. No need to be coy. If they don’t pick up on it immediately (which duh they should) say explicitly that “if I got fired over maternity clothes, it seems like what he has a problem with is clothes related to pregnancy, and that sound like pregnancy discrimination”. Then go write up the conversation.

  39. Delta Delta*

    #1 – what if this is a small company that doesn’t have an HR department? What should the OP do (other than find a new job where she doesn’t work for a jerk)?

    Also, I love that dress. Because a) it looks nice and b) it’s modestly priced in terms of professional wear. The good thing about pregnancy is that it doesn’t last forever, but a downside is that you have to get a new wardrobe you can wear only for a relatively short period of time.

    1. Friday*

      If that’s the case and I were the OP, I’d go to boss’ boss. If the boss is the owner, I’d go to a lawyer.

  40. paul*

    #2: it’s pretty common, at least IME, for managers to solicit observations if they’re concerned about particular aspects of an employee’s performance. That can include asking people if they’re actually at work.

    It’s not normal and I don’t think it’s professional for them to be complaining to another employee like that, at all, but asking you to check a calendar/see if someone’s there/ask if they let you know where they went isn’t that out of line–but the rest of it is. Hopefully it blows over soon :/

    1. Amanda*

      Yeah I think you’re right – (i’m OP#2) – I think it’s just when the normal stuff is combined with the not normal stuff, it starts to feel like even the normal stuff is bad. you know what I mean?

  41. Roker Moose*

    Re #1 I agree with those above who’ve said this boss is either being intentionally discriminatory, or is entirely clueless. Either way, get to HR ASAP.

    Re #3 I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an umbrella. If you’re worried about appearances, maybe suggest she use a large scarf or shawl in lieu of a blanket.

    1. Liet-Kynes*

      I think an umbrella is fairly weird, but I also live in a part of the country where umbrellas are not all that common, so. I’d personally think the umbrella is fine for going to and from the car outside, but it needs to be out of sight when introductions happen.

  42. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#1….apologies if this has already been mentioned above, but Alison’s advice is great. To HR post haste! However, the bigger picture here concerns me. You are in finance, an industry notorious for not being super accommodating to pregnant women or providing work/life balance after the birth, combined with what appears to be your boss’ obvious bias against pregnant women and all that comes with that….eventually a baby. And you say that no one else has ever been pregnant in the time you’ve been there. How long have you been there? Personally, I’d look at whether a transition after the birth might be in your and your family’s best interest. I simply can’t imagine things getting better. If he’s this invested in maternity wear, how will he react when you are unable to come in with no notice due to a sick baby?

  43. Bend & Snap*

    #1 I don’t think catering to the boss’s crazy is the answer here. This sounds like blatant pregnancy discrimination.

    Plus finding business dress maternity clothes is nearly impossible unless you pay out the nose. My workplace is dressy and I lived in black jeggings, bodycon tanks and camis for my whole pregnancy because there were just not a lot of business appropriate clothes that were also comfortable.

    Frankly when you are so big you have trouble getting in and out of your car, you shouldn’t be worrying about whether or not your top is ruched. Ridiculous.

  44. nnn*

    Engineering solution for #3:

    If they don’t want the employee wearing sun protection gear when they walk into the client’s office, and the employee has to wear sun protection gear for the walk from the car to the office, what if they dropped the employee off at the client’s office and then went and parked the car? If there’s a group carpooling, they could drop everyone off and the driver parks the car, and from the client’s point of view that could just be How We Do Things.

    1. kitryan*

      Depending on circumstances, this could be at least a partial solution for the issue- reminds me of the therapist who recommended that her client who was obsessively concerned about having left the iron on just take the iron to work with her. Practical solutions are sometimes the best – and they can avoid a lot of the ‘not everyone can have sandwiches’ problems that can arise.

  45. Observer*

    #1 Your boss is a jerk, and you don’t seem to be wearing anything out of line. But if you need to, looking fro clothes in companies that cater to a community like Orthodox Jews might be useful. I’m gong to post a couple of links in my reply that have some tops that should meet your boss’ specifications.

    Nothing on the pants though – maternity skirts are constructed the same way.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        I mentioned this above, but if the OP is in the kind of super-conservative environment I’m thinking of, the issue isn’t coverage, but lack of tailoring and structure, which is genuinely impossible to manage while pregnant (absent a whole pile of money for constant alterations I guess?). The stuff you linked would work for most business or business casual environments, but not the uber-conservative ones where their idea of flexible female dress is being allowed to wear a pantsuit.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t agree that this stuff wouldn’t work in ultra conservative environments. I know the issue isn’t coverage, but cut and style. And many of these tops really do look similar (from the front) to business wear. I know from experience that if the cut is reasonably well done, these styles work well (except for the bit about tucking the shirts in. That’s just nuts.)

          The reason that I pointed to the Orthodox Jewish community is that it’s a community with much higher than typical fertility, yet a large number of those fertile women working in environments where they need fairly businesslike work clothes. So anyone catering to that market is likely to have something in that vein. The coverage is just a side effect for anyone outside of the community.

  46. Colorado*

    OP #1: Just to join the choir, your boss is an ass and this infuriates me. Please give us an update!

  47. Liet-Kynes*

    Since #1 has been beat to death, I think #3 deserves a mention. I actually disagree a bit with Alison in that I think OP3 can push back a little harder than she advocated. The hat, blanket, umbrella, sunglasses combination strikes me as fairly unprofessional, and while she may get a pass for it at work, I think it’s a pretty weird getup for visiting clients offsite and representing the company. Hats are not really part of the business casual wardrobe, and neither are umbrellas and blankets. I think she needs to limit herself to the umbrella, and even then, I think it needs to be in a bag and out of sight when introductions happen.

    And I’d be astonished if that were recommended by a doctor. Survivors are often incredibly – and understandably – paranoid about a recurrence, and I’ve seen friends and family get pretty compulsive about avoiding known or notional causes of their cancers. That said, I think there’s a point where professionalism and pragmatism needs to rein that in a bit.

    1. Observer*

      Prepare to be astonishes. Some people REALLY cannot deal with any sun exposure. Telling someone that “looking weird” is a bigger problem that a documented medical problem is not a good way to manage your staff.

      1. Liet-Kynes*

        The documented medical problem we’re aware of is a past history of skin cancer. I’m not willing to speculate past that. Obviously, my opinion would change if there were a current diagnosis of some health issue that makes them completely unable to tolerate even moments of sun exposure.

        1. Kate 2*

          Actually, it is recommended that skin cancer survivors avoid sun exposure in the future, especially those who have had it twice!

          Additionally, there are cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy (sp?) someone mentioned, that can make you more sun sensitive, and force you to avoid exposure.

        2. The Devil Wears Gucci*

          You need to quit demanding “proof” of medical conditions and believe the survivors. If someone proof that LW1 was “really pregnant” so that she could wear maternity clothes, would you be OK with that?

        3. Observer*

          Yes, the documented medical problem is being a cancer survivor twice over. That’s not historical – that is current information. And it most definitely affects what is safe for her.

    2. the gold digger*

      It doesn’t matter if a doctor ordered it. I get migraines from glare. Believe me I am going to wear a hat and sunglasses outside. In meetings, I am going to make sure I do not sit facing the window. I have no problems telling people that the glare will give me a headache. I like my co-workers and my job, but not enough to get a migraine.

      I also do not like them enough to make my already-damaged skin more damaged (hello early wrinkles, brown spots, and dryness – tans look fabulous when you are 17 but not so much later in life) and to possibly risk skin cancer. I really do not care if people laugh at my covered-up arms and face. (And they have.)

      1. Super Anon for This*

        I feel you. I take public transportation, all of my coworkers drive. I regularly get laughed at when I bundle up for my 15 minute plus walk, while they have a 2 minute walk to their heated car. I wear a coat to work in winter, plus a hat, scarf, and gloves. They wear indoor clothes, no coat or jacket. Everyone knows I have to be outside a lot longer than they do to get to work, but I still get laughed at and commented on frequently.

        1. nhb*

          Super Anon, sounds like you work with a bunch of bullies/jerks. WTH? LAUGHING AT you for dressing appropriately for the weather? Do you work with a bunch of high school kids? That’s just nuts.

          And gold digger, seriously, people are laughing at your covered-up arms and face? At work? Wow.

  48. Poohbear McGriddles*

    Am I the only guy that just learned what ruching is?

    It sounds like this boss is going to keep moving the goal posts until the OP can come up with something that makes her not look so, you know, pregnant.

    1. paul*

      I had no idea and I went maternity clothes shopping with my wife for both pregnancies. I’m wondering if he actually used the words ruching and empire waist when complaining…if so that takes it from unreasonable but maybe not malignant (still go to HR) to something more malignant to me–simply because someone that knows fashion well enough to know those terms *probably* knows exactly how hard it’ll be to find maternity clothes without them.

  49. Ann O'Nemity*


    I found it extremely difficult to find professional / conservative maternity clothes. The “work” options were limited, overpriced, with bad tailoring and over-reliance on synthetic fabrics. They just didn’t look professional enough. Maybe the boss doesn’t realize how hard it is to find good options.

  50. itsallgood*

    LW #1 the things your boss is saying–Tuck your shirt in, ,no empire waist clothing–is skating close to a pregnancy discrimination allegation in my book. The boss is completely out of line and needs to back off.

  51. Malibu Stacey*

    Late to the party, but Alison is right that part of being an admin is being a set of invisible eyes for management.

  52. Chicago*

    Manager no1 is a douchecanoe of the highest order.

    I would absolutely love to see what dresses fit a 30 week pregnant belly that ARENT empire waist.

    I almost dare her to bring him shopping with her to so he could see what is out there.

    If I was truly being a tool, I’d start emailing him pictures of clothing to see if it “met his standards.”

    In reality, I’d march in front of HR so fast his head would spin.

  53. Kobayashi*

    I’m one who wears a large hat whenever I have to go outside (and it’s not super overcast). I don’t see an issue with her having a hat one if it’s one that’s relatively cute/professional. It’s easy enough to take the hat off indoors and carry it in one hand, then set it down with your purse/case. The umbrella and blanket might be a bit less usual, but there are many compact umbrellas she can have that tuck into a purse, so again – that can get put away when she steps inside. The blanket – yeah, that’s a bit weird. I’d let her do it in the car if that makes her feel better about her sun exposure, but I agree that carrying a blanket in to meet clients sends the wrong message! So, just talk to her about the appearance when she’s meeting clients/partners, but other than that, let her take reasonable precautions. Skin cancer is nothing to mess around with, and some complexions are REALLY prone to it.

    1. aebhel*

      I agree. A ratty baseball cap would be a problem, but a nice broad-brimmed hat and a foldable umbrella shouldn’t be. The blanket is the only thing I’d push back on; it shouldn’t be an issue in the car, but she should trade it for a shawl or wrap or something more professional when she’s meeting with clients.

  54. Electric Hedgehog*

    I think, based on the discussion for number one, someone could make some real money creating and offering a line of good quality, attractive, maternity garments meant specifically for upper range business casual and business formal offices, with good conservative choices. Isn’t it weird that there seems to be such a dearth of those items, particularly with the increasing umbers of women who work as late in pregnancy as they’re able and return quickly (even before losing baby weight)? There may be expensive options out there, but I had a really hard time finding good, affordable professional clothing.

    1. VintageLydia*

      I think the biggest reason it’s not available is that the biggest feature of formal businesswear is a tailored look, which is nearly impossible to achieve on a pregnant body because it doesn’t stay the same size and shape, often changing even within the same day.

    2. aebhel*

      Agreed. I work in a pretty casual office, and it’s still a pain to find maternity clothes that aren’t either yoga pants or garish polyester disasters (unless I want to drop $70 a pop, which… no. Not for something I’m going to be wearing for three or four months).

  55. Not Fun in the Sun*

    #1: Are we talking bright pink fuzzy blanket with cartoon characters or a neutral piece of cloth with finished edges? Straw floppy beach hat or a wide brimmed black hat? Focus on parts of the ensemble that are truly unprofessional (if they exist). Sure, wearing all of those things isn’t “professional,” but it does seem to be medically necessary. Think about specific things that can be changed to make it appear more professional.

    “Hey Jane, I recognize that you have medical reasons for covering exposed skin when we go to meetings. I respect that some extra sun protection measures are necessary, but it may raise questions from the clients we work with because it isn’t the norm. Part of the problem is the hat, which looks more like a beach hat, and the bright colors on your blanket. They don’t read as professional, especially to those without background on why you wear them. Is it possible to swap them out for plain, neutral colored versions?”

  56. specialist*

    Letter 1: Whomever it was who found that sheath maternity dress, good work. That is a very professional looking dress.
    I would suggest assuming ignorance before maliciousness in this case. You don’t look like you used to. The boss is probably just dense as a post. Take a series of pictures of yourself wearing clothing as he has suggested. Make a page with the pictures and have him comment on what you should be wearing. That way you have his comments in writing if you really do need to go to HR. Hopefully he will realize just why you are dressed the way you are and instruct you to continue dressing in your professional maternity clothing. But I would buy that sheath dress because it is awesome.

    Letter 2: You have a new graduate who has already had skin cancer twice. We can say with a fair degree of certainty that this is a medical issue. The careful wording is appropriate. I buy my staff jackets to wear in the office so that they aren’t wearing things of which I disapprove. It makes life much easier. For your case, I would recommend the catalog that has become a staple of plastic surgeons’ and dermatologists’ offices across the United States: Sun Precautions. You can find their stuff online at The line was developed by a really athletic guy from Arizona who ended up with a skin cancer. He couldn’t find clothing that worked for his sports so he invented them. The fabric is specially treated to be sun resistant. I don’t normally recommend anything but the hats, but our sun isn’t comparable to that in Arizona. In your case I think I would recommend the clothing. I would recommend buying her one appropriate set and then let her take it from there.

    1. nhb*

      I would, in no way, shape, or form, advise the OP to dress to the boss’s insane specifications and then take pictures of herself to submit to the boss for his written approval. Boss is seriously, severely out of line. I adore my boss, and feel comfortable talking with her about almost anything, but no way I would ever consider taking pictures of myself and sending them to her for her written approval on what I wear. Just nope, nope, nopety nope nope nope. OP should not have to procure items which will likely need to be tailored for her, so she can *ASK* her boss if those items are suitable for his specs.

      1. specialist*

        That’s fine, you and I don’t have to advise the same thing. My industry is big on documentation. Having a document from the boss showing that said boss was demanding inappropriate things amounts to a nail in the coffin for the boss. We are told if it isn’t documented it didn’t happen, so a trip to HR would be less likely to result in the desired outcome and more likely to result in problems for the letter writer.
        It is also an opportunity for the boss to smack himself in the head and say, “what was I thinking?”
        Well, I guess we both agree that the boss is seriously out of line. That is something.

        1. nhb*

          I don’t meant to be oppositional, specialist, and I apologize if I came across too strongly. I, too, work in a field where documentation is essential (I’m in governmental procurement), so I see the idea you’re getting at here a little more clearly now. I could absolutely see sending Boss links, or magazine/ad pictures, even, to ask him if *this* or *that* is “appropriate”, but I just don’t agree with OP taking pictures of herself to send him. For one, because theoretically, Boss could say, “Hey, HR, look, OP is taking all these pictures of herself to send me, under the guise of needing my approval for her clothing choices. Who’s harassing who here?” Not likely, and hopefully there’s a paper trail that would back OP up. But I mainly disagree because I think Boss is a ginormous jerkwad, and I don’t think OP should have to spend her time and money (and energy) on trying to find, and then buy, and then wear, and then photograph, and then send, and then receive written documentation, of Boss’s approval or lack thereof. I wholeheartedly agree that as much documentation as the OP can provide will help her. So I like the idea that someone had of emailing boss something like “So, to recap our conversation from ___…”. That way she has a written document showing what he said to her.

    2. Observer*

      I’m having a VERY hard time with the idea that you really expect someone to go shopping, send pictures of herself to her boss and get his approval for her clothes. That’s just …. WOW!

      Totally unreasonable.

      1. specialist*

        Not the first time my world has been deemed “totally unreasonable” and it won’t be the last. It is always fascinating to hear people from other lines of work comment on my world. What is normal for me is really not done in other fields. The first time I ever heard that was over the inclusion of a picture with applications–standard for me, the woman who worked for a greeting card company about flipped. Sometimes you have to do stupid things to protect your job.

  57. Nonprofit Chicago*

    As both a manager and a woman who is expecting, I am horrified by this! So sorry. Unless the dress code explicitly lays out that your shirt has to be tucked in and you can’t wear rouching, I don’t think he has grounds to say anything, never mind the fact that you are pregnant. Good luck with HR. P.S. That Nordstrom dress is super cute and I may buy it!

  58. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Only tangentially related to OP#1: Facebook on my PHONE has recognized that I clicked through to see the OP’s maternity dress and is targeting ads. FYI, I am NOT logged into Facebook on this computer. (Though I have in the past, so obviously the algorithm recognizes something!)

    1. Emi.*

      Yeah, they do that. It’s super creepy! It helps if you block and clear cookies, and you can use an anti-tracking browser extension for (some) more protection.

      1. Nosy Nelly*

        This is useful! I recently turned off cookies in my browser and no longer get LinkedIn ads with my face IN THEM when I’m not signed into the site…sadly a LOT of sites will fully not function without cookies. Feels coercive :(

        Thanks AAM for not being one of those!

  59. HR Preggo*

    OP 1- I hope your office HAS HR? As an HR professional, who is also 30 weeks pregnant, I’m horrified. But my bet is there’s no HR
    for this to happen. If you don’t have HR that responds swiftly, report this as Pregnancy discrimination to the DHR or EEOC. Ridiculous.

  60. Chickaletta*

    I have nothing to add about #1 other than I find this man’s assumptions about maternity wear really amusing. I would be really, really tempted to explain, and very possibly demonstrate, how maternity pants work, just to see the look on his face.

  61. HR Formerly Preggo*

    Normally I’d have a professional response. But as someone who worked in a very, very conservative environment with a very strict dress code my first instinct is to tell your boss to kiss your butt. It is sooo hard to find professional maternity clothes. I couldn’t find any maternity suits so I wore dresses that would normally be too casual in the workplace and a large suit jacket open (because there was no way it was going to button). This post makes me so mad because I know how difficult it is to find work maternity clothes. Its like manufactures assume all pregnant woman wear leggings every day (I wish). Or they expect you to pay 4 times the price for something that is only going to fit you for a month or two.

  62. Chicago*

    OK. Now, again, I think manager for the pregnant lady is a douchecanoe of the highest order. But in an effort to try to help the OP in the interim, found this:
    No side rushing, not an empire waist, no belts needed, pretty conservative for business purposes.

    Additionally, there are some tops here, that are not empire nor rushed that could go with a skirt, instead of pants, (hence no belt requirement)

    There are also some wrap dress options that do not have rushing or an empire waistline

    Here is another skirt, which could pair with a shell and blazer.

    FTR, I think the OP should run screaming to HR and document every ounce of this BS. But, in the interest of buying some time…

  63. Abby*

    I just wanted to drop a brief plug for , which started as a community for women who are Fancy Lawyers, and has lots of links and discussion to “zomg what do I wear when pregnant???” solutions. It sounds like the pregnant OP has pretty much found good stuff for her, but in case it’s helpful for others in the commentariat…

  64. RB*

    I can’t even with the pregnant worker. Coming late to this, didn’t read all the comments, but what if there is NO HR DEPT at the company? Lots of companies don’t have one or, even worse, the BOSS doubles as the HR person.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I addressed this above. She works in a big company (which isn’t in the letter, but which I know from an email exchange with her) so she’s going to have HR.

  65. RB*

    Maybe there needs to be a year-end Top Ten for the letters that have made us the angriest. But then we would have to get angry all over again reading them a second time. But assholes like this need to be called out as such.

  66. Candi*

    I ran the maternity clothing thing past my teenage son. LW, a high-schooler not old enough to vote thinks your boss is being completely unreasonable and ridiculous. Hope HR is highly effective.

    Blanket: What is desirable from a professional appearance standpoint, and what is practical from a personal standpoint, isn’t overlapping right now for this graduate, likely due to her financial situation. Unless the company is going to pay for or reimburse her for a SPF-rated large parka-shawl type garment, gloves, and a scarf, there isn’t really much to be done until she has a few paychecks in the bank and is caught up on immediate bills.

  67. Indie*

    Is it possible he’s just talking about the ‘untucked’ look of maternity shirts (because hes so clueless he can only go on his own scoldings as a schoolboy) but that he’d be fine with empire on a dress? The one you linked would be hard to beat even by a non pregnant lady. Here’s another

    He still needs schooling by HR but I think you have something to wear while hes coached.

  68. Zennish*

    Can I just say, in general, how sad and disappointing I find it that in 2018, so many managers and workplaces remain hung up on dress codes and physical appearance. I do not suddenly become more competent if wearing a tie. OP does not suddenly become less competent if wearing an empire waist. Sigh.

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