is it okay for your bra straps to show at work?

A reader writes:

Last week’s question about workplace dress codes reminded me of a question I’ve been long meaning to ask.

Let’s say you have a workplace that allows nice sleeveless blouses or dresses. What constitutes acceptable showing of a bra? By this, I don’t mean the actual cups themselves, but the straps. Bras are expensive, and even the best fitting ones don’t always have straps that fit perpendicular to the floor, meaning most of the time they’ll sit a little lower on the top of the shoulder.

I’ve always been under the impression showing a plain white, black, or tan bra strap, depending on the outfit, wouldn’t raise an eyebrow (so long as there aren’t any bows or anything), but I’m curious to know your opinion on this.

Nope, your bra straps shouldn’t show at work. It falls under the “no visible underwear” rule.

Now, no one should freak out if your shirt shifts and they get a glimpse of your bra strap; sometimes that happens.  But if you’re talking about the strap being visible even when your outfit is positioned correctly, it’s probably not an outfit you should wear to work.

That’s not because bra straps are somehow shocking; they’re not. But there are loads of relatively arbitrary rules that go into what we consider professional dress. (For example, why is a skirt okay but shorts of similar length aren’t? Who knows, and yet it’s the case in most offices.) And visible underwear, even something as unexciting as a bra strap, is pretty well-established as Not Professional.

Caveat: As always, your particular workplace may be an exception to this. Workplaces have varying degrees of formality and a single answer can’t account for all possible variations when it comes to something like dress. I’m giving you the answer that’s most often true, but not The Only Answer Everywhere and Always.

{ 453 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Poster*

    I’ve worked in an industry where most people wear jeans and a collared shirt or near the end of the week, t-shirts and the like. Bra straps still wouldn’t fly though, and you’d be encouraged to bring a fan if you’re cold or talk to the building management to get the temperature lowered if the reason is because you’re too warm.

    To be fair, shorts only flew if you were called in for an emergency situation (it was operations, so it could happen from time to time), and same with flip-flops and rattier t-shirts. A bra strap during an emergency response wouldn’t have been A Thing.

    1. Emma the Strange*

      Hell, I work for a tech company where shorts are A-OK, and I still avoid visible bra straps.

      1. JessaB*

        When you get called in for emergency services, then nobody cares what you’re wearing unless you’re like the mayor or something. They just want the whatever it is fixed, but in normal business no. Underwear of any kind should not show no matter the gender of the person or the type of underwear in question and in most cases things that LOOK like underwear (camisoles without jackets on top,) wouldn’t fly either.

        On the other hand when I was called in to the answering service during a hurricane to start up the generator, boss was usually there days so day manager didn’t have the key (she got one the next day,) nobody cared that I’d pretty much slung a hoodie over bedclothes. We answered for the city as well as dozens of emergency service type people. We needed power five minutes before they called me in.

  2. Jesca*

    Hah! How funny! I have one on today where the damn straps have been falling down all day! Of course, this is like the norm for me. Would it really kill them to move the straps about a half in over in the back!

    1. Fabulous*

      Sometimes I’ve taken to altering my bras in this very fashion, but I get that this is not always possible for non-sewers!

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I dunno, I can barely hand-stitch and I’ve managed to alter bras and hem pants. Being too broke/unwilling to pay for such services is a damn good motivator to learn. :)

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Huh. I’ve been dealing with this for 25+ years and it genuinely never occurred to me to alter the bra.

      3. Marillenbaum*

        Side note: I’m interested in learning to sew (ideally machine) to make alterations and do a little clothing construction. About how long did it take you to learn?

        1. Fabulous*

          I toyed around with sewing as a kid on my mom’s old machine, and I also took a sewing class in college (I was a theatre major). Worked in the costume shop for 3 years there and also as a costumer for a few years. I am by no means a perfect sewer, but the more you do it, the better you get at sewing a straight line or thinking of ways to alter things for better fit :)

          1. Anony*

            Or, I took a ~6 inch piece of elastic and sewed one half of a snap to each end. If I’m wearing sleeveless, I loop it around my bra straps, and it holds them just between my shoulder blades in the back.

              1. Wren*

                I have some smaller safety pins saved that I use on occassion for this purpose, usually pined to the seam allowance. If I had to do this a lot, I’d probably sew in something permanent.

                1. Admin Girl*

                  I use this all the time. Safety pins work wonders for bra straps and holding your button up shirt shut :)

            1. OhBehave*

              I just bought a dress at Kohls. It’s sleeveless. I wondered why there were snaps under the straps. It finally dawned on me that it was to secure your bra strap! Genius idea. The ends of the snap were connected to a bit of serged (think fine rope) thread sewn into the seam of the dress strap. I was amazed.

              1. Mary*

                Lots of vintage dresses have these – my 50s and 60s ones do. Fantastic idea, except I always forget they are there and get confused when I’m trying to take the dress off!

              2. Kelsi*

                I love these…except in my one dress where they’re weirdly far out on the shoulders, and actually using them means my brain is insisting I need to pull up my bra straps all day.

              3. msnovtue*

                This really easy to put in yourself if you want-I just get some small ribbon in the aame color & some snaps. Cut a piece of ribbon, usually about 1.5-2 inches long, then just hand-stitch everything together.
                A quick, easier option is to just use a pair of safety pins–I’ve done that for years.

          2. Gadfly*

            They only work if you are smaller–once your breasts hit a certain weight, they can snap. And it hurts.

            The paperclips and hairband ones are even more limited.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              Apparently strap slipping is a sign of a poorly fitted bra? But well-fitted bras can be terrifyingly expensive, particularly if you’re larger-busted because a lot of common brands just don’t make larger sizes.

              Also I discovered that properly fitting bras with bands tight enough to be supportive cause me to have terrible eczema breakouts under the band, so so much for that. :/ I’m small enough in the chest that I just wear cotton shelf camisoles now because they don’t irritate my very picky skin.

            2. Karen D*

              Years ago, I found a flat steel buckle that was ideal for the purpose. It wasn’t meant as a bra-strap-minder (such a thing had not been invented at that point) but it was strong enough and the way it was made, it was easy to corral the straps into it and then slide it down so it didn’t show.

              I loaned it to a friend caught in the grip of a fashion emergency and … well, I mourn it still. (and of course she was all la-di-da about it.)

            3. YaH*

              Exactly. My shoulders are so broad that even though I’m fitted correctly, my straps are lengthened to their full amount. There is no “give” to pull them in towards each other even using an industrial winch.

            4. No Pink*

              I buy multiway bras because of this. It means I can lengthen my bra straps to near max, and then cross them over at the back. No more straps falling down my shoulders, it’s great!

          3. Owl*

            They have them at Joann Fabric, too. That’s also where I bought my nipple concealers, as I avoid wearing bras as much as I can.

        2. memyselfandi*

          I learned to sew as a child, so it is hard to say how long it would take. It depends on what you want to make. It isn’t hard to learn to operate a sewing machine and sew a straight seam. Taking a pattern and a piece of cloth an constructing a garment is another thing, but you can sign up for classes that will take you through the whole process. And garments can be simple or complex and you just move up the levels depending on your effort and willingness to challenge yourself. I am at the level of drafting my own patterns at the simple level, which is something I just learned. The great thing about sewing is that it is mostly something you learn by doing and if you make a mistake you just rip it out and start over. There are multiple ways of doing things. Whenever I take a class there will be very experienced sewers in the class who learn some simple thing that they never thought of. Sewers are a welcoming group for the most part because it is not a pervasive as it used to be. When I was growing up everyone made their own clothing. And it was cheaper to do because we lived in a textile manufacturing area so cloth could be purchased at the mill.

        3. Nolan*

          Check with your local community centers and schools, a lot of them offer night classes for adults and there’s usually a couple sewing classes offered. There’s a fee to attend, but I think they’re usually pretty reasonable.

        4. nonymous*

          try an intro class to quilting or decor if you’re just trying to get up to speed on using the machine. A lot of times the apparel classes are about figuring out fit and logistics of patterns (important, but frustrating if you’re not comfortable with the machine already). Beginning decor has more straight lines and wonky is okay.

        5. HannahS*

          It’s fairly straightforward and doable for beginners. Basic alterations–hemming, taking in things at the sides, etc.– mostly involve very simple cutting and sewing. Not at all as complicated as actually making a garment. Look up tutorials online and see if it looks doable. If you’re a total beginner, it will save a lot of time if you can pay someone to show you how to use the machine.

        6. Serendipity*

          Crafty! Beverley Johnson has a master class on seeing and fitting bras, and if you have some rudimentary sewing machine skills you should be fine.

          I was so insanely proud of myself when I finished my first one

      4. Jesca*

        Hah! Over the course of the 13 or so years of my professional life, I have had exactly 4 bra malfunctions while at work! No way I am trusting my own altering with that luck!

      5. Snowglobe*

        I use Fahion Tape-clear, double-sided tape. Sticky enough to hold clothes in place, but easily removable at the end of the day.

        1. hayling*

          Yeah the Hollywood Fashion Tape strips are great. I use them all the time to keep straps inside shirts. I should keep some at work for emergencies!

    2. Michaela*

      Racerback bras. Harder to find, but you have narrow or sloping shoulders, they’re a lifesaver.

          1. Justme*

            Never had a back close bra break like that. Wires pop out, sure. But the structure was intact.

      1. Abby*

        This this this. On the off-chance that I’m wearing a sleeveless shirt with a wider collar: lingerie straps.

    3. misspiggy*

      You’ve probably got the wrong size and need to go smaller on the band, bigger on the cups ( and now I sound like The Toast’s Every Comment On Every Article About Bras Ever).

      1. Mpls*

        Or the elastic is stretched out (or slider in the back needs readjusting) and you just need a new one.

      2. aebhel*

        IDK, I have the same problem all the time, and I don’t think it has anything to do with the band size; I think it’s just how my shoulders are shaped (I’m a 38B and pretty skinny, so I constantly hear that I should get a smaller band size, but I enjoy breathing, so I don’t). Sports bras/bralettes tend to work better for me than proper bras, but that’s not always an option for bustier people.

        1. Anxa*

          I’m a 38B and pretty skinny, so I constantly hear that I should get a smaller band size, but I enjoy breathing, so I don’t

          This made me giggle. It’s not so much a problem with me in regular bras, but I cannot find a sports bra that fits to save my laugh that doesn’t send me into a mild panic attack due to not being able to breath. I have small breasts and a large rib cage and I am really sensitive to having my ribs bounds.

        2. Koko*

          If you’re pretty skinny a 38B sounds like an enormous band size! Your bra band size is usually only a couple inches larger than your waist band size, since your ribs are usually not more than a couple inches larger than your waist. I am not skinny at all, have a 29-30″ waist that is barely narrower than my ribs, and wear a 32D.

          The distance between the straps is determined by the band size. If the straps are set too wide, the band is too big.

          1. MrsCHX*

            “The distance between the straps is determined by the band size. If the straps are set too wide, the band is too big.”

            I need a 32G and often buy a 34F because it’s easier to find. The straps are still too wide for me…Some people just have a narrow frame (and I’m not skinny).

            1. Clinical Social Worker*

              Yeah even the best fitting bra is not always perfect. The larger the cup size the more likely it is that you have the bra strap sitting on your shoulder edge instead of further in like it’s “supposed” to do. I mean the strap starts in my armpit half the time.

        3. SarahKay*

          @aebhel: Band size of 38 for someone who is pretty skinny really does sound too large. I’m kind of average (and definitely couldn’t be described as skinny), and I only take a band size of 34. Truly, I think it would be worth trying something more like a 34D and see how that fits.

        4. Alexandra Hamilton*

          Yeah, it is highly unlikely that 38B is your correct bra size if you are anywhere near skinny. If you measure around your ribcage, right under your bust, that number should be your starting point for the band size. You are likely a much smaller band and bigger cup size. (Important to size up on the cup when you go down on the band – if you went and picked up a 34B, that probably would feel too small because the cups wouldn’t have enough room. Sister sizes of 38B are 36C, 34D, 32DD, etc.)

      3. Video Gamer Lurker*

        Not necessarily, I’m unfortunate enough to be larger cupped and small ribbed, and have a harder time finding my size in bras to accommodate narrow shoulders. I have straps that cross in the back behind my neck, so I can’t wear tanktops professionally, but I wouldn’t anyway.

        1. MrsCHX*

          I’m a 32G (not skinny…just very narrow shoulders/small ribcage comparatively) and it is pretty much the worst thing ever!! Thankfully finding them online is easier, but I agree that the straps tend to be very widely set.
          But, I do sew so…

      4. Amy*

        Sometimes it’s just how your body is. I have this problem with bra straps, because my shoulders are narrow compared to my chest, and also pretty slanted, so any kind of strap (bra, swimsuit, purse, etc.) automatically tries to slide off them. It doesn’t matter what band or cup size I’m wearing, or how tight or loose the straps are adjusted to–it’s just how my shoulders are! Racerback bras avoid the sliding off, since the straps are positioned in a less slide-able way, but they don’t work with all tops.

      5. JB (not in Houston)*

        *waives* hello, fellow toastie! Your comment made me laugh, but it’s still good advice!

    4. Allison*

      Are “Strap Perfect” bra adjusters still in production? They’re these little plastic doodads that allow you to move your straps closer together behind your back in whatever way helps keep them under your top. I got them in my stocking years ago and I rarely use them, because they can be a little tricky to get your straps in there and set just right, but super helpful!

      Also, some bras can be converted to racerback when needed.

        1. PhyllisB*

          1+!! I was going to suggest a paperclip. That’s what my daughter does. Also check to make sure your straps aren’t too loose; you might need to snug them up a bit.

      1. Justme*

        I got some of those and then couldn’t figure out how to make my bra racerback as I was wearing it. And couldn’t put my bra on if it was done before. So, not for everyone.

      2. Gadfly*

        They only work up to a point. If your breasts are large/heavy enough it will snap and it hurts.

        And the paperclip ones deform extra fast.

        So, just saying that for many these actually can make a situation worse. A slipping strap and the (sometimes literal) fallout of when the ‘fix’ snaps on you.

      3. LB*

        I’ve had dresses with a ribbon and a hook and eye closer on the lining of the dress. You just put your strap in the ribbon, snap it shut and it should hold it in place. It’s been a lifesaver for a few dress/bra combos that don’t get along.

      4. Veruca*

        I’m not sure if it’s the brand name or not, but the Dollar Tree carries a pack of 3 plastic doodads that do this! (For $1) Might be my favorite dollar store purchase ever, and that’s really saying something.

    5. Flossie Bobbsey*

      You really should get a professional fitting at Nordstrom or another professional lingerie store (not Victoria’s Secret under any conditions). Life changing. Almost no one picks the right size for themselves, apparently.

      1. MrsCHX*

        Even the online calculators (usually on UK sites) are good now when they ask for multiple measurements. I think many US bra manufacturers still say take your body measurement and add 5″ to it…which is ridiculous and why so many women have bands sitting on their upper back.

      2. YaH*

        Or maybe OP is wearing a correctly-sized bra, and for whatever reason her straps peek out sometimes.

        1. Specialk9*

          Well yeah… But enough of us have found that a good bra fitting makes a difference that it’s worth suggesting.

          It’s like someone asking how to drown out the sound of squealing brakes and getting annoyed that people say, actually, go see a mechanic about the brakes.

    6. TootsNYC*

      You can that alteration yourself, or take it to someone to do.
      Sometimes you can get bras that have several “slots” across the back so you can move your strap to coordinate with whichever outfit you’re wearing.

    7. Janelle*

      I haven’t worn a bra in three years other than maybe 10 times. Never going back. I use fitted camis which I get at Nordstrom in neutrals for about $12/each. They hold it all down and allow for some additional concealing under certain tops. With dresses they usually are shift and tight enough in the bust to basically act like a bra. Once in a while I will wear one of the outfit really requires it but I am slipping it off the second I can. Torture devices. Especially for a large chested woman like me. They make most bras for large breasts with the assumption you are a very large person overall. Skinny and big boob bras pretty rarely exist. I’ve found a few but it isn’t easy.

      1. Julia*

        As a large-chested woman (34DD ish – not sure about US sizes), I can’t even imagine not wearing a bra, and no shift dress has ever held my breasts up on its own.
        People always say bras are torture devices, but with big breasts, I feel much better with support than without.

      2. Helena*

        As a 30G (32H during pregnancy, 28F pre-pregnancy) I’d have to disagree with you.

        You have to go to specialist shops/websites. If you want a brick-and-mortar shop in the US you may have to find a specialist lingerie shop, but there are plenty of online options. Bravissimo and Figleaves both have plenty of bras in those sizes

        I have normal bras, sports bras, swimwear, nursing bras, in a variety of styles and colours, in my size. You may not be able to pick them up in Target but it’s not that hard to get hold of them.

    8. M-C*

      Jesca, it doesn’t kill them. If you look carefully, you can indeed find bras that have straps set narrower in the back and that prevent most falling episodes. I’m wearing a Playtex one that’s very satisfactory this way. I know Olga also has a whole line of them (dubbed ‘u shape’). These more functional models tend to be made for us larger ladies though..

    9. Audiophile*

      Haha, me too! I have very few sleeveless tops, I am not a big fan, and only one that makes it into circulation for my work attire.

    10. Specialk9*

      Bra straps falling down is often about poor fit. A common issue is to have the band too loose or too big. Get fitted at Soma or Nordstrom’s, NOT Victoria’s Secret.

      Other people mentioned clips for the bra. They work. You can also sew little bra holders into your dresses or shirts, or just use a colored safety pin. Or of course switch to racer back or bralette designs, if your shirt cut allows.

    11. JessaB*

      they have a thing that’s like a circle with an x in the middle that will turn a regular bra into a racerback. They also have little straps with snaps on them that you can gather the bra-straps in the back and pull them in (but not as far as racerback,) they come in different lengths. You can make them yourself really easily with a piece of ribbon and a snap at any length and colour you want.

      There’s also costume tape (the stuff they use to keep actors in their costumes so the strapless dress doesn’t fall down, or the strapless bra.)

  3. nonanon*

    Also, how small is the shirt (fitting or fabric-wise) that bra straps are showing?! I would think it would have to be a uniquely cut shirt or have spaghetti straps in order to show the straps and I don’t find either of those to be acceptable for most office spaces.

    1. Moi*

      In my experience, *most* sleeveless tops are cut so that a normally-positioned bra will have the straps peeking out all day. On nearly shift dress or sleeveless blouse I’ve ever purchased from Banana Republic, for example, I have to constantly throughout the day hike my bra straps up so they are not showing. I don’t think this is an issue with my body, as I see the straps on many colleagues as well. It’s just that a “regular” bra is not compatible with sleeveless outfits. It drives me batty. Just bring the straps in a little in the back, bra-makers!

      1. Manders*

        Yep, this is something I’ve had a lot of problems with. Racerback bras sometimes help, but then sometimes the straps peek out behind your neck instead of outside near the shoulders. I usually wear sleeveless tops with a cardigan or blazer at work, but I’ve kind of gotten to the point that I just don’t notice a sliver of bra strap on someone else because it’s so common.

      2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        I started sewing in little bra strap catchers in all my dresses! It’s ridiculous that somehow shift dresses and bra straps are not compatible!

        1. Jennifer M.*

          eShakti dresses come with bra strap catchers! Only a problem when you forget they are there at the end of the day and you try to pull the dress over your head. . .

          1. OperaArt*

            Did that just last night with my latest eShakti dress. But my straps didn’t show, even with a wide boatneck neckline! Bra strap holders are wonderful.
            I also use Noel & Co. Bra Straps Concealers, available on Amazon. They’re pin-in bra steap holders. A little uncomfortable at times, but effective.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            The now-defunct retailer Harold’s used to sell their sweater shells with bra strap catchers, and this has happened to me so many times.

        2. KellyK*

          That’s the best idea ever. I’ve intended to do it, but haven’t yet. I generally don’t go sleeveless at work, but a lot of shirts with V-necks will slip to occasionally show bra strap.

        3. Nan*

          Bra strap catchers are a thing? I didn’t know that. Must.Find.

          I have on a sleeveless dress today, and my straps line up almost exactly with the edges of the dress, which means if I move, the strap peeks out.

          1. Nerdgal*

            You can make them! Use a couple inches of ribbon or crochet chain and a snap. Sew the ribbon to the shoulder seam of the blouse with one half of the snap on each end. There are pictures of this idea on the web in case this doesn’t make sense.

        4. zora*

          I bought a dress from a local boutique this year, first time I have been able to buy a dress fullprice in years, and it had both pockets AND bra strap catchers!!!!! It made me SO EXCITED that the owner of the shop probably thought I was crazy haha!

          And it reminded me about those little catchers, I had completely forgotten about those. Now I’m in the process of sewing them into all of my dresses, they are the BEST THING, right behind pockets in dresses! ;o)

      3. Sadsack*

        Yes, I am wearing a sleeveless dress today and my bra straps keep peeking out in the back. I normally wear a cardigan in the office, but not all day if it gets too warm in here. I really don’t care and I don’t think it is so blatant that anyone else even notices.

        1. Sadsack*

          Ok, I gave it a second thought and realize the straps only show in the back and they are my cami straps, not bra straps. Does that matter?

          1. M-C*

            Sorry Sadsack, it does matter. Camis are underwear too ;-). And the fact that they’re in the back doesn’t make things better, it just means you can’t see the expression on your coworkers’ face when they notice..

            1. Miss Nomer*

              Disagree entirely with “Camis are underwear”. Why even bother wearing a cami if it won’t show at all? If your coworkers are really making faces, I regret to inform you that you probably work with third graders.

              1. M-C*

                If it has ‘straps’, it’s underwear. It looks like underwear in the parts that are sticking out. Even if you have another layer on underneath. And even more so if there is no other other on top, as nearly all camis are way too fitted for public viewing. Therefore: too much like underwear no matter what.

      4. Ego Chamber*

        “It’s just that a “regular” bra is not compatible with sleeveless outfits. It drives me batty.”

        When I was a teen, my mother taught me the tick of using a tiny safety pin to pin the bra to the inside of the shirt from the inside (not poking through the bra, more like wrapped around/holding the bra strap onto wherever the pin attached to the shirt). This worked fine except for the one time a male coworker was very confused about what the little flash of silver was on my shoulders. I explained and he was SCANDALIZED and would not shut up about it all day. But he was also an ass, so hopefully ymmv.

        1. sam*

          This! It’s much cheaper than the “special” attachments that they sell that do the exact same thing.

        2. stuff*

          Scandalized? How? In what way? I don’t doubt you, I’m just honestly unable to picture what could be talked about here.

          1. Excel Slayer*

            Reminds me of one of my coworkers, who was shocked (SHOCKED I tell you) at a glimpse of an accidentally exposed bra strap on an office night out. He was also dismayed at my lack of horror about it and said he didn’t think I wanted to be thought of as that kind of ‘girl’. (Yes… he is stuck in the 50s.)

        3. M-C*

          Yes, a small safety pin will work too. You just have to make sure you’re pinning it to the shoulder seam allowance and not to any place that’ll show on the outside of the garment.

      5. MashaKasha*

        Mine too, unless the top has sleeves, a strap will find a way to peek out.
        Maybe with a smaller-sized bra with tiny straps it is possible to get them to never show. But I don’t have that luxury.

        1. M-C*

          It’s not a matter of strap size, it’s a matter of position. The bra I have one has extra-wide straps and still doesn’t show because the straps are set somewhat toward the center at the back.

      6. who?*

        Yup, definitely. I’ve found that J Crew has bra strap catchers sewn into most of their sleeveless dresses; I wish every company did this for every sleeveless clothing item.

      7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah—I think it’s actually super easy to be wearing a relatively conservative top (although possibly sleeveless) and still have bra strap showing problems. But this is why I love bra keeps.

      8. Karen D*

        This is why I have an entire rainbow of little cropped bolero/shrugs. Seriously, I probably have 30 of the dang things at this point.

      9. Specialk9*

        Me too. I wear a lot of dresses, and bra straps peek out if you’re not careful. I generally throw on a cardigan at work, but if it weren’t super air conditioned or I ran hot, that wouldn’t work.

    2. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

      Disagree. Most sleeveless dresses and/or shirts show bra straps. Some of them have straps wide enough to hide your bra, but you have to search long and hard to find them.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Some retailers sell sleeveless/short sleeved dresses with bras built in. I’ve bought a few this summer. Reasonably comfortable bras, at that. Although the built in bra with the short sleeved dress can be a challenge to get into.

        1. NotThatGardner*

          unfortunately, these are SUPER limited to a few sizes that can actually wear a built-in bra and find it actually supportive … i am a size for which this is laughable and makes it hard to find some clothes because i need them NOT to have a built-in (this is more an issue for workout clothes usually).

        2. all aboard the anon train*

          Honestly, I’ve never seen built-in bras for anything C cup and above. I’ve never been able to wear those with a D cup because they provide no support and would draw more attention than a bra strap showing.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think this really works unless you are an A cup or a modest B cup. Shelf bras do not provide adequate support. Even structured “bras” within proper dresses are usually no match for a C cup or greater (and often not for a B cup, either).

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I hate built-in bras (the structured kind) because my breasts are not proportional to my body (according to fashion standards). Every manufacturer who tries to do this seems to think cup-size scales to band size (somehow?) and apparently a C-cup is way too small for a 42″ band.

            Dress shopping is hard enough without also having to deal with finding a dress and a bra sewn together that both fit. Bleh.

            1. Gadfly*

              Well, and cups and bands sort of do scale together, but in a way that makes it even more ridiculous. Cup sizes are relative to band sizes (which is how you get cup twins). A 40C has similarly sized cups to a 38D or a 42B. A “C” cup or “D” cup or any cup without the band is meaningless in terms of size.

      2. Jesmlet*

        Completely disagree. Almost none of my sleeveless tops/dresses show my bra strap. The ones that do, I just wear racerback bras with instead, and that’s usually because the tops themselves are racerback. Unless we’re talking spaghetti straps, I never have an issue with this.

        It might just have to do with body type, how wide the person’s frame is (not talking fat, I’m just built fairly petite up top since I’m only 5’3 to begin with) or the way my shoulders are built, but none of my female coworkers ever seem to have their bra straps showing either.

        1. Gen*

          I’m 5’3″ but wide shouldered (so is ny mom, when she got down to 86lb due to illness she still couldn’t fit into a size zero) and I have never owned a sleeveless top that didn’t show the bra straps, and my weight has varied from underweight to very obese. It really is to does vary a lot from person to person

        2. Gadfly*

          I think you might be a unicorn who happens to match close enough to a bunch of fit models’ shapes to have it work. Because it has never been my experience that straps match up and I’ve seen a LOT of bra straps on many different women of different shapes.

          It goes back to the idea that there are many, many ways to be ‘wrong’/not fit and only one way to be ‘right’.

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, I’m actually having trouble visualising the situation OP describes. What does “a little lower on the top of the shoulder” mean? Does that mean the strap slides towards your neck or exactly the opposite way, down your shoulders? Because either seems to be a problem with the cut of the shirt moreso than with the way the bra is made – or maybe I’m just leaning differently than the OP, fashion-wise, that this has never been an issue for me before?

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I was confused by that description, too. But I think her overall meaning is clear — sometimes bra straps show.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        They usually slide down the shoulders. My clothes accommodate my straps when positioned correctly, but when I move they shift down. I have to entirely avoid certain strap styles or neck lines for the bra straps sometimes, though. :(

      3. Ego Chamber*

        Sliding down the shoulders. Depending on the cut of the shirt, it could also be a fit issue with the bra, despite what LW says. (I’m not shaming/doubting, but I was 30 before I found the first bra of my life that actually fit correctly with no squeezing/strap slippage/weird bulges—and it was a freaking revelation.)

      4. Jesmlet*

        I guess my shoulders must be more parallel to the ground than other people since I can’t seem to figure out why everyone’s straps are sliding. I’m squirming around here trying to get it to happen and I have to drop my shoulder and tilt almost 90 degrees before anything starts to move…

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, same – I have these weird days where, although I didn’t change anything about my bra, it will slip relentlessly all day; but this happens maybe twice a year. It really must have something to do with body/bone shape, apparently, since this seems to be a wider issue than I’d ever realised (or even thought about, really).

          1. Ego Chamber*

            It usually only happens to me when I’m wearing a bra I’ve just retrieved from the wash and didn’t adjust the straps properly—by which I mean, I guess my shoulders are broad enough to hold a strap up unless there’s excess strap?

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think OP means sliding down her shoulders.

        I mean, the first option is to tighten your bra straps—bra straps contribute to about 80% of all bra-fit-related problems (assuming you have the right sizing), say completely unscientific bra manufacturers and “lady underwear hacking” websites/blogs. But there are a lot of women for whom slight modifications (including changing the type of bra) won’t help because of body type. This is especially true if you have narrow shoulders.

        1. M-C*

          Actually a well-fitting bra should fit without hardly any straps at all, Princess. A large-size bra with 2 hooks in the back for instance is never going to do its job. The back needs to be substantial enough to hold the cups in position, the straps shouldn’t be doing much more than a cosmetic job. And way too many manufacturers don’t make bras with a large enough range of cups, which leads people to buy too-large bands (ok, better than the dreaded double-breast effect of too-small cups), which leads to no support and straps slipping all over.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This is good to know! I knew the band was the most important part of the bra but not that straps are primarily cosmetic.

          2. The New Wanderer*

            That is something I’ve heard and may be true for some of the population, but alas, not for me. My professional fitter at Nordstrom recommended a bra size that is the “sister” size to my preferred (recommendation was smaller band, larger cup). I tried three different brands in that size. Not one would have stayed in place without straps and not one had straps that stayed on my sloping shoulders, and the band was uncomfortably tight while the cups were not quite full.

            Altering the strap attachments in the back had been the only thing that worked to stop the sliding before I gave up on underwires altogether. Yoga bras FTW!

            The only ways to prevent straps showing in a sleeveless top are to match the strap style to the armhole style and/or to use strap keepers. But they really shouldn’t show in an office environment.

            1. M-C*

              Your mileage may slightly vary. I personally wear a band size larger than recommended because I find it more comfortable,being rather fanatical about too-tight clothes in general. But I get away with it -only- because I wear underwires, which keep some semblance of shape to the finished product.
              Also, very sloping shoulders are a separate problem which can only be addressed by putting the straps closer to the center in the back. You may consider, New Wanderer, sticking with racebacks?

          3. SarahKay*

            While this may technically be correct, I’d need a *very* wide band for a strapless bra to support me as well as one with straps. Which is why I only wear strapless bras when I really can’t get away with a strapped bra.

              1. Julia*

                Yeah. A strapless bra in 32/34 DD/E is utter hell even if it fits well. Bras have straps so that running or jumping won’t jiggle them out of place.

    4. she was a fast machine*

      Nope, most sleeveless shirts, even the ones that go all the way across the shoulders show some form of bra strap most of the time. I’m sure this is why most businesses don’t allow sleeveless even with the relaxation of a lot of dress code rules.

      1. aebhel*

        Really? I feel like I have a lot of problems with bra strap slippage, but when I wear a sleeveless top that covers my entire shoulder, my bra straps are also covered. I’m actually having trouble picturing how they wouldn’t be, since they’re, you know, on my shoulders.

        1. N.J.*

          Since when do sleeveless tops cover the entire shoulder though? What about folks with broad shoulders? What about sleeveless tips that have a large arm opening? What about folks with sloping shoulders so that the straps slide anyway? What about folks with different torso lengths, band and cup sizes etc. that require wearing a bra that fits one or other of their needs but the straps are too big even on the tightest/shortest setting and don’t have the money for a custom or very good bra? There are too many variants and issues to assume that sleeveless is going to automatically pose no problems.

          1. aebhel*

            …okay, and if you could point out where I said that, I’d appreciate it. I own a couple of sleeveless tops that cover my entire shoulders (and I am actually quite broad-shouldered, FWIW) and my bra straps don’t show when I wear them; regardless, there’s no need to chew my head off about it. Good grief.

            1. N.J.*

              I didn’t chew your head off. I listed several causes of bra straps slipping, even in cases where a sleevelesss top would cover the shoulder and also pointed out that sleeves tops don’t always cover the shoulder.

              You said that you had a hard time picturing a situation in which a sleeveless top that covers your shoulders would still show bra straps, since bra straps are on your shoulders. I answered the question or problem you presented. There was nothing in my response meant to offend. I guess I could have listed the items as bullet points instead of interrogative, but I’m not sure how listing them in a question format is chewing anyone’s head off. I thought I was presenting a coherent list of situations in which what you said wouldn’t be true, but I failed it seems. I’m very sorry, if you can tell me what I did wrong I’ll try to avoid it in the future.

              1. sunny-dee*

                Well, re sloping shoulders, the problem isn’t the sleeveless shirt, it’s “you” not keeping your bra strap in place. And the thing about the big arm opening has nothing to do with the bra strap — it would also show the side of the bra, so the problem is an inappropriate shirt.

                Your response came off kind of harsh.

                1. N.J.*

                  Ok, that’s why I apologized. I’m trying to
                  figure out why it came off as harsh? I realize the opening has nothing to do with the bra strap per se, it’s just related to the idea that clothing doesn’t cover what we think it does I suppose. With sloping shoulders, yes, you as the wearer aren’t holding up the straps; it is still a situation in which a sleeveless piece of clothing, even one which covers your shoulders completely, could still be worn and your straps could still show??

                2. M-C*

                  +1 aebhel was simply pointing out that’s a problem she doesn’t have. No need to act like she’s an aberration of nature just because she’s being rational :-).

                3. N.J.*

                  I’m not sure if anyone will see this, but I think my list of scenarios was a reaction to aebhel’s statement seeming like it wasn’t rational or probable for bra straps to show and that it felt it was negating everyone here who has said, that yes, actually this is a common problem. I thought that by listing several scenarios in question format it was a neutral approach, but it had to either be the “Since when does” language I used or the length of my response that made it seem harsh. I can’t come up with anything else. The valuable and hopefully neutral part of my response for a takeaway is that there are too many scenarios in which bra straps can slip down, even with a sleeveless top that covers the shoulders, to assume that others don’t suffer from strap slips. Aebhel’s comment seemed presented in a definitive, almost incredulous way, and all I wanted to do was point out what I says above. My apologies for any harshness.

          2. who?*

            I have a lot of sleeveless tops that cover my entire shoulder. I’m wearing one right now, in fact. Most of the ones I have are from Target, but I’ve also found them at Banana Republic and J Crew.

        2. she was a fast machine*

          A lot that I’ve seen that go far on the shoulders then show on the INSIDES of the shoulders of the blouse.

    5. Squeeble*

      Boat neck tops are trendy right now, and those can easily show peeks of straps, but I wouldn’t call them unacceptable for even most modest workplaces.

      1. Infinity Anon*

        I think that falls under what Alison was saying about how a shirt can shift and show some strap and be fine so long as if everything is in place the bra strap isn’t showing.

        1. Squeeble*

          Totally agree. I wear these kinds of tops frequently and if they slip here and there, no big deal.

      2. Soon to be former fed*

        I don’t wear boatneck tops for this reason. I have narrower shoulders and bra straps always show in a boatneck top.
        Maybe its a benefit of being a BBW, but my sleeveless garments usually are cut wide enough to cover my bra straps. I have larger boobs and wear high quality bras and the straps don’t move. Make sure your bra fits properly, it’s common to wear the wrong size, which doesn’t help.

        1. irritable vowel*

          I am also well-endowed, but my problem is not with sleeveless but with tops that are scoop-necked. When I was a D cup, I rarely had a problem with my bra showing in the front, but ever since I went up to a DD, the bras seem to have more fabric higher up on the chest – high enough that I have to wear camisoles under shirts that are not even that low cut.

          1. M-C*

            Consider another bra trick then, vowel: Sew a ribbon to the center of your garment neckline, and add a small weight to it (like a penny..). When you get dressed, slip that ribbon into your bra. Voila! A secure neckline.

            Although personally I’m not sure I’d risk that when I’m squirming under peoples’ desks trying to check their stuff is really plugged in :-).. But it works well enough in most circumstances.

          2. JAM*

            I definitely feel like my best fitting bras are all fuller coverage so I dropped most scoop necks. I wish it wasn’t this way!

            1. Julia*

              Yeah, I only wear full coverage bras because if I wear half-cups, I feel like my boobs jump out. Luckily (or not), in Japan, you’re not supposed to show cleavage anyhow (but can show knees), and I kind of prefer to cover my neckline because I don’t want to entice anyone with my double DDs (and save on sunscreen.)

    6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Oh geez, so many shirts have this problem. They needn’t be sleeveless! Boat necks, bateau, wide v-necks and scoop-necks, any loose-fitting shirt that shifts around. And some people’s body shape tends to shift straps closer to the neck than others’.

      That being said: Bra straps definitely shouldn’t be visible, and I’m surprised the OP has the sense that it’s generally ok.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I was gonna say, mine always slide up my neck. But I wear racerback sports bras probably 90% of the time because I hate underwires so much. Plus they’re cheaper (I’m poor).

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Off topic, but search Amazon for “Hanes Women’s Cozy Seamless Wire-Free Bra.” Cheap, super comfortable, and reasonably supportive (for what they are).

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I was a little surprised, too. I thought it was a known/given that in most work places, bra straps should not be constantly visible? Slips from time to time or clothing shifting, as Alison notes, is fine. But just showing because of other issues related to how the clothes fit together? Ehhhhhh.

    7. IrishUp*

      IME it’s an interaction between the style of bra & exactly where the straps hit on your shoulders and the cut of many shell tops. My workplace has a “no visible backs or bellies” rule for women’s tops, so you couldn’t get away with a spaghetti strap, but there are a ton of nicely tailored shell tops that have a smaller cut at the top of the shoulder, or a roundy cut in the arms, and you can wind up with sections of exposed strap if your bra-line doesn’t happen to fit inside the cut.

      1. Kristin D.*

        This is my problem. For some reason, the sleeves on many shells are cut “in” just a little bit, and that’s enough to make the bra show.

        1. Iamanengineer*

          I run into this when shopping. The tops seem to be cut out so that the straps peek out, because it’s been the “in” thing for a while with expensive brands and now it’s filtering down to inexpensive brands. My solution is to not buy the tops that don’t cover my underware. Or wear them with a cardi/blazer all the time.
          Part of dressing professionally is having proper clothing, another part is having proper undergarments that don’t show and work with the clothing.

    8. OxfordComma*

      I have a number of camis that have the tiny tiny straps and which require me to wear the incredibly uncomfortable strapless bras. Also a lot of tops these days expose a lot of neck and shoulder. It’s hard to find stuff that covers up stuff like straps and I’m a plus-sized woman. The options are very limited.

      1. M-C*

        Ditch those camis, Oxford, there’s no excuse for having to wear those horrible strapless bras unless you’re starring in your own one-woman recital or something equally formal. You can find camis with enough straps, only they’re usually called tank tops :-)

        1. OxfordComma*

          I appreciate the suggestion, but I have tried that. In my experience, the straps on a tank are not anywhere near where my bra straps are. Or it’s a racer back, which again, requires a special bra. That’s IF I can find a tank top of a quality to wear to work.

          1. Ktelzbeth*

            I don’t know if they will meet your second criterion, but Land’s End has tanks (at least a couple years ago when I last bought one) that nicely cover bra straps.

            1. M-C*

              +1 I haven’t gotten any recently, but Lands End certainly has made efforts to make sure their tanks cover bra straps in all the but the most extreme circumstances

    9. sleepyheadzzz*

      My problem is I wear a larger size and the straps are pretty much always at least 1/2′, sometimes a little more. I prefer to wear tank tops (not spaghetti straps, think thicker straps) but there’s really no way to keep the strap under the shirt all day long. It’s constantly peaking out.

      I can’t wear built in bras because my breasts are too big; I’m very petite, so straps tend to slip off my shoulders at least a few times during the day; and because I’m petite, even boatneck tanks tend to show the strap under the ‘sleave’ – so I usually try to have a cardigan on me at all times, but sometimes it’s just too warm in the office.

    10. Anon for discussion of my undewear*

      I’m reasonbly full busted (38D) and I regularly wear sleeveless shirts to work. It’s actually a bit tricky to find shirts that cover the bra reliably. Anything with spaghetti or thin straps or without full back coverage is out (once you get past a C cup, bra straps get a lot wider). Worse that that, gaping at the side is also an issue – I have to reject a lot of tops with looser fits or wider arm holes because when I raise my arms, you can see the sides of my bra under the arm hole. I have a lot of tunic tops with cap sleeves in stretchy fabrics that have a bit of drape to them – those work well and stay in place. With woven fabrics, the fit around the arms has to be very good to be acceptable. Men’s sleeveless shirts don’t work for just this reason, as they have huge arm holes. (I can’t get women’s clothing in my size where I live, so I’ve tried various men’s clothes – the only ones that fit reasonably are certain brands of cargo shorts and pants).

      I’ve never even heard of using a paperclip to adjust a bra, but a quick google search leads me to believe that this would fail horribly and embarrassingly for me.

      1. Halpful*

        ugh, yeah, the sideboob problem has been getting really common lately. :( I need slightly bigger arm holes than average, but I don’t want them halfway to my waist! >.<

        The most frustrating part is I know someone who has a potential solution, but can't get funding. :( I'm not sure if it's because they don't speak marketing-ese or because the white male investors don't see the problem – of course *their* clothes fit, and have plenty of pockets, and they've never had to think about bras. :P

      2. JAM*

        I know sideboob is a look they are trying for with bralettes but I feel in bigger sized tops they just make them sleeveless, shapeless and with giant armholes thinking “this will fit someone” and instead I end up with a visible bra. I ordered 15 dresses to potentially wear to my brother’s wedding and only 1 didn’t have this problem so it was the winner by default. I was so annoyed by the end.

    11. Taylor Swift*

      Nope, you’re wrong here. There are plenty of configurations of necklines and otherwise thick, but sleeveless straps that can cause this. And they might work for one person and their bras, but not for others.

    12. Shrunken Hippo*

      For some reason clothing designers like to pretend that bras don’t exist. People like to blame where the bra strap is, but bras are designed that way to help support the bust. Would it kill clothing makers to add a half inch of fabric to each shoulder? As a note, I am saying this as a woman with a very full bust who has to pay $200 just for a bra that fits properly, so there is no way I am going to touch those precious gems that keep upper back pain at bay.

  4. Moi*

    Can I please put out a call for bra-makers to create bras with straps positioned between regular and racerback? It’s not that complicated. Please make a bra that can be worn with regular tank tops and sleeveless dresses! I used to own some but I can’t find them anymore.

    1. raisedeyebrow*

      There are little plastic clips for bras that allow you to turn a regular bra into a racerback-esque bra. That’s what I always use whenever I wear a sleeveless shirt to prevent the straps from peeking out. I either have the “Fashion Forms Women’s Strap Solutions” from Target or some that are very similar to that.

      1. Gadfly*

        People keep suggesting those. Just as a PSA for women with larger/heavier breasts–know they do snap and hurt when they do. This is only a solution for some people.

    2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      This is a huge part of the reason I made the switch to bralettes – for some reasons the straps seem so much better placed.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        And with many bralettes, the straps are fashionable enough that they look like a camisole so it is OK if they are seen.

  5. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

    This is why a lightweight cardigan or jacket can be your best friend. No need to buy new bras if you can cover the straps with a sweater!

    1. Granny K*

      Or even a light shirt worn as a jacket. I find the summer more difficult to look professional than the winter, personally.

      1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

        Yes, true. I need the cardigan in the summer in my office, because the A/C is always running full blast and it makes the office freezing cold. But in other offices, a cardigan might not be practical in the summer.

    2. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

      Also, my office is always freezing, so a cardigan helps on that front, too. If your office is hot, then I can understand not wanting to add a cardigan or jacket. In that case, I think your best bet is looking for tops/dresses with cap sleeves or wide straps (wide enough to hide bra straps).

    3. hbc*

      Doesn’t it just make sense to skip the sleeveless tops then? Unless it’s laundry day and this is your last top nice enough to wear in your office, it seems like wearing a top that *requires* an accessory to stay appropriate is more trouble than it’s worth. Like picking out a top with a plunging neckline and hoping you don’t get too hot in your scarf.

      1. caryatis*

        If you have to go from a hot summer day outside to an air-conditioned office, it makes sense to have layers. I would never walk to work in sleeves in the summer.

        1. hbc*

          I layer a lot, and I guess if you know that you’ll be keeping the layer on in the appropriate place, it’s fine.

          But now I’m thinking of that Scrubs episode where JD’s outfit had a tiny red midriff-exposing shirt, plus another layer, plus a jacket, which looked good all together. (I guess–my fashion sense is zero.) “The jacket never comes off.” Except of course he unexpectedly had to remove layers, and there he was in his little belly shirt, looking a lot less smooth for his date.

      2. N.J.*

        Would that I could skip sleeveless. However, there are a crap ton of women’s blouses and dresses that are sleeveless. Not to mention, those of us who are plus sized can have issues with sleeved items not fitting the circumference of their arms. Ask me how I know? It’s like stuffing a sausage into a too small casing. A quarter or more of my blouses and dresses are sleeveless or tank style worn with a jacket or cardigan because they fit my arms, where I carry a lot of my weight.

          1. LawPancake*

            The only times I almost regret my tattoos are when it’s pushing 100 and I have to wait to get in the car to take off the cardigan…

          2. Ego Chamber*

            Interesting. I started getting tattoos because I hated my body, and it helped a lot as far as being a strategy that led to acceptance.

        1. many bells down*

          I’m not even plus-sized and I don’t think my arms are particularly muscular. But I have wide shoulders and often something that fits me fine everywhere else is far too tight in the shoulders and upper arms. Women’s blazers are the worst offenders, but I also have a nice 3/4 sleeve dress that is a perfect fit everywhere … except that I can’t raise my arms.

          1. Frozen Ginger*

            I have the same problem! Sometimes I think women’s clothing manufactures just think we don’t need to raise our arms. Just like how we apparently don’t need pockets.

            1. Scratching my ...*

              Pockets! As a guy, I don’t have much perspective about wearing a bra. But, let me say about pockets. I hate pockets! Pockets only look good empty. Put something in a pocket (keys, wallet, phone, whatever), and the bulge ruins the nicely tailored line or the weight gradually pulls down the pants… eventually showing off the other underwear. Blecch! I hate pockets.

              Be careful what you wish for.

              1. SarahKay*

                A handkerchief (hanky). What I most want a pocket for is to put a hanky in! Doesn’t have to be a big hanky, but I get hayfever, so I need a hanky with me in the summer. If I’m wearing trousers or a skirt, with a blouse/top that isn’t tucked in, then fine, I can tuck the hanky in my waistband. If my sleeves are long enough I can tuck the hanky in there.
                But in a short-sleeved or sleeveless dress – please, for the love of your deity of choice, give me a pocket!
                The thing with pockets is, you don’t have to use them. You can just ignore them and let them look decorative. But at least you have a choice. Women’s clothes so rarely give us that choice.

                1. Susan Calvin*

                  I should really get in the habit of refreshing before typing.

                  Good luck with your allergies!

                2. Scratching my ...*

                  Yeah, I do that too. A neatly folded hanky in my back pocket just in case. The more I sit on it the neater it gets!

                3. Halpful*

                  “But at least you have a choice. Women’s clothes so rarely give us that choice.”

                  I think that’s what it comes down to, really. Choice, and the lack thereof.

              2. Susan Calvin*

                See, my tailor (because of course I need all my suit pants altered, but that’s another story) once told me that many of her customers actually get their pockets sewn shut for this exact reason, and it was mindblowing to me. I mean, I get the visual argument, and more power to you and your sartorial life choices, but I like using my pockets. And quite frankly, I find it galling to not even be offered that choice.

                1. SarahKay*

                  Ha, yes, when I found out about people not using pockets I was as amazed as you were. It was the first time I bought a nice winter coat and I couldn’t work out why the pockets were sewn mostly shut. The very nice sales lady explained that (a) it stops customers leaving stuff in there and (b) it’s better for the garment if you don’t actually use the pockets. Then she laughed and said that as far as she was concerned pockets were for using, so I shouldn’t feel like I couldn’t unpick the closure. Which I did as soon as I got home.
                  And thank you for the allergies well-wishing :) They’re not actually too bad, but sneezes are common enough that I can’t not have a hanky with me.

          2. Lissa*

            Heh, I have the opposite problem. Bigger middle, smaller arms and legs (koolaid man!), so anything that fits my torso has a gape at the shoulders and bunches in the arms. Funnily enough that shoulder cutout look a lot of people complain about actually works for me for some reason, but not really a work look…

        2. Gadfly*

          And sometimes the size and/or budget means you are even more limited to whatever the buyers/designers foist on you. I’m trying to rebuild my wardrobe and I keep running into issues where even traditionally conservative stores only seem to be offering sleeveless or shoulder-less or backless or bodycon or other issues and I have to pay twice as much for something somewhat appropriate. And because of my size I’m already paying a premium for the the inappropriate stuff. I’ve had times in my life where upgrading to sleeves at $20+ per sleeve wasn’t an option.

        3. JAM*

          I am having the worst problem finding not expensive work blouses with short sleeves that aren’t too formal or too casual. Then you add in the fact I’m borderline straight/plus sizes and I get sausage arms. I just wear cardigans with everything and suffer in the heat.

        4. J*

          Yes. I never wear sleeveless as sleeveless at work, but I own a lot of sleeveless tops and dresses. They’re easier to find and look good, I just know I need to wear a cardigan/shrug and my wardrobe is stocked accordingly. Plus my office is frigid with the A/C in the summer time.

      3. all aboard the anon train*

        It’s really hard to find tops that aren’t sleeveless. Most shirts with sleeves are cut in a way that make me look boxy or pregnant, and button ups made me look inappropriately sexy (they look like they’re about to bust open at the chest).

        Sleeveless tops and dresses are my go-to because they’re the only things that reasonably fit and look nice and professional.

    4. Venus Supreme*

      I usually wear a tank top with a high-back/high-neck so that the tank will show before the bra. I have an issue sometimes that if I bend over you can see the bra material between the breasts. And you know how some sleeveless arm holes are larger than necessary!

    5. k.k*

      I wear a cardigan almost every day for this reason. A lot of my professional wardrobe is made up of dresses and probably 80% of the summer appropriate ones are sleeveless. You can find some really lightweight cardigans, the one I’m wearing today is one step from being sheer.

    1. she was a fast machine*

      As a 34K woman…it could just mean you have to buy expensive foreign bras with very wide straps because they’re designed for very broad-shouldered women.

      Everything I’ve learned about properly fitting bras indicated that your straps should be perpendicular to the floor. Now if your band starts creeping into an upside down U shape, then you’ve got fit issues.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      B/C cup, seconding this. As a test I went upstairs and put on the first two tank tops and first two sleeveless dresses I ran across–bra (from VS) was completely hidden in four different cuts.

    3. Annie Moose*

      Eh. I’ve been professionally fitted, and those straps still show sometimes. It certainly can help to have a properly-fitted bra, and it definitely can help if your straps aren’t too loose, but sometimes it’s just the way a shirt is cut.

      (that being said, I certainly encourage everyone who wears a bra to check their fit or have a professional fit them! Check out the /r/abrathatfits subreddit for a guide. Also, PSA to anyone that’s unaware, cup sizes in isolation mean nothing–it’s cup and band size together that are meaningful)

        1. KTZee*

          I have to say that I see it recommended so frequently but I’m not bought in on the “bra that fits” tool. I’m a pretty much typically proportioned woman and I buy my bras in a size that fits well, comfortably keeps my boobs in place, meets all the “good fit” criteria (like the front bit lying flat and the straps being in the right place, and the bulk of the support coming from the band, etc), and are comfortable. But the Bra That Fits tool tells me that those bras are not just the wrong size, but FIVE cup sizes the wrong size, and with a similar band. So, YMMV.

          1. Fabulous*

            European sizing vs American sizing are super different. For example, I’d be a DD-DDD in America and an E-G in Europe. It’s all relative.

          2. she was a fast machine*

            It sounds like it’s putting you in a UK sized bra, which is very different from a US sized bra. A lot of women who are more average-sized and fit into the matrix will get the proper size in UK size and use one of many converters to turn it into US sizes.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Yes, definitely. I went to a private lingerie store, and the assistant who worked with me was FABULOUS.

          (although I do have to be fair–it was a VS associate who first explained how bra sizes work to me. She didn’t give me my REAL bra size, which VS doesn’t carry, but she at least had me try a sister size of it!)

          1. I need to be fitted!*

            how does one find a private lingerie store? Are there certain names to look for, or…?

            1. M-C*

              Nordstrom usually has some of those fabulous fitters on hand. And more affordable bras to offer subsequently.

        2. Fabulous*

          I can never trust a VS fitter. Got fit once for poops and laughs and she told me my band size was a 38B, when in actuality I was a 34D at the time. I tried on the 38B just to appease her and of course it didn’t fit in the slightest. I’ve gained weight since then and still go between a 34 and 36. Betcha VS would say I’m a 40 now. NOPE!

          1. Kathlynn*

            Those are supposed to be comparable sizes . the cup of a 38b, 36c,and 34d should be the same. (I have to go down to 36d for strapless bras, but I’m actually a 34DD )

          2. Salamander*

            Are you me? Like…exactly me? Yeah, they don’t really get what they’re doing.

            I had much better luck with /r/abrathatfits.

    4. Fabulous*

      I would generally agree as a fellow DDD’er – almost made the same comment – but then I remember the one bra I have that generally fits great (was professionally fitted, European sizing, $90+) but that the one stinking strap still just refuses to stay in place some days.

      1. Miss Brittany*

        As a plump lady, I’ve dealt with my share of ill-fitting bras! Lane Bryant made/makes(?) some bras with repositionable straps and two sets of slots in the back for the clips to go. You could make a racer back if you wish, or just attach straps toward the middle of your back. It’s made life with sleeveless tops much more pleasant.

        1. Fabulous*

          I unfortunately can’t wear racerback bras unless I wear a racerback tank top, otherwise the straps then ride too close to my neck and pop out on the other side. I haven’t tried Lane Bryant bras; I fear I’m not large enough to fit in them. I’m basically right at the cusp of being plus size. Despite having a fairly large derriere and belly, my bra band size is still in the 34-36 range.

      2. Kathlynn*

        Mine just don’t go close enough to my spine to stay up. They fit properly, but after I wear them for a few hours the straps just starts falling down. I used to go to one store, where they had two spots to put the straps. One was the typical spots, the other was about two inches closer to the clasp iirc. I only stopped going there because they don’t carry enough bras in my size.

    5. fposte*

      Or you’re short-waisted. Even bras with adjustable straps often don’t adjust to be short enough (especially when the bra gets a little older) to avoid the drop-off effect on me.

      1. Fabulous*

        I used to have that problem when I was younger, but now everything seems to have dropped into a place that’s “normal” spacing now. Except I still have a short waist. But that’s a whole different issue!

        Btw, I now can’t stop thinking of the scene in The Sweetest thing with Cameron Diaz in the dressing room, “22… 28… 22… 28.”

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think it’s more likely to mean you’re wearing a top where the sleeves don’t sit well or the straps are too narrow. Like the one I’m wearing right now, which basically has these drawstring spaghetti straps, but it’s such a cute top I bought it anyway. If I were to take off my cardigan, my straps would be completely visible.

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    Indeed. It’s like showing your knicker elastic. And you can avoid it with neckline choice.

    Also, I recently discovered the existence of racerback bras!

    1. Fabulous*

      I can only wear racerback bras with racerback tanktops. Otherwise the straps ride too close to my neck and poke out the other side.

  7. Stephistication*

    I work for a major telecom company and I just saw a young woman wearring skirt that showed her stomach, a bandanna type shirt thingy that tied in the back and her back was out. +1 for the visible bra straps that were the opposite of her flesh color. Bonus points for the fact that she was headed to her SVP town hall. I was floored….

  8. Roker Moose*

    It’s sensible to abide by the ‘no visible underwear at work rule’ IMHO. If for no other reason than you never know who if someone will find it offensive and report you to HR.

    (I’m not saying bra straps are offensive, but some people are offended by anything!)

  9. Young and Managing*

    “For example, why is a skirt okay but shorts of similar length aren’t? ”

    How have I never thought about this before?! Mind blown.

    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      Did you hear about the school in England where a bunch of boys wanted to wear shorts on hot days, but the school said it wasn’t in the dress code (they had uniforms)? They started wearing skirts instead (because girls could wear those). It’s awesome. Link in reply.

      1. Clean Bandit*

        Yes, I saw that article. The head teacher had told one of the boys that he could wear his younger sister’s skirt to school if he didn’t like the rule on wearing trousers – and he (along with fifty other boys from his school) turned up in skirts. The head teacher backed down on the no shorts rule and boys will be allowed to wear shorts in hot weather from this September. I thought it was pretty impressive of the boys to make a stand and stick together like that.

        1. Really*

          Even when my daughter’s school allowed shorts for weather the girls generally wore skirts because it was cooler. And this included my daughter who spent her life in shorts (athlete).

      2. Teapot project manager*

        At my kids grade school they wear uniforms, skorts, skirts, shirts or long pants for girls, shirts or long pants for boys. The rule used to be no shorts between Halloween and spring break, some boys made a presentation that if the girls could wear skirts or skorts in winter, boys should be able to wear shorts. The rule was changed :).

    2. Rachel Green*

      When I was in college, about to start my first internship, I thought that bermuda length shorts would be okay. My dad was the one who told me that shorts weren’t appropriate in the office (no matter the length). I was initially shocked. Now that I’ve been working in an office for a few years now, I only ever wear cropped, ankle-length, or full-length pants. The AC is too cold to wear skirts or dresses.

      1. aebhel*

        I wear knee-length shorts and capris to work all the time in the summer, although we are on the casual end of business casual.

    3. Brett*

      I think part of that is the fault of men. Boxers sticking out of the bottom of shorts is the male equivalent of bra straps falling out of a sleeveless top.

      1. who?*

        Hm. I have never seen a man with boxers hanging out the bottom of his shorts. Are the shorts especially short, or are the boxers quite long? I can’t even imagine this happening. Most mens shorts that I’ve seen are pretty long -hit just above or at the knee.

        1. Brett*

          Could be either.
          There are several styles of shorts, especially athletic styles, that hit around mid-thigh instead.
          And there are some boxers that go to just above the knee length, so they are barely visible with some more traditional style shorts.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          I’ve never seen this either.

          The closest thing to that I’ve seen was at my last job, where there was a dude in training who probably thought he was so damn professional in his 3-piece suit—except he had 3″ of sports team themed boxers sticking out the top of his pants (button down shirt tucked into boxers); I don’t think it was accidentally because he dressed like this all week. Slightly better than the guy who routinely wore sweatpants with no underwear (ask me now I know?), but only just slightly.

      2. Preppy6917*

        Oh please. First find me an office that allows men to wear shorts, then find a man with boxers sticking out of the bottom.

    4. Iamanengineer*

      I always thought it was a bit unfair that women’s dress requirements are so different than men’s. Women can complain that business casual is confusing – what is casual enough or too casual. However, the requirements are still less for women than men.

      Women can wear sleeveless tops -sometimes under blazers, sometimes alone (some offices). Can you think of the last time you saw a man in a sleeveless top at the office? Even with a blazer?

      Wone can wear open toe shoes and sandals in some offices but men cannot. They stick to loafers. Women show off pedicures. Mens toes are hidden.

      Women wear skirts. Men can’t wear shorts.

      Women can wear dresses, skirts, slacks, shells, buttondowns, sleeveless tops, blouses, certain tees (as appropriate), polos, sweaters, cardis, blazers, etc. Men have polos, buttondowns, and slacks.

  10. Come On Eileen*

    It seems like so a big part of what’s fashionable and trendy for women’s wear today includes tops with armholes that scoop in, so to speak, so that a larger portion of your shoulders are showing. I bought a bunch of those clips that turn regular bras into racerback bras exactly for this purpose, and they work great — no visible bra straps and still get to wear cute tops.

    1. Emmie*

      Yes. Can we officially ban see through shirts in professional women’s clothing stores? And can a manufacturer please make a white top or dress that isn’t see through? I digress!

      1. Badmin*

        omg yes I need to retrain myself to not buy/even look, I regret it when I have because I can’t wear to work! It’s so frustrating.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        The only opaque white button down shirt I’ve been able to find was from Ed Garments. They make uniforms for waitstaff. I think the shirt is close enough to pass as business casual unless it’s heavily scrutinized (there’s a certain “look” to the material; it’s obviously not silk or anything fancy).

      3. M-C*

        In manufacturer’s defense, some degree of transparency is pretty much inherent to white fabric. Maybe 70s double-knit polyester would be totally opaque, but that was like wearing a garbage bag :-). Or more seriously you’d have to go to something like an oxford shirt. So if lack of transparency is your thing, try to stay away from white. Or at least wear a flesh-colored bra (and good luck if your flesh isn’t white-girl color..).

    2. Janice*

      “It seems like so a big part of what’s fashionable and trendy for women’s wear today includes tops with armholes that scoop in, so to speak, so that a larger portion of your shoulders are showing.”
      If it has not been mentioned before, I think that is what the OP is talking about. Not that the straps fall or move, but even properly seated, they are exposed simply by virtue of the cut of the shirt. I have seen shirts where the scooping is in front and some where it is in the back.

  11. Turkletina*

    In some places I’ve worked, you can get away with visible camisole straps. Generally, if the straps aren’t flat and/or adjustable like bra straps, they don’t register as “underwear”. Depending on your body type, camisoles with a built-in bra might be a better option when you know there’s a risk of your straps showing.

    1. Rae*

      I wear a contrasting camisole with a built-in bra under quite a few of my shirts. Partly because I like how it looks and partly because women’s shirts recently are so darn sheer. But it is obvious the cami is a SHIRT and not just a colored bra. My office is the most casual you’ll ever see but that wouldn’t fly.

  12. Annie Moose*

    Y’know, I was just contemplating this issue a few days ago!

    I have this one NY&C shirt in particular that’s a pain–the neck is just wide enough that if it shifts, it’ll show your bra straps on one side or the other. So, it’s not like it’s a shirt that explicitly shows bra straps (when I initially put it on, it’ll look totally fine), but it’s a shirt that I’m aware can show bra straps.

    Sometimes I fuss around with fashion tape to guarantee it can’t slip… but if I’m being honest, most of the time I just wear a bra with black straps (it’s a white, gray, and black top) so that if it does shift slightly, it’s not noticeable. Whatcha gonna do.

    1. MissMaple*

      Yeah, I’m wearing the equivalent shirt today. The neckline is just a little wide…which I always forget until I’m at work and I look in the mirror. It looks fine when I put it on and it’s adjusted perfectly, but just a little shift to one side or the other and there’s my bra strap.

        1. MissMaple*

          Ha, thanks for the reminder! I forgot til you mentioned it that I bought a thing of safety pins to keep in my desk for just such an occasion :)

          1. Kat M.*

            For real. I was about to speak in front of 300 people and realize the hem on my suit pants had fallen out. SAFETY PIN TO THE RESCUE. Nobody could even tell it wasn’t sewn up properly.

              1. M-C*

                Blue painter’s tape or masking tape too, for another pinch. Just don’t count on transparent scotch tape.

        2. Blue Anne*

          I think if I tried to use a safety pin up by my shoulder I’d end up putting it through a finger.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      Yes, visible underwear isn’t an on-off-thing. It’s a spectrum between “I’m completely sure that nothing will in any case be visible” and “intentionally showing underwear”. With nearly any clothes accidents can happen and things look different in a different light and different position. So how much effort should you put to making sure accidents won’t happen? I think if you’re thinking at home that something may show then you should change something if possible – of course sometimes you’re in too much of a hurry to do that! – but if the outfit looks fine at home and there isn’t an immediate danger of something showing with slight movement, then you’ve done enough. But it’s not a clear cut thing.

    3. Kat*

      I have a top like this. I really have never given it much thought. No one at my work would pay enough attention to notice if my bra strap peeked out, for one thing, and it’s obviously not an intentional thing. More a byproduct.

  13. Susan the BA*

    Another reason why 80% of the “work wear” tops I see from most brands won’t work. Super wide necks, super close-together shoulder straps, very sheer fabrics… where is the bra supposed to go under these things, designers?? My love forever to sleeveless dresses with the little snappy straps on top of the shoulders so you can anchor them to your bra.

    1. Cait*

      YES to everything you said! I get so peeved shopping for work clothes for the same exact reasons!

    2. Manders*

      Yep! On the scale of workwear sins, an occasionally visible bra strap is so minor that most women will accept it for a shirt without button gaps, sheer fabric, sequins, cold shoulders, ruffles, terrible patterns, crappy fabric that pills, etc.

    3. esra (also a Canadian)*

      My biggest pet peeve is the tops/dresses that look great and professional from the front, then you turn them around and they have a scoop back that goes way below the bra-line. What would you even wear with that to the office.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I think it’s a bastardization of that “daytime to drinks” idea, where you’re supposed to wear a blazer or a cardigan or a shrug or something to hide the bare skin during work hours, and then after you clock out, you FREE YOURSELF FROM THE SHACKLES OF THE WORKPLACE and LET YOUR SEXY LOOSE at that place all the fun people go after work (which definitely isn’t home to watch Netflix and scarf takeaway because that’s what boring people do)—or whatever the fashion magazines are saying these days… I’m too old for that sh!t.

    4. JAM*

      I want to sit down with buyers and explain “This is why your shirt should be banned from your workwear section” because they seem clueless. Maybe they are out of touch since they can wear it to work. I just don’t get it.

  14. Cassandra*

    Possible fix for some existing dresses and tops you own: Sleevey Wonders (the URL is what you’d think it is). If you are busty, buy up at least one size, especially for the lace ones.

    1. Risha*


      Where has this magical device been all my life??? I haaaaate my upper arms, so the search for a shirt with sleeve, and a long enough sleeve at that, has been an endless one!

      1. Grapey*

        +1000. The only thing I like about my bingo wings is the fact saying the term “my bingo wings” makes me laugh.

  15. MI Dawn*

    My bras are properly fitted, but to keep them always on my shoulders, I’d have to use glue as my shoulders themselves aren’t perpendicular to the floor. I didn’t know that until a few years ago, when I had problems with a shoulder and had an MRI. The doctor looked at it, asked me if I had trouble with bra and purse straps,and explained my shoulders slope much more than normal, so it makes sense.

    1. Manders*

      Oh wow, you just described my problem perfectly! I have huge trapezius muscles for my frame, so straps that are supposed to ride perpendicular to the floor slide downward no matter what I do. I wear a lot of shells + cardigans.

    2. kbeers0su*

      Fairly certain I’m in the same boat, not because a doctor told me, but based on a great Will and Grace episode (where Karen’s rival is convinced that she needs shoulder implants)…

      1. MechanicalPencil*

        My mom has incredibly narrow shoulders. I have very broad shoulders. If I could give a shoulder transplant to her, I would since I generally have to go up a size purely based on the width of my stupid shoulders.

    3. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

      What exactly was the doctor looking at? What was the comparison? This is my life and I want to be able to empirically evaluate if I have extra-slopey shoulders, hah.

    4. Allison*

      I have the same problem! Does it need medical attention, or is it something you just need to manage?

  16. Anonollama*

    My bra straps are showing today. I’ve been working really hard at my desk and it is hurting who? That’s right, no one. My office can’t seem to figure out how the heating/AC system functions so I wear tanks with a cardigan throughout the year. At my desk, and often throughout the day, that cardigan is off. We’re women (most of us wearing bras), we’ve got things to support and today my other bras are hang drying and I refuse to be hot and uncomfortable just to appease standards that I find judgmental and archaic. If someone has the horror of observing my bra straps, I think they’re gonna make it.

    Why are they so taboo? Honestly.

    I’m seriously tired of being told what (clothing, hair, makeup, jewelry, etc.) is appropriate. The policing of women’s clothes and bodies is gross.

      1. Lucky*

        Hanes and Fruit of the Loom t-shirts are sold in the men’s underwear section of the store. Are they underwear? Because a lot of men wear t-shirts, either on their own or under a button-down. If I can see the collar of a man’s t-shirt and not get the vapors, then you all* can glance at a couple inches of elastic bra strap and go on with your day.

        * “You all” meaning people in general, not directed at you in particular.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I don’t want to see men’s underwear either. It’s no different than workplaces not allowing men to wear with the waistline under their butts (I don’t understand that trend at all – it makes dudes look like a short-legged penguin wearing a diaper).

      You should probably work for yourself if you don’t want anyone telling you clothing is or is not appropriate.

      1. Anonollama*

        Or perhaps we should be more focused on what people do and who they are (productivity, character, ethics) and not what they look like while doing it.

          1. Anonollama*

            I’ll take that as a compliment. It’s good to read the book and not just glance at the cover.

        1. TootsNYC*

          “what you look like” is part of a language. When you don’t conform to the standards of the place you are at, you are saing that you don’t care about those standards.

          And looking polished and professional is a way to say that you are paying attention.

    2. Shadow*

      It’s taboo because they are UNDER wear. Do you wanna see some guys tightie whities at work?

      1. Gwen Stefani-Shelton*

        I don’t think this is quite the same thing. Women’s clothing is often made without thought to function. It can be extremely difficult to find clothing that isn’t sheer, cut too close, necklines too low, etc. I think having a bra strap peek out once in a while is an entirely different thing than having your panties exposed at all times. For men, it’s a non-issue. They have to actively *make* their pants sag enough to show their underwear or roll up a short sleeve enough to show their undershirt.

        1. fposte*

          I suppose that’s fair, though of course if men had the gendered privilege to wear sleeveless tops in the office they’d have the same issue, so maybe we don’t want to get too gender-indignant here.
          However, I don’t think “extremely difficult” is anywhere near the truth either. The question wasn’t about an accidental peek out; it was about leaving bra straps consciously visible on an outfit. It really isn’t that hard or expensive a thing to avoid; the first big step is understanding that just because an item of clothing is sold doesn’t mean it’ll be a good thing for you to wear.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            “though of course if men had the gendered privilege to wear sleeveless tops in the office they’d have the same issue, so maybe we don’t want to get too gender-indignant here.”

            I agree with your overall point but I’m confused about this sentence. It seems like you work with very different men than I’ve worked with. (The ones that I’ve worked with mostly wore t-shirts with the sleeves ripped off on the weekends, and it was really kind of gross. This was in an office building.)

            1. Preppy6917*

              LOTS of women look gross in sleeveless too, but nobody says anything because it isn’t any of their business.

          2. Gadfly*

            Would they? Few men wear upper body underwear.

            And having the range of choices to find things that fit your body well enough to avoid all of these things is a sartorial privilege strongly determined by your size and budget. And sometimes things like a disability. It might not be “extremely difficult” for you, but unless you are claiming all of the others on here who have explained why it isn’t an easy fix for them are lazy, stupid and/or liars, there are many of people for whom it isn’t an easy fix like just don’t wear x/y/z.

        2. aebhel*

          This. I’ve never seen men’s work wear that would, worn properly, show any part of their underwear. With women’s clothes, probably half of what is marketed as ‘work wear’ is going to show bra straps unless you layer it up. Which is often uncomfortably hot.

          (I also will take off my cardigan and just wear a tank top at my desk sometimes; my office has lousy A/C and I’m not willing to sweat to death when there’s not even anyone around to see).

        3. TootsNYC*

          But then you buy different clothes. You don’t -have- to buy the clothes just because they are in the store.

          Or you buy a different bra to go under them.

          I can’t buy many sleeveless tops, because the armholes are way too big and my bra shows. Oh, well–some stuff doesn’t fit. And showing my bra straps is part of “doesn’t fit.”

          I know it’s a pain, but sometimes I consider it the price we pay to make up for the fact that our culture gives us VERY WIDE latitude in fashion, style, etc. Men’s clothing can be pretty rigid.

          1. ceiswyn*

            It is not always possible to go to a different store or buy a different bra.

            There have been times in my past when I, as a size 26 woman wearing F-cup bras, was highly restricted in both the stores I could shop in and the bras I was able to buy. There are other reasons why just buying different clothes might not be an option for some people.

            And when the choice is basically ‘have visible bra straps’ vs ‘die of heat stroke’, people are just gonna have to suck up the horror of seeing elastic going over my shoulders.

          2. Jessen*

            I don’t know what size you are, but I’m a 32G. “Buying a different bra” means spending $80+. Oh, and I’m petite and curvy. Petite departments around here aren’t very big to begin with and the number of tops that qualify as work-appropriate for anyone may be low. I’ve definitely had trips where I’ve gone through every department store in the mall and not come out with a single top that fit.

    3. N.J.*

      Anonallama is making very valid points. I’m confused as to why others are surprised. We as women are judged, and harshly, for all sorts of fashion and beauty standards. I don’t think anonallama is trying to negate the underwear rule; you can comply with a rule of not showing bra straps and still think it is tied to the sexist and sexualuzed standards by which women are evaluated in society. We are objectified, scrutinized and policed for purity and compliance at the same time that we are treated as decorative sexualized objects. I’m certainly not going to show my underwear, including my bra straps, at work, becayse I understand that there is a cost for violating norms, but let’s cut this commenter some slack and not pretend that bra straps and their showing or not showing isn’t related to the larger context of sexism and repression in society.

    4. Katniss*

      Seriously. People can get the hell over seeking a peek of my bra strap. I already police my clothing choices enough: I am not going to add the extra dimension of making sure a differently colored fabric is never seen.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I think there’s a real substantive difference between a peek of bra strap that happens sometimes because you move your body, and wearing a top that just never covers your bra strap.

        I refuse to worry about my bra strap falling down now and then, but I would also not wear a shirt that didn’t at least in theory cover my bra.

    5. alsooverwardrobepolicing*

      I agree with Anonollama. I actually think a more appropriate analogy would be seeing a man’s undershirt when his button down is unbuttoned a couple of buttons. It happens all the time, and I’ve never heard boo about it.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        That is a good one. The undershirt would not be professional for the office by itself, but a glimpse is fine.

      2. Preppy6917*

        Find a bra that covers a woman’s torso up to her neck and then you may have an equivalence.

    6. Lady Bug*

      Make sure you wear a bra or you’re unprofessional! But make sure no one knows you are wearing one or you’re unprofessional! And spend extra money on tools to make sure we don’t see it.

      To me a slipping strap should be no big deal at all. Wearing a bra with the intent of it being visible is not professional. Exposing the cups is not professional (and is the equivalent of showing underpants in my mind).

    7. Don't mind me*

      Totally agree. I don’t care if I see a bra strap or if anyone sees mine. It’s not the same as boxers/briefs/thongs/boy shorts/ whatever.

      I don’t think it’s an age thing either because I’m over 40. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      1. Halpful*

        I was in my mid 20’s when I decided that life’s too short to waste on worrying about bra straps. It’s quite hard enough to find half-decent clothes as it is. I’ve been looking for new shirts for.. maybe 6 months to a year now, after moths got into the closet. I’ve bought two that are wearable and one I need to send back. The places I used to shop don’t make things that fit me any more, and the other shops I’ve tried so far have been just awful. Even the expensive ones. :/

    8. Elizabeth H.*

      I agree completely. I just don’t feel like bra straps are the same as “underwear” when the part of them that shows occasionally is on the top of your shoulders. Your shoulders aren’t an intimate body part; if your workplace allows sleeveless tops that show your shoulders, clothing that is visible on that part of your body incidentally in the course of being properly clothed (something covering your top, your bottom, your feet) should not be taboo.

  17. CrazyCatLady*

    I have scoliosis, so unless I am wearing a top that works with a racer back, my straps are always sliding. Most of the time I wear a cardigan, but if I wear a t-shirt, sometimes they even flop down to below the t-shirt sleeve, and I’m constantly pulling them up.

    1. Gadfly*

      My mother uses a wheelchair and has the worst problems with straps and pants twisting and moving into problematic places because of what she has to do to move. They simply do not make clothing that can always avoid it.

  18. SleeplessInLA*

    Aside from the fact that visible bra straps are unprofessional, it also seems downright tacky. I am a DD cup and between racerback and multi-way bras there are always options to conceal them.

    Also, I’ve never seen anyone raise an eyebrow at camisole straps showing and since they make versions with a built in bra maybe consider wearing one under your shirt.

    1. Gadfly*

      What size band? Your DD isn’t necessarily very big. Larger bands with C or even B cups could be larger breasts. Cup sizes are dependent on the band size to give their size meaning–without including band size a cup size is meaningless as far as saying how large it is.

      And they often don’t make racerbacks for those larger sizes. And if your DD is fitting in a cami with a shelf bra well enough that you believe it is a solution, I can pretty much guarantee you are on the small end of DD’s. A) because they don’t work that way for many of us and B) they stop making them and everyone above that size is SOL.

      So your easy solution really only works for those who are considered to be more professional looking by default and have all sorts of extra options which really aren’t standard for all people. Which is a huge problem for all those people without the easy answers who then are extra judged.

      1. SleeplessInLA*

        “So your easy solution really only works for those who are considered to be more professional looking by default and have all sorts of extra options which really aren’t standard for all people. ” You know, thank you for saying this because it’s something I never thought about until you did.

        I’m a 34DD which indeed puts me on the smaller side. I didn’t mean to come across as judgmental, I just couldn’t imagine an instance where the only option was visible bra straps.

        1. Jessen*

          It’s fair. For comparison, I’m a 32G. One big difference is that bras in my size are much more expensive. I generally consider myself lucky to be able to find a bra that doesn’t hurt anywhere and that I can afford. Spending money on a bra just to work with particular clothing is out of the question.

    2. Hrovitnir*

      I find labelling stuff like this “tacky” interesting, because it implies a sort of… determined showing of bra straps. Vs not wanting to go to extra effort to avoid people seeing them.

      I appreciate that for officewear it’s not done, but damned if I can get behind it mattering at all. (For what it’s worth, I am sufficiently brainwashed as to see shorts as virtually impossible to make formal, but still think it’s gross they’re not allowed where even slightly casual skirts are.)

    3. Kathlynn*

      I’m the same size as you, and maybe it’s just my comfort level, but I would not consider the cami with the build in bra enough support.

  19. Melissa*

    I live in Florida where sleeveless shirts are fine in a professional work environment and it use double sided sticky tape to keep my straps well covered by my blouse. Hope that helps!

  20. Lynn*

    I usually buy tops or dresses with bra strap holders (or add them myself) if the cut means the bra strap might show at work. They let you clip the strap into position inside the garment. Super easy even to DIY and any decent seamstress could add them in a few minutes.

  21. Kat M.*

    I have never had this happen. The only shirts I own that show straps are mucking around the house tank tops. If you try on a work shirt and it’s exposing your underwear, just don’t buy it. And try to avoid shopping at places that are pushing the current exposed bralette trend. It can be really cute, but you know perfectly well they’re not going to cut their clothes appropriately for the workplace.

    1. Here we go again*

      This is easier said than done, though…. You could wear a shirt and look fine, but not realize how it moves throughout the day and unintentionally start showing your strap.

      I don’t think it’s professional, but I think if it happens, it isn’t a huge deal and you should just adjust your clothes accordingly.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I agree that it’s easy to misjudge how clothes will look/function in the real world based on how they look/fit in a dressing room.

        Someone Who Accidentally Wore A Sheer Black Top To Work Because I Swear It Was Opaque In The Store But That Changed Under My Employers Extra Bright Fluorescent Lights (No one even said anything. I went into the bathroom halfway through the day and was washing my hands, then glanced in the mirror and “Oh god damn it…”)

        1. M-C*

          Ouch. Yes, there’s a good side to stores with the same hideous fluorescents as your office. I used to make a point of buying fabric for work clothes in this awful store simply because at least I had an idea of what it’d look like most of the time. Even if I wanted to throw up when I looked at it outside..

    2. Hrovitnir*

      Assuming that because it’s never taken any effort for you to to avoid showing straps that other people are buying inappropriate clothing, despite long threads of other women struggling with it, is pretty rude IMO.

  22. Bra Police*

    I’d rather see bra straps than breasts! I have a coworker who refuses to wear a bra. Think low-cut spaghetti strap camisoles with no cardigan or jacket. It’s very unprofessional in my opinion.

    1. Delphine*

      This seems like a problem with the cut of her tops, not the fact that she doesn’t wear a bra (the issue wouldn’t be solved by her putting on a bra under the camisole, for example). I don’t typically wear a bra, but that doesn’t mean my cleavage is hanging out of my clothing either.

      1. Kathlynn*

        In other situations it’s also the size a person wears. My mother won’t wear a bra, but wears her stretchy clothing (leggings/camisoles) a size or two too small, and it doesn’t look good. In the case of her shirts, it would much better if she was wearing a bra, because then the bra would be out lined. Not her breasts. Thankfully she usually puts another shirt on before we leave the house.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        Somewhat disagree. If the top is already low-cut and minimal coverage, adding a bra would at least be another layer, and this would help to minimize the occasional accidental nip-slips (which I think is the point Bra Police is making by mentioning the coworker doesn’t wear a cardigan or jacket—if the coworker was covering her chest according to typical office standards, taking issue with her lack of bra would be petty).

        It’s like if a guy doesn’t wear underwear, that’s one thing, but if he doesn’t wear underwear and he’s also wearing sweatpants or basketball shorts, that’s kind of a next-level sort of Not Okay (YES, EVEN ON CASUAL FRIDAY, VINCE). I’m pretty open, sexually, but I still don’t want to see anyone’s floppy bits flopping at work.

    2. drpuma*

      Sounds like you work with Sue Ellen Mishke, the Braless Wonder!
      Sometimes Seinfeld is real life.

  23. Lily in NYC*

    I have seen lots of women wearing sheer blouses with a dark colored bra underneath lately. To work. I guess NYC is a bit more out there regarding clothing norms because there are so many creative places to work that don’t care. I have no idea if it would be a problem at my government office. We don’t care about candy colored hair or big tattoos so maybe it would be ok. But I do think people would give the person the side-eye.

    I also can’t stand seeing women in those ugly “cold shoulder” blouses with bra straps showing. Get a strapless bra!

  24. Nurse Ratched*

    I wear sports bras at work because we’re so active, and the v-neck on scrub tops never conceals the straps entirely. It get too warm to wear a shirt underneath, so I just match the bra color with the top color.

    1. N.J.*

      I’ve done this with a few dresses with the bra strap and too deep of a v-neck combo issue. It works pretty well.

  25. cricket*

    No, I’m sorry, you cannot have visible bra straps at work. If you want to do it on your own time, I’m not going to fashion-police that but it is very much Not Okay in any kind of work environment.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      If you read any of the above comments, I think you’d see many examples of offices where it is okay, which is something Alison mentioned in her post. Different companies have different standards, so turning “this isn’t typically done” into “this isn’t acceptable anywhere ever” is a bit hyperbolic.

  26. Elizabeth West*

    I have a question that might go along with this–what about panty lines? Does that count as visible underwear? I ask because a boss at an old job once asked my coworker what kind of underpants she had on. >_<

    I mean, you can't actually SEE them!

    1. Shadow*

      If they occasionally show because you twisted or bent a certain way that’s fine but if they’re really really obvious there are fit issues

    2. fposte*

      No, panty lines don’t count. And presumably your co-worker’s panty lines weren’t that bad or else your boss wouldn’t have had to ask :-).

    3. Delphine*

      Honestly, it’s hard to prevent those lines sometimes. If I’m wearing underwear and slacks on top and there’s a faint line, I don’t give it a second thought.

    4. MidwestRoads*

      The Gillian & O’Malley seamless bikini underwear are my BFFs — I have at least 8 pairs. They’ve eliminated VPLs for me, and it is glorious.

    5. nnn*

      Executive decision: panty lines do not count as visible underwear or any kind of dress code offence. We are never going to achieve anything in life if people have to worry about any hint that their clothing might be covering undergarments.

      If individuals care about such things personally and want to adjust their wardrobe accordingly, that’s their prerogative. But there will be no enforced rules about such things!

      1. Anxa*

        I’ll rock it. I’m going to try to look for more skimming underwear, but I absolutely cannot wear anything but cotton or SOME nylon blends for underwear. And there are so many other issues to consider for fit, that if the seam is thick enough to show under my pants that’s just not going to be something I waste my energy on solving anymore.

        I’ve heard some people say that that’s what thongs are for, but I think it’s really out of line to suggest someone need to wear thongs to be professional. I refuse.

        1. Arjay*

          And then you can still see people’s thong lines sometimes, or a noticeable naked-looking jiggle in their uncovered butt cheek. You just can’t win sometimes.

    6. Allison*

      They’re not ideal, but I wouldn’t count lines against someone.

      Back in the day, apparel was lined with fabric, so you wouldn’t see all the little bumps and lines their underwear created. Now, seems like only expensive clothing is lined so things like bra lines and VPL don’t show.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Oh my god you’re totally right. I remember when I was 17 and looking for interview pants, and my mother pointed out someone wearing pants so tight her panty lines and cellulite were showing through the fabric as an example of “not especially professional.” I see that a lot more often now, and I don’t think it’s because no one cares about professionalism anymore.

    7. Statler von Waldorf*

      I agree that panty lines are not visible underwear.

      Visible underwear would be like that time my male co-worker was wearing pants so tight and see-through that I was actually able to make out the yellow smiley face pattern on his underwear. He got sent home to change, after his boss commented that his pants were almost tight enough for her to tell what religion he was. I think we can all agree that that is not appropriate office attire.

    8. R2D2*

      I highly recommend Soma’s Vanishing Edge Panties! I love wearing flowy blouses with skinny pants to work, and now my panty lines are invisible.

  27. Kobayashi*

    I work around that buy buying one of those psuedo cami style almost sports bra type of “comfort” one piece bras in black and in nude. They are stretchy, look a lot like a half-cami, have very wide straps, and if anything shows, no one will think of it as a bra, just as a layered top. They aren’t super supportive, though (and I do have a generous chest), but I find they work okay for certain outfits. Or they can even be layered over top another bra.

  28. KTM*

    It’s funny I was just debating this in my head this morning. I’m wearing a sleeveless professional looking top but it’s cream colored so I wanted to wear a tank top under neath so no funny see-through stuff happens in different lighting. I’m wearing a strapless bra because I don’t like the look of my bra straps hanging out, but the straps from my tank top are slightly visible. Now I’m wondering does anyone even notice which strap is which to be properly offended or not??

    In my personal opinion, I think underwear peeking out at work is significantly more of an issue than nude bra straps peeking out of a professional sleeveless top. (I do not extend this opinion to bright red bra straps that are fully visible when wearing a racerback top for example though).

  29. Elizabeth H.*

    My bra is showing right now (neckline is too wide) but I work at an art school and people dress pretty unusually at times. I also have a dress I wear that shows the sides of the bra because the armholes are cut so deep. If I worked in a more conservative office (I used to, at the same place I work) I would probably not wear either article of clothing without a sweater.

    1. shep*

      Same here–I have a really cute dress that ticks all the workplace boxes: a modest length, mock turtleneck “neckline,” nicely pleated. Except for the gaping armholes. My workplace probably wouldn’t take issue with it–as in, no one would likely *say* anything to me–but it would be VERY noticed. So I always wear a cardigan with it.

  30. Portia*

    Oh man, this question is timely. I teach at a very conservative private high school, and generally wear cardigans over tops and dresses just to make sure all my bases are covered (figuratively speaking). On Monday, the first day of school, our AC hadn’t quite kicked in, so I had to lose the cardigan. I was wearing a newish dress, and apparently I’d never worn it with that particular bra, which is cut differently. So anytime the neckline slipped, it exposed part of the cup and the bra strap. This bra happens to be purple, flowery, and sparkly. Not a good look for a teacher at a Catholic school – especially on the first day! I was tugging that damn thing up all day.

  31. Canton*

    I carry safety pins in my purse and if I notice that I’m having a wardrobe malfunction, I’ll use them to pin whatever it is (in this case, the strap) into place. Problem solved.

  32. RB*

    I wear those stretchy camisoles because I hate bras, but also because the armholes are cut too low on some of my outfits. So, yes, the camisole is going to show in those instances but that’s better than having the gaping armhole open and showing a bra or bare skin.
    I also don’t worry about straps showing if it’s a hot day and I’m wearing a sleeveless top and a bit of the camisole strap is showing. People know that I usually have a sweater or blazer on so this is only during the hottest part of the day. I just put the blazer or cardigan back on if I have a meeting.

  33. Gee Gee*

    Racerbacks do not fall down as easily as regular cut do (for most people). They do require a higher neckline, but if you’re going “professionally sleeveless” then a higher neckline is probably a better choice anyway.

  34. Anon Accountant*

    Or a shirt that you can see through without a shirt underneath. And I mean see the entire bra through without a shirt underneath. My mom saw pitched a tantrum when I’d pointed out I’d have to wear shirts under certain shirts if bought and another shirt was a gift. You could see right through the lightweight material. I donated it rather than keep hearing her argue with me.

    #WeHaveIssues and #TherapyIsGreatHelp

    1. Malibu Stacey*

      Right. And white bras under white/light blouses stand out – invest in a flesh-colored bra!

      1. Gadfly*

        Which is another problem for a LOT of people–the whole flesh tones aren’t easily available for many tones of flesh problem…

      2. Pathfinder Ryder*

        The Venn diagram of my flesh color, my bra size, and a reasonable price has a very small center.

    2. Elizabeth H.*

      I had a boss (at the more conservative office at the organization I worked at) who wore sheer shirts like that. She was a respected professional, well established in her career, but also known for dressing in a sometimes daring way. I really admired it. After that position, she had a gov’t advisory job for a while (this was a long time ago, different gov’t) so it’s not like it held her back professionally. Just throwing counter example out there.

  35. Allison*

    I have opinions on dress codes, but I do think we should aim to conceal our bra straps. To me, visible bra straps is sloppy, and often indicates a lack of effort – you’re not wearing the right bra for your top, or you didn’t make the effort to adjust it properly, or you’re wearing a top that just isn’t appropriate. I’d also say that if a strap is just peeking out, no judgment, but it’s important to match your bra to either your skin tone or the color of your top as best you can, so it’s discrete if it does poke out.

    But I am curious, how do people feel about bra lines? I don’t mean a dark bra that shows through a light top, but sometimes the line over the top of the cup is visible through my top. I think it’s usually more of a design flaw than a fit issue, and I know it looks bad, but am I overthinking it, or do I need to do more to mitigate this issue.

    1. Squeeble*

      I think those lines are fine. It’s one thing if it creates a bulge, like when people wear a push-up with a high-necked top over it. But if it’s just a matter of design and the fabric/cut of your shirt over it, I wouldn’t worry.

    2. nnn*

      As I said in the panty lines discussion upthread: we are never going to achieve anything in life if people have to worry about hiding every shred of evidence that their clothing might be covering undergarments.

      If individuals want to worry about such things due to their personal neuroses that’s fine, but society as a hole is not well-served making that a broadly applicable standard.

    3. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      Lack of effort? Why are women supposed to put so much effort into how they look? Or people in general? (It tends to be particularly women though.) Why would it matter to anyone except to me and my partner how I look? Why should I put time and energy to something that is so meaningless?

      1. Shadow*

        Same reason you shouldn’t go to work looking like you just rolled out of bed or like your clothes were wadded up on the floor.

        And it’s not just women, I’ve seen men catch hell for wearing button up short sleeved shirts, colored tennis shoes in place of business shoes, polos instead of business shirts. Women wear more types of apparel so there inevitably will be more guidelines for those additional pieces.

  36. KT*

    Being a pumping mom at work led to a whole host of issues. I only found a few options for nursing bras, period, and of those I found far and away the most comfortable were the sports bra type. The underwire were a special type of torture, and the soft cup had no support and my boobs literally would slide out the bottom of them, so the fabric was all bunched up on top of my boobs.

    The sports bra type were a high-backed racer-back, so the straps showed at my neck a lot. There was honestly not too much I could do about it, so I just went with it. I did strike some of the more egregious tops from my rotation, but realistically could only do so much. Many tops were not terribly conducive to pumping, so I was already on a limited rotation.

    1. Bra Police*

      I understand completely. I also pump at work and have two bras I rotate through, both bought at a specialty bra store. They have underwire so are definitely less comfortable than a sports bra, and the ones for my size aren’t any more comfortable and create the notorious uniboob. When you’re a large-chested mama, the options are quite limited if you want to be comfortable and appropriate for work.

    2. R2D2*

      I also pumped at work and had a difficult time figuring out how to dress professionally! I never did find a nursing bra which was both comfortable and flattering. :(

  37. Risha*

    Honestly, while I get the “no visible underwear” rule conceptually, bra straps fall outside of that in my mind. I’m almost always wearing a cami with a cardigan on top to work. Straps are going to peek out sometimes. I never actually aim to have them visible, but if it happens – and it does, fairly frequently, and yes my bras fit completely correctly, this is just how women’s fashion has evolved – than in general modern society has largely declared it NBD.

    I’m not going to drive myself crazy or get my straps tailored or wear uncomfortable racerbacks (which tend to show straps more on my body anyway, as they bring them over towards the neck opening) or tape or clippy things in order to conceal them, when I literally see them on otherwise conservatively dressed women every day. If on some far off day a boss ever does brings it up, which has never, ever happened (and I’ve worked at a place conservative enough that I had to conceal my tattoo and the men couldn’t wear beards), then I’ll consider it.

    1. Digital Communications Manager*

      I’m with you on this. No matter how I try to keep the bra straps covered, they always end up slipping and peeking out of a collar, scoop neck or sleeveless top. It just HAPPENS, and especially as my bra straps tend to be wide for the coverage.

      I do try to match the bra color to top color though to make less noticeable.

    2. Shadow*

      No part of a bra is intended to be business attire. If they always show you’re doing something wrong.

      1. Gadfly*

        Or you are one of the MANY woman with bodies that don’t match the fit models well enough and can’t afford to have everything custom made or tailored. I have had times where finding ANYTHING to fit at all was a huge deal. Fitting okay is still a victory.

        Not everyone has the option of just trying on enough stuff and they’ll find something that fits ‘right’ and works for a situation. For quite a few of us, simply having bodies is what we are doing “wrong”. And it is judgements like yours that actually cost us promotions and job opportunities and raises. All because we are at fault for clothes that do exist not fitting instead of finding clothing THAT DOES NOT EXIST.

        1. Oma Morris*

          Gadfly, exactly right! And Shadow, you need to take your privilege and stick it where the sun don’t shine. No one is perfect and we don’t have Anna Wintour to prep us as we walk down the catwalk.

        2. Shadow*

          No ones asking you to look like a model. We’re just talking about hiding your underwear when ur at work.

          1. ceiswyn*

            What part of ‘that is much, MUCH harder if you are not the same size and proportions that the clothes were designed for’ are you failing to understand here?

      2. Risha*

        While I do agree with Gadfly below, I’m going to say, in all honesty, I don’t care that you think that. Or Alison, for that matter. She’s usually right, but not always. I don’t agree, and nothing anyone’s said on this page has convinced me otherwise, and it hasn’t affected my career in the least. I also don’t agree that cold-shoulder blouses (which I loathe so you’ll never find me wearing one, personally) are inappropriate for work, at least in a business casual environment, and no one in the two or three times we’ve talked about has convinced me otherwise on that one either. *shrug* C’est la vie.

  38. Data analyst*

    I gave up on Stitch Fix in part because they kept sending me tops that I would have loved except for design details seemingly added expressly to reveal my bra. Like, literally an awesome looking top except for a lace panel across the shoulders to make sure my bra straps are visible. WHY??? What is wrong with clothing designers? Why would they do that????

    And shame on Stitch Fix for sending those to me despite my styling notes prominently stating that “covers my bra” is a non-negotiable requirement for me for tops.

  39. Lesser Tiffany*

    I actually gave up on this. It seems like all bras show all the damned time on me so I just shoot for the best possible ratio

  40. Children's Librarian Also*

    So, I don’t deliberately show my bra, but if a strap slips, it slips. If a top turns out to be more sheer at work than at home, oops! I put on a sweater as soon as I notice. Ideal? No. Best I can? Sure.

    This is an area we can all stand to extend a little grace to each other on.

  41. curmudgeon.*

    lol ! Just this morning I was wondering why it was okay for thin girl to wear a dress that looked like she was wearing a long dress shirt with nothing else but it was unprofessional for fat me to wear shorts that go to my knees with an acceptable length shirt!

    and no bra straps please. It is unprofessional and a silly look even outside of the office.

  42. NoHose*

    Bra strap? Black or beige? A constant problem for me and I really don’t care for anyone else.

    What I find more jarring is the wearing of bright pink bras under materials where it can be easily seen, like lace, or a borderline see-thru neon yellow shirt.

  43. EBStarr*

    I have a super laid back workplace where bra straps are probably NBD, though I don’t show my own on purpose (in fact I’m currently wearing a stupidly uncomfortable strapless bra because my cute day-to-night outfit has cutouts on the shoulders!). The dress code is basically “don’t be naked” and I like that, it keeps the emphasis on work.

    I think the only thing that I’ve ever heard anyone at my office raising a proverbial eyebrow over was when a dude showed up to work with his nipple ring, and the associated nipple, peeking right out of the giant armholes of his sleeveless top. That was a memorable day!

    1. ceiswyn*

      Yeah, at my workplaces I wear strappy dresses a lot in summer; no hiding my bra straps under those!

      So far, I’ve got a lot of compliments on the dresses :)

  44. Miss Elaine E.*

    This thread reminded me of a funeral that I went to last summer. It was a hot day so most people were in short sleeves or sleaveless. Unfortunately, one of the middle-aged daughters, who had a prominent role in the proceedings, had exposed bra straps through the entire thing. Of course, I never said anything, but I felt bad for her because it really looked off.

  45. Gadfly*

    For everyone saying it is a fit issue (bra or tops) and to just get items that fit right, please understand that you are in a special magical world many of us do not have access to. For whatever reason, you do. And maybe you even have to struggle a bit for it. But for some of us, we’d consider giving a kidney to have the option of fit. Sort-of fitting/ill-fitting clothing is our choice over going naked. Yeah, it doesn’t fit ‘right’. And nothing is on the market that does. Diagnosing it as fit might name the problem, but it fixes absolutely nothing.

  46. Dana*

    I always dealt with this problem by just wearing a strapless bra with sleeveless or boat-necked shirts. There are strapless bras with a strip of silicon in the band that sticks slightly to skin, and they stay *firmly* in the exact place I put them all day long.

    Seeing as this is apparently an uncommon solution, I’m guessing strapless bras don’t work well for most people. I guess I should be grateful for my small chest. :-/

    1. many bells down*

      I’ve gone from a 34B to a 36D over my life and I’ve never been able to get one to stay up. Even with the silicone strip. I have one longline bra that works, but it’s black and kind of a lot to wear on a warm day. I tend to save it for evening formalwear.

  47. JanetInSC*

    While I was teaching, and being observed by a district employee, my bra strap fell down. I discretely pulled it back up, and, just my luck, it fell down again. Thankfully I had a matching cardigan at my desk…I’m proud that I was able to discuss algebra solutions while putting on my cardigan…even though it was hot. Ugh.

  48. Hrovitnir*

    The discussions clothing-related letter generate are always fascinating, but also make me concerned about ever having to work in an office. *sigh*

    I’ll conform to whatever dress code I have to, but I kind of hate thinking about clothes at all, let alone all the freaking rules* you have to figure out. That people act like are common knowledge or worse, common sense, despite a bunch of it just being cultural idiosyncrasies. Bringing up examples of people wearing ridiculous outfits doesn’t change the fact that there are a million ways you can go wrong, and it can be damn expensive to “just” get something that fits right.

    *Particularly pertaining to women’s clothes – there is more flexibility and freedom and I feel for men having less, but that lack of variation makes finding a neutral outfit of appropriate formality simpler. Women are perceived as sloppier in nice jeans and non-fitted t-shirts than men, and while upping the formality with a dress is easy if you’re into that, wearing dresses generally makes me very very uncomfortable. Suits are expensive, and while I’m lucky to have a bodyshape that doesn’t look totally ridiculous in a men’s suit, I at the least need the legs brought up.

  49. NFTG*

    I wouldn’t have guessed that bra straps would be the topic that finally encouraged me to comment here, but hey, you never know.

    A little caveat – I live in Europe, more specifically Scandinavia, where breastfeeding in public is normal (in Norway you are legally allowed to 1 hour paid time off from work each day to nurse, until the child is 1 years old, and non-covered breastfeeding in public, in cafes etc. is the norm) nipples are not considered something extraordinary when showing through clothes, and middle-aged women will routinely mow the lawn dressed in a bra, shorts and wellies.

    I agree wholeheartedly that non-showing underwear is an excellent rule-of-thumb, but have throughout the years reached a “no more fucks to give” state of mind about peeking bra straps, visible panty lines, peeking sock liners, sliding underskirts, slightly gaping arm holes with visible bra, gaping neck ties, down-fallen (what is the word for that?) socks with visible leg beneath the trousers, visible panty hose waist lines, vests or camisoles that show through a fine shirt or blouse or nipples (under clothes). No More Fucks To Give.

    I think it’s perfectly possible to dress well, and professionally, and have any of these “calamities” happen on a regular basis. I dress professionally (but not to a prim standard), but I still get peeking bra straps and gaping arm holes. This is due to me having a slim (US size 2) hour glass figure with 26HH (US size 26L) breasts, and dressing for flattering and professional silhouette fits, rather than all-over coverage (also known as looking pregnant, when you have teh boobies).

    From my experience it is not possible to buy off-the-rack clothing for a US size 2 with K-cup breasts, without those breast saying hello in some fashion. You need to choose your battles. Peeking bra straps is an excellent, low-key, non-offensive, non-threatening and modest alternative to “wha-ha-hey! welcome to my breast buffet!” If I wear a boat neck top, my bra straps will show – at some point. So will my clavicles, and the skin around the clavicles will distract from the K-cups. If I wear a crew neck top or a button down shirt, my bra straps will stay hidden, but my breast will be THE MOST MASSIVE ENORMOUS FOCAL POINT on my silhouette. Hidden and modest, but massively in-your-face. I prefer the bra straps getting the attention. I prefer the arm holes getting the attention. Hell, I prefer my panty line getting the attention.

    Anyhow. My point is that your body, and the way the society around you perceives that body, is more important that a simple bra strap itself. It’s a good thing to dress in a way that people are not distracted – but some people are way too easily distracted, and sometimes there are just no more fucks left.

    And for kicks: here is a link to a little video of the Norwegian Prime Minister answering questions about why she sometimes stashes her mobile phone in her bra. Yes, in public.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      This is such a reasonable, sensible comment. And may I just say that the term “breast buffet” is my new favorite?

    2. M-C*

      Thank you so much for that video :-)! She’s so right, desperate times call for desperate measures :-). I’d like to point out though that it needs a fairly substantial breast buffet to be able to absorb those huge modern phones..

      And yes, very reasonable comments all around. The point of professional dress is to downplay the breast buffet, and if that takes visible straps, then that’s the method for you.

  50. OP*

    Hi, I’m OP. Didn’t realize bra straps were such a heated issue!

    A bit of clarification with my question, and I’m sorry I didn’t put it in earlier.

    I’m a weird 36A/34B depending on the day. I normally wear sleeveless blouses because I have broad shoulders and muscular arms and I like showing them off since my work allows it. These shirts are marketed as work wear, so no spaghetti straps, just kind of a higher arm cut that slopes in. I wear those Jockey “sports bras” that are really more like half-camis because they’re comfortable, I’m small, and they’re $15 a pack or so. It’s not like I’m aiming to go “look at my bra strap!”, it’s the cut of the shirt shows the strap, and I do my best to blend it in (white if it’s white, black if it’s black, my skin color if it’s none of the above).

    Not sure if that helps clarify the situation any.

    1. Olive Hornby*

      In that case, I would invest in a strapless bra or one with convertible straps! I wear a similar size (32B) and have had really good luck with the ones from Aerie–they’re comfortable to wear all day and are only $25 or so on sale (and they go on sale all the time.)

    2. 36A*

      OP, we have the same bra size! Solidarity! I second Olive’s suggestion to try a strapless or racerback bra. You may even be able to get away with pasties, depending on the fabric of your shirt and/or the support it provides.

    3. M-C*

      Your best bet then would seem to be a well-placed safety pin, or a ribbon strap-holder, so that your straps stay in place.

  51. Sarah*

    “ve always been under the impression showing a plain white, black, or tan bra strap, depending on the outfit, wouldn’t raise an eyebrow (so long as there aren’t any bows or anything), but I’m curious to know your opinion on this.”

    I may be more conservative, but I’ve never felt they were acceptable in any situation.

  52. Recruiter_M*

    My own HR director wears a spaghetti- strap blouse with a contrasting color bra (or camisole?) strap showing. Hi-tech company.
    Makes me very happy since it means my own fashion choices had been expanded.

  53. lol*

    I’d like to see all of the men commenting on this thread grow H-cup boobs and then work in an office environment with wildly fluctuating temperatures and then get back to me on never having some type of visible bra situation. Sorry didn’t realize it was 1950 and everyone was so easily scandalized by knowing that women wear underwear (gasp)

  54. Sue Jones*

    This is getting a bit silly, I read another article the other day about women at work not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts as it shows a bit too much ARM skin.
    Now we’re not allowed to wear Bra Straps just in case It offends anyone that can see the straps. OMG! Might as well not bother going to work anymore.

  55. C Megson*

    It is obviously going to vary from company to company.

    I think work outfits serve two purposes in the main, assuming something like an office job, sales etc.

    1 – To look tidy (professional).
    2 – To be dressed in a manner that doesnt cause anyone to feel uncomfortable.

    For men its quite consistent, typically it means shirt and trousers, and usually a tie as well. For women it seems there is a lot more variance in what might be considered acceptable.

    Now me personally I dont think there is an issue with exposed arms, so sleeveless ok. Bra straps that are constantly showing if it were me making the dress code I would forbid it. There would maybe be exceptions, but it wouldnt be allowed on a normal day to day basis.

    For women complaining about been sweaty on hot days etc. men if they are lucky get told they can undo the top button on their shirt, I would say it gets much worse for men in hot weather.

    Slipping bra straps ( a common problem) and sleeveless clothing is a consideration as well, a bra strap that only shows for a couple of seconds when it falls down and then is covered up is fine, but if it happens too frequently it could possibly also fall under a no visible bra strap rule, ironically my sister wears sleeveless very often because of the fact her bra straps like to fall down and the lack of sleeves make it much easier to keep her bra straps up or fix them quickly if they still fall down. I usually only see one of her bra straps fall when she is leaning down to pick something up. However one of my the ladies I work with at work also wears sleeveless and her bra straps are always falling down seemingly randomly, she never ignores it so fixes it right away like my sister does, but she does sometimes need more than one attempt as well to fix and I personally think she should be wearing sleeves as its distracting.

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