my office is full of whispers, asking for a promotion without a raise, and more

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

1. My office is full of whispers

I work on a smallish team in a large company. We work in an open plan office, so we are encouraged not to be too loud. However, my manager takes it a step farther. Most of her conversations with my coworkers are whispered, the way you would if you were telling someone a thing you don’t want overheard. It is audible enough that you can tell it is whispering – think stage whispering – but not enough that you can hear clear details.

Sometimes I’m on the other end of those conversations (but not as often as other coworkers) and they often involve criticisms of other departments/projects and general bad news. So when I hear whispering, it is not a stretch to imagine it is more bad news. From there it’s not a stretch to worry that the bad news involves me. Our office has a certain amount of uncertainty about how long the flow of projects will last, is staffed largely by temps, and has a lot of turnover. I try to do my job well but am by no means a star employee, and I usually have no idea on any given day whether I will have a job the next week.

As a result, every time the whispering starts (several times a day) I get incredibly anxious, particularly if I hear anything that sounds like it could be my name. But I don’t know what to do. I can’t not think about it when I can hear it in real time. I certainly can’t tell my superior how to talk. The office isn’t headphones-friendly and is designed in a way where sound carries. I’m medicated for anxiety but this is more situational. Is there anything else I can do?

Ooooh, I would hate that too. There’s something about whispering that catches your ear and is far harder to tune out than normal conversations — and that’s before you even get to the “why are they being so secretive?” part.

I’m sure your boss thinks she’s being considerate. It’s an open office, and she probably figures this is minimizing the distraction to others, not realizing that whispering can be the distraction equivalent of strolling through the office nude.

I do think this is something you could potentially speak up about. Ideally you’d find out first if anyone else is bothered by it, because if there are, several of you can raise it (maybe at a team meeting) by saying something like, “I think it’s great that we try to be considerate of noise level since we’re working in an open space, but — kind of counterintuitively — sometimes whispering is actually more distracting! Could try low voices instead and see if that works better?”

But also, there are things you can do on your own to talk yourself down when the whispering makes you anxious. Remind yourself that you hear whispering several times a day, which means that it’s just the way people there talk, not that they’re doing it so you won’t hear them talking about you.

I do get that when you’re in an environment where you never know if you’ll have a job next week, this is going to be even more anxiety-producing. But really, the problem is that you’re in an environment where you never know if you’ll have a job next week, far more than it is the whispering. The best thing you can do in that situation is to be actively job hunting, so that you don’t feel like you’re just waiting for the ax to fall, and instead are actively taking steps to change the situation for the better and won’t be starting from scratch if the ax does fall. (In fact, you might be better off if you just assume the ax will fall and proceed accordingly.)

2. Asking for a promotion without a raise

This year was the best year of my professional life. I exceed my performance goals and delivered a work product that benefited my team, drove revenue for the company, and frankly exceed what anyone has accomplished in my role prior. In short, I killed it this year. My annual performance review (which will impact any raise or bonus) is in a few weeks and I was totally prepared to make my case for a promotion. I really think I deserve it. However, today my boss called me into her office to let me know that due to poor performance, our company is freezing raises at my pay grade level and higher. When she delivered this news, she told me that she was really upset for me especially because I had such a good year. I’m upset.

I know it is typically not advisable to accept a promotion without a raise, but are there ever any circumstances where it would be wise to ask for a promotion knowing that it will not accompany a raise? I’m not sure I can duplicate this year’s performance and want to strike while the iron is hot, but I want to be realistic and aware given the company’s circumstances. We’re a Fortune 500 company that had a bad year, I don’t think we will close or anything like that.

People like to say you should never do it, but there are some cases where it can make sense, like if you know the promotion will be a key lever in helping you get another you job you want (in the reasonably near future, like in the next one to two years) or if you can negotiate with your company now that your salary will (not might, but will) increase to X on a specific future date, or even if you’d just vastly prefer the work you’d be doing in the new position. (That last one is a little tricky because you don’t want to set a precedent that they can underpay you for things you enjoy, but job satisfaction isn’t just based on money either.)

In your case, I’d look at how much increased responsibility and stress you’d be taking on, the likelihood of them adjusting your salary appropriately in the future (and when, and what it will take to make that happen), how underpaid you’d be in the new position (a little underpaid is different from a lot underpaid), your specific reasons for wanting the promotion, and how long you’re likely to stay at this company (if you’re leaving in two years and this will help you get the job you want when you do, that’s different than if you’re staying for a long time and this will hurt your earnings that whole time).

3. My company has flexible schedules but my boss won’t allow it

My company recently started a policy of allowing salaried employees to work four 10-hour days rather than the typical five eight-hour days, since it’s the same 40 hours. A lot of people shifted enthusiastically to this (three-day weekends every week!), in particular those in HR. However, one unfortunate soul in my department asked our manager about switching to the new four-day schedule and his (very irritated) response was along the lines of, “You should be working five 10s!” (He wouldn’t want anyone in our department doing the new schedule.) Now my coworker is concerned about negative consequences for even asking. Obviously this is unfair but is there any recourse? Seems like policies should be uniform across an organization.

Your boss is a jerk, but it can be legitimate for some departments not to get the same scheduling perks that other departments get. Some departments have a legit need for more traditional hours (because of client expectations, or workflow needs, or so forth). I don’t know if that’s the case here, but it’s not inherently unreasonable for your team to have different rules than others do.

That said, it’s also possible that your organization does intend for this to be implemented company-wide and wouldn’t be pleased to find out your boss was prohibiting it. One way to find out is to discreetly check with HR about whether this is something you (or they) can push back on, or whether it’s up to a manager’s discretion.

4. I’m not allowed to drink water on breaks

I work on an assembly line at a food manufacturing plant, where we’re not allowed to have any liquids or outside food for sanitary reasons, but we can keep and drink our water in the adjacent room. Only problem is the machine doesn’t stop unless it runs out of film, which is every 2-1/2 hours. But my boss frowns upon people getting a drink of water during that 2-3 minute break and it’s affecting my health. I’m getting back problems from dehydration, and it’s nigh impossible to have my blood tested since I’m dehydrated.

My physical therapist said it’s illegal to stop people from drinking water at work, but I looked that up and I couldn’t find any law saying that. My company has no HR department since it’s a small business (30 employees). Is it illegal? I live in New York state. And what can I do about it so I don’t pass out from dehydration at work? I don’t know how to bring that up with my boss.

Federal law requires that employers provide safe drinking water at work — but not that you have access to it at specific times or all the time. Employers are allowed to say, for example, that you can’t have water in particular rooms or around particular equipment. However, you can let your boss know that you have a medical condition that requires you to be able to hydrate on breaks. Say that you can bring in a note from a doctor if needed, but that meanwhile you’ll need to get water during breaks. Your boss probably won’t insist on a note (but if she does, you can almost certainly get one) and by putting this in a medical framework you’re likely to get what you need.

Also, make sure your employer is following New York’s break laws, which are here. (Anyone who wants this info for their own state: just google the state name plus “break laws.”)

5. Dressing modestly for job interviews

I am returning to a professional office environment after some years working in places with casual dress codes. For religious reasons, I dress modestly. I’m not sure what would be appropriate in a proper office. The top half won’t be a problem — I can wear a buttoned up shirt with long sleeves and a long line, non-fitted jacket. But I usually wear long cotton or jersey maxi skirts, which aren’t very businessy. What would you suggest?

I’m assuming pants are out (but if they’re not, problem solved). I googled “modest dressing for work” and my results were a bunch of knee-high dresses with long sleeves and high necklines, which I assume don’t give you the leg coverage you want. So I’m stumped but I bet some readers won’t be, so let’s see if commenters can suggest anything that will work.

{ 528 comments… read them below }

  1. Grack*

    Letter 5: I would check out midi length shirt dresses, assuming that you don’t need a maxi length dress. I see that Asos has some. They are often shown worn unbuttoned part way at the top, or to create a slit at the bottom, but it wouldn’t look “off” to see them fully buttoned. I think they look sufficiently professional, if you stay away from loud prints.

    In general searching for midi length dresses or skirts will probably be the most helpful. If you need a skirt that falls below the ankles, I’m not sure what to suggest.

    1. sacados*

      Yeah, I think the biggest question here is how long OP needs the skirts to be.
      If midi/calf-length with tights or stockings underneath is acceptable, I think that is much easier to portray as business/business casual dress.
      If it needs to be ankle-length though…. then like AMA I am kind of stumped.

        1. MeMeMe*

          Stevie Nicks agrees. :)

          And the summer became the fall
          I was not ready for the winter
          It makes no difference at all
          ‘Cause I wear boots all summer long…

      1. Catleesi*

        There is a style of skirt I’ve seen that’s ankle/tea length usually made of a plaid wool or tweed fabric. I think with a pair of ankle boots and a nice blouse/blazer something like that would be very appropriate for an interview.

        1. Zev*

          When shopping in person, flip the knee/midi length skirts inside out and see how much hem allowance they have. With some skirts you can let out the hem and gain a good 1 to 2 inches in length. If you don’t sew, you can redo the hem to 1/2 inch or so using iron-on hem tape so you still get a clean-looking hem at the bottom

          Similarly, you can get satin blanket binding tape (in a complementary — or contrasting! — color) or wide ribbon to add to the bottom of a skirt to also add another few inches of length.

          These tweaks can be helpful when you find a skirt that *could* be perfect if only it were just a smidge longer.

          (Note: I’d advise against letting out the hem of skirts you already own, because the fold of the hem gets more wear and that will show up as a faded line in across the fabric when you unfold it.)

        2. Busy*

          I agree. Wool and tweed is the way to go. And I would stay away from more flouncy ones and go with a more tailored look. You can actually find a lot of retailers selling ones like this near larger Jewish Orthodox communities if any are near by. You can also find them online.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            This is what I was thinking as well. I know there are probably a lot more options in areas with larger Orthodox Jewish and muslim communities. I did do a search for “Orthodox women workwear” and found a couple of sites that may help.

            I would also say don’t completely write off heavier jerseys or knits. I know we all generally think of knits as “not as professional” but a good quality, heavier weight jersey or wool knit can totally work in a professional outfit. You’ll probably have to invest a little money upfront, good fabric isn’t cheap, but the upside is it lasts longer as well.

            This one has a really cute, full length skirt with buttons down the front, as well as some other really nice options:

            This article has some others you could check out as well:

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Oh, ETA: I don’t know if you are specifically Orthodox Jewish or Muslim, but I do know those are religions that can have the kinds of guidelines you’re talking about, hence my use in the search. “Modest” tends to come out too generic, like, just long sleeves, or knee length dresses, but Orthodox gave me the results closer to what you’re describing. I think some creative googling is going to be your best friend on this one.

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                Along with this I wondered about Amish/Mennonite style Plain dress. I think you can find those styles (a friend of mine who is not Mennonite but does Plain dress orders online) in a number of places.

            2. Flash Bristow*

              Yup, the first skirt on the second link (pleated) looks great and I’m sure would be good at interviews.

              Another thing to remember is that usually at interviews you’re on the opposite side of a desk from the employer – so they only see your bottom half briefly, but have plenty of time to notice your upper half. So I’d focus on your top half being professional (and comfortable of course) and the bottom half just being something long which matches appropriately and doesn’t draw attention.

              Personally, I always wear a trouser suit.

              Good luck with the interviews, OP!

        3. Parenthetically*

          Yes! A more structured skirt as opposed to a looser jersey or broomstick-style maxi style — I think the button-front ones particularly can be super stylish with some ankle boots.

        4. AnnaBananna*

          Yep. I have a wonderful wool pencil skirt (thanks Nordi’s!) that flares at the knee which I wear with ankle boots, but someone else could wear a skinny calf boot (thinking Fry boots) for coverage and it would still look great.

      2. Anon Anon Anon*

        Ankle length skirts aren’t OK for business attire? Any kind of ankle length skirt? What about dresses?

        1. Elysian*

          I think the problem would be more related to the types of ankle length skirts that are sold or are easily available – usually they’re made of jersey material and are very casual. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ankle-length skirt suit. If they even exist, that doesn’t guarantee that they’re within the OP’s price range and size range. Most business skirting and dresses I’ve seen are in the vicinity of knee length.

          Perhaps tights can help this problem (even if they don’t solve it outright)? I’m looking forward to see what other folks suggest, because I’m stumped.

          1. Catleesi*

            Also interview vs day to day would be different. I think many maxi skirts would be fine for day to day and not be quite dressy enough for an interview.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            I don’t think they’re very fashionable now, but I had a suit set when I first started my professional career that had a jacket, pants, knee-length skirt, and ankle-length skirt, all in the same fabric. I think I got it at NY & Co. (but, again, I’m old, and that was a long time ago).

            I am seeing a lot of the younger people in my office wearing skirts that are lower-calf length with tights and tall boots – I don’t know if that would work for modest dress. (It cracks me up because it’s what my mom wore in the 80s.)

            1. AnnaBananna*

              I have a couple just-above-the-ankle A-line professional skirts in my closet. I hold onto them because they’re super cute prints and way flattering but you’re right, I haven’t seen an ankle length skirt that wasn’t in summer fabrics in years.

          3. Kelsi*

            There are sizeable Mormon and JW communities where I live, and I’ve seen women from both wearing suit jackets with ankle-length skirts in complementary (though not matching) colors–say, a brown jacket with a khaki-colored skirt (made of suit-type fabric), or a navy jacket with a black skirt.

            LW, do you have a connection with a larger community for modest dressers and/or your specific religion? They may be able to tell you where you can buy long suit-appropriate skirts!

        2. Someone Else*

          I think it’s not that ankle-length itself is inherently not OK. It’s that a lot of ankle-length stuff available is often not in a style that is also business-ey. So it’s a harder find.

        3. Emily K*

          What others have said. I prefer to dress semi-modestly most of the time (though not for religious reasons), so the majority of my skirts and dresses are knee-length and longer. If you looked into my closet, all of the professional/business-looking skirts and dresses fall somewhere between “skimming the knee” and “just below the knee,” while all the mid-calf and ankle-length ones have more of either a “hippie in a field of flowers” or a “black tie/prom night” aesthetic. That’s not something I’ve intentionally tried to do – it’s just a result of those style being so almost universally associated with those lengths, so that’s what’s available.

    2. Nursey Nurse*

      #5, once you start working, I think your options depend on how formal the office dress code is. If it’s a formal office environment, I think an ankle-length skirt could be okay if it’s a solid neutral color and is made of a professional looking fabric (e.g. wool or cotton twill). Fit also matters — you want something structured, not something super loose or flowy. If it’s a business casual office, I think an ankle-length skirt would probably be totally fine, and you could get away with solid colors or prints in more casual fabrics as long as they look polished. Or, if a slightly below-knee skirt or dress with opaque tights or leggings is an option, you could find all kinds of appropriate outfits.

      For an interview, I would advise erring on the side of formal and investing in a suit with a long skirt. I have one from Talbot’s, and although I didn’t buy it for modesty reasons I think it would suit your purposes fine. It has an ankle-length straight (not tight) skirt and a jacket that nips in slightly at the waist but is not tight or form-fitting.

      Also, have you looked at scrub skirts? They are made for nurses whose modesty standards prohibit scrub pants. They are usually a cotton-blend twill and come in several lengths. The nice thing is that they come in several lengths and solid colors and are cut to be roomy enough to work in, so they’re never tight. While they’re marketed mostly to nurses, they also look perfectly fine with a blouse for an office job. Your local scrub shop or internet scrub site should have lots of choices.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The very first one that Google displayed was ankle length, too, so there’s a maxi-length professional option. (I’ll mention it was Uniform Advantage, because search engines don’t return the same results for everyone…a pet peeve of mine.)

          1. Shad*

            My first result on scrubs and beyond was ankle length as well, and in the dark solids that OP has indicated a preference for.

            1. Anne of Green Gables*

              Oh my gosh, this is (work wardrobe) life changing! I am someone who loves pockets, I think there are scrub skirts in my future!!

              1. anita*

                I’m impressed with the blog advertising. There’s now an ad for Uniform Advantage on the right for me featuring scrub skirts – not sure if it’s Chrome intelligence, or if AAM’s plug-ins are that good.

        2. JessaB*

          Whether or not your reason is religious and no matter what religion if any you profess, I would look for stores that cater to Jewish or Muslim women, there are a tonne of nice businessy options available.

          And yes scrub skirts and pockets, sometimes I wonder what designers are thinking when they decide decades of women who have complained about pockets are wrong by fiat. I do not understand that at all.

          1. Jessen*

            Just what I was going to say. Also use the key word “hijabi business” or something similar. I’ve found sites catering to Jewish or Muslim women also have less 1950’s nostalgia than sites catering to modest dressing Christian women. (Not that there’s anything wrong with 50’s styling if that’s your thing, but a lot of the styles simply aren’t professional.)

            1. Mel*

              Yes! I often get super inspired by photos that come up with searches like “Hijabi work style” – instagram is also a good resource for this. Muslim women have modest work style on lock.

          2. Flash Bristow*

            Quite agree about pockets. My school uniform was a kilt. Hideous scratchy material with a pin that ripped it (more turnover for the school uniform shop I guess) and NO POCKETS.

            We weren’t allowed to carry bags. My mother made a velcro sealed pocket and sewed into the inside of the waist. Looked dodgy to use (like some kind of weird fumble) so it didn’t get much use, but better than nothing.

            People, we need pockets. Not all women carry (or want) handbags. And as a disabled person my hands are full with mobility aids. Pockets please!

            1. Rebooting*

              This is why I’m so glad to be in a position to be able to make my own clothes. It’s a combination of factors, but the important one is that I need pockets – I use an insulin pump, and the clip on my model is notoriously shoddy, so I need a pocket to slip it in. I also prefer dresses for comfort reasons, and if I sew them myself, I can put a little slit in the inside of the pocket to slip my pump into from the inside so I can access it without having to pull a shirt up or a waistband down, I can have them in whatever fabric and pattern and design I like, and after 30 years, I finally feel like I’m dressing like myself.

          3. Sadie*

            Also if you are a fairly urban or large area with Jewish or Muslim women, there will almost always be tailors who can custom make you garments for reasonable amounts of money.

            They can make you items you already own and love but in different fabrics or often offer patterns for things like skirts/dresses etc that are religiously modest or appropriate for specific life events as their custom comes from populations not served by mainstream fashion.

            Word of mouth, a local religious organisation or community bulletin board is a good way to find them. They’ll also often hem, alter and adjust clothes you own to your specifications too and this can be a really useful way to make things more modest if your body shape can give certain perceptions in certain garments.

      1. Brightlights*

        A colleague of mine wears modest dress at our business casual office. Her maxi length jersey skirts, worn with a nice blouse and structured sweater (something that has a thick knit and falls like a jacket) look professional and appropriate. What you wear on top can elevate the skirt.

        1. Shad*

          Balancing the top and bottom is a great point. Even an unbuttoned blazer (a possible workaround if the blazer seems too fitted? A lot of off the rack ones can certainly seem pretty form fitting to me) can direct people’s impression and elevate a borderline outfit.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, I feel like a jersey skirt with more structure on top will be perfectly appropriate in 90% of offices today.

          But the rest of the suggestions here are amazing! I just hope the OP doesn’t end up having to need to buy a whole new wardrobe.

        3. Ama*

          Yes, I think the key with jersey fabric items for work is both pairing and to keep an eye out for it looking worn (i.e. pilling or fabric becoming shiny in spots from wear, printed jersey can often start looking faded over time). I have had several jersey skirts and dresses that I have worn to work over the years (particularly in summer) and the only real issue I’ve had is that they do seem to go from “perfectly nice and professional” to “a little too worn for work” within a couple years.

        4. Anna*

          I have a student who dresses modestly. Our dress code is business casual for most of the week and even though her skirts are often of jersey fabric, she does elevate them with the blouses she wears.

        5. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          I knew someone who often wore long black jersey skirts to work at the business casual offices she worked in simply because she liked them. She always looked very good and work appropriate.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I know, right? I would have been wearing these always if I’d known! The perfect work skirt! I wear them in knee length.

          1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

            I am so thrilled by this new addition to my work wardrobe shopping options. They also look like they’d be amazing for travel.

            1. Emily K*

              I’m getting the feeling “scrub pants” are going to be the new “rash guard” around here!

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I should have said I *will* wear them in knee length. Never knew them until today. I’m thrilled too! :)

        2. Ren*

          I’m in sartorial heaven! Seriously, where have these been all my life?
          On the advice side, I live in an area that gets very cold in winter, so a lot of us ladies will wear longer wool skirts for work, paired with boots (possibly with leggings underneath for even more warmth), a nice blouse or turtleneck, and a blazer or wrap. It’s a very professional look, but still ticks all the modesty boxes.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I wear cotton twill skirts and they’re great for comfort and style, but they wear out fairly quickly. After about two years I notice fading and fraying around the edges.
        I started washing them inside a bag on delicate to make them last a little longer. Maybe twill that has some polyester or spandex would wear better.
        Off to check out the scrub skirts!

        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          Where do you find your cotton twill ones? I’m looking for skirts *without* a synthetic fiber blend.

      3. Rivakonneva*

        Yes, yes, yes, yes! Thank you so very much for the information about scrub skirts. I’m going to look for some now and celebrate being able to wear skirts again! :)

      4. Janie*

        OP might actually try looking into vintage skirts if they are of a size where that’s plausible. A lot them are made of wool or other very “professional” looking material, but are a lot longer.

      5. Nursey Nurse*

        Glad I could help everyone! One piece of advice I will offer is to go to a scrub shop and try the skirt on if that’s an option for you because scrub bottoms can vary in size by manufacturer. For example, I have had good luck with my uniform advantage “butter soft” scrub pants fitting true to size, but the Cherokee ones run small. It should be less of a problem in skirts than pants, because pants are just less forgiving overall.

        Oh, btw… for anyone who liked the idea of scrub skirts and wears pants as well, let me just note scrub pants are basically heaven in a garment. I have black ones that look just like black slacks but they’re incredibly comfortable and have so many pockets! Sometimes I wear them even when I’m not on the floor. Scrub pants are one of the best things about being a nurse.

      1. Overeducated*

        This is what I see some religious women in my area wear, leggings or slightly looser cotton or linen pants under a dress.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I’ve seen this a lot with ethnic Indian and Arabian outfits – A colorful sari or tunic with the pants below.

      2. Drax*

        This is what I see a lot here. Either leggings or extra dark solid tights under normal knee length business skirts. A lot of the ladies like to go for nearly knee high boots too so the only “exposed” legging/tight is literally the knee.

        Or long solid color dresses (about mid-shin length) with the leggings/tights and heels, but not the jersey material. They all look like a nice sturdy material but I have no idea what it’s called

    3. Meg*

      OP5 should search for “skirts for cellists”! Professional cellists who want to wear skirts have to wear very long, full ones, for obvious reasons, and they’re usually made out of thicker, more professional-looking fabrics.

        1. Quickbeam*

          #5….past the knee or mid calf skirts with boots work well too. A longer open cardigan can help pull together the look without looking frumpy.

          1. Eleanor Konik*

            Popping in to say that high boots were going to be my suggestion as well, to help with coverage.

        2. Bagpuss*

          As you are in the UK, consider Mango – they have quite a widevariety of stuff which may meet what you are looking for.
          You might also find this site helpful for ideas

          I think that a axi length skirt would be fine for interviews – i think colour and fabric make a huge difference to whether sonething is perceived as casual or formal, and if you pair it with a suit jacket or drak blazer it will read as formal.

        3. B.*

          My mom’s standard work outfit is ankle length floral skirts and a blouse. She’s a Vice President at a bank and always looks professional. Unless it’s like corporate law or something else super restrictive I’d think something like that would be fine.

        4. BatmansRobyn*

          Hi OP 5! One site you might check out is The Modist. It’s primarily geared towards Muslim women who wear hijab (I’m aware of it through some colleagues of mine who are relatively strict Muslims), and it’s definitely not the cheapest stuff in the world, but it can give you a great idea of how to style certain pieces (including maxi skirts!). Googling “modest fashion” might help you find more specific results than “modest work clothes” or something similar.

          Good luck!

          1. Artemesia*

            When I did consulting work in Muslim countries I was able to find professional dresses with long sleeves, high necks and mid calf skirts. I was not required to conform entirely to Mulim standards e.g. didn’t have to wear a head cover but felt I should dress modestly to more or less fit in. Some local women then didn’t wear head cover in the workplace although they tended to do so on the street.

            1. BatmansRobyn*

              A lot of the clothes are so beautifully tailored, too. I’m always so blown away by modest fashion whenever I see it, and then I have the urge to buy ninety zillion caftans and structured blazers. I also think it’s much easier now than it was even four or five years ago to find stuff that fits with most religious dress restrictions but isn’t, say, prairie-style dresses in pastel colors.

          2. Sadie*

            Pinterest is also brilliant for modest fashion ideas. There’s a lot of bloggers there who wear modest fashion and style around religious dress codes and it’s a great way to find inspiration from a wide range of women.

            I do not dress modestly but 90% of the fashion influencers I follow are in that field because nobody else seems to find clothes that aren’t super on trend, either dirt cheap and pointless fast fashion or eye gougingly expensive ‘investment pieces’ and are not in the super skinny or plus size fat fashion worlds which don’t suit my particular needs.

            A tip a lot of them give is the Scandinavian style brands like Cos (or US equivalents) that aim toward quite loose, boxy, non form fitting clothes aimed at all age groups and given their style chops with different accessorising and ways of wearing the same garment. So a tunic top on a 20 something might be with tights and boots but on a 50 something with palazzo pants or a the 30 something with a blouse and belt.

            It’s a great way to learn how to make things look smarter and dressier than they actually are and to use accessories and accents to give a specific look and find out what companies sell suitable clothes in your region without bankrupting yourself or having to travel to a niche shop.

        5. Bobbin Ufgood*

          Also try — full customization options including any skirt length you want, sleeve length, and neckline and lots of fabrics. Very reasonable prices — dresses usually run 60-90 dollars even with customization and they have lots of sales. I have four dresses from them. I’m a physician and need to look professional and get tons of compliments. Also, most of their styles have pockets! BIG POCKETS!

          1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

            Seconding Eshakti — a lot of customization for modesty possible for relatively cheap (extra sleeve / coverage / length etc.). Another site that could be of interest is Shabby Apple (some can be a bit twee but their focus is more modest feminine clothing).

          2. Parenthetically*

            Yes, eShakti was my first thought too!

            I also did a quick google for “hijabi office wear” and “hijabi professional clothing” and got approximately infinity hits! Modanisa is super affordable and they have a ton (and I mean a TON) of nice long skirts that look very office-appropriate.

          3. Cath*

            This was my thought. Depending on the cut you might also be able to wear a blazer with it.

    4. Fatima*

      #5 There are wonderful fashion shopping sites geared toward Muslim women who wear the hijab, featuring gorgeous dresses and long tunics anyone can wear, without the religious head covering. Here’s a great Pinterest page showing professional work clothes from modest dressing Muslim women that you might find some inspiration in. And there are also heaps of websites catering to fashionable, professional Muslim women.

    5. JSPA*

      Depending on the workplace, and whether it would register as cultural appropriation (broadly common in several countries, so arguably no more culturally limited than a business suit), and thickness of fabric, salwar kameez may do what you need.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This is what I was picturing–I’ve also seen a version (maybe another term) with pants and a long tunic worn by a lot of Muslim women, if pants are an option.

      2. Ophelia*

        Yes – and what I was thinking in my comment below is that you can kind of DIY a salwar kameez-type outfit using knee length shirt-dresses or other items like that and loose trousers. I’ve managed to make a western wardrobe work pretty well for this without having to purchase much (and what you would need could likely be purchased cheaply if there are pieces you’re missing, OP).

      3. Starbuck*

        Love that style! I don’t think it’s appropriation to combine something as simple as a long tunic and pants if there’s no particular religious/cultural significance to the pattern or design. It is a bummer when western style magazines talk about it as a hip new trend without bothering to mention the name or region of origin though.

    6. Jshaden*

      You could take a look at Eshakti website, which allows you to customize things like dress/skirt length and sleeve length on dresses. There is a Belted Poplin Midi Shirtdress that could be modified with an ankle or floor length skirt and long sleeves that would look professional, or you could keep shorter sleeves and wear it with a jacket or cardigan. Most of their styles are shown with shorter hems and sleeves, but all are modifiable. I’m sure there are other styles that could be modified to fit both your office style and modesty needs.

      1. Murphy*

        I was going to recommend eshakti as well. They sell a lot of maxi skirts that I think would do well in an office, plus all the customization options that Jshaden mentioned.

      2. LQ*

        Agreed. I have swapped out for my wardrobe to basically be entirely dresses from here. I go with a midcalf length hem because it’s what is personally comfortable and I’ve gotten plenty of compliments and it feels very business casual appropriate.

      3. Liz T*

        I frickin’ love eShakti. (Palladium Club Member here!) My advice to anyone trying it the first time: it might take you a few tries to figure out sizing and what fabrics/cuts work best on you, but it is SO worth it.

      4. starsaphire*

        +1 for eShakti. Saved my 5X backside when I suddenly had to have a formal dress that was comfortable. Less than $100! With pockets!

        1. Bibliophile8117*

          +1 for EShakti! I just looked and they have several cotton poplin skirt options that can be made ankle length and would look great for work. Also, I wear their dresses to work every day and they are super comfy, professional and have pockets!

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Also works for the 5X boobs. I have a shirt-dress from eShakti, and it miraculously does not gap or pull unlike every other button-up item I’ve owned since puberty. I also have a gorgeous embroidered dress that has enormous pockets in it – I have never worn it that someone didn’t stop and compliment it.

      5. Not A Shill!*

        Dang, I really need to read through all the comments before I leave my own. Anyway, glad other people are recommending eShakti as well!

      6. Bobbin Ufgood*

        I commented above with exactly this — I LOVE e-shakti and have four dresses from them and want more.

    7. Jack Be Nimble*

      I found a site geared toward musicians called Black Dress Code, which seems to sell simple, black clothing for classical musicians. I also found a site called Light in the Box, which if you sort by Weddings/Events > Ballroom Dance, has some simple, ankle-length dresses with boat or crew necks, which I think could be dressed up with a blazer and a nice scarf. It’s hard to say what the material is, and I think that it might be a knock-off, wholesaler, so you might not have great results ordering from them!

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Ballroom dance dresses are going to be very lightweight and thin, with skirts that flare when you move. They’re too thin for professional wear, and probably too clingy for modesty (even with a blazer). (I do love them, but not for work).

        For work, skirts will be easier to find than dresses, most straight or a-line skirts will be professional enough, and I’ve seen mid-calf versions at multiple retailers – Loft, Belks, Macys. Full length, maybe Land’s End ($60-$70, except for that bright blue one on clearance at $30; Land’s End > Womens > Skirts) or Karen Kane at Nordstroms ($80ish), if the scrub skirts aren’t formal enough. I tend to find scrub materials wrinkle a little too easily for a really polished look.

        Keep in mind, you don’t need 5 right away! You can wear a skirt two days in a week if it doesn’t get dirty and isn’t too memorable (eg, bright blue). No one will notice that Thursday’s black skirt is also Monday’s. Start with 3 neutrals with plain styling, plan to get 3 – 4 more over the next year, then 1/year for replacements.

        1. Jack Be Nimble*

          Thanks for weighing in! I really couldn’t tell what material the dresses were made of from the site, so I’m glad someone else chimed in before anybody ordered some and realized they wouldn’t work!

    8. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      I work at an orthodox religious institution, and a lot of the women wear midi skirts or below-the-knee pencil skirts with tights/leggings or boots. Even a lot of regular stores (H&M, NY&C) sell longer professional-looking skirts for very affordable prices

      1. Lola*

        I was going to say, google “tzunis skirts”, all over NYC religious women are covered up. Even if they don’t work, a lot of them wear black skirts that look professional. I just did that search now and Chadwicks came up, they are a fairly cheap online realtor and they aren’ tall black if you want some color.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Long at Chadwick’s means mid-calf or above ankle. I *love* that a-line wool with plaid options, I have one very like the b&w one. If it’s long enough, this is very professional and a good price, though there will be dry cleaning costs to factor in. A lot of the other tznuis skirt results had a lot of volume or wrinkles and didn’t look professional to me, I think you’d have to be pretty careful.

            1. Observer*

              Sure – because you’re not just looking for work clothes. But if you focus on work clothes, you can do pretty well.

    9. Emmie*

      Eshatki is an online retailer offering the ability to customize sleeves and skirt length. You may wish to go there to have dresses made longer that could perhaps suit your needs. They also give discounts for signing up, and regular discounts to those on its list. FWIW, I have no incentive for sending you there. A friend uses them. Her dresses are pretty. It’s on my list to but a dress and try it out.

      1. KBsquared*

        Uniqlo has a line of modest fashion in partnership with designer Hana Tajima. The spring line will be released later in March. It has mix and match pieces with long skirts or sleeveless dresses that can be paired with long sleeved tops. Google uniqlo hana tajima 2019 to see it.

      2. Risha*

        VERY regular discounts. They have a standard rotating set of deals so there’s almost always something, and if you’re not in a hurry, it’s rare to go more than two weeks for them to get back around to the 40% off one.

    10. Ophelia*

      When I’ve traveled to places where women need to wear full-coverage clothing, I’ve tended to wear knee- or calf-length dresses with loose pants underneath. There are ways of making it look kind of chic, and as long as the fabrics are professional, it seems to work OK.

    11. AnonymousPenguin*

      eShakti also offers lots of dress (and some skirt) options that are business appropriate, usually come with pockets, and can be modified as to length, sleeve length, and neckline. And for the same modest fee you can get it tailored to fit your proportions (or a slightly altered set of proportions if you want a looser fit). And they often have sales!

    12. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

      I’ve worked with a number of women who wear modest dress for religious reasons (Muslims and Mennonites mostly), and an ankle length black, navy, or grey skirt with a thicker cotton fabric paired with a nice shirt and a blazer looks very professional to me.

    13. ArtsNerd*

      Another option, if you have sewing machine, is making a circle skirt in the length you want.

      Note: this will take a LOT of fabric, and you’ll want to be sure it’s one that drapes ok (so most suiting is a probably a no-go? I’ve lucked into never actually needing proper business attire) but it’s the easiest item of clothing you could make.

      I used to do this for my character dance classes (basically a ballet variation on Russian / Eastern Europe folk dances) and now I want to make one just for life.

      Uniqlo also has linen maxi skirts for a very good price.

    14. Indigo a la mode*

      This is a really heartwarming thread. I had no idea that so much was out there!

    15. Jenny Linsky*

      Shukr (Islamic clothing retailer) has many maxi skirts that look very polished. They’re good quality (I am regularly sad that I’ve sized out of their 2x!) and are actually designed to be long skirts, so good freedom of movement and most have pockets!

    16. Snazzy Hat*

      At there is a plethora of dresses, skirts, and flowy pants which fall at the ankle, ranging from business formal to athletic casual. The only thing I dislike about their options is the lack of petite lengths. I’m 5’4″ and have a few pairs of pants from them where the cuffs drag unless I’m wearing heels. But their quality & service are excellent, and they tend to ship pretty quickly, too!

    17. DilEmma*

      You might also check out LulaRoe. Their maxi skirts are often a kind of silky fabric, so they feel dressier than a standard stretchy cotton one. They also offer at least one fairly high-necked maxi dress that you could wear with a cardigan. Good luck on your interview! I hope you’ll let us know what you wound up wearing (and obviously if you get the job!).

    18. TardyTardis*

      I’m short enough that a midi-length dress for a tallish person *is* going to be ankle-length on me. It was ok to wear skirts that length, especially in winter, though I recommend leggings underneath if it’s really That Cold.

  2. sacados*

    OP1 > I know you said your office isn’t “headphone friendly” but …
    I am someone who needs to listen to some kind of background music during times when I need to focus on a particular task. But my project team members also need to frequently check in with each other.
    So what I will often to is listen to music at a relatively low volume with just one earbud in. This allows me to listen to the background music but also still be able to hear when coworkers call out to me.

    Is that something that might be acceptable in your office? Even just having a little bit of music like that for your brain to focus on may help you to tune out the whispers.

      1. TychaBrahe*

        Not everyone appreciates white noise. I can’t stand them. I’m the type that is low-level bothered by things like cooling fans for projectors and background music.

        Please, no noise generators that other people can hear.

          1. J.*

            Many people aren’t bothered by whispering, either. The point is that in an open office where everyone can hear everything, you don’t want to offer a solution that helps the LW but then causes problems for others nearby because it will be a never-ending cycle.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Unless the never-ending cycle eventually does end with the OP’s boss seeing reason and either reversing on the idiotic whisper initiative or allowing headphones after the entire office steadily escalates attempts to drown out the intermittent noise.

              Nothing ever changes in a workplace where people take on more and more personal discomfort to hide the fact that something is broken instead of forcing management to deal with a known issue.

        1. Pilcrow*

          FYI, there are other noise spectra (don’t know if that’s the right word, I’m not an expert) like pink noise that may be tolerable. I find true white noise can be a bit ‘harsh’ for lack of a better term. The only way to know is to experiment. I’m pretty sure there have been other posts where this came up that had more details.

      2. Not a Blossom*

        There are white noise apps (I have one on my phone), so the OP could listen to that through 1 earbud.

          1. Dragoning*

            Someone in the office might have this problem, though, and it is an open office.

            I don’t know why you feel the need to keep commenting to shut down everyone who expresses potential issues with this solution–discussing pros and cons of suggestions is what this comment section is for.

            1. WakeUp!*

              Seriously. Saying “people might have an issue with this machine that’s designed to produce a certain noise playing all day in their office” is not even remotely sandwich-y.

              1. Val Zephyr*

                I disagree. I think its pretty sandwich-y. White noise machines are designed to make noise that most people don’t find distracting and a lot of offices use them. Shutting down the idea completely because a couple of commenters don’t like them is not good advice.

                1. SarahTheEntwife*

                  Huh, I hadn’t realized white noise machines were supposed to not be annoying. I’d thought their purpose was to produce a constant noise that’s covers intermittant or confidential noise, and that’s marginally less annoying than the alternatives.

                2. Jaz*

                  To expose the whole office to something that might present a real problem for some of them is more “strong perfume” than “sandwich.” White noise creates confusion/anxiety in some people, and they often don’t even realize the source. When the solution is as simple as using a headphone, that seems worth considering.

                3. CMart*

                  @Jaz re: “creates anxiety and confusion”

                  I often have my phone playing white noise and sitting in my infant’s carseat or stroller when we’re out in public. It keeps him calm and not screaming like he’s being torn limb from limb. But every single time, seriously every time, at least one person will be standing near me looking around in alarm and confusion, shaking their head, cocking their ears to the side etc… I always go to them and say “it’s a white noise app for my baby — sorry — you looked so concerned!” (if they don’t come over to me first because they’ve at least pinpointed the source of the noise) and they are SO RELIEVED to know they aren’t being driven mad by some ambient static.

                4. Indigo a la mode*

                  I’m with Jaz. The answer to an open-office noisemaking issue is not to expose the office to another noisemaking device…white noise honestly sounds an awful lot like whispering. (I’m definitely someone who can’t sleep with even the fan on, even though I know others love it.)

          2. Blue Anne*

            Um, no, I’m a person who works in an office and probably representative of many people who work in offices…

          3. OP1*

            I’m the OP. White noise wouldn’t bother me, but I do worry it would come across as kind of a passive aggressive arms race. Headphones would solve that problem but well, see above.

      3. Kendra*

        If you get a cheap enough desk fridge, it doubles as a clandestine white noise generator! I have a cheap Coca-Cola fridge from Goodwill on my work desk, and it makes enough noise that I can hear it through noise-cancelling headphones.

    1. Bone Conduction Convert*

      Bone conduction headphones like TrekzAir are also great. I can listen to music which will probably drown out the whispering but since my ears aren’t covered, people can still get my attention if they need to.

      It helps me a lot when I’m conference calls in our open office. If I wear headphones, my voice can get really loud because I can’t hear how loud I am being.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Has anyone in AAM Land used bone-conduction headphones with tinnitus? Does it help avoid the problem of excess sound triggering a flareup?

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Bone-conduction headphones don’t block out any outside noise, that’s the point. The noise from the headphones didn’t cause a problem, but the animated conversation my coworkers were having about how THE FUTURE IS BONE-CONDUCTION HEADPHONES was still incredibly audible. They’re … okay? but they’re a novelty product in 99% of the situations I’ve heard them recommended for. The one thing I like about them is when some d-bag is using them to listen to music really, really loud, they’re totally silent for anyone nearby (because bone-conduction!).

          If anyone buys some, just make sure the ones you get actually work the way they’re supposed to. I’ve had a lot of friends get “bone-conduction” headphones that turned out to be the little speakers that sit outside and in front of your ears. If you take them off your head and can still hear them playing, you got ripped off. :(

          1. Bone Conduction Convert*

            Bone conduction earphones are marketed towards runners so they can still hear what is going on around them (cars, etc.). While I don’t run, I found it useful for that purpose when I traveled solo recently as I was walking around the various cities.

            A caveat though is that they are awful in airplanes even with earplugs. I guess the vibrations of the plane affect how well it works and the sound comes off muffled. And if you’re a stickler for sound quality, you won’t like it.

    2. OP1*

      It’s less the music than the optics of it, if that makes sense. Being seen with headphones on would come across as slacking.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Is your office casual enough that you could wear a beanie? My coworker has an awesome beanie with discreet built in headphones.

      2. RB*

        Your office has a weird perspective if that is how they feel. I do the one-earbud-in thing and people are never afraid to stop and chat with me.

      3. Ego Chamber*

        Dumb (but I’ve been at places that are like that).

        Do you think the type of headphones would matter at all? One of the places I was at that took a hard line on performative productivity never cared about small/discreet earbuds, but when a newbie started wearing Beats (while doing work that required concentration and there was no risk interaction with other people) the whole thing turned into a shitshow for a while and it took a few months to get headphone “privileges” back.

      4. Janie*

        Okay this is gonna sound pretenscious as all get out but.

        Perhaps air pods would work since they’re so small and there’s no cord? Especially if you have longer hair.

  3. MK*

    #5, I think maxi skirts that are made from more formal-looking material than cotton or jersey could be the answer, but I doubt they can be found easily in stores. Would having one made be an option? If the cost isn’t prohibitive, I would suggest having a whole suit made for interviews.

    1. catsaway*

      Yes, if OP #5 needs to wear an ankle length skirt it might be easiest to get one made from a suiting material. Pendleton (pendletonusa dot com) sells some womens skirts that are calf length and they have ankle length plaid skirts (which again might not be as professional as OP #5 needs). Maybe in other years Pendleton has has solid colored wool maxi skirts and OP can search on second hand online sites for Pendleton skirts (eBay, etsy, poshmark etc).
      Also, the website eshakti (eshakti dot com) sells custom women’s clothing. You can choose a specific neckline, sleeve length and skirt length for dresses for a $10 fee (not all options available for every dress). Most of the dresses and skirts are in more casual material but they’ve had some dresses in a more professional looking fabric so the OP could get a custom made dress from them. That option shouldn’t be more than $150 with fees.

      1. SavannahMiranda*

        Good recommendations. I checked out the Pendleton site and I have have worn ankle length plaid skirts like those to to job interviews before, and gotten the job. Not for religious reasons but because I liked them at the time. It’s all about the shoes that are worn with the skirt (dowdy shoes will instantly look more dowdy so the shoes need to have shape), and then what is done with the upper body (good quality blazer), and you’re good to go. Obviously more a winter outfit than a summer one with a wool skirt, but they are on sale on the Pendleton site right now so I’d be tempted to buy one or two.

        Upvote also for eshakti. You can spend hours customizing the exact cut, color, and fit you need, with your own measurements, and get stellar clothes without paying London tailor prices. Can’t recommend that site highly enough.

      2. Parenthetically*

        +1 for Pendleton as well — the long plaid Pendleton wool skirt is a timeless classic for a reason!

      3. Dinopigeon*

        Another vote for eshakti- about a year ago I decided I wanted to wear mainly dresses to work, and I’ve gotten a lot of well-made and office-suitable clothing there.

    2. OhNo*

      I’m from an area with a significant Muslim population, and there are a lot of local shops that will custom-make skirts or full outfits to a variety of modesty standards. From what I’ve heard, they tend to have fairly reasonable prices since they’re often purchasing and producing in bulk.

      Especially for more formal interview-wear, that seems like a good option that will get you exactly what you need.

    3. TurkeyLurkey*

      I’ve found some great second-hand black silk maxi skirts on ThredUp which are lovely in hot weather.

    4. Production Alumni*

      Every few years Talbots resurrects the “riding skirt” which would fit the bill perfectly – good fabrics, no slit, midcalf.

    5. Moonbeam Malone*

      I have a nice black maxi skirt I got at Eddie Bower, but that was ages ago. Those things definitely come and go in cycles. I would be willing to bet there are forums online specifically about modest dress that might have some recommendations for places to get them, though!

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      I have a long, black tube skirt in this acetate (I think) material that I absolutely love. It’s a little form fitting (but not super tight) and it has a more professional silhouette than some of the more flowy, maxi-skirts. I have worn it on job interviews, and also for doing client-facing presentations. It hits me right above the ankle, so it looks good with flats, heels, or boots. There’s a small slit in the back, but it doesn’t go up above mid-calf.

      The one brand I know of for sure is Vikki Vi, which is a brand they sell at Nordstrom. I think they have a website too. I will say it’s a little on the pricey side, but that fabric is pretty much indestructible and it will seriously last forever. Plus it travels well too, if that’s something you need to think about. I mean, I could wad it up in a little ball and sit on it all day, and it would just need a shake or 2 to look presentable.

    7. JustaTech*

      Another place to look for “professional” full-length skirts would be in a place that sells historical dress. An Edwardian walking skirt would be long and structured and is usually made of black wool, and looks very professional and formal. Edwardian skirts aren’t as full (big around) as Victorian skirts, so they look less like a costume and more like clothes.

  4. Laika*

    OP 5: In my experience, reading women’s clothing as ‘professional’ vs. ‘casual’ has a lot to do with material! I think long maxis (or midis with leggings/opaque tights, if that’s an option for you?) would be fine, particularly if you stick with solid, dark colours in medium weight fabrics. Sometimes just a bit of added structure (eg. pleats, a “real” waistband vs. elastic) is enough.

    1. Rebooting*

      Yeah, I was thinking something like a linen maxi skirt could work, if LW needs ankle-length. The added structure can make linen seem less informal than a jersey skirt.

      1. Windward*

        I found “Flax” brand full length linen skirts one summer & moved into them! Soft & comfy, nice lines, & perfect for D.C. summers. I’m a huge fan, & directed a parade of colleagues to the local shop that carried the line. ShopFlax dot com will show you current options.

    2. Approval is optional*

      I think you’re right. I have a colleague who wears maxi skirts for religious reasons and she always looks professional. She has a few interview type ones, with matching jacket, in dark colours, and a few in the same style but in lighter colours. The trick for interviews is to get a heavier weight material and have it in a tailored style – as straight (pencil? A line? not sure what you’d call it) as you can walk in, in a conservative colour (black, dark grey etc) I think.

      1. Green Great Dragon*

        I agree about the weight and material – I have a suit with a slim ankle-length skirt in heavy cotton (though it’s slit to the knee at the back) which I think is very professional, but I would be more cautious about jersey.

        It does depend on how covered you need to be. If you need really long, like floor length, I might lean into more obviously religious type clothing if possible, so interviewers aren’t wondering if you’re wearing non-standard dress because you don’t understand office norms.

        1. OP 5*

          That’s interesting. It hadn’t occurred to me that it might be helpful to dress MORE obviously religious rather than trying to fly under the radar. One of my reasons for dressing this way in my personal life is so that I am identifiably not-standard-secular. I hadn’t thought that this might be a good thing at wor k. I had worried about it being obvious and distracting.

          1. Rabbit*

            I don’t necessarily think you have to try to look explicitly religious, but it might be worth avoiding anything too much on the hippy side of things – so no florals or paisley

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I want to second this. I’m *very* put off by hippie style because of the hippies I’ve known. Please don’t wear anything that could read as hippie.
              I think if I saw a colleague always wearing long, dark-colored skirts and loose-fitting sweaters or jackets I would just assume she was religious and not give it any more thought.

              1. WakeUp!*

                Your personal biases against hippies aren’t at all what OP or anyone else should be considering. The argument for avoiding hippie style is simply that it reads as overly casual/weekend wear and isn’t appropriate for an interview.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  If I’ve had bad experiences with hippies, others have too. These things do matter.

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  This is silly. There are sure to be people who’ve had bad experiences with corporate suit types, dude-bro frat types, Regina Georges, and all sorts of other people who manage not to generalize their experiences with bad apples from a representative group with others’ otherwise appropriate interview wear or appearance.

                  There is no way for OP to intuit the biases of every person who might interview her, and warning against “hippie style” because you’re personally biased against hippies and assume others are as well is just odd. All she needs to do is show up dressed appropriately to the job and be prepared for the interview.

                3. Michaela Westen*

                  It’s not like I decided, “I’ve known 3 hippies I didn’t like so I’m going to hate everyone who wears that style”.
                  It’s a subconscious emotional reaction based on a lifetime of experience. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
                  I’m just advising OP to steer clear of that look because like most styles, it sends a message.

            2. Parenthetically*

              Yep, flowy floral maxi skirt is FAR too casual and beachy for the office, but a structured, tailored, solid-colored skirt isn’t.

          2. Shad*

            I feel like if your religious clothing is distracting, that says more about your colleagues than you! I regularly see women in hijabs, and unless they’re wearing a particularly eye catching scarf, it barely gets a moment’s notice from me.
            The only way it might be more distracting that I can really see making sense is wondering what the religion in question is—I don’t know if your religion has an easy marker, like hijab indicating Islam, but incorporating something like that at least sometimes might actually help reduce any speculation related distraction. (And I will admit to some curiosity for myself, but I doubt it’s actually material to any answers and therefore that curiosity is all on me).

            1. Delta Delta*

              I have a colleague who wears hijab and wears some of the most beautiful fabrics I’ve ever seen. One day she wore one that was so beautiful I couldn’t stop looking at it. I told her I wasn’t trying to be creepy and that I was looking because it was so pretty. She said that was the whole point.

              1. JLS82*

                I watched a very interesting documentary about young Muslim women bucking trends and wearing hijabs in vibrant fabrics. They still enjoyed wearing one but wanted to express themselves more and be trendier. She made some of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

                I remember growing up my pediatricians wife was his nurse. They were Indian. I was always so in awe of her beautiful, colorful clothing. My ex brought me one back from his trip to India in a bright pink. Wanted it my whole life. I don’t wear it but love seeing it hanging in my closet.

                1. pope suburban*

                  There were some Muslim girls in my student housing, and they were some of the most incredibly stylish people I’ve ever known. They dressed in modern clothes and tended to favor Western stores/styles, and treated the hijab as the focal point of their look. Their styling skills were so on point. They looked like models, even at the dining hall during finals week, when everyone was feeling burned out and tired.

              2. Michaela Westen*

                I live in an area with a large Muslim population and I’ve seen such beautiful outfits and hijabs! I once saw a woman wearing a gorgeous long embroidered skirt and over that a hip-length tunic in *another* gorgeous embroidered color, and a beautiful hijab. I wanted to follow her home and just admire her clothes for hours.

            2. Guacamole Bob*

              This tends to be dependent on the particular religion and clothing and how familiar people are with it in your area and how close it is to various stereotypes. In some corners of the US, the type of conservative dress that OP describes will make people assume old order Amish and wonder why you’re looking at a smart phone.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                Sorry, I had this as part of a longer comment I edited hastily and realize it came off as flippant. What I meant was that sometimes having an easy religious marker can be helpful, but that not every religion has those markers and sometimes even when they do, people can be curious and nosy and make assumptions out of ignorance.

                I know someone who gets mistaken for Amish regularly (fortunately she finds it amusing), and I think the kind of plain dress style modesty that OP describes can be more confusing to others than a hijab, which is fairly easily recognizable to many people in many parts of the world.

              2. Carrie*

                I usually wear mid-calf skirts, and this time of year tights, plus generally a hat because I like hats. In the Jewish neighborhood of my town, people tend to assume I’m Jewish. :)

                OP, I agree with other commenters who’ve said that the solution is fabric and tailoring. A well-tailored skirt is going to look professional and pulled-together no matter what, especially with a matching or coordinating jacket. Natural fibers will help, and definitely go for wovens rather than knits.
                If you can wear mid-calf with tights, go for the kind of tights that aren’t just plain. They don’t have to be fancy, but ribbing or a subtle diamond lattice or the like will go a long way.

              3. ThatGirl*

                It’s funny, because I was raised Mennonite (not plain-dressing), and I know the very specific requirements of OOA. There are subtle and less-subtle variations among plain-dressing groups that are fairly obvious to me but would not be to your average Joe Presbyterian. A woman in a long skirt with her head covered would definitely not make me think Amish, since they have a fairly standard “uniform”.

          3. ADHsquirrelWhat?*

            I actually really like skirts from – they look professional without being weird, IMO. Also, I find them really comfortable.

            As far as more religious-dress, I’d be careful about that – there are a number of (often incorrect) assumptions about women who cover – usually involving being conservative (not political version) to the point of workplace difficulty. Like the refusal to sit near men or the like that have been seen here.

            Good luck!

            1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              Wow! I am a tall lady who currently wears only skirts, dresses, or leggings for reasons of comfort, and have a hard time finding long skirts that are actually as long as I like them. Their classic BabyO skirt looks like it would be perfect for me, they’re out of stock in my size right now but it looks like a regularly stocked item so I’ll keep an eye out. Thank you for that link!

          4. Karen from Finance*

            I too think this is a good idea. If someone wears non-standard outfits, I’d find it more unusual if it were secular-looking than a clear religious reason. So it would actually draw less attention in the end.

          5. Guacamole Bob*

            I think it depends on the cultural norms where you live, but in a relatively liberal area where there are people of lots of different religions, when I see someone wearing something identifiably religious my mind kind of skips over evaluating the rest of their clothing for how professional/formal/casual it is. I just assume they’re dressed appropriately to the situation within the boundaries of what their religion requires.

            I’m a Quaker, and I know a small number of people who still keep to plain dress in various ways. For the people I know who wear identifiably religious clothing, it’s a very personal thing and not done for convenience. It both simplifies and complicates things – if you’re wearing a white cloth head covering people will expect the loose fit modest dress and dark colors and not question whether you’re dressed to their personal taste in professionalism – but people can also be nosy and ask a lot of questions. (I know someone who wears such a head covering and dresses modestly and works as a web developer, and she is endlessly amused by how confusing people find that combination). Depends on the culture of your area and your workplace and your personal religious conviction and requirements.

          6. Falling Diphthong*

            One of the interesting variations that came up on earlier discussions here is that if you are constrained to appear or act a bit out of business norm due to some reason not obvious to observers, a brief explanation up front can help. Then your interviewer stops wondering why you are skirting business norms, since there’s a good reason for it. One example was wearing what to me look like attractive and artsy linked rings, which apparently provide hand support for some conditions–the rings would look normal in a creative field and a bit avant garde in finance, but if you aren’t familiar with this medical condition you wouldn’t leap to “medical aid.” So leaning into the religious modesty might be easier for an interviewer to “read” than something ambiguously between.

          7. Muriel Heslop*

            As someone who does hiring, I would rather know that someone has religious reasons for their dress than wonder whether or not they understand religious norms. I’ve hired quite a few people who have regulations with their dress for religious reasons and it is so much easier just to know.

          8. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            I agree with Great Green Dragon that it would be helpful to dress more obviously religiously. People can be so judgmental about things that aren’t *exactly* the norm that giving them a reason you’re behaving differently can be helpful, and then most of the time will follow your lead about religion. You do then sadly have to deal with the possibility of discrimination on the basis of religion, but that IS illegal where someone not liking that you didn’t wear a pantsuit to the interview is perfectly legal.

        2. Sutemi*

          Sometimes if there is a single slit in the back, a tailor can add a box pleat liner in a complementary color which allows the same amount of movement but doesn’t allow any gap.

      2. things I know about skirts*

        straight is narrower than A-line. Pencil skirts are straight skirts. I don’t know the distinction between them, but most pencil skirts I’ve seen are knee-ish length, but a straight skirt could go longer.

    3. Grits McGee*

      It’s not available for sale until the end of March, but UNIQLO’s Hana Tajima collection has some structured skirts that might work for OP. There’s some dresses too that might work for OP, if the waist cinching isn’t too form-fitting.

      I think UNIQLO has stores in the UK, but they definitely ship. Here’s the link to the collection-

    4. Smithy*

      Completely agree with this. During my summer of interviewing in DC for nonprofit jobs, true suits just felt far too hot. But I had a very heavy cotton navy blue full skirt with a thick waist that I paired with a shell and a short cropped suit coat that was a linen/khaki color.

      I’m not sure if I’m describing this very well – but it was a look I wore to a number of interviews and worked very well. But it was more of a task to keep that skirt truly pressed/wrinkle free to give it the interview formality I wanted. But after that it did read solidly DC interview appropriate – at least in the nonprofit/UN sector.

    5. Catsaber*

      I agree, structure and weightier fabric makes a big difference. I have seen Uniqlo offer some longer skirts – mid-calf to ankle – in fabrics and cuts that would be better suited for a more formal office. You just have to keep an eye on Uniqlo since their stock changes so much.

  5. AcademiaNut*

    For #5, I think maxi-skirts could work – a long skirt with a cut that drapes well in a dark fabric, the shirt in a contrasting colour, and the jacket also in a dark colour, and maybe a light scarf for accent. The key would be nice fabric and a good cut (not form fitting, but not baggy – either flowing or structured).

    Googling “modest dressing for work” seems to mostly return results aimed at people who want to look sexy but not show too much cleavage or leg. I got much better google results by searching for “Muslim women office wear” which shows a number of ideas involving long skirts and fully covered arms and torso that would work for an office.

    1. TL -*

      Muslim fashion is probably a good place to start – there’s lots of online shops that feature modest dress ranging from plain to fashionable. Also, dig around on instagram – the Muslim women (cartoonists) I follow there will mention and/or tag the shops they get their clothes at if asked, so you can get recs, see what the clothes look like on people, and check comments for any issues brought up.

    2. My Dear Wormwood*

      Buzzfeed has run articles about modest dress designers and regular shops where hijabi/LDS/Orthodox/etc women can get suitable clothes. Bonus content for clothes specifically designed for modesty: they’re nearly all designed by women, so they nearly all have pockets, even the wedding dresses.

    3. Coffeelover*

      Great suggestion! I did a quick Google search as you suggested and there are a lot of great examples.

    4. OP 5*

      I’ve googled Muslim fashion before but had a hard time finding stuff that isn’t just what I would call “technically covered”. A lot of the specific examples are brightly coloured and have a kind of tunic over leggings vibe. I guess I could have been more specific in my question but I didn’t want it to be too long, or to get into tedious levels of nuance. I go for plain fabrics, plain colours, not fitted (like, not a sack but not following every curve), long sleeves, high neck (above collarbones), long skirt.

      1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

        Hi OP 5! In that case, may I recommend a British company called Shukr? I know them because they sell some AMAZING full-length wool coats, but they’re actually a modest fashion company and everything I’ve seen of theirs seems to match what you’re asking for (quieter colors etc).

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Thanks Enter_the_Dragonfly — I’m someone who just happens to like long skirts and skirts with pockets and I’m delighted to find long skirts WITH pockets on that site.

        2. Magenta*

          Wow some of their coats are lovely! and really reasonably priced! That kind of dress is really not my thing, but I would happily wear a couple of the coats.

        3. Jules the 3rd*


          I can’t wear high necks bcs it feels like I’m choking, but those skirts… oooooooo That Flared Panel one is *gorgeous*. The 2nd / 3rd pages have several good ones in the $40 – $50 range (Assymmetric, Twill, Professional, Curved Panel, maybe Trumpet) and a lot of colors. Their cardigans are also gorgeous.

          OP5, I don’t recommend corduroy or denim, but there’s a lot of beautiful options at that site. I deeply regret that their size chart tops out at 5′ 8″. But that’s probably a good thing for my pocketbook.

        4. Snazzy Hat*

          Oops, I suggested this shop in the top thread! But I’m glad someone else recommended it!

      2. JSPA*

        It’s not detail and nuance to explain what “modest” means in your tradition.

        I’m hoping you do understand and accept that “modesty” is a culturally- defined construct, and that the clothing that’s too bright for you is entirely modest (not a technical dodge) for people with a different set of strictures.

        If not, that sort of “my version’s the real deal, other people’s isn’t” could be more problematic than any outfit.

          1. Your religion is yours*

            Me too. I’m 100% comfortable with the OP wearing whatever she wants, but if the words “I dress modestly” come out of her mouth, I’m going to want her gone. I accept her religion, but I will not accept her religion implying that the rest of the women are not modest. That’s disgusting. I don’t care if this is the word your religion has decided to co-opt. Find a non-insulting one.

              1. JSPA*

                Depends whether you think the only antonym to “modest” is “immodest.” If you hear it that way (and Your Religion is Yours seems to) then the implication of, “I dress modestly” is, “unlike all those immodest women” [implicit judgement].

                Where I live, that’s not how it would be heard, so there’s no implicit judgement to the use of “modest” per se. It’s just not very useful, without further information. I mean, pretty much everyone’s goal in going to the office involves meeting their own sense of modesty, whatever that may be (and maybe tossing in a pinch extra under the heading of “appropriateness,” so as not to shock coworkers and the horses). Otherwise, the classic “giving a presentation in my underwear” dream would not be so universal (even among recreational naturists, who don’t want to be inappropriately naked anymore than the next person).

                I’m pretty sure the point was not, “I’d want someone who’s trying to be extra modest” gone–which would be odious! But rather, “I don’t want a coworker who makes it clear that she believes the rest of us are disgustingly bare / disgustingly showy / disgusting, in general.”

                Not being treated as disgusting IS pretty essential to good work interactions.

            1. league.*

              You’re going to “want her gone”? Please explain what you mean and how this doesn’t violate Alison’s commenting rules.

            2. Lehigh*

              I don’t find it at all offensive that other women dress more modestly than I do, and I’m not offended by anyone acknowledging that fact. I don’t understand your point. Can you explain what you think is so bad about the idea of not dressing modestly?

            3. Laika*

              Big yikes. ‘Modest dress’ is a label referring to a style or way of dressing depending on a set of requirements. It’s an actual term used to describe something and not a moral judgement, as you seem to be assuming.

            4. Kat in VA*

              Modest means different things to different people. To some people, if I wear any kind of fitted shirt – even a turtleneck – it’s going to look “immodest” because I’m busty. The turtleneck in itself is not immodest – anything but – but unless I buy it three sizes too large, it’s going to emphasize an area of my body that is correlated often with sexuality.

              Wanting her “gone” seems over the top, so her explaining makes sense.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It sounds to me like someone who’s taken flack in the past for being religious so she kept it short…and now she’s feeling sheepish because she edited out more than she needed to for this particular forum.

        2. Karen from Finance*

          She’s trying to be polite, no need to be rude. I didn’t read it as her being so close-minded about other people’s definitions of modesty, she was just trying to keep it in general terms for sakes of brevity (which is a kindness to the readers). No need to assume the worst.

          Be kind.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          If she can’t wear brights then she can’t wear brights.

          I don’t have a religious reason, but for years I did not wear bright colors. Everything I had was either dark or pastel. I had several reasons for this choice/limitation. Eventually I did start wearing some bright colors because I was ready for that change. I still have plenty of self-made rules about what I like and feel comfortable in. I haven’t even gotten around to mentioning body type, skin tone and those sort of considerations here.

          A helpful thing for me to do, OP, was to start framing the question in terms of what I DO want. Somehow that worked into a much shorter list for me and easier to describe to others. Former Me would have said, “I like dark bottoms and light tops. I like solids or very simple prints. Stripes are okay as long as they go up and down as opposed to going across. I prefer classic lines or styling.”

          I think many people have substantial lists of what they will not wear for various reasons. I hope you find this story here cute/encouraging. My husband only wore a few style of garments and in very limited colors. He noticed my father looked really sharp in a soft yellow shirt. It went well with my father’s blue eyes and fair complexion. My husband decided that he would like to wear soft yellow also. Soft yellow was a big step for my husband. It looked great on him. He moved on to wearing teal and purple. Pretty radical for my hubby. This allowed him to expand his clothing choices and still remain in the boundaries of styles and types of clothing he would want to wear. Sometimes by looking around we can see how others look and get ideas on what we are can do ourselves.
          This does take time to do. The story I told here in one paragraph took place over a period of a few years.

          1. JSPA*

            1. Not a dude.
            2. Referring to, “what I would call “technically covered”

            And the conflation of “modest” with “plain” in, “a lot of the specific examples are brightly coloured and have a kind of tunic over leggings vibe.”

            If you’re of the Plain Folk (or related faiths), you have an adjective right at hand that means “not showy, form-fitting or bright.” Might as well use it. Ditto “covered” if coverage is the issue.

            “Modest” just isn’t a functional term, unless you presume a certain cultural and social context.

                1. JSPA*

                  She’s saying that muslims and jews and people from other faiths who cover their limbs (but not loosely) or cover their limbs loosely (but not in muted colors) are only “technically” covering.

                  If you’re not in one of those groups, and don’t have friends who are, that probably isn’t obviously problematic. I did find it problematic.

                  I’m not saying she should wear what doesn’t work for her! She’s not “doing it wrong.” She’s doing her faith her way, and that’s just peachy. But the same’s true for the other people wearing the other things that don’t work for OP. There’s nothing merely “technical” about doing it in a way appropriate to their faith and culture.

            1. WakeUp!*

              Modest means different things in different religions/cultures. I GUARANTEE you OP knows this. She is telling us what it means in her culture. Your nitpicking is more offensive than anything she said.

            2. Sraf*

              The Plain Folk? What do you mean? Is that a religious term? Or a general description of how certain religious people tend to dress?

              I grew up in the Middle-East in an area with a lot of Muslims, and I’ve never heard that term. A quick Google search didn’t yield an obvious answer, either.

              If ‘plain folk’ is supposed to be the obvious way to describe something, it certainly isn’t the case for me. I think that describing the exact set of parameters OP was trying to convey is not as easy as you make it seem, and ‘modest’ was an honest attempt at being succinct, not a judgement of value.

              1. aja*

                It’s an umbrella term to describe Christian faiths that embrace simple living and plain dressing. Includes Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, some Quakers, etc.

                1. ThatGirl*

                  just FYI, most Mennonites are not plain, just the old order groups. (Menno PK here. short hair, pants, piercings, etc.)

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  I know a little about the Amish and my understanding is they only wear dark colors and ornamentation of any kind is forbidden. So no buttons (hooks and eyes instead), jewelry, hair ornaments, bright colors, etc.

                1. JSPA*

                  Yep. We have several variants in PA.

                  And plenty of other covering-style “modest” faiths. From older Catholics (who dart disapproving looks at bare shoulders and high skirt hems), to the “gods and earths.” Jehovah’s witnesses, the Reformed Presbyterians (one of the oldest and strictest presbyterian variants) etc.

                  I’m not part of any of it directly, but generally try to be supportive of all, notice that almost everyone is fine with “this is how we do it” vs. “this is how it should be done.”

            3. Parenthetically*

              Listen, I think modesty culture is inherently objectifying and misogynistic and I will fight against it until I’m in the ground. But how the heck is OP5 supposed to describe why certain styles won’t work for her without describing those styles? OP5 could have given more detail about what she wears or doesn’t wear. But you’re WAY over-reading her here.

        4. WakeUp!*

          She LITERALLY says “what *I* would call technically covered.” So I’m pretty sure she understands that what she considers modest and what the people she’s talking about would consider modest differs and I read absolutely no judgement into her comment. She was saying “this wouldn’t work for me” not “everyone who doesn’t dress like me is a hussy.” Your comment, on the other hand, was really condescending and frankly just offensive.

      3. The Grammarian*

        Nuns who I used to work with (teaching nuns) made their floor-length skirts themselves from a straight skirt pattern that had five lengths, one of which was floor length (by McCalls). I found this out when I was buying the same pattern and fabric for it at the store and was chatting with the fabric cutter. Perhaps you can find a seamstress or tailor who can make you long, simple skirts (A-line or straight) from twill or garbadine fabric?

          1. A tester, not a developer*

            It’s McCalls 6654. I ordered it in the latest pattern sale because I need it in the larger size range. :(

            It’s a perfect basic skirt pattern – 7 lengths, a-line or straight.

            1. The Grammarian*

              McCalls 3830 is the woven version of the same pattern, with a small vent in the back.

        1. LondonBridges*

          Simplicity also has a pattern 1069 that has long flowy pants and skirts, with a couple options for length, with a back zipper. If you’re new to sewing I would recommend starting with Simplicity, as I’ve found they have clearer instructions in their patterns, and in our costume shop we’ve had some bad experiences with McCalls just not working at all.

        2. Aerin*

          I started taking apparel classes at my community college because I also prefer longer skirts for work (not for religious reasons, just because I like skirts and sit with my legs crossed under me so short ones are problematic) and was terribly disappointed with what I was finding in stores. Especially because I’m of a nerdy bent, and nerdy women’s office wear is sorely lacking.

          But your options really do open up if you make your own stuff, or find someone who can make it for you. It can be more expensive, but it will fit you exactly how you want and generally last longer than a lot of store-bought stuff. (And you can add pockets!) As far as fabrics, as long as it’s opaque with a good drape (hangs like heavier cloth even if it’s not), I would read that as appropriate for an office.

      4. NatureSu*

        Hi! When I used to dress more modestly, I liked Shabby Apple and eShakti.

        Have you looked at companies that cater to LDS younger women? Even if you’re not that young yourself, I feel like the LDS stylers do a good job of keeping things fashionable yet covered. It’ll give you a good starting point, in case you’re worried about looking unprofessional.

        Shabby Apple skews a little more preppy/patterned, and carries size 2 to 16. The skirt I linked below from eShakti can be made in mid-calf and ankle length, depending on the coverage you’re comfortable with. eShakti carries size 0 – 36.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Another thought – if you find a good neutral-colored jacket/blazer you could plan to wear it *over* a dress, which opens up a lot of options because the blazer itself has long sleeves.

      6. Nancy*

        “… not fitted (like, not a sack but not following every curve)” I always wondered about that, one season a Project Runway designer dressed modest and designed modest clothing (her words), as in everything was covered, but a lot of the stuff was skin tight on top, to the point of looking almost like body paint. So, while yes it covered everything (top of neck to wrist and hip), to me it left less to the imagination/was less modest than a less fitted top with a jewel neckline and 3/4 sleeves. Almost like, well, technically it is modest because everything is covered. But that is how it impressed me, and I know nothing of the requirements so there is that.

      7. Queen Anon*

        I’m wondering if there are any clothing companies that market to Christians who want to dress Plain but aren’t specifically Amish, Mennonite, or German Baptist (because the dresses each of those congregations wear are very specific and pretty much announce “Amish” or “German Baptist” by their cut). Maybe to Quakers (Friends), many of which prefer Plain dress. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure what to look for because googling “Plain dress” gets lots of results for clothing with non-patterned fabric, such as a pink shirt dress with short sleeves and a knee-length hem. Even using the capital P on Plain didn’t help. And now I’m really curious and suspect I’ll be googling like crazy this weekend.

          1. Queen Anon*

            Plain doesn’t have to mean long skirts and caps. (The Amish and German Baptist who live near me don’t wear long skirts – they’re just below the knee). What the OP described in the comment I was replying to is an excellent working definition of Plain, which is why I made the suggestion. Some Friends do prefer Plain – that is quiet, modest clothing with no bright colors. It’s true that many don’t. It’s definitely a personal preference.

      8. blackcat*

        There are some websites that cater to LDS women–maybe try looking in those arenas?

      9. Lee*

        Try Eileen Fisher – very modest designs and she has a gorgeous long slim skirt that sounds like what you’re looking for. Its a bit pricey, but if you track the sales, its worth it. I like her cloths b/c they have a “look” – together with her tops the outfits are statement pieces and very fashionable and professional. J Jill makes very decent lower price alternatives.

      10. Ellex*

        OP5, my only recommendation to you is that if you don’t already wear a slip regularly, you should invest in a few for this job. A slip can make a big difference in the way the skirt drapes and moves – especially with stretchy materials like jersey. I see a lot of women in my area in various types of “modest” dress – both religious and cultural – and the lack of or presence of a slip can shift it from casual to not-so-casual. Especially if you’re wearing tights, which can cause extra static and make the fabric cling to your legs.

        I also see a fair number of women whose skirts are not as opaque as they probably think they are.

        1. Sar*

          This. Also, the pantaloon style split-slip works amazingly well with leggings or tights. When I wore skirts I didn’t have to worry about a normal slip bunching up on my backside because the split-leg ones were comfy and had a crotch piece to keep them from riding up.

      11. Rose by another name*

        Hi, OP! I adhere to similar standards, though with knee-length skirts (admittedly a lower level of difficulty). I second the recommendation of a black straight-cut skirt in a non-stretchy material. eShakti is a good resource, but one thing to watch for is fabric: they have numerous jersey and viscose options that are fine for business casual, but are less formal than is best for interviews.

        I suggest Christopher & Banks to get a couple affordable skirts and tops in basic styles. If you’re fine with a higher price point, ModLi caters specifically to modest dressers, allows you to sort by skirt length and neckline, and has work wear. And I co-sign JJ’s and Shira’s suggestions below, in particular.

      12. Observer*

        You’ve gotten some really good suggestions, but also, look around for places that cater to Orthodox Jewish professional women. General rule that I’ve found – structured fabrics and simple styles are your friend.

      13. Weezy's Unicorn*

        I recommend Louella ( It’s a modest fashion company started by US Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Muslim hijabi who dresses modestly but still wants to be fashionable. There are lots of options there from more subdued colors to the brightest fuchsia and the prices are very reasonable. I don’t wear specifically modest dress, yet still have several of her outfits. The quality is fantastic as well.

    5. Indie*

      I tend to Google “lined maxi/midi skirts” and I generally get non-hippy skirts that would work for the OP from very run-of-the-mill high street stores. It’s not religious for me, I just like really good tailoring and low hems. Adding pockets to the search would keep you out of the ‘It’s been painted on’ issue which affects maxi skirts sometimes.
      My tip is to stock up in the summer. I have a beautiful tea length A line in crisp cotton with a silky lining and pockets from high street giant Marks and Spencer’s. Its heavy enough to be suitable year-round but you’d never find it in winter. It’s clearly aimed at people who find pants too hot in summer but don’t want to do bare leg prep every day.

    1. J Kate*

      Check out “church suits.” They tend to be more conservative. Some of them are very “churchy” but others are would be very office appropriate.

      1. Magenta*

        I just googled that, the OP is in the UK like me and there is no way that what came up on google would work for an office. I know the OP is religious, but we don’t really have a huge church culture here and those outfits would look odd and out of place. I think someone could get away with something like that at maybe a wedding, or a day at the races in the posh enclosure or something.

        Modanisa have some lovely work appropriate skirts and dresses, it is aimed at Muslim women but the OP should really take a look.

        1. J Kate*

          I’m not particularly familiar with UK so most of it may be too “fancy” rather than “office.” There are some good options out there for modest clothing from several different religious traditions that might suit her needs. And I agree with everyone that eShakti is a great option to check out. I had forgotten about all their different options. I have two of their dresses and love them.

  6. NicoleK*

    #5 How about a fabric like georgette? It could pair well with a tailored jacket. And I’m going to suggest checking out your local thrift stores for modest long skirts.

  7. in a fog*

    LW #5: At this time of year, I love midi skirts/dresses with knee-high boots (overlapping with the skirts/dresses) and tights underneath. Wool, crepe, twill — those are the fabrics I’d try.

    1. in a fog*

      OK, I love a fashion question, so I did some searching and found some nice professional-looking maxi skirts by Karen Kane. I may be back with more!

    2. Janie*

      Man I should ask in this thread if anyone has recommendations on where to get thick plus size tights in Canada, lol.

  8. Shoes on My Cat*

    It’s not super high quality but scroll the Chadwick’s catalog. They usually have a few long dresses and long pencil-skirt/jacket options and their target market is business and leisure-wear. Travel Smith is another, and some of their options should be dressy enough for interviews (their target market is world travelers and some of the cultures people visit have, erm, certain dress codes.) Some high end retail will also offer long skirt suits…and on the other end of the spectrum, second hand stores located near high market value neighborhoods will likely have some basic pieces. Alison recently posted a thread about an online resale boutique as well. A basic black fitted blazer with black or black with pinstripes ankle length pencil skirt and a classic shell blouse should be a conservative start! Ohhhh-and from waitressing in a poorly designed long fitted skirt, be sure that it is not too fitted and you can sink into upholstered chairs easily & get up again! And check that you untack the slit (usually an ‘x’ basted seam to be removed) and that you can walk in it normally. Nothing worse than the sound of tearing fabric as you try to bend your knees to pick something up–except the augmented slit that now goes higher than you would wear clubbing. Good times! ;-)

    Pencil skirts can be really attractive and classy but they require careful selection. Loose flowing a-line skirts and dresses will be more similar to your maxi dresses in feels, but I’ve never seen any that really look professional. Maybe you will & can let me know! Good luck!!

  9. PowerDressing*

    OP5, I think structure, tailoring, and color on the top half are your friend. When I read your letter I immediately thought of Rep. Omar from MN, who dresses very modestly (not sure if she wears full length skirts) but always looks super professional and powerful. She wears a lot of power colors (royal blue and purple) and has well-tailored tops, including blazers and statement jewelry. I honestly would not notice what she had on her bottom half.

  10. Anonymous RN*

    #4: We have a similar predicament at work. We do 12-hour shifts, get one 1-hour break at some point (this is legal in our state), not allowed to leave the room unless relieved and no beverages on the unit. Some of us have taken to discretely wearing CamelBaks, but make sure you’re not overdoing it so you’d need a bathroom break.

    1. Ellen N.*

      The original poster stated that he/she works in food production and that the ban on liquids is due to food safety protocol. As such, I believe that “discretely wearing CamelBaks” could result in termination.

      1. Lora*

        Yes, this is correct.

        I work in Big Pharma. Spent many many MANY years doing tech ops in clean rooms and mid-to-high biosafety level labs that take 15-20 minutes to gown in/out, so you’re wearing about 3-4 layers of Tyvek over your body. You don’t sweat that much, they air condition the heck out of the clean rooms so the 1″ of forehead that’s still exposed gets nice cold air. Also have done field work on biofuels sites in the middle of the desert where technically there were water bottles and ice cold half strength Gatorade allowed in the trailer area….a mile away from the waste treatment thing you’re working on. Through the desert. Those are the conditions of the job, and violating them = instant termination.

        First of all, you don’t get to argue at ALL what goes on on the manufacturing floor. Those rules are for the product safety and your safety. They are not because management is fascists, I swear. You also don’t get to pick clothes that don’t conform to the safety standards (steel toe shoes that stay in the building and never see outdoors dirt, loose sleeves or flowy dresses/skirts, etc). You don’t get to wear your hair any old how, you put it up so it can be covered in a bouffant. No dangly earrings, no makeup, no perfume, no fancy manicures. And no personal food or water bottles on the shop floor either. We don’t even put medicine in the first aid cabinets in the same BUILDING as a manufacturing suite, we only put aspirins and whatnot in the first aid cabinets of office buildings only, and have the company nurse dispense it to the manufacturing workers if they need any, well away from any manufacturing areas.

        Second of all, you do need to be able to eat and drink on breaks. Those breaks might be left up to you or dependent on the operations schedule – typically I’d see people go in the suite for 6 hours on minimal water and a lot of carbs for breakfast, power through the operations that were on their task list, and then go for a long break. Women use Diva cups or similar as needed to get through that many hours without a bathroom break; no Depends are necessary, you just don’t eat or drink much in the morning and are careful to avoid Taco Bell at all times. It sounds like OP is stuck with breaks scheduled around the operations and that is not at all unusual or unreasonable in manufacturing. But her boss should definitely let her eat and drink on breaks at least.

        The bottom line may be, if you need to eat/drink more frequently than this job allows, then manufacturing may not be the job for you – any kind of manufacturing, because even when they aren’t trying to maintain a space in compliance with FDA, USDA and Eudralex, they still run operations fast enough that you don’t have time to eat and drink while working.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Yes, and very unhealthy as,well. I side eye any work place that doesn’t allow people to stay hydrated, among other things.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          “you do need to be able to eat and drink on breaks.”

          I think the question title is misleading. The actual question isn’t talking about a rest or meal break, they’re talking about the 2 1/2 minutes while the machine resets. It’s not like the manager is saying they’re not allowed to have water on their lunch break, they’re saying not to leave the room while the machine is down.

          (I’m not defending it, because the thing that is happening isn’t good and manufacturing sounds like a hellscape, but OP isn’t being told not to drink water at lunch or anything like that (which did happen at a call center where I worked, speaking of professional hellscapes…).)

    2. Ms Cappuccino*

      So do what people do if they need the loo ? Sometimes you can’t help it. More than 3 hours without a toilet break seems impossible to me.

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        Yeah, I have IBS, which is mostly controlled by diet, but sometimes I need to go RIGHT NOW. (I’ve pooped in some pretty precious places while out hiking, I can tell you!)

      2. Rebecca*

        Sadly, I’ve seen more than one article about food processing workers, especially in the meat cutting industries (think chicken, I won’t mention the company) who need to wear adult bladder control products because their time off from the line is so limited. It’s criminal.

          1. Gumby*

            Depends on the state. In mine it would be. (CA, where, essentially, you should never have to go more than 2 hours w/o some sort of break. Going by my understanding. And the big labor law posters which are required to be put up in the workplace. I mean, I assume that’s required because they have been up in a break room of every real job I’ve had. (I don’t count tutoring, babysitting, pet sitting, or elder companionship among my “real” jobs because they were way part time and not through an outside company.) )

      3. Asenath*

        Years ago, I found out when chatting with a woman who was the only employee in small convenience store that she had difficulty getting toilet breaks because she had to lock the store to prevent theft while she was in the toilet, and the owners didn’t like to have the store locked because customers might want to come in. I thought that was incredibly unreasonable, but not being able to swallow even a little water while on a short break comes close. I’d go with making it a medical requirement – surely any doctor would certify that regular access to water is essential!

        1. Yikes*

          When I worked at a small shop at the mall as a teenager, our situation was similar. I had to lock up if I had to use the bathroom, but we could face a substantial fine from Simon if they caught the shop closed. I think I only did it once the entire time I worked there, and it was because it was an emergency.

  11. PollyQ*

    LW5: try googling for “choir skirts”. They come in a variety of lengths (since they generally need to be floor length for a variety of heights), and while some of the fabric is kinda cheap, there are also better quality options out there.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a good idea.

      These will be formal but not fitted.

      I’m flinching at the comments about tailored items. Modest dress tends to not allow for fitted items, with the letter mentioning an unfitted jacket I assume that’s the case with our OP.

      A choir dress will still look a bit out of place but not break any rules about formal attire for an interview.

      1. TL -*

        I think tailored here means structured, not fitted. Something that has a shape – not necessarily the shape of your body or a close fit – generally looks more professional than something that is less structured.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Yeah even though a fitted pencil skirt is the first thing that jumps to mind when the word ‘tailored’ springs up, there are plenty of other options that are still tailored but don’t cling to the body! I would seriously recommend them getting either a long A-line skirt made in a close match to their jacket, or a long pleated skirt. Tailored pleats can look very professional with a jacket, but don’t show the figure like a pencil skirt does. Even if OP has a friend who sews, or has access to a dressmaker, a pleated skirt is an easy make (with the bonus that you get to decide the length you like.)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            If OP does sew or could find someone who does, I’d suggest adding “boxy” to the google search — it was quite the trend for a while and the patterns will still be out there on etsy.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Fitted can mean different things. On the consumer level it seems to mean snug or body hugging.

        But to a tailor it can mean that the garment does not hang like a potato sack on the wearer. For example, sleeves are a proper length, shoulder seams are actually at the shoulder instead of several inches down the arm and so on. In other words, the garment has a “proper fit” for the wearer.
        One place I worked a woman routinely wore clothing that did not bind on her anywhere. So this means styles that were flowy, or had lots of fabric. The clothes always fit her properly ( and she never had wardrobe malfunctions) and she always looked so comfortable in her clothes, to the point that people commented. Folks like her style and she looked professional.

      3. Indie*

        It depends on the tailoring? If it’s a tailored wiggle dress, yes. A tailored column skirt, no.

      1. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

        My choir uses a company called concert black ( Granted, black is the predominant color but they look nice with nice lines.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        My current choir dress is a long black skirt, long black sleeveless tunic, and long black draped cardigan. I sometimes say that I would feel perfectly comfortable wearing the skirt and cardigan at work (the top is too loose for my tastes!). I work in a business casual environment. I think if you consider this type of combination, you can do a lot with the maxi skirts you already own.

  12. nnn*

    I think the search term you need for the modest clothes is business suit – either modest business suit or [religious name] modest business suit, or whatever the word for modest dress is in your religion.

    You get examples of skirts that are definitely long and definitely businessy. (Unfortunately I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the design features that make them look businessy.)

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Generally it’s fabric and color. Nothing sheer, thicker wool blends, classic cuts and neutral colors like black, charcoal and gray.
      Perhaps opaque tights can also help OP if the skirt is knee length? It will create a solid line of coverage and look appropriate for interviews.
      On the plus side, midi skirts are having a moment.

  13. Zoey*

    #2 Is there also maybe a middle ground where you ask for some development opportunities – eg a change to do more of a certain kind of work – rather than a complete promotion?

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      I’m going to add to this. Ask about compensation vs raises. If you are getting a promotion, the position could pay more than your current position. That wouldn’t be a raise, so it could fly as normal hiring cost.

      1. Snowglobe*

        I was going to suggest this as well. Our company has had a couple of years with no raises due to overall company performance, but that was just the standard annual pay increase. Promotions to a higher job grade still came with a raise. OP should clarify that point with their boss.

      2. BlueWolf*

        That’s what I was thinking. There’s a difference between merit/col raises and being promoted to a higher salary band. Definitely something to clarify. For example, when I got a promotion, my “raise” was broken down into two different categories. There was the standard raise percentage and then the percentage for being promoted to a higher salary band..

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          Also, it might be worth looking into applying for a new position at the higher level at the company. Staying in place might limit pay increases, but moving to a new position might be an easier way to increase pay.

      3. LazySusan*

        Second this. I’m not sure why everyone is assuming LW would only get a promotion with no change in salary?
        Different job grades have different ranges. So if they were to be given no raise for 2019, but given a promotion — their salary could see an increase, even if they moved down a percentile. (So being in the 30% percentile in a higher salary range could pay more than being in the 50% percentile in a lower range)

        1. Aaron Aardvark*

          LW says there is a freeze on raises, but does not mention a freeze on promotions. So it would depend if the company sees a promotion and the salary they pay for that position as a raise to the employee’s current salary or not. If the employee was promoted two months ago (prior to review/raises), would they be eligible for a raise on their new salary (if there was no freeze on raises) — probably not. If there is a freeze on promotions, then they may be stuck asking for a title change only. This might be worth it, as there is no guarantee that the company would ‘right size’ the LW ever.

      4. designbot*

        Plus ask about the total compensation package that a promotion might come with. At places I’ve worked some promotions might mean more vacation days, licensure reimbursements, a parking spot, and/or a higher percentage bonus opportunity. So there may be compensation beyond salary that could make this worth your while.

        1. Safetykats*

          Yes. I’ve worked for a few companies that have frozen or limited raises in specific years – but in every case you would still get the appropriate compensation bump with a promotion. People often confuse annual raises with the increase associated with a promotion, but typically they are treated completely differently.

          OP2 – just ask for the promotion. Assume it will come with a compensation bump. Don’t imply that you would take the promotion without an increase until or unless they bring it up.

    2. sloan kittering*

      If I were #2 maybe I’d ask for a better title, not a promotion, if I’m not getting a raise – as in, no specific new work other than what I already do (more work comes with raise) but job sounds better. Sure, titles are kinda meaningless but they have some cachet in the job search if you can show you became “senior” whatever or “assistant director” or “assistant manager” or something. Some companies are rigid about titles but since they’re the ones implementing the pay freeze …

  14. EM*

    About modest work wear:

    Women’s work fashion norms have some flexibility for creative combos built in, and any skirt you wear will automatically feel more businessy if you’re pairing it with a businessy buttoned top and jacket. Especially if the skirt has an interesting pattern; then it reads as intentional even if the combo is unusual. Alternatively, dark colors read as formal/professional, so steel grey, black or brown could be your ticket.

    If the cotton/jersey fabric just isn’t vibing professional, consider another fabric – linen is awesome and more formal than cotton. Also synthetics (rayon, etc) can be silky formal as well as drapey and comfortable (unlike linen). And then there’s the super flowy skirt option.

    Seems to me that long skirts are the answer either way, so the knowns include article of clothing and cut (to a point – at least we know it’s full length, right?), which rules out a lot of variables. Color and fabric are the unknowns. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, maybe look at making what you can’t find. If sewing is out, the Internet is your friend.

    And if you’re open to mid-length skirts, you’ve got some cool options, because there are lots of elegant skirts of that length out there that you could pair with opaque black leggings. Not sure if by modest you’re going for all covered, or all covered AND not form-fitting. Anyway, hope this helps a bit!

  15. Beth*

    #5: Would your religious guidelines allow for very wide legged pants? I’m thinking like this but in black and maybe less fitted at the hips/butt:

    If not, I think your best bet will be to look for long skirts in dressier fabrics. A thin jersey knit maxi skirt is too casual for many offices, but heavier weight knits will come off more formal, as will most woven materials. Sticking to professional colors and patterns (black, gray, navy; solids, pinstripes, etc.) will also help make skirts blend in; add a nice blouse and maybe a blazer and you’re likely to come off as professional.

  16. JJ*

    You can get suits with long skirts – it’s a common look for conservative Muslim and Jewish women lawyers, among other groups. You’ll have to hunt around a little but googling suit with long skirt will get you started. If you don’t need ankle length skirts, a fitted jacket over an a-line dress or skirt is a great, less formal look too. Fitted doesn’t have to mean clingy. I would avoid the long line jacket because it’s likely to look baggy and unkempt. If you need to avoid showing the shake of your rear do it by wearing a flared or looser skirt. I have some dresses from Amazon’s lark and Ro brand that fit orthodox Jewish modesty standards, but they just cover the knee. Amazon has a lot of long jersey dresses with long sleeves that I find by searching long dress with sleeves and those are not as formal but still look nice enough with a fitted jacket and ankle boots. I am a lawyer for the government so I usually need to look put together, but not super formal most days.

    Another option if you’re not of European heritage — wear your culture’s national dress. People will just assume it’s office appropriate and they might exoticize you but they won’t hold it against you like they might frumpy/baggy business suits.

    You can also always layer a bodysuit and black tights under a conventional business dress. A lot of orthodox Jewish women do this but I’ve seen Ilhan Omar ( now there’s a modest professional icon!) do it too. She also works in her national dress sometimes. Kate Middleton also has great modest style, but on an insane budget. You could also look at Rachel Freier, the first Chasidic woman recently elected judge in New York. She always looks very polished.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Perhaps if the dress is modest enough you can shake it all you like and nobody will know? Possibly not in business attire though, haha.

    1. OP 5*

      I can’t seem to find anything like you’re describing in google – maybe I’m imagining wrong? But it’s all hyper-fashiony, not an ordinary professional sort of business suit at all.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Another hit I got… on overstock, “Giovanna Signature” suits.

        I’m in need of replacing my own closet’s basics so I got terribly sidetracked by hunting for you and seeing things I like too. ;)

      2. JJ*

        Monroe and Main has a lot of good options, Chicos has some, sometimes Talbots has good options, I have a really nice mid-calf skirt suit from NY&Co but it’s from years ago, Lands End, Coldwater Creek, or for separates, Boden. Boden has so many gorgeous modest skirts.

    2. Madge*

      I know someone through a Facebook group who copies Kate Middleton’s style. There’s always an affordable knock-off.

    3. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I hope this comes across more as Fun Fact than Nitpicking Semantics–“Conservative Judaism” is actually pretty middling as far as observance of things like dress and diet. :)

      1. JJ*

        Conservative Judaism with a capital C, yes. With a lowercase c, conservative has the same definition for Jews as it does for anyone else.

  17. Shoes on My Cat*

    OP 4: dehydration is no joke!! People fatigue mentally & physically and start making poor decisions they would not normally make. Chronic dehydration is a factor that can be involved in depression, migraines, etc. If supervisor is so worried that water breaks lead to bio-breaks, well, yeah. DUH!! And holding it for hours is also not healthy. Maybe stop the machine long enough for people to bio break AND drink water every 2.5 hours will lead to higher productivity, plus no longer being an asshat of a supervisor. For a severe look at this, read the book Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon by Ghiglieei & Myers. Most of them caused by poor planning leading to poorer choices caused by mild dehydration then, well, you know. Drink the agua!!!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I worked for a place where I could not drink water while working. I started on the symptoms like OP is talking about and in the end I had to leave the job.

      It’s not worth ruining my health over.

      My family member was a nurse. She commented that nurses (at least in her era) had a lot of kidney problems. She attributed this to nurses not taking the time to go to the bathroom when necessary. “Oh I just do one more then, then I will run to the restroom.” That one more thing led to hours of work and totally forgetting the pit stop. Decades of this habit led to health problems later on in life.

      1. Elf*

        Yes, it’s not just nurses. Teachers tend to have more UTIs than any other profession, because we aren’t allowed to leave and go to the bathroom when we need to.

        1. Sakura*

          Yep! I’m trying to get out of teaching now and my top priority is finding a job where I can actually go to the bathroom.

      2. Flash Bristow*

        This. I’m mobility impaired and before I had a stairlift I’d go at night on my way to bed, and again in the morning on my way downstairs. And not at all during the day.

        This was Not Healthy.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I couldn’t work a job like that. I try to drink a lot of water throughout the day because it just makes me feel better – fewer headaches, more energized, skin looks goods, etc. I actually carry a water bottle around with me, as I’ve found that I drink way more water when it’s right in front of me.

  18. Airy*

    LW 5: For long skirts and pants (wide-legged styles mainly, so they may be okay in terms of modesty if slimmer-fitting pants would not be) in a variety of levels of formality eShakti is an excellent site. They offer a range of customisations for a flat fee (I think it’s $10) per garment which is great when you look at a style and think “I’d love to have that if only the sleeves were longer/the neckline or hemline could be different,” and their skirts and dresses all have pockets. Proper pockets that you can carry stuff in. It is awesome. I’ve had many, many compliments on my eShakti clothes. Wherever you shop I hope you find something that makes you feel comfortable and confident!

    1. Shira*

      Ha, I just recommended eShakti too! I recommend them to everyone I know who has specific dress guidelines/needs.

    2. Sam.*

      Eshakti has occasional sales events where special customization is free, for people who are cheap like me. And they always ask for your height and customize all dresses/skirts for length automatically and for no additional cost, so you could “tailor” the length of the skirt by adjusting the height you give.

  19. Tela*

    There are some awesome blogs by Orthodox Jewish women that I follow specifically for fashion advice.

    1. under-dressed*

      I’d love a pointer for names of the blogs for search terms (I know linking’s not allowed)!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Links are allowed! They just go through moderation first, which means there may be a delay before they show up, but feel free to post them!

  20. Ask a Manager* Post author

    In case it helps anyone give more tailored advice: When I let OP #5 know her letter was being published, she let me know that she’s English — so if anyone has has advice on specific English stores, that would be much appreciated! (But she also noted that any advice will provide helpful examples even if she can’t buy that exact item, plus may be helpful to others.)

    1. Bridget the Elephant*

      OP 5: Next and Marks and Spencer have lots of midi skirts which you could make formal with a smart jacket. You could maybe get longer versions by buying them in tall ranges, so that they’d be longer relative to your actual height. Also try local ‘alternative’ shops – you can often find quite formal full length skirts there.

      1. OP 5*

        I am pretty short, so thanks for the reminder about tall ranges! I sometimes end up buying children’s clothes so I forget I can do the same at the other end of the spectrum!

        1. EPLawyer*

          Knowing you are English helps. The Duchess of Sussex wears a lot of long skirts that look professional on her daytime engagements. Most of the tabs will breathlessly tell you the designer and the cost, then provide information on similar lower priced items.

          Also check what the “fashion police” from Ascot are wearing. They tend toward the modest end. I saw one suit that was to die for and actually contacted the store (too bad shipping was too much from the US).

        2. Qwerty*

          Fellow short person – One advantage here is that skirts will end up being longer on you since fashion is designed for tall people. I’ve found that many midi-lengths skirts end up being close to ankle-length for me, so maybe that’ll open up more options for you.

        3. Alston*

          So I am from a city with a large Samoan population. A number of the men wear long skirts, but made from material that matches their suit jacket. Tailored well (not tight, just cut gracefully) it looks really good! So even if you end up in a super formal office they requires suits I think you could do something like that. You might have to go to a seamstress and get a couple made, but it’s doable!

        4. Flash Bristow*

          M&S do a good petite range.

          To be honest, at all stages of my life I’ve found what I need at M&S! Goth black lacy things, skinny jeans, business suits, the lot! But go for a big store – those in small towns tend to cater just to the local demand so in the town where I grew up, it’s all floral stuff for women in their 50s who want to feel young again. Near my house in London, it’s totally different.

      2. Indie*

        Another vote for Marksies. I’d check out TK Maxx because all the different brand skirts are hung together (separated into professional and casual in most stores) and you can run your eye down the rail for the appropriate length. I would definitely make regular stops at John Lewis too, the tailoring is beautiful and frequently generous fabric-wise.

    2. londonedit*

      I swear M&S went through a stage of actually having a ‘modest’ section on their website, but I can’t for the life of me find it now. Annoying. Anyway, as Bridget the Elephant says, I expect M&S would be a great place to look as they have a lot of more conservative/modest clothing in their ranges. I can’t say I know anything about the sort of specific requirements you’d have, as I don’t follow any religion, but I’ve definitely seen a good range of dresses and skirts in M&S that cover a lot!

      1. misspiggy*

        Yes, it was, great, but it’s gone now – the Daily Mail got involved and there was a ‘customer backlash’ – ie thinly veiled racist squashing.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I did a Google search looking for clothing for Orthodox Jewish women in London (I realize you may not be in London, but bear with me) and found this site. The clothes look business casual appropriate for the most part, and while some of the colors may not work for you, it looks like they have others that would– and at the very least, you can get an idea of what’s out there and what might look good in a business casual setting. I especially like the Scottish Pocket Tube Dress.

    4. misspiggy*

      Marks and Spencer has a Jersey Long Sleeve Skater Midi Dress, which could work with thick tights.

    5. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      #5 I like long(er) skirts & dresses so I can comfortably wear shorts underneath to prevent chafing, and I’ve found some really nice business pieces at Talbot’s online. They can run a little expensive, but they have really good sales, they have a good range of sizes, and their quality is excellent (though some may require dry cleaning). I don’t know how long your skirt needs to be, but there might be a couple good options here.

      I’ve also had friends really love items they got from, which is a website that allows you to request custom tailoring of their designs–so if you love a certain dress, but wish it was longer or had longer sleeves, or a higher neckline, they do it for you!

  21. Shira*

    OP#5, as an Orthodox Jewish woman, I feel you. An incredible resource for me is eShakti – they’re a clothing brand that allow you to customize neckline, sleeve length, skirt length – basically anything that affects the coverage of a garment. I ordered 2 dresses from them and I loved not having to nix 3/4 of the offerings because they didn’t have the coverage I need – if I see a sleeveless dress I like, I can just order it with sleeves!
    The website is super easy to use and their stuff is very high quality. It’s not cheap, but not as expensive as you might expect. Here’s an example of a professional looking skirt that can be made ankle length (this is the higher end of their price range, in my experience):

    It might also help to look up clothing brands/sites that cater specifically to religious communities (not necessarily your own!). One that comes to mind is Kosher Casual – as the name indicates, they have more casual wear than business wear but there are a few fairly inexpensive skirts that you might be able to dress up. I think generally you’ll want to be looking for pencil skirts (ankle-length pencil skirts do exist! Can be hard to walk in, though).

    1. TheWonderGinger*

      I was coming here to say eshakti as well! I haven’t ordered from them, but I know a lot of people who have and they really like being able to add length or sleeves to pieces.

    2. Middle Manager*

      Double vote for Eshakti. I’m also a modest dresser, not particularly because of religion, but I’m just more comfortable with mid-calf, sleeves. Eshakti is like 90% of my wardrobe. The quality is good, the selection is amazing and changes often. The only caution I would give is that if you need it for an interview, there may be a time issue. Since it’s being custom-made, there is an understandable time delay in getting to you. I get my packages in the US about 4-5 weeks from order (everything ships from India).

    3. iglwif*

      eShakti is AMAZING. (Except for how much they charge to ship to Canada, sigh.)

      I’m not Orthodox but I like my skirts to cover my knees and my necklines to cover my collarbones, and I love that I can spot a dress I like and then adjust it to suit me, not just in terms of size–which is also awesome! I have a long waist and short arms and legs–but also in terms of season (I live in a place that has winters! It does not make sense for ALL my dresses to have short sleeves!) and personal preference. (And also, THEY HAVE POCKETS.)

      Ponte is an amazing fabric for work dresses and skirts! Always looks professional.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        Yes PONTE! Came here to say that. Johnnie Boden has some great ponte dresses. They might be too slim for your taste, OP, but their size range is really great!

  22. CastIrony*

    **drinks a sip water while reading this post**
    reaches OP#4: “I’m not allowed to drink water on breaks”
    Well, then.

    But seriously, I think that’s worth leaving over. It’s nuts that someone can’t be hydrated nearly at all! I get that it’s probably to minimize being absent from the manufacturing, but still! That’s insane!

    1. Jen*

      I am a nursing mother and there would be just no way I could work in that environment. Even every 2.5 hours really isn’t okay. You should be able to use the bathroom or get water on an as needed basis with the ability to get coverage on a machine. Digestive/urinary systems do not work on demand and avoiding drinking water for hours (or to avoid having to take a pre break) is a great way to give yourself an infection or get super dehydrated.

      1. Anblick*

        I had to be hospitalized after a serious bout of stomach flu left me so dehydrated it started to break down my leg muscles. I literally cannot imagine a workplace where I wouldn’t be allowed access to WATER. I’m honestly kind of horrified at the idea. Ugh!!

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      At OldJob, we were discouraged from drinking lots of fluids because we needed coverage on the phones. Sometimes breaks would be canceled because the call volume was so high. This was a call center.

      I had no idea the company was unreasonable. I even made up a mantra for myself: “Discipline your bowels. Discipline your bladder.”

      I wish I had found your blog before taking OldJob.

      1. Jaz*

        I worked in in-home behavior therapy covering several counties, and I would work several 2-3 hour sessions per day with enough time in between to drive almost legally to my next session without being late. We weren’t allowed to eat use the restroom during sessions, and there was no time between them, so I got in the habit of never eating or drinking anything until I got home around 8 pm. I really wish I’d known at the time that conditions like that could be pushed back on!

      2. Massmatt*

        But talking requires hydration! I worked in a call center for years and yes there were a lot of bad things about it but they definitely provided water, and most people had a bottle or cup at their desk. Try talking for 8 or 9 hours a day without water and see how long you last!

        This boss sounds like an out of touch jerk, and I would definitely be looking for another job.

        Honestly, even LITERAL slavemasters provided water.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House.*

      I used to lifeguard at a pool where lifeguards worked 4 hour shifts, alone, no bathroom break. So you would not be able to drink water, either. The heat was broken, so the pool deck was 95+ degrees.

      The number of times I spent the end of my shift trying not to pass out on the elevated lifeguard stand and fall into the pool was alarming. When I’d stand up to switch at the end of my shift, I’d see green spots and have to catch my balance before climbing down. I’d always leave with a headache and chug a full Nalgene in the time it took me to change and leave. It was awful.

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        The workers are revolting!

        (Seriously though, not being allowed to down a glass of water when you have a 3 minute break is BS. I hope your boss will see reason!)

        1. Rebecca*

          And a 2-3 minute break isn’t enough time either! I think in a food environment you have gloves, an apron of some sort, etc. and to take all that off, go to the bathroom, get a drink, wash up, get suited back up, etc. would take a minimum of 15 minutes, especially since restrooms are notoriously lacking with number of toilets per person, especially women’s restrooms. This is BS, and it’s abysmal that we allow workers to be treated this way.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      One tourist place up here would not allow employees to have water because the patrons might think the employees were thirsty. (!!!)
      So the employees were standing on black top in 90 degree heat with no water.
      Sometimes they would pass out salt tablets. Oddly, you were not supposed to mention out loud that they were passing out salt tablets.

      There are so many things wrong with this picture, I can’t count that high.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        I can kinda see the point there. what kind of business employs people with human needs? The disgrace!

      2. Lynn*

        I can’t even imagine.

        I worked at a local amusement park for several summers when I was a kid. Of course, folks couldn’t just walk away to get water during their shift. I used to give breaks-so I would be the temporary replacement operator during their 2 breaks during the day.

        On any day over 90F (and often, if we had time, when it was cooler) it was company policy that the “breakers” would do a water run. At 95F we would do at least 2 during our shifts. That meant that we put a bucket in one of the strollers that the park would rent out, filled it with ice water and headed to each ride to give our operators something to drink. We still had problems on the hottest days-especially on the rides with the metal decks-but we did at least try to keep the operators standing.

        If we could manage that at an amusement park that cared as little for the employees as that park (they hired kids and figured they were easy to replace, so treating them well wasn’t even on the radar) then there is no reason that any company can’t manage to have a minimum level of caring.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          It’s been a while since I worked in manufacturing, but I think OP’s employer could hire someone to relieve people for breaks. I think I was that person long ago. Or there were reasonable breaks. I had several manufacturing jobs and I never saw an environment where there wasn’t a 15-minute morning break, 1/2 hour lunch, and 15-minute afternoon break. I’m pretty sure that’s the law in both the states I’ve lived in.
          For 12-hour shifts I expect the law would require more breaks, or longer breaks and longer lunch. Has OP checked her state laws on that?

  23. GingerHR*

    OP5, there are some great UK-based websites that have smart long dresses / coats/ skirts (shukr for instance), although the styles can read as culturally quite specific. If they don’t suit, several of the standard department stores like John Lewis and Debenhams offer free personal shopping, it might be worth trying these. A lot of UK workplaces are pretty flexible on style, unless you are in professional services, so invest in something for interview and a few other options, but don’t spend too much until you know what your workplace is like. I’ve never worked anywhere where a long cotton or jersey skirt wouldn’t have been appropriate, and this may be the case for you as well/

    1. londonedit*

      This is a really good point. I work in a fairly casual industry, but people really wear whatever they like – some women stick to tops and jeans, whereas others wear smarter dresses or trousers/tops/shirts. It might also help that I work in London, which like most cities tends to be a bit more accepting of different styles of dress, but I don’t think a high-necked blouse/long skirt combo would cause any eyelids to be batted in any of the offices I’ve worked in.

    2. here is a name because I need to have one*

      I have purchased multiple skirts from Shukr which I wear to my office job all the time. Good quality, definitely long and modest, and depending on the style very work-appropriate. Highly recommended.

  24. SusanIvanova*

    While there may be good reason to not allow four 10s, the boss is beyond a jerk to ask for “five 10s!” – that’s far more than four 10s, and that’s terrible.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It sounds to me like a reply you’d THINK about saying to a poor-performing employee — and never actually say.

    2. KRM*

      I think going to HR and clarifying is good for exactly this reason. The boss didn’t say “Oh we can’t do that because we need coverage all working hours”, he reacted as if everyone working for him needed to work EVEN MORE than they already do, because they are peons who have no lives. Also, even if you need full coverage, there could be people who would prefer M rather than F off, so you could try to work out something that way, rather than reacting with horror that people might like extra time off.

      1. EPLawyer*

        But HR went to the 4 10s. So how do you go to HR on the 5th day? Yeah if HR can go to this schedule everyone else can just sort out the coverage. Not everyone can take Friday off.

        1. Antilles*

          But HR went to the 4 10s. So how do you go to HR on the 5th day?
          HR is still open four days a week, so you go to ask the question on a day they’re open. Not sure I understand the confusion here.
          Regarding ‘not everyone can take Friday off’ – some companies actually do give everyone Friday off successfully. In my branch of engineering, there’s a sizable portion of companies that completely shut the office down on Fridays. Sometimes individual employees might have to work on a Friday here or there due to meetings with regulators or a major project deadline or whatever, but those are specific one-off cases and you only show up for the time necessary to complete the task.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            I’m also not clear on how many people are in HR — it could be that Joe works Mon-Thurs and Janice works Tues-Fri and thus the department as a whole is still open 5 days. That’s how my department handles it when we have the option to do 4x10s in the summer.

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              And you’d think that for something like HR, they’d need to have someone there all five days.

              1. valentine*

                No, especially if only OP’s department is there Fridays, in which case, are they wasting a lot of time putting stuff off because they need input from the fortunate no-Fridays crews?

        2. Queen of the File*

          If it’s like other organizations people take different days off to ensure coverage. We have a mix of Monday/Friday/mid-week days off at my office.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          They’re not all M-Thurs. I’m certain they have some Tues-Fri to keep coverage. I’ve seen a lot of departments do split coverage.

        4. Someone Else*

          I would assume HR went to 4 10s, but which 4 varies by employee. So some of them are probably in every day of the week. I doubt they’re all on M-Th (or whatever same schedule). I could be wrong, but the whole dept being on 4 10s doesn’t mean the whole dept is out one day of the week.

      2. Queen Anon*

        I personally loved having Wednesday off when I was working 4 days a week. It was much easier to get personal errands done on a Wednesday than a Friday or Monday – everyone’s mileage will vary, obviously – and if I was having a bad day? There was always only one more day to work and I’d have a day off. (Plus mid-week matinees at the movies are often pretty much a private showing. Gotta love that!)

    3. Antilles*

      Agreed. Frankly, that would irritate me more than if he’d just said no. If you don’t think it’s feasible to do 4 10’s, fine, whatever, but responding with “no, I want us to work ten extra hours a week!” is just a slap in the face.
      However, as Alison said, it’s worth discreetly checking with HR about this. The boss may not like it for his department, but depending on how widespread it becomes in the organization, he may not have a choice – if the HR staff is all off, then the IT staff follows suit, plus other departments, plus the admin staff, etc, it quickly stops making sense to have people come in and work without any of the necessary support from elsewhere in the org.

  25. Melody Pond*

    OP 5 – If you’re up for doing some hunting – thrift stores!

    I like long skirts that fit the bill of coverage and comfort (more flowy/A-line rather than restrictive uber long pencil skirts), and also happen to be of a more business-y fabric. I’ve had the most luck finding these at thrift stores that tend to carry more outdated fashions. Look for fabrics that more resemble what you’d find in various business slacks.

    Also, if you’re okay with the 90s, full-length pencil skirt look – those are often plentiful in many cheaper thrift stores.

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I also hate (and am shaped wrong for) fitted pencil-style skirts. In addition to a-line styles, I’ve found that a straight skirt with really sharp pleats looks quite professional and allows as much movement as you need.

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        Princess seams would also do a lot to upgrade a standard straight skirt! Even if the skirt’s not fitted tightly, piping or princess seams would make it look structured and a little more businessy.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      Also eBay, if there’s an established brand you like. Not all, but many sellers ship worldwide. Pendleton made (and makes) calf length wool skirt suits, for example. Some on eBay are dated, but I have a basic gray skirt that’s timeless. The suit was probably less than $50. The only way to get comparable quality today is to go to a dressmaker. Even Pendleton doesn’t use the same quality now.

      Etsy runs at a higher price point but might have more English sellers.

  26. OP 5*

    FYI: I live in England. I don’t want to put anyone off sharing specific suggestions but I won’t be able to just go out and get any overseas ones!

    1. TechWorker*

      Googling Muslim business wear seems to have lots of uk results so might be worth a look? (Though the first site that came up that had a tonne of business-y looking maxi skirts also has bad reviews so…)

    2. Will*

      I did a little googling, and I found some nice, professional looking skirts from BIAH, which seems to be a UK-based company. They are ankle length in more structured fabrics and muted colors, and the pricing is not too bad—about £25-35 for a skirt.

    3. Blargity blarg*

      I’d also make sure you get decent looking shoes. Even just proper care/shining can make all the difference between hippie or frumpy and polished/stylish, while still being modest. Nice ballet flats, ankle or knee high boots with or without a heel, etc.

      Best wishes on your job search!

      1. fposte*

        Oh, yes, this is an excellent point. And if it works for you, consider the value of other accessories–I know you said no brights, and I don’t know where you stand on jewelry, but even adding a loose, well-chosen belt can help signal the “I am well put together” message.

        1. pope suburban*

          Also, scarves. There are a lot of tasteful, chic options out there, and they’re really handy if your office happens to be cold. As an added bonus, they can compensate for a shirt or a dress with a lower neckline than is preferred (Assuming there’s no prohibition against buying clothes that reveal more than prescribed).

          1. fposte*

            I had scarves in my head when I said “no brights” and yet somehow never added the actual words.

      2. WakeRed*

        Agree with Blargity and fposte. If I am wearing interesting earrings or shoes, people automatically think of me as put together. It’s a great life hack for days when I just cannot get excited about work/life/clothes.

      3. TootsNYC*

        the shoes are the SECRET!


        And long skirts can look very fashionable when paired with knee-high boots, actually.
        (I thought of that when I was reading all the suggestions to pair midis or just-below-the-knee skirts with boots for coverage.)

        1. Kat in VA*

          One small caveat – knee high boots with just below the knee skirts can sometimes wind up with the skirt annoyingly tucking itself into the top of your boots, if the boots are not form-fitting on the calf.

    4. Cranky Prognathodn*

      eShakti’s production is in India, at least everything I’ve bought has shipped from India, so I would hope that shipping to the UK is the same as to the US – although it may be affected by volume discounts.

    5. Allie*

      Where in the UK do you live (no need to respond with a city!)? I’m in Cambridge now so I’d struggle but in Leicester I could have had skirts made by the Muslim seamstresses. Depending on your location (or could you pair a trip to a friend with a scout about) it would be worth looking at that option.

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        I was going to add that in Birmingham (Sparkbrook) there are lots of shops that would stock off the shelf and made to measure clothing of all kinds.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          And London, especially Green Street. It’s where I got my wedding outfit (I’d wanted shalwar kameez for comfort but ended up with a more traditional outfit that they “jazzed up a bit for free” – the silver beaded skirt weighed half a stone!!!)

          Anyway they will do what you want (or be honest that they can’t). And you don’t have to be Muslim – I’m white and obviously not religious / modest but was treated with complete respect by a seller who wanted to make me happy. Best of all, the prices were modest too.

    6. Kaybee*

      Are you willing to consider international shipping? If so, and if you’re on the shorter side, there was one particular skirt that really worked for me. I *lived* in the Kasper Crepe Column Skirt for several months when I needed clothing that basically didn’t touch the bottom half of my body following surgery while also needing to look professional. It looks any other suit skirt, just longer. It is 33” long and is billed as a mid-calf length, but for me it was ankle-length for two reasons: height (I’m 5’4”) and being in between two sizes, I sized up for the looser fit, so the skirt ended up resting right above my hips instead of at my waist. I went to legislative hearings, high-level meetings in my organization, and other events requiring business-formal wear, and paired with a tailored jacket up top, I looked just as professional as everyone else.

      I don’t fit the original one I purchased anymore, but I’m seriously considering buying one in a new size just to put into my regular wardrobe rotation because I liked it so much (I also had a lot of other women ask me where I bought it because sometimes a long skirt is just easier to exist in than a shorter skirt.). It’s sold in a lot of U.S. stores like Macy’s, Dillards, Amazon U.S., but I don’t know if it’s a big enough brand to have made it across the ocean. At any rate, I’ll put a link in a response comment (so this one doesn’t get pulled into moderation) so you can see what I’m talking about.

    7. Janie*

      ASOS is having a dress sale right now and you could probably use some of the midi-dresses with leggings/thick tights and knee high boots, honestly.

      Also again, maybe look at vintage clothes if you’re straight sized? I follow a youtuber called Rachel Maksy and most of the skirts she wears are long, but it’s a very classy look.

  27. MistOrMister*

    OP5, I don’t know any particular stores that would carry what you need, but hopefully the more businessy side of a dept store would have something appropriate. I have an ankle length skirt in a heavy knit (almost like a sweater skirt!) that I wouldn’t hesitate to wear to an interview, with a nice top and jacket, and which I wear to work frequently. For me the key is the the fabric and the cut of the skirt. It’s not fitted at all but not flowy like you usually get from a maxi….basically just straight uo and down. I think you could get away with a maxi in most offices once you’re in the door, but probably it would look too casual for an interview.

    Also, what about palazzo pants? Given how loose they are, could that be an option?

  28. CoffeeLover*

    I’m a bit confused at #2. If they have a salary freeze at your pay level and higher, then that means they can’t give you a raise if you’re staying in the same pay grade level. But if you get promoted, doesn’t that mean you move to a different pay level? Wouldn’t you still get paid more regardless of the salary freeze?

    I guess this doesn’t work if your promotion means you stay in the same pay level. Maybe you could make a case for moving to the next level?

    1. Zip Silver*

      Yeah from the letter it sounded to me like they aren’t giving out raises, but this wouldn’t necessarily be the case in a promotion situation. After all, they’d have to pay somebody a higher wage for the position if they hired from outside the company.

    2. Nonny*

      I assume that’s what “and higher” refers to. Her pay grade and all the pay grades above it (so, the ones she’d be moving into) are frozen.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        I think I explained myself in a confusing way… let me use an example.

        Let’s say OP is in a pay grade level that makes between 25k – 35k. OP makes 33k and won’t get a raise if she stays in the same pay grade. But if she get’s promoted, the new position has a higher pay grade of 35k – 45k. Then she would get a raise to at least meet the minimum level of 35k.

        A salary freeze only means you don’t get a raise for staying in the same position. I think you should still expect a raise if you’re promoted. Unless we’re talking about a minor promotion where the responsibilities of the role don’t change much (like jr. analyst to sr. analyst)… but even then I wouldn’t be happy about it.

        1. a heather*

          In the past, that has been the case when salaries have been frozen at my (previous) employer. No raises, but if you are promoted you can still get a salary bump.

        2. Val Zephyr*

          You’re assuming that there is an open position at the higher pay grade level for the OP to move into, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case. It sounds like OP just wants to become more senior in their existing position.

        3. Alexis Rose*

          I had the same thought…… a promotion and a raise aren’t the same thing. I think that what might happen here is that they may also be freezing promotions so that nobody gets any more money no matter what happens.

        4. BRR*

          That’s a really good point. My mind defaulted to the company having a blanket policy of not raising salaries on the OP’s level but this is worth inquiring about.

        5. Alienor*

          At least in companies I’ve worked for, individual pay grades don’t start where the previous grade ends, they’re really wide and they overlap by quite a bit. If you were a grade 200, the salary range might be $40k-$65k, and for grade 300, it might be $50k-$75k. So if you were a grade 200 making $55k, you could get promoted to a position classified as grade 300 and still be within the range for that position without getting a raise.

          1. Close Bracket*

            Yes, I obviously can’t speak to OP’s exact company, but as a general rule, pay ranges for different grades overlap so getting a promotion doesn’t have to mean getting a raise.

            Even in companies where that’s the case, however, an employer might resist promoting a person when their current salary would put them at the low end of the next pay grade, say, a person makes 47k, and the next pay grade has a range from 45k-65k. That could possibly force a raise at some point to bring them closer to the center, and there might be reasons for not wanting to do that.

            So, CoffeeLover, the answer is maybe yes, maybe no. :)

    1. Guy Incognito*

      Aw, i didn’t read this one first. Sorry, my friend, i made a similar joke. Still hilarious.

  29. 867-5309*

    OP 5 – if you need to wear ankle-length skirts, then consider dresses. These can look more professional than a similar length skirt and top. Plus, maxi dresses are in style and there will be some cute options that you could pair with a cardigan, sweater or jacket. Most online shops will let you sort by length, even Amazon, which has some cute, inexpensive options.

    1. Madge*

      You could also play around with eshakti and other online custom clothing manufacturers to get the look you want.

      1. Manders*

        Yes, eshakti has a lot of maxi dresses! I checked their skirt section and they do have some maxi skirts too, although the bright colors and prints may not be what OP 5 would want for a job interview.

  30. Another UK anon*

    OP5 I agree with the commenter earlier who suggested going more obviously religious so people know you’re dressing modestly on purpose rather than not understanding office norms.

    I also thought about waistcoats. The issue with blazers and long skirts is that unless it’s exactly right it can look frumpy, but there’s basically no way to not look smart if you’ve got a waistcoat on! Something like plain blouse plus waistcoat plus long skirt in matching or complementary colour could work.

    Or, what about pinafore dresses with a nice blouse underneath? Like this but longer and/or with a blazer over the top.

    Also if you’re going for a looser skirt or dress, I’d consider a shorter, boxier blazer. I am also a short woman in the UK and my blazers all come from next, Topshop and the Debenhams petite range

  31. JSPA*

    #2: agree that you don’t have much to lose by asking whether a true promotion is off the table.

    Or that may have been a tip – off to think creatively about other perks you could ask for in lieu of a raise.

    Combination extra week of vacation plus training event someplace interesting, on a topic helpful to you and the department?

    Delayed raise (perhaps even with back pay once unfrozen)?

    Significant one – time bonus and named award suitable for resume – building?

    If framed as, “you’ve told me what’s off the table, because your hands are tied. So I’m wondering what’s still on the table,” asking about other options is not terribly pushy.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I was going to suggest this. What many companies don’t seem to understand (or care about) is when they aren’t able to give raises for financial reasons, they need to come up with other ways to retain employees. Sure most everyone wants more money, especially when given a promotion and more responsibilities, but it’s not always about the money. If a company is willing to provide other perks, people would be more willing to suck it up and stay, and continue to do great work.

      My last company was like this (and that’s why it’s my last company). I was there for 6 1/2 years, and had a lot of knowledge that was beneficial for them, but they gave very small raises each year. I was willing to suck it up for while (I had been laid off twice in the past, the company had gone through major changes and I survived with my job), but then I realized that nothing was going to really change.

  32. Jl*


    Yes, don’t sign up for extra if you’re not compensated for it.

    Personally my concern would be the future of the company. Is this really just a tough year or do you think the company may be going out? I’ve been in situations like this before and it smells of layoffs and eventual bankruptcy. Some companies will play games and dangle promotions in front of you to keep you around.

    Use your spidey senses and see if you can determine just how serious this is and be prepared. Maybe it is just a safety measure but you never know.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      OP #2 said: “We’re a Fortune 500 company that had a bad year, I don’t think we will close or anything like that.” So while this is excellent advice generally, it may not apply here. Certainly something to be aware of, though.

  33. FemaleProfessional*

    #5 Maxi dresses to the ankle are in-fashion at the moment. A solid color or small print maxi dress with a suit jacket/blazer would be very appropriate for a job interview in the Professional client-facing consulting office that I work in. There is a link to a website with ideas or internet search “Maxi Dress Work Wear” for other inspiration. I would avoid large flower prints and would stick to neutral colors and small prints (little polka dots or a thin pinstripe).

  34. Bookworm*

    #5: This can vary from office to office, from field to field. I once worked in a multi-national law firm where it was apparently not unusual to see partners in Hawaiian shirts and shorts (even to meet clients!) while just a few blocks away at a smaller law firm it was very conservative (casual Fridays meant no tie and that’s as far as it goes).

    I would also suggest you can ask. If you’ve already been hired, there’s always HR. You can also always go to a department store and ask them what they have for “business wear” and while it still might vary it also may give you a good idea as to what’s available and what the newest “style” is. Good luck!

  35. Bagpuss*

    As you are in the UK, consider Mango – they have quite a widevariety of stuff which may meet what you are looking for.
    You might also find this site helpful for ideas

    I think that a axi length skirt would be fine for interviews – i think colour and fabric make a huge difference to whether sonething is perceived as casual or formal, and if you pair it with a suit jacket or dark blazer it will read as formal.

  36. Rebecca*

    OP#3 You have my sympathy – I worked for snarky sarcastic manager like that. I hated asking her anything!

    Maybe your department is expected to be staffed Monday through Friday. OK, a few scenarios – allow half the people to work Monday through Thursday, others Tuesday through Friday. That way, someone is always there on every day for 10 hours. Or, if others don’t want to work 10 hour days, or can’t due scheduling issues, let them work all 5 days at 8 hours per day, maybe some of them coming in early and leaving early, or being able to come in later and leave later. Or, it might be that he himself might not want to be there 10 hours per day every day – and it might be like a job that I worked, that a “salaried” person must be present to supervise “hourly” employees at all times. Boy did we feel the resentment from that salaried person, let me tell you.

    Hopefully you can get to the root cause and get some flexibility!

  37. Amy*

    I work in some Orthodox neighborhoods of Brooklyn and I am constantly impressed by the modest fashions I see daily. Many girls look like they stepped out of a fashion catalog from about 1942. Very stylish and tailored, black pleated skirts, fitted jackets over high collared shirts.
    It can be a great look.

    1. lawyer*

      Yes, I love the vintage-y look many of the women in my local Orthodox community wear. Awesome hats, too.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      Just repeating that if you’re sticking to neutral colors, actual vintage clothes can be a great deal, money wise, without looking costume-y.

  38. New Job So Much Better*

    Whispering! So distracting. At my old job the office manager (who was not my boss) went around and whispered to other employees all day. Drove me nuts.

  39. MatKnifeNinja*

    OP #5

    If you google frum Jewish business attire, a whole bunch of sites pop up (including Pinterest) of fairly stylish clothes that would be okay for work with your restrictions. There were lots of maxi dress/skirts shown, and slightly higher lengths too.

    “Frum” is Yiddish for religious/pious. It cuts to the chase on what you want from Google. A maxi length skirt is the same skirt no matter who is wearing/buying it.

    The ones I saw had no side slits. My friend is an Orthdox Jew who dresses very modestly for her office job with long skirts and dresses. There are nice clothes out there, you just have to hunt a bit.

  40. Not So Super-visor*

    #1 This is why I hate being a manager in an open floor plan. It is almost impossible to have any confidential conversations without going into a conference room which is a huge red flag to the rest of the group. Even non-confidential conversations about work are difficult when speaking at a normal or lower level — one employee even went as far as to shush me while I was having a conversation with one of her coworkers. When I told her that this was normal workplace behavior, she reported me to HR.

    #3 In my workplace, they offer options to work at home and flex schedules for some positions. My department, however, requires constant coverage, so we expect employees to work their set schedules. Work from home is not an option as our phone system and operating software aren’t meant to be remoted into. If I hear from one more employee about “how unfair” it is, I will probably lose my marbles.

    1. thestik*

      I realize this is going on a tangent, but for your comments on #3, how many people know about the phone system not being designed for remoting? I wonder if employees knowing about that would mitigate some of the pushback.

  41. Samwise*

    Mid calf length skirts and dresses, dark tights, mid-calf or higher boots. Spend a bit for a couple of nice pairs of the boots — black, dark brown, and one subdued color — make sure they’re comfortable, fairly low and wide heel. That’s for fall/winter/early spring. Warm weather is harder! But you can go with the same clothes, still wear tights in lighter colors if you need to cover your legs, and low-heeled pumps.

  42. LadyByTheLake*

    #2 If she is interested in giving you a promotion, see if your boss can ask more questions about what is possible — I’ve worked for a large company that froze raises due to the company performance, but that did not apply to people who were actually moving into a different job and taking on more responsibility. So while a Supervisor might make $90k and a Manager $100k, and neither of them could get a raise, a person moving from the Supervisor to the Manager role would get the Manager salary. Otherwise, the company would not be able to get talented people (either internally or externally) to take on greater responsibilities.

    1. BadWolf*

      Yes — sometimes there are different buckets of money. The “no performance raises” bucket may be different from the “adjust your salary to your position” bucket.

  43. Temperance*

    LW5: there’s a brand called Mary craft s on Amazon that sells modest office professional clothing.

  44. staceyizme*

    Maxi skirts are in vogue. Wide legged trousers can give full coverage- think almost palazzo pants, but crepe, ponte or other opaque fabric. And don’t knock tailored looks- trying to create an overall silhouette that is structured but not revealing. You don’t want to think “potato sack”, but you do want to think about a crisp, professional edge to whatever silhouette you create. So having all the lines fall correctly from the shoulders and from the widest part of your hips to the bottoms of your pants or maxi skirt is the difference between “professional attire” and “poor fit/ too sloppy”. Pant suits with wide legged trousers and skirt suits that come a midi length might give you a head start on having a professional but modest option. You can try one size larger and see if that works. Depending on the style, your body type, size and the fabric, some will work.

    Vintage or vintage-look clothes might be another option. Some “boho” looks could be dressed up for an office. Many are flowy and this look offers long skirts, loose and/or long sleeved blouses and long vests. There are also retro looks on offer at shops and online, many of which may offer the basic look you prefer. Even the “fit and flare” dresses could be paired with a sweater, shrug or blazer.

  45. Guy Incognito*

    Watch out for those Whisperers. This season of the Walking Dead is showing us that this can be a real problem.

  46. Dust Bunny*

    Modest: I used to have two long skirts from a company called Hannah something that specialized in modest clothing. They were normal A-line skirts but with zippers and waistband buttons and dart fitting. Looked nice, were not clingy, and had a little more structure than jersey so it looked less informal. Machine washable and I gave one to a friend but still have the other (although I shortened it because I have to climb stairs a lot at work), and that one has held up very well for . . . it must be going on 10 years now. If you don’t absolutely need ankle-length, they could be shortened to look less conspicuous, but they looked fine as they were.

    Also, tailored clothing doesn’t necessarily mean “tightly-fitted”; it just means it’s made to fit you correctly. A jacket can be professional without showing off to much of your shape, if that’s a concern.

  47. wittyrepartee*

    OP5: How formal are we talking? I work in a business casual environment with a lot of conservative Muslim and Jewish women. Mostly they just wear whatever they’d normally wear, but in “professional colors”. Think: long brown or black abaya with a light colored matching hijab.

    In NYC, a lot of the conservative Jewish women work directly with tailors to get outfits made in a way that’s fashionable and also meets their clothing standards. If you use a professional fabric, you can probably get a tailor to create a lengthened version of whatever you want. Just make sure they put godets in the back so that you can move your legs. It’ll cost, but then again- professional wardrobes always do.

    And don’t worry about it, at least where I live people are pretty cool about it.

  48. Jennifer Juniper*

    OOO! They’re affordable and a great option for fat women and women over 40. (I’m both, BTW.)

    Traditional pencil skirts would be too short and tight and make me look like the world’s ugliest hooker.

  49. Mrs. Badcrumble*

    OP5 — Have a look at the Hana Tajima line at Uniqlo. The designs are pretty cool and all built for modesty, and the prices are reasonable. You might need to shop online, thought, even if you have a store in your town because they don’t carry everything.

  50. blink14*

    OP4 – A New York state law was passed a few years ago requiring small companies to have an HR representative, who can be hired as a contractor or on a part time basis (a family member owns a small business and hired an HR contractor when this was enacted). I’m pretty sure the size of your company falls in to this. I would definitely ask for a medical note, check the break laws, and you may want to reach out to the local or state level labor board for more advice.

  51. LavaLamp*

    My favorite book series (Joe Ledger) is about a guy who saves the world a lot. In combat situations he talks about how they never whisper because the exagerated S sound carries way more than just speaking at a low volume. Regardless of that; I would not want to listen to what amounts to somebody speaking botched parseltongue all day.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      This reminds me of when I took the GMAT, in one of those computer testing centers. I finished a section and decided to take a bathroom break, so I needed to inform the proctor. I’ve long believed that I can speak “sotto voce” more quietly than I can whisper (maybe everyone can?), so that’s what I started to do…the proctor put on this shocked look and hissed at me: “Shhh! People are trying to WORK in here!” Said people were all wearing noise-cancelling headphones, and whispering would be less quiet, but whatever. I dutifully started whispering.

    2. Michaela Westen*

      I learned about this from Narnia as a child. The scene where two of the characters reconnoiter a situation and report back – the girl told the leader “get down. Thee better”. She didn’t say the S on See because the sound would carry.
      That really impressed child me. :)

  52. TootsNYC*

    #1 whispering

    An opera singer friend once told me, when I had laryngitis, that whispering is more stressful to the vocal cords than normal talking in a low voice.

    She suggested I speak slowly and without force.

    So that’s another argument against whispering.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Very colorful. Some of these flowy ones I find a little more business casual if the OP is really going for a more formal office such as banking or law, but you could easily adapt with opaque tights.
      The one on the bottom right (gray dress with red blazer) seems more formal.

  53. Catsaber*

    OP 5 – Hana Tajima has a lot of really nice professional collections. I first saw her design for Uniqlo, and the prices were really reasonable. I don’t know if she will be doing any upcoming collections from them, but you can find secondhand stuff like that on Poshmark. But I would check out Uniqlo anyway, as I have seen some other stuff that fits what you are describing.

  54. Où est la bibliothèque?*

    #1-I’ve worked in a cube next to very whisper-y people so I have a LOT of sympathy for you. Lowered voices are so much less intrusive and just as inaudible, and it isn’t exactly life-threatening to either take your conversations elsewhere or just not gossip, but they never seemed to manage.

    One or two obnoxious intrusions with variations of “ooh, secrets! Who are we talking about?” cut down on it in my vicinity, but didn’t really do me any popularity favors.

  55. thathat*

    I’m going to be honest–the full elbow-to-ankle look often looks a little odd to folks in an office setting. But it’s what you wear, and odds are (I don’t know how comforting this is) that your potential employers will be able to tell it’s for religious reasons if that is your dresscode (ie: long skirt, long hair, no decolletage, no make-up), so if they’re a good fit for you, they’ll understand. Perhaps a long skirt that’s made from a nicer fabric? (something a little stiffer)

    1. Argh!*

      It depends on the religion. If there’s no requirement about hair or headdress, it’s hard to tell. Where I live there are a good number of Christian fundamentalists whose only real requirement is that women cover their shoulders, not wear pants, wear long skirts, and never cut their hair. (I think they are probably also prohibited from wearing make-up) They are virtually indistinguishable from people who are simply into the hippie look from the 60s & 70s.

    2. Oaktree*

      If the LW is in a large metropolitan area, I doubt it will really seem off. I work in a large firm in a big city and if I saw someone wearing that sort of coverage, even/especially with a head covering, I’d just assume they were an observant Jew or Muslim. There are many around where I live (more Muslims, but that’s just numbers) and everyone basically gets the concept that they cover. It’s not weird, so long as you’ve made a visible effort to look professional.

      These kinds of looks should work:–modest-outfits-modest-fashion.jpg–office-attire-office-wear.jpg seems to have a lot of modest office wear.

    3. Pomona Sprout*

      The presence or absence of makep is not a reliable indicator, imo. Some religions require modest clothing but have no probitions on makeup, while lots of people skip makeup for a variety of nonreligious reasons.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      This is was I was thinking. An A-line midi skirt in a seasonless wool blend. Midi skirts are in too. I see them in all sorts of colors, if color is not an issue. But for formal offices, generally gray, black, tan, etc.

      1. Youth*

        Yeah, I don’t do sleeveless clothes, low-cut tops, or above-the-knee skirts for religious reasons. That being said, I’m okay with knee-length as long as it doesn’t ride up, but for ideal coverage, midi-type skirts are a great option.

  56. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

    Ok, I am APPALLED that your boss won’t let you drink. That’s just…
    What would happen if you just…drank water during those breaks. If Boss complains, then you can just go “sorry, doctor said I’m dehydrated and it’s important I drink more! :) ” Would you get yelled at? “written up?”
    Otherwise more of a Conversation might be in order, because let me tell you that is ABSURD because you are a human being who needs to hydrate in order to function.

    1. valentine*

      Or fired on the spot. It’s possible no outside food/drink is allowed in the building, as Lora mentions above.

  57. voluptuousfire*

    OP#1–a former coworker was an Orthodox Jew and she would dress modestly. She usually wore a sweater or looser top (it was winter) a knee-length skirt and opaque tights with knee-high boots. She looked professional and everything was covered.

  58. thathat*

    #1 oooooh, the whispers. I HATE it. My previous supervisor tried cracking down on it, but it’s still very much the norm. I especially hate it because I’m the odd one out in my department, but I *used* to be in the “in group” so I remember exactly how snide and gossipy certain folks could be. It puts my shoulders up, and yes, it does not help my anxiety at all.

    I wish I had any help, but all I’ve got is sympathy. That really sucks. Do you best to give yourself positive self-talk when it starts getting to you. (But ugh, even without the anxiety, it’s also just ANNOYING.)

    1. Oh So Anon*

      I really hate whispering because it comes across as so conspiratorial even when it’s not meant that way, but I’m ashamed to say that I picked up that habit when I moved to my current job.

      At first, I didn’t even want to really interact with the whisperers because I couldn’t tell what their deal was. It was stressful to be around because I couldn’t easily tell who they were trying to hide seemingly benign things from and why. Once I became part of the “in crowd” I learned that a lot of the whispering isn’t even gossipy at all – this is just how these people got used to communicating when their office space got remodelled into a more open layout and they have little insight into how it comes across to newcomers.

  59. Argh!*

    Re: #5 I recommend a pencil skirt style, which would have to have some kind of adaptation for leg movement. Check out Simplicity pattern 8699, view A. That is a wrap skirt with a pencil skirt silhouette. It looks clean and professional, gives you room for leg movement, and also gives you coverage.

  60. Caitlyn*

    #5 – I envision a long, dark skirt in a thicker material with a button down top (perhaps even over a turtle neck).
    Here’s an affordable floor length linen skirt I think would be perfect:

    Here are some images I found:

    I would also suggest searching ebay for vintage long skirts (maybe add wool to narrow it down). Wearing floor length wool skirts with a nice sweater to work was very popular for a long time so I think you could find some affordable, very appropriate skirts this way.

  61. Stephanie*

    Hey! I love that series too, and had the same thought when reading about the whispering.

  62. Amber Rose*

    I worked at a job where whispering was almost definitely about me, and certainly shit talk. We only had five staff, and my boss hated me. My shoulders still go straight up around my ears when I hear whispering.

    That’s no way to live. If moving on to another job/company is an option, then for your own health I urge you to look into it.

  63. Working Hypothesis*

    #5, I love maxi skirts, and wore them all the time in a professional office (albeit twenty years ago, when I worked in one). Basically, look for straight skirts made out of the same materials as the office – style pencil skirts are, but ankle length, with side slits just high enough to let you walk comfortably. (If you feel the slits are too high, it’s possible to have the top of them closed up by an alterations tailor, but be careful to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of your movement!) There are a number of this kind of skirt available, especially in black, because choral singers often use them for performance. Catalog or online clothing companies are your friends in this, especially if you tend to fit standard sizes without needing to try everything on to be sure about it. Good luck!

  64. Lee*

    #5, Eileen Fisher has an absolutely gorgeous long, slim skirt. Everything about it is professional and stylish. Plus all the EF clothes have a certain “look” and with her tops its a great statement. Its a bit pricey, but track the sales – its worth it. Also, J Jill makes a very decent lower-priced alternative.

  65. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    An office full of careless whispers? Sounds like you need a saxophone!

  66. WakeRed*

    OP1, until you’ve figured out a longer-term solution, would getting up to get a drink of water, use the restroom, take a quick lap around the block help? I know if I’m getting ansty or anxious at work, that helps me – I’ve also been known to walk to the CVS on the next block for an ice cream bar, too. It could be that the whispering happens too often, but maybe some movement, a little breathing, and a change of scenery could relieve you a bit in the moment, even if you can’t do it forever/every time. Good luck, I’m sure it’s physically and emotionally stressful to have a trigger like that!

  67. Taryn*

    OP5, I think could be a good option. They do lots of dresses and skirts, and you can customize length! Not all of them will offer ankle length, but it only took me like a minute to find a skirt in a nice material that they will make ankle length :)

  68. AnonResearchManager*

    OP #2
    Definitely ask about a “title change” since promotions and raises are currently frozen! So much of your future opportunities are based on your title its silly. Especially when getting recruited/head hunted to positions. Leverage your hard work into a new and better title, that can then be leveraged into an actual promotion, whether at your company or a new one. A couple of ways this could work out:

    1. At your current company (after financial performance improves); make the case with your boss that for X number of months/years you’ve been performing at this higher level (if in fact your have) but are still being paid at your previous one, that you want to rectify your compensation with your contributions and go from there. Plus do some research on the salaries that your new title pays in your industry and location, bring that data with you to this conversation for reference.

    2. At a new company. It can be much easier to get a certain level position at a new company, when your most recent job has that same/similar title. Not always, but VERY often. Even if your job duties and accomplishments are pretty much the same. You’ll also be much more appealing to headhunters and recruiters if you already have the higher title, that’s an easier sell for them with clients and hiring managers than it is for them to convince someone to see that you have higher level potential. The fact that your previous employer has seen your accomplishments and recognized them is very impactful.

  69. Bookwormish51*

    I find very nice long skirts at And, in general, you can try googling ‘boot skirt’ to get a long skirt. Good luck!

  70. Have you tried rebooting?*

    Another option for long, plain, and more formal fabric skirt option might be looking at places that provide uniform skirts for schools. I know many of them sell chino skirts in ankle length for a more business casual environment.

  71. Production Alumni*

    #4 – All the food safety schemes (SQF, BRC, etc) allow for water fountains in production areas. That can make getting a drink more realistic (and thus allowable), since you’d only need to cut off your machine for <1 minute, or use a relief packer. Is there one on the production floor? If not, that's something simple that you and your coworkers can suggest that would only cost a few hundred dollars to implement, given that water lines tend to be everywhere in these facilities.

    1. Elsajeni*

      Yeah, I was thinking that this might be about timing — OP says it’s a 2-3 minute break when they reset the machine, which actually is a pretty short time to get a drink of water from another room and come back, especially if there’s any additional details like “you have to walk 40 feet across the manufacturing floor to get to that room” or “you have to open a locked locker to get your water bottle out”. A fountain in the same room does seem like it would make getting a drink and getting back within that 2-minute window more feasible.

  72. Kelly*

    OP#5: also stores that are geared toward Mormon clothing often have modest dress options. Good luck!

  73. Loux in Canada*

    Omg at #4!!! I have a super-sensitive brain and if I get too dehydrated, I get migraines. Luckily I work a desk job where I can go fill up my water bottle at any time, but I am super conscious about always having water with me. That boss is a super-jerk, not even allowing people to grab water on breaks. There are situations where you can’t have water nearby, but then at least you should provide ways for employees to hydrate themselves (I worked in an auto factory where we had… I think molten aluminum? Water could cause it to explode, so they were super cautious about not allowing any liquids near it).

  74. Not A Shill!*

    OP#5: Check out — they have a wide variety of tailored dresses appropriate for work, and if you pay the extra customization fee (pretty nominal, like 10 bucks) you can adjust the hem length, sleeve length, neckline, etc. to make it as modest as you want.

  75. cheese please*

    Your best bet is to proceed as Allison suggested and get a doctor’s note stating you need to drink water every 2 – 3 hours. I am a former manufacturing supervisor that worked in a similar clean room environment, but were much more lenient on breaks for bathroom, water etc. I don’t see why it is frowned upon that you drink water on your breaks if it is in the designated area at the designated time. How severe is this frowning? Will it put you at risk of termination for insubordination? Or is it merely a preference of this boss?

    By law, we were required to provide accommodations for medical conditions (ex: needs to sit for 4-5 hours of the day) as long as they did not impact the employee’s ability to complete all their work duties (ex: if the tool they are working on can only be accessed by standing and they needed to sit 4-5 hours of the day, they would be placed on disability if no other operations were available to them in the facility or until their medical restriction was removed). Having the need in writing should suffice with your boss.

    Alternatively, is there another machine or product line where you could be moved to that would allow for more water breaks?

    Also, I know many people have written about poor working conditions in manufacturing and other places. In situations where management is abusive, I recommend unionizing. While unions may be a debated topic, and it can be risky to start, it is good for a company to treat all employees fairly and sometimes such measures are needed.

  76. Anono-me*

    OP #3

    It might be helpful to know why your direct supervisor is concerned about the 4-10 option. If your organization just implemented it, there might be a bit of a learning curve and some unexpected challenges that your supervisor doesn’t want to deal with. Maybe if your supervisor has more information on the logistics from someone who has worked in 4-10s for quite a while, your supervisor will be more open to the idea.

    Please feel free to share my experience when I worked in an office that allowed a 4 -10 schedule. The way it worked was only half the people could be on 4-10s, the other half had to be on 5-8s . And only 10% of the staff could have any one day for their third day off. For paid holidays, we either had the choice of going to 5-8 hour days that week with a 8 hour day of holiday or staying on our regular schedule and using 2 hours of general leave. If we missed a day on 4-10s, we took 10 hours of the appropriate leave type. Schedules were only allowed to be changed three set times a year.

    Our department was about 30 people. So there were three people that had Monday as their third day off, three with Friday, three with Wednesday, two with Tuesday and one with Thursday. (Fewer people wanted Tuesday or Thursday, but some still did because of long commutes, or childcare, or classes at cetera.) People got to pick which day off they wanted by seniority, with the exception that people with the exact same duty set couldn’t both have the same day off.

    It actually worked really well, our office hours were extended by two and it also significantly reduced sick time. People were either able to schedule their appointments on their third day off or they were able to trade days with someone else.

    I do have to say that if your department is only a few people, I’m not sure how well 4-10s as a regular schedule would work.

  77. Armchair Analyst*

    For #5 – try looking for cocktail or very dressy or formal skirts as part of 2-part dressy outfit. You could just use the bottom skirt when you interview. These are often straight and ankle-length, think when pictures are taken for a charity gala. I used to have a skirt or 2 -well, I had the whole outfit – in this style, and you could easily wear the skirt separately and it will look black enough and similar material to look like like a suit.

    Good luck!

  78. Garland not Andrews*

    OP5, a quick google search located the website for a company called “Modanisa”. It specifies that the styles are Muslim, but even if you are not, many of the skirts are perfectly business formal and long. They also have full suits and appear to ship worldwide.

  79. Lilysparrow*

    OP5, I know different communities have different parameters for modest dress. Some are more focused on coverage, while others also include subtlety and not calling extra attention to your outward appearance (dark colors, plain finishes, etc).

    If color and pattern aren’t a problem, you might get some good ideas from searching something like “modern orthodox business wear for women”.

    There are a number of fashion bloggers and round up articles highlighting the way women in different industries incorporate their own modesty guidelines into work wear.

    Mormon bloggers do a lot of this too, but if you require full length skirts, they might not be as helpful.

    1. Shad*

      Funnily enough, when I complained to my friends about wanting pockets in my skirts, one of the strongest suggestions was for a company (Tara Lynn Boutique) that seems to largely aim at Mormon women, and their products are about half maxi dresses, just much more colorful than my personal tastes! I’m keeping an eye on them in case they add more neutrals, so it might be worth doing the same for OP5, but modesty can mean so many different things that it’s really easiest to be specific.

  80. JustHereToRead*

    #5 I worked in an position for a couple years which had dress code of ‘professional’ and skirts below the knee There are a few great websites to check out for a wide variety modest clothing!

    Downeast. Com
    Modestpop. Com

  81. pancakes*

    There’s a site called The Modist that carries a big selection of modest & gorgeous clothes. I don’t dress particularly modestly, but stumbled across it one day while looking for a particular piece by a designer I like. I think they’re based in London & Dubai, and they ship world-wide.

  82. Dorkestra*

    I used to wear long black skirts when I played in orchestras. They were usually lined so it provided a bit more structure and looked a bit more professional. There are a lot of websites that sell concert attire and separates. You’re going to see a lot of satin and tuxedo styles but there should be some in fabrics that are more office appropriate.

  83. Atomic Cowgirl*

    #5, a quick trip to our favorite global online retailer and typing in “ankle length skirt” immediately gave a few pretty good choices for formal office attire skirts. Sure, you have to week through the maxis and the flowery stuff, but there are some good skirts there with clean lines and office appropriate colors/materials. Best of luck to you!

  84. Holly*

    OP # 4 – This is not an immediate solution, but I highly recommend reaching out to your state senator or assembly member. This could be an interesting gap in the law that perhaps there would be some interest in coming up with a legislative solution for. In the meantime, I would see if there’s any way to get relief for water breaks.

  85. Easter*

    My work wardrobe issue is a bit different – I’m tall and plus size, so pantsuits sold together often don’t work for me (plenty of all options, not a lot of tall plus). I hate trying to match black blazers with black pants, so I’ve found that I really like wearing black dress pants, a black blouse, and then a brighter, solid color blazer (think red, not neon pink). It helps if the blazer is a little tailored as it can offset more flowy pants. All that to say – LW #5, if you have a matching solid skirt and blouse, maybe you could incorporate a different colored, structured blazer? I also think, in general, if you’re worried your skirt might be too casual (I am picturing a long, jersey knit maxi skirt), if you pair it with a structured top and a structured shoe, you can get away with it. (ALSO, as a comment to someone above re: advertising, I swear once I began typing my response, the ad on the right side of the page switched to a Lane Bryant ad!)

    1. Michaela Westen*

      I know, that stuff is spooky!
      I looked at photos of a friend’s new house on FB and then FB started trying to sell me apartments. Sigh.

  86. MP*

    Chadwicks has some long wool skirts that are businessy (and inexpensive). They had a solid black one that would be good for interviews.

  87. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    OP #5: I dress a lot like you just because that’s my sense of fashion (I’m not religious). In addition to eShakti (which is fantastic but can get pricey), I’ve found a lot of good work skirts on Amazon. Amazon sellers tend to post measurements in their descriptions, so you can know (for example) that the skirt is 30” at the waist and 27” long (which for me would be pretty long). At the moment, I’m wearing a skirt that hits me just above the ankle in a navy-and-tan plaid that I got for cheap.

  88. Elle Kay*

    I was kind-of entertained while on vacation in Florida earlier this year b/c I kept seeing a large and very traditional/conservative Jewish family during the week. The women clearly dressed modestly but were adapting to the southern FL warmth with knee-length skirts and think (non-see through) tights. Maybe something like that would work? I agree that it’s hard to find a floor/maxi-length skirt that meets the norms of “professional”

  89. Lucille2*

    #2 – IME, large corporations often have policies restricting the percentage of salary increase an employee can receive along with a promotion. This may be a factor in your decision to pursue a promotion without pay raise. If you are already at the mid to low end of market salary for your position, the promotion could leave you even lower on the pay scale. That can keep you at a low pay band for years to come if you stay with the same company. I work in a city where cost of living has been on a somewhat sharp increase in the last decade, and policies like this have only encouraged job hopping in order for employees to keep up with market salaries and rising living costs.

    Best of luck to you. I’m really sorry the cards aren’t really in your favor, but it sounds like your manager recognizes the unfairness. You likely are gaining a favorable reputation which will always help you in the long run.

  90. IndoorCat*

    LW #5, I know your milage will vary depending on location, but I live in a medium-sized town in Ohio and most larger professional businesses (law office, academic library, even marketing firm) have at least one or two visibly religious / modest employees, whether they’re plain dress Mennonites, hijab-wearing Muslims, or Orthodox Jews. I genuinely think most interviewers wouldn’t think twice about a solid color (or black / gray) skirt you wore in a more casual workplace environment with a classy belt, blazer, and briefcase. Plain dress is probably the toughest to merge with a conventional professional look, since it’s pretty specific. But, in that case, I don’t think dressing in plain clothes will likely be a deal breaker for an otherwise strong candidate.

  91. CatMom*

    Letter 5 – Mimu Maxi has some very pretty, minimalist modest clothing (Orthodox Jewish company/designers, plus woman-owned and manufactured in the U.S.). Some of it might be too casual for an office environment, but they do have some pretty dresses and separates that would be fine for work!

  92. Pomona Sprout*

    Reading OP#4’s letter and the replies to it in various threads.makes me really sad and angry. It’s appalling that so many people have to work in such inhumane conditions in the 21st freaking century. NO ONE should be forced to endure hours of dehydration and/or have to wear adult diapers because of being denied access to bathroom facilities just to be able to put food on their table. The companies described in some of these posts are committing basic human rights violations, afaic. No empliyer has the right to reqire workers to sacrifice their health in this manner.

    I am not naive about the realities of working in nanufacturing. My husband has worked in that industry for the last 25 years. But regular, adequate breaks are required by law in our state, which means he hasn’t had to endure the kind of mistreatment described by #4 and in some of thee replies.

    I can’t tell for sure where all the examples here are taking place, but it sounds lkke most of them, at least, are in the US, which leads me to conclude that this country needs much stronger worker protection laws at the federal level. Leaving it to the states is a crap shoot. Some states seem to be doing an okay job, but others appear to be sucking at it.

    (Alison, I’m sokrry if this comment comes too close to the “no politics” line. I have kept it as nonpartisan as I could, but I realize that talking about government regulation of employers may cross the line for some. Apologies if I have gone too far–I’m so horrified by some of the things I’ve been reading here that I can hardly think straight at the moment.)

  93. Erin*

    #4 – I’m late to the party, but yes you should be able to get a doctor’s note for this. When I worked at a large chain bookstore that everyone knows of we were not allowed to have water when working. I was on a medication at the time that had dry mouth as one of the side effects and was able to get a doctor’s note just from that. Then, I still got yelled at for drinking water in front of a customer – the horror and unprofessionalism! But yes, it’s infuriating that you need to get that note, but based on what you said it should be super easy for you.

  94. OP 5*

    Wow, what an amazing lot of comments! I can’t say for sure that I’ve read every single one but I’ve definitely tried to. I was somewhat concerned about writing to Alison in case people took issue with the idea of modest clothing but I clearly underestimated the commentariat here. However, there was a bit of a comment tangent which I would like to address.

    I and my husband are catholic converts. We’ve been growing into our faith and as part of that we decided that we wanted the way we dressed to reflect our faith and glorify God, in the same way that the way we eat does and other everyday activities. I’ll be honest: it’s been easier for my husband! Menswear just is generally more covering and less fitted and plainer! But this is something that I find very fulfilling so I have struggled on! :)

    So there aren’t any Rules as such which is why I wasn’t very specific in my question – although I now realize I left an unhelpful level of ambiguity! It’s more about a feeling than official rules. I want to wear clothing that deflects attention from my body but still looks tidy. I’m sorry if I was using the word “modest” in a way that offends people but I don’t know what other word there is to use in this situation! It seems that dressing with a religious purpose in mind is better understood when people are following prescribed rules that they can point to in order to explain themselves than when it’s something people have taken upon themselves to do.

    So it’s a bit like knowing pornography when you see it but I guess my rules of thumb are:
    – High neckline
    – Long sleeves
    – Long skirt (mid-calf to ankle)
    – Not form-fitting
    – No bright, attention-grabbing colours or patterns
    – No heels

    It’s absolutely culturally relativistic and non-logical, but it’s what makes me feel like I am dressing primarily for God and not for others.

    And as for the comments on my actual question…

    Thanks so much for the reassurance that smart professional =/= pencil skirt suit! I was really pleased to hear how many people wear or work with someone who wears my style of clothing in a professional environment. Where I worked before was ripped jeans and a paint-spattered t-shirt level of formality so aii really felt like I had no idea what people wear in real megacorp offices! After some pondering, I think dresses and a blazer are the way forward for me to look put-together. It was really helpful to hear that it’s more about having a polished look than wearing a suit. I’m going to get five dresses, two jackets, two pairs of shoes and I have a set of pearls I can wear to finish off the look. It’ll all be in anonymous business colours so I figure I can go round and round with the same lot and no one will be too bothered!

    And as for all the specific suggestions… I think scrub skirts and eshakti might have changed my life! I’ve put in an order for five eshakti dresses and I just can’t wait! They have POCKETS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I so hope they’re everything I’ve dreamed of!!! I’m just sad they won’t arrive in time for an interview I have on Friday, but I’ve sorted out a crisply-ironed outfit for then thanks to everyone here!

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