how can I follow up without being annoying, people ask “who’s in here?” when I’m in a bathroom stall, and more

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

1. How can I be less annoying when I have to follow up with people?

Do you have any suggestions for less annoying follow-up? I have a mainly back office position and don’t work with customers or external partners for the most part, but sometimes I have to request documents for compliance. It’s a pain and I hate doing it, but we have to do it.

Let’s say it’s a signed TPS coversheet. I don’t have the authority to change anything about the process, and management wants it this way. I have to hound our partners for these stupid TPS sheets and send them a million emails.

I have frequent back and forth with several key partners. I have a decent rapport with them, but I can’t help but feel like I’m a pest when I ask for what I need. Sometimes I only get one or two TPS sheets back when I need four, sometimes it’s the wrong name, and sometimes I receive them much later than the deadline.

How can I politely ask for what I need without being annoying? I’m a young millennial woman so that is driving a lot of my thoughts here.

You know it’s a requirement, they know it’s a requirement, and it’s okay to continue checking back until you have what you need. You should do it pleasantly and cheerfully, but don’t feel awkward about the fact that you have to do it in the first place! (If anything, you might tell yourself that they should feel a little awkward that they keep not sending you something you’re clearly asking for.)

Sometimes doing this pleasantly means using softening language like “I’m sorry to bug you about this” but most of the time it’s fine to just be straightforward, as long as your tone is warm — for example, “Hmmm, I’ve got two back from you but still need two more — can you send the X and Y sheets along too?” or “Today’s our deadline for having these in, so could you send them to me this morning?”

And when someone is chronically sending them in late, it’s fine to say, “We’ve to have these in by the fifth of every month for (reasons). Is there something I can do differently on my end to make sure you can meet that deadline?”

Also! If you’re sending a zillion emails without the results you need, the very first thing to try is switching contact methods — in this case, to calling instead. Some people are much more responsive to calls, and the ones who don’t love calls may start to realize it’s preferable to answer your emails.

But sometimes this is just the job, and decent people will understand you’re not hounding them just to annoy them.

2. My coworkers keep asking “who’s in here?” in the bathroom

My office restroom has the usual share of problems, but I’m finding that I keep running into one that causes me more grief than others. For context, I have a medical condition that requires frequent and sometimes lengthy trips to the restroom. Quite a few people around the office know about it, as I also need to take time off every couple months for treatment and I sometimes mention it in passing. I have already set up reasonable accommodations involving these restroom trips with HR, so no worries there.

The problem is that many of my fellow lady coworkers use the restroom as a sort of hangout spot. People will either stand by the sinks and chat, or even carry on conversations while all parties are in the restroom stalls. These conversations are about everything from personal life events, to complaints about others in the office, to private customer information. When one of the speakers realizes that they are not alone in the restroom, they either stop talking abruptly, comment on the extra person and laugh about it, or ask the dreaded question: “Who else is in here?”

I can’t stand this. My choices feel like they’re limited to 1) staying quiet and seeming creepy or 2) sheepishly identifying myself and dealing with the embarrassment. I’ll frequently hear jokes when I go to wash my hands that “I’m eavesdropping.” When I hear certain people enter the restroom, my heart sinks because I know that they’re going to continue their conversation and I’ll eventually be involved whether I like it or not.

If I ran the country, I’d make the question “Who’s in here?” illegal in all public restrooms. Since I can’t do that, what can I do? I don’t want to take away people’s freedom to chat, but I’m tired of feeling like an unwanted presence in my own company restroom. Is there any way to get a little bathroom etiquette going?

I think that when you’re in a bathroom stall, you’re entitled to the illusion of a sound barrier, and therefore you are not obligated to respond to queries directed your way from outside the stall. In other words, stay quiet if you want to! But I can understand why you might feel too weird doing that, you could try “Someone using a toilet!” or even “Ugh, let’s not roll-call who’s on the toilet.”

And once you come out and reveal yourself, feel free to say, “I prefer to believe there’s a sound barrier in bathroom stalls, where noise doesn’t travel in or out.”

3. Interview outfits when a suit isn’t flattering

I have fashion question. I’m hoping to have some interviews in the near future, in an industry where suits are pretty typical interview attire. However, I have a very large bust, to the point where I have to purchase all of my work clothes from specialty retailers. My typical work outfit is a conservative, tailored wrap dress, which works well for my figure. Quite frankly, suits look terrible on me. Button-up shirts and blazers never fit right. They are either so loose in the waist that I could fit an entire watermelon in there, or they have to be tailored in a way that really emphasizes my bust and makes me feel uncomfortable. It would also cost hundreds of dollars, as there are only a few (very expensive!) companies that sell button-up tops or blazers that I could actually fit over my chest.

Is there an alternate outfit I could get away with? Or do I need to lean into the suit?

It really depends on your field, and the norms for your field in your geographic area. There are a lot of fields now where it’s perfectly acceptable to wear something that’s formal but not a suit to interviews — a business-y dress, a dress with a non-suit blazer, pants and a blouse, etc. Those might be perfectly fine for you. (There are fewer formal non-suit interview options for men, but they exist too, usually revolving around no tie or no jacket.)

But there are still fields where you really do need to interview in a suit and will appear inappropriately informal if you don’t — for example, a lot of finance jobs and some law jobs. So you’ve really got to know your field on this one, unfortunately! If you’re unsure, I’d check with a handful of people you respect who work in your field in your geographic region, both at your level and somewhat above it, and see if there’s a consensus. (Avoid asking anyone who’s known to have iconoclastic views on this sort of thing though; you’re trying to find the mainstream perception.)

4. How to answer “where do you see yourself in five years?”

I have no idea what I want from my career. Never have done. I have no particular ambitions or positions I want to achieve. I’m perfectly happy to be in the same position without advancement so long as that position is fulfilling for me. But I have no idea how to explain that in job interviews without coming across as a lazy or mediocre worker.

I’ve been answering the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question by explaining that while I don’t have a set career path in mind, I know what I want from my position and then explaining what those things are, e.g. I want to work for a company that constantly improves and innovates, I enjoy working on a team, I want to be challenged and fulfilled by my work, etc. But I am not sure whether this is actually a good route to take or whether it is off-putting.

Interviewers who ask that question or similar ones are trying to get a sense of how this job fits in with your longer-term plans and goals. If it helps, you can think of it as, “How does this job fit in with where you see your career going?” They want to understand that because they want to hire someone who will be satisfied by the job and what it will do for them — which could be “help me move toward higher-level position doing X” but could also be stable, meaningful work. It’s fine to say something like, “What I really want is to stay in this field, building my skills, feeling regularly challenged, and doing work that feels meaningful. I’m very open about what that path ultimately looks like, but I’m excited about this role because ___.”

5. Should my resume mention an old internship with the company I’m applying to?

I have been updating my resume as I start to look for a new place of employment (in the same career field). During my junior year in college I was a summer intern with Company A. I interviewed with them once I graduated, but they ended up not having the budget to hire me at that time so I accepted an offer from Company B. Fast forward seven years (all with Company B), and I’m now applying to a new job with Company A. I’m not sure if I should put the internship from so long ago on my resume or not.

I have built a good portfolio of work that I am passionate about over the last seven years, and I want to make sure I have room to highlight those accomplishments. In comparison to my current skill set, the work I did as an intern is less impressive. I did real applicable work there; it was just at a level that reflected the fact I was an intern and didn’t have a degree or much work experience.

Is it a good idea to put the internship on the resume so that I highlight I have already worked there? Should I just list the dates of employment but not list accomplishments for that time? Leave it off from the resume and bring it up if I can during an interview? Forget the internship entirely and focus on more recent accomplishments?

List the internship, because it’s relevant that you’ve worked there before; it could give you a leg up, or it might just seem odd if it comes up later and you hadn’t mentioned it. But don’t devote a ton of space to it — just a single line (or maybe two) with highlights of what you accomplished there is fine.

You should also mention in the cover letter that you interned there at the start of your career.

{ 518 comments… read them below }

  1. BuildMeUp

    #2 – Ugh, this is so weird and awkward!

    As far as the “eavesdropping” comments go, I would respond (with either a casual or perhaps mildly perplexed face/tone) with something along the lines of, “Nope, just using the restroom!”

    1. Zona the Great

      Yes! I like to respond to nosy questions with just, “oh, no thank you”. It ends it immediately and I think this works well here, too.

      1. Sally

        I LOVE THIS! I’ve finally been able to remember the phrase, “I’m good, thanks.” I’m going to try to add “Oh, no thank you” to my repertoire!

      2. Hey Nonnie

        Given how awkward/invasive the questions are too, I’d have no problem being brutally straightforward. e.g.:

        “Who’s in here?”
        “I’d appreciate some privacy until I finish, thank you.”

        “Were you eavesdropping?”
        *bright smile, super-cheerful tone* “Nope! Just pooping!”

        (Seriously, don’t ask what I’m doing in the bathroom stall if you don’t really want to know. You got no one to blame but yourself.)

        In other words, Return Awkward to Sender. Maybe they’ll choose to make things less awkward in the future if they know you’re going to make them share in it.

    2. RUKiddingMe

      Yup. People, people, people… for the love of anything you think of as sacred…no questioning people using the potty!!!

    3. AcademiaNut

      I’d be really, really tempted to reply “Can’t talk! Pooping!”

      Because seriously, this is what the washroom is for! If you want to hang out in a shared washroom and chat with your friends, you need to accept that other people are going to be using the space for its intended purpose, and they are the ones who have the priority. The OP’s frequency of use of the facilities shouldn’t be relevant here.

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

        When someone knocks on the bathroom door at my house (sometimes they get closed with no one in them) I always blurt out “I’m pooping/peeing!”, because I’m always kind of startled, and I’m sure if someone asked ‘who’s in here?’ in a work (or even public) restroom, I’d be startled enough to blurt it out there, too.
        Ask a rude question, get a rude answer *shrug emoji*

          1. Rainy

            My automatic response is “ocupado!” which is weird because my Spanish is more of the “Disculpe! Tiene el número equivocado!” level than something I actually speak.

            1. valentine

              Disculpe! Tiene el número equivocado!
              I hope OP uses this. It’d be great to have a recording of the old landline error message, mainly for the irritating, bookending tri-beep.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden

              I may have replied “who are you looking for because I’m not them” at least a couple of times (in my case my fear is students using it at the same time, realizing it is me, and wanting to talk about their papers/schedule tutoring/etc while I’m making my Daily Reddit Checkin* (aka pooping).

          2. MJ

            My favorite, “What, are you writing a book or something?”, or the more widely applicable “Sorry, I don’t speak English” (in English, of course).

        1. Heidi

          When someone knocks, I always say, “Yes?” It’s one word and basically puts all the work of the encounter back on the knocker. Mostly they just want to know if the room is available, but they might also be looking for someone.

          1. Flash Bristow

            Do you not find that, having twigged from your “yes” that the stall is occupied, but not by someone they’re looking for, that they go quiet? Doesn’t this bounce the awkward back and forth, if that makes any sense?

        2. Jennifer Juniper

          I always yell “Occupied!” if someone knocks on the door of the bathroom. That lets the knocker know the bathroom is in use without being TMI.

      2. CMart

        I once at work (granted, it was when I was bartending so interpersonal norms are a bit more hmm… casual) responded to the 3rd time someone knocked on the single-stall employee bathroom door in the span of 2 minutes with “Jesus Christ, can’t a lady drop a deuce in peace?? I’ll be out in a minute or two!”

        I’d like to think it stopped the persistent knocking problem. A startled “I’m pooping!” is probably the more appropriate version for an office setting.

        1. Mr. Shark

          I like the “Privacy, please” response. In other words–shut up, it’s none of your business who is in here!

          1. HR Jeanne

            This is the best. It implies that everyone should know this is a private place, and they are being rude. Which they really, really are.

        2. AKchic

          And if they ask “who’s in here” again, be snarky and say “just mark me absent!” and try to fart.

    4. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

      I wonder if coughing when it becomes apparent that the bathroom has become a social club (am I the only one picturing said co-workers as giggly 17 year olds having a gossip about a boy? There’s just something about a bathroom that does *not* equal chat room – the noises, the limited space, hand driers… it’s one of my (many) bugbears about office life)
      *ahem* back to coughing – this pre-empts their “discovery” that someone else is in the room, and may even head off their conversation before it gets started.

      1. Marion Ravenwood

        Yes! It might be because I never had a group of girlfriends when I was growing up, but the whole ‘going to the ladies in packs’ thing just feels so teenager-y and frankly a bit weird to me once you get past, say, early 20s. You’re an adult woman, you can go to the loo by yourself! (Well unless you can’t due to disability etc, obviously, but I’m not sure that’s what going on here.

          1. Environmental Compliance

            Yup. The only time I go to bathrooms in groups is at a bar or club – but then, we went in pairs, because we had a pair back to watch the drinks.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden

              I have done the ‘group/pair to the bathroom’ thing since then, but it’s only because of costuming/cosplay needs (huge nerd over here). If I need to help lift a hoopskirt, undo a corset, or hold a furhead, that’s cool. If you just want to hang out, I don’t want to smell ya.

        1. wittyrepartee

          I had a group of girlfriends growing up, but I still don’t like to hang out in the bathroom with friends. I’m a grown-up, what am I hiding? The bathroom hang was because you were in school and wanted to lollygag outside of the view of teachers.

          1. RUKiddingMe

            Yeah as teenagers hanging out in the bathroom (in the “K” building not the “D” building because it was far away from classrooms) was done in order to smoke in peace. It was the 70s…people still smoked. If we wanted to cut class we’d just leave campus. It was a big city, easy to disappear.

        2. Workerbee

          I’ve never liked the group-loo traffic myself, nor do I like it when people chat away across stalls. I’m in the restroom for Very Specific Reasons that have zero to do with conversation.

          But I also never was told to go in a group for safety reasons (or I missed that part of the “Never shout ‘Help,’ shout ‘Fire!'” and other parental instructions).

          1. Jennifer Juniper

            If there’s a pile of people in the bathroom, I’ll ask if there’s a line. If there’s no line, I just do my business, wash my hands, and get out.

        3. Adminx2

          Had it happen at work a manager and I went into the bathroom at the same time, she came out of the stall and ran into someone who started a 15 minute conversation…about everything. Manager KNEW I was there and I felt totally stuck. Eventually I just finished and the other woman made a snark about how I must have heard everything. Like, yeah lady, the bathroom isn’t your private conference room. Grr.

      2. OP Number Two

        Ooh, this is a very good idea, thank you! Our office is very small and everyone knows everyone, so this is a great way to preserve a LITTLE anonymity.

        1. Bowserkitty

          I just realized your username is accurate AND relevant to the topic and I am having a nice little cheeky desk giggle….

          I am so sorry you have to go through this and I really hope you use some of the lines others have given!!

          1. Flash Bristow

            “I just realized your username is accurate AND relevant to the topic and I am having a nice little cheeky desk giggle….”

            *snork* thank you so much for that! Brilliant! I needed some light relief today.

      3. Samwise

        I guess — but the stall door is presumably closed, probably you can see shoes…when I walk into a bathroom, I can see pretty quickly whether it’s occupied or not.

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

          Depends on the bathroom layout. Walk through the door at our office and three of the stalls are around a corner – unless you’re peeking under each stall (weird!) it’s not immediately apparent that’s it’s occupied.
          But then, I’m also UK based, where the stall doors go almost to the floor and there’s no weird hinge gap.

        2. Edith

          When I was in Rome on holiday I had someone trying to enter a by me occupied bathroom, I answered “occupied” but the person outside continued to try to get in. They didn’t stop pulling the door until I yelld “ocupado!”. When I exited the bathroom the culprit explained she didn’t know English.

      4. MississippiMud

        My go-to for this is loudly getting toilet paper off of the roll. It doesn’t require any verbal/identifiable, but alerts others that a stall is occupied.

    5. I Took A Mint

      I think if someone asked me if I was eavesdropping in a restroom, I would respond with some mix of surprise and disgust, “…to people on the toilet?!” I’m sure your conversations are fascinating but the idea that anyone would go to the bathroom to listen to anything… we are all trying not to listen!!

    6. RabbitRabbit

      Consider semi-frequent and annoying use of “courtesy flushes” to pre-empt the question and possibly encourage them to move along, much like one might do to someone using the bathroom as a phone booth.

      1. Cat Fan

        I have done this. Where I work, there are sinks right outside the stalls, and sometimes people end up meeting at the sink and have a conversation. I have flushed a couple of times and they realize they can’t really have a conversation there with all the flushing and they walk out. It is a waste of water, but it does serve a purpose.

      2. NotReallyKarenWalker

        Yes! Came here to say this. When I hear the coffee clutch enter the bathroom I immediately flush to alert them to my presence, and flush periodically to remind them that this is a bathroom and not a social club. (Also, courtesy flushes should be taught as a life skill).

      3. Leslie Knope’s Long-Lost Twin

        Speaking of using the restroom as a phone booth, maybe pretend to make/receive a phone call when it’s clear that a chat fest is starting up. And then talk to your imaginary phone buddy about the rude ladies who use the restroom as a place to hang out and gossip when everyone knows it’s really the place to go make personal calls during work hours.

    7. dawbs

      I’ve found responses to the eavesdropping “joke” to be “yup, that’s me, couldn’t possibly be using a bathroom for its intended purpose” with a clueless eyeroll somewhat effective in making people sheepish back.
      (Especially those who think it’s horrifying that people actually create noise or odor using the facilities.
      I’ve also gone with “well, would you rather I do this out on the sales floor? “)

      1. CmdrShepard4ever

        I really hope the eyeroll is for your own edification and not because the stalls have no door and people are able to see you rolling your eyes while on the toilet.

        1. dawbs

          Well she said the eavesdropping comments were while washing hands. I’m assuming eye contact is possible out of the stall

          1. CmdrShepard4ever

            Ah I missed that part thank you. I thought it was while she was still in the stall.

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      See, I’m sarcastic and very direct. I tone it down somewhat at work, and with people that I don’t know well, but for the eavesdropping comment, I would say “This is the bathroom, not a cone of silence. If you want privacy, I would suggest going elsewhere.” If people want to have a private conversation at work, the bathroom is not the place to have it. They’re the ones being rude.

    9. Liz

      I’m snarky at times so I’d be tempted to just say “me” when asked who’s in the stall.

    10. traffic_spiral

      I’d respond to “who’s there” with “someone trying to take a dump in peace – so would you please stop talking about ______,” or “come back with a warrant.”

      For accusations of eavesdropping, I’d just stare and go “you were the one who showed up when I was mid-pee and started having a conversation in the bathroom. What exactly did you want me to do?” Then, after they’ve spluttered a bit say “yeah, maybe you should find a place to talk that doesn’t have a captive audience of people trying to take a dump.”

      1. RUKiddingMe

        LOL “come back with a warrant.” I’ve been known to answer with “are you the FBI/CIA?” or “who wants to know…?” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. Traffic_Spiral

          Heck with it.. get weird! Be like “am I being detained?” “You have no rights to question me under admiralty law!”

    11. Lepidoptera

      I have a million suggestions that I would never have the nerve to actually say.

      “You can close your mouth easier than I can close my ears.”
      “I’m curious to hear where you expect people to s*** other than the bathroom.”
      “Sorry, next time I’ll use the trash can at my desk so you can gossip in peace.”

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        These are all great! Why *your* desk, though? Don’t Gossip Girls’ desks have trashcans, too?

      2. Budgie Lover

        “You can shut your mouth easier than I can shut my…” That sentence can end a variety of ways, all of them crushing.

    12. Armchair Analyst

      Once while traveling with a group in a foreign country, I was privileged to use a toilet room that was sealed once you close the door, no “stall” with light and availability for peek-a-boo. I was there early in the morning and of course the bathroom filled up, and I heard a knock. I actually said “Who is it?”
      Luckily the person said, “nevermind, I’ll wait.”
      I did quickly emerge to wash my hands and we both joked about it – what was I going to say if she DID answer with her name?! “Oh, it’s you! Come on in!!” ???

      1. AKchic

        Which brings about the idea of replying “who’s asking” or “who wants to know” when asked “who’s in here?”.

        Personally, I’m a fan of “I signed the guest list at the front” or “the bouncer has my name”. Make it really silly and allude to the idea that the bathroom is some kind of exclusive “club”.

        1. Leslie Knope’s Long-Lost Twin

          I’d just pretend we were in the middle of a knock-knock joke and respond with “interrupting cow” or “orange” or “boo” and hope they say “interrupting cow/orange/boo who?” so I get to finish the joke.

    13. Tisiphone

      I’m second shift, so I get the cleaning person knocking on the door to the restroom to find out if the restroom is empty.

      If I hear that knock, my response is, “I’ll be out in a sec!”

      That’s my go-to for any comment anyone makes about me being in a restroom using it for its intended purpose. I also like some of the other posters’ responses, too.

      1. Roja

        Yeah, “just a minute,” “just a second,” or “someone’s in here” are my go-to responses when someone knocks.

    14. Burned Out Supervisor

      Reminds me of the “I’M POOPIN’!” meme.

      For the record, I would just say, “Just doing a little daytrading in here” and then let ‘er rip. But I have no shame…

    15. Ciel

      There’s also the option of doing the “courtesy flush” just as a way to make people aware you’re in there.

  2. bookartist

    LW #2 – Another good phrase here, if you can get away with it office-culture-wise, is “I beg your pardon?” I suspect they’ll know who it is by the sound of your voice, and it gets the message across that you find the question impolite.

    1. Fish Microwaver

      “I beg your pardon” delivered in a tone of icy disbelief is the perfect response to most egregious questions/statements.

    2. BRR

      Ooh I like this. Maybe “excuse me?” I don’t know if a curious or irritated tone would work better.

      1. BRR

        Or maybe Alison’s usual response to nosey questions, “what a weird question to ask.” I really would want to reply, “what’s it to you!”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          Best part of “I am Groot” is that it can mean anything you want because it’s Grootish.

  3. nnn

    For #2, you could respond with something like “I’ll just be a moment!”*

    That way you’re not being creepy by sitting there quietly and making them think there’s a spy in the stall**, but you’re also not accepting or normalizing their bathroom roll call, by instead answering the question that’s the closest to acceptable to ask someone who’s sitting on the toilet.

    *Miss Manners recommends this answer if someone knocks on the bathroom door while you’re in there, and goes on to define “a moment” as however long your task ends up taking.
    **(Or you could respond “A spy!”)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh I like that! Especially since it feels like it’s responding to the only acceptable thing they could really be asking someone in a stall (“is someone in there?”).

      1. Ellen

        I have been known to ask that question hopefully, especially if my stall is low on supplies.

    2. Organizedchaos

      I once responded “The building snitch, so cut out the chatter.” and laughed as they hurried and left. I wasn’t in my office but at a doctor’s office but it was still a funny story to tell. Side note, my husband and I were at a restaurant and I went into the ladies room and two littles were splashing water everywhere. I asked them in a stern voice “Are you done in here?” and both said yes so I told them to “move it.” I haven’t seen littles run so fast. My husband still asks me if there are littles in the ladies room every time we visit that restaurant.

        1. Watry

          Children. Little ones. It’s a slang term usually meaning a kid under 10 or so, often younger.

        2. Magenta

          The only time I have heard that term used it referred to adults who like to pretend to be children as part of some kind of kink.

          1. Drax

            Welp now I wonder how many people thought that when I refer to the children in my life as the littles.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood

            It’s very common in science fiction/fantasy fandom, and at Ren Faire/SCA events. Possibly derives from the old English word for children: “littlingas”. Is infinitely less jarring to me than calling the kids “hobbits.”
            I’ve also heard it from non-fandom people in southern USA who are homeschooling.

            1. OrganizedHRChaos

              I am in Texas and it is something said down here a lot when referring to young children or animals. Not in any kinky way that I have come across.

  4. HannahS

    OP 2, I’d love for you to reply with comments about eavesdropping with, “Well, this is a bathroom, so I’d say you’re the ones eavesdropping.” But failing that, some additional options you can say (having practiced in front of a mirror so as to appear completely confident in the fact that you’re right and they’re wrong):
    “Sorry, having conversations with people while I’m on the toilet wigs me out.”
    “Haha, you come here for privacy?! That’s what I come here for! I was never here! You saw nothing!”
    “Ya’ll, I just want to s___ in peace.”

    1. Tallulah in the Sky

      “Well, this is a bathroom, so I’d say you’re the ones eavesdropping.”

      That’s what I came here to suggest too. Make it a bit awkward for them instead of shouldering it alone. I think the suggestions of Alison and the comments will be able to provide a nice array of things to say that will make it clear that when you’re in the bathroom, you’re not there to socialize.

      And frankly, this is weird ! Don’t you guys have a coffee machine or a water cooler ? How do your coworkers don’t realize how awkward this is ?

      1. Batgirl

        I kind of want the opportunity to say this now! This would actually work well at our place.

        1. R.D.

          I have actually said something very similar yesterday, but it was to children, so it might not count. It was immediately proceeded by “can’t you two go 5 minutes without fighting?”

          1. Lana Kane

            I said this to my cat, this very morning, when she was sticking her paw under the door and meowing as I….well. Ya know.

      1. AKchic

        In your best Samwise Gamgee impression: I ain’t droppin’ no eaves, but I am droppin’ somethin’ else, sor!

    2. Angwyshaunce

      A courtesy flush would signal that someone was indeed present, while preserving anonymity.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        That’s what I prefer as a response to “Is someone there?”, since it does really answer their question! But to references to spying or eavesdropping, I’d be tempted to respond “It’s a bathroom, I came in here to poop/pee!”

    3. a

      Whenever someone tries to talk to me in the bathroom, I say “I have a strict no-talking-in-the-bathroom policy.” A couple repeats of that, and people will start having their private chats elsewhere because they know I won’t respond even if they ask.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, I apologize if I’ve misread, but have you tried dress suits (as opposed to pantsuits)? I hate dealing with button-up blouses, but I find that suits that are structured around a dress or suit are more flattering on me. Getting a blazer or suit jacket that fits properly can be a challenge (although I would explore alteration options), but dress suits can be structured in a silhouette that’s similar to a wrap while maintaining formality if your field is conservative.

    But if you’re in a slightly more lax dress code field, then a well-tailored dress with a blazer/suit jacket might suffice. The tricky part is that you generally want to be on the more formal side of the sartorial norms when you’re interviewing. If it’s common for people to wear suits everyday, then “dressing down” may draw more attention.

    1. Fortitude Jones

      I was going to say the same thing – dress suits may be the only option if this is a field where suits are A Thing during interviews and she can’t wear regular pant suits or button ups. The wrap dress, depending on the fabric and color, may be too business casual for a more formal interview process even with a dressy blazer over it.

      1. valentine

        OP3: Any fitted top is going to look better in general and especially as a layer. You can wear the jackets open. This comes up in weekend threads and I think blazers specifically came up this month, if you want to check those. If you’re comfortable mentioning a size range, maybe we can tailor advice to brands/stores.

        A tailored blazer should look better than anything ill-fitting (See: Queen Latifah in Stranger than Fiction, whose costumer hates her, I guess, versus on a red carpet, in a form-fitting dress that shows she’s svelte). I don’t see why good tailoring wouldn’t create a jacket that outlines your shape and makes you as comfortable as your wrap dresses do (assuming you’re happy with them).

        1. Sylvia

          OP3 here! I’m US size 12 in pants/waist, but my cup size is a US L, meaning my bust is about 12 inches larger than my ribs. (Thanks Polish genes!) It does mean I’m mostly beyond the hope of traditional tailors. I’d have to go up to an 18-20 to get something that fits my bust. I know tailors are awesome, but that’s a tall order! That said, I’m totally open up suggestions if you have any!

          1. Emily K

            I’m not great enough with fashion to know for certain what would work for you, but just throwing out as a possible suggestion – would a cropped blazer with a coordinated dress perhaps work? I have a very short torso that means my waist disappears in a lot of clothing styles, but cropped jackets and blazers are quite flattering.

            1. valentine

              I was thinking you’d give a tailor your size 18+ bust-flattering blazer and they’d take it in from mid-rib or so down so it’s no more than a 14 at the waist. You only need two or three (to include black and charcoal). For stores, I am thinking Ashley Stewart; the Brylane family, especially Jessica London; and maybe Simply Be or JD Williams.

              Be sure you’re starting with the right bra size (fitting guides bottom-right): http://thatbradoesnotfither.tumblr.com/post/47069712855/hey-i-was-wondering-about-cup-size-band-size

              1. valentine

                If you had just one jacket, I doubt most people would notice, especially with distinctive tops and accessories.

              2. Reliant

                As a person with the same problem, the wrong solution is buying a size (for example , 18) that fits your bust when you’re really a size 12. The reason is that the shoulders will be too wide and that’s a difficult alteration. That will make you look very sloppy.

          2. Twenty Points for the Copier

            I have a similar problem with large shoulders and upper arms and a small bust – sometimes I am buying blazers about 3 US sizes bigger than my usual size just to fit my shoulders in them. I’ve found tailors generally can reshape the rest of the blazer to get a really nice fit. It is pricey, though. I’ve spent $150 on tailoring for a $250 blazer before.

            1. Oregano

              Oh gosh, me too. And I rock climb, so finding tailored shirts that fit over my forearms is basically impossible!

          3. LadyByTheLake

            I am a financial services lawyer — so a combination of the two most conservative fields. I no longer own a suit and they aren’t that common anymore, even in those conservative industries. The dress you describe, particularly if paired with nice-looking jewelry and classic pumps, would be fine. The goal is to project polished professionalism — that doesn’t have to mean a suit.

            1. Michaela Westen

              This would look good IMHO if the material isn’t too limp. Some wrap dresses are in soft filmy material that hangs – For an interview I would wear something in a more robust material that makes a nice shape and coverage around the hem of the skirt. Don’t know if I’m expressing this very well, I hope it’s understandable!

              1. Busy

                I think you are, if I am understanding you correctly. Structure always reads as more professional.

            2. Ra94

              I’ve interviewed a lot as a corporate lawyer (in London, if location matters), often group interviews (so I see what everyone is wearing), and a black pant or skirt suit is the absolute norm. In that setting, OP would definitely stand out even in a gray or navy suit, much less in a dress.

          4. Busty

            A top notch tailor is amazing. Buy things to fit your bust comfortably, make sure they’re returnable. Bring it to the tailor ask them if it’s flattering and if they can fix it – a good tailor will be able to answer both of those.

            Also echoing what others have said, I absolutely cannot wear blouses but there’s a lot of other formal wear that may be okay – pencil dresses, blazers that are meant to be worn open, etc. If it doesn’t button up the front, it’s significantly more workable for me.

            1. AMT

              Echoing the idea of blazers that are meant to be worn open! Even in a very conservative field, OP could probably get away with an unstructured, buttonless blazer.

              1. OnTheSpot

                OP is trying to avoid paying a tailor to customize a suit jacket, so the open blazer idea is great. It doesn’t matter if it’s from a used clothing store as long as it’s decent looking and fits in the shoulders/sleeves. She can get an inexpensive suit jacket or blazer just to wear to interviews, and wear it open. I assume it’ll be more feasible to have tailored outfits once she’s got the job and has an income.

              2. Urdnot Bakara

                seconding/thirding the open blazer! i also have a proportion problem–i’m a plus-size gal with fat arms (so, basically, i have to size up to fit my arms), small bust and short torso, and when i button my blazers it looks like i’m swimming in them. i’ve found that just not buttoning your blazer goes a long way toward making things look more evened out. I also hate button-down shirts for the same reason, but honestly i’ve found people don’t care so much about what top you’re wearing with your suit as long as it’s not a graphic tee. lots of people here have suggested more flowy blouses, but i was also going to suggest a nice solid-color sweater, if you have one that’s comfortable. whatever you can tuck in. or a peplum top, which you could reasonably leave untucked.

              3. R.D.

                yes. I would go with an open blazer, specifically either one that is designed not to be buttoned, or one that has only one button. And a shell or blouse under that does not button up the front.

                You can frequently get suit separates so that you can buy the jacket in a different size than the pants or skirt. If it’s open, you probably only need to go up one or two sizes on the jacket.

                https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/theory-lindrayia-b-good-wool-suit-jacket-nordstrom-exclusive/4578255?origin=coordinating-4578255-0-1-PDP_1-recbot-also_viewed&recs_placement=PDP_1&recs_strategy=also_viewed&recs_source=recbot&recs_page_type=product&recs_seed=4578252

                I also like the look of a cropped tweed blazer over a wrap dress as long as the fabric of the wrap dress and cut of the skirt is sufficiently formal.

                Also, in my area, mixed separates would totally fly in pretty much any industry, so a full suit would not be necessary.

              4. RNL

                Yes yes yes! I’m a woman lawyer and I almost never button my blazers, except maybe at the very beginning of a court day. I also never wear button-up blouses (big bust problems!). One good blazer worn open (and taken off when at your desk to avoid shiny sleeves) is such a wardrobe god-send for a professional woman.
                There are also lots of unstructured blazers on the market now. Check this one out https://mmlafleur.com/shop/woolf-black

            2. Patty Mayonnaise

              I second the pencil dress and blazers that don’t need to be buttoned. I work in a much more casual industry so maybe this won’t work, but another option is getting a stylish but loose-fitting blouse (no buttons) and tucking it into a high-waisted skirt (like a pencil skirt or possibly a-line as long as it conforms to the legs a bit; not a billowy skirt). Add an open blazer to pull it together.

          5. Avis

            Have you tried Pepperberry? They’re Bravissimo’s clothing arm, they cater for up to an L and each dress size has three options within that for how booby you are.

            1. Voxtar

              The Pepperberry brand is now sold only under the Bravissimo label. Fortunately, their clothing recently became available in the US online (as opposed to shopping on the British site and shipping it internationally). Their blazers are definitely better fitting than anything I’ve tried stateside. The selection is limited at any given time but rotates frequently.

          6. lindsay

            I have a similar problem but Valentine has some good advice! Find a blazer that doesn’t have buttons- it doesn’t even have to be able to close in front of your chest. Trust me- the open front blazer is your friend. Underneath, don’t even try to wear a button down. Those will never work for us. Instead find a fitted blouse you like and wear that. For example, I have an off-white short sleeved blouse- no cleavage of course- from H&M that I would wear. Pair that with a pair of dress pants and heels and you are good to go.

            1. Smithy

              Came here to say the same thing. I don’t work in an industry where suits are a day to day norm and during my last interview cycle finding a suit that buttoned and didn’t look absurdly oversized ended up being impossible.

              In the end I did all my interviews in unbuttoned suit jackets – either over a shell or dress. Never a button down. While the job hunt was unfortunately long – I did end up receiving 4 offers in the space of a month using this method.

          7. KayDay

            I’ve never been much for getting clothes tailored but I find “blazer-like things” great for looking professional without wearing a real suit. I’m not sure what the right word is for them, but essentially jackets not intended to go with matching bottoms and sweater-blazer hybrid things. Items that are intended to be worn open (often they won’t even have any buttons or closures, but cardigans also qualify) can also help increase how professional an outfit looks without being a suit. Basically, you just need to keep trying them on as you see them, some will be very flattering and some will be awful. If you can find one that will look good over a black dress or your choice of dark/neutral bottom/top combo, it can really make that outfit look a bit more professional.

            Since I realize that’s a pretty vague description, I’ve seen a lot of these sorts of things at Ann Taylor, so maybe head there for inspiration (even if you buy stuff elsewhere). My experience is these are just things you have to keep your eyes open for and try them on when you see them, but it can be hard to go out and specifically shop specifically for a blazer-that’s-not-a-blazer.

          8. Pilcrow

            I have a similar situation to you, my top is is 3-4 sizes larger than my bottom with my weight carried in the middle (apple shape). Although my bust isn’t quite as big as yours.

            I’ve been having luck lately with Calvin Klein suit separates. The jackets fit my top very well (I tend to wear the jacket open) and I get the matching pants 3-4 sizes smaller to fit my narrow hips. Instead of a button down blouse, I have colorful shells – often light knits – that drape over the frontage rather than accentuate it. Granted, I’m not in a super conservative field or area, so I can get away with it.

          9. RandomU...

            Do you have any tailors that make to order suits in your area. Even if they are a men’s tailor, I’d think they’d be able to swing a woman’s cut. This may be a better option than trying to tailor a ready made blazer.

            Also, I wanted to mention, that I don’t think that a button down shirt with a suit is necessary. You can still wear a shell or blouse that is either a fitted wrap style or shell style. Whatever looks best with your figure.

          10. De-Archivist

            Alison, apologies if this comment is not allowed.

            iTailor and Eshakti both do custom/tailored clothing much more inexpensively than you would expect. Just put in your measurements and wait a couple of weeks. I’ve bought a couple of things from both and was pleasantly surprised by the quality vs. price.

            1. EH

              I can highly recommend Make Your Own Jeans for dress shirts for the same reason – quality and reasonable price. They have a bunch of different fabrics, and you can even order a set of swatches to see what the fabric actually feels like. You also get to customize frickin everything if you want (or you can just go with the defaults). They also do custom jackets, suits, blazers et al.

              OP, I 100% feel you. I have inherited my German Dad’s broad family butt, and there’s just over 12″ between my waist and hip measurements. (I’m also a 36I, so my chest isn’t helpful for clothes shopping either) Add in that I lean butch and don’t like dresses, and clothes shopping is a nightmare. Finding MYOJ was a revelation. Jeans that fit! Dress shirts that fit! Yayyy! I sing their praises to anyone who’ll listen. Next time I’m jobhunting, I’m getting my suit from them. One tip: I always reassure them in the order comments field that my measurements are correct. They’re unusual enough that the MYOJ folks assume I’m wrong and helpfully correct toward a more normal silhouette.

              There are also some places on Etsy that do custom work. I got a custom wool overcoat that fits me like a dream for about $300 from Ylistyle, and they also do a ton of other items of clothing.

          11. BatmansRobyn

            Hi friend! I’m only about two sizes below you, and a tailored blazer is definitely the way to go. Buy the bigger size, and take it somewhere local for alterations. It will cost less than you think (and you can get a relatively inexpensive blazer knowing that you’re going to have it altered instead of needing to shell out $$$ to find something that fits okay-ish off the rack) and if you get a nice neutral (non-tan) color, you can wear it with a bunch of other stuff.

          12. Ra94

            Hello, fellow busty lady with Eastern genes here! A lot of people have given really great advice about open blazers, and I just want to reiterate that pencil skirt suits are definitely your friends, proportion-wise. I’ve completely given up on button downs, but I find that shell tops and blouses in stretchy materials look really flattering. I’d avoid anything too loose, as it’ll come untucked from the pencil skirt, and make your bust look bigger, and stick to stretchy or tailored tops in light neutral shades instead.

          13. Not One of the Bronte Sisters

            I do, Sylvia. You could try a minimizer bra. Many very good lingerie companies make them. Also, have you tried a website like sumissura.com, at which you can order custom blazers and skirt and pants suits. And don’t despair of tailors! After all, somebody dresses Wendy Williams! Best of luck to you.

          14. Another Alison

            I think your best bet would be a cutsom-made jacket, either from a local seamstress or an online maker like Sene Studio. Having the right fit in the shoulders and arms will be a challenge if you’re buying several sizes too big to accommodate your bust.

          15. BustyMs

            Hi! Fellow 12 inches plus at bust here (US bra size 28 K/L). I have a short waist.

            When I buy suiting, I buy a size that fits my shoulders, back and overbust (no poofing by the arm holes) – and with correct length for my proportions. Because i have a short waist, I need a higher waistline, and suit jackets that stop at the hip bone. I often buy petite size to get the high waist placement. I like one button jackets.

            I never plan for wearing a suit jacket closed. I only care if it looks good open. I have had luck with Banana Republic Classic fit (petites, with the softer shoulders).

            So yes, there is hope for jackets.

            Shirts: I’m assuming you’ve tried Bravissimo etc. I like thin knit/jersey tops under my jackets, something with stretch and thin. But for shirts: silk. Silk drapes beautifully around the bust and takes no extra room. Cotton takes too much space and is more difficult to fit. Current fashion trends include silk shirts in quite roomy cuts, they will be more easy to fit.

          16. CatMom

            Have you checked out Universal Standard? I don’t have much of a bust so I can’t speak to the specifics of that, but their whole thing is providing a larger range of sizes and clothing that fits a wide range of body types. I’m not sure they have whole suits, but they definitely have blouses/button ups and a wide variety of work clothes. And they’re cute, not frumpy!

          17. Genny

            That does sound like a difficult, though not impossible, task for a tailor. At that point, does it make sense to hire someone to custom make you a suit? I imagine that’s going to be about the same as buying a suit and paying to get it heavily altered.

          18. LizH

            I’m pretty sure that you can order from the US, there is a UK company that I buy from that does clothing in 3 different bust size ranges. I have dresses from them that I use with their smart jackets for interviews. They do also do suits but I’m too short for those. They are https://www.bravissimo.com/collections/all-clothing/ and you should read the reviews as they tell you what the material is like and what figure they fit well (some dresses are better for hourglass, pear-shaped or apple-shaped but they all fit the larger busted).

        2. MsM

          High-quality draped cardigans over a sheath or A-line dress work pretty well for me, but I don’t work in a button-down suit industry to begin with.

        3. So How Sick Do You Get

          I have similar measurements to OP, and have tried to have blazers tailored. In order to fit the bust, I have to buy an 18/20 and have it brought down to a 6/8 to fit the rest of me (shoulders, waist). I’ve yet to find a tailor who will consent to do this, owing to – armholes. The size of the opening on a garment that is larger is also larger and so unless you love a batwing sleeve on your blazer it won’t fit!

    2. MK

      Also, if the main problem is the shirts, couldn’t the OP wear blouses or other kinds of tops? And/or jackets that have different styles than blazers and suit jackets?

      1. SignalLost

        I mean, it won’t work if formal suits are a requirement, but I got a skirt suit a few years ago that has a moto-style jacket, and it works well for me. I look like a hitman (at best) in a pantsuit, but the moto jacket has enough visual interest that it doesn’t create the same visual problems. However, my figure issue is more my incredibly short waist, where bottoms that hit at the waist create an unpleasant line with a tucked-in top and bottoms that hit below the waist emphasize my belly fat and also create an unpleasant line with a tucked-in top. I’m large-busted, but it sounds like less so than OP, if she needs custom tailoring to get a good fit.

        1. MK

          Frankly, I hate tucked-in tops with a passion and haven’t worn one in years. Unless you have flat belly, there are always issues.

          1. Myrin

            I have a flat/muscular belly and I still hate tucked-in tops (because I have pretty broad thighs compared to the rest of my body and the tuck-in-age really amplifies that fact). I’d say that unless you’re very slim in general, there are always issues. /end side-commentary, wistfully thinking about how I’d always liked Teresa Lisbon’s look but could never in a million years pull it off

            1. Project Manager

              I’m very slim and trust me, there are still plenty of issues finding flattering clothes :-) People just come in so many different shapes! My only tip is to find a designer that works for you and keep trolling (in the fishing sense) ThredUp.

          2. Patty Mayonnaise

            High-waisted pants are coming back in style, which means they are easier to find – that’s the only way I tuck in shirts and it works.

            1. Jennifer Juniper

              Thank goodness! I’m not at an age or girth where showing my stomach is appropriate. And ladies should always say no to crack!

          3. RandomU...

            I’m with you. I wear loose blouses. Think Helen Mirren in her Prime Suspect role. I have the opposite problem of SignalLost in that I’m long waisted, so trying to find a blouse that tucks in and stays tucked in is nigh on impossible. In fact most blouses I need to wear a camisole or another layer underneath that looks ok hanging out (intentionally layered).

          4. SignalLost

            I haven’t either. I wear a button-up blouse with my suit, usually. But a formal suit requires a tucked-in shirt, which is why I addressed it. If OP has to wear genuine business formalwear, that’s a tucked-in top.

      2. Sam.

        I’m not as large-chested as it sounds like OP is, but enough that button-up shirts are a complete nightmare. So this was my solution – all the work tops I own are shells or other, non-button-down blouses. If a shell would reduce a lot of her suit woes, I think that’s a completely fine alternative. But finding a blazer that fits can also be a challenge. I know I had to invest some time in finding one that’s more flattering to my body shape, and even then, I never button it since that makes it pull weird across the chest. It works for the limited occasions I need a blazer, though. (I’m sure I could find a better fit if I were to pay to have one tailored, but I don’t consider that money worth spending since I wear them so rarely.)

        1. Sylvia

          OP3 here. Shell would work fine, if I could find one that fit. Do you have any recommendations for brands or styles that have worked for you? (For reference, I wear a bra with a US size L cup, so I am somewhat of a challenge to fit in woven fabrics.)

          1. RandomU...

            Not sure if they’ll work, but I really like the cut of Vince brand silk blouses (search on Amazon). I have linebacker shoulders and upper arms (getting worse with rowing) and am decently well endowed. They are not cheap but great quality and super comfortable and stylish.

          2. Binky

            You can absolutely wear a knit shell, which will have way more stretch. My interview uniform is generally a skirt suit with a shell from a sweater set. Knit shells with cowl necks (as long as they’re not too low) are my favorite, because they fool the eye into thinking that some of your bust volume is just fabric draping. If they have the right hemming, they also look good either tucked in or out (I find that tucking in tends to emphasize the bust, so I often don’t tuck). You just have to make sure that your jacket (and I second the recommendation for a non fastening one) is longer than the untucked shell.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I know this will sound silly, but I really like combing Ann Taylor’s website when there’s a sale (which is almost always). I swear by their cowlneck shell, which is fitted enough to look tailored, loose enough to not feel clingy, and heavy enough fabric to drape appropriately while still feeling breathable.

      3. Lepidoptera

        Most of the workwear fashion people I follow (Corporette, 9to5Chic, Atlantic-Pacific, etc.) shy away from buttondown + suit as being very “first year law” looking. Blouses are considered more current and appropriate, so there are a lot of options if you follow those sort of bloggers/influencers.

      4. JJ Bittenbinder

        Yeah, I’ve never found a button-up shirt that’s even remotely flattering on me (let alone comfortable—that’s a pipe dream). Fortunately, my industry is OK with shells under suit jackets.

    3. TL -

      I definitely think you can wear a blouse instead of a button down for a suit. And then you only need one tailored suit for interviews – it might be cheaper to buy a good quality one that fits your bust and get everything else tailored to fit, rather than trying to get one that approximately fits from the start.

      1. Random thought

        agree! I work in law and it would be odd not to interview in a suit (or at least a blazer), but I haven’t worn a button up under that suit in… years? ever? because I dont think they’re flattering on me. even a (nice!) t-shirt can be fine under the right jacket, but I’m more apt to go with a sleeveless shell, which I always think looks fine if the jacket is unbuttoned as well.

    4. Sylvia

      OP3 here. Thankfully, my field isn’t suits-every-day formal, or I’d never have anything to wear! I actually had not heard of dress suits before, but I like the look. Unfortunately, I really can’t wear anything tailored from a traditional retailer (cup size L, it’s a curse), but I might be able to mimic the look with something available from one of the specialty retailers.

      1. deesse877

        I know it’s not ideal, but you could consider buying something that fits the bust and having a good tailor take it in at the waist and shoulder. To do this, look for dresses and/or jackets with fewer seams in the areas that need to shrink–no decorations or pockets on the jacket–and try to find a tailor who handles formal and bridal alterations (which equals significant boob experience). My very tentative guess is that they’d charge by their time, and an alteration like this would likely run about $120-$200. Not cheap, but maybe worth it for a good jacket.

        1. Sylvia

          OP3 here. Alas, I think tailoring would be cost prohibitive. I’d have to size up from a 12 to a 20 to get something that fits on the bust. At that point, the tailor is basically making a new garment, and would be totally justified in charging for that.

          1. SignalLost

            Very true, but sizing down at the waist is quite a bit easier, depending on how complex the garment is. A fully-lined jacket would be a pain; an unlined blazer would not. Plus, sizing up that far – where would they get the material? Not to argue you out of not tailoring, just to point out that fitting your bust and tailoring down the waist makes more sense.

          2. jolene

            Sylvia, I have huge boobs and find a V-necked pussy-bow blouse (not one that buttons up the front!) in a dark-coloured crepe very useful. I tie the bow into a loose knot and let it hang down. It creates length and draws the eye from the boobs. Worn over a fitted skirt, this could work very well for you, and it definitely looks smart.

          3. Owler

            I don’t know your price point or location, but my friend used to swear by Nordstrom’s for interview clothes. They have reasonable tailoring rates, and generally you can work with the tailor to figure out if the item will work before buying and altering. You might try looking for a similar department store in your area.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Yes—Nordstrom will often tailor for free for standard hemming or shortening length. They charge really reasonable rates for more involved tailoring, but I agree that sizing up, adopting an open-blazer/jacket style, and tailoring in the waist is the way to go (will be more cost effective but look sleek).

      2. straws

        I hear your pain, I’m an M cup and I consider myself lucky that I don’t work in an industry that requires tailored tops! That said, on the few occasions I’ve needed to spruce myself up, I’ve found some luck with scoop neck blouses with front detailing (I like pintucks the best, personally) paired with a suit dress where the jacket is meant to button below the bust.

        This was some time ago, and it took some effort to find the right pieces. I’m not sure I’d have the patience these days and would likely pay for a very neutral tailored suit to pair with a selection of very different blouses.

      3. Ellex

        My workplace is business casual (slacks and Dockers, blouses and sweaters, cute dresses and skirts, and most of the men wear polo shirts – it’s rare to see anyone in a full suit, male or female). I find that nice t-shirts and dress slacks, especially paired with cardigans, work really well for me: short torso, big bust, wide hips, muscular shoulders…and even if I lost the extra weight I’m carrying, finding work-suitable clothes would still be a challenge. A subtle crew-neck paired with dress slacks looks less like a t-shirt and more like a fitted top, and these days lots of t-shirts come in 3/4 and full length sleeves, which looks pretty nice with slacks or skirt, ballet flats or low pumps, and understated jewelry. Very much business casual rather than business formal, but that same t-shirt under a blazer also looks more like a shell than a t-shirt.

        You also get a wider variety of colors than the basic whites, ivories, and pastels that blouses and shells tend to come in. They’re also a lot cheaper! Just watch the thickness of the t-shirts – some brands are pretty thin and nearly transparent.

        1. Sylvia

          OP3 here. I can totally rock that kind of look for everyday wear (and I do!), but it doesn’t seem interview formal to me. Have you had any luck dressing up the look for a more formal occasion?

          1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters

            Have you thought of trying a minimizer bra? Many of the very good lingerie brands make them.

          2. Ellex

            Sorry I didn’t get back to you yesterday, things got unexpectedly busy! I’ve found some really pretty long-sleeve and 3/4 sleeve t-shirts with decorative embroidery and collars that are different from the usual crewneck/v-neckthat have worked very nicely for more formal occasions, especially with a blazer or decorative scarf.

      4. Urdnot Bakara

        This thread is getting pretty long so sorry if someone already mentioned this, but have you tried eShakti? They have all sorts of dresses and you can customize the length/sleeves/neckline and even enter your own measurements for an additional fee. Not sure what your budget is–they’re not cheap, but they’re almost certainly cheaper than buying from a department store and then having it tailored.

        1. Sylvia

          OP3 here! I’ve looked at eShataki but been hesitant to try it. My bust is a full 10 inches larger than standard pattern sizes, and I know from experience that traditional techniques to add bust sizing to patterns break down after a couple of inches. Basically, I’m worried that I will pay kind of a lot of money to end up with an ill-fitting shirt/dress with a Big Honkin’ Dart. (No knock on them, full bust adjustments of 10 inches are a real geometry nightmare, which is why I don’t just do it myself.)

          However, if anyone in the same general cup size range (I’m an L) has tried eShataki, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

          1. BellsaPoppin

            I’m an 34 H/I, and have found eShakti very much a miss with doing large bust sizes. It’s not so much the darts (although that’s an issue), as it is the too-large arm holes (either showing off half your side-breast if it’s sleeveless, or causing movement issues with the sleeve) and the overly-deep necklines that make it impossible to wear without a camisole. They’re just up the patterns, not actually working with your measurements.

            1. AKchic

              When I was a 36J/K, eShakti was hit and miss for me, but at the same time, my waist size was also pretty damned close to my band size (I swear, I’m pretty much just a brick with boobs). They could fit my boobs, no problem, but then my waist and hips were swimming. Once in a while I could find just the right thing.
              I think they really do want you to pay the extra for the custom tailoring, but most people don’t know their measurements (I do because of costuming stuff), but to be honest, how many people are going to trust an online retailer to be accurate with custom tailoring?

          2. So How Sick Do You Get

            I have. I wear a size 6/8 with a similar bust to yours (UK J).

            Unfortunately, my experience with them was poor: they don’t seem to just size up the area in question, but refuse to believe the other measures and you end up with a tent. (I did the custom size with measurements).

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Another option is skirt suits (gives you the ability to have wildly divergent sizing between the top and bottom). Also, some retailers will do free or low-cost alteration if you buy in store (e.g. Nordstrom, J.Crew).

        Another possibility is using belts with the dress suit. I have an hourglass figure, but getting a dress that’s tailored while clearing my bust and hips/butt, all while not looking like a disheveled bag, can be a hassle. So I favor pencil skirt suits (open blazer, blouses instead of button-ups) and suiting dresses with belts as an accessory. The belts help add definition and make my outfits look tailored, even when they’re not actually tailored (and they make me look less like a misshapen brown paper bag).

        I also vote for EShakti if you can get away with a tailored knit dress, which sounds like a possibility in light of your wrap dresses. J.Crew has also started doing wrap dresses that are suiting-appropriate in suit wool or heavy crepe—it’s overpriced and not always great quality at full price, but they’re often more reasonably priced on the second-hand market or on sale. I’m also a big fan of coatigans or non-traditional blazers, which work well if your dress is well-tailored.

      6. Admin of Sys

        Have you tried more soft knit jackets? Specifically, the ones made out of travel fabric, rather than cotton? They’re usually a lot more forgiving of bust / waist size ratio issues due to the way they drape. I used to by a ton of business wear at Chicos, though I admit it’s not very summer friendly.

    5. Pippa

      OP3, all the advice here looks helpful, but I also wanted to recommend the retailer Bravissimo. They do clothes in addition to an extensive range of lingerie, and it’s where I’ve found blouses, tops, dresses, jackets, and even a trenchcoat that fit my chest without tailoring. (Like you, I can’t usually wear button-front shirts.) You just buy your normal size, but with three options for ‘curvy,’ ‘really curvy,’ or ‘super curvy.’ I’ve found it cheaper and more convenient than tailoring, and I think there’s a sale on now. Two caveats: they don’t sell suits, and their white button-up shirt is a bit thin (but the other colours are fine). I’ve been happy with the quality and the shipping is fast.

      1. Squeeze of Lemon

        I was coming here to recommend the same! Bravissimo has completely changed my work attire. I can highly recommend their workwear! I have several skirt suit (blazer + skirt) and dress suit (blazer + dress) sets from them.

      2. straws

        Oh my goodness, I had no idea that Bravissimo did clothing! This could change a lot for me… Thank you!!

      3. Lepidoptera

        Also note that Campbell & Kate makes their signature buttondown shirt in sizes that fit up to an H cup. The shirts are customizable by how slim you want them to fit, too, so you can avoid the “stomach tent” look.

        1. Sylvia

          OP3 here. Alas, I’m in an L cup. (I blame my Polish ancestors.) However, it sounds like a great resource for anyone with slightly more reasonable fitting needs!

      4. Sylvia

        OP3 here. I love their clothes! A good half of my wardrobe is from their Pepperberry line. However, I’ve found the same problem you mentioned; they don’t have suits or anything that really strikes me as interview-formal. (Totally open to links if you spotted something you think would work.)

      5. Anonymeece

        Pin-Up Girl Clothing is also tailored for curvier girls, especially with big busts. Not all of their stuff is work-appropriate, but I’ve managed to snag a few things that were, including one white shirt that I use as an interview shirt. Fits like a dream, no tailoring necessary.

        Definitely on the pricier side though.

        E-Shakti also allows tailor-made clothes (!!!). Again, pricey, but worth it for those of us who don’t fit into the traditional sizes!

    6. Anonymeece

      As someone who has to buy specialty bras for her bust (so much sympathy, OP!), some suggestions:

      1. Dress suits > pantsuits anytime. I don’t know why, but they’re just much more flattering.

      2. Depending on the field, you may also be able to dress up a wrap or tailored dress with a blazer left open. I have a blazer that fits my shoulders and waist perfectly and there is no way in hell I am able to button that thing over my chest. I leave it open and it classes whatever I’m wearing up without me actually having to demonstrate that it absolutely does not fit in reality.

      3. A good bra. I just – everything not only looks better, but fits better with a good bra.

      4. It’s so not good-looking, but it does the trick: I have a bust/waist difference of about 14″, so I have to go with several size larger button-up shirts to avoid gaping. So I tuck all the extra around the waist and slide it to the back, so that it’s all bunched up there (you can even have someone safety pin the bunching in the back if you’re worried). Throw an open blazer over it and voila, presto! It looks neat in front and the blazer keeps the mess in the back from showing. Works especially well with high rise pants.

  6. Dr. Anonymous

    OP #2, that’s just so odd that people ask who that is. I’d just flush when someone comes in so they know not to continue their gossip and if people actuall ask who’s in there, I’d be tempted to respond, “Who wants to know? I prefer to imagine I’m invisible in here.”

    1. Beth

      That’s exactly what I would do — flush or otherwise make noise so it’s clear that yo, there’s someone in here.

    2. Heidi

      Is it the same people doing this repeatedly? It would freak me out to think that there’s an office full of people who think it’s okay to take a census of the bathroom stalls. If it is only one or two people, it might be good to take the direct approach and ask them nicely not to talk to you while you’re in the stall.

      1. Batgirl

        People who gossip, or who are in a clique want to know who is listening in case it’s the person being talked about, or their friends.

        Usually it’s venting about the boss and they’re checking that you’re not the boss.

        Yeah…it’s not exactly a brilliant or subtle strategy.

    3. Becky

      I’m flabbergasted that people actually do this…that’s just so weird.
      The only time I have asked (or been asked) anything similar is when I needed to enter a restroom to clean it and you generally make sure no one is in there when you do that, especially if it is a restroom for not your gender.

  7. Tallulah in the Sky

    OP #1, I’m sorry. I’m one of those coworkers that sometimes needs to be hound down (if I don’t do it the moment I receive the e-mail, it’s lost). Like Alison says, they know it’s a requirement, and any reasonable person would think “Ugh, I forgot, my bad !” not “Ugh, they’re annoying”.

    1. valentine

      What would work for you and eliminate hounding?

      OP1: Do any of them have admins who would give you two-minute spaces in their calendars or otherwise work with you to get this done? Any meeting facilitators who would be happy for them to sign away whilst waiting for latecomers? If they’re not confidential, can you put them in a holder outside break- and restrooms with a flag, like a mailbox? (I’m assuming the compliance means they can’t just sign twenty for future use, because that would be stellar.)

      1. A.

        OP1 here! No admins here unfortunately- technically I’m “the admin.” This is all via email.

        1. valentine

          If phone or IM is possible, see if they would like to have a standing three-minute meeting where they sign and email you the document on the spot.

          If they don’t know the deadline, you can give them an earlier one. Maybe put a countdown in the email subject. If possible, exclude people who have complied. A reminder for something I’ve done is like punishment for timeliness.

    2. Sam Sepiol

      Or if they are thinking “aaaargh stop hounding me!!!” that’s about them, not you. You’re doing what you need to do.

      1. Mongrel

        Try setting up a template or two for the first couple of reminders, I found having a consistent message (and follow ups) made it easier on anxiety about nagging.

        Also, on the first reminder try an explanation as well to push the “I don’t like this either” narrative.
        “Hi, OP1 here.
        As you know we have to collate the TPS sheets every month to ensure we stay compliant with the federal regs\licensing committee\clients wishes. If you could e-mail them to me by that would be greatly appreciated”

        Set up another template for the day before the deadline (depending on how many people you’re dealing with it’s nicer to remove the people who have responded) with an “If you’ve already sent this months then apologies & thank you”

        For late respondents maybe start going to (or CCing) their managers?

          1. Mongrel

            Although without the egregious error that I’ve just noticed, should be”…e-mail me by …”
            Another good reason for templates, you can set them aside and proofread them later

        1. CMart

          Yes, a “mass” e-mail template is how we do things here. Keeps things moving without it being too personal.

          Sent to the entire relevant population:
          “Good morning,

          Thank you to those who have gotten in this month’s TPS sheet. This is your friendly reminder they are due by end of day today if you have not done so already. Thanks!”

          And then the next morning, sent only to the slackers:
          “Hi all,

          TPS sheets are now overdue. Please send them in as soon as possible. This is a crucial part of the monthly close process. Let me know if you are running into any trouble or have questions or concerns. Thanks.”

          And then again at 2pm or so to the outstanding offenders, cc’ing managers:
          “Good afternoon,

          Please send this month’s TPS sheet. It is a crucial part of the monthly close process. Let us know ASAP if you have run into an issue. Thanks.”

          I very rarely have to get to Step 3.

          1. Karen from Finance

            And then, if it’s 1 hour to your own deadline and you only have 1 or 2 slackers, you ping them through whatever method is available, and at that point you don’t really care about being annoying.

            … It’s happened.

        2. Kheldarson

          This is basically what I do for some semi-required documentation. Boilerplate templates.

          And if they don’t give us the paperwork after a month, it’s not on me as long as I have the email chains.

    3. I coulda been a lawyer

      I had a template reminder email to all managers that went out on the first day they could possibly have the information that reminded them of the deadline. Three days before deadline a template reminder email went to the non compliant and their managers. One pouty gentleman complained IN WRITING(!) that “a woman with your job title” didn’t have the authority to tell him what to do so I told him that, according to his managers boss it’s my work assignment but if he’d rather receive reminders from HER that he wasn’t doing his job I’d make the request on his behalf. He was never late again.

      1. Ophelia

        Same – I’m constantly juggling what feels like hundreds of tasks, so if I have an admin who can really keep on top of things and help me keep from dropping them, I really value that.

    4. Karen from Finance

      As someone whose job requires quite a bit of hounding down, I can assure you quite a bit of people actually have no problem in showing their annoyance at the reminders. The thing is, as several people have pointed out, that’s on them. When this happens, the best response is being extra, next-level polite, as you remind them the deadline and the reason this is a requirement.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Anyone who shows annoyance to me gets a “hah, if you’d do this the first time, I wouldn’t have to remind you!”

    5. epi

      Yeah, I am still that person sometimes despite having had a job where I had to chase people down myself. It happens. Normal people are not getting annoyed at the person doing the reminding.

      I have been on the wrong end of some very irritating reminders so I’ll share for the OP’s benefit. Don’t use all caps anywhere. Don’t bold, italicize, or highlight running text; if you need to do that, your reminder message is too long. Save it for titles or highlighting fields with missing information that are often skipped. Don’t use language that is way more formal or officious than normal, like you think you can scare or bully people into responding. Be conscious of the consequences to the other person of responding early; if it’s going to move up their next due date to get back to you immediately, then super early reminders are not actually helpful. And unless you are roping in someone’s manager because they aren’t responding to you, honor the person’s requests about who should be on these reminders– and who should not. These tips are *all* courtesy of one incredibly incompetent and rude IRB admin who sent research renewal reminders to our EA and not to me– the actual coordinator– for years despite repeated requests. The emails were so aggressive she had doctors asking me if they were in trouble with the IRB! The reminders were hardly a service.

      Lots of people in the thread have given good advice about doing two reminders for most people– one as early as people could reasonably respond, and one near the deadline. For people who are quite late, it always works for me to politely make it clear that they are being a bottleneck. Saying something like, “I need this information in order to respond to Jim” or “I need to work with these reports next before the deadline” is quite effective. Remind them there is a work need and these forms aren’t just going into a black hole, and only the most difficult people fail to respond.

      1. Karen from Finance

        Don’t bold, italicize, or highlight running text; if you need to do that, your reminder message is too long.

        I’m concerned now. Does this type of use of bold come off as agressive? This is my preferred style because I thought I was making it easier to read.

        Hi epi,
        Kind reminder to please send the Llama Reports by Thursday the 18th so that we can proceed with the month-end process. If you have any questions please let me know.
        Thanks!

        1. Washi

          I think that’s totally fine. Maybe epi means not to bold an entire paragraph? I’ve found using bold on action items and deadlines only (as above) to be very effective.

          I also use extremely clear subject lines, like “Action needed: Llama Reports due tomorrow 4/18” and found that to be helpful. I like to include today/tomorrow because I think those words catch people’s eyes, but you do need to include a date so it’s not confusing when today/tomorrow is.

        2. Rusty Shackelford

          I think that kind of bold is fine – it’s what I do when I’m informing people of a date, even in a short email. I think what you need to avoid is Please remember your Llama Reports are overdue if I don’t have them by Thursday!

        3. Nessun

          I use the same format too. I find it helps if I bold the deadline because people can skim and immediately see what they want. My boss has always found it helpful when I send things to him.

        4. epi

          Yeah, I am referring to the type of thing Rusty demonstrates below. Or long reminder emails with entire sentences bolded or italicized or in red.

          I would also say, in general, pick one way to communicate “this is important”. Partly because if everything is important, nothing is; partly because it just starts to come off as really aggressive. If there are people on your list who miss that many different pieces of information in your reminders, then they need some kind of individual intervention rather than a change to your template that implies that everyone needs that kind of approach.

    6. Michaela Westen

      It’s good to make use of the Outlook reminders here. Put a reminder on the email for when you think you can do it or a few days before it’s due. Leave the reminder in your list till it’s done. If necessary, keep snoozing it so it pops at you.
      Or, you could use a sticky note on your monitor. :)

  8. nnn

    For #3, if it doesn’t absolutely have to be a suit, one thing I find useful for interviews, meeting clients, etc. is to wear a blazer unbuttoned over my regular office dresses. This sort of marks it as a little more “businessy”, but you have more leeway in terms of fit.

    1. CastIrony

      Because I’ve never worked in a formal place before, I used to interview wearing a blazer over a solid-colored t-shirt, so it’s pretty much as nnn said. You can wear a blazer, even a sweater-type, over any shirt to make it more “businessy”.

    2. Nea

      This. I interview in an open blazer over a fitted dress (Eshakti has some reasonably priced classics). If the place is casual enough, a cardigan over the dress.

      1. Orbit

        I’m wondering if she’s tried a wrap style blouse with an open blazer, since she likes wrap dresses.

        I’m another who can’t do button up tops, I really like wrap blouses for dressing up.

  9. CastIrony

    I hate question #4 for the same reason. I just want a full-time job in a place that makes me happy, but in my case, I don’t want to tell them that I’m waiting for a couple of years because I want to be with my best friend when she gets her Ph.D. Maybe I may not ever move with her, which I don’t like the idea of, but I would come to accept that. Who knows where life goes, right?

    1. Mockingjay

      Current Job asked me this question and I told them “Retired.”

      I went on to explain that I am nearing the end of my career. I’m not looking for a management position (been there, done that) or for massive career opportunities (I have more experience and training than my boss, don’t really need more). I just want to work on an interesting project for the next 5 or 6 years. I’ll work hard and be happy to mentor junior staff.

      It’s worked out very well. I was assigned a startup project that’s been challenging but fun. I’ve recommended that my coworker be promoted to a supervisory role (she’s fantastic in it). I wrote the proposal to win the recompete for our contract and got a very nice bonus. I’ve organized a couple of databases that are being implemented by other projects.

      Tl;Dr: Sometimes the answer can be about the things you enjoy doing, not necessarily a career ladder.

      1. valentine

        I want to be with my best friend when she gets her Ph.D.
        If you’re fitting your life around hers, versus her having an equal desire and the two of you living in tandem, I hope you’ll reconsider, and soon.

        1. Janie

          Well, hello amatonormativity.

          Would you say this to someone about their husband or wife, or fiance/fiancee/future spouse?

    2. Little Girl Blue

      I have a co-worker friend that managed to pull off the following exchange with such confidence that it actually tipped the scales to her getting the job:

      Hiring manager: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
      Friend: Here.
      And then with a smile, she just let the mic drop after the word “here.”

      I’d have been tempted to over-explain in my answer, but I work for the hiring manager and he later told me they were very impressed with this answer (and lack of additional BS explanation). Not sure it would work for everyone, but it’s a story that has certainly made me reconsider how I would answer this in the future.

    3. Sled dog mama

      I hate the question in #4 as well because in my career the only upward movement is out of my day to day and into management or academia neither of which I want. I mean there’s entry level and more senior people but it’s a difference in how often we refer to text books and each other more than any real difference in responsibilities (I’m not articulating this well). In my industry I’ve always interpreted this one of two ways depending on who’s asking:
      1) the person really not knowing that much, if anything, about what a career path for my position should look like (happens often, can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten “I didn’t know we had X here, what exactly do you do” from HR)
      2) asking if I intended to move into management or am looking to move into academia.
      It’s pretty easy to tell when to interpret which way based on who I’m talking to.
      In currentJob I was asked this by my potential manager and answered that I saw myself having finished X certification and established as an expert in y and z with my coworkers.

      1. Cats and dogs

        I once interviewed a candidate for a job and asked that question and the answer was to work in a totally different field. That was the end of the interview from my perspective. It ended up being a good question in that respect!

  10. Just Employed Here

    #1, don’t feel akward — this is your job! All you can do is be pleasant and do it well.

    I do interact with customers in my job, and my job has changed a lot in the last decade. I used to feel I was there for the customers, but now I just feel I’m there to look for tax evaders (thanks, FATCA!) and money launderers (although money laundering is not actually possible with the products we offer … but the rules are the same for the whole field). I mean it’s good that it’s becoming harder to do dodgy business, but customer service just isn’t customer service anymore.

  11. Lil

    OP 5 – My senior year of college I interned with a company, and decided not to keep me on for “budgetary reasons”. Fast forward to the next semester, and I was accidentally left on the email chain presenting the new semester intern schedules…. with all the interns from the previous semester along with my replacement on there.

    So the only way I could see this backfiring is if, like me, you just weren’t a good fit for the internship and they may not see you super favorably. But I guess they’ll know either way!

  12. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)

    “Come back with a warrant!”

    For #2 (heh heh), obviously.

  13. Wendy Darling

    I have the opposite problem from LW3 — I am fat but have a very, very small bust (for some reason I gain weight everywhere BUT the boobs). The problem is the same, though — any blazer or buttonup shirt that fits over my hips and stomach assumes anyone with that big a gut/butt must be seriously packing in the boob department as well, so I end up with vast tracts of shirt in the chest area and nothing to put in it. (I suppose I could take up smuggling puppies in there? I dunno.)

    Fortunately I work in a field known for its casual attire in a city known for its casual attire so I can get away with knit tops and a cardigan with slacks or a skirt. If I ever need to be more formal I can probably still get away with the knit tops if I pick the right ones, but I’m gonna have to bite the bullet and get a blazer tailored at some point, and it’s gonna be expensive because tailoring is expensive and well-made blazers (let’s not expensively alter a cheap crappy blazer…) are expensive.

    I think if your field is very suit-y a good blazer tailored to fit you well might actually be a good investment, though. It really ups the formality of a lot of outfits and I feel like it’s probably sufficient for most circumstances unless you’re in a very traditional field and/or city (e.g. I was literally the only person in open toed shoes at my cousin’s summer wedding in DC… yikes!).

      1. nnn

        Could smuggle metaphorical puppies, and resolve the fit issue with bra inserts rather than with jacket tailoring…

        (Not saying it’s a good idea, but my clothes-shopping-averse self would be tempted)

    1. Sylvia

      OP3 here. My field isn’t super suit-y; upper management tends to wear them, but not anyone else. I feel you on the tailoring, though! It’s so expensive, especially if you need extensive mods. (And I’m at the point where I basically need something custom-made, which is even more expensive.) Might be able to rock the open blazer look, though.

      1. CoffeeforLife

        I wore suits for years and ditched the button up shirt; they don’t work for my bust and height. Shells are perfect and versatile and loom great with an unbuttoned blazer. I have a few suit jackets that don’t a button/closure. They look sleek and stylish (but I’m always looking for the button when I stand).

      2. CupcakeCounter

        Check and see if you have a White House Black Market Outlet near you – I have found they have a couple of different blazer styles that actually work for busty/broad shoulders because the buttons are lower on the jacket. I was able to get an off the rack size 14 (normal size is a 12) that fits just good enough to get through interviews for a halfway decent price (because outlet). Material is really nice but still contains some stretch and it is just a touch tight on my shoulders and a touch loose in the waist but not as bad as what I usually have to deal with.
        I left a comment down thread with my body proportions and what I am currently doing in more detail.

      3. JJ Bittenbinder

        Have you tried eShakti? They’re made-to-measure stuff is not as expensive as one might expect (not going to say “it’s affordable!” because that means vastly different things to different people).

      4. Middle School Teacher

        I also find eShakti not as expensive as tailoring, and I love that all their stuff is customisable. They also make pants, skirts and tops if you don’t like dresses.

    2. CupcakeCounter

      Have you checked out a Torrid store? Materials are top shelf by any means but they have a peplum style jacket that might work should you ever need one. Flares out really nicely over the hips and rear and has a hook and eye closure instead of buttons that sits a little higher on the waist where it tends to be the smallest.

      1. starsaphire

        I find Torrid clothes to be suuuuper flimsy. Definitely not someplace to shop for a long-lasting wardrobe staple.

        1. SignalLost

          They’re erratic, to my taste. I’ve got some pieces that have been super hard wearing and others that are … less so. The bigger issue I find is that their block is suuuuuuper short; I can’t wear pants from there at all, because they don’t have enough length to come over my knees. I’m 6’4”, though, so not a typical problem. But I’ve been living in a blazer from there since fall, and it’s great. Dresses up or down depending on what you put under it – a business sheath makes it formal, tees and printed skirts go casual.

        2. Wendy Darling

          I have a few different things from them (fit and flare dresses are my friend) and I find they’re either very sturdy or very not sturdy without a lot of middle. My oldest pair of leggings is from Torrid… and so is the pair that tore 18 inches down the leg seam on the third wear. (This is also my experience with Old Navy — they sell a mix of flimsy stuff and stuff that I’ve had since 2005 and is still going strong.)

    3. Batgirl

      Oh good call. A boater necked smooth knit is really good for detracting from boobage area and can look really smart. Especially under a jacket/with a pencil skirt.
      A dark one makes a good foil for a silk scarf too. Another tool for coverage, or troubleshooting in the booby area.

  14. Sami

    For OP #2– I’d start answering with completely made up names: Duchess Kate. Miss Piggy. Martha Stewart. Emily Bronte. Hermione Granger. Tina Fey. Angelina Jolie. Just pick a different name each time and have a little giggle to yourself.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler

      I like this idea!

      Matilda Wormwood, Cher, Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, Melissa McCarthy, the list goes on…

    2. Too old for this nonsense

      In a tiny voice, whimper, “It’s the bear. Please don’t tell anyone I’m not sh*tting in the woods. My family will be so ashamed of me.”

      1. Sam Sepiol

        Oh oh oh tell them it’s the Pope!
        “Does the Pope shit in the woods? Is a bear Catholic?”

        1. Bostonian

          LOL. This made my day. There are 2 of my favorite sayings, and I’m going to have to start mixing them up now!

  15. SS Express

    #3 – I don’t have an especially large bust but have broad shoulders and a narrow waist, so I have similar issues with tailored business tops not fitting. If I need to wear a suit-adjacent outfit, I’ll wear a thin knit or other stretchy top instead of a button-front shirt, a dress instead of a skirt and blouse (there are lots of dresses in stretchy fabrics that still look very corporate), or a blazer worn open – either a normal one unbuttoned, or the kind that and don’t even have buttons at the front. A cropped buttonless blazer over a smart dress looks super chic and corporate, at least IMO. Plus you get more bang for your buck out of those investments than out of a traditional suit.

    1. WS

      Yeah, I’m a busty person who personally quite likes button shirts and a loose silhouette (but still have to put an extra hidden button over the bust to avoid gaping!) but I know a lot of people don’t. A knit or stretchy top under an open blazer looks professional and avoids the sizing issues when one part of your body is disproportionate to the rest.

    2. Lily Rowan

      Yes — I’m generally not a blazer person, but I like a cropped open jacket over a dress when necessary.

  16. SS Express

    #1 – I had an admin role once where the person who handed over to me said “people are terrible about sending the TPS reports on time, I email them two weeks before the deadline and send reminders every few days and still only half of them get it in on time. By the time I’ve chased up the rest, the first ones are for a different period than the last ones so I have to ask the first people to update!” I did it this way for about two weeks before I switched to sending ONE request a few days before and ONE reminder on the due date, and I didn’t have nearly as many people to chase up. Sometimes if people get heaps of reminders, or get a request way before they actually have to action it, they’re more likely to ignore it. I don’t know if this exact solution will be helpful to you at all, but maybe you can look at ways to change your approach too?

    But Alison’s also right that following up on things that people haven’t done on time isn’t really being annoying, and if anyone acts like you’re pestering them, they’re the problem.

    1. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

      “Sometimes if people get heaps of reminders, or get a request way before they actually have to action it, they’re more likely to ignore it.”

      Yes! I assume they either think there’s no need to do the thing as they’ll be getting 15 more reminders or they’ve just stopped noticing it as there’s too much noise about it.

      Also, I wonder what those reminders say in the subject line? Ideally they should say ACTION NEEDED: followed by whatever the action is.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder

        Yes, I have found ACTION NEEDED BY APRIL 8 to be helpful with most people. There will always be those few who you will still be chasing down on April 9th, though, which is why I use artificial deadlines sometimes (i.e., I don’t truly need it until the 15th).

    2. Kay

      Depending on the office, it might be faster to print them out, corner the person at their desk and not leave till they are signed. I’ve known people to fly interstate to do this with some of our biggest procrastinators!

      1. Imprudence

        I was going to suggest this, also half filling them in with name and date so it is less of a job, and looks quicker for the recipient.
        The other thing I do when asking for trivial stuff from high ups is to say, an I have this by (date) please with date in bold and underlined, giving people about a week. Somehow this helps people schedule it because it no longer needs to be done whenever, but by Friday, even if this date is arbitrary. And I always soften this by asking them to let me know if the date is not convenient.
        Also, know your people. Some like email, some the phone, some a chat by the photocopier, and your professional skill is to make it easy and pleasant for them to help you, by working with them in the way that is easiest for them.

        1. Imprudence

          Also, depending on the nature of the report, I sometimes send them the last one they did. Helps them remember what is required — and see what needs to go on the next one.

      2. Pandop

        I did this in a previous job. A team member was terrible for not telling me which fund something should be ordered against, so every time I came across and order with no fund, I walked over to his desk and asked him for the code. Several times a day.
        He learnt to put the codes on, and sometimes they were even legible ;)

    3. Lily Rowan

      Yeah, I agree that a too-early notification can backfire, because if the thing isn’t due for a long time, I totally ignore the notification!

      But also if it’s geographically feasible, I’d also recommend the OP walk to people’s desks with the forms to sign.

  17. CouldntPickAUsername

    First, was putting that question at #2 intentional?
    second, get a cheap pair of earbuds and mp3 player, don’t even need music in it. Just have it in your pocket. someone asks who you are then pop in the earbuds before you get out and pretend you heard nothing.

  18. Anonymouse

    OP #2: Download a white noise app on your phone and play it loudly through your phone speakers while you’re in the bathroom. That should alert people that there’s someone using the facilities when you’re in the bathroom, and give you a reason not to answer (“I couldn’t hear you over the white noise, sorry!”). My friend’s wife emigrated to the U.S. from Japan and laments that there are no white noise machines or smart toilets in public restrooms here; it makes things so much socially smoother.

    1. Genmai

      This!! I loooove the “privacy sound” feature because it provides just enough sound cover, and wards off that stealth standoff where you’re waiting for the other person to leave… now you know you’re alone when the sound stops (usually).

      And it’s really hard to chat when you have loud flush sounds constantly playing in the background!

    2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

      I’d just rather people got over being so hung up about bodily functions.

      1. Anonymouse

        The white noise would block out OP’s bodily noises and the conversations of others that she is inadvertently eavesdropping on — that’s why people keep asking “Who’s there??” when she’s in the bathroom.

    3. Carlie

      I really like this. Plus, if you play it loudly enough, it might discourage the chatting too.
      If I were Queen of the World, any talking inside a bathroom would be illegal.

    4. CheeryO

      I have to admit that I would find this extremely bizarre, especially since OP needs the restroom frequently/for long stretches of time. I assume she doesn’t really want to draw additional addition to herself.

    5. Rusty Shackelford

      Wait, they have white noise machines in public restrooms in Japan? That’s brilliant.

  19. The Wall Of Creativity

    #2
    When Jo from accounts asks “Who’s in there?”, you say “Hi, it’s #OP#2”.
    “Oh, OK.”
    “How are you feeling today?”
    “Pretty good.”
    “How’s work going?”
    “Um…alright I guess.”
    “I’ve been having a nightmare day today. All these report to do and so little time.”
    “Om…OK.”
    “Listen, I’m going to have to call you back. Someone In the stall next door keeps trying to talk to me.”

    1. Rebecca

      Gaa! We had a coworker who used the restroom to talk on her phone! I got trapped several times into answering her, because I thought she was talking to me! Once, she said “hold on”, and said “I’m on the phone” with a tone in her voice that said “ugh, how rude of you to interrupt me”. Just go outside if it’s so private that you can’t talk about it at your desk, and the bathroom is even less private due to acoustics! Everyone can hear, even through the door. While that coworker is gone, we have a new person who looks at shoes under the stalls, says “Rebecca, is that you?” and then starts to tell stories about whatever she’s anxious to tell about, and you’re trapped in the stall. Ugh. At least when my cats follow me to the bathroom at home, they don’t talk while I’m peeing.

      I really wish there was a rule – the bathroom is for bathroom stuff and not talking to one another, and especially not for phone calls!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        Your mission should you choose to accept it: Convince facilities or HR or the office manager to enact a “no phones in restrooms” rule. Or just post a formal-looking printed sign. Laminated if you can do it.

      2. JJ Bittenbinder

        we have a new person who looks at shoes under the stalls, says “Rebecca, is that you?” and then starts to tell stories about whatever she’s anxious to tell about, and you’re trapped in the stall.

        While I know the onus is on her not to be a frickin’ weirdo like this, I would still consider shutting that down. “I’d prefer not to talk while I’m using the restroom” would hopefully work.

  20. Peanuts

    I was going to suggest something similar. A turtleneck knit worn with a blazer and suit trousers/skirt can work very well. It looks smart and formal, and it’s much easier to keep smart for the interview because the knitted top won’t crease like a cotton blouse. Knitted tops are also usually stretchy, so much more forgiving of a large bust:waist ratio or vice-versa.

    1. German Girl

      Yeah, knit or other stretchy fabric is great, but no to the turtle neck, because in my experience it makes a large bust stand out even more. I’m also slim with a large-ish bust.

      1. [insert witty username here]

        YES. Personally, I avoid anything too high-necked with my large bust. It doesn’t have to be super low cut, but I have to have at least 2-3 inches from my neck or else it looks super bulky.

      2. Le Sigh

        +1 to this. Turtlenecks make me feel like I’m wearing a sandwich board that says “HUGE BOOBS HERE.”

    2. Tiny Soprano

      The issue that they might run into then is that it’s pretty much impossible to get well-fitting t-shirt bras for large busts. One solution I can think of is getting a couple of shell tops in a non-cling or well-lined fabric tailored, then wearing the blazer open over the top. Added bonus to camouflage if they’re in a darker colour, subtle pattern or matte fabric.
      I’m sure someone must have some good hacks in the bigboobproblems reddit community too. It’d be worth checking it out.

      1. Sylvia

        OP3 here. I’m probably beyond the limits of tailoring (size 20 in the bust, size 12 everywhere else.) That said, shell tops and open blazer seem to be the consensus, so maybe I can find something with a similar look from a specialty shop.

        1. valentine

          a couple of shell tops in a non-cling
          Anything clingy or fitted, especially a pattern with shirring, is going to look much better than anything that renders her bust a shelf and, unless taken in, hangs down uselessly like a curtain several inches in front of her waist. Also, fitted tops will positively affect the fit of any outer layer. With a shelf, you now have to cover the shelf, possibly requiring a larger jacket size, but a fitted v-neck gives you space, possibly enough to go down a jacket size.

    3. Temperance

      I find that turtlenecks can be very uncomfortable, as someone with a larger bust. They can be as unflattering as button downs.

    4. Not One of the Bronte Sisters

      Definitely a knit top rather than button-down and a scarf is a great bust disguising accessory.

  21. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

    #4: You have my sympathies. My ideal answer that question would be ‘celebrating the death of capitalism’, quite frankly. I’m only interviewing for a job because I need money to live. Pay me on time and don’t be a douche, and you’ll have a model employee.

    I think your situation is very common, to be honest. Many people just want to earn a living in a relatively pleasant environment. In fact, I never understood what this question meant until I started reading this blog! The first time I read Alison’s explanation, I remember shouting out loud, “Then why didn’t they just say that?” I was always scrambling for an answer because I honestly didn’t even know what they were looking for.

    Anyway, this became about me, but I want to say thank you for asking this question because it’s one that is so grating to me, and it’s very helpful to get advice on how to deal with it. Good luck with your job search!

    1. Liza

      I agree. I have been asked this same question at times of great desperation and when I had no long term plans, and even, at times, thoughts of suicide. I could not grasp it and it actually made me very angry, given my circumstances. To my young mind, it felt very selfish and entitled to have such high and mighty dreams, and to be applying for jobs because of what they could do for ME, rather than just the simple exchange of labour for survival. My criteria for applying was “I believe I could do this 5 days a week and not suck at it or go out of my mind with boredom”. Beyond that… well, I had no idea what a career path looked like at the tender age of 21, not in any field.

      To this day, the question feels somewhat at odds with the advice that you should be telling the interviewer what you can bring to THEM, not the other way around, but as I currently feel rather befuddled by either question, I can only hope both will make more sense once I have been working for a few years.

      1. Yorick

        Yes, that was how I felt the last time I got that question.

        Them: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
        Me: “I don’t know, I struggle to get through each day.”

      2. Gazebo Slayer

        I’m in my late 30s and still feel much the same way. I don’t really do long-term plans or ambitions because nothing works out in my life for long – and I haven’t earned success and don’t have any particular skills, so answering such questions does seem rather high and mighty.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Jeez, y’all! This and some of the comments above is a weirdly adversarial take on a question that’s pretty reasonable to ask. There’s nothing wrong with an interviewer wanting to understand how the job would fit in with your overall career plans.

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

            Once I realised that’s what they were asking (thanks to this blog), I was able to come up with an answer. I think it’s always felt like a trick question to me, and that the answer could easily disqualify me because I wasn’t picking up on what they really wanted to know. And now the question sets off a BEC response in me.

            But yeah, just knowing that they mean how the position fits in with career plans helps a lot.

            1. valentine

              When your caregivers make you live as though under oath and don’t know from business norms, you’re going to tell the interviewer about your plan to save up to spend a solid decade traveling. There’s no good reason they can’t just ask what they want to know instead of narrowing it to this awful, time-capsule BS we’ve heard since grammar school. We shouldn’t need a decoder ring.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                That’s such a weird take on it, to me. Plenty of people understand the question just fine, and it’s really not an outrage to ask, however it’s worded.

                And I mean, I’m someone who thinks about this stuff more than normal people because of this blog and I still think the question is fine, so it’s no surprise that other interviewers don’t see what the big deal is either.

                1. Liza

                  Yeah, I’m well aware that this is a “me” problem and not an actual one. I just found that line of questioning very distressing at that point in life because it really seemed to hammer home just how lost I was. Job hunting and interviews are all a big anxiety trigger for me (hence why I’m here) and I can pinpoint that question as being the moment where I realised just how hard this was going to be and began to resent every step of the process. I’m much better now than I was, and I can safely say I do have some sort of idea of “next steps” and things like that, but it has been a difficult journey.

                2. Slovenly Braid Cultist

                  I don’t think I’ve actually been asked the question in an interview (I haven’t done that many!) but I think I’d have struggled too from job search anxiety and desperation. Like, in five years please just let me *have* a job. It’s just hard to look that far ahead for me when the present is so uncertain.

                  I think it’s a fair question, but it makes sense that it trips people up, too.

                3. Cercis

                  TBH, I wonder if most people do understand it. I’ve had interviewers that look perplexed when I answer it with details about the way the job fits into my plan (and it isn’t that I don’t understand the job) and several people who do interviews have told me they get a list of questions and never question why those questions, so they don’t know what a good answer looks like. They just go with the person who sounds most confident or real or whatever their personal criteria is.

                  But I’ll admit, I’m in a field where professional development has lagged behind because it’s been so much about physicality up until the past 10 or so years. So management typically rose through the ranks based on being physically fit and longevity. It’s changing now, but there’s still enough of the old school guys that 1) it’s a “good ol’ boys club” and 2) people ask interview questions with no understanding of the background meaning.

                  I also didn’t really understand the question prior to reading your blog but did stumble into the right way to answer it.

          2. Mikasa

            I don’t think they’re being adversarial, really. The theme in their comments seems to be that they struggle to get by day to day and may even be depressed. So the 5 year question feels difficult to answer for them. I can kind of see where they’re coming from. But yeah, just keep a usable answer handy for that question.

          3. Burned Out Supervisor

            Yeah, I usually ask it because I want to know if the person sees the position as a stepping stone for leadership, or if they’re working on gaining experience and wanting to go to school, etc. It helps me judge if they’re planning to stick with the position for a reasonable amount of time, or just a couple of years (neither are bad, I’m just interested to know).

    2. Washi

      Yeah, I get why this question would be frustrating and why it would seem like it’s assuming some kind of 7 step career plan that everyone has in mind.

      But on the other side when interviewing, this type of question (I usually ask why this job will be a good next step for them) has been really revealing. Like when I was hiring for an administrative position at a nonprofit that works with children and someone said that they aspire to be a teacher and are excited to get more experience with kids (which happened a lot) that tells me that they either don’t really understand what the job entails or are not going to be very satisfied with it. But if they say that they’re really excited to improve X and Y skill and see themselves working in admin long term, that’s awesome! They don’t need to aspire to be an executive assistant to a CEO or anything.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House

        Yeah, but to be honest, that’s exactly why a lot of job searchers don’t like the question.

        There are a lot of people who, for various reasons including a weak economy and needing an income, are forced to seek out jobs that aren’t on their career path, because the jobs on their career path are few and far between/too competitive/pay too low/have crummy benefits. But by asking “What’s your career path?” you’ve essentially eliminated someone from consideration in a role that’s tangentially related, thus further punishing them for not being able to get a job in their intended career path. You’re making it impossible for them to shift gears in their career without closing the door behind them.

        The obvious thing for someone in that position to do is read the question for what it is: How long do you plan on staying in this role? and white lie accordingly.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          It’s not “what’s your career path?” or “how long are you staying?” It’s “how does this job fit in with your overall plans?” and that’s a reasonable question for an interviewer to want an answer to. You might not be thrilled at having to talk about that, and you might decide to lie, but it’s in no way unreasonable or inconsiderate for someone to ask.

          1. soon to be former fed

            Why don’t interviewers just ask that question then? It’s clear and not open to misinterpretation.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

        Asking why the job is a good next step sounds fine to me! It’s specific and lets the interviewee come up with some kind of answer. For me, when they asked where I saw myself in five years, I just stalled. What were they wanting to know? I have no idea what will happen in five years! But phrasing it the way you do, that makes much more sense. That tells me you’re wanting specifics about the job and my attitude towards it.

        I was hiring for an administrative position at a nonprofit that works with children and someone said that they aspire to be a teacher and are excited to get more experience with kids

        I…may have done something similar when I was younger. The job was in an entertainment centre with games etc, but had nothing to do with that part. Guess who talked about how cool entertainment was?

        1. Liza

          I was caught out like that too, only mine was a terminology flub! Back when I was trying to escape Toxic Job, I interviewed for a call centre role that I was really excited about (it was advice and guidance for financial aid). I figured I could lean on my customer service experience. Only I messed up because I was using a couple of terms interchangeably, so I said “I’d like to do more X” and when they rejected me they said “I don’t think we’d be a good fit because we’re more about Y”. Only Y was what I WANTED to do, I just didn’t know there was a word for it. But if course it was too late. I’m sure there were other reasons but at the time I felt like I missed out because I didn’t know the right terms to describe what it was I would like to be doing.

          I can relate to your mix up as well. When people talk about researching the company and explain why you want to work for them (specifically) I often struggle to find any reason beyond “you do X and I am interested in X”.

          But I am already practising answers in my head for when I might next be interviewing in a couple of years time, so hopefully between that and a better situation overall, I won’t be as stumped.

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

            Oh, that must have been so frustrating! I think that a lot of people forget that not everyone knows the terms in their line of work. (I run into this all the time with doctors). And yes, we’re supposed to research the company and show interest in what they do. It feels like there’s an invisible line between acceptable enthusiasm and overdoing it, and you don’t know where that boundary is until you’ve crossed it.

            Practice is a great idea and essential, honestly. I’m job searching now and practising everything I can so I don’t sit there going ‘uhhhh’ when they ask basic questions.

  22. Quake Johnson

    Bathroom chatter is The Literal Worst. Whenever someone tries to engage me I just grunt. Now is not the time, Fergus.

  23. Forgetful report writer

    #1, another idea to reduce the amount of chasing arising from people only sending you half of what you need is to send them a checklist or template when you send the initial request. Is that an option for the types of report you need? You’re not only saving yourself time, but your contacts will thank you for making their lives easier as the don’t have to remember how to format the report each time. Our admins did this and it saves so much time not having to look back at the previous report or process each month.

  24. 'Tis me

    I have a 4 year old and an almost-16 month old. I had to ask my husband to rescue me yesterday because I was trying to do my business in peace with two small people who had followed me into the bathroom and were trying to cuddle me… so, y’know, could be worse ;-) (And yes, this was during my working day – I largely work from home in the summer house, and he was looking after the girls.)

    I would be tempted to go with “Bathroom time is quiet, private time! Hush up!” Adults should be capable of grasping this!!

  25. Fish Microwaver

    “I beg your pardon” delivered in a tone of icy disbelief is the perfect response to most egregious questions/statements.

  26. Feotakahari

    #1: If I get no response at all, I just say “Bump.” Or “Bumpety.” Repeat offenders have been known to get “Bumpetey-bump-bump, bumpety-bump-bump, look at Frosty go!”

    1. vampire physicist

      While I’m generally more likely to be in the position of OP 1 rather than the recipient…I have absolutely HATED the ‘bump’ response. It feels like a dog or toddler asking for my attention instead of a (perfectly justified) reminder.

  27. pcake

    OP3, why not have your suits tailored so that they fit you perfectly? Everywhere I’ve lived, the dry cleaners also has a reasonably priced tailor and a spot where they can do all the measurements. It’s been pretty reasonably priced for me.

    1. Sylvia

      OP3 here! Tailoring would be awesome, but I would have to go down from an 18/20 (the size that fits my bust) to a 12 (the size that fits the rest of me.) At that point, is not really tailoring, it’s asking them to make me a custom suit out of the same fabric.

      1. pcake

        I have a large bust and belly – size 20 – and a size 12 the rest of me, and I had several things tailored. It worked so that I have clothes that fit me and look much nicer. Why not try it with one and see how it goes?

      2. Ms. Jennifer Thneed

        But have you checked into it? If you haven’t actually asked the experts, you might be pleasantly surprised.

      3. Voxtar

        I want to reassure OP3: you’re not crazy, there aren’t easy options.
        I will back up your assertion that a tailor cannot reasonably alter standard women’s clothing to accommodate a large bust without completely tearing down and remaking each piece individually, which typically changes the fit dramatically and ends up looking odd. I have tried several experienced tailors with various backgrounds in a major metro area and haven’t found any that can handle suits. The truly excellent tailors will actually turn my request down because they know alteration is not possible.
        I’m in my late 30s and have worn business professional dress for over ten years with a size N (US) bra. That’s approximately 4x the volume of a D cup in the same size. The best I can recommend is Bravissimo, which you said you’ve already tried for suits. My favorite five super-professional tops are all Bravissimo button-ups to which I added hidden snaps or hooks between the buttons. The snaps do the work of holding the front together, which reduces gaping and relieves pressure on the buttons.
        eShakti was a no-go for me as they were unable to adapt only the front bust area. The clothes I ordered from them came with huge backs and straps that were way too long, and still not enough fabric to cover my chest bottom-to-top with any decency. I tried multiple styles across several orders.
        The happiest clothing period of my life was the second trimester of pregnancy, when suddenly everything fit because maternity clothes are cut to fit a wider and larger range of bust sizes… until my bust caught up to my belly in month 7 and none of my lovely expensive new clothes fit, again.
        I’m sorry. I wish I had a better answer for you. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone.

      4. Holly

        OP, have you looked into separates? That’s the beauty of them – you could get a jacket in size 18/20 and a skirt or pants in a 12.

    2. Environmental Compliance

      For those of us with way wacky body shapes, it actually ends up being much more expensive….or it’s not done correctly. I am not near as boob-gifted as the OP, but having narrow shoulders plus out of proportion chesticles plus a narrow waist but also a booty….that’s going to run probably close to $100 just for me, and I can usually find a size that at least one of those things doesn’t need to be addressed in the alterations – generally just 2 sizes off otherwise. If you’re needing to go 4+ sizes up to fit one area, the alterations will be much pricier.

      And this is why I am very happy to be in a field where I am currently happily at work in jeans and a sweatshirt (sweatshirt purchased by work, even), because I did my time in a dressier position and hated it.

    3. Knork

      Where I live, a simple hem is going to cost you $25, and full restructuring can run into the hundreds. It’s not an accessible option to a lot of people.

      1. Yvette

        Thank you for pointing that out, everyone always says “just get a good tailor” but it really is not necessarily a viable option for some.

      2. pcake

        Wow, I live in Los Angeles – NOT an inexpensive place to live – and I’ve never paid more than $10 for a hem at about 8 different dry cleaners. An entire suit runs me maybe $100, well worth it imo, and I’ve had it done for a bit less.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Supply and demand, maybe. A smaller town that has one or two tailors is likely to cost more. I paid $15, I think, for the last pair of jeans I had hemmed, and that was a few years ago.

  28. Asenath

    OP1, this is the story of my life. A major part of my job is making sure certain documentation is done – in fact, when I was hired, bringing the documentation up-to-date was identified as a major concern and my first priority in my then-new job. I guess I’ve grown a thick skin over the years, and no longer worry about being annoying. Of course, I always try to be polite – but direct. I prefer email, but sometimes have to resort to phone calls or even phone calls followed up by actual paper copies faxed or mailed out. I have even resorted to calling in the big guns (although I try to do that very rarely since I don’t want it to look like I can’t do my job). For example, when I attend a meeting to report on my work, I include in my report a list of the malefactors and a summary of my efforts to date. I change the schedule when I can – start the follow-up earlier, for example, to give more time for nagging. I have noticed that it’s ALWAYS the same people who drag things out to (or even past!!) the deadline every single time. From this, I have concluded that it’s not a case of me annoying them, but them annoying me, since most people actually do what I ask reasonably soon.

    Another iteration of the 8-week cycle of the most time-sensitive and time-consuming (because it’s not enough to get in the documentation, I have to use it to create more documentation by the deadline) of my jobs started yesterday. I started last week figuring out what was in and what wasn’t, and giving a warning shot by email. I know perfectly well that at least two of the email recipients will still be giving me promises instead of what I’m ask for (or ignoring me) for approximately six weeks. That’s life – but I’m doing my part. I’m not the annoying one.

    1. TexasRose

      Nuclear option: for one “offender” (in his defense, he was primary caregiver for our legacy systems, and simply had Too Much To Do), I simply scheduled a meeting with him, three days before the deadline. Each month. I brought coffee for both of us, and work I could do while sitting in his visitor’s chair. I sat in his office and answered the phone for him (and the door) while he finished his report for me. One month, I blocked 18 interruptions in 23 minutes, via drop-ins, phone calls, text messages, AND an envelope slid under the door.

      1. Marthooh

        I picture you jumping up out of your chair to stomp on that intrusive envelope before it can trouble the legacy guy :)

      2. Michaela Westen

        That is an awesome example of competence and teamwork! So impressive! All coworkers should be like you. :)

  29. Just a thought...

    OP1 – are you able to send key contacts a recurring calendar appointment? So that every month, the day before the deadline, they get a diary reminder popping up: “4 TPS reports to OP1 by close of play tomorrow”. I do that with committee papers – on outlook you can set appointments as 5 mins long and still being classed “free” so it doesn’t clash with actual meetings, etc.

  30. bathroom talker

    As someone who has occasionally had a conversation in a bathroom before (the horror!), I hope I can add a new perspective here. I pretty much guarantee you that your coworkers don’t put a single negative second of thought into you being in the bathroom doing bathroom things, and that the eavesdropping jokes are just that. Jokes. All of these “clever” comments suggesting you make up a name, practice one liners in a mirror, or respond in icy tones are not ultimately going to serve you well because honestly ,it will just come off as really odd. Everyone knows what the bathroom is for and no one is judging you for being there. People just don’t care like that.

    1. Lynca

      Honestly you’re misreading the problem and this isn’t helpful to the OP. You don’t need to put any negative thoughts into something for it to be distressing. OP finds the situation distressing, full stop. The co-workers (or you) don’t get to dictate that this isn’t really all that bad.

      I find the situation horrifying and I have people that regularly call/have conversations in our bathrooms. Key point is they don’t call out “who’s in here” while this is going on, nor do they ever make jokes about it with the people leaving stalls/washing hands.

      1. bathroom talker

        I don’t think I’m misreading the problem at all. I was offering up another perspective. Of course the coworkers don’t get to dictate how the LW feels and that is a weird misrepresentation of my comment. I just said that some of the suggested responses by the commentariat would come across as very odd and that for me, personally, sometimes it helps to just remind myself when I’m feeling anxious about something, that no one really cares. So that may not be helpful for you to hear, but it may be helpful for the letter writer. And honestly, it’s not your place to say it’s not.

      2. Samwise

        I don’t think bathroom talker is misreading, but I do think BT is missing the point that because the OP is in the bathroom a lot for medical reasons and has even arranged accommodations with HR related to being in the bathroom a lot, OP does not want to talk or be noticed in the bathroom. I think the snarky or jokey or even icy responses are apropos for just that reason. The questioners/chatters may very well not care that it’s OP in the bathroom all the time, but that’s really beside the point. It’s distressing for the OP and so they should cut it out.

    2. Miss Astoria Platenclear

      To me, it is really odd to ask who else is in the restroom. I get that some people apparently don’t mind having a conversation in the restroom, but please don’t drag no participants into it by asking them to identify themselves.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        What if there are TWO people in the stalls? OP in one, and the visiting senior exec in the second? And only OP responds, so they never realize the senior exec is also in there, listening? What if the senior exec waits them out before leaving?

        If you have to determine who is in eavesdropping range before you keep talking, then rethink whether the topic is a good idea for the work bathroom. This is sort of like being on a train, and pausing to go lift hats and fold back newspapers so you can check if any of the people in hearing range might secretly be your coworkers and so the topic of the conversation.

      2. Not So NewReader

        I love Alison’s roll-call response. And I also love the inclusive “let’s”. I think that is using inclusiveness strategically. It helps to bring things down a notch.

        I don’t care if people talk to me in the bathroom, EXCEPT in times where it is the only quiet moment I have all day. Then I care. It’s not reasonable to assume others can mind-read my need for quiet at any given moment.
        So rather than be all over the map, I stick with, “I’ll talk with you when I come out of the restroom.” Meaning, after I wash my hands and entirely leave the restroom.

        OP, maybe you can work your way up to saying something with a smile in your tone, “Yeah, never know who is in here, gotta be careful about what you say!” Here you never answer their question about identifying yourself. And you expose the core reason why they are asking. I’d like to encourage you not to let their awkwardness become YOURS. The only reason they are asking is because they know you can hear what they are saying about others. If they were not chatting about other people, there would be no need to know who is in the stall.

      3. a1

        It’s not really that odd. Especially if they are talking about customers or clients and LW said they sometimes do. They just want to make sure they aren’t inadvertently divulging info to people that shouldn’t have it. And yes, those conversations should ideally be had elsewhere, but sometimes you run into someone and you realize they are someone that can answer a question/help/provide info/etc and ask right then and there. And then that can lead to a longer conversation. Bathroom conversations happen everywhere, in my experience.

      4. MatKnifeNinja

        Why not take the riveting conversation to the stairwell?

        Most office restrooms are a few hairs above a crime screen. Between the chemical stink to mask the human stink, sketchy lighting, wet grubby sinks…I can’t imagine spending a nanosecond more there than necessary.

        If I could never have to use the restroom the entire work day, I would. Cats are light years head of some of my human coworkers in the using the facilities department. At least their poop hits where it’s should wind up.

        So I judge when the middle school gaggle decides to overshare with each other “super secret private information.” Most animals don’t willing hang out where others scat.

        They are also not bright. The acoustics in the bathroom transmits the sound right into the hallway.

        Also, with smartphones, you can get recorded. Nothing is stopping your coworker from recording the gaggle talking smack about the boss.

    3. Washi

      I agree with you on the likely motivation of the askers – they probably just think they are being cute funny. Which is why I like so many of the one liners people have suggested! If the OP can joke back (showing that she doesn’t take herself too seriously or bear anyone ill will) but still convey the point that these women are asking super awkward questions, that’s a win-win.

    4. OP Number Two

      Thank you for another perspective! I really don’t mind people having conversation in the restroom, I just don’t like when they bring me into it (or when it’s really sensitive stuff, like who else at the office these people are angry with). I hope it didn’t come off like that! The last thing I want is for anyone to feel uncomfortable – including me! So I’m just going to go with a polite, anonymous response next time.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever

        I would get a recording of a famous person with a distinct voice on your phone. Someone that would realistically never be in the bathroom, like Morgan Freeman saying “It’s Morgan Freeman. or This is Morgan Freeman” You can maintain anonymity, while also letting your coworkers know someone is there.

    5. Batgirl

      I think you make a good point that no one’s being hostile and the point of the gatherings are to be sociable and pleasant. That’s part of OPs issue; frosty silence makes her the hostile one towards well meaning people.

      I don’t think however OP can just accept their take on it and just shrug off what she needs; peace and privacy. I actually think a lot of the humour is an appropriate and gentle tip off of what she needs. (There are some jokes in the comments which rather take the piss, (!) but that’s just for fun) I bet her co-workers are socially skilled and well meaning. I bet they’ll get it.

    6. AKchic

      Part of the reason they are in the bathroom is to gossip, or… talk crap, about coworkers. Which is why they’d like to know who’s in the bathroom with them, so they don’t dish the dirt on the person sitting in the can next to them. So yes, there *is* a negative second of thought here. They wouldn’t care about who is in that stall if they had positive things to say. They want to know who’s in there so they aren’t going to get in trouble for saying something negative with them right there, or in front of someone who knows them well.

      This is an adult bathroom. If they want to gossip like grade schoolers, they can instant message each other, or wait until break/lunch and sit next to each other, or go meet up after work and do it on their own time. Checking the identity of people in the stalls during their gossip sessions as a last-minute CYA is a terrible way to go about things.

      1. OP Number Two

        Those are the conversations that make me feel the most awkward, yes. And those are the ones the “who’s in here?” question follows the most. So I like the suggestions that don’t involve identifying myself!

        1. AKchic

          Perhaps a “hopefully not the one you’re planning on talking about” is enough of a pointed reminder that everyone knows that they aren’t just innocently gabbing in there while washing ink of their hands and just *happened* to meet up with a friend who also coincidentally got ink on her hands too. My my my, such leaky pens this office has.

  31. ShortT

    I used to have to make frequent trips to the bathroom because of a uterine fibroid. On a particularly difficult day, someone asked this. Because I decided to preserve what little patience I had left, I said, “Seriously? You think your conversation could be that interesting to anyone else?”

  32. Llamalawyer

    OP#3- I am in a field that frequently requires suits (law). I also have a large bust. I haven’t worn a button down with a suit in at least 10 years. There are nice weight knits of all kinds that look professional with a suit and that can accommodate and flatter your bustline. Also, I very rarely button my blazer or suit jacket because it just looks with with a full bust- and that’s okay. There are also jackets that don’t even have buttons to worry about. There are plenty of options for suits for your body type if you get past the button down. Wrap dresses would not be an appropriate replacement for a suit in a truly formal environment. Their fabric is too casual and body hugging. I can’t say that I have ever seen an attorney wearing a wrap dress is court. I have some wrap dresses and they can be wonderful- I do wear some of them to the office on occasion, but the office is business casual. They’re just not formal business attire.

    1. Delta Delta

      Wrap-dress-to-court-wearing llama here.

      It depends on your geographic and practice area, I think, if it’s appropriate to wear.

    2. Kris

      Another lawyer. I’ve practiced in a large city in the US South for 25 years and have never worn a button down shirt with a suit. IMO, shells under jackets are much more flattering for many body types and are equally professional looking.

      1. Yvette

        “shells under jackets are much more flattering for many body types and are equally professional looking” This. To me, a button down shirt (as in cotton/ cotton blend with a collar like on a men’s shirt) is a holdover from when women in business felt that they needed to dress as much like a man as possible in order to be professional. Complete with a silky tied bow. Been there, done that. (and yes I am a dinosaur)

    3. Sylvia

      OP3 here! Do you have any recommendations for brands or styles of blazer that look good worn open? They’ve always felt kinda tent-y to me, but I suspect that’s because I am wearing the wrong cut.

      Fortunately, my day job is not as formal as law; only upper management wears suits, and I can get away with the wrap dresses. (It helps that I work with a lot of programmers, who dress to a much lower sartorial standard.

      1. Oxford Comma

        Have you looked at eShakti? They’ll do specific alterations to their clothes, I believe the first one is free, and then you might have to pay per garment). Everything I’ve seen from them is very well made. They are not inexpensive, but from what you’re describing as having tried before, I’m guessing they’re on par with what you’re paying already.

        1. Sylvia

          OP3 here. I’m hesitant to try them because I sew, so I know just how geometrically challenging it is to adjust a pattern for me. My bust is 10 inches larger than a standard pattern size, and there’s only so much a dart can do. That’s why I end up buying from specialty retailers.

          1. Hapless Bureaucrat

            I’m not as busty as you, though my sister comes close. We’ve both done eShakti.

            There are styles that are easier to adjust than others, and they do a lot of their dresses in knit fabrics. Their tailoring seems to include the addition of more paired darts (front and back), darts at shoulders, fuller cut in skirts at the hip, etc. My sense, as someone who also sews, is that they’re closer to made-to-fit than custom-tailored. That said, you do need to be careful in your style choice. I’ve tended towards knits with gathered skirts and styles that incorporate gathering or pleats near the bust. And their lower necklines really plunge.

            They’ve started having examples of some styles online showing how they look customized to certain body shapes.

            If you’re interested in them I wouldn’t necessarily start with a blazer, but if you normally wear wrap dresses they have some styles that are designed to be hourglass that you could use to try them out with less risk. On sale and with free customization, I managed to get one if my dresses for about $48.

          2. L

            For what it’s worth, I’m large-cup/small-back, also a hobbyist sewist, have ordered several things from eShakti and have been disappointed every time. The results have ranged from “I could have gotten this in a store” to “hilariously distorted,” and the fabrics and construction are shoddy.

            I have a couple of button-up shirts, one from Urkye and one from Bravissimo. They’re both mediocre quality for the price; the Urkye one was not super expensive and is decent construction, but the materials are disappointing — for example, the buttons are clear plastic and too large, so they don’t look professional. Neither one is something I would wear if I were trying to look polished, both because of the quality and because they deffffinitely emphasize the boobs.

      2. CommanderBanana

        LW #3, my bustier friends dig cardigan blazers – they’re basically a knit version of a blazer, so it has the lapels and stylings of a blazer and look more formal than a cardigan but drape like a sweater.

        Cropped blazers that end right under the bustline look great too!

        1. R.D.

          +1 though some of the knit blazers are not formal enough for an interview. Also they don’t hold up as well as a real blazer, though that probably doesn’t matter to the OP.

      3. alphabet soup

        Loft (or Loft Plus) occasionally has some nice blazers that look good open and don’t feel like you’re wearing a tent.

      4. Rusty Shackelford

        I know someone already suggested Torrid, but go to their website (torrid dot com, not gonna link so it will stay out of moderation) and look at the blazers category. The stripe crepe blazer and pleated peplum blazer are examples of styles that don’t even have a closure. Or search for “military” and check out the military style jacket (it’s out of stock and will only show up in a search, not if you browse), which is another good example of a jacket that’s meant to be worn open.

      5. CDM

        I just got a surprisingly nice ponte knit blazer at Old Navy for $45. They have black and navy in store, gray is online only. It’s a single button style but all the model shots show it worn unbuttoned. Nice heavy knit that stretches and moves with you (and machine washable!). I wore it over a solid supima knit tee and a patterned skirt for my interview last week. I’m a L to XL top with a H cup, and the XL fit me nicely buttoned. (and I wore it unbuttoned, super comfortable). I feel like a L (12-14) would look nice and professional worn unbuttoned over a wrap dress in a complementary color. If there’s a store near you, you can check availability online before heading to the store to try it on to see if it works for your body type. Good luck!

      6. R.D.

        Up thread I put a link to one from Nordstrum, but the comment is currently stuck in moderation. That one has suit pants that go with it, but it’s spendy. Nordstrum will do free tailoring if you buy it in store, so that helps, but if you are only wearing it for an interview, I think you can find something good enough for cheaper.

        Maurices has a range of inexpensive blazers that are mostly open front. They are having a sale right now with blazers ranging from $20-$35 online. If you are working mostly with programmers, I’m guessing you will be find to wear one of them with nice dress pants and a blouse or a more formal wrap dress.

        I’ve also had good luck with Torrid as Rusty said.

    4. Yorick

      I have some wrap dresses (sometimes faux wrap) that are more formal, because they have a different fabric.

      1. Yvette

        Faux wrap is probably best, you have the look and the style of a wrap without worrying about the un-wrap.

        1. jolene

          It’s still going to have the cleavage issue, though, unless you can pin/sew it or wear a top underneath.

  33. BRR

    #1 I’ve taken a somewhat different mindset to a similar situation. If someone is regularly, keyword regularly, not replying to me or sending me what I need and I’ve tried some gentler methods, I frame it as they’re the annoying one. I’m not annoying them by following up. I mostly apply this frame of mind for those coworkers who you want to ask them if they even have email because they never seem to read or reply to anything. But I’ve also utilized several of the other methods suggested above first.

    1. CMart

      As someone who has 1-2 dedicated people I have to hunt down every single month: if they were bothered by/didn’t want me sending several e-mails or calling them after deadlines have passed they either would get me my reports sooner, or they would have a conversation with me about why the timetable doesn’t work.

      As it stands, they know the drill. It’s every month. They’re only annoying themselves by not being timely.

  34. Akcipitrokulo

    For “where do you see yourself” – one that’s worked for me is not to answer quite directly – that usually isn’t what they want – and go into something that you’d like to develop which you would have the opportunity to do here. Like “Well, I really love llamas, so hope to stay in the industry, and I am really interested in developing my skills in llama manicures” (knowing that the job offers training in that area).

  35. Akcipitrokulo

    I would disagree slightly with advice to OP1 – I don’t think using the word sorry is needed. It’s OK to say “Hi – I need X – please let me know by close of day!”

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      I’ve been known to invoke other people farther up the food chain.
      “Hi Fergus, I just got an email from Jane BigBoss asking for the numbers you were supposed to send yesterday. Can you send them by reply email so I don’t have to tell her you’re swamped?”

  36. Emi.

    I like “I prefer to believe there’s a sound barrier in bathroom stalls, where noise doesn’t travel in or out” because it indicates that you’re not listening to/eavesdropping on them, either.

  37. Glomarization, Esq.

    I think the only correct answer to “who’s here in the bathroom” is “your mom.”

  38. Alfonzo Mango

    1. You are not a bother. You are not annoying. You are doing your job, and it sounds like you’re doing it well because you show a lot of dedication to process and commitment to follow through. Consider that an excellent skill that will continue to serve you professional in the years to come.

    I think there’s some internalized misogyny that young women think they’re so annoying just by being functioning members of a team. The people who do not complete their tasks thoroughly are the annoying ones.

    Signed, an older millennial woman who works in compliance.

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      So much this.

      It is literally my job to tell people when something is wrong (I’m in QA). That means being polite and avoiding blame culture, and making it that I work as a team with those producing product to make sure customer thinks they are awesome – but none of that means I need to apologise or think I’m being a bother when I say “this needs fixed”.

      But it took a loooooong time to get to that stage…

      You are doing your job. You are not a bother. You do not need to apologise.

    2. CheeryO

      Can’t co-sign this enough. OP, please try to get comfortable with directly asking for what you need, as many times as you need to do it. I would urge you not to use the word “sorry” (and I don’t love the “Hmmm” – I’d read that as passive-aggressive). If you want to soften the message, “please” and “thanks!” are all you need.

  39. Alfonzo Mango

    4. You could tell them in five years you would like to be a master in the role you’re trying to fill. Most entry level and up roles need at least a year to get settled in then, and then the additional years would be great experience to become subject matter or master in the position.

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      Also from job description – if they’ve listed “must haves” and “nice to haves” – then mention that you’re looking to develop one or two of the “nice to haves”.

  40. LGC

    I love how the bathroom letter is #2.

    I ALSO do not get people who have conferences in the bathroom. I’d honestly not bother acknowledging them – it MIGHT be a little creepy, but they’re also using the water closet as a break room so that’s their problem.

    (Also, I have to wonder how much private space there is in the office.)

    With letter 1, I’m an…older Millennial guy (so 1/3), but I’ve been told to cool it on reminders in the past. Nowadays, I’ll usually send out a notification a few days ahead of the due date, and then follow up when it’s due. A lot of people in my organization don’t have the best concept of time (either someone will come running to my desk the moment I email them or they’ll forget about it entirely until I remind them three times), but that seems to work.

    So, yeah, be proactive if you’re not already. And list what you need.

  41. Slovenly Braid Cultist

    #1 is in a tough spot! There’s only so much you can do when the change needs to be in someone else’s routine. Keep in mind that you’re not doing this for yourself or a love of empty bureaucracy: you’re making sure important things get done and saving your forgetful coworkers from themselves, since presumably there would be consequences to not keeping up. Be friendly, but be firm with a clear conscience

    On the other hand, I’ve got one colleague who needs a large group of people to submit a particular form once a month… so every time, they send out three to five reminders to *everyone*, including vague complaints about people doing them wrong. So even if you’ve done yours early you get yelled at, and it’s impossible to know if you’re the one who messed up since they don’t talk individually about issues, they just chastise everyone until the problem person figures it out. I’m tempted to re-send mine every time I get a reminder, but that’s probably immature of me…

  42. Batgirl

    I looove “Its someone who’s on the toilet!” Lol. My witty reposte would be “ummm. Me!”

    OP2- This one depends on your personality but what about wearing ear buds? That way you’ll drown out the chit chat (What is this, high school? Talk about boys somewhere else!) and you won’t hear it if someone starts a game of awkwardness Olympics. Let them talk to the stall.
    That still leaves the problem of emerging and dealing with the gaggle of sorority sisters. So you could do a few things at that point:
    Leave the ear buds in:
    – Smile beatifically at everyone as you wash up. Answer any mouth movements with “I love this song!”
    Tuck them away before emerging:
    – Answer any queries about your silence with “Oh were you talking to me? I was in the stall..so..not listening”
    – Answer any jokes about ‘eavesdropping’ with “Haha No, I make sure to block out the noise when I’m in there. Otherwise it’s very distracting!”
    Leave the ear buds dangling:
    – Answer any queries about not answering/eavesdropping with “earbuds”
    – “People keep asking me what I can hear in there. Are you all plotting a coup?”
    – “Oh I keep my earbuds in because this is a very chatty bathroom and I don’t want to eavesdrop/have a shy bladder/get distracted.”
    – “Haha No, you didnt really ask who was in there did you?”

  43. Anona

    Once when I was in school, two people who I could tell I didn’t know were talking by the sinks, and when they asked me who was there I said “It’s ME” in the most irritated tone I could muster.

  44. Scarlett

    LW #2 – why not use some humor to make light of how ridiculous the situation is? If it were me, I’d be inclined to respond to “who’s in there?” with “Santa Claus”, “the Tooth Fairy”, “the Keebler Elf”, or something ridiculous. Do it enough times and they’ll stop asking

  45. CupcakeCounter

    #3
    I’m an F cup with VERY broad shoulders (former swimmer) and a long torso who is currently interviewing. I have never worn a button up shirt to an interview and have gotten plenty of good jobs.
    I found a very nice jacket at White House Black Market outlet that required no tailoring (shock to me) because the buttons are placed lower on the jacket and it has a peplum styling that flatters my figure. I bought it in a lighter gray color. It looks great with a black dress, black pants and a black shell, and navy pants and a navy, red, or white shell. I’ve actually gotten a couple of compliments on the black/gray combo especially. Since you have a great collection of professional dresses also look into a nicer knit open front blazer that doesn’t button.
    The key is making sure the shells you buy are cut high enough in the neck (no cleavage) and fitted enough in the waist that you can tuck them into the pants for a cleaner look.
    In my current search I haven’t had a second in person interview yet (the companies so far have an interview structure of HR phone screen, HM phone interview, in person interview with several key players, and a follow up phone call if additional information is needed which I have found really easy to work around as a FT working person) so I will have to cross that bridge at a later date. My current thought is to wear a structured dress with one of those open front blazers I mentioned earlier.

  46. OP Number Two

    Thank you for the wonderful advice! I enjoy the idea of a sound barrier – I wish that was true in reality, ha ha.

    1. MissDisplaced

      I feel for you. I find the use of the restroom for ongoing gossip fests really an odd behavior. I mean, sure sometimes convos do happen in there, but it’s generally not like the water cooler! Gads!

    2. drpuma

      Some more suggested responses for you:
      “Disinterested 3rd party!”
      “What happens in the bathroom, stays in the bathroom!”
      Courage! (That was an encouragement to you and not a suggestion. Although now I can’t help but think of the mens room scene from the first Austin Powers movie: “Who…does… Number Two… work for?”)

  47. Bagpuss

    #3 – I think a suit jacket over a dress or knitted top + skirt or trousers would work, and looking fora suit jacket which isn’t deisgned to be fastened may be the way to go.

    f you are likely to need it often, getting a good quality garment and paying to havbe it altereddo it fits is probably a worth while investment

  48. boredatwork

    OP #4 for what it’s worth – that is the perfect answer to the jobs my department hires for. Our organization is very flat, and there isn’t always room for a lot (really any) of ladder climbing. If I had come in with a “in five years, I want your job” they would have passed on me as a candidate. I make good money, I enjoy the work, and I leave a 4pm everyday.

  49. Essess

    I’ve never understood why people think an office bathroom is a secret meeting room. Every office bathroom I’ve been in has very echoing walls that enhanced voices and everything discussed inside could be clearly heard outside in the hallway.

  50. Lily Rowan

    OP3, I’m not in a super conservative field, but I feel like women are less likely to wear a suit to an interview, the higher up they are. Probably because they have better clothes and know what works for them/their bodies. So they always look super sharp and put together, and probably at least a step up from what they would wear to the office on a normal day, but often aren’t in a proper suit.

  51. stump

    #2 may be the only situation on this website where a thunderous fart would be an appropriate response.

    1. Environmental Compliance

      +100

      It would be the best of times to bring out an ability to poop or fart on command. “Who’s in here?” “…..pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbttttttttt…….”

  52. Lucette Kensack

    3: If you do need to wear a suit, you can still avoid button-up tops. Just wear a pullover blouse, sweater, or shell, and pick a blazer or suit jacket that looks good unbuttoned (I truly can’t remember the last time I wore a blazer or suit jacket buttoned!).

  53. MD2BE19

    For the woman who finds suits to be unflattering because of her hourglass figure; I hear you on that one! I’m a med student and when I’m wearing a lab coat over my scrubs I look like a giant blob of dough. No getting around that for me (although when I start my residency I’ll invest in having my coat tailored). But enough about me! Something that has worked for me is the sheath/jacket combination that Brooks Brothers makes. The sheath dress is very flattering to a larger bust because it can be tailored to fit the waist nicely and the jacket is short enough that it hits above the waist so people can see that you have one! They usually have at least one set on sale (although you have to purchase them separately) and if you get the pieces full price it’ll run you $900.00 or so. It is expensive, but this is what I bought to wear for my residency interviews and it was worth it to me to feel good about myself. (and in my case, what’s another thousand on top of the mountain of debt I already have!) I really recommend you try the jacket and sheath dress combo even if it’s not Brooks Brothers!

  54. Batgirl

    OP3, everyone has given great advice re knits and dresses, but if you still have a wardrobe need for shirts/blouses, (sometimes this is a warm weather thing) definitely go for drapey buttonless blouses over button-downs.

    Searchable terms include ‘gathered neck’ ‘pleated front’ or ‘panel front’ (lace panels make me look less booby; I can’t explain why!). They look like this:

    https://www.simplybe.co.uk/shop/violeta-by-mango-white-blouse/yi826/product/details/show.action?pdBoUid=9063#colour:Off%20White,size:

    Or this:
    https://www.laredoute.co.uk/ppdp/prod-350131338.aspx?dim1=3&dim2=2&mkwid=siKrQYIie_dm|pcrid|201364041077|pkw||pmt||slid||pgrid|49265771691|ptaid|pla-392684662550|productid|35013133800030002210019&omniturecode=Google-Shopping-PPC-%2AShopping_Women_New%20>%20Clothing_TP_High-Women%20>%20Clothing%20>%20TP&gclid=Cj0KCQjw-tXlBRDWARIsAGYQAmf7s8Lpb__pvp8ogJ-tEBUGF2oRHgBWCom8bCjAaCG5cAiXCmuSyKUaAtmYEALw_wcB

  55. wafflesfriendswork

    #2 makes me think of the John Mulaney bit about how he gets anxious when people knock on the door of the bathroom and he turns into a carnival barker voice “Someone’s in here!!”

  56. Probably Nerdy

    #2 – maybe I’m blunt, but I think this would be a “return awkwardness to sender” issue and make them feel awkward.

    Make a face and be like, “ew you talk while on the toilet? That’s so weird.” Or even, “dude I’m on the toilet, wtf”. Or, “no one talks on the toilet, what is your problem”.

    I also like the “come back with a search warrant” from above, followed by some comment about how talking on the toilet is so weird.

  57. Mimmy

    #2 is timely because yesterday at work, I walked into the bathroom to see a supervisor and two janitorial staff chatting. They were all speaking Spanish but I still felt awkward being in there. They did leave shortly after I went into my stall and they did not bother me. So they actually did the right thing by leaving. So once the people at OP1’s job should do the same thing once they realize someone is using the toilet.

  58. Mimmy

    #4 – That type of question has always been tough for me, both in interviews and at networking events, because I am constantly fine-tuning my career goals. I know you don’t have to give a specific job title, but I’m always struggling to give a coherent answer that shows some sort of plan without sounding like I have no idea what I want to do.

  59. Light37

    #3- Depending on your budget, you might find a seamstress who can make something to order. It could get expensive, but it’s worth looking into for a look that really fits. Or find a pattern for a dress and jacket combo- a lot of the pattern companies sell really nice ones, and have that made up.
    I would also try looking for jackets that aren’t blazers. I also find them unflattering, but a softer line works quite well with a fuller bust.

      1. Light37

        My understanding is that you’re still working with the color palette they give you- you can’t say, “I want this in purple” if it only comes in brown. And sometimes there aren’t many changes that can be made. eShakti is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the only option out there.

  60. Hamtaro

    To OP 3:
    You probably already know this, but there are a lot of blouses out there that look good with a suit without having the dreaded button-up front. I am… well-endowed myself, and I have a few tops like these that I use whenever I have to dress a little more professional than usual. The button-up look is a classic, but that doesn’t mean buttonless blouses are less professional. I have no fix for the blazer issue, though. I feel your pain.

  61. Amber Rose

    If it were up to me there would be a law that any public washrooms were a silent zone. No chatter, no phone calls, no nothing except your business and if necessary, asking for TP. Ugh.

  62. LaDeeDa

    Suit; traditional suit jackets don’t look good on me because I have a borad broad back and I am really narrow through the hips, I have a bunch of jackets that are a boxier cut- and if possible not a full long sleeve, but a 34 sleeve. This is much more flattering and creates a better proportion if you are bigger on top than on the bottom. I usually pair them with a skirt- look for an a-line skirt or a bit of a fuller pencil skirt- again to create the same balance you create with your wrap dresses. I will also pair them with a wide leg pant. I don’t wear a traditional button-down shirt, I tend to go with something less structured, and a v-neck.

    For an example of the jackets I wear if you go to Ann Taylor and search “Bolero Open Jacket” you will see the last 3 I purchased.

    I took a long time for me to figure out the right proportion for me, but what I described above has worked for me for years in an industry which typically dictates a suit. GOOD LUCK!

  63. LaDeeDa

    #4 I usually answer “I am more interested in finding a good fit culturally and being in a team that encourages collaboration and development than to strictly define a career path. When you find the right fit the growth and path are usually so much more or so different than you imagine!”
    Every single time that answer gets them excited. Feel free to use it! ;)

  64. Batgirl

    OP1, I feel like this is something you definitely would have considered if it were possible, but I’m just going to toss it out there.
    Do these people ever physically get together in one place? Like regular meetings or check ins? It might be worth seeing if you could request adding this requirement to the agenda.
    If all you need is a signature you could just drop off the required sheets at the meet and return just before they wrap up to check for any errors. This might make things a lot easier for them as well as you.
    If everyone is a lot more remote than that, then I think your main issue is that your back office, occasional contact role means you request things from them in a very one sided way. Which makes it easy for them to ignore you because they never need favours from you.
    I’d pick the brains of, or possibly join forces with, someone who works more integrally with them. Ask their opinion of a good time/ calendar structure/pause in the process for getting these signed. Possibly get yourself copied in on a certain regular email and add your voice to that: “Further to key contact’s request, can we make sure the TPS report is signed before/after this stage so that back office can handle this before/after next stage”. Asking for this in front of the key contact may gee them up a bit and make it more part of the ‘we do x for you, you do y for us” formula.

  65. Gymmie

    OP 3: Can you wear a loose fitting blouse under a blazer that isn’t meant to be buttoned? I do this, as the button up shirts also look weird on me. Very nice blouse and then I wear a blazer over it. It can be buttoned, but generally at first meeting and then unbutton when sitting down (men tend to do this all the time).

  66. RandomU...

    Another thing about the dreaded button up blouse… I’ve found that the material makes all the difference. Any cotton is just too stiff and that contributes to the gaping. Silk or silk like fabrics with plenty of positive ease in the bust is the trick. Obviously this gets tricky if the bust isn’t proportionate to the rest of the torso, because that means there’s a lot more positive ease in the stomach/hips area. But the drape should help hide some of that extra fabric.

  67. LaDeeDa

    Work restrooms are a cone of silence— no cell phones, no chatting through the stalls, no hanging out gossiping and making the people who are on the toilet feeling awkward. GAH!

  68. Sled dog mama

    I am suddenly weirdly grateful that all the bathrooms at my work place are single occupancy.

  69. Shannon

    #3 – I completely understand and am in the same boat. Sheath dresses. You’ll need to tailor the waist in but they fit better than button downs and most sheaths can be paired with a blazer for suiting needs. Plus, the lack of color blocking usually elongates the eye-line and doesn’t give that broken up, boxy feel that a pantsuit with button down can. Then, you can use the dress again with a sweater or shawl when a full on suit isn’t needed. They’re really versatile, and to me, it feels like a much better value to tailor a dress vs a dress shirt.

  70. Traveler Kate

    OP2: Id’ probably reply to that question with “Someone who’s peeing. Would you like details on that, too?”
    I mean, what kind of question is that.

  71. JJ

    When people start taking to me in the work bathroom, especially at the urinal, I always answer with a gentle “Shhhhhh”.

    Bathroom is quiet time for me. Don’t talk to me while I’m doing my business. At least wait until I get to the sink.

  72. Miss Muffet

    there are lots of options for under a suit that aren’t button down shirts, and you’re never expected to actually button your jacket. I am in a similar boat (no button down shirts in my closet because they all gape) but I have some knit v-neck tops that look nice underneath a jacket, are somewhat form-fitting so they don’t fit a watermelon underneath, but aren’t so low cut as to show cleavage. A higher-necked shell can also work. It takes a while to find just the right thing, but options abound, even for the more well-endowed among us.

  73. Jennifer

    Re: Interview suit
    I have the same problem. I even had a reduction but still have trouble finding button downs that fit comfortably. The best style for me before my surgery was the wrap dress. They were lifesavers. Thank you DVF. Adding a blazer was enough to look professional for interviews for me, but not sure of your field. Another option is a larger button-down shirt that is tucked in in a way that it doesn’t look baggy under a traditional pantsuit with the jacket open since it will be difficult to button. Just know that many of us feel your pain. Best wishes!

  74. Adminx2

    As a busty lady I love the more modern blazers with no buttons or lapels. I just find ones that create a clean line along my body and never worry about closing them. Now, if you really need a full matching suit, that will mean money.

    My additional issue is being short but broad shouldered, finding sleeve lengths which work are tricky for me. The issues of clothes!

  75. MCMonkeyBean

    My office is a little more casual than most in the field so maybe I’m not a good judge but I feel like it’s a lot more common now for women to wear suits with non-button-down blouses? So if you have to wear a suit perhaps you could wear a nice v-neck blouse or something and keep the jacket unbuttoned. I put a link to an example of what I’m picturing in my username.

  76. Will Negotiate Masculine Workplace Norms

    OP of #3, I feel you. As a fellow busty lady (who, incidentally, loves suits, but suits don’t love her back) the interview outfit is something I’ve struggled with long-term. I do love this new trend of button-less, semi-unstructured blazers. If you can find a blouse or a button-down that fits well over your chest, without any gaping, try looking for a blazer with no padded shoulders and no button close that you can wear loosely over a top. I find that with matching slacks and pumps, this is an entirely acceptable interview outfit, that’s suit-y enough to be formal but may fit your shape better.

    FWIW, Athleta’s Cosmic Blazer is pricey but wonderful and could solve some of your needs.

  77. Peridot

    OP#2:

    A long time ago, I had ankle surgery and was on crutches for several weeks, so I used the accessible stall at work. One time, our friendly but LOUD receptionist walked in, and seeing that the big stall was occupied, said “WHO’S IN MY OFFICE?”

    1. valentine

      That’s what my heart cries out, but I would never say, and why there should be a little waiting bench somewhere.

  78. Shay

    2. “Why do you ask?” said cheerfully. This works for all sorts of inappropriate questions such as “Why don’t you have children?” or “Tell me about your medical condition.” or “Why were you out of office last week?” or “When are you marrying your live-in-partner?”

  79. T

    #2 I totally feel your pain, the lack of bathroom manners at my work is shocking. People take long, loud phone calls while going! If someone had the audacity to ask who’s there to me I might repspond, ‘…someone who wants to take a crap in peace’ if irked enough. For Pete’s sake it’s a bathroom, people should respect other’s privacy.

  80. Sarah

    OP 3: I’m another person with a huge bust that struggled with collared shirts for years because of it. Like you, getting them all altered is just a non-starter. However, I had a major breakthrough that has been a HUGE help: safety pins.

    Specifically, I note on the button down where the dreaded boob gap is happening (mine is usually between the 3rd and 4th or 4th and 5th buttons). Then I flip the shirt inside out and add a safety pin between those buttons. However (and this is the critical part), I do this between 3 of the 4 layers of the fabric. That way you can’t see it when I wear the shirt.

    I now do this with 100% of my button down shirts, and it works wonders. I’ve literally gone from rarely wearing button downs to wearing one 95% of work days, as it allows me an easier time in putting a work wardrobe together. (Waaaaay more mix and match potential.)

    That said, if that doesn’t work, I do think that a wrap top or a blazer over a sheath dress is 100% appropriate. Also, a suit skirt works for some folks. Sort of depends on your gender expression — I like to think of mine as “sensible femme,” in that I don’t mind traditionally softer looks, but that comfort and ease of movement usually takes priority over everything else.

  81. Jo

    OP 2, that would drive me mad as well. I would feel like replying ‘None of your business’ or ‘Who wants to know?’ Or pretend to be on the phone while you are in the stall and carry on a one sided conversation. They’ll know you’re there and probably won’t interrupt to ask who’s there. Another option, while I wouldn’t actually do it, is to pretend to be on the phone in the stall and when the usual suspects come in, say something like, ‘So I was in here earlier minding my own business, when two people come in, start gossiping, then asking who’s in there when they realised someone was in the stall and then accuse me of eavesdropping when I came out! Anyway, how are things with you?’

  82. Guy Incognito

    “Where do you see yourself in five years”

    “Hopefully, I’ll be one of the lucky ones spared by the robot uprising…”

  83. jolene

    If they can talk on the phone in the shared loos, you can sing show tunes. You don’t have to sing them well.

      1. AKchic

        “Keep it down! My soaps are on!”
        “Oh, is it time for the mid-morning gossip sesh already?”
        “Ooofda, I think going to that new Bavarian-Indian-Taco fusion truck was a bad idea last night!” *insert sound effects here*

        So many joyful (to you, dear OP2) noises you can make.

  84. YoungTen

    OP2 Coworkers: “Who’s In Here?”
    You: “Who’s Asking?!”
    Followed by the loudest, smelliest wet fart possible. Then come out and touch one of them on the shoulder BEFORE washing hands.

  85. cartoonbear

    Just interviewed (and got an offer) for a position where they asked the 5-years-from-now question. AND–I am not a super ambitious person. I was in management for several years, hated it, and now enjoy being a mid-level IC.

    I answered it this way: “Well, a lot can happen in 5 years! But I don’t see myself wanting to move upwards into management, just upwards in terms of the work I do–honing my craft so I can solve more complex problems.” Dunno if that helped me get the job or not, but I did get it, so…

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      It’s not one of those questions most interviewers are putting a lot of weight on the answer for. Most are happy to hear that you’re not going to be itching to get out of the job they’re hiring for, it’s always nice to hear that you want more detailed work and that you’re not all “Oh yeah, I plan to have your job in 5 years, ha ha ha.” [Yes, I’ve heard versions of that before and I’m like “Sure you do…sure you do…” [hint they are never qualified for my job, even if they had five years under their belt at that point, my job isn’t related to any of their actual skills/experience].

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      That’s a great response! Thank you for sharing it, it’s really helpful.

  86. Jennifer

    #2 I always wonder if Alison is low-key trolling when she puts bathroom related questions as #2. But yes, I would just pretend like I didn’t hear and keep doing what I was doing in there. You don’t owe anyone conversation while you’re on the toilet. I need that on a T-shirt.

  87. Jo

    Op3, not sure if this helps but maybe try a buttonless blouse with a non suit blazer? Blouses without buttons are less likely to gape and are less clingy than a buttoned blouse. (Or try it with a suit if you can get one that works for you)

  88. WantonSeedStitch

    OP #3, I feel your pain! Even if you can find a good option for a blouse or shell underneath the jacket of a suit, or if you can wear a dress-suit instead of a pantsuit, you still have the problem of the blasted jacket itself. Could you maybe invest in one nice blazer for busty folks like this one, and wear it with black trousers and maybe a stretchy jersey shell? The peace of mind from having that one staple might be worth it!

    https://www.bravissimo.com/us/products/textured-jersey-blazer-midnight-pc179mng/

  89. ENFP in Texas

    OP#1 – I’ve had to chase people down for compliance-related deadlines more times than I care to remember… I finally got to where I’ll send a reminder before the due date, one on the morning of the due date, and one two to three days past the due date. If I don’t hear back from them after the third reminder, I send a fourth one about two days later (that includes all the previous requests because I send the reminders as forwards of the original email) and CC their manager.

    That usually gets their attention.

  90. Exhausted Trope

    LW3, you could be my twin! Blazers and button ups look awful on me for reasons you cited. If I find a suit that fits my bust, long arms and broad shoulders, the rest is too huge. I’ve gone the route of the dressy business dress and have worn matching suit separates where the pant /skirt fits perfectly but the jacket does not and I merely carry the jacket and wear a fabulous blouse. It works in my area because it’s usually too warm for a jacket anyway.

  91. Dinopigeon

    OP2, I don’t have quite the same extent of problem, but I hate talking in the restroom, especially while on the toilet. And for many, many women, this seems to be a nonexistent boundary. I’ve had great success just being polite but blunt: “I prefer not to talk in the restroom.” I’ve rarely had to state this more than once to get the message across.

  92. Flash Bristow

    For OP#2 – I’ve just realised my *actual* answer would be “what? I’m hard of hearing and I can’t lipread you from here”.

  93. Aerin

    OP2 – It might be good to gently tell one of the ringleaders that it’s safer to always assume someone else is in the restroom with them. Someday they’re going to be talking about something they wouldn’t want, say, the CEO to hear, only to realize too late that the CEO is coming out of a stall.

    OP3 – Can you find a local seamstress and talk to them about your options? If the biggest thing you need is customized measurements and are keeping it fairly basic with cut/fabric/finishings, it shouldn’t cost much more than a standard suit. The biggest thing with button-down blouses is to start the button placement with one at the fullest point of the bust, then space them out from there. No more gaps ever again!

    Or you could wear a blouse without buttons and a jacket that hangs well without being closed.

  94. Brownie

    #2- I’d buy a fart machine or one of the fart blaster toys from the movie, Minions. Everytime someone asks ….. I’d let ‘er rip!

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