my employee doesn’t wear a bra on Zoom meetings — should I say anything?

A reader writes:

I’m a man who manages a team of eight. We are all remote since COVID started. It’s become noticeable in the last few months that a woman on the team, let’s call her Samantha, is not wearing a bra during zoom calls. She isn’t dressing provocatively or sexy.

I do find it a little distracting sometimes, but not so much that I would bring it up with her. Knowing Samantha’s personality, it would likely go badly. I’m sure she firmly believes she’s entitled to wear whatever she wants in her own home. I know some people feel wearing a bra is a personal choice, not a professional one.

Recently someone else on my team has now brought this to my attention, saying it makes her uncomfortable when Samantha isn’t wearing a bra. So now I’ve been rethinking my position on this issue. I checked the employee handbook, but of course it doesn’t mention bras directly. There is something about dressing “professionally” and in “good taste” and dressing appropriately for your position.

To clarify, we’re not talking about obvious jiggle or visible nipples. It’s almost off camera, it’s not blatant. Yet it was still clear to me and at least one other person on the team that she’s not wearing one. (The woman who brought it up to me, Carla, has a pretty good relationship with Samantha, and I’m sure she isn’t bringing this up to be petty.)

Do you think I should say something to Samantha? I don’t think I could tell her what to wear, but I could tell her how it’s making some people feel. But I am pretty sure Samantha is going to say that is their problem. Which may be true.

You know, five years ago I wrote that in most offices, going braless will come across as unprofessional if people can tell that you’re braless. If they can’t tell (because you’re small-chested or wearing layers or whatever), then your underwear is no one’s business.

But now … maybe it’s because of 2020, but I just cannot anymore with people worrying about what’s going on with other people’s boobs, noticeable or not.

If you were in the office and the situation were more visible than what you’ve described here … maybe. In some fields, noticeable bralessness still isn’t going to fly, and that’s just the reality of it regardless of what I think should be the case.

But over Zoom, when everyone is at home? When it doesn’t sound like a particularly noticeable thing and you’re describing it as “almost off camera”?

Samantha is wearing clothes. She’s not exposing herself to her colleagues or otherwise behaving indecently.

I would do nothing. If Carla brings it up again, say, “We’ve relaxed the dress code since everyone is at home, and I’m not going to police people’s clothing to that extent.”

{ 723 comments… read them below }

  1. Elenia25*

    I don’t wear bras at home. Your problem. I am literally sitting in my own chair. That being said, my camera is set so it really doesn’t get much below my neck.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I generally try to keep my camera neck up too. Mostly because I like to fiddle with things, doodle, twitch when in meetings and being able to set the camera up so people don’t see it has been such a big help with that. But a side effect is that boobs stay off camera.

      1. RB*

        Yep, I even add a book under my laptop to raise it up when I know I’m going to be onscreen. That’s worked better than just tilting it at a different angle for me.

        1. BettyRogers*

          During the pandemic, I came to the realisation that bra’s are a social construct. We wear them to be socially acceptable. And you know what? Nope! I am bra-less for months and very happy. I look at them in my drawer and I really don’t want to go back to it. Maybe I’ll invest in bralette for when I go back to work. But for now, I’ll keep making sure they are not super visible in calls, and that’s it.

          1. Thankful for AAM*

            I am really uncomfortable without a bra. And I prefer underwire! I’m a bra unicorn I guess.

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              I’m more comfortable with a bra on, too. No underwires (I stick to sport bras), but the older I get, the more things…. migrate downward, and the more they do, the more I feel the need to maintain some control. For me, this is definitely an age thing; when I was younger, I wore bras more out of custom than actual need.

              This is PURELY a personal matter, and I have no opinion about what other women do with their boobs, especially while working at home. But yes, I am a bra wearer by choice!

            2. RedinSC*

              Right? Gravity is not your friend and for me, going bra-less for any time is actually uncomfortable.

                1. The Vulture*

                  To Ann (ran out of nesting) – it is a thing!

                  In any case, it doesn’t make bras more or less comfortable, wear whatever makes you comfortable, I think – that study is really just about the “myth” of going braless causing sagging – and I’d rather we let go of all the hang-ups that make coworkers think they should say anything at all about my underwear situation!

                2. A.N. O'Nyme*

                  Late to the party but I looked into this and the only study I found was by Jean-Denis Rouillon, a study which hasn’t been published yet (so no way to check his methods). This entire idea was blown out of proportion by the media based on one single interview with a student news radio station in which Rouillon himself noted that his findings were not only preliminary but his sample was also not representative of all women. Of the few studies I’ve found regarding breast ptosis, very few looked at the causes of it and none of those looked at bra-wearing as a variable. Is it possible that bra-wearing affects this? Sure, but so far I have not found any actual scientific evidence.

                3. A.N. O'Nyme*

                  Wait, amendment, made a typing error. Lots of studies regarding breast ptosis, usually on techniques for fixing it, not the causes.

                4. DiscoCat*

                  As someone with D cups who works out regularly, including strength training with dumbells and resistance bands- the muscle under the breast tissue toughens up, but it’ll never be enough to support the breast tissue in a way that’s comfortable and sustainable for me. So no, and as someone pointed out breasts tissue doesn’t have muscles for a good reason.

            3. Daffy Duck*

              Another underwire fan here, you are not alone. I am jealous of those that can go without but I’m just not structured that way. I am all for slouchy, soft, comfortable cloths and love the relaxed dress code for working from home. My laptop sits on three thick books and I use a separate keyboard which helps both with video angle and work posture.

            4. Mel_05*

              Yeah, I find going bra-less to be quite uncomfortable, so I wouldn’t say it’s purely a social construct.

              1. NervousHoolelya*

                I would say that the social construct part is that all people with breasts must wear one to be “acceptable” to society, not that some people find them comfortable and others don’t. Lots of the people in the part of the thread are suggesting that only small-breasted people can be comfortable without bras, but I’m a J-cup. Until now, the only pain-free weeks of my year were the two I spent braless in the Maine woods every summer. (And, no, it’s not because my bras don’t fit right.) I haven’t worn a bra since March, and I never will again. I regret that I spent so many years prioritizing other people’s comfort with my body over excruciating back pain and migraines. When we describe bras as a social construct, that’s what we mean. I knew my bras were causing that pain, but I still did it because that’s what society expected of me. No more.

                1. Beanie*

                  Let’s not forget the cost of bras too! I’m a D cup, never went back to bras after my last bra broke during quarantine. No regrets either. If cismen with boobs bigger than me don’t have to wear a bra, why should I?

            5. anon for this*

              Not a unicorn — me too. The lift & separation prevents sweatiness that I find quite unpleasant, and also prevents my boobs from catching on things/getting squished. I wear either a bra or a very supportive tank top with built-in separated containment every day! (This tank top is amazing; I can even run a bit in it…)

              1. Spanish Prof*

                Do you mind sharing the brand of separated containment tank?

                (sounds like your boobs went nuclear) :)

                1. Chinook*

                  knix dot ca does a tank with a containment area that molds to each breast and gives decent support. There is no underwire and uses the same type of fabric tech as their bras.

              2. Dizzy*

                I’m with you on boobs catching on things. I usually wear bralettes or unlined bras, but then I started working merchandising at a big box store because the pandemic eliminated my old job. Lemme tell you, I only had to get my boob squished between two heavy boxes ONCE before I invested in a couple padded bras. It’s like necessary armor for my weirdly-pointy boobs.

            6. lemon*

              Same. I enjoyed going bra free at the beginning of the pandemic but after a few months, I was having terrible upper back pain. Started wearing bras again and the pain instantly improved.

              1. yala*

                I dunno. I’m a DD and I much prefer being sans bra. It’s the first thing I do when I get home, and the months without having to wear one were amazing.

              2. Ace in the Hole*

                I’m a DD cup and find going braless more comfortable unless I’m doing high-impact activities (jogging, contact sports, certain types of manual labor, etc). I don’t find bras horribly UNcomfortable, but it’s nicer to go without.

                Based on the number of larger-than-A-cup friends I have who talk with relish about taking their bras off the second they get home, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s not all that unusual.

            7. allathian*

              I’m the same, but then, I’m fairly large chested to the point that I have to buy my bras in specialist stores. That’s a lot of weight to carry without any support.

              1. Hey, big titties don't all need bras*

                I mean…I am somewhere between a US H/I depending on the brand (UK 30GG is my measured size), and even with my lovely, extremely expensive specialty size bras, I find any form of supportive bra deeply uncomfortable. It wasn’t until I got sports bras from girlfriend collective that I didn’t want to claw my skin off while wearing a bra (all thanks to a 1.5″ thick elastic band that sits lower than my inframammary fold and doesn’t ride up into it).
                For the rest of the time, a stretchy knit crop top is Just Fine, and I literally only started wearing those to smooth the shape of my chest a bit.
                Now I think my boobs are either larger or denser and I find that torso/underboob touching can be uncomfortable, but definitely not enough to warrant the ongoing pain of wearing an underwire bra for more than 15 minutes.

            8. Caroline Bowman*

              me too. I think bust size is definitely a factor. But a large breast size, swinging around all sweaty and unsupported feels awful to me. If I were much smaller, then maybe I’d feel different!

              1. WantonSeedStitch*

                Yeah, those of us who are Boobzillas might overall be more likely to feel comfortable with a bra on. I know I am.

              2. Sasha*

                Yep! If I have to walk around with my arms crossed under my boobs to stop them bouncing, I might as well just put a bra on.

            9. Mara*

              Me too! Days when I don’t put on a bra I am much less comfortable. And I love the ease of sports bras but sometimes I get very sweaty with a sports bra on. As long as my underwire bras are the right fit I’ve never found them uncomfortable.

            10. londonedit*

              I’ve switched to soft bralet things rather than actual bras, but I definitely still want/need some sort of support and coverage!

              1. JustaTech*

                Oh me too! It’s not a size thing, it’s a constant friction thing. If I had a set of stays rather than a modern fashion corset I’d wear it all the time. I just can’t stand the rubbing.

            11. Snarkastic*

              I’ve invested in wireless bralettes and sports bras that I call “sleep bras”. I live in them and am now in a bra 24/7. Living my best life!

            12. Admininja*

              There are so many of us! Seeing all these unicorns is amazing. The popular trope of universally hating bras had me feeling quite alone in this. I don’t love wearing a bra, but after a while without one, I both appreciate them more & find myself tucking my shirt under my boobs. I somehow got pretty good at a quick forearm swipe without noticing, which leaves me hoping I’ve never done that around anyone but my husband. I like the support of underwire, but I’m grateful to be small enough to wear soft bras (with heavy, padding-like seams where the underwire would be) on moderately active days. I can’t imagine being much bigger & doing anything even mildly active without underwire support.

          2. Quickbeam*

            Thank you! I’m comfortable for the first time in my 50 years of work life. If I’m going to be on Zoom I position carefully and wear navy. And I’m a 34H. It’s marvelous.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I’m confess it here:

      I need to text during these meetings. Gossip and snark, you know?

      The camera is high up for that reason.

        1. starsaphire*

          I couldn’t stay awake in meetings without my mobile games, for sure.

          I’m totally paying attention and parsing, honest. But my fingers are happily busy, and the bored part of my brain is distracted.


          1. allathian*

            Me too. I haven’t had any problems focusing during in-person meetings, but remote meetings bore me out of my skull unless it’s a 1:1. I’ve never had trouble with executive function before, but…

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        Yep, me too. Lol. Or at the very least multitask and not want to distract people with my keyboard typing (I also invested in a quieter keyboard).

        However, I just feel… exposed… going braless at work. So I have grown a fantastic bralette collection since I began WFH.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I am extremely small-busted so support-wise I’m fine braless, and actually a properly fitted bra causes eczema flareups (tight synthetic fabrics are a no-go for my body) so I’ve switched to bralettes and I buy them a size or so too big so they’re just tight enough to stay where they’re put… basically they’re just an undershirt, which is what I used to wear, but for my boobs because a whole shirt under my shirt was too hot over the summer.

          2. Wren*

            A couple of years ago, I packed last minute and forgot any bras but the one i was wearing. I’m super nipply without one, so I bought a set of supermarket store brand bralettes and they’ve been a staple ever since. I only get out a real bra rarely at this point.

            I’m still not wearing a bra or bralette in my own house, though.

        1. generic_username*

          I have bought so many “lounge bras” (essentially super low impact sports bras, some with thin straps similar to a normal bras)

          1. Salamander*

            Oh, yes to bralettes and lounge bras. As a small-chested person, the only reason why I bother to wear a bra is for coverage, and I am down with this.

          2. Gymmie*

            Me too. I would not be able to exercise in these. They are just protection, smoothing. I haven’t worn a real bra since March!

          3. many bells down*

            I discovered True&Co. and they’re all soft squishy lounge bras and I may never wear anything else.

        2. GothicBee*

          I can’t stand going braless all day, so I wear mostly lounge type bras, not so much bralettes, but still way more comfy. And I’m back in the office now too.

          But I feel like unless there’s something going on that’s really explicit, it shouldn’t matter if someone isn’t wearing a bra at all. Ideally we’ll get to a point where people stop freaking out about how women’s boobs look and let women wear what feels comfortable for them (not that I think the LW is freaking out, just in general).

            1. Not A Girl Boss*

              Prepare for your life to be changed! Lol.
              My favorite is kind of like a plunge with thick straps. Holds you up without squishing.

              1. TrainerGirl*

                I’ve never worn more than a bralette, because I’m fairly small and gravity is my friend, but I do love the plunge bralette. The Gap (not an ad…I just love them!) has a great plunge bralette and I have a large number of them.

              2. londonedit*

                This is what I’ve switched to. Mine are from Lindex and they’re lace with soft cups and thick straps. I have them in all the colours! So comfy but still supportive and they give you a nice shape under clothes.

        3. Why isn't it Friday?*

          Me too! I bought a bunch during the pandemic. They’re perfect – light support but super comfy. I’m wearing one now.

      2. PeanutButter*

        I’ve got a couple pairs of zoom socks done knitting. For whatever reason as soon as I have to sit still and stare a a screen without actively doing something (like my work) I go to sleep. Fortunately there’s a couple knitters/crocheters in my lab and so we are all often asked about our progress on various meeting projects, and folks have said that when we eventually transition back to in person (whenever that is) they’d have no problem with people bringing in “fidget crafts” like knitting for presentations.

        1. Hey, big titties don't all need bras*

          Do you by chance have ADHD? I was diagnosed this year and this happened to me all the time. For me it was more ‘any time I am supposed to absorb large amounts of information without verbally processing/discussing in the moment’ and I’d get completely knocked out. Basically, every single lecture, or lecture like thing (safety meetings, trainings) had me out cold. When I was being tested for ADHD I had to do a computer test that basically is attention stamina (for visual/audio processing), and over the course of the 15 minute test I had the same feeling of being about to black out from being so sleepy. Apparently it’s a thing called theta wave ingression, and it can happen when your brain disengages too hard without something engaging to fall back on.
          Of course, not a doctor, but it’s literally the symptom that got me to eventually seek a diagnosis bc no one thought I had ADHD at all any time prior.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Same here, though my real reason is that my cat likes to lie on my lap (her tail occasionally goes across the screen).

      1. BeenThere*

        Me too, it’s fantastic. I’m not going to wear one when I go back either. If anyone complains I’ll have to request all the dude bros I work with cover up too.

      2. Quinalla*

        Almost for me too, I’ve had to go to a few site vists for work where I put one on, but otherwise – no bra here and I hope anyone who it is comfortable for is not wearing them either!

      3. The Rules are Made Up*

        Me either and it’s fantastic. I literally only wear them for work (and even then sometimes I would rush getting ready and forget to put it on). I hate them. Sometimes I couldn’t even wait until I got home and I’ve taken them off in the car lollll.

    3. Ugh, Bras*

      Same. I hate wearing a bra because my breasts are just so large that it’s uncomfortable. But that also means it’s super obvious when I’m not wearing one. My meetings rarely use video, but when they do I have it positioned just to show my face (and to hide the mess on the coffee table behind me).

      As a side note, when people complain about face masks, I can’t help but compare it to wearing a bra. Face masks aren’t super comfortable but they’re really not that bad. I’m pregnant which means I can really smell my own breath plus I get hot easily with it blowing back on me. I also have asthma. But you know what? Given the choice between a mask and a bra, I’d much rather wear the mask.

      1. Anax*

        Same! Not being at work makes another big difference for me – I don’t have a “proper” office chair at home, as our workplace wouldn’t pay for them or let us bring ours home, and I’m really reluctant to drop several hundred dollars of my own money on something I only want for work.

        Unfortunately, that means that I don’t have an upright chair with armrests and really good lumbar support, which is the only thing that makes bras reasonably tolerable for me – if I’m leaning forward or to the side at all, the band of my bra puts stress on my ribs and sometimes makes them dislocate a bit. It’s pretty painful.

        (As a sidenote, goodness, I’d sooner wear a bra than a mask even if it does mean shoving my ribs back into place, but facemasks just happen to hit my asthma really hard, and I’m really afraid of fainting and getting hurt. (A real concern, thanks, body.) But I still MUCH prefer having mask mandates than “personal freedom”, especially because asthma means I shouldn’t be going out anyway!)

      2. littledoctor*

        >I hate wearing a bra because my breasts are just so large that it’s uncomfortable.

        Exactly! I’m a 36K. Finding bras that fit is incredibly difficult, and they’re often painful to wear. I very often do not wear bras to work.

      3. parsley*

        Same; honestly the last few months of working from home bra-less have really cemented for me the idea of looking into getting a reduction – with the size I’m at, I’m socially uncomfortable wearing work clothes without a bra (if I’m in a hoodie I couldn’t care less), but I’ve yet to find a bra that doesn’t chafe or itch or whatever somewhere, and it’s not even alleviating my back pain, so I’d rather get myself into a situation where I can either wear lighter duty bras, or just go without altogether.

      4. somethingchronic*

        Face masks mightn’t be too bad for you and for most other people, but some autistics find them utterly intolerable.

        1. Anax*

          Yeah, I think the level of “intolerable” for autistic sensory issues is easy to downplay if you’re not autistic yourself.

          We have trouble ignoring or filtering out sensory inputs, which means the level of constant distraction is akin to being at a deafening concert; there’s no way to put it out of our heads, at all, even for a few minutes. It is *always* distracting. For minor issues, like a new outfit, this is like being poked in the shoulder every twenty seconds by an annoying sibling; distracting, energy-draining, but manageable.

          For major issues, where the sensory input isn’t just existing, but is actively, unbearably upsetting… gosh, I don’t want to sound like I’m overstating things, but the closest comparison I can think of is “being pepper-sprayed.” It’s seriously that bad. Distressing to the point of pain, crying, screaming, being so distressed we can’t talk, running in a blind panic. I can’t think of anything less severe which would affect an average non-autistic so badly. It’s not something that can be overcome with willpower; maybe extended, extensive therapy and practice, just as people learn to manage severe chronic pain or tinnitus, but … it’s not an easy one.

          I’m really grateful masks don’t hit me in that way; other things do, like certain motor noises, but it’s easier for me to avoid blenders than masks in 2020.

    4. Admin Always*

      Same. My camera cuts off at my clavicle and when the big boss is on I even wear long sleeves to cover my tattoos—but I still don’t wear a bra.

    5. New Here*

      I just want to flag that some video platforms display a narrower self-image preview than what meeting attendees see. I discovered this when a colleague shared screen and, before pulling up the discussed document, I could see the zoom/teams/Webex window and it included areas in my background that I thought were off camera.

    6. Been exactly where LW1 is!*

      I’ve never worn a bra in my life. Obsessing over someone else’s underwear is creepy and sexual harassment.

    7. Happy Pineapple*

      Since working from home due to the pandemic, I’ve pretty much exclusive switched from underwire bras to large silicone stick-ons. It gives me coverage so I feel comfortable being out in public or on video. My friends just assumed I was wearing an non-sculpting wireless bra.

    8. A size 40F who HAS to wear a bra b/c OUCH*

      It’d not really “your problem” is someone else has to stare at it…which doesn’t totally seem to be the case here. I’m 100% for wearing (or not wearing) anything and everything in your own home, but let’s not pretend that’s identical circumstances to being on a work related video call.

  2. Bree*

    I had such a visceral NO response to this question that I had to get up and walk around to let off some energy.

    1. ZooKeeperKate*

      In response to this situation, I would not bring issue up to coworker. . In fact I would question OP why he cares/noticed/why this is taking up brain space. As mentioned, it is barely noticeable (no nipples and no jiggling). I know we all get visually bored in zoom, but noting someone’s breasts is inappropriate. And how did the other coworker bring up same “issue”: out of the blue or was the conversation brought up by op?

      As the situation as a whole: my opinion are bras are optional. Neither gender identity should show nipples in professional settings. Do we see a male with large breasts jiggling as they walk less professional then a skinny male? No. Why should women be viewed any different.

      1. MissM*

        Also, how does one juggle on a zoom call whilst seated at your desk setup? I’ve been staring at mine for the last 15 to make sure that they’re not moving of their own volition and I’ve just not noticed all these years.

      2. Accountress*

        Look at the men who are the butt of jokes on workplace comedies- Brooklyn 99 and The Office, in particular. Yeah, fat men are treated differently in offices than non-fat men. It’s not as blatant, it’s mot as obvious, but it’s absolutely there.

        1. Koalafied*

          This is true, but being the butt of jokes because you have manboobs is a different issue than your boss telling you that your manboobs are unprofessional and you need to wear a bra.

      3. Safetykats*

        Or a guy with serious nipple showing? I work with more than one of those. Mostly they are guys in pretty good shape, proud of their pecs, and wearing fitted shirts with no undershirt. Apparently nobody thinks it’s less than professional unless your nipples are functional rather than decorative.

      4. coldbrewraktajino*

        What even are people noticing if not jiggle and nipples? The lack of a visible bra strap?!

        Man, I wasn’t mad when Alison posted about this on Twitter but I SURE AM NOW.

        1. Koalafied*

          This was exactly what I wondered! If it’s not nipples or movement, then it’s either maybe a wide neckline without visible bra straps, or her boobs are sitting lower/flatter without the lift of a bra…which is really, like, “Your boobs are not perky enough for a bra to be involved” or “I noticed that I CAN’T see your underwear and that makes me uncomfortable?”

          What are we missing here.

        2. Yorick*

          It might be a clearer outline of the breasts themselves, which is what I’m often worried about when braless.

      5. Nottoday*

        I think people on zoom need to be given slack. I can see how sometimes the on camera meetings are useful but most of the time.. just share your screen and move on!! My company is just now switching to doing on camera and I have 3 sweater jackets I will rotate between wearing as I haven’t worn a bra regularly in about 5 years. Most of the time if I was in the office I wore a tank top underneath my shirts. Now? It’s my comfy house dresses all the way! Same with my kids. They have five shirts they rotate between that are plain and wear pajama pants. It’s much more comfortable especially since we don’t have the space to set up desks and such.
        One of my coworkers has started appearing on camera in a hoodie with the hood pulled up for every meeting. Silent protest? Maybe. Distracting? Nope. If the meeting is that important I’m much more focused on what’s being said or taking notes than looking at the various squares of coworkers!

      6. not gonna say*

        Even with “lightly lined” bras, sometimes my nipples show through. And the lining isn’t all that light, really. Maybe we can accept that we all have nipples and not worry about them so much?

        1. sleepyheadzzz*

          Preach! I can’t wear anything but lightly lined bras and I definitely have nipple outline show through but I’ve never given it a second thought.

      7. Choco*

        “I would question OP why he cares/noticed/why this is taking up brain space … Noting someone’s breasts is inappropriate”

        Is it normal to have control over what you notice about somebody? I don’t know if this is because of my OCD, but I notice “inappropriate” things all the time. I used to obsess over it and try to figure out what was wrong with me to make me think of penises every time I looked at a guy’s jeans, but I’ve learned to just accept that noticing people’s bodies and thinking about “inappropriate” things is just something my brain does. I don’t act on it or say anything to people. Up till now I assumed everyone had the same issue, just maybe not quite so overwhelming. Are neurotypical people really able to control what they notice?

        1. Needles to say ..*

          No. Neurotypical people have that too, to varying degrees.

          Source: All the “funny” (read: so cringe) videos online of people being mocked for where they look while using eye-tracking software. (So you don’t have to look for it the summary of every video is either “haha he looked at bewbs!” or “lol she’s trying not to look at his crotch!”)

    2. Crivens!*

      Me too. Our breasts are not being breasts AT you. They exist. Learn to deal with it and grow up, everybody.

      1. Elenia25*

        And it’s another woman! Can women not leave other women alone? There seems to be no understanding, and i swear, no one has ever policed my clothing more than other women.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          A woman who is supposedly her FRIEND! I mean, if you’re an actual friend, why on earth would you complain to your male boss instead of just… letting her know that its obvious just in case she wanted to do something about it?

          1. SomehowIManage*

            It’s strange that she did not speak directly to her…except for what LW said about Samantha’s likely response. I wonder if she has a history of responding angrily to criticism.

            1. JSPA*

              I’m guessing perhaps she did; was told where to stick it; said, “I’m sure it upsets [boss]”; was laughed off with, “yeah, right, I’m sure”; didn’t like being laughed at; and decided to forge onwards and upwards.

              A lot of us have had that flavor of work-friend at some point, no? Wants to train us, because we can’t possibly intend to be the person that we are, rather than some other person who presents differently?

        2. AnonEMoose*

          Right?! I can remember my best friend being really upset at her first “professional” (and quite toxic) job. One of her coworkers insisted that “short hair is more professional,” and got quite nasty with my friend about it, even after my friend started wearing her hair up.

      2. Exhausted Trope*

        @Crivens, so well put! It’s common human anatomy. Why in 2020 do we still have issues with this? It’s not like she’s going topless on Zoom.

    3. CoveredInBees*

      I had to make myself some coffee and take a breath.

      Personally, I find it really uncomfortable to be upright for long without a bra. Until the topic came up on AAM, I always thought that was why people wore them, for the most part. Wearing bras to “look professional” is still confusing to me because who cares? It’s especially confusing because many women don’t get properly fitted for bras and think they’re intrinsically uncomfortable.

      1. Elm*

        I’m allergic to most detergents, even sensitive ones, and having that digging in…yikes. The rashes I’ve gotten from them are bananas. But in a cruel trick of nature, I also have OCD and can’t not wash my clothes after every wearing. Even jeans.

        Thankfully I work in a very casual place and everyone wears hoodies. I can tough it out for formal events, but every day…my skin would fall off.

        I had a boss get on me because when I stretched up, you could see maybe a half inch of skin. I was told I needed to buy all new clothes, and with what they paid me and the medical treatments I was undergoing that directly affected my weight (meaning clothing size kept changing and I was just doing my best)…it was humiliating and impossible. I can’t imagine dealing with someone talking about my undergarments.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        I’ve found a good compromise – I also find it uncomfortable to be without some kind of “boob containment” for too long. But Torrid has these things called “bralettes” that are sort of “sports bra light”. I find they’re very comfortable, and it’s not obvious that I’m not wearing an actual bra.

      3. Wool*

        The most uncomfortable bra I’ve ever owned was “properly fitted”. I went back to the size that was more comfortable, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy wearing them. All they do is make my breasts a socially acceptable shape.

      4. Bras hurt and cost too much*

        My breasts are large and the bra I need to hold them in place seems to operate with levers and pulleys (that has to be the reason for the cost!) so comfort is not something I ever feel when I wear a bra. I have been professionally fitted and have never, not one time in all my years of wearing a bra, have found them to be comfortable. I am 100% aware that I am wearing it and how it feels and it’s awful. Since working at home I haven’t worn a bra unless I’m leaving the house for errands, and now that the weather has turned cold and my braless beauties can swing free under an oversized sweatshirt, I often don’t bother with that any more. It’s so delightful. I really hope they decide I get to work from home forever! I’d seriously stay with this company until I retire just to have my little home office area and not wear a bra again. :)

        1. willow for now*

          There are times I have decided not to run that errand because I would need to put on a bra. And public pants. And shoes.

        2. tangerineRose*

          I’ve got some decent bras from Lane Bryant. I found that eventually though, the elastic goes just a bit, which can make a bra very uncomfortable.

        3. Tabby*

          @bras – insert girl same gif here. Ive never been pro fitted for a bra, though. I got to a “right fitting” size easily enough on my own (40DDD), and that was perfect, back before bra makers decided we all want all that stupid foam padding on top of the annoyed underwire. I went back 5o the days of my youth when I would only wear sports bras. I have three that I only use for my dog daycare shifts. My dogwalking client really doesn’t care if I’m not wearing a bra; she’s busy working from home, and half the time we’re wearing the same outfit.

        4. boop the first*

          Yeah I agree, getting fitted does not make it comfortable. It IS more comfortable in the sense that it feels more controlled and I’m not adjusting shoulder straps all day or pushing my boobs back in or whatever. It’s nice to be carefree.

          But it’s LESS comfortable in the sense that the only way any of this works is if the chest band and plate are tight as f*&k so the shoulder straps are mostly just decorative anyway.

      5. Gymmie*

        Me too. I’m uncomfortable walking around without SOME support. For support, even if its these thin pseudo sports bras.

      6. Queer Earthling*

        It’s especially confusing because many women don’t get properly fitted for bras and think they’re intrinsically uncomfortable.

        I’ve been fitted, but proper fit doesn’t cure sensory issues. I can tolerate a proper grown-up cup bra on occasion but I hate it; I’m much more comfortable either braless or in a soft lounge bra.

        Also, my spouse (who is not a woman but was assigned female at birth) wears a G cup, and almost no bra is comfortable for them for very long. Neither is going braless. They’ve been happiest in a corset or a binder, boob-wise, but can’t wear those very long either for other reasons.

        It’s almost like everyone is different.

        1. Jaydee*

          I send G cup solidarity to your spouse. Nothing is comfortable. My wfh choice has been doubling up with cheap racer back sports bras from Target. No underwire stabbing or slipping straps. Yes uniboob sweat when it’s hot. Enough compression that I don’t look like maybe I’m smuggling a pair of poorly behaved cantaloupes everywhere with me.

          1. littledoctor*

            I’m a 36K. No bra store in my city sells bras that fit me, and most online bra stores don’t either. In the past I’ve had to custom order bras. Even wearing ones that objectively fit perfectly, wearing bras is just very uncomfortable for me.

        2. Koalafied*

          I have hyper sensory issues as well. Bras aren’t uniquely uncomfortable, but they’re at the more uncomfortable end of the spectrum. I also find jeans uncomfortable compared to pajama pants, fitted shirts uncomfortable compared to tshirts, dresses with a bodice uncomfortable compared to sweater dresses and shirt dresses, shoes uncomfortable compared to slippers … And so on. Clothes that actively press against my skin all day cause more sensory load than I like, especially tight elastic bands, underwires, and straps that pull down on my shoulders or back of my neck (I have no earthly idea how anyone can wear a halter top). Towards the end of the day even my socks start to feel uncomfortable against my ankles.

          So all other things being equal, I generally opt for the least-confining publicly-appropriate outfit possible, and there’s always something less confining than a bra.

          1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

            I also have some sensory issues around clothes.

            I can’t wear (or sleep in) fabrics that are scratchy, such as poly cotton or linen. Dresses that gather in the waist cause me great discomfort as they chafe against my skin. A scratchy label in the neck of a T shirt is enough to drive me silly. And one shoe tied slightly tighter than the other will bother me all day.

            Bras often scratch, chafe, dig, or feel uneven, or all of those unpleasantnesses.

        3. JSPA*

          A friend had all breast tissue removed for familial cancer related reasons.

          They did some rebuilding, so she’s A/B cup-ish (or so she reports) but flat would also have been an option.

          She glories in sleeping on her stomach, rolling over in her sleep without waking, not having a sore back, not needing a bra unless she feels like wearing one, being able to break into a run without thinking twice (etc).

          If you’re in a social group where that sort of surgery is thought of only in terms of gender confirmation (or conformation) you may not also think of it in terms of the many other reasons, medical and otherwise, that people do this.

          (I know it’s not cheap, and sorry if it’s not an option, and I’ve brought up something that’s a sore spot.)

          1. Queer Earthling*

            I appreciate that! It’s not financially feasible for them (we have absolutely looked into it for many reasons) but if they won the lottery they’d do it in a heartbeat. Maybe someone else will see your post and realize it can help them, though. :)

        4. parsley*

          Solidarity to your spouse, and agreed, the most comfortable boob support I’ve ever worn was a corset. It forces my posture upright (I slouch very badly, partially because of the weight of my chest) and the support is coming from my waist upwards instead of hanging off my shoulders. I know the band of a bra is supposed to be the thing that provides the support, not the straps, but let’s face; there are limits to how well a thin band of mesh and elastic is going to be able to do that. I’ve never tried a binder, but I’ll admit some curiosity, especially as I’m considering a reduction – I’d like to see what a flatter chest would look like.

      7. Black Horse Dancing*

        It’s very hard to find places that do proper bra fitting and large bras cost a frigging bundle, especially larger sizes. Over $60 for a decent (not terrific but decent bra). That’s insane.

        1. Cinnamon*

          I’ve spent $100 on one bra before because I’m a large cup size. Granted it was a great bra and lasted sooooo long but I can’t just be dropping $1,000 every few months for new bras.

      8. Tabby*

        They actually are, though, for me. They’re intrinsically uncomfortable no matter what I do. And I am certainly not going to spend $30 EXTRA dollars on a garment I do not like and am uncomfortable wearing. Nope. No thanks.

    4. another Hero*

      literally I was just immediately “no this does not possibly matter, free it from your brain and stop looking” and was glad to see Alison basically agreed

    5. BonzaSonza*

      I did too. It’s frustrating that natural breasts somehow became unacceptable. I’m also guessing from context that she has larger boobs.

      People with large breasts already face enough challenges and can be extremely self-conscious about them. I would be humiliated if my male boss commented on my chest, would question his judgement on what’s important or not, and would consider complaining to HR or his boss.

      There’s no indecency from your letter, if it’s a bit of jiggling or a different shape that’s bothering you, that’s a you problem. She’s not doing anything *at* you.

      Treat it like acne, yellow teeth or a thinning hair line – probably a bit distracting to look at but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with someone having any of those things and a polite person would pretend not to notice. You wouldn’t dream of telling Bob in accounting to wear a toupee while on camera or Mike in admin to find a better face wash.

      1. I'm not talking about my breasts and signing off with my everyday name.*


        I’m a busty woman who has been braless for a year now. (Which has drastically improved my back/neck pain, among several other issues!) What I notice is that when wearing a bra, my breasts look big and high, and when I’m not wearing a bra, my breasts look smaller and are a whole lot lower because they sag. Because we’re so used to seeing people wear bras, and thus to seeing breasts somewhere between a quarter and a third of the way down the torso and neatly held together by a bra cup, it can look “weird” when someone (or at least someone who’s busty making breasts hang low) doesn’t wear a bra and thus has a kind of a long boob that is between a third and half of the way down the torso, and rather than being neatly held together by a bra cup, kind of all over the place.

        But breasts existing in their natural state isn’t inappropriate in itself, especially when they are covered up and not jiggling. (I’m not going to voice an opinion on whether or not they should be allowed to exist not covered up and/or jiggling, that’s not today’s discussion.) We’re used to a certain torso shape – that of today’s bras – and are no longer used to the torso shape caused by a corset, or by a bullet bra, or by no bra at all.

        (Slightly off-topic but I can’t talk about bralessness and sagging in one paragraph and not throw it out here: that bralessness causes sagging has not been substantiated. There is some evidence going braless actually strenghtens connective tissue, the same way you strenghten your bones by putting weight on them.)

        I think “The shape of your body offends me” or “The shape of your body is unprofessional” is a really odd thing to even consider telling a colleague.

        1. Admin Always*

          In reply to bralessness and noticing less sagging—I have noticed my breasts are sitting higher after being braless since March. And my posture has improved! I’m investing in a different wardrobe if I ever go back to an office because bras are pure misery.

          1. I'm not talking about my breasts and signing off with my everyday name.*

            I haven’t noticed whether or not they sit higher, but I’ve definitely noticed that ever since I stopped wearing a bra, my breasts are no longer sore! It used to be that I couldn’t walk around without a bra off without an arm across my chest, but after a week or two of no bra I could jump up and down without any issue. So there’s definitely some tissue working hard there!

            A tank that’s a little tight can take care of most jiggling.
            I don’t have a problem with nipple visibility – less so without a bra, actually, because a bra positions my nipples in the middle of my breasts so if it’s cold the pointiest part of my breast becomes ‘more pointy’, whereas if I’m not wearing a bra, my nipples are approximately the lowest part of my breast and whether or not it’s cold, they don’t really become visible even I’m just wearing one layer of cotton. (That is not what I would wear to work, but I have tried it at home!)
            YMMV, especially if you are perkier than I am.

            1. SomehowIManage*

              Thanks for sharing your experience. I am of the “wear a bra for work calls or keep your camera focused on your face” camp, but you’ve given me something to consider.

          2. JSPA*

            I have not worn a bra, except for higher impact sports, for decades.

            My chest is not exactly the way it looked when I was 20, but that’s equally true for most breast-having people, so far as I know.

            I never felt in any way deeply outsid the norm (in that particular respect) in swimming pool changing rooms. Nor have people given me guff (or even side-eye) for putting on a shirt, but not a bra, before leaving the changing room.

            There is no reason for anyone to make Schrodinger’s Bra an issue.

    6. pope suburban*

      The tone was completely repellent. And why, exactly, *shouldn’t* someone feel they have the right to dress comfortably in their own home? That’s exactly the right that every person has, and it sounds like this employee is still wearing work-appropriate attire, so…avert your gaze and learn to deal with the fact that people have bodies. This letter was at once terribly juvenile and overwhelmingly condescending.

      1. SomehowIManage*

        The challenge is that this is a hybrid home and work space now. With the ability to earn a living from home come some expectations. It’s in Samantha’s interest to keep things professional during work time. (Whether professionalism includes wearing a bra is a separate question.)

        1. Autumnheart*

          No it isn’t. It’s a home. The company has zero say on what goes on in an employee’s home, just like they didn’t before we were all on Zoom. We are using our own, private resources that we pay for ourselves, to facilitate our jobs to the benefit of both employees and the company in question. That does NOT give a company a right to have “expectations” about our home.

          If a workplace is concerned about inappropriate things on camera, don’t turn the cameras on. So easy! Just have voice calls! My workplace almost never uses video and therefore we don’t have to worry about whether someone approves of our decor, work space, or boobs. No accidental naked spouses or butt-cleaning pets to worry about either.

          1. pope suburban*

            Well said. One’s employer does not and should not own all of one’s space and time. One would also think that some grace ought to be extended to people during this unprecedented time, rather than expecting that employees spend even more of their time and money recreating their workplace in their homes.

          2. MCMonkeybean*

            I’m team “no bra required,” but I would not extend that to say an employer can’t have any say at all in some aspects of work from home. I think some amount of dress code is still reasonable. My company has always been on the casual side of business casual and my boss has been very chill through all this but if they wanted to say we can’t wear tee shirts on a conference call or something I think that would be reasonable.

        2. pope suburban*

          Her attire was noted to be within parameters, so I’m not sure what you think you’re explaining to me here. I understood the situation perfectly well, and the letter writer is extremely out of line. Samantha has a body, as do we all, and she’s clothing it in a manner that meets dress code. The problem here is with others trying to police her body.

        3. Lizard*


          You’re calling from home, but you’re calling for your work. Your colleagues expect you to maintain professional standards. Eg it would be weird to be on a work call without wearing a shirt.

          The question is, is wearing a bra for work necessary to be professional? And it’s a reasonable question that’s been asked a lot before.

  3. FindThisVeryInteresting*

    Love this response! While I don’t think I could survive without a bra, anyone who doesn’t feel like rocking the over the boulder shoulder holder shouldn’t be shamed for it.

    1. Marion Ravenwood*

      Same. I feel like the last woman on earth who is still wearing a bra on a daily basis, because I feel more comfortable in one, but I’m damn sure not going to criticise others who choose not to do so.

      1. Agreed!*

        You’re not the last! I can’t stand walking around without one; I always find it so fascinating to hear that people prefer not to wear one.

        1. Agreed!*

          And I would never weigh in on someone else’s decision on the topic! I just find it very interesting how in the minority I seem to be on this preference.

            1. Chinook*

              You are not alone. I will go shirtless around the house before I go braless because I prefer not hear the slap of skin or feel the sweat that accumulates from being large chested.

              That being said, if a boss brought up my state of bra wearing, regardless of gender, I would be asking out loud why he was focusing on my chest.

              Kudos to OP, though, for wanting to double check his initial reaction with a third party. Not only have standards changed, but he also realized that he may be looking at the situation wrongly. He deserves praise for checking in with another professional about how he should handle something so touchy when brought up by another employee.

              1. animaniactoo*

                My back appreciates the solution I’ve found for wandering around at home – folded microfiber long handtowel applied to the appropriate area. Gravity (ahem) keeps it in place.

                @Alison, please remove if this is too TMI, but wanted to put it out there for potential benefit to others….

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  I’ve found that the “bralettes” from Torrid are more comfortable than a bra, and more comfortable than being without one (I’m also quite large-chested).

                2. Little My*

                  Try Ta Ta Towels! literally designed just for this purpose. They have been my saving grace in quarantine. No support whatsoever, but that is exactly why they’re so comfortable. Literally just to prevent sweat and chafing. Life changing.

                3. Gumby*

                  Ditto on the TaTa Towels. Though I don’t wear them all day or under clothes or whatever, but as a post-shower, pre-getting dressed solution to underboob sweat/chafing/what have you? Perfection!

          1. Zooey*

            I think because bras are the ‘default’ in Western society, people are more likely to be vocal about not wearing them than wearing them. I was another person who was surprised at all the ‘finally not wearing a bra’ pandemic comments because I am really not comfortable without one – but until recently people didn’t comment that much one way or the other! (I will say I am pleased by the recent rise of more non wired options as it turns out not only are they comfy, they actually do more to give me a good shape than most wired bras.)

        2. SlightlyStressed*

          I’m probably the weirdest one – I can’t sleep unless I’m wearing at least an old sports bra. Maybe it’s because I sleep on my side and gravity’s an issue but not wearing one is just a pain for me.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Me too! I am always wearing some form of support because I can’t stand any sort of friction, so weekends+sleep have always been soft, cotton bralettes and work was the standard wired bra. Even weirder, I am a 34 B, so not exactly huge

            1. Not A Girl Boss*

              I think it might be a placement-on-chest thing. I am the same size but wide-set, and I find I need *something* to pull me back to center or I end up, like, smooshing them when I sleep on my side.

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                That makes sense. I am also wide-set. Left to their own devices a good 1/3 is under my arm

              2. Cary*

                Me too, but for me that’s why I can’t stand to wear a bra–when it pulls them together, it hurts! I used to get sudden stabbing pains throughout the day when wearing a bra. Talk about distracting!

                I tried to put up with it when I was 12 and 13, and then quit–it was the ’90s, it was fine. Over time the custom became more to avoid showing nipple–BTW in the early ’90s AFAIK soft-cup bras barely existed. I did notice over time they became first A thing and then THE thing, but like…that was NOT always the case, you know?–anyway so I started worrying about that more and more, choosing shirts with strategically placed pockets in the summer, etc., but the thing is–I honestly can’t stand to wear a bra. So here I still am.

                (Actually the worst part is doctors. I mean when they say “undress but you can keep your bra on”–they say it, so I must be doing something right; apparently they can’t tell I don’t have a bra. But then I *don’t* have one, so I always wonder if they think I ignored their instructions and “took my bra off.” One doctor even commented on it! :cringe: I had to say, “Yeah, $conditionIwasfrickingseeinghimfor causes so much pain I really can’t stand to ever wear a bra, sorry.” If I would remember that this happens before a doctor’s appointment I could put on a bra just for that, if I owned one that fit; but I don’t…)

                BTW I have the same basic issue with sleep too–sleeping on my side does move the “bottom one” (on the side I’m lying on) “in” compared to where it naturally sits. I can’t sleep on my side forever or *that* causes enough pain to wake me up, too. Usually I turn over in my sleep before that happens, though.

          2. SarahKay*

            Let me keep you company in your weirdness; I also sleep in a bra, albeit a non-wired one. And yes, I’m still wearing my wired bras during the day because for me that’s far more comfy.
            For everyone else – you do you.

          3. allathian*

            I sleep on my side because I feel that the weight of my breasts suffocates me if I try to sleep on my back. It’s more probably more psychological than anything else, but it is the way it is. I haven’t had a problem with squishing them, although to be fair, I might feel differently 10 years from now…

          4. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

            I have a relative with VERY large breasts and she also cannot sleep without a bra on.

            I have to wear one during the day. A bra is more comfortable than no bra. Still not comfortable though. I would like to find a truly comfy option that prevents chafing/sweating but doesn’t dig or pull.

        3. PennyLane*

          Nope, still wearing a bra on the daily. Only now I can wear my “comfy” bras to work at home. I have slightly larger breasts so they feel really heavy and jiggly if I don’t have some kind of bra. But at home I wear ones without underwires or sports bras whereas I’d never go without an underwire at work.

          I definitely would not go without a bra on a work video meeting for my comfort, but I feel like we’ve all gotten more comfortable with our bra straps showing on work calls or even bright sports bras showing through my shirts. Especially with many of us walking & working out more during the day, we’re wearing sports bras which are harder to hide. But it’s kind of nice not to care.

          But this is an easy fix for those that don’t wanna wear bras, just position your camera so it doesn’t show your chest. Bonus, you don’t have to wear a nice work top :)

      2. Murphy*

        I’m definitely still wearing one, as I never go braless, but same. Let other people do what they want with their boobs!

        1. Going annon this thyme*

          Yup – I still wear one from a comfort standpoint (I’m just blessed enough to want the support), but I’m of the theory that as long as you don’t make it public, your underwear choices are your own. Just make sure if it needs covered, it’s covered.

      3. The Original K.*

        I still wear them every day! I don’t find it comfortable to go without. (I’m also wearing “hard pants” – jeans – most of the time.)

      4. Quoth the Raven*

        I still wear a bra virtually daily, unless I’m doing nothing but chilling in bed. I don’t feel physically comfortable without one (I have big breasts), and I don’t particularly care for the way I look without it. Right before my period I actually have to sleep with a sports bra on because my breasts are so tender and sore moving in bed can wake me up.

        But as you said, I’m not going to criticise anyone’s choice, just as I wouldn’t want someone to tell me not to wear a bra because they don’t. However you feel comfortable, go for it!

      5. Firecat*

        You’re not. I was starting to get spider veins and breast pain from not wearing a bra each day. So now the bra is part of the work day. It makes the weekends feel special too.

    2. Not All*

      Right there with you. I find going without a bra even long enough to shower uncomfortable but if other women don’t want to wear them they shouldn’t be forced to. Just like high heels, nylons, etc.

    3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I transitioned over to bralettes and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a real bra. I’m very small chested though.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I’m larger chested, so if I’m planning on doing anything vigorous, I put on an actual bra. But for just sitting here working and non-demanding errands? Bralettes all the way!

        1. ChestBlessed*

          Can any of the larger chested ladies here recommend a good bralette for we chest blessed lassies? Bralettes look SO comfortable for just lounging around the house, but I’ve never been able to find one in my size (F cup). Brand, website, anything would help!

          1. Danielle*

            I wear a DDD/E and I really like the Hanes Cozy Bra. It’s sized S, M, L etc but there’s a size chart on the package that has standard cup/band. I’ve bought them at both Walmart and Target. I’m sure you could find online as well. The price is the best–about $10 each.

            I was also pleasantly surprised by the Fruit of the Loom wirefree bralettes I found on Amazon!

          2. Relentlessly Sorcratic*

            I’m a GG and wear bralettes from Lane Bryant.I’m a fluffy girl, so I just get a size up from my regular shirt size, but YYMV. Her Room (dot) com is great for all size ranges and can help you with fit–ya don’t want the girls trying to escape your bralette!

          3. Queer Earthling*

            My spouse got some XXXL Secret Treasures lounge bras/bralettes from Walmart, of all places! They’re a G cup. (For some reason, the pink one wasn’t true to size, but the purple, black, and gray ones were perfect.)

          4. AnonEMoose*

            I’m a DD cup, and I like the ones from Torrid. It’s based on your clothing size, not bra sizing. Torrid also has great snarky t-shirts. Two of my favorites say “I meant to behave, but there were too many other options” and “I run on caffeine and sarcasm.”

      2. All Monkeys are French*

        I am a big fan of bralettes. I don’t need loads of support, but I chafe without something between nipples and shirt. My problem is a recent bout of shoulder pain that makes over-the-head bralettes brutal to remove. Can anyone recommend a comfy option with a clasp?

    4. CoveredInBees*

      Same! Honestly, I don’t get why women wear them if they don’t need to, especially if they find bras uncomfortable.

  4. lady*

    i haven’t worn a bra on a zoom call one single time since work from home started. people’s inability to not get distracted by something like that feels like a them problem. grrrr.

    1. Murphy*

      I’m curious what/how OP and others are noticing if it’s mostly off-camera.

      If her clothing isn’t otherwise inappropriate, I don’t see the issue.

      1. Chinook*

        Depending on the age of the woman, the size of the chest and the cut of the shirt, I am pretty sure it has something to with them not being as high as the media usually portrays them to be. Or they may be flopping sideways to show more cleavage or flopping in different directions. All of these are now a reason I choose to wear a bra (plus the bounce really is hard on the shoulders and upper back).

        1. Observer*

          If it were a matter of them not being as high as portrayed by the media, then a lot of women who DO wear bras would be in big trouble.

          1. Lil*

            It might even be something like her wearing a form fitting top, and you can’t see bra lines or straps. But also can’t see nipple so… worry about something else.

      2. Firecat*

        I’m guessing shape. I have bell shaped breasts and it’s really obvious when I am not watering a bra.

    2. Sharrbe*

      Same here. I forgot to put on a bra on my first run back to the office after two months into working from home. I took off my jacket, looked down and realized I just had on an old long sleeve t-shirt and no bra. And just an hour earlier I was congratulating myself for remembering to swtich from slippers to shoes before I left the house.

      1. BadWolf*

        My “leaving the house checklist” had to expand from “keys, wallet, phone” to “keys, wallet, phone, mask, shoes that are not my slippers, hand sanitizer and bra”

        1. Ugh, Bras*

          And pants!

          The only silver lining to this pandemic is the number of days I never have to put on a bra, pants, or make-up.

          1. Lynn*

            I’ve been working from home for a few years-so my wardrobe of office-appropriate pants and even my casual jeans/shorts have dwindled. But my wardrobe of pajama pants and sleep pants has increased dramatically. And my husband often quotes the movie Mystery Men regarding clothing, “Maybe you should put some shorts on or something, if you want to keep fighting evil today.” A mantra we all have to live by now. :>

            And, back on topic, I don’t wear a bra around the house very often. I would be quite annoyed if a coworker/boss complained about it. My opinion is that there isn’t anything wrong or unprofessional about going without a bra.

            I am very glad that my company mostly doesn’t have us turn on our cameras for calls. The last time I did, I was very paranoid about making sure my coworkers couldn’t see below my shoulders. And that they couldn’t see my disaster of a desk (which would definitely be more embarrassing).

  5. Mem*

    If her boobs are almost off camera then don’t look at them. Look at her face.

    Most men I work with have now grown beards (when our office is typically clean shaven) I wouldn’t dream of telling them to shave.

    1. Bree*

      In the first few weeks of remote work, I noticed that most of my female colleagues kept up their usual style of dress for internal video meetings – hair and makeup done, wearing blouses and necklaces, etc. The men on the other hand immediately descended into full beards, bed head and hoodies. Like, guys who wore suits and ties every day in the office were almost unrecognizable. By now we’ve all kind of drifted into the comfortable middle ground, but in the beginning the gendered contrast was hilarious.

      1. mreasy*

        Lol my husband and I are the opposite, he’s still wearing button down and tie and I INSTANTLY descended into makeup free sweatpants lifestyle.

        1. chewingle*

          Ha! Yes, my husband is still in khakis and button-down shirts. Yesterday, I wore a fleece skeleton onesie (in my defense, I had no meetings).

      2. TimeTravlR*

        My grand boss often looks like he just rolled out of bed. I am old and pretty conservative when it comes to dress, but even I don’t care if he want to wear a t-shirt and perhaps has not combed his hair in recent history. But if boobs are up for discussion, maybe that and the unshaven look should be too??

  6. Ofelia*

    “The woman who brought it up to me, Carla, has a pretty good relationship with Samantha” do why doesn’t Carla bring it up directly with Samantha?

    1. Trek*

      Doesn’t sound like she’s comfortable mentioning it to a coworker. Sounds like she wants the boss to address it.

      1. juliebulie*

        I can’t imagine feeling more comfortable discussing something like this with my boss than with my “friend” coworker!

    2. cmcinnyc*

      Yes! “Has a pretty good relationship with Samantha?” Uh, no. If she did, she would have texted Samantha or called and said, “FYI, on video, I can tell you’re not wearing a bra. Don’t know if you care or not, but FYI.” I am trying to imagine going to my mail boss to discuss another woman’s bralessness, and I’m coming up blank. I have a good manager with good professional boundaries. I would still feel very weird bringing this up. I would absolutely bring it up with Samantha first, if I had a good relationship with her. Something is going on here and Carla is stirring the pot.

      1. Roeslein*

        Fully agree! I was trying to pinpoint was was off in this letter and I think you nailed it – “going to your male boss to discuss another woman’s bralessness” rather than discreetly texting said co-worker that you supposedly “have a good relationship with” is… odd.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Yeah… I’ve talked to coworkers about their wardrobes when I thought they weren’t aware people could see something they wouldn’t want seen. Like the time one of my colleagues came to work in leggings (fine) that were transparent in back when she bent over (whoops). But it’s the kind of thing you discreetly mention to them in private – not take it to the boss!

      2. Observer*

        I can’t imagine going to my female HR person either.

        The one time I approached someone it was our intern supervisor about an intern (real intern needing internship for their degree leading to an actual professional career) coming in to work in “sweatsuits”* that left little to the imagination due to the material. Pretty much any person in the office is visible to visitors because of the way we are set up. And the position actually had contact with clients.

        I was the one who brought it up with the Intern, but I wanted a reality check about it. Intern supervisor told me “Yeah, bring it up. In most places she’d get into hot water for dressing that way.”

        *The style and cut were sweatsuits, but the material was totally different.

      3. Lady Meyneth*

        Odds are Carla did bring it up to Samantha. Samantha didn’t care (because why would she? Why would anyone?!) and Carla decided the boss needed to fix it. But yeah, Carla comes off as a prudish busy body with too much time on her hands.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Yep, and OP’s response to Carla Kravitz should have been, “Her chest is appropriately covered. Stop staring at your coworker’s breasts.”

          He should then follow that directive himself as well.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Adding depending on how good their friendship is she could ask if she looks okay on camera. She didn’t ask. Carla needs to end the discussion.

    3. Red*

      That’s what I thought? If I was friends with my coworker and she didn’t wear a bra and I thought maybe she’d want to know people can tell, I would tell her! Not my male boss.

      Which makes me think Carla did bring it up with Samantha thinking Samantha would put one on and then Samantha just…didn’t. So she went to the boss.

    4. LurkNoMore*

      I can’t imagine bring up another co-workers breasts with my male manager! How does that conversation even start?

      1. Chinook*

        Yes. There is a girl code that ranks right up there with wordlessly handing someone something to wrap around their waist. Wardrobe malfunctions happen and you are supposed to let the other person know without drawing other’s attention to it. Samantha just did the opposite, so she could be working on some Machiavellian backstabbing without the OP noticing.

        1. starsaphire*

          Girl code ftw!!!

          The worst manager I ever had still kindly let me go home one day after The Unthinkable happened. And three other women in the office (one of whom had never spoken to me before) offered me supplies.

    5. PollyQ*

      Yes, this is the baffling part of the question. Why in the world is Carla “uncomfortable” with Samantha’s bralessness? Why does she even care, let alone care enough to bring it to the boss?

      OP, if you’re here, I would keep an eye on this relationship. To my eyes, the most likely motive for Carla’s behavior is a desire to bring Samantha down.

    6. KayEss*

      I think OP is overestimating or overstating how good the relationship between Carla and Samantha is. There’s a pretty big gap between “people I respect and work well with” and “people I would feel comfortable discussing underwear decisions with” that doesn’t necessarily indicate active sabotage.

      Of course, I personally also wouldn’t go to my boss to discuss a colleague’s underwear decisions, so… ? Yeah, who knows.

    7. Alice's Rabbit*

      Because, by the letter writer’s own admission, Samantha doesn’t take criticism well. And it sounds like he was putting it mildly.
      So yeah, I could see a coworker asking someone with more seniority to address this wardrobe issue.

      1. Des*

        There’s nothing in this letter to indicate Samantha doesn’t take criticism well. Just that the OP knows she won’t take a comment about her breasts well, which is not the same thing.

  7. EPLawyer*

    I put on a bra for zoom calls. No one needs to be distracted by wondering if I am wearing a bra or not when we are trying to get work done. To me its the same as wearing pants. You just never know what a bad movement will expose.

    Also if this were court, you should definitely wear one. For court — even Zoom court — we have been instructed that it is STILL court. Dress appropriately.

      1. Jennifer*

        Lol. Someone says this every time this topic comes up and I don’t get it. No one should lool but they do. We have to deal with the world as it is, not how it should be.

        1. WellRed*

          Yes. Either they are a normal body part and subject to offhand, no big deal notice like height or hair color or they are not and require Special Consideration.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Sure, that’s how it is now. But it’s important to push back on these kinds of norms or else they don’t ever change. Do people look? Sure. But maybe if we keep pushing back on the idea that it’s up to those with breasts to contain themselves, rather than on people to either keep their eyes up, or if they do look, correct themselves, and take responsibility themselves, we can see that shift.

          1. Jennifer*

            I agree that we should push back but we can do that AND acknowledge the problems that women deal with in the workplace now. Just saying “no one cares, no one notices” is very dismissive of the real issues women that are more well-endowed have to deal with.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Sure, but the comment you were responding to didn’t say no one cares or notices — they said no one *should* be looking, i.e., putting the responsibility back on the people who are looking. So while you’re right, women with big busts (myself included) face issues around that and you can’t pretend it isn’t real, anon for this wasn’t really saying no one cares — they were reminding people where they real responsibility lies.

              You and I clearly both know women (or anyone with breasts) have been told over and over and over what *we* should be doing — I’m fine at this point just assuming we all already have heard that plenty, and instead push the reasonability back onto people to check themselves.

      2. LTL*

        If I’m working with someone I’m going to notice their clothes (or lack thereof) and how they’re dressed. Not because I’m staring or trying to look at anything, but because they’re in front of me.

        We have standards for professional dress. I’m going to join the minority and say that if you’re braless, it shouldn’t be noticeable, and if it is, you need to wear a bra.

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          Why? Real question there. Professionally, the purpose of a bra is to keep the jiggle contained and not let nipples be visible. The OP says neither of those are a factor for his employee, so even if it’s noticeable she’s braless, what does ir matter?

          1. LTL*

            Tbh I caught those details of the letter later, so now I’m confused like some of the other commentators. If they can’t tell that she’s not wearing a bra then… how do they know she’s not wearing a bra?

            My point was kind of that it’s noticeable because there’s jiggle and nipples. If there isn’t, then OP might just be wrong about the bralessness to begin with? (There could be sag but that really isn’t “proof” and falls into the “different women shaped differently regardless of what clothing they wear” category.)

            1. Le Sigh*

              I actually think this underscores another reason LW should leave this alone. Setting aside the fact that I don’t think it’s really their business (and I realize some people don’t agree on that point), I think your last point only further demonstrates that there are multiple ways this could go poorly for LW.

          2. sleepyheadzzz*

            Are nipples really an afront? I can’t wear padded bras because they don’t work with the shape of my breasts, and I have vasospasms which causes extreme sensitivity (pain) when certain fabrics touch them so I just wear a thin, wired bra, but my nipples are definitely visible sometimes. In 15 years at this office no one has batted an eye, that I’m aware of.

          1. Boof*

            I would say that if you can see jiggles or outlines on male-specific anatomy, yes they should dress differently

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              Agreed. If a dude has visible nips, he should be asked to wear an undershirt. If he’s wearing thin, pale khakis and you can tell he’s going commando, he should be asked to go home and change. Exactly the same standards, both ways.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I agree that work from home is still work. Its kind of weird to me that people think just because the location they work from changes, they no longer have to follow work rules. I view the relaxed dress code my company rolled out as a perk, not an entitlement.
        Of course, how much something “practically” matters figures in here.

        We can all agree requiring people to wear dress shoes when you will literally never see their feet is ridiculous.
        And, when it comes to bras, I tend to fall on the side of “why does this matter” and “why are bras
        required for professionalism” side. I don’t think people should make a habit of allowing their coworkers to see their nipples, and so a bra or tactical camera positioning might be required. But showing a natural un-squished chest outline is something we should be all the way over requiring in the name of “professionalism” in 2020.

        1. LTL*

          I want to say upfront that I’m not trying to be sardonic when I say this, because I know the tone might come across that way online. But the thing I wonder about when it comes to the “bras shouldn’t be required” position is that, would seeing the outline of a dick count as unprofessional? Since seeing the outline of breasts doesn’t count as unprofessional?

              1. Not A Girl Boss*

                There’s a big difference. Bras are meant to shape boobs into a *more* sexually attractive shape. In fact, the reason braless-ness (in absense of visible nipples) is seen as inappropriate often has more to do with revealing (this is literally a quote from a past coworker) “gross old droopy boobs.” Sure, there are times when braless-ness is more about sexuality but that does not appear to be the case here.

                Compressive underwear is for hiding all junk entirely. The equivalent to that would be breast binding or sports bras. Which… Thank heavens are not the norm.

                1. Boof*

                  Bras are meant to keep my boobs from painfully flopping about or chaffing when I am up and active :p

          1. Lady Meyneth*

            That’s not really the same. The same would be seeing the outline of a man’s chest, which is considered professional across the board.

            But or the sake of this conversation, and in my personal opinion: sure. As long as my colleague’s behavior is professional, I don’t care what he wears or what outlines are visible. (I work with 90% men, and IME the harassers are the most wardrobe conscious guys., so I stopped caring about wardrobe long ago)

          2. comityoferrors*

            I wonder why you equate the outline of dicks to the outline of boobs?

            I imagine the reaction would be different if OP wrote in and said “we can all see the outline of my employee’s vulva, should I say something?” But that’s not the situation. A direct parallel would be: my male employee has visible breasts, should I say something? And based on my entire life experience, the answer would be: no, that’s cool, it’s okay to see male boobs and male nipples.

            Boobs aren’t dicks! Boobs aren’t even close to dicks! At all!

              1. lemon*

                But those bits are in a totally different region of the body. As comityoferrors points out, men can have jiggly bits (or muscly bits) on their chests as well, so for the sake of an accurate analogy, let’s stick to the same region of the body.

                1. Alice's Rabbit*

                  But the point remains. If you would be offended by seeing the obvious outline of a coworkers penis on a zoom call, you can’t really complain that others want the same degree of coverage for breasts.

                2. ceiswyn*

                  If I can see a co-worker’s crotch on a Zoom call, there are probably more issues at play than his sartorial choices.

            1. Tiffany Hashish*

              Why can’t women be topless in public in most places?

              Biologically, of course boobs aren’t genitals. Laws and morality police do treat them as such.

          3. Broadway Duchess*

            Real question: why are breasts and penises analogous? Why isn’t the comparison here, say “camel toe?” Breasts are not genitals.

            If male chests aren’t being policed vis à vis size, sag, nipples, then we absolutely need to push back on the idea that the mere suggestion that women having these things is unprofessional.

    1. Teapot Tía*

      I suspect the legal field is among the most conservative regarding dress codes & assorted other markers of professional behavior. Which is fine. But I doubt the letter writer is in a similar field, and it sure doesn’t sound like they’re in court.

      1. Shut It Down*

        Yes, law is still very conservative and old-fashioned compared to other fields. But even within law, Zoom court is not comparable to a staff meeting. I work with BigLaw partners and I’ve had virtual meetings with people (both men and women) wearing tank tops or sweatshirts.

        1. Velawciraptor*

          Law is more conservative and Zoom court is still court, but whether on Zoom or in person, if a Judge or DA said something about one of my attorneys not wearing a bra, I’d still ask them why they’re staring at an attorney’s chest. And if they’re particularly fixated on it, I’d give some strong consideration to a juicial standards/bar complaint for sexual harassment of the braless attorney.

          The female body is not inherently unprofessional. Fixation on a woman’s breats and related undergarments suggests otherwise and is, in itself, unprofessional.

          1. All Monkeys are French*

            “The female body is not inherently unprofessional. Fixation on a woman’s breats and related undergarments suggests otherwise and is, in itself, unprofessional.”
            This x1000

    2. Hills to Die On.*

      I agree – just be appropriate and wear a bra.
      And is Samantha doesn’t, ask her to. Or have HR speak with her about professional attire.

      This group slants to more open minded about this sort of thing but most places aren’t like this. I think it would be doing her a kindness, personally.

      1. Crivens!*

        Professional does not equal wearing a bra, though. I had high level jobs for years where I just wore undershirts or camis under whatever shirt I was wearing, never a bra. No one said a thing.

          1. a clockwork lemon*

            I am well-endowed. I am so well-endowed, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to find molded cup bras in my size. My body is such that it’s almost impossible to keep my boobs out of frame if I’m on camera on a video call. Sometimes they move, and sometimes I have visible cleavage, and sometimes there’s even some nipple visible through my shirts because that’s a reality of not wearing molded-cup bras.

            If she’s not exposing herself, and she’s on internal calls, and her boobs are off camera such that it’s barely even noticeable, this is a nothingburger of an issue.

            1. CoveredInBees*

              Even in molded cup bras, some nipples will not be denied. This can happen to men who aren’t wearing a suit jacket and the response is very different (and usually non-existent).

            2. LTL*

              If her boobs were off camera such that it’s barely noticeable, it probably wouldn’t even have come up.

              Honestly, my nipples love to peak through my clothes no matter what I’m wearing. It’s just how the day goes sometimes. But that’s different than someone else being able to clearly see that I’m not wearing a bra.

          2. ceiswyn*

            So you hold women to different dress standards based on their breast size?

            That doesn’t seem reasonable.

        1. PollyQ*

          There’s no one “professional” standard though, and it’s constantly evolving. Once upon a time, women had to wear skirts & hose to work. Once upon a time all CEOs wore suits. We’re living in an especially casual time, what with working from home & communicating via Zoom. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if post-Covid, bras are going to be a lot more optional than they were before.

          1. juliebulie*

            The funny thing is, during the 70s it was not rare or remarkable to see evidence of bralessness *along with* skirts and hose. There’s even a Brady Bunch episode where you can tell that Marcia and Jan are braless (I think it’s the one where they go to the amusement park). I’m really stunned (and bummed) that, while hose have finally fallen by the wayside, the Bra Police are more numerous than ever before.

            1. virago*

              Wow, I don’t remember that episode, but that’s pretty cool. And now I feel sad that the ’70s were over before I really needed a bra.

      2. Bex*

        How is wearing a bra automatically appropriate or professional? More importantly, how is not wearing one inappropriate or unprofessional?

        1. Chinook*

          I honestly think it is all about the cut of your clothing. If I am wearing a bra, my clothing looks more structured because I have bought it to be worn with a bra. If I wore the same shirt/dress sans bra, bits would not be in the same place and the look would look messy and ill-fitted and may even draw attention to your chest because something looks off. The same thing happens when I wear the “wrong” bra for an outfit.

          But, if you buy clothing while going braless, you shouldn’t have that problem as you have bought it to fit with where your breasts lie. It would be like going corsetless in an older dress meant to be worn over one or a guy wearing pants that were cut for someone who “dresses left” when the actual wearer actually “dresses right.” (and yes – I do watch too much historical fiction. Why do you ask?)

        2. Mountainshadows299*

          “ More importantly, how is not wearing one inappropriate or unprofessional?”

          It’s not. Breasts are sexualized by the culture (whether or not they should be). I’m a large chested woman who does always wear a bra (because that’s what’s comfortable for me), but it doesn’t matter because there’s at least always one person (usually several) in the workplace who cannot seem to keep their eyes off my chest no matter what I wear. Chronic staring is a thing. It’s really more uncomfortable for me than it is for anyone else, tbh, but people treat you as if you are the problem simply for existing. Women (or other people not necessarily attracted to boobs) are just as guilty of doing what the coworker did here, I think, because they are threatened by the sexual undertones OR, like with other types of body policing, they see it your body as “disgusting” (personally to them) and they want to attack you for non-conformity. It’s also possible it’s just a work politics thing. Regardless, it’s a gross attitude and it’s catty. Like, if this woman were pulling out her boobs and setting them on the table during a Zoom meeting, ok, but clearly this woman isn’t doing that. Apparently these people don’t have enough other things to worry about at work.

      3. Observer*

        I think it would be doing her a kindness, personally.

        Can we stop with the faux “kindness”? She’s not doing something that could actually harm her. And it will only harm her in this company if this company gets on their high horse over inconsequential issues. If you REALLY want to be kind, then do her the favor on focusing on her WORK not on whether you can figure out whether she’s wearing bra.

        1. LTL*

          I assume the point was that it could harm her professional reputation (whether it should or not is another matter), so telling her would bring that to her attention (which would be kind).

          1. Not So NewReader*

            So how would this work IRL? People from one company call people at another company, “I hear X applied to work with you. You should know that she refuses to wear a bra.” Sincerely, do people actually do this?

          2. GothicBee*

            I would think it’d be more harmful to be known as the person who complains about other people’s bodies than it would be to be the person with a body. Or at least that’s how it should work.

            1. Hills to Die On.*

              Right. If you think there are fewer than 10 people in the world who are going to be uncomfortable with this and all of them happen to be on this page and can be talked out of their priggish attitude then…
              the fact is that there may be consequences at work for it.
              Not consequences I personally impose (not do I care that much), but consequences nonetheless. I can assure you there are people who will judge her harshly for this. That’s the way it is.
              As Alison and other have taken me to task over in the past, we should be discussing scenarios as they currently exist, not as they SHOULD be where nobody gives a flip about your underwear.

              1. Corrine the Great*

                We had someone at my work who didn’t wear a bra and people talked about it all the time (I was like 23 so did not stop them and also laughed about it…sorry :(). I didn’t know her very well and that is what pops into my mind if someone brings her up. Which is bad, but….

              2. GothicBee*

                I mean, based on Alison’s answer, it seems she agrees that in this case it doesn’t matter. And, people can and will judge you for lots of things. It doesn’t mean you should change your behavior every time. You can and should ask yourself if it’s worth considering other people’s opinions on the thing they’re judging you for. Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn’t. I think in this situation it’s not worth worrying about.

                I also think it’s fair to say that any woman who decides to not wear a bra is already aware that some people may judge them for it, so informing her that people are judging her for it is unnecessary.

                1. Hills to Die on*

                  I agree – that is a fair point. But not everyone may be aware of how judgmental people can be about much smaller things. If you know what you are going into and you are willing to accept the risk, then cool. But I would sure appreciate people telling me if I didn’t already know. Some people here may not know! That is the point of an advice format, right?
                  I would want to be told, so I am saying something. That’s all.

        2. Hills to Die On.*

          To me, it would be kind to point out something someone may not realize. Don’t assume everyone has the same experiences as you, thinks the same way you do, or knows what you do.
          Putting things like ‘kindness’ in quotes that way indicates to me that you do not believe I intended my comment to be kind, when in fact to me, it is being considerate and helpful.
          Thanks so much for your patience while I clarify the intent of my feedback.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          You could say the same thing about lounging around in your underwear. That’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do in your own home. But not on a zoom call.
          This isn’t about what she can or cannot do in her home. It’s about what is appropriate for work meetings.
          If you don’t want to wear a bra, fine. Just Matsuri your top is thick enough, or has enough layers, that no one can tell. Obviously, this person is not that considerate, since at least two people have noticed.

      4. littledoctor*

        There’s nothing unprofessional about women having breasts. Women aren’t obligated to wear bras, either in person at work, or on Zoom meetings. I usually don’t wear bras at work. It’s fine.

        A lot of norms around “professional” dress are really harmful and play into damaging power structures in our society.

      5. Cary*

        “Just” do whatever assumes it’s easy. “Just” have straight hair. “Just” write a thank you note. “Why wouldn’t you? It’s easy.”

        How about “just” stop assuming that because something’s easy for you, it must be easy for everyone? I mean it–because of course that too, that assumption, is a natural instinct and not so easy to control either.

        So I get it. But I wanted to point out the situation. It’s *not* easy for everyone. If it were, then they *would* just do it.

      6. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        Yeah, I agree with this. We don’t know what field the OP is in, but if the OP and a coworker have both noticed, it’s likely other people have too. If they’re meeting with anyone external, it’s a kindness to have someone mention it, even if the ultimate solution is that she points her camera so that it only shows from the neck up.

    3. a clockwork lemon*

      I often don’t wear one on my own work calls, and I work as a financial compliance attorney. I’m sure if OP was in court and it was an issue, OP would not be writing in to ask if it’s appropriate to tell their associate to put on a bra because if it was coming up, a judge would have said something directly to OP’s employee.

      It’s ridiculous to police an employee’s underwear because they happen to have breasts and be on video calls, and occasionally those breasts might move a bit–as they often do when people are wearing bralettes, or soft-cup bras, or bras without wires, or sometimes even molded cup bras that don’t fit quite right.

    4. SomebodyElse*

      I’m in camp wear a bra.

      Yes you are in your home, yes things are more casual, but that doesn’t mean that professional standards are completely thrown out the window. I can guarantee that it’s more than the OP and the other coworker that has noticed this.

      Right, wrong, or indifferent Samantha doesn’t want to be known professionally as ‘you know, Samantha from the paper clip sorting group… you know who I’m talking about… yeah the one that doesn’t wear a bra during meeting… go ahead and send this to her and she’ll be able to take care of those binder clips that need to be sorted”

      1. Wisteria*

        I’m in camp Don’t Describe Coworkers by Their Underwear Status. Also camp Tell Other People It’s Inappropriate to Describe Coworkers by Their Underwear Status if They Do So in Your Hearing.

      2. Zombeyonce*

        I’m sure Samantha could be described by at least two dozen other attributes before anyone would need to resort to something that would get them reported to HR by the person they were talking to. If someone referred to a coworker by the state of their underwear, I’d be giving them, not Samantha, serious side eye and taking a walk to HR.

      3. Starbuck*

        “you know who I’m talking about… yeah the one that doesn’t wear a bra during meeting…”

        If you are saying stuff like this, you’re pretty out of line and should stop. I’ve never had any person identified to me by their bra status. This is damn weird.

      4. Tiny Kong*

        I agree she probably should wear a bra even on WFH zoom calls, but I don’t agree that if she doesn’t, that her boss/HR/coworkers should speak to her and chastise her for it. They shouldn’t be looking at her chest, and if she’s not exposing herself then who cares what she does. Everyone should have higher priorities than this.

      5. littledoctor*

        If people describe Samantha that way, that says something bad about them, but not something bad or embarrassing about Samantha.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, I don’t get it either. If I’m working with people, I’m wearing something work appropriate. Even if it only looks work appropriate in a tiny Zoom window (i.e., a solid black t-shirt instead of a ratty Captain America t-shirt). Someone earlier said “I’m in my house.” Yes, but I’m also “at work.”

      1. littledoctor*

        I guess, but existing without wearing a bra isn’t unprofessional. Women have bodies! That’s just how it is. Most women have breasts. That’s not an unprofessional thing. Wearing a bra, or not wearing a bra, is a personal and private decision. I work in person (obviously), and I usually don’t wear a bra. If that bothers people, that’s for them to deal with, not me.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Don’t know if you’re checking for responses the next day, but I was really responding to “I still have professional standards even when I’m working from home.” I’m not saying wearing a bra is necessarily one of those standards, just that I don’t throw all my standards out the window simply because of WFH.

    6. Robin Sparkles*

      Yeah sorry I am in this camp too. I don’t wear my PJs when on a Zoom call and while I may not dress business casual anymore I still dress in a shirt and pants and a bra.

    7. Daphne Tyson*

      EPLawyer I agree with you. We are expected to dress professionally on Zoom calls for both internal and client facing meetings. We also can’t get away with tilting the camera so that only part of our face is exposed. I would die if one of my colleagues noticed I was not wearing a bra.

      1. littledoctor*

        But why is it unprofessional for women not to wear bras? Women have breasts. If they’re covered in the workplace, what’s the issue? I don’t usually wear a bra to work–maybe one day a week. I imagine people have noticed, but no one has ever commented on it, because it would be a bizarre thing to comment on.

    8. Anoni*

      Yes. This response made me cringe. Of course she should be wearing a bra if on video on a zoom call.

      1. naw dawg*

        Why specifically? If there’s no “jiggle” and no visible nipples, what exactly is the issue?

        And how do you square that with all the people saying it would be fine on their office’s calls?

        1. LTL*

          Well if it’s not noticeable that you’re not wearing a bra, it’s a moot point. That’s not the case with this letter.

    9. Observer*

      It wasn’t Samantha who wrote in, it was her boss. And she’s not in court, Zoom or not.

      Boss and Carla won’t be “distracted by wondering if [Samantha is] am wearing a bra or not”, unless they choose to. Seriously.

    10. RB*

      Sometimes I put on a cardigan or a hoodie for the Zoom calls. Cardigan for the higher-ups and hoodie if it’s just people on my team. The problem is when I get those random calls on MS Teams and am not able to prepare ahead of time, so I do those as audio only.

    11. Alice's Rabbit*

      I agree. I think this is one time Alison got it wrong. Either wear a bra, or wear sufficiently thick layers that no one can tell if you’re wearing a bra.
      If they can tell you aren’t, it’s inappropriate for a work meeting, video chatting or otherwise. And I’d say the same to any guy wearing inappropriate clothing, too. Just because dress codes are relaxed doesn’t mean that propriety has gone out the window.

      1. SG*

        If nothing improper is showing (as is the case here), then how is not wearing a bra on a Zoom call inappropriate?

  8. Bex*

    Bras are weird because there’s no direct comparison for males in the office. I think this makes people feel more comfortable somehow in analyzing their coworkers’ foundation garments.

    What is the actual problem here? Is Samantha flashing skin? Doesn’t sound like it. Or is the problem that Samantha is not engaging in performative femininity, by having her breasts confined and hoisted into a socially acceptable viewing position?

    Further, how certain are you she’s not wearing a bra (not that it’s a concern anyways)? There are sports bras I own that make me look braless, but I’m not.

    Do you scrutinize your male employees’ crotch regions, to see if their penis and testicles are being properly ensconced in confining material? I don’t think you do.

    So again – what’s the problem here?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      So again – what’s the problem here?

      +1. If Samantha isn’t having “wardrobe malfunctions,” and it sounds like she isn’t, then let her be comfortable.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Yeah, it’s not that her clothes are so flismsy her underwear is visible, or she’s wearing a plugsuit cosplay like a Twitch streamer.

      1. What even*

        Also…you can 100% sometimes see men’s nipples if theyre just in a shirt and I dont think I’ve ever heard anywhere on any discussion about professional clothing about men having to make sure their nips are concealed so why does it matter with Samantha?

        1. Chinook*

          It should be. That is what undershirts are for (as well as preventing the onset of yellow armpits).

        2. Zombeyonce*

          I have large breasts and very sturdy, armorlike bras and STILL my nipples are sometimes visible through shirts, even thick ones. People need to give everyone a break. They’re just bodies.

          1. Darsynia*

            My oldest had to have an x-ray to confirm Scoliosis (which I mention only because x-rays are usually trauma-related, and I didn’t want to cause concern/imply an emergency setting), and as we went to check in for the six month follow-up, the woman kept making comments about how cold it was in the room, and how surprising it was considering it was cold outside, and they usually have heat on, and so on and so forth. It was really weird.

            I finally understood why when I went to the bathroom afterwards and saw my nipples were visible through my bra and shirt. I think she was ‘helping’ me, honestly, to ‘excuse’ my visible nipples, because in retrospect, she kept looking at my chest. I never would have figured it out (you uh, don’t always know what you look like without a mirror), but just UGH and EW to that entire encounter.

          2. Cercis*

            When I was pregnant, my areolas darkened so much that I couldn’t wear white shirts, because even with a double layered bra they showed through (I am so pale I’m almost see through, so it was mostly just that there was too much contrast. But I didn’t know it at first because I couldn’t see it in the home lighting. No one ever said a word and no one was staring at my boobs at work. I finally figured it out because there was a picture and I saw it.

            Now that I’ve had kids, even super padded bras often don’t hide my nipples. They’re often erect and hard and I would pretty much have to get a bra that added more than a cup size to hide them. Or tape them down and I’m not going to do that. I have nipples, they exist, people need to get over it.

        3. What a Thread*

          Because female human breasts are sexualized, that’s why. It would be nice if women didn’t feel the need to undergo risky and expensive surgery for unnecessary augmentation procedures, but it’s commonplace to do so to increase perceived sexual attractiveness. Too many women feel badly about having small breasts.

          1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

            I would love to have small breasts. Small enough that I could go braless… without feeling self conscious about visible jiggling.

    2. Hillary*

      Possible male equivalent (hear me out) – knees. I know my coworkers have knees but I’m not used to seeing them unless we’re at a team social thing (golfing, baseball game, whatever). This summer it was disconcerting to see bare knees poking up over desks when people leaned back in their chairs on video calls.

      My camera stops an inch below my collarbone and I also make sure my knees aren’t visible.

      1. Bex*

        Were you disconcerted enough that you felt justified in approaching their manager and commenting on it? If you did, do you think their manager would be hemming and hawing about how to approach them re their distracting/potentially troublesome knees? I’d be surprised if the answers were yes. Because we’ve been socialized to think it’s acceptable to comment on a woman’s body and appearance, but not a man’s.

      2. Leap Year Conspiracy*

        Heh – nope but I’m amused. Imagining these sorts of conversations:
        Boss: “Tim, we need to talk about your professionalism. It’s your clothes.”
        Tim: “Gosh, this is concerning. I thought I was following our dress code.”
        Boss: “It’s your… slacks.”
        Tim: “My pants? What’s the issue?”
        Boss: “This is harder for me than you, trust me. Your …. knees are very prominent in those slacks. They are very distracting to others.”
        Tim: “But these are normal dress slacks. What am I supposed to do about my large knees?”
        Boss: “Maybe try looser pants that aren’t so… tight in your knees.”

        1. hufflepuff hobbit*

          as someone who has always “checked out” men’s knees, and was made fun of for this by one of my good friends for years, I’m finding this absolutely hysterical

        2. Not A Girl Boss*

          I am dying laughing at this.

          Helped along by the fact I have a male friend who is very subconscious about his…. Wait for it… Skinny knees.

        3. Ben Marcus Consulting*

          I’m male and I’ve been told that I need to wear looser pants. I have very athletic thighs, which means the fabric hugs more, so things are just visible. Unfortunately, to get pants with big enough legs, to let everything hide better, I need to go up 6+ inches in the waist*. With one line, even the largest pair couldn’t fit my thighs. Not a fan of dress pants hula hoops, so I wear what reasonably compliments my body.

          Unless you’re bursting at the seems, slipping out of concealment, or otherwise obviously dressing inappropriately, you do you. We really should stop trying to mold people as androgynous drones when at work.

          *I have had bespoke clothing made in the past, but only for choice pieces. It’s such an expensive way to go and I like to have fun with fast fashion.

    3. Melewen*

      I wonder if the colleague has some internalized biases against bralessness/acknowledgement-that-women-have-nipples. I have some bras that, while they do provide some support, are unlined and provide no nipple camouflage.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “socially acceptable viewing position”
      You nailed it.
      One thing for OP to consider though — ask Carl’s if Samantha is TALKING about going braless. If she is, THAT is something you can address.

      1. PollyQ*

        Hard disagree. There’s no reason to think this is happening, and no reason to suggest it to Carla, who may not be as good a friend to Samantha as OP thinks.

          1. Mookie*

            It could easily be regarded, in future, as an attempt to find a way to make Samantha seem guilty of something, a pretext for disciplining her for something other than free-roaming breasts. “Okay, but is she talking to you about her breasts?” is a wildly leading question with an underlying suggestion any bad actor would understand.

    5. LDF*

      Yes thank you! If I’m not wearing a bra, the main difference someone might notice on a zoom call is that my boobs sit lower than when I am wearing one. Reframe “you should wear a bra” with “your boobs should sit 2 inches higher” and decide if that’s a conversation you think is appropriate to have…

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Since working from home, I’ve stopped wearing the incredibly uncomfortable, often painful bras I endured in the office to support my very large chest. (Yes, they were professionally fitted and fit very well, but these knockers need serious metal and fabric to be contained and that hurts after an hour.) I wear bras all day working from home now, but they’re much more comfortable and a lot stretchier because they’re wireless. This means my breasts hang lower than they did when I was in the office and it may even look to some like I’m braless. It’s surely noticeable to anyone that pays attention to my chest, which I hope no one does, but it’s anatomy and gravity, neither of which I can control without daily pain. I hope the LW thinks about that before he tries to talk to Samantha.

        1. nonegiven*

          That’s what I was thinking. Samantha may be wearing a bra, just not the uncomfortable underwire. It looks different than usual, and Carla is not her friend.

        2. Tabby*

          @Zombeyonce, I can confirm this. I once attended a church where people complained that I was braless all the time. I wasn’t- i wore a lot of thin, wire-free bras then, so my breasts sat where they naturally sit, and weren’t “shaped” in any way. Therefore, it was concluded that I wasn’t wearing bras. I actually considered raising my shirt at the most persistent of the old biddies, and asking them if they’d like to buy me new bras, as the ones I had were old, and as I had just been laid off, I couldn’t afford new clothes and bras just to make them feel good, nor did I do so when I got a new job (which they also didn’t like because it was an animal clinic, and apparently I had a slight eau de dog scent if I came directly from work on Sunday because — you gessed it — they complained if I didn’t come! Dude, I live an hour away, I have to shower in order to remove that scent, even though i changed out of scrubs, wiped down as best I could, and put on clothes. They were such an annoying bunch, bar about 3 women who were super cool and easy. The pastor’s wife would often defend me to her annoying husband, unbeknown to me. He was a jerk. I am glad they’ve now divorced and she is living her best life in Florida these days.) because, seriously, there are just some things that aren’t worth bending over backwards for!

    6. Butch in the Office*

      “Or is the problem that Samantha is not engaging in performative femininity, by having her breasts confined and hoisted into a socially acceptable viewing position?” Hell yes. Thank you. Signed, a butch dyke who never wears bras and is very professional ;)

      1. littledoctor*

        I’m also a lesbian, and while I’m much more gender-conforming than a lot of other lesbians I know, I am really deeply uncomfortable with certain aspects of femininity, particularly shaving my legs and wearing bras. I’ve never shaved my legs in my entire life, and I wear bras only once a week or so, when I feel it’s more comfortable. There’s nothing unprofessional about either thing, and I’d honestly be very offended if someone tried to say I was being unprofessional by refusing to wear a bra.

        1. Butch in the Office*

          I love not shaving. It’s great. Have you heard the slogan “hairy pits, braless tits, life’s too short to worship [something I won’t say on AskAManager]” Keep on keeping on, littledoctor.

      2. Bras are a social construct*

        Another lesbian here- the “performative femininity” comment resonated with as well. For those of us “passing” to put food on the table, not having to go full-tilt into that territory at least for a brief moment has been a welcome respite.

    7. yup*

      exactly. if I am uncomfortable seeing Tom’s man boobs through his shirt should he be required to wear a bra?

    8. Not A Girl Boss*

      Thank you, this is amazing.

      “Do you scrutinize your male employees’ crotch regions, to see if their penis and testicles are being properly ensconced in confining material?”

      Crotches are not boobs. They are very different things. In fact, the equivalent to bra-wearkng would be closer to males stuffing their boxers. But with that disclaimer aside…
      As someone who works in a male dominated industry, I have seen more than my fair share of men who love to sit and talk to you with their legs spread wiidddddeee and it all hanging out down there. To the point it could be uncomfortable. Except, it’s not. Because you know what I do? I look away. I make fantastic eye contact, or take lots of notes, or suggest we relocate to a table. I don’t… Omg I’m having panic attacks just imagining this conversation… Go to their boss and complain that it’s distracting.

    9. Ari*

      Thank you! Your reply succinctly states my chaotic emotional reaction to this post.

      OP, I’m going to share my take on this so you have another perspective. I started going braless in college, when I was already in the C cup range. I’m still braless several years, jobs, bigger cup sizes, and a graduate degree later. While I can’t say that my lack of a bra has never been noticed, not a soul has ever commented on it, even though my breasts are very large. Had anyone said anything, I would have been upset because I quit wearing a bra for health reasons. And honestly, it’s the healthiest decision I’ve ever made for my body — including quitting smoking and drinking. I still get criticism for putting my body’s needs above societal expectations of how my breasts look and where they fall on my chest. But, I don’t regret my decision and I refuse to be shamed for it.

      Please do not get involved. Samantha knows her body and it’s needs best.

  9. CatPerson*

    I was really relieved to hear Alison’s answer. I only wear a bra at work and sometimes not even then, if I’m wearing layers and a heavier sweater. Not sure if anyone notices when I don’t, but since I’m small I figure no one would say anything to my face. I see plenty of women showing a lot more than I do even when they do wear a bra, so someone would have to explain the difference before I’d agree that it’s unprofessional!

    1. INTP Manager*

      oHHHH, THIS “I see plenty of women showing a lot more than I do even when they do wear a bra” is such a good point!(!!!). SO true – SO much cleavage and it’s accepted at many/most? places without question (and often with the opposite reaction!).

      It feels like OP / Carla (and probably others) are uncomfortable because we (USA) are not accustomed to other peoples’ breasts in their natural state (see also: breastfeeding in public). Time to normalize regular everyday breasts in US culture?

  10. Someone Else*

    I’m confused.

    It’s not:
    “provocatively or sexy”
    “not so much distracting”
    “obvious jiggle”
    “visible nipples”

    So … what IS it?

    Nonya bizness, that’s what.

    1. AspiringGardener*

      Yes I really want to know how it is so obvious if there isn’t jiggling or nipples. What else could possibly be so obvious?

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        No straps/strap marks visible under the clothing. Which, she could just be wearing strapless. But I’m guessing that’s it.

        1. JSPA*

          shirts drape and move a bit differently, even against the smoothest fabric, than they do against skin. And that’s true even when the fabric (or lack thereof) is only the bra straps (or not) or only cups that are below camera level (or not).

          But 100% “so what.” That’s like diagnosing that someone is going commando by staring for panty lines, and then doubling down by watching to see if there’s any discontinuity at all to the fabric cling. If you check intensely enough to be sure of what you’re seeing, then you’re the one who’s paying too much attention to your coworker’s bikini zones.

          If you’re not staring, you’re not sure.

          My answer would be,

          “I would find it highly inappropriate to stare at my employee’s chest to the point where I had an opinion on this, one way or another. Especially over Zoom. I would strongly suggest that every one of my employees equally commit to not staring at each others’ bikini zones.

          We can and we will choose to live with slightly less professional clothing choices during covid-era, team Zoom meetings. We cannot and we will not debate other people’s bodies and underwear, regardless of circumstances.”

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I had some back and forth in email with the LW, and after I’d written this response, he emailed to say, “Ok thinking about it some more, there must have been some jiggle & nipples. Otherwise I wouldn’t have known? But it must not have been much, I recall thinking no one else would probably notice.”

        Doesn’t change the answer, but might explain the mystery of what they’re seeing.

        1. Shut It Down*

          The level of thought the male boss is putting into this is so uncomfortable. Just look at Samantha’s face and put it out of your mind! If I knew my boss was thinking about “jiggle & nipples” in relation to me, I would melt into the earth and disappear forever.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I asked him specifically what the issue was and whether it was jiggle, nipples, or something else (because I was trying to understand what was going on). So he didn’t introduce those into the conversation; I did. (And then I included that in the letter, as I often do when LWs provide additional details in later emails.)

            1. rubble*

              would you consider clarifying what part of the letter is the initial submission and what part is the addition after you emailed them back? you usually do that, and I think it would change the way this letter reads.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Sure. Original letter:

                I manage a team of 8. We are all remote since COVID started. It’s become noticeable in the last few months that a woman on the team, let’s call her Samantha, is not wearing a bra during zoom calls. She isn’t dressing provocatively or sexy.

                I do find it a little distracting sometimes, but not so much that I would bring it up with her. Knowing Samantha’s personality, it would likely go badly. I’m sure she firmly believes she’s entitled to wear whatever she wants in her own home. I know some people feel wearing a bra is a personal choice, not a professional one.

                Recently someone else on my team has now brought this to my attention, saying it makes them uncomfortable when Samantha isn’t wearing a bra. So now I’ve been rethinking my position on this issue. I checked the employee handbook, but of course it doesn’t mention bras directly. There is something about dressing “professionally” and in “good taste”, and dressing appropriate to your position.

                Do you think I should say something to Samantha? I don’t think I could tell her what to wear, but I could tell her how it’s making some people feel. But I am pretty sure Samantha is going to say that is their problem. Which may be true.

                My response:
                Sorry to ask, but are we talking … jiggle? Obvious nipples? Something else? It changes the nuance of the answer. Also, am I concluding correctly from your name that you’re a man?

                LW’s response:
                Yes I’m a man. I dont think there was obvious jiggles or nipples. Its almost off camera, its not blaneant. Yet it was still clear to me and at least one other person on the team that she’s not wearing one.
                The offended teammate is a woman, by the way. And these two women do have a pretty good relationship ship. I’m sure the offended woman isn’t bringing this up to be petty.

                LW’s final note:
                Ok thinking about it some more, there must have been some jiggle & nipples. Otherwise I wouldn’t have known? But it must not have been much, I recall thinking no one else would probably notice.

            2. Zombeyonce*

              I wonder if she has large breasts and they’re hanging lower and flatter than they do when she wears a bra, and the shape is obvious. That is how a lot of bustier women look when braless (stuffing large breasts into bras is a completely different shape than a natural hang) and it is likely obvious if she’s wearing regular officewear. That doesn’t make it okay that anyone is paying attention, but that would explain them noticing without jiggle or nipples.

              1. Frageelie*

                I have horrible looking breasts. They are large, but basically flat and pointed. If I don’t wear a bra and you can see my nipples, they are basically by my belly button. It is sad sad sad. Haha, but THAT would be obvious, and I mean, I try and hide fat rolls and stuff, so I would want people to not notice that I have terrible breasts.

              2. DarnTheMan*

                My roommate is an F cup and when she’s not wearing a bra, I can tell for exactly the reasons you described. But also like, if OP is spending so much time scrutinizing how his report’s breasts sit under her shirt, doesn’t he have better things to do? I’m a B cup and where my breasts sit under my shirt can also change, solely based on the bra I’m wearing.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Simple solution: Eyes up and stop thinking about someone else’s chest so much. Problem solved.

            2. Arts Akimbo*

              The… manager puts on a bra, becomes distracted by how irritating and uncomfortable they are, and never worries about this employees’ undergarments ever again?

            3. Mockingjay*

              Unless you’re wearing a 1950’s harness, you can still jiggle in a bra.

              I wear no-underwire, light cup bras and my new favorite, stretch wide-strap camis. These allow breast tissue to move (not ‘jiggle’ – normal body movement isn’t titillating) and breathe, while the breast muscles get to work for a change. I have permanent marks and discolorations under my breasts from decades of torturous underwires. I’ll never go back to a heavier bra.

            4. Observer*

              Which would be find if it were Samantha writing in. But it’s not. It’s a boss trying to decide if this warrants a conversation. And, no, it doesn’t. Unless everyone is working on office provided equipment, is not required to be on camera and also dressing as though they are in the office.

              1. Needles to say ..*

                Disagree. This 100% does warrant a conversation. Boss needs to have a conversation with Carla to reinforce that Samantha is following the dress code the end.

                (I don’t understand all the condescending and insulting answers directed at a man who deadass said he didn’t think this was a problem until another employee complained and then he reached out to AAM to see whether or not he should address it. Personally, I would love to have a boss that was this diplomatic and open to changing their mind when presented with new information.)

            5. areyouserious*

              and then when she puts on a bra he can become offended because her breasts are supported and distracting and more aesthetically pleasing

            6. hohum*

              and then when she does wear a bra her coworkers can get offended that her breasts are distracting because they are properly supported and more aesthetically pleasing.

          2. mediamaven*

            I don’t want to look at my colleagues nipples. Not a man’s nipples, not a woman’s nipples. Should not be obvious to someone on a video call.

            1. SomebodyElse*

              FTR… I’m on team “men should wear undershirts” as much as “women should wear bras” at work (even a video call from home during a pandemic)

              1. A Teacher*

                Why a bra, though? I agree all genders should probably make an effort to have at least two layers of cloth (unless the cloth is very thick) between their nips and the outside word, but a lot of us on the itty bitty titty committee could also just wear an undershirt to accomplish that.

              2. comityoferrors*

                But…why? Genuinely asking. Is there a reason, other than the circular “it’s just not professional”?

                I’m a prude who goes out of her way to avoid nude scenes in TV/movies (super hard to do btw!), but I’m not bothered by the outline of someone’s body under their clothes (which I rarely ever see…). Maybe it’s a generational thing?

              3. Cary*

                Undershirts aren’t uncomfortable. Bras are.

                Even if you *don’t* have any condition aggravated by bras (I do), I mean, bras are tight clothes on a sensitive area! Of course they’re going to be way less comfortable than an ordinary knit shirt that is just another layer.

                Saying “men should wear undershirts and women should wear bras” is like saying “women should wear underpants and men should wear jockstraps.”

                1. Cary*

                  I should amend that first part–tight clothes have more of a *chance* of being uncomfortable. Obviously they’re a great help to some.

                  I stand by my analogy, though!

            2. Ugh, Bras*

              Have you tried moving your own eyes to somewhere other than the nipple area (such as, maybe, the face), rather than expecting all people to adequately conceal their nipples at all times?

              I hope that a breastfeeding new mother never has the misfortune of having you as a coworker, because sometimes lactating boobs have a mind of their own, even when not actively nursing or pumping.

              1. mediamaven*

                Don’t go there. It’s a work call. It’s not a leisure activity. Time to be a little more conservative in your dress. Nipples need to be concealed in a company meeting. This has nothing to do with breastfeeding. I’m a seasoned feminist but it’s about boundaries in a workplace setting. It’s actually quite easy to wear an outfit that covers your nipples.

                1. Metadata minion*

                  That depends pretty dramatically on the person. I’m not going to wear ultra-puffy overengineered bras just because it’s getting colder and sometimes nipples are going to nipple even through a bra and shirt. I’m on team bras-are-comfy-for-me, but I don’t wear them to conceal basic secondary sexual characteristics from my coworkers.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          This makes me wonder even more if it is not a no bra situation, but a less structured/wireless bra situation. I’ve gone from underwire+padding to wireless+unstructured and I’m fairly certain my boobs probably move more than when I was going to an office. They are also lower, which could give an impression of bralessness.

          Alison, if the LW did bring it up with Samantha and she responded with a, “Wait, what? I am wearing a bra.” what would be the best response for the LW?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think the LW should bring it up with her, period. If for some reason it was necessary, a man is not the appropriate person to raise it; he’d need to involve HR or something. And if it turned it she was wearing a bra, the only response would be a sincere apology.

            But again, he should just let it go.

            1. Lady Heather*

              A question: why would it need to be apologized and let go if it turns out co-worker is wearing a bra?

              It seems to me that either it is a problem or it is not – and it either needs to be solved or it does not. If the company feels it is a problem that needs solving, they ‘should’ bring it up and insist it be solved. If it is not a problem that needs solving, they shouldn’t bring it up.

              “Your breasts are distracting. Wear a bra. You’re already wearing a bra? Never mind. Sorry!” seems to indicate that it was never a problem that needed solving in the first place, because the company does find the status quo acceptable – in which case they shouldn’t have brought it up in the first place.

              Or am I missing something here?

              1. Needles to say ..*

                >>A question: why would it need to be apologized and let go if it turns out co-worker is wearing a bra?

                Because if you accuse someone of doing something, but you were wrong, the polite thing to do is apologize for your mistake.

                If LW said Sam was swinging her bewbs around like nunchucks and knocking things off her desk during video meetings which was distracting coworkers, LW could name the issue and ask her to correct it but LW basically says there’s no problem except the (assumed) lack of bra. If he can’t explain the issue a bra is supposed to solve, and it turns out she is wearing a bra, then there’s no issue.

          2. Observer*

            This is a good reason for no one to bring it up. Given what the OP describes, this is a really possible scenario. Why even go there?

          3. GothicBee*

            Honestly, I’m going into the office but have mostly switched to lounge type bras due to comfort and personal preference for how it looks, but I have noticed that certain ones are less structured than others, which I think is just more evidence for why wearing a bra shouldn’t matter at all. If you’re going to police wearing a bra, you’re probably going to have to police the type of bra and at that point you’re going way too far. Better to just let people wear what they want and if there’s an issue (like wardrobe malfunction that results in something showing) then address that rather than whether there’s a bra under the shirt or not.

            1. 'Tis Me*

              Also that bit where depending on body shape different types of bra will fit right on different women.

      3. INTP Manager*

        Probably their natural shape *gasp* shows? I don’t know how Samantha is successfully keeping them in check though – mine are NOT that cooperative! LOL

    2. Deliliah*

      I’m trying so hard to figure out what’s happening here. I’m guessing Samantha must have larger breasts that are at their natural position on the chest rather than higher up on the chest where a bra would put them? Why is that distracting? This feels to me like someone who normally wears contacts wearing glasses and being called out for being distracting.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Or further down than where a bra would put them? (From the point of view of someone who is 40 and only just failing the pencil test)

      2. Anonymous Penguin*

        Yes, the only thing I can think of is the shape/position is now no longer perfectly round and high up. Which is just not at all (to me) something that a coworker or boss needs to express an opinion on, much less regulate.

      3. Absurda*

        This is what I was thinking, too. Which, if you think about it, makes the situation even ickier. It’s not a “we’re being made aware of your breasts through nipple or jiggle” and more, “we’ve noticed your breasts are no longer aesthetically pleasing.”

        So, yeah, leave it alone.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In fairness to the OP, my sense is that it was very much not his instinct to say anything until someone asked him to, and now he’s thrown off because it’s a woman raising it (that part is just a guess though). I think he gets that it wouldn’t be quite right (the last line of his letter).

      1. Chinook*

        Thank you for pointing that out. OP did the right thing – he ignored it himself as none of his business until someone else brought it up at which point he then wanted to ensure with a third party that it was still no one’s business. He does not deserve scorn for asking a perfectly appropriate question.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I had the same impression. I got the sense that the last thing the LW wants to talk about is Samantha and the presence/absence of a bra, but then felt like he might have to bring it up because Carla said it made her uncomfortable. When employees bring up issues, especially on uncomfortable topics the boss would prefer not to discuss, getting a second opinion from someone like Alison is what a good manager does.

      3. Scottish Pixie*

        I was so relieved by your response.

        Just as an additional thing for OP to think about: I sometimes can’t wear a bra for medical reasons. I have a slightly odd medical condition that causes random abscesses in Not Fun places. One of those semi-regular places is right where the band of a bra sits. The pressure of a bra is so agonising I just can’t. Usually I try to wear a close fitting tank for support underneath and wear something baggier but I’m sure it’s sometimes obvious anyway. I’d be mortified if my boss said anything about it.

  11. Not playing your game anymore*

    Yeah. I can’t even. If I were in a position where I HAD to mention something (say grandboss or an important client or something was insisting) at most, I’d ask my staff person to adjust their camera or turn it off, AT MOST. Same if I had an employee wearing an inappropriate tee-shirt…

  12. Jess*

    Bras are suspension garments. They’re for stopping your boobs from hurting when you’re walking or running or whatever. They’re not for covering your body up; shirts are for that and it sounds like she’s wearing at least one of those. Leave her alone for heaven’s sake

    1. Vicky Austin*

      Oh, yeah, if she were showing up shirtless at a Zoom meeting, THAT would be inappropriate and you would be completely in line to tell her to put one on. Ditto if a man were to show up shirtless for a Zoom meeting.

  13. Fiona*

    I think this was a good answer. The upsides of commenting are so minor, the downsides of commenting are so major and disruptive and possibly harassment-adjacent.

    But for my pure curiosity, it’s hard for me to figure out HOW it’s clear that she is not wearing a bra if:
    – there is no jiggle/movement
    – she’s dressed modestly
    – there’s no visible nipples
    – it’s almost off-camera

    I’m not doubting that observers are correct, but like…what is giving it away? I’m genuinely curious!!

    1. Crivens!*

      “Her breasts aren’t shaped in a stereotypically pleasing way created by decades of the expectation that women wear bras”.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        My breasts look the same with/without a bra. I only wear a bra to prevent nipple exposure in our freezing cold office. I’m WFH now so…

          1. Zombeyonce*

            This. Piling mine into a very structured bra every day to go to work is the thing I am happiest to leave behind with remote work. It’s wireless, stretchy bras and droopy boobs for me all the time now!

          2. Frageelie*

            Me too. And I’m young! It’s really awful and I’m sorry, but people would notice. Just like they notice if you have other body issues. Should it matter? No. Will it matter? Of course.

            1. Jess*

              The main way it matters is how it’s helpful in flushing out the jerks in your life who think their opinions about your breasts are important.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        I’m pretty flat naturally, and I used to get dresscoded because… idk, I guess people expected to be able to tell I had breasts, and if they couldn’t tell I must not be wearing a bra?

        I actually still don’t get it.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I omitted a very important piece of information that this was in high school. Whether that proves or disproves your theory is up to you.

    2. blepkitty*

      My breasts have a verrrry different shape from their natural shape when I’m wearing a bra. Without the bra they’re saggier, mostly. It’s noticeable to anyone who might be in the habit of looking.

      1. hufflepuff hobbit*

        we had a famous author come to speak to the entire freshman class when I was in college and she was very nicely dressed in a professional, lovely dress and pearls, heels, and hose, but was CLEARLY not wearing a bra because her nipples were less than 3 cm from her belt and probably a foot (maybe more) from her collarbones. this was MANY years ago (see: wearing hose) and I remember being absolutely stunned.

          1. littledoctor*

            What a power move!

            One reason I really like not wearing a bra, not shaving my legs but still wearing skirts, going topless at the beach, etc. is because I want girls and young women to see me and know that those things are options. When I was young, all the adult women I knew wore bras daily, always shaved their legs, wouldn’t leave the house without makeup, etc. As someone who was very deeply repulsed by a lot of aspects of traditional femininity from a very young age, knowing that I was different from most of the women I knew made me feel like I was failing in some way. Seeing women who broke from those traditional standards meant a lot to me. I really admire that author for choosing to do public speaking without wearing a bra.

            1. matcha123*

              As a counter to that, my mom never shaved…but she didn’t need to shave. Some people don’t grow much hair on their legs and other places. That made me feel even worse, to be honest.

        1. Jess*

          She looked in the mirror before she left and knew she was going to stun you. I hope it was salutary.

      2. MHA*

        Yep. People with wide-rooted and/or low-hanging breasts often have a visibly different appearance with a bra vs braless, even sitting still– I have both, and that’s definitely the case for me! I agree with AAM that it’s not anyone else’s business.

    3. Le Sigh*

      This is what I was wondering. Unless she’s Division Chief for Jumping Jacks, what’s going on in these meetings that they can tell?

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      This made me wonder if she is actually wearing a bra, but one that is less structured than she would wear at work. For example, when I was at work I would wear an underwire with light padding, but nowadays I wear bralettes and wireless cotton bras. I’m my boobs look different, but there is no nipple, no jiggle, etc., so one might assume I am not wearing a bra since things look, for lack of a better term, less structured.

      So LW, that might be another thing. Consider that you if you do decide to talk to Samantha, you might get a confused look and, “But I am wearing a bra. What are you talking about?” which might be a whole ‘nother bucket of awkward.

    5. OyHiOh*

      Women’s blouses, especially work ones, are usually cut for a shape that assumes wearing a bra. No bra = tops fit different, often noticably so.

      1. nonegiven*

        My dad used to work at a factory that made bras designed by an engineer. He claimed he could spot when an actress was wearing one on TV because of the way they swayed, like a suspension bridge.

  14. dimple*

    I wear crew cut tee’s with open flannels for Zooming from home, and if someone can tell I’m braless they are looking too hard and should be ashamed. My nipples are covered in case it’s colder than I realize, and you cannot see them moving — again, unless you are directly watching them.

    Look at your coworker’s faces when they’re talking and if they’re not, leave the rest of their body alone. It’s covered. Stop it.

  15. Zephy*

    I’m glad Alison has revised her position on bralessness in a work context.

    My body is not any of my colleagues’ concern. What I put on that body, especially if I’m WFH, is not any of my colleagues’ concern (though thankfully we never really did group video calls while everyone was remote, so when I spent those 10 weeks braless in pajamas, no one was the wiser).

  16. Pyjamas*

    Maybe TMI but for me, gaining as little as 5lbs can make my bras uncomfortably tight, and I have been wearing bras a lot less at home. Given how hard it is to find a good fitting bra, it’s not worth the effort to buy new ones when I might lose my pandemic pounds (or gain some more).

    1. Kyrielle*

      This! I actually am one of those people still wearing bras, because I need the support to be comfortable, but I have had to get new ones because of size changes (mine). I wouldn’t want to go to that effort/expense if I didn’t need them for my comfort. And they’re not the cheapest things.

    2. Chinook*

      Psst… knix dot ca does only wireless bras that conform to shape over time, cover all sorts of size and can be bought only on line. Very comfortable but still structured enough to not change the fit of clothing. They are the only ones I wear now. They even have a sports bra that has zero bounce for my DDDs.

      1. Polar Bear Hug*

        Thank you for this!! Any particular style you recommend? I’m in underwire every day (10-15 hot flashes a day left me with a rash under my breasts when I didn’t wear a bra) and it’s OKAY for me, but this sounds way more comfy.

        1. Chinook*

          You can actually get a consultation with them through the website. I find the major difference is in the amount of padding.

    3. Risha*

      I’m 6 months pregnant and have been wearing mostly bralettes for calls for this very reason. Who knows what size I’m going to end up in the very near future, and I don’t need actual support if I’m just sitting there in a Zoom call instead of walking around. It would be a terrible waste of money.

    4. Kodamasa*

      This is why I go bra-less whenever I can. Yes, my under-boobs kinda feel funny resting on my torso when I’m sitting but I’ll take that over being uncomfortable all day with a bra on. I struggle to find bras that are comfortable, even when sized properly. I have to tolerate that in the office since my boobs aren’t small, but I don’t have to tolerate that at home.

      Plus, putting on bras in the morning is just bleh. No thanks!

  17. Oof*

    One solution is for staff members who are uncomfortable would be to call in instead of video zoom. I wouldn’t care for it either, so I’d cut it out that way. (I’m still at work; while there are some things that are relaxed, at a certain point, it’s just not the kind of work I want to be at.) Calling in is a simple solution.

    1. Gaia*

      Legitimately curious why you would be bothered if there’s no jiggling, exposed nipples, etc? What, exactly, is it that would bother you?

      1. Oof*

        I suppose if there were none of those, I wouldn’t notice! Once I had though, it would be like so many other tiny details can be – once I notice, it’s hard not to. And I don’t think it’s professional, that’s all. So I would manage my own actions and move on. Particularly these days, I like some professional norms to remain the same; it’s comforting for me. I don’t particularly care if people are braless on personal time; it would probably depend on the setting – formal or informal.

        Personally, I think we (my job) has gone a bit too far in the “it’s a whole new world” direction. But as with a potential braless colleague, I manage my own actions.

        *ok, maybe a tiny eye roll on occasion, but I’m not on camera!

  18. TBD*

    I would wonder if Samantha is aware that others are aware of her not wearing a bra. She may not care if others know but she may care very much. Still not sure how I would approach it as male boss to female employee. Probably ask HR advice on this topic. However it would be a separate conversation that would be framed in your choice is your choice however I wanted you to be aware that more than one person has noticed.

      1. GothicBee*

        This. Anyone who cares that much about whether other people are noticing they aren’t wearing a bra would be wearing a bra already. The only exception would be if there was another reason they couldn’t wear a bra (e.g., medical issue) in which case informing them would be unhelpful and unkind.

      2. Frageelie*

        Unless she is wearing a bra and it looks like she’s not.

        This is so dumb but once I put on a yellow shirt over a black bra. I didn’t realize it was totally see through. I didn’t think about it.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yeah it would bother me that others were noticing and commenting on it. I just don’t think it should come from her Male boss.

      1. Gaia*

        I’d be livid that people were commenting on it because it’s absolutely not their business. But that’s on them, not me.

    2. Needles to say ..*

      “Hey Sammy, can I talk to you for a sec? This is a little awkward but it’s come to my attention that you’ve decided to rock out with your knock(ers) out. Obviously the way you decide to dress your body is your choice, as long as it’s within the dress code–which this is–but I did want you to be award that more than one person has noticed your experimentation with this new lifestyle choice, by which I mean one person has noticed, in addition to me, your boss. Anyway, just wanted you to know I’m unwilling or unable to shut down concern-tr0lling in the office, the gossip that it surely indicates is already happening, or even make any effort to enforce appropriate boundaries. Have a great day!”

      >>vomits forever<<

  19. big titty goth chick*

    Don’t say anything.

    I’m in the minority here, but I cannot wear bras. I have enormous breasts. A combination of being a virtually impossible size to buy for (yes, I’ve tried whatever you’re going to suggest, and no, it doesn’t work) and sensory processing issues means that I cannot wear a bra without significant pain – but my breasts are big enough that I can’t go braless at work. I wear wireless bralettes in circumstances when I cannot go fully braless but even those can be very difficult for me. Especially now since I haven’t worn a bra in years, I’ve lost whatever desensitization I previously had and it is excruciating for me to do so. Working on Zoom is a life changing experience because I don’t have to worry about the bra+workplace aspect. I’d be horrified if I found out people were discussing my body like this.

    Leave it be.

    1. Elenia25*

      No worries, I am just so sick of people policing everything women wear. Or don’t wear. I refuse to wear a bra when sitting in my room at home. Hell I have even worn a sleeveless top when at home and it’s 95 degrees in the summer. You can’t see all of me and frankly I don’t care, we don’t work in that kind of office.

    2. Geneticist*

      Wait hold on, what wireless bralettes have you found that work for large cup sizes?!?! I need to know!

      1. Smithy*

        Savage Fenty has wireless bralettes that go up to 3X. For my cup size, it probably would be nice if they were a little larger, but that may be a place to start looking.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        So do I!!! Ever since I started wearing wireless nursing bras, I haven’t gone back. My kid has been weaned for a year now and I’m still rocking the old nursing bras because I can’t anymore with crappy underwire.

        Course lately I’ve been wearing sports bras all day every day so I don’t have to change to get a quick run in during a work break. You can absolutely tell I’m wearing one even when I’ve got a T-shirt on because of the way the straps fit, but so far none of my coworkers care on the extremely rare video calls that have happened about 4 times since March.

        1. eshrai*

          Girl I have been wearing wireless nursing bras as often as I can get away with it and my daughter is about to turn 7. Bras hurt my rib cage so bad! I barely tolerate the wireless bralette types and I am not large in that area. They just hurt and I hate them. When I can I just wear layers instead with camis/tank tops.

        2. allathian*

          Funny thing, I wear underwire bras and if they’re not exactly comfortable, they’re more comfortable for me than the alternative. That said, I just can’t with sports bras. My breasts are pointy rather than round, and sports bras either squish them too much towards my chest or if they’re a size too big, don’t give enough support.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Haha, for me sports bras are more comfortable because they keep things contained. I have large tracts of land, large enough that it actually feels better to wear a bra than to let the girls go free. I’d wear sports bras all the time if the way they fit worked with business casual clothing.

      3. mreasy*

        I bought one from Montelle Intimates that is legit the only non-underwire bra I have owned that I would wear to work.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        Torrid has very comfy bralettes for larger cup sizes. They have almost no support, but they do offer… smoothing?

      5. big titty goth chick*

        Other people have chimed in but Torrid is my go-to for when I don’t have any other options – they have wireless bra-bras as well as bralettes. I have one that’s much too big for me in band size (their smallest band size is 2-3 sizes bigger than my “correct” band size) so it kind of just sits on my chest over my tits and acts like a breastplate. Their bralettes are the best I’ve found too, even if they suffer from the eternal bralettes problem of no support/shoulder & neck pain.

    3. Bree*

      I also have some sensory issues. I’ve been wearing cotton shelf bras during WFH. Had to run errands the other day and tried to put on an underwire for the first time in months. It felt like some kind of medieval torture device, honestly. Took it off immediately. No idea if/how I will ever be able to go back!

      1. Bree*

        My mom always called what I’ve been wearing a shelf bra but based on Google that is not what I mean! Basically a very light sports bra/bralette. Cost $5 each. Like bra pajamas.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      The other option is to wear a sports bra type pullover bra, or layer a fitted tank top under your shirt (holds it in place without being a bra). Or even those microfiber type pullover soft bras. I recently packed away all my underwire bras because of WFH. Yay!

      I agree though, I wouldn’t say anything if there is nothing showing or no flesh is being displayed in an obvious manner. Seems like it’s a problem for other people.

    5. Ugh, Bras*

      I also have extremely large breasts. I hate it when people “helpfully” tell me of a store that carries up to DD. Like, it’s it so inconceivable that there are sizes above DD? Last time I was fitted, years ago, I was H or I.

      Then I had a serious health issue with stomach pain that lasted over a year until I got correct diagnosis and treatment. The pressure of the bra around my torso was unbearable. I eventually found these shapeless nylon things sort of shaped like a sports bra (but without the support) and I could tolerate those during the day. They certainly don’t make my breasts look attractive, but they contain me enough so that I don’t look scandalous. Even after my health issue was resolved, I still wear only these.

  20. Gaia*

    I would never go into an office without a bra. A year ago, I would never have been on a zoom call without a bra. But now? Honestly, I just don’t care. I have a shirt on. No one can see my nipples. And if my employer said anything I’d be pretty irritated.

  21. Hilarious*

    This is probably the best reply yet. Also, mine are huge and I have yet to wear a bra on a zoom meeting. I’ve even recorded presentations without one on. Nobody actually cares.

  22. blepkitty*

    Yeah, this sounds like a Carla problem. I can’t even imagine going to my boss and saying, “I keep noticing Samantha’s boobs *through her clothes* and they make me uncomfortable so she needs to put on a bra.”

    Stop staring at people’s boobs, Carla.

    1. can't live with them, can't go without them*

      Nailed it, thanks. Lots of peeps here are slamming her manager, who’s just trying to be a good manager. Carla needs to address it for sure.

  23. Snarkus Aurelius*

    There’s no “obvious jiggle” (whatever that means) or visible nipples and “it’s almost all of camera.”

    What in the name of all that is holy are you seeing then?

    You literally described a problem that you can’t even see.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I forgot to add…

      A “problem” that isn’t really a problem.

      Boobs exist. Sometimes they jiggle. Sometimes they move. You know how you have arms or hair and they move when you walk and you’re not aware? Like that.

      I’m not in the mood today…

    2. nnn*

      This is what I came here to ask.

      (It also leads me to wonder if there would also be complaints about visible bra straps)

    3. Glitsy Gus*

      this. I have bigger breasts and when I don’t wear a bra my shirt does drape a little differently, like, the cleft between them is a little more noticeable, there is a little more general movement; but it isn’t like it’s suddenly pornographic just because of those things. Everything is still covered and acceptable.

      Samantha’s eyes are up here, Carla, Jeeze.

    4. DarnTheMan*

      Gonna go with some of the other commenters and suggest boobs sitting lower than they might in an underwire bra. Except that could still be any number of things; it could be a bralette, or a sports bra or a padded but unwired bra or no bra. Short of Samantha hoisting her shirt to show her bare breasts to everyone (which is a different issue entirely), there’s no concrete way of telling she’s not wearing a bra without nips and/or jiggling (both of which could still occur with all the other bra options I listed).

  24. Jennifer*

    I don’t wear one at home either. But at the same time I don’t use my camera often and it doesn’t show below the neck. If everything from the waist up was showing, I’d wear one. Why? Because like it or not, people do judge larger cheated women more harshly for stuff like this and it can cause you to be taken less seriously.

    If I were the OP would I say anything? Nope. But I think this lady is kidding herself if she thinks it doesn’t matter.

  25. Samantha?????*

    There is a really good chance that my boss wrote this and I am Samantha……

    In which case, THANK YOU, Alison. And if it’s not the case, still, THANK YOU.

  26. Roeslein*

    So I’m genuinely confused, but how would you know someone is or is not wearing a bra, especially on a zoom call – if not the things you say you haven’t noticed (jiggle, nipples), what is it? Because as a woman I have no idea – I don’t think I have ever noticed a person’s underwear choice (or lack thereof) at work, never mind on video. Could it be that the OP’s employee has no idea this is noticeable? If that was the case and I was in her position I would probably want to know, just so I can avoid accidentally drawing attention to the wrong things in client meetings or job interviews in the future.

  27. mreasy*

    Wait, if it isn’t nipples or jiggle, what exactly is being seen to make it “obvious”? I say this as a boob-haver myself, not out of ignorance about how they work.

    1. A Teacher*

      Maybe the boobs have jingle bells on them and without a bra to muffle the ringing the sound is too distracting.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      I know, right? Maybe she wears spaghetti-strap tops, so it’s clear that there are no bra straps? (Spoken as another boob-having-person.)

  28. nnn*

    Even if, after reading Alison’s answer, you still think this is a problem that needs addressing, it would be pragmatic to wait a bit. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, it’s getting colder. Sweaters are imminent.

  29. CRM*

    I felt so self conscious when I saw the title. I rarely wear a bra on Zoom calls anymore, and although I try to wear thick cardigans and position my camera to only my shoulders and above, I sometimes wonder if others notice.

    I took a huge sigh of relief when I read Alison’s response. THANK YOU SO MUCH!! Sitting all day in a wooden chair at my dining room table, often feeling bloated due to stress and lack of movement, I just can’t with underwire right now. If we could all silently agree to let it slide for the time being (like we’ve been doing for hair, makeup, eyebrow tweezing, and other things that women are expected to do to look put together), I’d really appreciate it.

    1. Quill*

      I’ve been wearing a bra usually because my posture is shit if I don’t, but the only thing that goes on my face these days is lotion/sunscreen and a mask.

      Might not bother with a bra even at work when it becomes obvious chunky sweater season…

    2. Kat in VA*

      The best part about your reply is that I still put on makeup and brush my hair for Zoom calls. I look half dead without makeup (dark under eye circles) and I like to look pretty, not ashamed, full stop. Most of the women in my company don’t bother with makeup. It’s messy buns, glasses, clean faces, sweatshirts, etc.

      But I *rarely if ever* wear a bra for calls. My camera is angled so that it’s more or less top of breast slope on up, but I’m sure if someone was looking very hard, they’d realize the 34Es aren’t hoicked up high and tight the way they usually are in the office. If I do wear something, it’s the lightest of bralettes so I don’t have nip show-through in a light colored top. But one of my armor-plated underwired structured bras? For a Zoom call in my front living room? Haaalllle nah.

      No one has said anything. I doubt anyone ever will say anything. I have a unique relationship with BossMan and I’m certain that if he DID say something, after I was done laughing, I’d probably tell him GFY.

  30. BeezLouise*

    I’ve barely worn a bra since March and I don’t plan to start now.

    I definitely couldn’t get away with it in person … I wear a bra size that’s in a larger cup size range, let’s say. But over zoom? There is not world in which a bra makes sense.

  31. HailRobonia*

    On a tangent, as a gay man I have virtually no experience with bras, and one time when I saw an advertisement for wireless bras I thought “wireless… as in wifi?!?!?”

      1. Chinook*

        Mine do have technology the to keep everything in place while I jump and move, but they do stop short at bluetooth.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I wish mine came with deodorant dispensers, especially in summer. Underboob sweat is annoying af.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I read that to my teenager because she deserved a break from geometry. Thanks for a much needed laugh!

  32. JJ*

    As a high-schooler, I temped at a bank in the loan department doing reception and filing. I got written up for “not appearing to wear a bra” even though I had a strapless one on. My top was the highest possible neck and sleeveless, with 1-inch long spaghetti straps connecting the front and the back. So it was *allllmost* a standard sleeveless shell, just with the tiniest of straps to add some 90s pizzazz. I probably would have gotten written up if they could see the straps of a regular bra as well, and I always thought the whole deal was super dumb and a bit creepy.

  33. Dawbs*

    This is not the take folks look for, but this isn’t just a feminist issue, it is an able-ist issue.

    First there’s the obvious physical issues. I had a back injury and for months, regardless of what ‘adaptive ‘ bra i tried, it required a second adult to get me into a bra. It’s easy to think “oh, we would understand that”, but I was pretty well able to hide this injury and I shouldn’t have to “out” myself to get that understanding.

    And on the neurodiverse side…
    I’ve got a tween autistic girl. When bras become “necessities” this is going to be HELL. Fabric that touches wrong hurts. I don’t mean it’s uncomfortable, I mean it is unbearable and painful. (When we understood her less, she had pants which had lower cuffs that fit wrong. The child literally created raw weeping wounds on her shins from using her sneakers to adjust how they fit all day) This isn’t uncomfortable, it is simply not doable.

    We’ll figure something out, but wouldn’t it be AMAZING if I could tell her that her developing body is great and she can dress it for what feels best for her? rather than trying to figure out if I need her to mask her developing chest into something else in the name of “socially acceptable” or “professional “

    1. OyHiOh*

      I have a tween girl who is probably autistic but hasn’t been formally diagnosed yet (way too many people in position to recommend more extensive screening just read her as “a really sweet girl who tries so hard to get along with everyone” but, that’s a rant for a different day and time!) and I foresee bras being a serious issue too. Finding socks was a big problem but once I found something that feels good to her, it’s not a fight anymore. Mine likes the thin cotton “trainers” pretty well – can she just wear those the rest of her life or is she going to be policed and harrassed for not conforming?

    2. cosmicgorilla*

      When the time comes, you might look into stretchy bralettes or sleep/nursing bras. Not the lacy bralettes :) I have a Delmyra sleep bra that I got off Amazon and a Hanes pullover that are SOO comfortable. I don’t know if the pullover aspect would be difficult for your daughter, but these bras are soft and have a shot of being less triggering for sensory issues. At least, this neurotypical person finds them far more comfortable than regular bras, so I’m hoping your child would too.

    3. KoiFeeder*

      I’ve used camis, if you think that might be a viable option for her. Bras really are just sensory hell. :(

      1. Sylvan*


        Also, sports bras (possibly sized up) and those soft bras from brands like True & Co. I hated underwire growing up – I have scoliosis and bras aren’t made with that in mind – but there are plenty of underwire alternatives these days.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Part of my sensory issues is certain kinds of compression, so neither sports bras nor softies worked for me. Even the camis are pushing it on a bad day.

          That being said, underwire is a special kind of hell and I despise its existence.

    4. Bex*

      Thank you for bringing up the ableist aspect as well. It’s good insight and just highlights even more how we need to be careful of the desire to police other people’s bodies.

      I hope you find a good solution for your tween. I have relatively minor sensory issues and some bras can still just be a pain (literally).

    5. big titty goth chick*

      YES. I strongly suspect I might be autistic and bras are literally excruciating, even when I have one that allegedly fits appropriately. I can’t breathe or think of anything else when I have to wear one. It’s hell.

    6. Why is this even being talked about?*

      Please allow her to dress as she feels most comfortable. I was in my forties when a student teacher (an older person ) came up to me and told me that I wasn’t doing myself any favors dressing like I did. What?!
      FYI- I am unable to function in any clothing that touches my body. I wear loose garments, a size or two bigger than what would be considered typical. Seams are hell. Soft and loose. Cotton, no wool.

      1. Eliza*

        Yeah, it wasn’t until adulthood that I realized that most people are able to mentally tune out the sensation of things like tags and seams on clothing, and being constantly annoyed by them wasn’t just something that everyone lives with. I’m glad I’ve found a job where I can work from home and nobody ever has to see me, because wearing most people’s idea of “professional” clothing is distracting enough that it’d meaningfully impair my productivity. When I’m out in public I wear stick-on silicone covers to avoid my nipples being visible, but if there’s some breast movement and somebody notices, well, that’s their problem.

        From the information provided in the OP, it really sounds like Samantha’s appearance is a non-issue and should be treated as such.

      2. dawbs*

        Thanks y’all (^upthread too!)

        She’s an amazing kid and our rule for clothes is ‘wear enough to be decent and be protected from frostbite/heatstroke’. I’ll go to bat for her on EVERYTHING else (because you want to argue about how leggings are/are not appropriate clothing in the dress code, I’d be fighting that sexist fight WITHOUT the whole no “pants with a waistband”, but it ups the ante! [Also there are more places for adaptive clothing than there used to be and we now have TWO brands of socks that work!] ).

        Currently, she, in her ‘to young for bras” state is enamored with the idea of them as a way of being ‘older’ and because sports bras are fun for PE (<I don't get it either?), so I bought her a bunch of them–I figured having her enjoy wearing them now is easier than introducing them in the future.

        But I'll keep in mind the suggestions and the camis; I forget about those.

        But she absolutely can wear whatever she wants–I just wish the discussion wasn't ever going to exist and I wish nobody was going to police her body and judge her by those standards.
        But she's smart and capable and she'll find a way to make it.

        1. DarnTheMan*

          You can even get the camis that come with the built-in bra if she’d feel comfortable in those (and would like to wear them, naturally) – one of my cousins is adamantly anti-bra and her mom has gotten around her school’s Draconian dress code by buying her a ton of the camis that have the little built in shelf for a bit more support.

  34. K9 Lover*

    Culture is again shifting. The unprofessionalism here are the coworkers focused on the breasts, not the woman without the bra.

  35. Former Employee*

    I wonder if all the women who are so annoyed at the idea of a woman needing to wear a bra would feel the same about a man who didn’t wear underwear and you could clearly see his “stuff” through his pants.

    I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that those same women would be complaining that they were being “flashed” by the guy simply due to his clothing choices.

    1. Dawbs*

      Well, part of that is solved by not staring at people’s groins.
      I don’t stare at groins and I have seen outlines of genitalia on both men and women because of how clothes fit.

      I solve it by not staring at groins and recognizing that there’s a different between someone having genitalia and having it “at” me (aka, flashing).

      Everybody poops. Everyone farts. Everyone has private body parts. As long as they are possessing them rather than flashing me, I’m pretty ok with them.

    2. Observer*

      They aren’t seeing her breasts, they are seeing the shape of her body.

      I DO wear a bra even at home, and if the employee asked me, I’d probably tell her to wear a bra. But this is nowhere near the same as flashing anyone.

    3. Crivens!*

      The body parts of other people are not my business as long as they’re wearing clothes. So, no, I wouldn’t care.

    4. Jay*

      Oh, gosh, I can’t imagine why you have that feeling. I just can’t IMAGINE.

      For the record, I’m one of “those same women” and I wouldn’t say a word. To be honest, I doubt I’d notice because I don’t look at other people’s groins. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m a doctor, so sometimes I have to, but they’re usually already naked at the time.

      tl;dr: strawman stuffed and mounted by sexism.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        As long as their flies aren’t hanging open my male coworkers can freeball all the live long day if that makes them happy.

        Also, per the OP’s own admission he CAN’T see Samantha’s “stuff,” he can just tell she isn’t wearing a bra. If my male coworkers were wearing bike shorts with no underpants, that may be a bit uncomfortable (I’d imagine for both of us, but for different reasons) but slacks or jeans? Live free, my good man. I probably won’t notice anyway as I don’t make a habit of staring at my coworker’s genitalia.

    5. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I feel like this false equivalence always comes up, but I can’t even picture what this would look like (except for on Jon Hamm). Unsure if that’s because work pants make this a non-issue (statistically speaking some of the dudes I interact with out in the world aren’t wearing underwear, right?), or because I don’t make it a habit to stare at my coworkers’ crotches, breasts, or any part of their body.

    6. Nanani*

      Except OP states that its NOT clearly visible, not distracting, and almost off camera.

      Keep your sad sack attempt at gender reversal up your bottom.

    7. Bex*

      I work almost exclusively with men. I’m certain some of them have been free balling at one point or another, statistically speaking. I’ve never once felt that I was being flashed by the guy.

    8. Wisteria*

      Based on the response to the priapism question, I’m going to guess that you are wrong (although if he explained his undergarment strategy to me, I would definitely tell him not to ever talk to me about his underwear again).

    9. Arts Akimbo*

      Um, lots of guys “go commando” and the only way I know this is that one guy friend told me. His anatomy was not at all visible through his pants. Anyone who is, I suspect is also visible through underwear as well. No one feels “flashed”.

      1. Needles to say ..*

        Depends on the clothing. Depends on the underwear. Depends on the dude.

        I can count on many hands the times dudes rolled into work without underwear, which I knew about because it was a too-causal workplace where people wore PJs and sweat suits more often than jeans (jeans being the We’re So Casual! dress code that was advertised). Exactly one of these dudes was incredibly creepy about it and constantly drawing attention to his no-no zone, including standing close enough to tables to gently rest his package next to someone’s lunch. So gross.

    10. PollyQ*

      Sure, because making false or overinflated claims of sexual harassment always works out so well for women.

    11. Risha*

      I don’t think I’ve ever once spotted that a guy wasn’t wearing underwear, at least in real life. Once in a while I’ve seen celebrity candid photos where people are talking about it, and it’s always like one of those magic eye photos where I have to study it for a while to see what they’re talking about.

    12. juliebulie*

      I don’t look unless I *want* to see.
      The strongest reaction I’ve ever had as the result of a random stray glance was “huh.”

    13. comityoferrors*

      Gonna quote myself from my response to another brave “what about the dicks” commenter:

      I wonder why you equate the outline of dicks to the outline of boobs?

      I imagine the reaction would be different if OP wrote in and said “we can all see the outline of my employee’s vulva, should I say something?” But that’s not the situation. A direct parallel would be: my male employee has visible breasts, should I say something? And based on my entire life experience, the answer would be: no, that’s cool, it’s okay to see male boobs and male nipples.

      Boobs aren’t dicks! Boobs aren’t even close to dicks! At all!

    14. Sporty Yoda*

      Okay, to be fair, I did have once male coworker tell another male coworker that he could see coworker2’s nipples through his shirt (coworker2 was about to give a presentation and coworker1 recommended that he change his shirt due to the aforementioned nipples), so, y’know, one anecdote is not conclusive evidence, but it does happen

  36. Braless*

    Alison, I have always loved your column but these last few months in particular, you have been on fire. Love this answer.

  37. Eleanor Konik*

    Ever since I started breastfeeding I can’t wear a padded bra with an underwrite like I used to. My nursing bras make me look like I’m not wearing a bra at all. I haven’t breastfed in almost half a year, but I still mostly wear the nursing bras
    The difference in my silhouette is very noticeable.

    I would be livid if my boss commented on that fact.

    1. Lizy*

      I’ve worn nursing bras ever since I was pregnant. I’m breastfeeding so it’s easy for me. My LO is 5-months old.

      Oh did I neglect to mention I’ve been wearing them ever since I was pregnant WITH MY ALMOST 3-YO?

  38. Portabella*

    Here is a comparison in a similar vein – my department got us all branded polos on year in a see-through white polyester fabric. Many men wore them without undershirts, so you could see their nipples, chest hair, etc. To my knowledge, no one ever said to them to stop wearing the shirts, or put on an undershirt, because they kept on wearing them with regularity. I don’t recall any women wearing the white polos without undergarments (probably because most of the women hated them), but if they did, I don’t see how you could tell the women they had to wear a bra if you weren’t going to tell the men to do something similar. So think about if one of your male employees was wearing a sheer shirt on the zoom calls – and possibly had jiggle/nipples, because maybe he has a fleshy chest. Would you tell him to wear undergarments?

    1. Observer*

      That’s pretty gross. What idiot made that order?

      But, if they were that sheer, I think it would be a good idea to tell the guys to wear an undershirt. If I can tell how much hair you have under that shirt, it’s too sheer (man or woman.)

    2. Cercis*

      I once got a polo that was some weird fabric that clung to the lace on my bra. My bra was completely evident. I had to buy a special bra to wear that shirt with a bra (and I had to wear it for a conference), I was extremely unimpressed. I put it on without the bra and it actually looked okay, except for my erect nipples (pretty much always somewhat erect, and in a conference venue would have been hard enough to cut glass because they keep them so cold) and looked a lot less “obscene” than with the bra I wear ordinarily.

  39. Observer*

    OP you say that “he woman who brought it up to me, Carla, has a pretty good relationship with Samantha, and I’m sure she isn’t bringing this up to be petty

    So why did she bring it up? I’m serious about this. What is Carla’s concern? What is YOUR concern here?

    In general when you are looking at dress code type issues, it’s worth thinking very clearly about what the issue is and what you are actually trying to accomplish.

    Also you say “I’m sure she firmly believes she’s entitled to wear whatever she wants in her own home” Which is interesting. Because in a sense, she’s at work, even though she’s working from home. Which highlights the question of how much you are allowing work to intrude on to her home? Is she using her personal equipment? Are you requiring video to be on even though her computer is in a shared / personal space (as opposed to an office set up)? Do you have any of these meetings outside of normal business hours?

    1. a sound engineer*

      “So why did she bring it up? I’m serious about this. What is Carla’s concern? What is YOUR concern here?”

      I second this. It sounds like way too much mental energy has been devoted to policing underwear / making it into a problem / thinking about your coworker’s breasts.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      We don’t know what Carla’s concern really is, but LW’s concern seems to be “should I be concerned because Carla is concerned?”

  40. A Teacher*

    Are we supposed to wear a bra just…to be wearing a bra? I don’t get it. If there are no visible nipples or jiggle who cares? And how can the nosy lady even tell? (And actually even if there was a bit of jiggle or nipple, who cares?)

    Not all of us need bras all the time! I wonder if nosy lady is in the pocket (cup?) of Big Bra.

  41. Staja*

    You know, all of these comments are just making me sad for Priapism Guy from last week and how most of the commentariat thought he might be creeper brandishing his medical condition AT someone. Now we have what Alison confirms may be some jiggle & nipple on screen. It’s true – no one should be looking, but sometimes…these things are noticeable, be it a jiggle, a nip slip, or an erection for hours. And, even as a female, I get distracted when I’m at work and I notice someone isn’t wearing a bra. Do I feel great about this? Nope -but I chalk it up to human nature and move on with my day. (And, I wear a sports bra at home…no video when I Zoom)

    OP – I understand how this can be distracting, however I don’t think you can do much other than ask for a camera adjustment, so that you only have faces in the frame…if that. Make up a white lie about the reason for the camera adjustment (lighting, etc). You can’t use no bra as the reason.

    1. Bex*

      Just to be clear, unless you’re seeing a comment somewhere I’m not, Allison has not confirmed “jiggle & nipple on screen” – and the LW says that’s not the case either.

        1. Bex*

          Please link me to the comment? I saw Allison’s comments but even then it’s not confirmation, it’s “I don’t recall but it must have been there otherwise how could I have noticed”. That’s not actual confirmation. That’s assumption.

    2. Wisteria*

      Is No Bra Lady explaining her undergarment status to new hires? No? Not really the same, then, is it?

    3. Observer*

      In fact, according to the OP, there actually is not “jiggle and nipple on screen”. Or at least minimal enough that the OP can’t remember it and really thought that others wouldn’t see it.

      While I do get the the guy in the other letter could not help the situation (I actually felt bad for him, as this condition can actually be painful), it was difficult. The OP on that letter expanded a bit in the comments, and it really did wind up being pretty much in people’s faces some times. Not his fault, but a real potential problem. So, a very different situation.

    4. Shocked Pikachu*

      My impression was that what a lot of the commenters found creepy was that the guy pulled his coworkers aside to tell them about his priapism. I recall a lot of comments also saying his coworkers just shouldn’t be looking, same as on this letter.

  42. Prof Ma'am*

    I’m seriously confused how you can know she isn’t wearing a bra if there’s no “jiggle” or “visible nipples” and her chest is mostly off screen. What other signs are there? You don’t see a strap? They aren’t smashed together in perfectly perky form?

    This is 100% a you problem… not a her problem.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Well, technically, it is a Carla problem, because absent her complaint the LW wasn’t planning on mentioning it ever

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        As I read it, OP’s problem is being between Samatha’s attitude (justified or not) and Carla’s problem.

      2. Prof Ma'am*

        Fine, it’s a OP and Carla problem. Both of them looked and found some mystery evidence of braless boobs distracting.

  43. Toss a coin to your Witcher*

    “To clarify, we’re not talking about obvious jiggle or visible nipples.”
    Um. so what kind of no-bra x-ray vision are we talking about here?

    I’m an A-cup; never wear a bra, and I don’t give a single f about jiggling when I move about (I’m human! I have parts that jiggle! My butt jiggles too!) OR that my nipples are occasionally visible if it’s freezing (I’m a mammal! We have nipples – even the males!).

    1. DinoGirl*

      Yes! I am legitimately baffled. If the clothes aren’t revealing, plus this quote above about no jiggling or nippes, what the H is it? Just that they possess breasts?

      1. Quill*

        I was going to assume “enough of the shoulder is visible to be aware that there are no straps” but I guess slump is also a possible reason.

    2. Paperwhite*

      … o commentariat of plenty…

      ok, it doesn’t quite scan. But your username made me smile anyway. :)

    3. Cats on a Bench*

      I suspect she probably has larger breasts where you can just tell. You are an A-cup so it probably doesn’t show on you, but for say a DD or larger cup there is a difference, especially if you’re over 40… gravity sucks. Still just because you can tell, doesn’t mean she HAS to wear a bra. We’ve just all been conditioned that boobs should be at a certain height on the body and reigned in, so to speak, so when you see someone who doesn’t look like that, it’s noticeable, even if you don’t mean to notice. More of us should just stop wearing bras so the norm is changed. Seriously, if she’s wearing a shirt and you can’t see through the shirt, then look back up at her face and move on.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Check women’s garment shapes for the late 20’s and the 30’s. Brassieres hadn’t quite happened yet, and women’s bosoms were lower than we expect them to be today.

        1. Cats on a Bench*

          Yes but most of us weren’t socialized in the 20’s and 30’s. We were socialized during a time when women were/are expected to have perky boobs. It would be so much kinder to all of us if we had those shapes from the 20’s and 30’s come back to normalize reality.

  44. tab*

    I love this: “…but I just cannot anymore with people worrying about what’s going on with other people’s boobs, noticeable or not…”

  45. SomehowIManage*

    I honestly don’t understand why people think that working from home is a reason to let go of all professional norms. Some flexibility is reasonable because of COVID, but not wearing undergarments on a video call? Don’t get me wrong. At the end the my workday, my bra comes off. Or if I feel like dressing sloppily, the camera stays off. However, it’s foolish for Samantha to not wear a bra on video conference calls. And the fact that 2 people independently noticed suggests that something was visible.

    1. A Teacher*

      Why, though? If the only problem with her not wearing a bra is that she’s not wearing a bra, who cares? Are we required to wear bras now, even if we don’t need them?

      1. SomehowIManage*

        Honestly, I have noticed when men are wearing thin shirts without an undershirt and I think it looks unprofessional.

        The challenge is that men wear fairly standardized clothes to work— button down or polo and khakis or jeans, unless they are wearing suits or blazers. That prevents their clothes from being too revealing. Women have greater variety, but it’s hit or miss with how revealing it is. Not necessarily the fault of the woman, and finding comfortable, but professional women’s clothes is difficult in my opinion.

        I have worked from home and done video calls for years now. I think it’s a mistake to treat it very casually compared to the office. Not just with clothes. It’s best to declutter your background or use a fake one, in my opinion.

  46. DinoGirl*

    I’m honestly puzzled at how this can be that noticeable on webcam. And why everyone is so offended by breasts.

  47. bookartist*

    Another solution – turn the damn cameras off. Business survived and did very well in the days of huddling around the batphone – video is nice but not necessary.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      turn the damn cameras off

      +1MM. But unfortunately, the fear of seats hungering for butts is only outpaced by the fear that some employees may not be sufficiently miserable to justify the payroll expense. It’s like we’re somehow in the 21st century AD/CE and 21st century BC/BCE at the same time…

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I love this comment so much! It’s so true.

        An iconic film for the pandemic era, “Day of the Working Dead” — shambling chairs hungering for “Buuuuuuuuuutts!” Anyone insufficiently miserable is at risk!

    2. Ugh, Bras*

      Yes, this really is beside the main point but still a potential solution. My company discourages video during meetings because of the extra strain on Webex and individual internet connections. There are times when video is warranted, but most meetings don’t use it. (However, I do wish Webex had a simple icon to click to indicate when you step away from your computer for a minute.)

  48. mediamaven*

    I think we’re stuck on the point of making women wear a bra instead of maybe focusing on there is to much exposure happening. Because to me I think it’s important to be covered up on a professional zoom call. If there isn’t an undergarment and a shirt is sheer, that’s too much exposure.

    1. PollyQ*

      Yes, IF that’s the case, but there’s no reason to think it is here, given that OP didn’t mention it, and in fact, said that most of the breastal region was off camera.

  49. Language Lover*

    What’s distracting about her not wearing a bra, especially since you say it’s not sexual?

    Is it the fact that she’s not wearing a bra? Are her breasts doing crazy things? Or is what is distracting the fact that you “caught” her not wearing a bra when everyone knows wearing a bra is just expected?

    I think a lot of people’s concern falls into the latter category. Even with other women. Someone is getting “away” with something they’re not supposed to get away with.

    Anyway, unless it becomes a major distraction, I’d let it go. She actually might be wearing a looser fitting bra while she’s working from home. She might not be wearing a bra for a good reason. Someone above mentioned touch sensitivity. Others will occasionally get acne, in grown hairs or other marks that can be painful if they’re rubbed on too much by bras.

    I suppose you can insist on bra wearing but I encourage you to really examine if it’s truly so important that she needs to suffer potential physical discomfort just for professional norms.

    1. juliebulie*

      I’ve got a painful lumpy scar under my left breast which is irritated by all but the loungiest (most useless) of lounge bras. So yeah, I’m not willing to strap on a pair of boob-prisons while I’m at home and not having to walk briskly down an incredibly long hallway past most of my coworkers in our old office. I doubt that anyone can tell, because my stuff is mostly below camera level. If they can it’s because they’re trying to tell. In which case, shame on them.

      1. Rainy*

        I have asthma and when I’m having an exacerbation, anything tight around my ribs makes it worse. I’ve had to unfasten my bra in the office because my choice is unfasten my bra for an hour or two and be able to carry on, or keep my bra fastened til someone has to take me to the ER for a neb.

  50. Emily*

    There’s just no upside for you in raising this. At best, it’s awkward. At worst, you alienate an employee and get accused of sexual harassment. Even if this were a much more clear-cut dress code issue, the only way I would possibly raise this as the male boss to a female employee would be to email HR, say “someone brought this up to me and I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to have the discussion myself, can you help me.” And that’d be if it were something where it was basically impossible to ignore. This is very possible to ignore. So you definitely should. That is what most people would do.

    This general reluctance to bring up professional dress code issues with women, particularly by male bosses, is not always a positive for women. If you’re male and you’re not conforming professionally to dress standards, it’s more likely someone is going to say something to you, in part because your boss is more likely to be another man and in part because there’s less gray area. And then you might feel bad, but you’ll also get a chance to correct it. If you’re female, your coworkers are more likely to just silently notice and judge you and not say anything – but it still affects how they see you. When I was younger, I definitely accidentally wore button-ups which made my bra show in between the buttons, and no one ever said anything to me about it. And I understand, because I wouldn’t have, either. But it would have been a kindness, and the trade-off with this kind of thing is we get less of that kind of feedback, too.

  51. Jesshereforthecomments*

    My take is that we need to stop policing women’s body parts in general. Going braless is a personal choice and should not be against dress codes. Doubly so right now while people are WFH and a lot of us dress more casually right now.

    1. Why is this even being talked about?*

      I wore one to a job interview 8 years ago. Was cleaning out the dresser during the pandemic. Finally threw it out.

  52. Frenchie too*

    Ugh. The answer is NO. You do not need to address an employees underwear. Carla is a crappy friend and coworker. If not, she would address this directly with Samantha: “hey, Samantha, you might want to keep your camera from shoulders up, sometimes it’s obvious that you are braless.” But, she too chicken sh1t to do this, so she sics the boss on her.
    I make it a point to wear a bra if I have a zoom meeting, and I keep the camera above the *nip* line, just in case I have to stand up during the session. But, even if I were working in person, in office, it’s nobody’s business what I wear under my clothes as long as I’m fully covered.
    Carla needs to mind her own beeswax. If she brings it up again, manager should simply say “Carla, I can’t stop you from talking to your ‘friend’ about this as long as you are not harassing her. But I am not about to start policing people’s underwear. What next? do you want me to come out against pantylines?”.
    We have enough stress over the pandemic and crazy political climate, this is so incredibly petty.
    I wish we could do emojis here.

  53. Ursaminor*

    This man just admitted to being sometimes distracted by an employees breasts. Perhaps he should reevaluate his own ability to be professional rather than the completely appropriate attire of his employee. Ooof this question made me angry

      1. Wisteria*

        He literally did:

        “I do find it a little distracting sometimes”

        I’ll give him benefit of doubt for professionalism since people get distracted even when they don’t want to be, but let’s not pretend he’s not distracted. He literally said he is.

        1. Gaia*

          I think he needs to let it go, but we’ve all had something catch our eye and then our brain insists on figuring out what’s happening. He didn’t say he stared or checks her daily to figure out if she’s wearing a bra.

    1. Tuesday*

      I find it unfair when these topics come up that men get accused of being gross and inappropriate just for noticing. But sometimes people notice — I notice sometimes, and I’m a woman. This LW was going to let it go, but then a woman on his team told him it was an issue, so as a manager, I think he had to consider whether or not to do something. My bet is that he’s going to take Alison’s advice and let it go which is what he was inclined to do in the first place. It doesn’t mean he’s all breast-obsessed or creepy.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I’m so tired of people assuming that just because someone noticed something it means they’re staring or creepy or whatever. I’m a woman and there have been times I’ve noticed someone not wearing a bra, mainly because it was obvious, not because I was staring and looking for it.

  54. Mallory Janis Ian*

    I don’t understand why Carla is paying such close attention to someone else’s breasts that she notices the barely noticeable situation of her coworkers bralessness. Why is she looking so hard?

  55. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    The irony that I am reading this on the first day in months that I actually put a sports bra on. I am barely a C cup and tend to dress in layers so I haven’t worn a bra much since the Pandemic hit. And literally the only bra’s I own are sports bras I picked up on the Aisle of Shame at Aldi. Once you hit your late 40’s you pretty much prize comfort over societies expectations. I can’t even imagine my boss trying to have a discussion about my breasts, but if he (or a coworker) did I would probably (loudly) say “Why are you looking at my breasts? That’s inappropriate!”

  56. rubble*

    I think all the people wondering why the LW cares so much should note that he wasn’t going to bring it up until Carla spoke to him about it. Sometimes you just notice things, even if you don’t care about them or know they’re none of your business. He knew it wasn’t a real problem and only reconsidered it when a female staff member complained.

    I feel like we could lay off him a bit, he was doing the right thing, and there’s nothing wrong with consulting someone with more experience (Alison being a boob-haver, although he could have also asked a HR person) when you’re not sure if your judgement is off.

  57. HailRobonia*

    In my old job, there were two women who hated each other. Any time we got an “all staff” email reminder about the dress code we knew that one had complained about the other.

  58. Artie*

    I agree given the circumstances.

    I don’t think this is the same scenario, but I had a colleague get a boob job and after she did she stopped wearing bras. She’d come to work in a sheer-ish top and you could spot her nipples from a few feet away. The bosses talked to her about it (super uncomfortable convo no doubt) and she resumed wearing bras for a few weeks, but then stopped again. The bosses stopped bringing it up because they just didn’t want to deal with it… but honestly, I thought it was pretty tasteless. Being that we work at a university, I can only imagine what students thought who saw her in the halls.

    1. Wisteria*

      That’s not a no-bra problem, that is a sheer top problem. I cannot imagine wearing a sheer top to work even with a bra. I could see wearing one with a modest tank top underneath, but not even with a camisole tank top underneath.

      1. Artie*

        I literally owned the same top worn with a bra (but not at work) and you could not see anything. It was from WalMart and more for casual wear at home. To be blunt, she had dark nipples and the no bra choice meant they were visible. I think after she was newly single post-boob job she was doing some desperate attention seeking.

        1. Paperwhite*

          Or perhaps after the breast surgery wearing a bra became painful? But let’s go with the harshest judgement possible of a woman, once again.

          1. Kat in VA*

            Not gonna lie, I’ve got bolt ons. I can tell you from experience – twice* – that wearing a bra afterwards can be extremely painful, especially if incisions are in the curve below the breast. Even the lightest of bralettes can put pressure on incisions. Also, skin and muscle are stretching dependent upon how large the implants are.

            There’s also a certain amount of dropping/settling that needs to happen for them to look more natural and the fastest way to get to that ultimate endgame is…not wear a bra.

            But yeah, you’re right – let’s go with Attention Seeking Hoor® for 500, Mr. Trebec!


            *twice = had saline implants done, then uneventful ten years later one of them had a “crease fold” failure and deflated into nothing, so I had them re-done.

  59. MBA*

    This is so interesting to me. I worked completely remotely (well, remote + lots of travel). For people working from home, the home dress code was the same as work.

    So for this question I would go back to Alison’s advice from 5 years ago: if Samantha being braless wouldn’t be a problem in the office, it isn’t a problem on zoom.

    In 2012 when I worked from home I was always “business on top”: hair done, makeup done to the extent it ever is, shirt of passable business quality (a solid colored t shirt was Usually fine, no hoodies etc when on camera). I 99% always wore yoga pants and slippers though!

    1. KoiFeeder*

      To bring back an old outrage, if anyone demands that I wear office shoes in the comfort of my own home, I will riot.

  60. Nope nope no*

    To be honest, on especially cold days, my nips poke right through my lightly padded bras. She might be wearing one, she might not be, but it’s definitely none of your business.

  61. Mynona*

    In addition to all the obvious and good comments already made: the cleavage-shoved-up-to-there, rock-solid, padded underwire bra look is not popular with certain fashion-forward women these days. The bra-free look is “in”, as is not shaving or wearing makeup and other related styles that embrace a more natural presentation, and you might increasingly start to see versions of this in “the office” if you haven’t already. I’ve encountered it often enough in my larger-city creative office jobs inhabited by mostly women.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      I do think we are entering the era of the bralette, even for larger busts. It was already starting to be a thing, and I think the pandemic is cementing it. I have a big enough chest that totally braless is uncomfortable if I need to do any kind of activity, but now that I never leave the house I have found a couple different bralettes that give enough support for day-to-day stuff but are definitely not giving the same “lift and separate” that your standard underwire does. I am so much more comfortable. I don’t know that I will go back, at least not for daily wear.

  62. Lizy*

    Just came hear to say I’m reading this post and comments while pumping milk outta my boobs.

    Oh – and I’ve been wearing nursing bras ever since I was pregnant. With my 2 1/2 YO. Come to think of it, pretty sure I’ve actually been wearing them since I was pregnant with my 7YO… I’ve wondered vaguely if someone could tell, but not enough to do anything about it because they’re not your boobs.

  63. Cats on a Bench*

    For all the people asking how he can tell if there’s no jiggling or nipples showing, here’s my thought. We’ve just all been conditioned that boobs should be at a certain height on the body and reigned in, so when you see someone who doesn’t look like that, it’s noticeable, even if you don’t mean to notice. On some people, particularly people with larger cup sizes, you can just tell. For example, my sister is small breasted, I never notice when she isn’t wearing a bra and there have been times she’s mentioned she wasn’t. My mom, on the other hand, is very large breasted and I notice every time I go over and she’s not wearing a bra. I really don’t care if she is or isnt’t and I’m not looking to see. It’s just the way boobs, especially large boobs, hang differently when not corralled into a bra. Gravity is a b*tch! So, a woman’s body just looks differently without a bra than it does with a bra and this is more noticeable on some people more than others. We just aren’t used to seeing unrestrained boobs outside our own homes. More of us should just stop wearing bras so the norm is changed. If she’s wearing a shirt and you can’t see through the shirt, then look back up at her face and move on.

  64. CatPerson*

    I just realized something else. If I’m Carla, and I am uncomfortable about Samantha not wearing a bra, I can’t imagine a scenario in which I’d be comfortable saying something to Samantha’s male boss!!!

      1. Haha Lala*

        Oooh, I wonder if Carla noticed Boss-man noticing Samantha’s lack of bra, and that was her way of calling him out on it? Bit of a stretch, maybe?

    1. Kat in VA*

      If I was “good friends” with someone at work and I thought their lack of a bra was distracting or unprofessional to warrant a comment, it would come out as something unfortunate like, “Hey, Griselda, I noticed a whole lotta titty swayin-to-and-fro on that forecast call, just sayin in case you didn’t know about the angles / sway / visibility / whatever!”

      I damned sure wouldn’t go to BOSSMAN, a dude, with my concerns. You go straight to the source. Something else is at play here.

  65. RB*

    Can we just have a brief shout-out for the stretchy camisole? As someone mid-sized, maybe even on the smaller end of mid-sized depending on your definition, the stretchy camisole stops the juggling for me and is tight enough that it compresses the nipples just enough so I don’t get a lot of visible nipple line. You need the ones that have about 10% lycra. Buying them a size smaller than normal helps too. The idea is that if they are tight enough then they will mostly hold things in place and conceal things without the discomfort of a bra. I wear a bra less than 10 times a year. Also, sometimes the stick-on pasties work well for certain outfits.

  66. AKchic*

    I haven’t looked at other comments because I don’t want to get sidetracked. Here’s my take:

    Everyone who is working from home when they aren’t normally has had their lives thrown into disarray. They aren’t eating and moving around like they used to. Many have had physical changes to their bodies. Depending on Samantha’s chest size, she could be a hard-to-fit bra size, and/or your area may not even have a great selection of sizes available.
    Add in quarantine and many boutique businesses closing due to the pandemic, Samantha may not actually have any bras that fit and isn’t prioritizing the replacement until there’s a more definitive return-to-office date, in hopes that she won’t have to spend a lot of money on such things when her body might shift again (maybe in her favor and then she can fit back into her other bras again).

  67. lilsheba*

    I’m in my own home. I’m braless, shoeless, don’t bother with makeup or hair. You’re lucky I wear pants. Sometimes I wear a muumuu all day cause I can’t even be bothered to get really dressed. We don’t use video but even if we did I wouldn’t care. It’s not important.

  68. Charlotte Lucas*

    Can we talk about the real issues on Zoom?:
    1. People who eat on camera without using company table manners.
    2. People who position their camera so their coworkers are forced to look up their noses.

    As long as all your bits are covered, I don’t care about how you make that happen. (Also, I almost never turn on my camera. Nobody needs to see that.)

    1. Shocked Pikachu*

      In slight defense of the up the nose angle –
      I recently got a laptop that has the built in camera on the BOTTOM of the screen. Right above the keyboard. Sometimes you get punked by technology.

      Why anybody would construct a laptop like this is beyond me – I never even thought to check where the camera would be placed! The weird angle is impossible to correct without getting a separate camera, which not everyone can afford.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Oh, that is weird. Not as weird as having a dryer setting to make the clothes wetter, but definitely weirder than the normal setting.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        The laptops are provided by our employer, & all have cameras in the usual place. But I agree that your setup is very odd.

        1. Observer*

          I think this was a Dell “special”. I remember reviewers commenting on this on a couple of models. Whoever it was stopped doing this.

          I’ll never understand how anyone thought it was a good idea and how an idea like this made to productions units without ever being tested.

    2. Workerbee*

      Can I add in people who gapingly yawn while someone else is talking? My boss does that in meetings he arranged where we report things to him, and while I don’t think he’s actively bored, as he’s usually looking for something to point out as needing to be changed or added to (which is never actually needed), it’s so off-putting. I’m at BEC with him, though.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Add to the yawning people who sigh repeatedly, sniffle constantly, or clear their throats over and over without muting themselves. Bonus points to the ones who do it loud enough to repeatedly step on whoever has the mic at the moment.

        Like, you know we can all hear your exasperated, bored-as-$hit sighing, right?

  69. Rachel Greep*

    I have not worn a bra since about halfway through my pregnancy (my son is five). Once I discovered nursing tanks, I never looked back. I am large chested. The tanks keep the girls from hitting my knees, but they are not high and perky by means.

  70. IrishEm*

    Sorry, LW, but that’s a You Problem.

    I am Very Well Endowed and manage daily life without because of a pain condition and nobody has ever had a problem with it.

  71. KR*

    I think it’s an important thing to remember that torsos can look different and clothes can fit differently when there isn’t a bra because the bra by nature usually either holds the boobs in some way. Just because our clothes fit differently without bras doesn’t mean they fit wrong or bad, just that they are different

  72. c-*

    I do put on a bra for Zoom calls… because I’m a high-school teacher teaching hormone-ridden teenagers over camera and you never know when you are going to need to stand up, which will make your chest a sudden guest-star on your lesson (and you just know either the students or their parents would create some kind of trouble over it).

    However, for a video call, adding another layer (undershirt or blazer, or both) will suffice to avoid that problem. I’d only recommend changing clothes to avoid the appearance of bralessness if the OP’s colleague is a K-12 teacher, or works with minors on camera in some other capacity. Not because boobs are bad, but to save herself the trouble from the moral guardians.

  73. CatMom*

    Am I the only one wondering how OP even knows she isn’t wearing a bra based upon the “no jiggling, no nipples” description? You can definitely have both those things while wearing a bra. Sounds like some folks are paying a little too much attention to Samantha’s boobs!

    1. Kat in VA*

      I’m almost positive it’s a case of “Your chest doesn’t look the way it normally does when you’re wearing a constructed, underwired, shaped bra which lifts, shapes, and separates” and unless you’re somewhat young or have managed to avoid gravity or have fairly new augmented chesticles…the bra shape of breasts usually doesn’t relate to the way boobs sag, swing, and slope when they’re on their own in the wild.

  74. Pibble*

    Multiple women on my mother’s side of the family have had to stop wearing bras due to them exacerbating a (apparently genetic) shoulder issue a lot of us have. Between that and my fabric texture/compression issues with clothing, the choices are me wearing a bra and being so uncomfortable that I can’t focus, or me not wearing a bra and being able to do my best work. (Yes, I’ve extensively researched bra fitting and hunted down ones that fit my weird shape “properly.” Still prohibitively painful.)

    At this point, I just interview bra-less and don’t get hired by people who have issues with it.

    OP – obviously we have no way of knowing if Samantha has issues similar to mine. But I think it’s important to keep in mind that it may be more than a slight difference in comfort level that’s at play here.

    1. Academic Librarian too.*

      I must have the same genetic condition. I HAVE been “fitted”. I have spent hundreds of dollars on useless, painful garments. Not sorry for anyone who can tell I have breasts under my clothing.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I had a fascinating hotel hot tub conversation at a convention years ago where some historic re-enactors discussed modifying Tudor & renaissance corsets for use in the 20th century. One of them had injured a shoulder –bras still hurt, but her corset was completely comfortable. (Important details, these were custom-made for the wearer, and from an era that did not squeeze people down to a wasp-waist.)

      1. Pibble*

        Oh yeah, I’ve researched properly fitted historical corsets as an alternative as well – won’t work for me due to compression issues, but might work for some! Anyone who is thinking of going this route, be aware that historical corsets/stays create specific profiles that were in fashion at the time they were designed, and won’t always work with modern garments that are cut for current bra shape trends.

  75. Academic Librarian too.*

    Letter writer:
    May I suggest you read a book called, It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris. Perhaps buy Carla a copy. If everyone would just have a bit of sexual education in grade school, perhaps there wouldn’t be policing of bodies or undergarments on Zoom.

  76. SwitchingGenres*

    I stopped wearing bras a few years ago, despite having a pretty large chest. I just hate them. I’ve had several professional jobs in a pretty conservative city and no one has ever said anything l, even though sometimes ::gasp:: my nipples might get hard and visible (even when wearing multiple layers) or I may jiggle. It’s no one else’s business. They just need to move their eyes up to my face. At this point if a job told me to wear a bra I’d quit.

  77. MDB*

    It’s possible she was wearing a strapless bra. (Because if straps accidentally slipped and showed, the Carlas of the workplace would take issue with that too.)

    And Carla doesn’t have Samantha’s best interests at heart. The manager seems unfortunately unaware of this.

    (Carla is “uncomfortable” telling her colleague directly and discreetly, but has no problem going straight to her male manager??)

  78. RedinSC*

    In this position I’d ask Carla to address it directly with Samantha. We’ve relaxed the dress code, but if it’s bothering you, you can ask Samantha to change things up.

    1. RB*

      Uh, no. Is that really the precedent you want to set? That Employee A can ask Employee B to stop doing something, anything, just because it bothers Employee A? Talk about a slippery slope. It bothers me when people make crinkly or crunchy noises at their desks but that doesn’t mean I can tell people they have to leave their desks if they want to eat chips or hard candies.

    2. Ailsa McNonagon*

      Why would anyone need to speak to a colleague about what they’re doing with their breasts, if said breasts are covered and not flapping around all over the place? It’s absolutely no one else’s business what Samantha does with her breasts at work- it’s not like she can just take them off and leave them in her handbag.

  79. ShortT*

    How do you know she’s not wearing a bra?

    I’m asking as a DDD/E who sometimes makes her own. It’s possible that she’s wearing one that just holds them in place without hoisting them up to the heavens and/or the straps are positioned so that they wouldn’t even show from under a boatneck top.

  80. I Need That Pen*

    I guess if there are no visible nipples or obvious jiggling, it’s mostly off camera, how do they know she’s braless? No bra lines, straps, etc? If you’re looking that hard you need to refocus.

    I actually fix my hair and put on makeup before a zoom call – only because it’s what I really enjoy doing, and I look less tired without it or so I think.

    But as far as “hey tell so and so to wear a bra,” if she is covered, decent, no, you don’t go there. Me thinks they have a problem with the appearance of what goes in the bra, when she’s not wearing one. I’ve overheard this kind of conversation. It’s unkind. Maybe this colleague is having issues and can’t wear one right now. That happens. Either way if I can get through a zoom call without a partially opened bathroom door in the background of someone’s setup (and said bathroom is occupied at the time) it’s a successful Zoom call.

    1. DiscoCat*

      Thank you, your first paragraph is what I was trying to get out, but I’m tired of these double standards that my brain just shorted

  81. Pigeon*

    I don’t wear a bra any moment I can get away with not doing so. I’ve hated the thing since I started “having” to wear one at thirteen. But, I also don’t want to deal with the fallout of people at work being precious about my undergarments (it’s very noticeable on my body type if I don’t), so I wear one if I’m turning on my camera. I feel like I’m admitting defeat every time I do though.

  82. 'Tis Me*

    I used to wear underwired bras. When I was pregnant with my first, I went up 3 cup sizes within a month during my first trimester. I was busty to start off with (and thanks to hyperemesis, losing weight, including inches off my waist, at the same time my chest was expanding rapidly). I switched to stretchy, unwired cotton bras because:
    (a) My breasts hurt.
    (i) It took a while for me to come across the term Raynaud’s of the nipple online, realise that it is an actual thing, and mention it to the high risk doctor-led care team who prescribed meds for it… Imagine somebody holding a cigarette lighter again your nipple for 30 minutes at a time. The temperature difference from stepping out of a warm car into a sunny car park could trigger that pain. Synthetic fabrics made the sore worse.
    (ii) That much growth in that timeframe meant my whole bust ached.
    (b) My old bras physically wouldn’t fit, and I had no idea how much more my shape and size were likely to change; stretchy = more accommodating.
    (c) The research I did indicated it was healthier. Blocked milk ducts and mastitis do not sound fun.

    I’d had weird brown, tender marks on both my sides, a bit like bruises, as a permanent thing for YEARS. After a few months they disappeared and I realised that they had been bruises from my underwires. Everything else aside, this would be enough to convince me that wired bras are not a sensible choice for me. It really bothers my mum that I don’t wear more supportive bras, and on a few occasions she was surprised to learn that I was wearing a bra, but I am prioritising comfort, health, and when appropriate the fact that I will need to be able to feed a baby with my nipples.

    My eldest has just turned 6. I am currently nursing my 7 month old. I also have a toddler. Since going wireless, I have spent over 2 years pregnant (with hyperemesis) and close to 4.5 years breastfeeding.

    Were my coworkers to track the shape, size, firmness, nipple erectness in absence of cold, and position of my breasts (in bras) over time, they would (a) need a spreadsheet, (b) need to update it a few times each day while I’m breastfeeding, (c) waste a lot of time they should be spending working, (d) be acting highly inappropriately and intrusively.

    1. allathian*

      I normally wear an underwire bra because I don’t find them uncomfortable, but when I was pregnant, I switched to a nursing bra early enough that I had to go up another size when my son was born and I started breastfeeding him.

  83. DiscoCat*

    I’m stumped about how much LW tried to not notice the almost unnoticeable bralessness… Seriously, if it’s not in your face because it’s centre-screen it’ s not noticeable and it seems like you and your colleagues are protesting too much.

    1. Karate Saw*

      I’ve been thinking this too! If it’s barely noticeable, she isn’t dressing provocatively or sexily, she isn’t jiggling, doesn’t have visible nipples and is fully covered…why is this distracting? And how can it make someone “uncomfortable?” Unless you’re uncomfortable with the fact that *she’s* comfortable at work. There is that variety of co-worker, who is aggrieved when other people don’t seem miserable at work.

  84. Jenkins*

    I have worn a bra exactly once since I started working from home 7 1/2 months ago, and that was for a doctors appointment.

  85. Lyra*

    I’m glad you’ve changed your stance on bras, and hope it will stay changed even once we’re back in our offices. I’m autistic with a ton of sensory issues and I literally can’t both wear a bra and concentrate on work. And yes, I’ve tried pretty much every ‘this isn’t like other bras’ out there. The answer for me is not – sadly – a more comfortable bra – to spell it out, the ‘but have you tried THIS one’ comments I always get after explaining my situation are not welcome. I do wear little silicone pasty things so that visible nipple outlines aren’t an issue.

    I think that if it came to it, I would have a legal right to go braless as an accommodation to my disability, but working life is so much easier when it’s something everyone can do. I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until my 30s, and I’m sure there are other people out there who have similar issues but don’t self-identify as disabled, so wouldn’t realise they are protected by law.

  86. micklethwaite*

    If there are no visible nipples and no jiggle, this is JUST about the shape of this woman’s chest under her clothes, on a computer screen. How on earth could that ever be a valid thing to criticise? The discomfort here is purely about being able to tell there’s no bra and being disturbed by…thoughts? Of her uncontained breasts? Good grief, everyone needs to get their minds off this poor woman’s body and back onto their work.

  87. Workerbee*

    I recall a pithy comment from elsewhere that decried teenager boys as losing their sh*t over seeing breasts-through-clothes that are anything other than a holstered boulder shape. They don’t know how to handle it.

    Add nipple poke-out, and how can anyone survive the sight? /s

    From the letter and a lot of the above, the teenager mentality seems to stay in a lot of us. I get that we’re used to being trussed up, pinioned, conformed, all for the sake of somebody or something that made it their business to tell us what sexually attractive was, what professional was, etc.

    And (in not-all but substantial areas and times, and yes, I realize some orgs still require this), women used to have to wear skirts and nylons all the time to work, draw lines on their legs if they *gasp* didn’t have nylons, get trussed up in even more restrictive and uncomfortable harnesses—that is, when they were allowed to work at all.

    My point bringing all that up is for the “it is what it is” people. If you’re a woman and talking about professional female expectations and norms, well, you might not have been able to not all that long ago, if you get me. Things can change. You have to want them to and not give up about it, though.

    Breasts have been sexualized for aeons, which is indoctrinated in me despite the intellectual parts thinking it’s weird. We’ve been taught and shamed into both obscuring them and at the same time conforming them to a so-called universal shape that is nevertheless still commented on and made everyone’s business. It’s a great scam, and I’m sick of it.

  88. Ailsa McNonagon*

    “To clarify, we’re not talking about obvious jiggle or visible nipples. It’s almost off camera, it’s not blatant.”

    …then what is it? What am I missing here? Why are you obsessing over a colleague’s breasts?

    1. Essess*

      That was exactly what I was going to ask. The only thing left that I can think of is that they don’t like how low or long her breasts are??? That’s really disturbing if that’s what is being policed here.

      1. Rainy*

        I had a boss who demanded I wear a different style of bra to work because what I was wearing wasn’t flattering enough in her opinion. She tried to insist on taking me lingerie shopping. I was in my very very early 20s and my boss was female, so despite the pretty obvious sexual harassment going on, my only real recourse was to leave, which I did.

  89. Ada Doom*

    I know I’m late to this, but

    mood: ” … maybe it’s because of 2020, but I just cannot anymore with people worrying about what’s going on with other people’s boobs, noticeable or not.”

  90. Marie*

    Hmm, I actually don’t agree with this. To me going braless in a Zoom meeting is the same thing as wearing pajamas in a Zoom meeting. If it’s at all on camera, you should at least be presentable.

    I definitely relaxed my outfits since I started WFH – I wear t-shirts and flannels, etc. – but I always make sure to look presentable on top. Going braless isn’t “presentable” for a work context to me, whether at home or at the office. I don’t think “it’s 2020” is a universal get out of jail free card, either.

    1. Observer*

      Two things.

      1. She apparently is “presentable”. According to the OP, there is no jiggling, exposure or anything blatant, and it’s mostly off camera anyway. Your personal comfort level is not really relevant here, nor is Carla’s. Especially since it’s actually possible that, based on what the OP described, she is actually wearing a bra that fits differently / is less constraining than her old one.

      2. Under normal circumstances it’s reasonable to expect people working from home to adhere to the same dress code standards when they are on video calls (at least the parts that can be seen) as in the office. But, given that WFH is not being done in the normal way and is a major intrusion into personal space for a lot of people, you simply cannot demand that people adhere to the same standards while work is effectively not adhering to those standards (even though it’s not nefarious.) This goes doubly so if these video meetings could just as easily be audio only.

      1. Des*

        Agreed with above, especially the point about how sure are they she’s not wearing a bra and the point about it not being a preference to work from home.

    2. Anonya*

      I agree with you. And I’m sorry, sometimes we all notice things that we don’t want to notice! I don’t think that makes OP or Carla gross.

  91. anon4this*

    How do people even notice this? She’s not dressing revealing or provocative…and presumably she doesn’t have her house freezing and the body parts y’all keep staring at/”noticing” ….is often out of view/off camera? Ughh…what?
    And another woman on your team is saying it makes her “uncomfortable”?

    This workplace sounds a little scary. Whether it’s men leering or women feeling insecure, and then having the gall to actually complain about their own leering eyes/insecurity, as if their not culpable for their decision to not treat this woman respectfully, instead of like an object. I would rethink your workplace culture and defend this woman’s right to exist with her own body the way it is.

  92. Braless Wonder*

    Agreed!!! This would be like reporting someone for not wearing panties. It doesn’t affect you or your employee – she can look elsewhere if she doesn’t want to see it. I work in an office that would fall on the dressier end of business casual, and I don’t think anyone on our team wears a bra these days (sorry, I haven’t looked closely, but the hilarity of the rest of our outfits says it all). We generally limit our video chats, but the last call I was on that ended up unexpectedly being a video call, one person had wet hair, another had a ponytail on top of their head, another had a baseball cap on backwards (I put a sweater over my pajamas and ended up being better dressed than half the team).

    Once, my 4 year old crashed a video call with my boss and another manager I was meeting for the first time…. he had a nosebleed, but had didn’t notice right away and so his face and shirt were covered in so much blood he looked like he was being murdered. I didn’t realize my video was on, so they watched in horror as I, on mute, tried to deal with the situation while yelling at my older kid to come help. I guarantee they both would have traded anything to just be calmly staring at the top half of my boobs wondering whether I had one layer or two covering them.

    Spoiler alert: when I wear unlined bras, you can usually see the outline of my nipples, you just feel better because you can also see the outline of a bra. Give some thought to why this bothers you. It’s the idea that she’s not wearing a bra, not the impact. Because there is no impact.

  93. Anon For This*

    Just want to drop a rec for True and Co., a company that makes bras… they mostly look sort of like sports bras, but they’re made of very soft stretchy material with everything held in place by clever use of reinforcement by way of seams. I am more comfortable with a bra than without, so going braless is not an option for me. They are the most comfortable bras I’ve ever worn and I will never go back to wearing underwires or anything like that for longer than a few minutes. For Canadians, Knix makes something similar.

  94. Paris Geller*

    Alison’s answer is spot on, but I think the real, short answer here is that Carla needs to mind her own business.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Yes! It seems to me that the OP is actually on Alison’s side in thought, but now that Curious Carla is up in it he’s second guessing himself.

  95. Laura H.*

    Ok I’m in the minority here, but hear me out. To a point an employee’s appearance is absolutely their manager’s business. Said point varies based on circumstances, but I also think trusting your employees is key. Kudos to OP for writing in for advice on how or even if he needs to handle this. His ask wasn’t nosy, prying, or intentionally condescending and all the feminist vitriol towards it that I’m perceiving makes me uncomfortable.

    This may go without saying but I’m gonna say it anyway. If this matter gets worse, or the no bra-ness goes beyond speculation for anyone, not just Samantha- and not that there should be police for this- but if certain tops make it more apparent, you should be prepared to inform them “hey you might not notice but with the angle, lighting, or other factor- I’m noticing a bit more than I think I should and I’m not actively looking at stuff.”

    I went spelunking through the archives this week and while this is not as incidental as “at your height and from your view, the top is fine, however because of the cut combined with my normal height and angle (clearly not ogling) things are showing in a way that you might not be aware of”- it could well be a variant of that scenario. We don’t know.

    If it were me, I’d want to know that. And believe it or not, there are tactful ways to do that that aren’t a blunt “wear a bra/ reevaluate your wardrobe.” It’s an art to do so tactfully, but it’s an asset to be able to do as well.

    If the employee in question comes to you and addresses it, that’s a different matter that requires just as much tact. There’s plenty of ways and plenty of points where this kinda thing can go wrong, but handling things with courtesy, tact and kindness is never a bad idea. Even when the best choice is to let things be.

    Good luck OP and thanks for writing in. Kindness is key.

    1. DarnTheMan*

      Feminist vitriol, really Laura? The OP said themselves that there’s no visible nipples, no jiggling and that the majority of Samantha’s breasts aren’t visible on camera – so why is it then ‘feminist vitriol’ to push back and question what the OP is seeing that made him so convinced Samantha isn’t wearing a bra? If anything OP and Carla (and you) are being a little bit sizeist because it is frequently larger breasted women who get told they’re being ‘inappropriate’ simply for possessing larger chests – push-up bras are ‘flaunting’ their chests (to cite the letter you also mentioned) but wearing a softer bra or not wearing a bra is somehow not appropriate for the office, even if their shirts are covering everything as they should be. It’s one thing if the OP had written in and said “my report wears only see through and lace shirts to the office, her nipples are always on display and everyone can tell she doesn’t wear bras ever” and another to say “the shape of my report’s breasts is somehow suggesting she isn’t wearing a bra” which in the case of the latter, doesn’t OP and Carla have more important things to pay attention to than what Samantha’s chest looks like beneath her shirt?

  96. Permanent WFH*

    I usually wear a bra because it’s more comfortable but there have been several days lately where I absolutely cannot be bothered. A few months ago, I was on a Zoom with a prominent former politician who resigned after incriminating photos of sexual harassment came out. That’s the only time I wish I’d put one on. But even then…it’s no one’s business!

  97. GreenDoor*

    If a woman is going braless, she knows darn well she’s risking wiggles, jiggles, point popping, and sagging watermelon boobs. However….we can’t necessarily tell what the *lighting* is doing to us. So OP shouldn’t say anything about the no-bra-wearing…but if other participants could see through her shirt and make out details, it would be a kindness to let her know that privately.

  98. Can Ophelia boobies?*

    Pros to reading these comments while I’m sitting at work wearing an uncomfortable underwire bra I’d LOVE to stop wearing: saw someone recommending Torrid’s bralettes, and I didn’t even know they sold those! I’m going to check those out!

    Cons: I am now hyper aware of how uncomfortable this bra is! I would very much like to go home and take it off!

    Signed, the girl who finally decided last year to give up on belts and buy nothing but elastic waist pants from now on, who’s looking to make the rest of her wardrobe equally comfortable.

    P.S. No one owes you perky boobs!!!

    1. Ophelia is more comfortable today*

      Update: Inspired by some of the replies to this post, I decided to wear one of my at home bralettes to work today, and it’s more comfortable AND, shockingly, I think it looks better than my underwire bras! I am officially swearing off wearing those daily.

  99. Des*

    “Carla, has a pretty good relationship with Samantha”

    How in the world a woman who has a “good relationship” with another woman went to their male boss to complain about bras? Seriously? She couldn’t talk to Samantha directly? She’s never looked in the mirror and it’s that distracting?

    I do wear bras on zoom calls, but I cannot imagine looking at someone’s chest closely enough to care if they are as well. Wow!

    1. Des*

      I make the above comment considering the OP has said that “we’re not talking about obvious jiggle or visible nipples. It’s almost off camera, it’s not blatant.”
      Obviously, I do feel that there are some professional dress norms

  100. OwlEditor*

    Ok. I have been in online meetings since March and I have, strangely, been looking at my coworkers faces. I couldn’t tell you what they were wearing. So just look at her dang face!
    Look at all your coworkers dang faces and stop policing what they’re wearing, especially women.

  101. 2020 storm*

    First thought: “I just cannot anymore” is such a great response

    Second thought: “oh god I’m samantha, aren’t I? Going to put on a bra for the next meeting just in case…”

  102. Scarlett*

    I have to admit, I’m immediately eye-rolling at the fact that even though there is no jiggling or nips, he’s distracted by her boobs. It seems like it’s more the knowledge that she’s not wearing a bra, more than anything he can actually see, that is on his mind. Maybe he needs to do some work on not sexualizing his co-workers to the point it apparently impacts his productivity.

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