update: is it unprofessional to wear the same clothing item twice in a work week?

Remember the letter-writer who asked whether it’s unprofessional to wear the same clothing item twice in a work week? Here’s the update.

I wrote that email to you regarding my (thankfully) now former boss. It was not the first time she had made weird comments about my appearance, or money issues, etc. But I was 25 years old, this was my first professional job, and I didn’t know how to advocate for myself. Your advice gave me comfort then that I did know what I was doing. And guess what? My clothing choices never came up again.

But when I reread this post now, it makes me sad. Because it got worse. It got so much worse. This woman had control issues. She had anger issues. She was petty. She was vindictive. She isolated me from the rest of my work environment. She belittled me and degraded me. That interaction I wrote about was the first time that my brain woke from its haze and said “This isn’t normal, is it?” I wrote you for some vindication that my feelings were correct. And when you confirmed it I wanted to cry. It was nice to know someone out there agreed with me, that I wasn’t crazy.

I’m mostly emailing as a word that, hey, if something doesn’t feel normal, that it’s okay to reach out to someone. Even if it’s not the first time something happened and you never said anything. Even if it’s something small. It doesn’t have to be HR, it could be a coworker, a friend from another team, just someone. Because it might turn out that just because it’s the first red flag for you it isn’t the only one flying. It was only after my boss left that I learnt that several people noticed my situation and were advocating for me behind the scenes. I’m ashamed every day for not coming forward myself. It took me a whole year and a half to write you! And I never did again! It’s really easy to bully yourself in this situation.

I’m happy to report that I have a new boss. He’s fantastic, and I see him cycle through the same clothes every two weeks. I’m not judged for being a person anymore.

Thanks for reading this. Your advice really was a small light in a very dark tunnel. I wish I’d written to you more during that dark time.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    I’m happy your circumstances have improved and really proud of you for all the growth you’ve done, OP!! Hope your confidence and joy only increases in the years to come.

  2. ecnaseener*

    Please don’t be ashamed! Her treatment of you was no doubt carefully crafted to make you doubt yourself and to make you fear speaking up – no shame in the fact that it worked.

    Glad you’re out of there.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yes. People like this have a way of speaking with confidence and gravitas that conveys of course they’re correct and you’d be weirdly out of line for disagreeing. Once they say something you know is incorrect, that spell is broken a little bit. But if you’re young, and you don’t know much for sure, it’s a lot easier to just take it.

      I’m glad you’re in a better place now, OP. I’m also glad your coworkers were advocating for you. I hope that means there were good things about that job as well.

      1. ferrina*

        This! When you’re young and this is one of your first experiences, you’re supposed to be learning professional norms. It sucks when a boss takes advantage of this to convince you that abnormal is normal.
        I definitely fell into this. One of my early bosses had me doing work that my boss or boss’s boss should have been doing. I had no idea how weird it was until 10 years later. She also didn’t believe in training (because she didn’t know anything) and wanted me to “figure things out” for myself. In a technical field. I actually did remarkably well, but years later my lack of formal training is still hurting me.

        1. Princess Peach*

          Yes, definitely! I thought I’d caught a lucky break when I got hired into my first career-type job by a boss who mentioned they liked hiring inexperienced people so they could train them “the right way.”

          What that really meant was they liked hiring people who would put up with mistreatment and erratic behavior because we either didn’t know any better, had no better options, or both.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            My first workplace had that exact strategy. They actually stated that they didn’t like hiring people with experience, because that would negatively affect their culture. Of course, their culture was perfectionism, competitiveness, insecurity, overachieving, overtime, and “work-life integration” (an actual quote from the CEO).

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Yes, this. Abusers have a whole long list of tactics that they use, and they are often practiced at it. Most people don’t know how to recognize and deal with it, either because they’ve never seen it or because it’s how they grew up, and so is normal to them.

      Abusers start with picking people they think they can get away with abusing (like new-to-the-workforce employees), starting by love-bombing, then slowly ramping up the abuse, isolating victims from potential support, and using DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender) when called on it all.

      It is NOT the survivors’ fault, ever. It is the abuser, entirely. I am glad you have a better boss, and that you now know you can reach out. I’m working on teaching my kid what to watch for, but it’s *hard*. Even having seen it before, new forms of abusers can take a while for me to notice the pattern.

    3. anonybunny*

      Yes, don’t be ashamed. Consider that you have a new, albeit unwanted, skill – you will be able to recognize abuse a lot earlier in relationships. (I was in an abusive marriage for 25 years, and having coffee regularly with a friend opened my eyes that no, this treatment was NOT normal.)

  3. Properlike*

    As someone who’s known as above-average in the self-reflection/-analysis department — and someone who suffered at the hands of an abusive boss in my first real professional job — you have nothing to be ashamed of. There’s truth to the “frog in slowly boiling water” metaphor. At a certain point, it’s all about survival and overcoming the control your abuser has over your headspace. Congratulations for getting out of there!!!

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – and have been there myself. My first job out of school sounded amazing. I was so excited about it. And the manager/owner turned out to be psychologically abusive. Deliberately so – I know this for a fact. But I was in a bad place at the time, and it took me 2 years to understand what was going on. And another couple of years to recover, once I was out of the situation.

      Never blame yourself for someone else’s abusive actions towards you. The responsibility lies with the person doing the abusing, not with the person who was abused. Full Stop.

      1. Red Raincoat*

        I’ve been there too, and it took years to get my sense of personal safety and self esteem back. They get into your head, these terrible people. OP, you’ve clearly been through a lot with her, and I congratulate you on getting out. Now you can focus on restoring your self esteem and pride in being a normal great worker (you don’t have to be perfect!)

  4. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    “But if people see you wearing any clothing item more than once in a week, they might think we don’t pay you enough.”

    “And they would be correct.”

  5. Observer*

    OP, I am SO glad that you are in a better place now. But please don’t be ashamed. You did nothing wrong, and it’s not surprising that you were unable to push back effectively.

    Hopefully something like this will never happen again. But also, hopefully, if it DOES you will have developed a better network and better tools to deal with it.

  6. ferrina*

    if something doesn’t feel normal, that it’s okay to reach out to someone

    Co-signing this.
    Heck, even if they don’t see the problem, if it doesn’t feel right to you, see if there’s a way to leave the situation. Plenty of terrible people skate by on being barely on the right side of normal (or the insidious “you just need to give them another chance!”)

    If it doesn’t feel normal, it probably isn’t.

    1. Retired To Morning Room To Write My Letters*

      I agree about the “you just need to give them another chance!”
      Some folks want everyone to be in the right and want to keep the peace at all costs. They mean well, but they can fail to take us seriously when we talk about abusive behaviour. Which, oh, doesn’t help.

      1. Here for the Insurance*

        I get that humans want to see other humans in a good light and we shouldn’t automatically view every other person as a problem. But the number of people who go to the extreme of refusing to see abuse boggles the mind. I don’t know if it’s because they just don’t want to accept the reality that some people suck, or they’re conflict-avoidant, or something else (probably a mix), but it’s so frustrating.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Seconding this, with the suggestion that you also seek an opinion from outside of the abuser’s sphere, whatever that is. If your boss it dysfunctional, ask someone who isn’t another report. If your company is dysfunctional, ask someone who doesn’t work at the company. Otherwise, you risk the person trying to pull you back in because you help to stabilize the abusive situation that you’re both in.

  7. Meep*

    Wow. I remember in my freshmen year of high school a girl strongly hinted how it was gross to wear the same pair of jeans more than once without washing them to another in the locker room. Now it is pretty acceptable to not wash jeans at all unless you really need to. But that was the extent of any petty high school bullying of this proportion I have seen in a while. Glad you are still standing and stronger for it!

    1. Rural Juror*

      That is probably why all my jeans in high school had holes in them (unintentionally)! Washing items too often will cause the fibers to weaken. Add that to certain types of material worn on certain places on your body, and it’s a recipe for your jeans ripping along the inseam of your inner thigh in the middle of class (happened to me in college with a pair I had worn since high school).

      There are a myriad of reasons not to wash clothes unless they have a stain or sweat on them, like conserving water/electricity/time and prolonging the life of the garments!

    2. SpaceySteph*

      Maybe you went to high school with OP’s former boss, because it was still standard when I was a teen (mumbletymumble years ago) to wear jeans multiple times before washing them unless there was dirt or stains on them.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah- in high school I only washed my jeans when they started to smell or had really visible dirt. I’d write on my jeans and turned them into art (which then washed off when I got around to doing the laundry)

      2. Formerly Ella Vader*

        When I went to high school in the late 1970s, jeans and cords were 100% cotton, and it was fashionable to wear them very snug-fitting. I wanted to have them freshly washed every school day so they didn’t bag, and so nobody else would find out I was wearing dirty clothes. (I usually had more than one pair, and I was fine with wearing “dirty” ones for after school and on weekends.) My dad, who did all the family laundry after we were in pajamas, sometimes pushed back on this for reasons of his own workload and the cost of electricity and water, but I thought he was a slob who didn’t understand the expectations of hygiene.

        In this millennium, I am delighted by the campaigns (and instruction tags) encouraging users to wear jeans multiple times before washing. It turns out that Lycra-containing jeans also bag out when they get multiple wears, but I don’t mind as much – especially since they seem more prone to wearing out on the inner thighs than the old cotton ones did, and I want to make them last.

    3. Random Bystander*

      Laughing as I remember when I was in junior high … we had a really unusual winter that year, with something like 4x normal amounts of snow and extreme cold spells (there were days when the actual temperature did not reach 0 Fahrenheit for the day’s high temp, wind chills brought perceived temperature into the dangerous zones). So we had an unusual number of weather-related school called off days (school district did not want to be responsible for having busloads of children out at a time when the wind chill was -56 Fahrenheit with risks of the bus breaking down because of the extreme cold and then stranding everyone). I remember, with all the anxiety that goes with being middle-school age that in a calendar month in which we had only three in-class days, widely separated from each other “but what if I’m wearing the same thing I wore last time I was in class?” My mom was confident that if I didn’t remember for sure what I was wearing, no one else would … and the fact that it had been 10 days since that date meant that even if they did, they would assume that it had been through the laundry since then.

      I’m also glad the LW is in a better place now.

      1. Rural Juror*

        Oh, that’s a good point. Most jeans I have now have a little spandex. Mine from my youth were usually 100% cotton and would get baggy! I liked them to be *tight* haha

    4. Loch Lomond*

      Unless you get mustard on them or something, jeans are a “wash every 3-5 wears” item, not an every time thing! How absurd.

      1. Clisby*

        Yep. I do lint-roll the cat hair off them, but wash jeans every day? That’s on a level with washing your sheets every day. Who knows, maybe somebody does that, too. (Note: If I were filthy rich, I would have a housekeeper who would make sure I had clean and ironed sheets every day, because I love the feel of that, but am I doing it? No way.)

    5. Ellie*

      I was my jeans once every couple of months at best. I was work pants maybe once every couple of weeks?

      Maybe I’m just a grub, but I’ve worn the same black skirt to work every day for the last fortnight. I don’t know what this woman would make of me.

      1. allathian*

        Now that I mostly WFH I can wear the same jeans for a month and nobody’s any the wiser. I have a nicer pair that I keep for in-office days. Because I go to the office about once a week at most, those can go two or even three months without washing, easily. We have a casual dress code, I tend to wear jeans and patterned, long-sleeved shirts. Sometimes a caftan

        I don’t shower every day unless there’s a heatwave, and I’ve even worn the same patterned shirt to the office two days in a row. I also avoid accessories, so I don’t even have those for a bit of variety. But I figure that I go to the office to work, not to look “nice” for anyone, and I figure I’m good as long as my clothes are whole, not visibly worn or torn, and neither smelly nor stained, I’m good.

        1. Phryne*

          Same. I shower when I have sweat a lot or when meeting people in close quarters. In summer, that might be twice a day. In winter when I’ve been working from home, met no-one except in the supermarket covered by 5 layers: nope, not unless I feel like it.
          Ditto clothes: going into the office: shower, clean shirt etc. Working from home: yesterday’s shirt will do fine.

  8. MEH Squared*

    OP, thank you for the update. I’m glad you are away from your dreadful ex-boss. I want to join in the chorus of saying that I hope you can let go of that shame. Not only were you in a difficult situation with an abusive boss, you DID speak out! You wrote to Alison and got confirmation that your boss was way out of line.

    And, now you know that your ex-boss was terrible and you are aware of the red flags. It’s hard to see when you’re mired in the situation. You will be able to notice them more quickly in the future if need be and, hopefully, do something about it.

  9. Happy For Good News*

    OP I’m so glad that you are in a better situation now. As others have said, you have nothing to be ashamed of. When stuck in a dysfunctional/abusive place it’s really easy to second guess yourself and feel lost and alone. You even say your former boss actively isolated you from others, probably to keep you from crosschecking her behavior.

    And completely agree about getting an external opinion when things that seem off. Just yesterday I sought input from a colleague about an interaction I had that they witnessed because it wasn’t sitting right with me. They agreed and then shared that it fits into a pattern of behavior that’s being monitored by others! I felt weird bringing it up at first, because I worried it fell under me being thin skinned…but my instincts were corroborated and I’m so glad I raised it!

  10. RJ*

    OP, I worked with a team that had control issues when I first started out years ago and I cringe when I think about how meek I was back then. You did the right thing by reaching out and even before that in nothing that your boss had issues. I’m so glad she’s out of your life. Onwards and upward to you!

  11. Tricia*

    This kind of thing really bothers me. I’m a manager and I can’t say this enough to other managers, “Stay in your lane.” There are things that just aren’t our issue, why are you bothering staff over little stuff? We had a summer student who wore shorts one day and they were, well, short. (not booty short, but not Bermuda shorts style). The manager raked her over the coals and went on and on about it and even sent her home….just no. I’m like, “She young and inexperienced, just explain that in an office environment your thighs should be covered. If it happens again, then send her home.” We didn’t even have a formal dress code to refer to. The summer student was so upset and was concerned she was going to lose her job, that’s how bad this other manager had made it. Over a pair of shorts. Come on!

    1. Fishsticks*

      To me, stuff like this is often what shows the difference between a professional manager who is genuinely dedicated to performance and quality of work and someone who is gaining a sort of power boost from being an “authority” in the workplace. The latter always end up blurring the lines between work and personal life and believing they deserve to have control over it all.

    2. Distracted Librarian*

      All of this. Also, managers who notice things like employees wearing the same pair of grey slacks twice in a week (or who make a big whoop about shorts) are managers who clearly aren’t attending to their actual jobs. If they were, they wouldn’t have the time or energy for this kind of petty nonsense.

      1. Clisby*

        And why are you staring at someone’s clothes so hard that you can tell that it is the same pair of grey slacks? You’d have to be wearing the same pair of purple and orange plaid pants for me to even register what they look like. Neutral-colored pants are just background noise.

      2. spruce*

        I can’t remember what I wore two days ago, let alone the outfit of anyone else in my office. It’s crazy to me that anyone would even have time or energy to care about this.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Speaking from experience – getting through to high schoolers and college students is either really easy or totally impossible. I’ve had to have a few conversations in a prior job – one person just never, ever got it.

      (Think refusing to wear anything but clubbing clothes to an office where everyone else is in suits, nothing ever got through to her and she failed the internship because she wouldn’t change how she was dressing – even when explicitly told she needed to dress with longer hemlines and higher necklines. They refused to let her finish, and nobody else would take her on – as that place was the third to refuse to let her finish because of her clothing.)

      1. DannyG*

        Had that happen when I was a clinical preceptor. In the early 2000’s we suddenly had students who had no idea what professional dress was or where to get it. Had a couple we had to find scrubs & shoes for on their first day. The program finally added a day of “Dress for Success” to orientation which seemed to help.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh agreed. I worked at the college – and we had a “professional dress” overview day as part of the internship set up meetings, and nicely for the early 2000’s – these companies also mostly sent dress codes and ideas for how to meet them on student budgets and wardrobes. Most of the students did great, most of the companies were good about working with the students too. But there always seems to be that one person who just feels like they can do it their way, regardless of what the rest of the world says – right?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Right? I can’t believe this letter was almost six years ago, it definitely stands out to me like it was recent. I’m so happy for OP to be rid of this person.

  12. LawBee*

    That’s wonderful. I mean, it’s awful that you had a bully for a boss, but it sounds like you’ve come out the other side.

  13. SpaceySteph*

    The original letter is even more weird to read post-covid when many people’s work wardrobes have shrunk for the few times they need to go in, or leggings all day every day. Here I am on my 2nd in-office day (of 2) this week, wearing the same pants and camisole and shoes as last time, counting down the hours til I can go home and put on the same 4 day old leggings.

    I’m glad to see OP came out the other side and hopefully is adjusting their personal norms to those that are, well, normal!

    1. Fran*

      So true! I go in 3 days a week and wear new pants each day (only own 3 dress pants!) But when I’m not in, same pair of leggings always.

    2. londonedit*

      Totally. I go in one or two days a week and make a point of wearing my nice dresses to the office, because otherwise I’d rarely wear them. If I’m working from home? At the moment, whatever’s warmest! Which today is jogging bottoms, thermal leggings, a thermal top and a massive wool jumper.

  14. AngryOctopus*

    OP, I’m so happy that you recognized that it’s not OK! And I’m glad that others were advocating for you. It’s so hard to be in that position when you’re young and don’t know better, and I’m proud you wrote in when you recognized something as wrong. Your boss was the wrong one! Be proud of yourself!

    Signed, someone wearing the same jeans she wore all week, and nobody has said a word because it doesn’t matter.

  15. OrigCassandra*

    I’m a little disappointed in the people who were supposedly sticking up for OP but didn’t apparently reach out, not even to ease OP’s isolation.

    1. OP*

      Tell me about it. I had one of them approach the day after she left so I know that person is sincere, the rest of the chatter about the observations of my situation didn’t start until six months later. Now that my mental health is better I’m side-eying a lot of these people.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Is your sense that they were maybe not being entirely truthful about having stuck up for you?

        Because that possibility sure did occur to me.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “I was thinking similarly. Where were they when OP was struggling?”

        Yep, agree with this!! “Innocent” bystanders need to be less chickenshit when they see someone is being abused. As far as I’m concerned, if you are seeing it but staying silent, you’re just part of the abuse. The part that enables it to continue. Not cool!

        1. Boof*

          I’m going to gently push back; abuse is 100% the fault of the abuser. Yes it would probably help if peers push back on abusive behavior but not helping is mot the same as actively harming. Enabling also requires some sort of active participation like protecting the abuser from deserved consequences / actively minimizing the abuse etc

          1. Nico*

            You dont have to make a stand to be helpful.
            Just acknowledging that that boss is a loon is helpful.

  16. Roe*

    I have black yoga pants that look like slacks. I have 5 pairs because they are so comfortable. No one has said anything to me about wearing the same pants almost every day (even tho they are actually identical.)
    Horray for you for leaving a horrible situation.

    1. Aurora*

      I do the same, I found a pair I love and bought several pairs in black and gray. One person made a shitty remark about my wearing the same clothes all the time. I just shrugged and said dressing for novelty wasn’t the most important thing on my mind at work, and asked how much time she spent keeping track of everyone’s outfits. (I wouldn’t normally be this rude, but I was very senior to her and knew she was talking to the entry level people around her the same way, and wanted them to see it wasn’t okay to talk to people in our office like that and pushing back was allowed.)

    2. OrigCassandra*

      “and when the shoe fits, we’re gonna buy eleven!” –The Highwomen, “Redesigning Women”

      Goes for pants too, I think. Certainly it does for me.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        I’m breaking in to put a vote for Betabrand’s dress pant yoga pants, but the question wasn’t originally pointed at me. Good luck!

  17. Coco*

    As long as your clothes are not visibly soiled/dirty or have an odor, that’s nothing wrong with wearing things more then once. Especially something as basic as black pants.

  18. cncx*

    Bosses like this are so oppressive and can take a lot of time to heal from. I’m still stinging from the last one.
    Also, even without weird bosses, we’re in year three of the pandemic, a lot of new grads did most of their college careers and probably internships remote. So who knows how to dress, and who has time to build a wardrobe? It’s especially sucky that this boss said this to someone who was 25. I remember my first job I was wearing a cheap h&m suit and every paycheck I got a piece of business attire. We all built our business wardrobes over years, heck I got my « interview purse » when I was 40. So if you’re in your twenties reading this, no one has a week’s worth of professional clothes from the get go, and a lot of us no longer have office wardrobes that fit, so don’t be gaslit on this!

    1. Momma Bear*

      I had a coworker say that they got rid of a lot of more formal business attire after getting this job and if they ever had to go back to a formal office, they’d be starting their wardrobe over again.

      We are not a yoga pants/leggings kind of office but jeans and polos are OK. Sometimes that encourages Interns to slide a little (especially since they arrive in the summer) but that’s when you just take them aside and let them know where the line is, not berate them.

    1. OP*

      If I can help one other person see some signs of a toxic environment before it gets unbearable, that will have been worth it.

  19. OP*

    Thank you all so much for your kind words. I love this community so much. Half tempted to print these out to have at my desk to have a good happy cry on the bad days.

  20. Goldenrod*

    As someone who has had MORE than my share of abusive bosses, don’t take on their shame! THEY are masters at projecting their own shame onto others. But they should be ashamed for the way they treat people, not you.

    Also: “I’m mostly emailing as a word that, hey, if something doesn’t feel normal, that it’s okay to reach out to someone. Even if it’s not the first time something happened and you never said anything.”

    YES, this! But ALSO, I would strongly encourage others to speak up too. It’s great that some of the witnesses were advocating for you behind the scenes, but it would have been great if they’d offered support directly to YOU as well.

    I’ve worked in places where everyone was too scared to support those they saw being abused – it sucked, and they were all part of the problem, as far as I’m concerned. If you see abuse – at the very least, TALK to the person who was treated badly and just tell them, “Hey, I saw that, and it’s not okay.” You could make a HUGE difference for someone who is going through a hard time.

  21. Ellis Bell*

    OP sounds really astute. When her boss first brought this up, it would have just sounded like wardrobe tweaking advice to a lot of people in their first jobs. I noticed that OP however was thinking about how she’d worked there for a year and this was the first time it was mentioned. Thus, the peripheral crimson flutter that is your first “hmmm do I have a red flag” moment prompted her to get a reality check from Alison. Then, when the wardrobe sneering didn’t come up again, armed with the knowledge that the advice was petty bullshit anyway, OP was perfectly positioned to at least know she wasn’t the crazy one whilst dealing with an awful person in a position of power. OP you’ll be okay.

  22. EngGirl*

    Ok I have been thinking about the original post for the last week or so because I have a direct report who started to wear the same pair of pants every day. He hadn’t done this previously, and it started out of the blue. I think he bought the pants recently and thought “wow I love these pants”. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if these were like khakis or just a solid neutral color but these are very distinctive patterned pants, which is unusual enough, but the employee is also male and in general I feel like men’s work wear is usually pretty boring (just to be clear I like the pants, I think they’re very cool, and nor unprofessional in any way).

    I had been debating on if I should say something to him purely because he’s fresh out of school, not from this country, and I wanted to flag that this was something that would be considered unusual, but I thought back to this letter and kept my mouth shut.

    I’m glad you’re in a better place now OP!

    1. Boof*

      Yes probably best to encourage people not to care about someone’s looks unless it somehow directly impacts work (like, distractingly off choices that don’t disproportionately effect protected classes, attire that is unsafe for the job, etc)

  23. Bookworm*

    Don’t be ashamed, OP. Just because you didn’t know that it wasn’t wrong at the time doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. I’m sorry that happened to you and you had such a terrible boss, but am glad you are in a better situation now.

    There are lots of people out there who should not be in a position of power. Some should not have any power whatsoever! That boss might have been one of them and good riddance.

  24. Agile Phalanges*

    LW’s boss would’ve hated my work wardrobe, then. I’m tall AND plus-sized, so when I finally found pants that fit, I bought five pairs. And we wear logoed polo shirts (we’re given five when we start) M-Th, and whatever we want on Fridays. And if she noticed, I also have a bunch of identical socks and even identical underwear and bras. I look like I wear the entire same outfit day after day after day after day, with a new shirt on Friday. However, my co-workers are normal humans (and also wear the same shirt every day) and don’t seem to question my hygiene, go figure.

  25. Marie*

    I know this isn’t the point because the manager was so obviously wrong, but I just want to make a comment on re-wearing clothes.

    When my former office came back after covid, we were allowed to wear jeans the 3 days we were in the office. I have two pairs of jeans, one of which I wear about 95% of the time. I wore the same pair of jeans, 3 times a week, for almost a year before I left that job. And I had a rotation of 6-8 shirts I picked from, usually the same style. No one in the office ever said anything to me…and I had a terrible boss who got on me for a lot of stuff!

    In my social life, I’m a fan of a particular clothing designer known for her colorful, loud prints. If I wore a pair of pink floral pants 2x in a week, I’d probably get a comment on it. But a neutral like black or gray pants, or jeans? Who even notices clothes like that?

    1. DannyG*

      When I wore clothes (instead of scrubs) I had 4-5 identical pairs of khakis & 5-6 shirts (same cut, assorted pastels). So, rotating sport coats & ties gave me dozens of different options. And nobody ever wondered about my pants re-use policy (2 days, usually).

      1. RavCS*

        I’ve been wearing scrubs since the pandemic started. (Hospice chaplain) I was wearing them once and then washing them because – pandemic. Now I’ll wear them a few times before washing if they are clean. But by now I have 7 pairs of pants, all solid colors and, except for the bright marine blue, not memorable. I have probably 10 tops, all multicolored patterned that go with any of the pants. Other than other health care professionals and a few savvy patients or family members, no one notices that I’m in scrubs. No one cares, and given that I do home health, patients and families may never see me in the same mix. And honestly, if I had 2 – 3 scrub bottoms and 3 or 4 tops no one would notice or care.

  26. Katrinka*

    I was working at a former job with a startup when I got pregnant for the first time. After weeks of paid/unpaid leave on bed rest, I miscarried. When I returned to work, I still had some baby weight, so I was sometimes wearing maternity clothes, sometimes wearing regular/bigger clothes. We hadn’t spread the pregnancy news a lot, so only upper management knew about the miscarriage. I had to go over to our parent company to pick up something and talk to someone in their cubicle farm. The CFO’s accounting assistant came over and made a crack about, “must be nice to dress so casually for work.” I was so shocked for a second, then I looked him dead in the eye and said, “well, since my miscarriage, not everything fits yet, so I’m making do.” And walked out the door andinto my car, where I proceeded to cry for about 20 minutes (I had actually thought I was dressed pretty professionally, given the circumstances).

    It took me a month and another incident of this guy overstepping his bounds with our little company (he told me something that (1) he should never have shared and (2) wasn’t true) to tell my boss. He was absolutely outraged on my behalf and assured me that the jerk should NEVER have commented on how I was dressed, it was none of his business. He was such a good boss all around.

  27. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I think a common trait among most people who’ve been in the workplace a long time is that there’s always an experience with a nasty, manipulative boss or coworker in that history. It can mess you up and leave anyone second guessing things.

    You survived and that knowledge you have now will be invaluable in your career – that you know what it’s like and the warning signs.

    From my ‘always wears black dresses’ self to you: you’re amazing :)

  28. Young Business*

    OP, the description of your manager’s behavior could be something I wrote about my previous boss that I recently escaped from.

    In my case, she would pick on very subjective things about me like the fact that I’m on the quiet side. She also did everything in her power to undermine me, my abilities and my confidence. It was very hard for me to speak up and when I did assert myself, she would shut me down in an instant.

    There isn’t anything to be ashamed about. People who choose to bully others are the ones who should feel intense shame.

    In my previous toxic workplace (aka hell on earth) many of my colleagues left without vocalizing their frustrations (myself included). It just isn’t a place where concerns of this nature would be listened to, and leadership is hell bent on protecting terrible managers. Bad managers observe this dynamic and take advantage of it.

  29. Don't kneel in front of me*

    Who has enough spare time to a) notice and b) care about someone else’s clothes?

    I regularly wear shirts two days in a row. I’m sitting in an air conditioned office most of the time, and then I change when I get home. Are you telling me a shirt gets dirty in 8-9 hours of minimal activity? Get real.

  30. Jasper*

    From the files of “surprisingly, employees do not have the wardrobe habits of royalty and/or celebrities”. And even then, before 1945 *those* people didn’t have those habits either.

  31. Jasper*

    I noticed in one of the comments of the original thread, there was someone saying “I have 5 pairs of pants and I usually wear those to work, or sometimes none at all”, and I didn’t even blink — until I saw the responses along the lines of “wow, causal friday to the extreme”. I think they meant sometimes they wore something else, but not usually.

    It hits differently post-WFH-demic.

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