coworker has her husband on video chat all day long, manager told me to stop wearing see-through blouses, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. My coworker has her husband on video chat all day long

I work for a religious organization, and I am having a hard time because my coworker is always on a secret video chat with her husband during work hours. He can see her or us any time we are around, and he has his camera covered so we won’t see him. Her phone is always propped up and he can hear us and all of the confidential information we work with. It makes me uncomfortable and it makes me feel unsafe.

I don’t think my manager knows. She’s seen her cellphone out on her desk, but my coworker is very vigilant when she is around and she closes the app.

We do have office security cameras, which we are all aware of, and there are notices posted everywhere for them. I do not know how to talk to my coworker about it. Please help.

You can start with your coworker if you want, but really, this is problematic enough that I’d go straight to your manager.

If you want to start with your coworker, you could just say, “Jane, I don’t feel comfortable having your husband hear and see me all day while I’m working, and overhearing confidential information. Could you stop leaving him on video chat all day long like that?”

But really, skip that and go to your boss — both because it’s worth escalating and because you’re going to have to do that anyway if your coworker refuses. To your boss, you can say, “I’m concerned that Jane has her husband on video chat literally all day long, which means that he can hear and see anything the rest of us do, including hearing confidential information that might be discussed. I’ve noticed she quickly closes the app when you’re around, and I figured it’s something you’d want to be aware of.”


2. My manager told me to stop wearing see-through blouses

I’m a secretary in a office. I’ve been asked not to wear tight-fitting skirts and see-through blouses to work because you can see my bra and it’s distracting my coworkers. They are blouses you wear to the office; the fabric is silky polyester. To be honest, I like the feel and look of them against my skin and feel sexy wearing them, and my friends in another department wear them with no problem. Yes, my bra shows, but it’s nothing outrageous. Can one individual manager tell you this?


It’s totally reasonable to tell you that you need to come to work dressed professionally and without your underwear showing. If another manager chooses not to enforce that with their team, that’s that person’s call — but your manager is absolutely entitled to set this standard and enforce it. And once that has happened, refusing to comply is a pretty big deal.

For what it’s worth, it’s generally better for your career if you strive to feel professional at work, not sexy.


3. Coworker keeps showing up at meetings she’s not invited to

Our local office consists of only 10 employees, mainly software developers. Our office is not too big and the front conference room, where most meetings are held, is the only way to exit the office. So, people occasionally will walk past a meeting taking place to exit the office. That is fine. However, one employee here regularly walks into a meeting in progress and stands there or sits down and begins to listen, occasionally giving comments. All of our meetings are scheduled in Outlook with the proper people officially invited. How should I approach this person and ask them to stop inviting themselves to meetings that they should not be a part of (has not received an official invite)?

I am a manager, but this person is under another manager (who is at the same level as me).But I’m also the office manager as well, so somewhat responsible for everyone in this office from that point of view.

That’s rude! And weirdly out of touch with how meetings generally work.

The next time she starts lurking in a meeting that she wasn’t invited to, stop the meeting and say, “We’re in the middle of a meeting. Did you need one of us?” If she says she just thought she’d join in, then you can say, “Oh, this meeting is just managers” (or “just the people working on the X project” or “just the four of us” or whatever). If doing that a couple of times doesn’t solve the problem, talk to her manager about it and ask her to put a stop to it.


4. Can I use the same answers in multiple interviews?

I have recently completed interviews for a couple different companies where the group of interviewees are rotated between 5-7 different interviewers for 30-45-minute interview sessions. Many of the questions that are asked either exactly the same or similar. Is it better to have different answers to the same question or is it more effective to use the same scenario so that you are consistent. I am aware that the interviewers discuss the applicants right after we leave. How in depth does it actually get?

Well, you want to be consistent in the substance of your answers, but it’s fine to use different examples to illustrate them. For instance, you obviously don’t want to give each person a different explanation for your interest in the job, or tell each person a different “greatest strength,” but it’s completely fine to draw on different examples as you discuss your past experience.

Discussion of applicants afterwards rarely comes down to a question-by-question comparison; it tends to be more along the lines of “I really liked her experience with ____, and I got the sense that she has a pattern of getting things done that someone else in her role might not have” … or “I don’t think her critical thinking skills are strong enough for this role” … and so forth.


{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. Sophie*

    Letter number 1- I would say that having her husband on video chat all day could be a red flag for abuse. Is he doing it because he wants to see exactly who she is talking to and what she is saying? It could be a control thing, and whoever speaks to her about it might want to explore that in the discussion and have the contact details of some support organisations to hand.

    1. The Other Sage*

      That was also my thought. I hope we are all wrong and that behind that lies something less severe.

    2. Thegreatprevaricator*

      Exactly where my mind went. I hope they are ok. I wonder how you’d respond as a manager to be clear on what is acceptable but also leave room for that possibility?

    3. Hannah Lee*

      I was thinking that, but then saw the detail of the coworker closing the app whenever the manager is around.

      Which makes it seem like coworker:
      A) can close the app anytime she pleases without scary spouse repercussions and
      B) knows she shouldn’t have a video chat going with someone when she’s working
      Those two things put it into a go straight to manager bucket for me.

      1. don'tbeadork*

        OP says she closes the app, but I wonder if she’s just hiding it instead? I’m not especially adept with everything my phone does, but presumably that is some sort of option. She may just be blacking out the screen with the app still functioning.

    4. DJ Abbott*

      Yes, the only reasons I can think of for this set up are him controlling her, or her controlling him.
      Or extremely co-dependent?
      Whatever it is, having some resources handy might help.

      1. Elsewise*

        The fact that he keeps his camera off but she doesn’t tells me it’s not about her controlling him.

    5. Myrin*

      I never know what to make of comments like this because even if your speculation is correct – which it absolutely doesn’t have to be – it doesn’t really change the advice given but only leads to dozens of comments agreeing and speculating and then another dozen disagreeing and speculating in the other direction.
      OP is a coworker and probably won’t end up being the person speaking to her about it so she can’t really take the “have details of some support organisations to hand” portion into account, and I really don’t know if it’s appropriate either way to “explore that in the discussion” – being sensitive to the possibility, sure, but actually “exploring” it? That sounds like a huge overstep, especially if there’s actually nothing abusive going on.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Exxactly. Remember the letter from the person whose coworker was absolutely convinced that she was being abused and got really obnoxious about it?

        OP is better off talking to her manager and letting her manager decide the best way to handle it. Coworker might need protection from abuse, but the rest of the office does not need to be spied on by the husband.

      2. Anonymouspants*


        It’s a workplace, not a family or a residential career facility. it is a bizarre overstep to speculate like this, not to mention recommending coming into a conversation expecting abuse.

      3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        OP could mention the possibility to the manager, who may or may not be attuned to these type of things.

      4. Turquoisecow*

        I’m not sure it would change the advice for the manager, either. I mean, they can certainly keep it in mind, but the manager cannot save their employee from a bad marriage, and can only control or influence things in their workplace.

      5. Ms. Murchison*

        In this case, it would definitely change the advice, because Alison should have advised the LW against speaking directly to the coworker about the problem while an abusive spouse is monitoring them. It could put the LW in the abuser’s crosshairs.

        1. Myrin*

          I mean, Alison’s clearly preferring the option of OP talking to coworker’s manager, so no, the advice foe her doesn’t change.

          I’m also sure that when she says “you can talk to your coworker directly”, she doesn’t mean “right there in front of the dreaded video chat”.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This is one of the old letters where I hope we someday get an update. Because that’s exactly where my mind goes.

    7. Artemesia*

      pretty clearly abusive, but she is now subjecting her co-workers to also being monitored all day long. I wish we had an update on that one — I hope the manager dealt with it and am surprised the LW had not alerted the manager long before this.

      1. Observer*

        pretty clearly abusive

        Not necessarily. As others noted, there could be other things going on.

        But also, not really relevant. Sure, I agree that it’s likely. But there is absolutely nothing actionable about this speculation. Because whatever the reason is, it’s not tenable in the office. *AND* it does indicate a problem, although it’s not completely clear *what* the problem is. So, the manager would have to be clear and firm, but also try to be compassionate.

    8. Lurker*

      This is a very good point that I hadn’t considered. This may be worth mentioning if/when LW talks to their manager.

      1. Observer*

        No, the OP *needs* to talk to their manager – there should be no “If” here. But it’s not their place to bring this kind of speculation into the conversation. Although if the manager has any sense, they should understand that this is a real possibility.

    9. Letsgetvisible*

      Yes that was my thought as well. The fact her h has time to do that is also crazy. But he’s being very very controlling. Clearly there are issues in that relationship, sounds like she needs help. Getting the video chat stopped might cause a lot of issues for her with abuse but it needs to be addressed. Was there ever a follow up to this situation?

    10. Ex-prof*

      Yup, I went straight there as well. The fact that she does turn him off when the boss shows up is encouraging, though.

    11. Lindsay*

      It’s a religious organization they work for which makes me wonder if this is a situation of a couple that believes they shouldn’t be alone with the opposite sex and this is their workaround?

  2. Goody*

    I do hope LW1’s co-worker is okay, and hopefully free of that relationship if the suspicions of the commentariat were correct.

  3. Coyote River*

    LW2, my receptionist dresses like this and honestly I don’t see the problem. However, your workplace does, and they are within their purview to tell you to dress differently. I would chalk this up as a “pick your battles”.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think there’s a difference between “feel sexy” and “feel like I look sexy” tbh! “Feel sexy” is synonymous with “feel confident / feel like the best version of myself” for a lot of women, especially younger women, and threading that needle of “you have to be sexy and attractive at all times wait not TOO sexy, not that’s not sexy enough, more sexy, ohh too much, less sexy” is a nightmare. Plus 2014 was the high point of the 50s revival and very femme, very fitted tailored professional workwear like sheath wiggle dresses and satin blouses and pencil skirts everywhere.

        LW’s manager is absolutely entitled to say they want them to wear something different, but I wouldn’t read too much into “feel sexy”.

        1. Anonychick*

          I think there’s a difference between “feel sexy” and “feel like I look sexy” tbh! “Feel sexy” is synonymous with “feel confident / feel like the best version of myself” for a lot of women, especially younger women

          I agree with this! In particular, I think it’s notable how many people wear “sexy” underwear (which can be defined as anything from a color they prefer, to a matching set, to actually sold-as-sexy lingerie) to work even when/though it is a 100% certainty that no one will every see said underwear! For example, wearing black briefs instead of flesh-toned ones under black slacks: either way, they’re not gonna show; the wearer just does it because it makes them feel more confident. But if you asked, many women would refer to those black briefs—which are not objectively sexy—as their “sexy underwear” because of how wearing them makes them feel: more confident/powerful/etc.

          (Now, is it a separate problem that women are encouraged to conflate “sexy” and “confident”? Absolutely! But that has very little to do with the question at hand.)

        2. Cinnamon Boo*

          Hmmm, I absolutely never associate the feel of “sexy” with work in any context and I can’t imagine a guy dressing to feel “sexy.” I don’t know. Best version of myself and confident has absolutely nothing to do with people thinking of me in any kind of sexual way. It does give me the icks to think others in the office are looking at me and thinking I am attractive in that way.

          1. The Terrible Tom*

            But the word “sexy” absolutely comes up in business contexts because I notice a lot of people are now using it to describe work stuff. I wish I had a good example off-hand but I feel like I’m hearing it a lot to describe technology and stuff. So clearly it’s a fine word to use and feel.

      2. Esmae*

        I think there’s a difference between wearing clothes that are designed to be sexy to work (which it sounds like LW2 might be) and feeling sexy in work clothes. Some people feel sexy in a sharp suit. As long as they’re not striking pin-up poses at their coworkers, I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      It’s hard to tell from the letter how obviously unacceptable it is; there’s a difference between totally see through where you can see someone’s underwear clearly and slightly clingy or a bit diaphanous were you can see some straps or cup lines. If OP were saying she was being viewed sexually and picked on to cover up unreasonably I’d be with her, but she’s aiming for sexy, which implies it’s on the more unacceptable edge of the range. This could just be the same mistake that loads of young women make; media is changing but you still need to be sexy to be viewed as acceptable for the screen and it’s not until you start a real job you realize no one cares about seeing your underwear, and while they might think a well fitted skirt looks polished, it doesn’t need to be tight. If OP is taking their cues from popular culture, or stores that market to very young women, she probably really needs this advice.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I should clarify though that it’s not just young or inexperienced women who get confused about the difference between sexy and professional. I had a friend who in her first job wore really oversized chunky knit jumpers because she was cold; she didn’t look exceptionally polished or professional but it was the kind of thing that only needed a slight tweak in the way of advice from her manager. Well, her (female) boss told her to “dress more provocatively!” She actually specified that she should wear sweetheart necklines to the office. This went down with my cold friend like a ton of bricks, because she knew in her heart that being sexy at work should never be the priority. She never listened to another word of advice (probably wise) and got another job.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        That’s the thing about looking sexy or provocative. Some women seem to be able to wear something with a low neckline and no sleeves and no stockings in an environment where men are wearing full suits and ties, but I would get such a chill I would get sick. (I did get sick once from not wearing a jacket to a one-day temp job on a 90° day. It was freezing and the woman supervising me was wearing a sundress. Brrr!) I always have to have a sweater even for social, and extra layers in most offices.
        Luckily, looking sexy isn’t my priority.

      3. MassMatt*

        Not every place I have worked at has had an explicit dress code, some simply gave general guidelines such as “professional attire”, but I think all that did specifically said “no visible underwear “, which would cover both this situation with sheer blouses and guys wearing their pants very low, which was a big hip-hop fashion years ago. IMO that’s a pretty low bar. And also IMO wanting to feel sexy at work—just no. Unless it’s a burlesque house, no.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Some men around here still wear their pants low, and it’s still icky. I feel bad for the young ones who grew up with this and don’t know any better.

      4. t-vex*

        re: taking cues from popular culture
        When I first started in the workplace I had only ever seen white-collar professionals was on TV. I had no idea what was and was not OK, especially for a young woman, especially when I didn’t have much money to spend on a wardrobe. I remember there being a brouhaha that Ally McBeal’s skirts were too short but otherwise, I had no frame of reference.

      5. Filosofickle*

        I remember getting pretty tripped up with the semi-sheer work blouses when I started working in the 90s. Most of those poly/silky blouses are a bit translucent — not see-through, but potentially suggestive especially in light colors. And the ones my grandmothers wore in the decades before me were exactly the same! It’s not a new problem. But they wore camisoles with them. I was never confident about the rules so I erred on the side of caution, and either didn’t wear them or wore camisoles. I’m well into middle age and still wonder about slightly sheer things at work.

  4. Alternative Person*


    I generally have 2-3 different answers for a lot of tell us a time when… topics so I can tailor for the kind of place I’m applying to and give additional depth if a particular interviewer is interested in that area (my last interviewer was very interested in my work process so having several examples to draw on was helpful). But I wouldn’t overthink it too much, (good) interviewers are looking at the substance and skills as much as they’re looking at the specific context so same answers shouldn’t be a big issue. Sometimes, there’s only so many ways to answer some questions.

  5. Ann*

    (Alison, just FYI the first sentence of your reply has been tacked onto the #3 letter. I don’t know if you see this but I hope you have a nice vacation.)

  6. Dr Sarah*

    Regarding #3, I’m also thinking that if part of what’s bothering you is having to have a *parent* in particular call in, I don’t think there’s any need for your mother to identify herself as such up front in this scenario. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for her just to say something like ‘I’m calling on behalf of Jane Merryweather, who is unwell with severe laryngitis and can’t talk on the phone or work today.’

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think there’s any need for your mother to identify herself as such up front in this scenario.

      This came up a lot when the original letter came in, and I disagree with this completely. Having a parent, spouse of child in ones life is not a sign of immaturity, nor of being a poor or “uncommitted” employee. And no reasonable employer is going to accept a call out from someone who doesn’t identify themself and their relationship with the employee they are calling out for.

      When you say “I’m calling on behalf of Jane Merryweather” one of two things is going to happen. The good situation is when the boss says “And who are you?” The bad result is when the boss says “OK” and then marks Jane Merrywheather down as No Show / No call.

      1. Stopgap*

        What does asking who the person is do? If the concern is that they’re lying about calling for the other person, they could just as easily lie about who they are.

        It would be unreasonable for the manager to hold a parent calling against the employee. But not all managers are reasonable.

        1. Observer*

          What does asking who the person is do?

          It gives the person some possible information.

          If the concern is that they’re lying about calling for the other person, they could just as easily lie about who they are.

          Not entirely. Sure, someone could lie about the relationship, but that’s less likely and has a higher likelihood of being discovered. Of course it’s not great, but still the most reasonable thing.

          But not all managers are reasonable.

          True. But the unreasonable ones are going to be unreasonable even if you don’t mention your relationship to the person you are calling for.

  7. duinath*

    #2: if replacing the blouses will be too expensive (or you’re very attached) pairing them with undershirts or camisoles that cover everything (ideally including your bra straps) may be enough to bring you into the dress code or culture of the office. (although after such a direct request i might check that with the manager, but for most others i think it should be okay.)

    1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      Excellent idea! Camisoles are great for covering bra outlines, are very comfortable and come in different fabrics (cotton, of course, is great for warmer weather.)

    2. morethantired*

      Came here to say the same — I used to wear tank tops, the kind with broad straps, under those sorts of blouses when I was still going into the office. Doesn’t ruin the look of the blouse but gives the coverage you need.

  8. Mel*

    LW4: You can give one answer with different details. For example, tell each person that your greatest strength is X, but give different examples to back that up.

  9. Yup!*

    Policing what women wear is a thing from grade school to the workforce, so I feel like the advice is too quick to blame the OP. There are no “sexy men’s” work outfits because this is not how society views men or how men are asked to define themselves. But women are advertised to in very specific ways that call attention to what their bodies reveal—which is highly interpretable by the viewer.

    Is it a sheer blouse that completely shows what’s underneath? A tight skirt that one can’t bend over in? Then maybe there’s room for a conversation that doesn’t body shame. It it an outfit from a professional women’s clothing store that is designed to make one feel confident, powerful, and good about herself (i.e. “sexy)? Then we’re talking sexism and clothing discrimination. What the person looking at her *chooses* to see can also be really problematic.

    1. ecnaseener*

      It’s true that there are no sexy men’s professional clothes, because part of men’s professional dress is an undershirt. I think “your shirt or an underlayer should be opaque” is very fair regardless of gender. LW says her bras are visible, that’s not really a grey area.

      1. Yup!*

        Dress codes in schools are being changed to remove this kind of “bra is visible” language. Men do not wear bras and therefore do not have to adhere to this. A bra line that shows beneath an opaque woman’s shirt—verses a see-through shirt that exposes everything beneath—should be acceptable. I invite everyone to read about why schools are re-looking at sexist dress codes that punish girls.

      2. bamcheeks*

        There was a letter about a fortnight ago saying “the line of my bra is visible under my tops no matter what I do” and the consensus was that that happens and it’s NBD!

        1. Bast*

          I remember reading that same letter and thinking about what a different answer that LW received. Is it because this woman feels that she looks good instead of is embarrassed? Is it better if a woman feels shame and embarrassment instead of confidence even if the result is the same? Seems like society thinks so.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            No, it’s because there’s a big difference between seeing the outline of a bra versus wearing a see-through shirt.

              1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

                Can you say more about what you mean?

                I ask because to me it is a pretty stark difference if I can see your bra color through your shirt, versus just the outlines of the shape of your bra under your shirt. Some bras/body shapes are never going to be seamless and so you’re going to be able to tell the person is wearing one, which is fine, but I shouldn’t be able to tell the cup color color or design. I don’t want to see people’s underwear at work.

                But you may have meant something different so I’d like to give space for that.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  Silk and polyester crepes and crepes de chine come in a variety of weights and are pretty common for workwear blouses. What you can see through them won’t just depend on the weight of the crepe, but the cut, the fit, the colour, your skin tone, the colour of your underwear, the type of underwear, the colour of your underwear, how close it is to the colour of your skin, the price point of both the blouse and the underwear you can afford and so on. As I’ve said, I agree that the manager has the right to ask LW to wear something different, but I don’t think you can say from a simple description that these were ~~obviously~~ see-through in the wrong way and I don’t think opaque vs translucent is a binary!

              2. Ace in the Hole*

                The LW they’re referring to was pretty clear that she meant that the contours of her bra caused a physical ridge on her shirt that created a visible outline regardless of how opaque the shirt was. There’s a huge difference between “a visible ridge from the way my shirt lays over my bra” and “a shirt transparent enough to see the bra itself.”

                I think it’s unreasonable to expect to never see any sign someone is wearing underwear… but it’s totally reasonable to expect the underwear itself to be covered by opaque outer garments.

          2. bamcheeks*

            I think the actionable difference here is “my boss has asked me to wear a different blouse for work, are they allowed to do that” vs the previous letter, which was someone worrying about it on their own behalf. And I think “yes, your boss can say that” is an accurate answer. But yeah, my response would be more, “yes they can, office dress codes are often not fair or fairly applied, but that’s the way it is”.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              ok, what is unfair about “please stop wearing see-through clothing to work”?

              1. bamcheeks*

                She literally says her friends in another department are wearing the same tops with no problem. What’s unfair is that corporate wear for women is very very often obligatory-femme and the line between appropriately-figure-enhancing and too-sexy is drawn very narrowly and often in different places for women with different bodies, and women’s clothing is scrutinised way more than men’s.

                1. New Jack Karyn*

                  I could imagine the other department being run by a supervisor who hates confrontation, or by a man who wants to rein this in but fears being labeled creepy.

                2. Observer*

                  She literally says her friends in another department are wearing the same tops with no problem.

                  Which doesn’t mean it’s ok. It could mean that their bosses don’t care about being appropriately dressed. Or it could mean that her friends are either wearing those blouses under something else or with a camisole / tank top underneath. Either of which would create very different look.

                  All the rest of it is not really relevant. The OP is clear that these shirts *are* in fact see through, and that she is getting the effect she *wants*.

          3. Irish Teacher.*

            I think it’s more that there is a big difference between seeing the outline of a bra strap and seeing the whole bra because the top is see-through.

            I’d also see a difference between feeling one looks good and feeling sexy. I do take into account what bamcheeks said above about how the LW might mean they feel confident and like they look good but that wouldn’t have been my interpretation. I would have interpreted it as “I feel like it gets me a lot of attention from the gender I am attracted to.”

            I definitely don’t think anybody should feel shame about an occasional wardrobe malfunction, but I think there is a middle ground between “yeah, occasionally, people can see a bit more than I intended and that’s no big deal. These things happen. Nothing to worry about” and deliberately ensuring that underwear can be seen. So I think that is another difference. As well as the fact that a strap is not the same as the entire bra, there’s also a difference between something happening by accident and somebody intentionally doing it. Like if my skirt got caught in my underwear, I wouldn’t be ashamed, but if somebody deliberately tucked their skirt into their underwear and said doing so made them feel sexy, I’d think that kind of inappropriate for work. This isn’t quite the same, as doing that deliberately would be really bizarre, but still.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I think there’s a big difference at either end of the spectrum but it *is* a spectrum — crepe, crepe de chine and satin all come in a lot of different weights! — and there’s no way of knowing where on the spectrum LW’s blouses are.

              1. ecnaseener*

                A spectrum of opacity *exists,* but that doesn’t mean we can’t draw a line at professional = opaque or functionally opaque. “See-through” is far from opaque.

              2. Observer*

                and there’s no way of knowing where on the spectrum LW’s blouses are.

                Except that she is telling us. She says that you can see her bra. So, we know that, for whatever reason, these blouses are see through. And she likes it that way.

                That’s issue not the fact that it’s crepe, silk, silky polyester or any other general type of fabric.

            2. Happy meal with extra happy*

              @bamcheeks, but whether or not there is a spectrum of clothing sheerness, OP is admitting her shirts are see-through. You’re making an argument that has nothing to do with the letter.

              (Also, I totally get the frustration that some clothes are varying degrees of see-through and that it can change depending on the light and other factors, but I honestly still find it wild that your answer seems to be therefore that see-through shirts should be okay.)

          4. CommanderBanana*

            I feel like the general consensus on the Internet is if that if you are a woman and are doing anything you are doing it wrong.

            That being said, I’d advise the LW to invest in slips. I wear them under all my clothes and they are comfy, cut down on static cling, help protect your clothes, and smooth everything out. Plus you can take off your office clothes when you get home and swan around in your slip and pretend you are Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (that last part may just be me).

          5. Caliente Papillon*

            I love this comment- ever since I was a child I noticed this type of bs. Yes, no matter what you do/wear/say some jerk is going to say something about it and try to make you feel bad. Add more crap if you’re a black woman.

          6. Observer*

            Is it because this woman feels that she looks good instead of is embarrassed?

            No. It’s because woman one is describing work appropriate clothes that don’t quite meet her standards, and so Allison and everyone else says NBD. This OP, on the other hand it talking about (in her description) see through blouses where you can see her bra (not just the outline) (that are intended to make her feel sexy.) That’s really different.

        2. Random Dice*

          No you missed the point – the NBD bra letter was that the existence of her bra was visible under opaque clothes. Not that her shirt was sheer or translucent enough to see the actual bra, visually, like this LW. Women do get to have breasts at work, and allowed to wear underwear… but nobody should have enough data to have an opinion on the appearance of their underwear.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        re: sexy men’s clothing

        I’m old enough to remember men leaving shirts unbuttoned to show chest hair. And after that there wasthe trend of low-ride pants with high-ride underwear.

        No that wouldn’t have shown up in a suit&tie office, but not all people who write in are in the same roles.

        My Fortune 100 company had issues in the low-pants era. We had product development, testing, and manufacturing in one building. Our dress code covered distinctly different levels of dress. Office staff had to understand&follow shop safety rules when crossing into the factory — safety equipment, no loose scarves, long hair secured, etc.

        But that “no visible underwear” rule proved versatile. It was expanded slightly to address plumber’s butt episodes.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      The letter specifically says “My manager is asking me to stop wearing see-through blouses.” The LW does not at any point go on to clarify that they aren’t actually see-through. Therefore, if we are to take letter writers at their word, SHE IS WEARING SEE-THROUGH BLOUSES TO WORK. This isn’t sexist, this is DON’T WEAR SEE-THROUGH BLOUSES TO WORK.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      There was the clerk sent home from JC Penney(?) for wearing a shorts suit. That she had purchased the shorts suit in their businesswear-for-women section didn’t make it acceptable for work, even inside that store.

      (I think the specific OP needs to adjust her clothing style in what she would view as a more boring direction. But on a broad societal level really feel Bamcheeks’ riff on the Barbie movie.)

    4. Spicy Tuna*

      I once had a male boss with a lot of body hair. HR asked that he start wearing undershirts or thicker shirts because you could see his hair through the fabric and the chest hair was spilling out over the top buttons. We were in a conservative industry.

    5. MassMatt*

      I wrote this upthread, but this is a red herring. Years ago there was a major trend in hip hop fashion for guys to wear their pants low, held by a belt, with several inches of underwear showing. People probably think this is/was “gangsta” and not about the men being sexual objects, but they would be wrong. The trend arose from ill-fitting clothes in jails and prisons, but the low rider look in particular was adopted by inmates looking for boyfriends. Interesting bit of cultural trivia given the rampant homophobia in most hip hop at the time.

      IMO there’s really no need to parse this closely, “no visible underwear at work” is a very low bar.

        1. Broadway Duchess*

          And I thought the whole sagging-coming-from-inmates-as-advertising was fairly well-known! So much of what eventually becomes popular comes from poor/disenfranchised people making do with what they have. By the time it hits mainstream (i.e. white) audiences, the original thing no longer seems to exist.

          1. bamcheeks*

            And the version I heard was that it’s because belts get confiscated in prison because they can be used as weapons or tourniquets. I think quite a lot of these things are folk etymologies!

      1. Observer*

        People probably think this is/was “gangsta” and not about the men being sexual objects, but they would be wrong.

        That’s an interesting bit of trivia, but I don’t think it matters. I mean is *either* one OK at work? Even is a fairly *casual* place.

    6. Saturday*

      I don’t think this is about what the person looking at her chooses to see – she’s wearing a see-through shirt, so there’s not much choice for the viewer. They are probably professional shirts that are designed to be worn with something underneath.

    7. fhqwhgads*

      “Undergarments should not be visible” is a pretty standard office dress policy for all genders. An occasional “oops you moved in a way the strap is slightly visible” is different than sheer shirt, which is what the letter describes. So, while I agree with you that policing what women wear is rubbish, the description in the letter is pretty clearly about something most reasonable people would find on the wrong side of work wear. I get the impression a man wearing an equally sheer shirt would be expected to wear an undershirt/a-shirt as the OP is expected to wear an undershirt/camisole.

  10. Annabelle*

    Depending on what kind of a mood I’m in, I may be that jerk who, while standing right in front of the coworker’s phone, exclaims, “what the REDACTED REDACT, Jane, are you still recording and filming everything at work for your husband??? Christ, that’s weird! I thought we all asked you to stop?!???”
    (And while the boss is next to me too).

    (Yes I know the coworker may be dealing with a bad situation at home. But there is so much about this scenario that is not okay and again: if it’s one of those days where I’ve just had Enough, I may just have to take some drastic measures already).

    1. Rainy*

      If I knew that someone was broadcasting every conversation I had with them to their weird husband I would stop having conversations at their desk and would specifically tell them to put the phone in a drawer while I was speaking with them.

      Yuck. So gross and intrusive. Does the coworker have a bad situation at home? I have no idea, but it’s not an excuse for you to put me in a bad situation at work, so get it the fluff together.

  11. Out&About*

    #2 in my early 20s I wore see through tops to a business casual office. The tops usually buttoned up above the collarbone and I would wear a cardigan or open long sweater. I wore bralettes before they were super popular and the ones I wore were functional and covering so I never got complaints in my office that was 90% age 50+. Funny thing is the only time I ever had a dress complaint issue was in an opaque black scoop neck blouse with a normal bra, because my natural cleavage was noticable for once (it was not obscene by any means). Anyways my point is different offices and geographic regions will have different definitions of professional and will draw the line in different ways.

  12. Donn*

    LW2: In 2022 someone wrote to Alison about wearing crop tops to work. I didn’t get to post this then, but that day at lunch I saw a woman in a silky crop top that the wind caught and exposed the bottom half of her bra. I don’t think she realized it.

    I wondered what if she had to raise her arm to reach a high shelf, or point to a screen during a presentation.

    1. Rainy*

      My office has hired a few people in their 20s and they wear stuff to work that I would never in a million years think was work appropriate, but I’m almost 50 and the times move, with or without me. It doesn’t hurt anything (and may well help a lot of things, in time), to let the young people do their thing.

      I expect there’s not a lot of wind in the office, and there’s a big difference between, e.g., having the wind catch a garment and fling it up around your neck and having normal body movement make the hem move a few inches.

      1. Observer*

        I expect there’s not a lot of wind in the office, and there’s a big difference between, e.g., having the wind catch a garment and fling it up around your neck and having normal body movement make the hem move a few inches.

        Yeah. I would personally try to wear clothes where such mishaps are less possible. But I’m not going to look at someone who has such a thing happen in any negative way. Life happens!

        1. Rainy*

          Yup–I don’t think anybody dresses for the day thinking “I’d like to have a wardrobe malfunction!”

          My husband had a pair of pants rip out in the middle of the day, basically the entire back half split like chaps. He stapled them together hurriedly in the washroom and carried on, because what else are you going to do? A coworker and I were walking back to our building from a meeting across campus once, and even though her dress was actually made of heavier fabric than my skirt, she was on the windward side and the same gust of wind flung her dress up around her waist for a second and just plastered my skirt to my knees.

    2. Manders*

      I recently saw a coworker in a tube top at work. We are in a lab environment and she wasn’t wearing a lab coat at the time, so I think OSHA might have something to say about that? But also… tube top.

  13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (same answers in multiple interviews) – as the interviewer I’ve discussed specific answers with other interviewers. Of course I don’t go line by line through everything that was said, but I might say something like “I thought it was a plus that she’d been exposed to situation x as well because a lot of people haven’t at her level, only when they get to senior level. She told me about a project where she had to…”

    Repeating some of the same answers is fine if they’re relevant, but I would also mix it up. If I said something like the above to other interviewers and they each said “Oh, yeah, she mentioned that in my interview with her as well” I’d be starting to think “does she have other experiences??”.

  14. Mephyle*

    #3: When this letter first appeared, someone made a comment about the meeting intruder not picking up on normal social cues.
    My reaction was: “With the physical layout at play here, I’m not sure the normal social cues are in place.
    “It could be that the person has never been made aware that these are closed meetings, and if not, how would she know, given that they are being held in a location that is not only public and open to all employees but also essential for them to pass through?”

    Now I would add that someone should simply say, “I’m sorry, we’re having a closed meeting here.” They might add, “I know it’s awkward that he have to have it in this location, sorry we were in your way,” or something along those lines.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      “given that they are being held in a location that is not only public and open to all employees but also essential for them to pass through?”

      I do agree the way it it worded is a little confusing and not fully clear.

      “the front conference room, where most meetings are held, is the only way to exit the office. So, people occasionally will walk past a meeting taking place to exit the office. That is fine.”

      I take the walk past as people will see the meeting happening off on the side in a different room. The layout of a previous office of mine was that the conference room was off the hallway to the only exit, people had to pass by the conference room to leave.

      Depending on the meeting sometimes it would be held with doors open (it got stuffy in the room) or the doors closed. But the doors were glass so you could still see and usually hear what was being said.

      But even if the conference room was one big open room, I think normal social cues would still be in play. You don’t just join a meeting/gathering held in public unless something explicit says you can.

    2. zaracat*

      People can get really weird about defining privacy in shared or public spaces. I’ve encountered almost the opposite situation to LW3, of being accused of “secrecy” and “excluding people” after having an impromptu round table discussion in full view and hearing of everyone in a shared room full of people, because I didn’t make a big announcement of what we were talking about and that anyone could join in.

  15. Punchy on Boxing Day*

    I am just trying to imagine the conversation that had the couple come up with videochatting all day long.

    So controlling, just don’t know by whom.

  16. Mmm.*

    The blouse one just sends me! Those are supposed to be worn with a cami underneath and often come with them. While I genuinely hate dress codes, this is totally reasonable.

  17. Ms. Murchison*

    I wish we’d gotten an update from LW#1. As was speculated at the time, this could have been a controlling spouse or some kind of confidential information gathering scam, and either of those situations would have made it dangerous for the LW to approach their coworker while the husband is observing. I hope they ignored that bit and went straight to their manager, but I’m worried about their judgment if, as it sounds, they continued discussing confidential information with this woman while they knew her husband was listening and watching.

  18. Critical Rolls*

    I feel like #4 is not great interviewing, precisely because it puts the candidate in this dilemma. Minimizing redundancy in the hiring process is good for both interviewers and candidates, but if it’s hard to avoid, as in the case of multiple groups of interviewers who need some overlapping information and won’t be sharing what they learned with the next group, it would be kind and useful to say “We aren’t expecting a completely new answer if we repeat a question across panels.”

    #2 While I don’t love the “distracting my coworkers” phrase, the way things are done elsewhere in the company aren’t going to make a difference in this case. In your department, your manager has told you your clothing does not meet professional standards due to tightness and transparency. Unless your manager is being inconsistent *within* the department, or is substantially, wildly out of touch with the rest of the company (like, adding rules that seriously depart from existing policy), this is something the manager can use their judgment to decide.

    1. Observer*

      Unless your manager is being inconsistent *within* the department, or is substantially, wildly out of touch with the rest of the company (like, adding rules that seriously depart from existing policy), this is something the manager can use their judgment to decide.

      I think that this is a really important point.

    2. Overbeast*

      Good point-why would candidates need to go through multiple interviews where they answer the same questions repeatedly? I’ve never been through that, although maybe I’m just not high level enough to warrant that level of scrutiny.

  19. MillenialHR*

    #1 – I hope your coworker finds support if she is in a bad situation and I so appreciate the comments that most people have expressed similar thoughts! That was my thought – that her husband wanted to see who she was talking to all day, possibly make sure there weren’t any men, etc. I would just speak to her manager and express those concerns as well, because it may be something they’ve not thought of either.

    #2 – I think that it is great that she feels good at work and good about herself! I do think there may be factors we don’t know – is she at a front desk and more visible than her friends at work? Do her friends at work have sweaters at their desk that they put on regularly? What is the industry and what are standard norms? Personally, I would be pretty surprised to see someone’s bra under their shirt at work and, I hate to say it, but their professionalism could be called into question (I’m not saying that’s right, but it is important to note that we have these ‘normalizations’). Best to just listen to your manager (maybe they heard it from upper management who came in and saw the bra) and wear a shirt underneath.

  20. TexasLisa*

    LW#4 – I have performed about 50 hiring interviews for my current company (starts with an A and ends with –ZON), and they absolutely **will** downgrade candidates who repeat stories or examples (“Tell me about a time when you…”) Because each interviewer takes a different “principle,” and candidates are not told which principles they will be asked about, the candidates are expected to have unique illustrations for each principle. Repeating an example ONCE is considered marginally allowable, if the candidate acknowledges the repeat, but repeating similar examples for all 4-5 interviews is considered a red flag. (I don’t AGREE with my company’s stance on this. I personally find the company’s expectations to be onerous as well as easily gamed by glib tale-spinners. Also, I have made requests to HR that we should at least *warn* candidates that repeating examples is frowned upon.) But, I did want to point this out – some companies don’t like candidates to repeat illustrations or examples.

    1. Very Busy And Important*

      I interviewed with your organization, and I’m happy to say the recruiter did warn me explicitly not to repeat examples. I ended up pulling out of the process because of the number of interviews, but that’s another story.

  21. Raruuu*

    I haven’t read the comment thread yet but the husband on video chat all day is a huge red flag to me.

    Years ago, before Facetime and other video chatting apps were ubiquitous, my abuser would punish me if I didn’t maintain contact with him via Yahoo chat or email all day while he was at work, and he would sit at my job all night while I was at work, until I ended up quitting my job due to stress.

    I am hoping this is not the case for your coworker.

  22. OMG, Bees!*

    This probably isnt the post for it, but I would like to see a future post recovering past questions (8+ years ago) and how any advice would change for now times. I’ve noticed a few changes (I think regarding how much bras are even required or views on remote work now since Covid) and what 2024 Alison would say to a 2014 question

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