do I need to ensure my nipples are never visible through my work clothes?

A reader writes:

I am a mid-40’s woman working in an office setting at a university and would describe our dress code as office casual.

I don’t dress in a manner that might be considered revealing or sexy, but have protruding nipples which are visible through my shirt regardless of whether it is cold or not. Thick fabrics do not disguise this; there is always a little bump. I would have to wear thickly padded bras to cover it up, or nipple covers. Both of those options are uncomfortable. I prefer something more akin to a sports bra as I have large breasts, and even if I wear an underwire bra I do not want it to be padded as it would likely make my breasts appear enormous. Additionally, I get warm very easily, so I’m not wearing bulky clothes, large sweaters, or blazers most of the time. Basically, I am dressed professionally, and maybe a little frumpily, with no cleavage out. Still my nipples are sometimes obvious if you look at my chest. Do I have to cover them up? It feels to me like it would be borderline body shaming to be asked to do so since this is just how I am built.

No, you don’t have to cover them up. If you’re comfortable, you’re fine.

Realistically, might there be people who have Thoughts about your nipples making their existence known through your clothing? Yes. That doesn’t make it unprofessional for you to possess them, or for you to decline to wear extra layers solely to hide them. (And really, there are people who will have Thoughts about women’s bodies no matter what you are wearing.)

Because we live in the world we live in, I do need to say that it’s possible that some of those people will think you are being less polished or less professional than they believe you should be. How much that matters will depend on your industry, the nature of your job, how much power those people have over your career, and how much you care about what they think. There are fields and jobs and people where their opinions wouldn’t matter at all; there are others where they could. (Fewer of the latter than the former, and increasingly shrinking, but they exist.)

As with so much about women’s appearances, it’s a calculation you’ve got to make about how much those attitudes are prevalent in your particular context and how much you care.

{ 366 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all: The letter-writer has stated below that she is NOT looking for suggestions of other things she can try. Please stop making them! The only question she was looking for input on is the one above. Thank you.

  2. Sloanicota*

    I think it’s okay to own this. But if there’s specific circumstances where you feel uncomfortable, a light scarf can be a good option; I do vests and shawls in the winter too. You can throw them on just for that one external meeting that might feel uncomfortable otherwise, but continue existing in your body the rest of the day. People may just have to get over it.

    1. Emmy*

      You can even get some very light-weight vests that are purely decorative. Or perhaps – if you want to – experiment with drawing attention to your face/head with big/colorful jewelry/headbands/scarfes.

    2. Smithy*

      Truly three cheers to finding a way to own this – as well as being mindful of if there’s a situation where you’d feel more comfortable being more covered or not.

      I’ve had a few professional moments where there was a conference in a hotel resort that had a pool or beach. And the option to be in a swimsuit around colleagues when you’re normally not swimsuit colleagues (aka lifeguards), is one where there’s no perfect answer but your comfort level.

      Sometimes I’ve opted to not swim/be in a swimsuit and sometimes I have. But I think being able to acknowledge it personally and how I feel has made me feel more assured in my choices and less focused on appropriate vs inappropriate swimsuit for work.

      1. Lydia*

        This is such a great approach and I appreciate you talking about it. Not all levels of comfort will be the same in all situations, and what a person wants to do on one day might be different on another. How someone feels at the time is really the only gauge and it’s okay if it changes daily.

        1. Smithy*

          Absolutely. And having the confidence in when you are or are not comfortable, and then can the options to act a certain way is as important as external sources giving you permission.

          In reflection, the times I’ve felt good (or at least ok) being in a swimsuit at a work thing has usually been when the swimming option was later in the session. Some additional trust and collegiality had been built, but also confidence in myself that my coworkers had seen me the ways I wanted….vs in my swimsuit. But none of that is a hard rule.

          Personally being aware of that has made me figure out how can I participate in as many work related activities as possible as comfortably as possible. So if there were a poolside activity where I didn’t want to be in a swimsuit – still having casual/poolside clothing so I didn’t feel my other options were to be at the pool in business formal, pj’s, or not go at all.

    3. My Boss Steals My Work*

      Light scarf was also what I would suggest. My nipples show through everything, too. I just own it.

    4. Anonym*

      Patterned tops, especially high contrast with medium pattern size, can help make them less noticeable, too.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Came here to say this! I am relatively small-chested (although not tiny) and can get away with wearing the kind of camisole that has a shelf bra, with a loose patterned blouse over it. Those camisoles have no nip protection beyond the two thin layers of fabric, but I’ve never felt self-conscious because the patterns hide any lumps and bumps.

    5. Autumn*

      I was coming to suggest scarves, possibly several, kept in your office to use when something feels uncomfortable. Not to be worn all the time, just when something made you self conscious.

  3. BellaStella*

    OP I do not have this same issue but after my breast cancer surgery and treatments I only wear tank tops with a small part shelf bra under all of my clothes. What works for me on some days is to wear a light fabric long scarf wrapped and draped in my front. No one notices I am not wearing a bra ever and it has been four years. Would a scarf work to make it better for you? Like it is noted you are fine in any case but if you wanted to try this maybe it would help? Am not sure.

  4. PB Bunny Watson*

    I worried about this myself (still do from time to time), but… I started realizing that I could see the nipples of my male colleagues/supervisors through their shirts. I never noticed before because… well, it’s really ridiculous to! But somehow, I felt it was different because I’m a woman? I still get self-conscious, but I’ve realized that people might look because they can’t help it… and that’s a them problem more than a me problem.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I appreciate how the history of blog posts here shows a progression of thought over time, just like there was a progression in asking about salary up front, dressing in a suit for interviews, or how fired up Alison is about employee’s rights :D

      1. PurplePeopleEater*

        Same! And on this very topic, I’ve gotten way better at letting go of worry about “showing” over time.

        Some of it is cyclical fashion, too. The trend of foam cups in very hemispherical shapes of the first couple of decades of the millennium has transitioned to more soft cups, bralettes and bra-lessness, often inspired by silhouettes of the ’70s and ’80s.

      2. PaulaMomOfTwo*

        This topic is interesting because it really didn’t use to be as big of a deal. But once foam cups were invented, the culture started to change where it was more of a noticeable thing. I have the posters issues, and it didn’t bother me at all in the 80s/90s. But after the change, it did start to weigh on me.

        Given I’m uneven, foam cups are not right (and also, agree with poster make me look bigger and sweatier). At work I stick with patterned tops 90% of the time, and the rest I might use a swimsuit insert on my regular bra or it might be a day where I’m feeling confident and not self conscious and I do nothing.

        But, this was not a thing folks worried about when bras didn’t have foam. There was no choice then, though I did hear some folks would apply bandaids (ouch!). They were more worried about wearing heals/pantyhose back then.

    2. Bruce*

      As a guy I was going to say something about this… sometimes our nipples show too! Usually it is ignored, sometimes mocked, I’ve never heard of it being policed. For the LW it sounds like there are some options if they think it will be a particular issue, but I hope that most of the time they can just dress the way they feel comfortable and not have to worry about it. (I personally wear a vest most of the time, my substitute for a purse!)

      1. Never mind who I am*

        I’m a guy, and I usually wear a polo shirt to work–I gave up wearing undershirts around the same day I gave up wearing ties. Yes, my nipples sometimes show, but I’ve never heard any comments about men’s nipples at work. We have them. You can get a much clearer view at the beach, pool, hiking/running trail, etc. I’ve even changed my shirt in the parking lot and nobody has fainted yet.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Male here; I have noticed this about myself recently – specifically with the microfiber polo shirts that are more common. And yes, I do get self-conscious about it. I’ve decided whether to wear one of those or not depending on whether I’ll be in client meetings.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Some men wear a t-shirt underneath. You could try that.
        For both you and OP: It’s never worth it to wear something that makes you self-conscious. You don’t have to wear things just because they’re trendy. You can stick with cotton polos-stores like LL Bean probably have them, or even buy them in vintage stores if necessary.

        1. Casual Fribsday*

          I really disagree with this. If the choice is between something that makes you physically uncomfortable and something that makes you emotionally uncomfortable (i.e. self-conscious), it can be the right choice to wear the latter, especially if you wish your emotional response was different. I’ve started occasionally venturing out on the weekends braless; I am always self-conscious, but it’s getting easier, which is exactly what I hoped would happen.

    4. Hamster Manager*

      Yep, sooooo many men in golf shirts with their highbeams on not thinking about it at all.

      I don’t think OP can be that blasé about it unfortunately (because sexism) but if they’re thinking about this a lot, I like the suggestions above about ruffles or lightweight scarves to camouflage.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Golf shirts are super popular in my industry and I’ve been aware of how…. indiscrete they are about highbeams a long time ago. Thus I get super eye rolly about any judgement of what shows through women’s shirts.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Looking at the nipples of men is absolutely a cure for the self conscious. I don’t even mean at work, most men on TV have visible nipples when in work shirts. It’s been a long time since men specifically wore undershirts to cover up nippleage, and I think it’s time we women followed suit and were less hung up about them. People really shouldn’t be assessing the lines of your body anyway. If they’re covered, they’re not on show!

      1. PaulaMomOfTwo*

        They wore undershirts to cut down on wear/tear of the work shirt, not to cover anything up.

    6. Lucy P*

      Never thought about this until one day I got really cold and it was obvious. Now, I see that men’s fashion is changing. Whatever fabrics they’re using now makes men’s nipples more obvious. I see it in my hubby’s casual wear and in those shirts the football coaches are wearing now. If it’s ok for them, it should be ok for us to.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, I also tend to go with that standard for myself- if it’s professional for a man, it’s professional for a woman. We politely ignore men’s nipples, so I expect that we will also politely ignore women’s.

        But reality is that it depends on your workplace. Some are more egalitarian than others. If your workplace tends to have double standards, decide if the cost is worth it to you. Hopefully your workplace is one where you can ignore it and use your brain power on something else!

    7. sequitur*

      A UK magazine once printed cut-and-stick “socially acceptable male nipples” that women could use to cover up their supposedly obscene female nipples, which I thought was a very effective way of landing the absurdity surrounding society’s classification of whose nipples are acceptable.

      1. stratospherica*

        Just a couple days ago I read a Tumblr post where someone recalled watching a show about cosmetic surgery, and a transgender woman was on there getting (among other surgeries) a breast augmentation. The nipple was uncensored until the moment the implant was added, and then it was blurred. The same nipple, with no cuts in the scene, but the very second that there’s mass around it (structured in a way that looks “female” rather than “male but with fat deposits” I guess), it’s unacceptable. I wonder if anyone in the editing room realised how ridiculous it was when they were adding the censor.

    8. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      I’ve also worried about this for myself…but while reading the letter, I realized that I have no idea if I’ve ever noticed any of my colleagues’ (of any gender) nipples? Maybe this is just another one of those things where we’re all too worried about our own nips to notice anyone elses’.

    9. Princess Sparklepony*

      I was also thinking – men have nipples and they sometimes show…

      So my thought is do what makes you comfortable and realize that everyone has nipples.

      Although I have been known to wear nipple covers for certain shirts because too much color shows through. Including the mole next to my nipple, but that’s a personal thing not something I’d recommend to someone who isn’t bothered by it.

  5. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    I appreciate this question. Nipples basically have minds of their own and we all have them. Mine sometimes like to make themselves known and I just accept it as part of life.

    1. many bells down*

      Some people just have… rambunctious nipples. My daughter is barely an A cup on a good day and yet they’re determined to show through anything.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        That’s totally how I feel. I’m somewhere between a B and a C but sometimes the girls just act TF up. I have found that Target has some bralettes that are super comfortable with heavier fabric and padding that I’ve never had a problem with. I know they won’t work for all chest sizes but I’m pretty happy with them.

      2. stratospherica*

        Hah, I can definitely empathise. I’m pretty deep into the smaller end of the spectrum, but a lot of the time my body is like “hey btw you’re still a mammal, you know!!”

    2. Ally McBeal*

      This is how I feel about VPL. Pretty much everyone wears underwear, there’s no point being embarrassed about the outline of mine being visible from time to time.

    3. SarahKay*

      Same here. My nipples do their own thing, and on some days that thing is ‘perky’.
      Like OP, I don’t find the foam/padded bras comfortable, so I’ve just made my peace with the fact that some days will be perky days.

  6. Baba Yaga*

    Male coworkers have nipples and those are visible through their clothing occasionally. We’re mammals, we have nipples. I got spoken to about my breasts before my reduction and I showed my boss how expensive my bras and binders were and asked when the company would be providing me with a stipend if I was expected to wear them for every shift. The conversation was dropped like a hot rock.

      1. juliebulie*

        I had a similar experience. My boss was a woman. She said that “some of the men had commented.” I was skeptical about that. She was an inveterate liar and made similar comments to all the women who worked for her (she didn’t think we’d compare notes, I guess). But I started wearing a lightly lined bra after that, because in addition to hiding the nips, it kept them warmer.

        1. Rainy*

          I did as well, also with a female boss. I was in my early 20s and going through some really awful breast pain (I absolutely could not wear a bra at all for a while, and also couldn’t wear the shoulder strap of a seat belt), and my boss reprimanded me and then offered to take me out and buy me bras. I felt really weird and awkward that she was scrutinizing my body like that, but nobody I sought advice from thought it was inappropriate because she wasn’t a man, even though the taking me out and buying me bras thing felt really…sus.

          1. Admin 22*

            There was a letter posted a few years back about a female manager buying undergarments for her female employees.

          2. Chirpy*

            Ugh, that’s annoying.

            I’d almost be half tempted to take her up on her offer, though. Let her see how truly miserable bra shopping is for me, and how expensive. (I live in a decently sized city and I still have to buy bras online because I have large breasts but a small ribcage, and absolutely no one stocks my size in-store.)

            1. Another Use of the Identify Spell*

              Sister! Apparently I have the ribcage of a 14 year old, because everything in my band size is clearly designed to appeal to teens. I finally gave up on the number/letter size shenanigans and tried some “one size fits many” ones. Even those size charts don’t handle us well, but I’ve found Coobie works for me. Their padding is always removable and some styles let you switch the straps to crossback. I won’t be gauche and post my referral link but once you’re a customer you have one so you’re rewarded for recruiting.

              1. Chirpy*

                I’ll have to take a look. Everything in my cup size seems to be designed for “fat old cow” , even way back in high school when I still fit into a DD. I just want one cute bra that fits and doesn’t cost $100, ugh.

          3. Lydia*

            That…is not okay. It’s weird and creepy and an overstep by about a million miles, as well as sexual harassment. Just…gross.

            A woman I used to work with was told by our boss (a woman) that the dress she was wearing wasn’t appropriate “for her body type”. She was a little heavier and the cut of the dress gave her more cleavage than we normally saw her wear, but it was in no way inappropriate. It made me so mad that our boss did that. I know it really wrecked my coworker’s confidence.

      2. Managing While Female*

        Honestly, I’ve found it truly bananas that people can’t get over the fact that some people have breasts. People always seem to have Thoughts that boil down to ‘how dare I be reminded that breasts exist?’ Examples like — ‘that’s too much cleavage’, ‘I can see your nipples through your shirt’, ‘how dare you breastfeed your baby IN THE PUBLIC’, ‘surely if someone has LARGE breasts they must be a certain way – wink wink’, ‘well SHE’S not wearing a bra – look at those bounce around!’, etc. etc. etc.

        My relatively large breasts especially has definitely led to really self-conscious feelings, but especially as I’ve gotten older I’ve thought “Why should other people feel entitled to be this opinionated about MY BODY???? They’re just breasts?!?!?!?”

        1. ferrina*

          Totally agree. My mother taught me any hint of a breast was bad, but she also considered herself a feminist. It was very confusing. She was definitely in the camp of “any hint of a breast is inherently sexual.” Which might have worked for her- her body type was such that she could easily hide her breasts- but my body is very curvy. There was no way my breasts were going to disappear. My mother was very confused as to what to do with me.

          After a few decades (and a few hundred miles away from my mother) I realized that some people were going to judge my body no matter what, and so I stopped trying to make those people happy. They’re trying to fix something that’s not broken so that they don’t have to blame their weird thought process. I don’t need their drama, and I will happily return to sender (“um, why are you looking at my body like that?”)

        2. djx*

          I’m a straight guy and doubt I’ll ever “get over it” – erect nipples remind of me sex. Some women’s bare arms can remind me of sex. Their hair can remind me of sex.

          These are my thoughts, and they’re fairly normal.

          But that’s a me problem, not a women’s problem. It’s my responsibility to hide these thoughts in public in general, and particularly in work/school/professional settings.

          1. Moira's Rose's Garden*

            Just as an offer, they are normal in a culture that sends constant messages which frame women as sex objects & objectifies body parts on women.

            It’s entirely possible with education and effort to de-program yourself from that, and change your baseline for normal thoughts in this regard.

            1. djx*

              Women sometimes (not constantly) making me think of sex does not seem to be something I should be “deprogrammed” from or view myself as abnormal. People have sexual relations. Some of us thing about sex and even daydream about it. It’s a thing.

              1. Hroethvitnir*

                I get why Moira responded how she did, because women really are sexualised (as objects) in ridiculous ways – as demonstrated by this very letter.

                But I appreciate your take and strongly agree that a spectrum of how easily you think of someone sexually/how much you think of sex is normal and natural.

                The concept that experiencing sexual attraction to women is inherently predatory is incredibly toxic and benefits nobody.

                1. Definitely anon for this*

                  I agree completely with this and with djx. I also can promise that I notice nipples et al whenever they’re visible, and there’s nothing I can or should do about that, but it is my bounden duty to govern how I behave in word, action, and eye direction to avoid focusing LW’s or anyone else’s attention on their own bodies. In a work environment, it’s easier, anyway, since there’s always the distraction of information that needs to be conveyed or acquired at speed, then I can depart to act on it.

                  We all have bodies and most of us have fundamental drives and attractions, but we can also be professional and treat our colleagues with respect.

      3. Medium Sized Manager*

        Not the original poster, but I did have a woman approach me privately because my breasts were the topic of conversation after a meeting and *other people (men)* were discussing it. I was wearing a tank top and you could easily tell that I am blessed in that department. Thankfully, the VP of my department (and interim manager) was in the meeting and backed me up in saying that I was perfectly appropriate. She had a nice discussion with said woman about knowing her role and how inappropriate it was to even bring that to me.

        I still go back and forth on whether I should have reported it to HR, but I think that’s more of a bruised ego since it has been over a year with no follow-up incidents. S/O to this column because even through my initial embarrassment, I felt pretty confident in not doing anything wrong.

        1. OP*

          OP here – this is it on the nose. I want people to notice my work and not my body. I’m also a little clueless sometimes though and it helps to have honest convos about what people are experiencing out there in the working world.

          1. Medium Sized Manager*

            I have made an effort to wear shirts that don’t hint at my cleavage. In part because I was uncomfortable that it was ever up for discussion (I already didn’t like the man who brought it up) and in part because I want to get ahead of any misguided concerns about my professionalism. It’s incredibly stupid that we have to, but it’s a choice I am willing to make for my career goals.

            I’m sorry you are dealing with the same thing.

        2. djx*

          “breasts were the topic of conversation after a meeting and *other people (men)* were discussing it.”

          FXck those guys. Really – what is wrong with them. I can see unintentionally thinking about a woman’s body, but talking about a colleague that way – no no no NO!

          1. Definitely anon for this*

            Yes! It betrays a total lack of respect for their colleagues as people and professionals. It is disgraceful and wholly unprofessional behavior.

      4. Baba Yaga*

        I’m 5’9 and was a 33 J cup. Apparently fat distribution at puberty makes you “unprofessional.” This was in the early aughts and in a MEDICAL office, which is baffling.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Men’s nipples are often visible in the polo/golf shirts that are standard “business casual”. Plus other body parts can be visible, like those infamous photos of John Hamm in khakis.

      1. 34avemovieguy*

        one thing i will say is that overweight men’s chests are scrutinized and mocked. people let it slide if you look like jon hamm.

        1. RVA Cat*

          “Notorious” was probably better. The only negative is that he’s apparently sick of talking about it in interviews.

      2. kupo*

        The head of HR at a previous workplace wore bicycle shorts when arriving most days which showed obvious bulge (and probably left very little to the imagination based on the material but I never looked long enough to know). It’s fine, people have bodies, he wasn’t wearing his commute clothes AT us. Everything that should be covered was covered.

      3. JustaTech*

        I once had a boss who (sometimes) dressed very fashionably, but not at all conservatively. One day in a meeting I noticed that his white linen shirt had a really interesting set of patterns. Only after looking slightly more carefully did I realize that the “pattern” was his shoulder tattoo and chest hair.
        That was the last day I looked closely at my coworkers’ clothing without their specific request.

        (I don’t think he knew how transparent his shirt was that day, but he never wore it again, so I guess he noticed eventually.)

    2. Dr. Doll*

      What. “Spoken to” about your breasts, like it was optional to put them on that day and they violated the dress code.

        1. smirkette*

          Being very blessed with extensive boobage, I have often wished I could take them off and stick ’em in the medicine cabinet sometimes, particularly in the summer.

    3. Reebee*

      “Male coworkers have nipples and those are visible through their clothing occasionally.”

      That. That right there. Nipples are nipples, and if one person has to hide them, everyone does, no matter sex or gender. Otherwise, no one does.

      1. ferrina*

        I once found a comfortable $15 bra at Target. My jaw literally dropped and I think I stared at it for a full minute- an affordable, comfortable bra? I would have been less shocked to see a unicorn.

    4. Emily of New Moon*

      Men usually wear t-shirts under their work shirts, so you can’t see their nipples. Plus, their nipples are smaller than women’s.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        No, no, no. I’ve never worn a t-shirt under a work shirt. Also, saying that men’s nipples are smaller than women’s implies that you’ve seen the nipples of every single adult in the world, which I don’t think is possible at this point. Some men have huge nipples, and some women have small nipples.

        tl;dr: nipples gonna nipple. Control yourself.

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      Yes!! I wish society didn’t sexualize women’s breasts. I guess I can only dream…

  7. OrigCassandra*

    Speaking from academia… meh, you’re fine, probably no one cares.

    Possible palliative if there are days when you want one: lace or openwork (“mesh” or “net” seems to find me things on Etsy) shrugs/dusters/cardigans. These are a business-casual cheat code if there’s ever been one — toss one on over a light dress or even t-shirt/jeans, look infinitely more put together immediately. And the pattern visually fuzzes whatever’s underneath it.

    Maybe keep one in a neutral color in your office, if you like.

    1. many bells down*

      Those chiffon “kimono” jackets were my go-to when we were all WFH and my house didn’t have air conditioning. Tank top all day, throw the shrug-thing over the top before logging into a Zoom.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      My favorite moment from my days in academia – I had organized a photoshoot for faculty to update their headshots. A professor in her 60s made a beeline to the check-in table and asked me “where does the photo cut off?” I told her “generally mid-torso, but we can crop it however you prefer.” She replies, “good – I’m not wearing a bra, and I have one in my purse but I really don’t want to put it on” and moves over to the makeup table for a touchup. This was at a women’s college and it just tickled me pink – she was a bit heavyset so I imagine she would’ve gotten comments about “unprofessionalism” outside of the ivory tower (compared to thin women whose “need” for a bra is less obvious), but in academia and especially at a women’s college it was just fine. That job also helped me stop sucking in my stomach at all times and to wear heels less often… in general caring less about the male gaze… always a good thing.

  8. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

    Hmm. I personally would feel uncomfortable, but I don’t really think there’s anything to do about it. If I were working with you, I’d prefer if you put nipple covers on, but you said that makes you uncomfortable, so we’re back to square one.
    And I don’t think it’s just an issue for women. I get uncomfortable when I see a guy’s nipple through his shirt.

    1. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

      I dunno if it would help, but you might see a medical professional. They might be able to give you good product recommendations, or maybe discover if there is an underlying problem.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Sometimes they’re just shaped a certain way where this is more likely. I don’t think it’s really a medical problem TBH. Plus, offices are often chilly (to women, at least).

      2. Alphabet Soup*

        I actually think you might benefit from seeing a medical professional based on how uncomfortable nipples make you.

        1. Ginger Cat Lady*

          I agree. Semi-accomplished Baker needs to deal with her own discomfort, not tell someone else to go seek treatment!

        2. Dark Macadamia*

          I literally thought their comment was someone else being snarky like this in response to the first one before I saw the name lol

      3. Alice Simpson*

        An underlying medical problem of having nipples?

        I believe not having nipples would be a medical condition.

        Or an underlying medical condition that means you can’t stop looking at your coworker’s chests? If the latter, a medical professional might be able to help?

      4. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

        I meant OP not Emotional support capybara! That sounded really rude!

      5. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

        To everyone who’s replied: I did not meant to offend OP. Her nipples are not the problem. I can’t control her body or how she reacts to it. And I shouldn’t. I’m sorry if people took offense at my comment. I did not mean it in that way at all. Staring at people’s chests is sexual harassment, and I do not condone that.

        1. OP*

          OP here. SAB I’m not offended! I can tell you were trying to help and I appreciate that. I have a hard time understanding the ‘unwritten rules’ and social cues so talking things out is very helpful for me and sometimes I need people to help steer me in the right direction. If my coworker showed up to the office in a Borat style unitard I would be uncomfortable; if it happened at the bar I moonlight at it would be hilarious. They’re not medically weird just aesthetically. :)

      6. Moira's Rose's Garden*

        This is a weird bit of advice.
        What sort of pathology do you imagine is relevant here, about which LW should see a doctor?

      7. ThatGirl*

        In the words of my high school English teacher, as we were about to see the brief nudity in Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, “It’s just skin, folks, everyone has it.”

      8. Zombeyonce*

        Sometimes people just have nipples that show; this is totally normal. I’ve always had prominent nipples and after breastfeeding a couple of kids, they’re now even more prominent. Sometimes being at a certain point in a menstrual cycle makes them erect more often. I don’t think LW needs to see a doctor or use special products they already said they don’t want to use.

        Your discomfort with nipples is your own problem, not anyone else’s.

    2. Elitist Semicolon*

      If you’re thinking about other people’s nipples (and you think your “preferences” about them are relevant) while you’re at work, then you’re the problem. Not their nipples.

    3. JSPA*

      The Victorians wanted skirts on furniture, lest the “ankle” of furniture remind them of human ankles…and human ankles then imply legs…and legs then imply that at some point those legs reach the trunk…and that there are then unmentionable parts in the vicinity.

      Some people are weirded out by, or compellingly attracted to, chins, noses, elbows, forearms, fingers, fingernails, lips, ankles, hairlines (the list is long).

      That’s to say, having feelings about other people’s bodies has a long history; but it’s ridiculous and impractical to mandate that anyone wear stick-on covers to hide the fact that they even have: nipples, elbows, chins, noses, fingertips, lips, ankles, etc etc etc.

      If someone on this forum said they found fingers distracting, would that be a reason for us all to don mittens at work?

      Would you wear elbow pasties, even if your heard that an actual officemate had problems involving detectable elbows through shirtsleeves?

      I’m pretty sure we would instead support the distractable or fixation-prone person in finding a way to deal with their distraction or fixation (regardless of whether their reaction is positive or negative) so that the fact that “my coworkers have bodies” becomes less problematic for them.

      1. Flor*

        The whole “Victorians thought furniture legs were scandalous” thing has no basis in fact; AFAIK there was a joke *at the time* in Britain that Americans were so prudish they put skirts on their furniture, but that’s the only apparent evidence for this belief.

        That said, I wholeheartedly agree with your broader point. People have bodies and what an individual perceives as scandalous or weird is infinitely variable – and the responsibility for dealing with it is on the observer, not the person being observed.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Thanks for skewering that myth. It makes a lot more sense as a joke.
          Somehow this reminds me of movies/tv showing Victorian women chafing in their corsets worn on *bare skin* like a bra instead of their base layer chemise (basically a nightgown). Well duh, same as a man would have blisters wearing wing tips sockless.

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      Yeah no – to be perfectly blunt your comfort level around other peoples bodies is irrelevant.

      And your suggestion to see a medical professional is appalling. People have bodies and there’s absolutely nothing medically wrong with that.

      1. Elle*

        It seems pretty clear to me that the offer for medical care is directed at people who are this upset by other people’s nipples.

        1. Snoodence Pruter*

          It’s not. It’s a second consecutive comment by the same person who is uncomfortable about nipples.

  9. PhyllisB*

    If you think this might be an issue, how about using the round cotton pads used for makeup removal? They’re lightweight but provide coverage. I used them when I was nursing after I got past the dribbling milk stage and they really helped. Or if you don’t want to use those, how about some folded tissue?

    1. TrippedAMean*

      I also have very prominent nipples. When I was breastfeeding, those pads just made my chest look like two bullseyes.

      1. Boothsome*

        Same here, TrippedAMean! Except I was too sleep-deprived to realize it at the time and only know this from photographs.
        But hey, maybe bizarre perfect circles under my shirt were less offensive to some people than plain ol’ poky nipples?

  10. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    If you look closely (although I don’t recommend you do), you’ll find there are men just blithely waltzing through the world in button-down shirts that yet reveal a bump.

    1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

      This is a good comparison, I think, because it wasn’t that long ago that men were expected to wear undershirts to disguise the, for lack of a better word, topography. We’ve dispensed with that expectation for men; it’s past time we did the same for women.

      1. Going Anon and On*

        I always wear undershirts for this reason. I don’t think it’s acceptable for this part of men to be visible in an office setting. (Part of this comes from having worked in the past with a man who wore shirts so thin, their color was visible, not just their shape. Navel, too.)

      2. Silver Robin*

        I thought undershirts were also vaguely supposed to help keep the outermost garment cleaner? So not *all* the sweat got absorbed by the nicer shirt and it would not have to be cleaned as rigorously/as often? Or am I making that up based on earlier historical clothing norms?

        1. Going Anon and On*

          It think that’s part of it, too. They’re multipurpose, even if all of those purposes were not realized when they were first invented.

        2. Lab Boss*

          I wear undershirts primarily so my nipples don’t play peekaboo through my work shirts- while they do keep some sweat away from the shirt on a warm day, the standard “A-Frame” sleeveless undershirts usually have large enough arm holes that the primary armpit sweat export zone is still able to get to the outer garment.

        3. Nobby Nobbs*

          People talk like underwear got smaller as society got more permissive, but improvements in washing machine and launderable clothing technology bears just as much responsibility.

        4. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

          From the late Victorian period, men’s undershirts were often sleeveless with sizable armholes and deep necks, and their top-level shirts were assumed to be laundered between uses. Hygiene as a reason was true before then, but the use of an undershirt to disguise nipples and chest hair was definitely a thing from well after a time when you’d use an undershirt to avoid frequent washing.

        5. JustaTech*

          For undershirts with sleeves this is true, but probably not the primary reason people wear them today, with washing machines and colorfast dyes and washable fabrics.
          I know my husband often chooses to wear an undershirt to keep his chest hair from showing (or poking) through his outer shirt.
          There are also plenty of people who wear undershirts for warmth.

    2. Admin 22*

      A former boyfriend was putting on weight and his breasts looked like a woman’s. He came into work and found a bra on his desk.

      1. Phony Genius*

        I’m trying to figure out if this counts as sexual harassment. I think it does. Am I wrong?

        1. Worldwalker*

          I think so.

          It’s no different from if he was a well-endowed woman and found something similar. So he’s got moobs: why are his co-workers looking at his chest and not his face?

          Yeah, definitely sexual harassment. HR-worthy.

        1. Worldwalker*

          My BIL’s co-workers put his potted plant in a blender.

          Some people are just awful human beings.

  11. The Baconing*

    Someone suggested a light, decorative scarf, if OP is feeling uncomfortable, and I’d like to second that.

    I’d also like the caution OP that some in the office may see visible nipples as a sign of an invitation that is not actually there. It is an unfortunate reality of the society in which we live that we women simply can’t just live our lives. I’m sorry that’s a reality in which we must deal.

    1. Rainy*

      If “some in the office” carry that attitude outside the office I hope they enjoy the many knees to the groin they receive.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I’m sorry did you really just write that all out? Here on Al Gore’s internet? Maybe keep that thought to yourself next time.

      1. JustaTech*

        What’s wrong with saying that some people are jerks and only the OP is going to know if they work with those jerks? The Baconing isn’t saying that those people are *right*, or that it should be tolerated, just that it is a risk to be aware of, like bears on hiking trails.

        I think you may have mis-read their whole comment.

    3. Zombeyonce*

      I don’t think OP needs that caution. If someone takes erect nipples as an “invitation”, that’s sexual harassment and should be shut down by their boss immediately. OP doesn’t need to spend one iota of her time on that thought.

      1. The Baconing*

        While I understand what you’re saying, I think it’s important to say these things just in case someone newer in their working experience is seeing this and doesn’t yet realize what might happen and/or what they should do if it did. I’m not saying OP is inexperienced in working; that’s not relevant to why they wrote in, but, because we don’t know, I thought it might be important to mention it as part of the considerations.

        1. Elle*

          An invitation to what? Sorry, this is unclear.

          Are you suggesting that someone may take evidence of your nipples as an invitation to engage in sexual activity at work?

          1. Rainy*

            I believe the implication is that it’s an invitation to press unwanted sexual advances on the possessor of the nipples, and I have to say A) that’s textbook sexual harassment; B) it’s textbook sexual assault if it comes with any physical contact; C) I choose the bear.

        2. PB Bunny Watson*

          I’m not sure what you’re trying to warn her about. I’ve never seen anyone need a reason to SH or SA someone. If someone does that to her, it’s not her or her nipples’ fault. Saying it like this comes across as though she can prevent these experiences by magically hiding her nipples. This isn’t a bar where we have to warn people to not let their drinks out of their sights… it’s a workplace that should have systems and policies in place to prevent and address these issues.

        3. metadata minion*

          The LW is presumably going about their business in the rest of their life looking like this and in their mid-40s has probably figured out that sexual harassment exists. Given that some men seem to take “being presumed female in public” as an invitation, it’s seriously past time that we stopped telling women to cover up so the men don’t get ideas.

        4. Zombeyonce*

          Anyone who has been a woman for more than a few months knows some people see women’s bodies as an invitation. What’s showing or hidden has nothing to do with it except to be used as an unbelievable excuse for whatever they were going to do anyway.

    4. Morgan Proctor*

      You don’t need to make every gross, victim-blaming thought you have public, boo.

      1. I treated you like a son*

        I read The Baconing’s comment as saying there are jerks who will sexualize anything and take anything as a “sign”, not victim blaming at all

          1. Morning Reading*

            I get the meaning but who are these ignoramuses who would consider erect nipples “an invitation?” Does someone think nipples are under conscious control? It’s not like they can quack.

            1. Another Use of the Identify Spell*

              Given what some think they know about how other parts of women’s bodies operate, that’s entirely possible. Just choose to calm your nips while you’re choosing when to have your period.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      If you’ve ever encountered a workplace were women’s nipples were actually claimed to be “an invitation” to someone …. that’s wildly beyond the norm. Even workplaces who claim it’s unprofessional are not ubiquitous (I wouldn’t say they were rare either), but anyone claiming that they were invited (to actual sex?!) by clothing covered nipples is going to get fired and blacklisted at most places.

  12. Emmy*

    Just wanted to say: don’t rule out a push-up bra before you’ve tried one. I have somewhat large breasts myself and refused to try them for years and years until one day – I don’t even remember why – finally figured “why not try” and lo and behold, because I have such a small torso and such a breast shape, they are actually the ones that minimize and look the best on me!

    But that being said: the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and it sounds like what you do now works for you. I hope no one bothers you but it might be helpful to have a stare and/or stock phrase(s) ready beforehand.

    1. Audrey Puffins*

      I’m also blessed/cursed with a large chest and have recently started with underwear that I thought my frame ruled me out of, in this case slightly reinforced crop tops with a pad across the front of the breast. I definitely couldn’t run anywhere comfortably while wearing one of these, but they do the job for a day at the office while being ridiculously comfortable, and the pad is just enough to render my frontage completely smooth without any appreciable increase in size.

      All this to say, yes, don’t necessarily rule out bras that you don’t think work for your particular shape or circumstance. We’re all different, and what works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone else, but if anyone’s looking for a solution that’s not just “getting on with it” then it’s definitely worth trying a few surprising options just in case.

        1. Audrey Puffins*

          Just cheapies from Primark tbh, I thought I’d trial the concept for a low cost first and was pleased enough with the results that I haven’t tried branching out yet :D

    2. Alex*

      also supporting push-ups, even for bigger chests! I can’t standing having to do the whole back-strapping thing so I get Olgas that have the clasp in the front and they’re SO convenient. you can’t really adjust the size as much but anytime they feel a bit stretched out I just wash them and don’t wear one for a week or so for it to reset.

        1. White Squirrel*

          Just put that in my Amazon cart. Always excited to find a t back bra that can accommodate a 34I

    3. Anon 4 now*

      Same. I live in VS lightly padded demi cup as a daily bra. I’m 42DDD. Body by Victoria is the one that fits me the best – nice shape without emphasizing the ladies. The light lining does just enough to chill out the post-nursing nipples while not adding a cup size. I prefer it to sports bras since sports bras give me both a uni-boob AND more cleavage than a tavern wench at a ren faire.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I would like to advocate for embracing the uniboob. There’s really nothing wrong with it. The whole “lift and separate” thing seems pretty male gaze IMO.

        1. White Squirrel*

          If mine aren’t separated, there’s a lot of sweat and acne as a result. ‍♀️

        2. Modesty Poncho*

          Ugh right? I was once in a plus-size store trying to get bras and the saleslady told me I was “too young for a uniboob” and I was so uncomfortable. I was trying to find non-molded, wireless bras because I cannot physically stand the sensations of either kind and she was so unhelpful because she wanted me to look prettier, not be more comfortable.

        3. Anon 4 now*

          I get what you’re saying, but if I have a uniboob:

          1. It gets REALLY sweaty and sticky in the cleavage.

          2. Sweaty folds of flesh lead to either nasty smell and/or yeast infections from the excess bacteria build up. This happens in winter, too, but gets MUCH worse in summer.

          3. Driving a car is more dangerous because the seat belt does not stay in place and slides up to under my neck.

          4. I have cleavage even in a crew-neck shirt.

          Therefore, for MY body, uniboob is a no go. However you do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable!

      2. Banana Pyjamas*

        If you’re interested in a sports bra, I like the panache ultimate control underwire sports bra: 2 individual boobs, but you can almost eliminate motion. The underwire and straps are padded, so they’re very comfy. For LW there’s a wire free version, but I’ve never tried that.

      3. We’re Six*

        For me at least, the uniboob problem is less about what other people might think if the aesthetic and more that I don’t like the aesthetic on me (and that it’s physically uncomfortable—irritation, achiness, etc).

        Bodies why

    4. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

      Yes! I worked at VS for years and gave this advice to many, many topographically blessed individuals. The VS Love Cloud line is my go-to.

    5. EngineeringFun*

      I’m nearing 50 and recently my boobs have become a much larger problem for me dressing for work (pun intended). I have tried lots of new styles to hide my nipples which have always stuck through t-shirts or light sweaters. Lightly lined and minimizes are my favs. Go to kohls and try on ALL the different styles….

        1. Anon 4 now*

          True that, but I love seeing other options to explore! :) The bra threads tend to be great places to find new things.

  13. No Tribble At All*

    Ugh, no solution, but my sympathies. This is why I hate pumping at the office even though I have a little room. They stand out for a good 10 minutes after I’m done!!

  14. Off Plum*

    Different bodies look different in the same clothes. Using a dress code to require certain types of clothes is one thing, but demanding that people wear different clothes in order to achieve a certain type of appearance is something else. If someone is wearing the clothes that are generally agreed on as the office standard (work-appropriate shirt, bra/cami/undershirt as appropriate), then how their body looks in those clothes is just… how their body is. I would no more expect someone with prominent nipples to wear special covers than I’d expect someone with large breasts to wear a binder or a fat person to wear a girdle. Let people have human bodies, for heaven’s sake.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This. I have large breasts and a high cleavage line, I look “booby” in clothes that other people wouldn’t think twice about. It is what it is. FWIW the people who comment on my body tend to be older women.

      1. Rainy*

        Same, even down to older women commenting on my body–there’s a certain age and cat-butt-faced demographic of women who have been making comments about my body for my entire life–and I’m now 48, so that demographic is now only a little older than me, and still at it! It’s wild.

        I had a moment in my early 20s when it happened for something like the third time that week (for the record I was wearing a very loose double-layered tunic-style summer dress in bubble gauze and was covered from elbows to knees at the time, so I was definitely not dressed like what she called me), and I snapped and chose violence, and it worked so well I’ve been choosing violence when people comment on my body ever since.

      2. Flor*

        I once had a woman say to me that no cleavage at all is acceptable in an office environment and women should cover it up, and that she understands that it can be difficult when you have a bigger bust because she’s a D-cup, but that’s no excuse.

        I’m a GG. I have 3mm between my breasts without a bra on. I’ve got cleavage in a T-SHIRT.

      3. Porscha*

        I have this problem as well. My sister had a friend that had the same problem. It wasn’t until she went shopping with me for professional clothes that she realized we’re not intentially trying to show off our cleavage/breasts. Things that would cover her chest would show some cleavage on me.

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      +1 million. Clothes are either office-appropriate or not; it doesn’t change based on the shape of the person who is wearing it.

  15. abca*

    You should do what is best for you. But please don’t think that padded bras make your breasts look enormous! That is much more caused by the style of the bra than the padding. I have large breasts and always wear padded sports bras without wires. They don’t make me look as professionally dressed as wired bras do, but during middle age wired bras suddenly became painful for me. In my case, people who judge me for that would also probably judge for other things, like my weight, hair, makeup, flat shoes. For some people you’re never professional enough.

    1. Allonge*

      I usually cut the underwires out of my bras. For sure it depends on body shape if this works, but 1000% more comfortable and there is no major structural change.

      1. Sharpie*

        I can’t wear underworld bras at all, the wire is only curved under the boob and my body curves around, as well, which makes the wire stick out painfully under my arm.

        I never even thought about buying an underwired bra and just taking the wire out. Genius!

        1. Sharpie*

          Underwired bras, thank you very much, autocarrot.

          An underworld bra would be something very different.

          1. Unkempt Flatware*

            Hmmmm… I go to world-build featuring giant women with cool evil bras.

          2. Lab Boss*

            Woman: “Ugh, I’d sell my soul for a supportive, comfortable bra!”

            Satan: (Appears, holding an underworld bra) “I’ll make the deal, but I want you to know I find this one pretty weird.”

            1. Carol the happy*

              I was thinking Mafia Moll with a Tommy gun, big hair and a huge wad of chewing gum to stop the bleeding.
              (“Whatcha lookin at, wise guy!!?” Lets go with a spray of bullets.)
              New favorite fantasy for when my Non-OEM girls get noticed.
              I mean seriously, my Girls, ahem, Ladies, are 23 and 29, but the rest of me is in my 60s….

        2. Amphigorey*

          Hi, your friendly neighborhood bra expert here. You can bend the wire to fit your body. Wires are flat and bodies are curved, and many people find that a little customization works wonders. I suggest this to my customers regularly. Of course the bra has to fit you in the first place, and that’s the fundamental problem many people have with wires: they hate them because they’ve never had one that fit, because the vast majority of bra stores carry only about 25 sizes, which covers about 20% of the bra-wearing population. (My shop carries about 180 bra sizes, and no I’m not kidding, there really are that many sizes.)

          Anyway, underwired bras might still be wrong for you; they certainly don’t work for everyone. But it’s nice to have the option. For my part, I can’t wear wirefree bras; they’re just not comfortable or supportive enough.

      2. Emmy*

        Do you just do it with some nail scissors? I’ve been thinking of trying but can’t really bring myself to “destroy” a bra and the attempt fails..

        1. Allonge*

          Just some sharp scissors – you don’t cut all along the wire, just make a small hole at one end of the wire (normally they live in a little tube of their own, so you don’t cut the main bra fabric, just a hole on the inner side of the tube) and then the wire can be pushed out.

          1. It’s Suzy Now*

            I discovered this by accident when the wire rubbed against the end of its tube and cut itself a little hole and started coming out. I pulled it the rest of the way out, cut a matching slit on the other side, and have my most comfortable sleep bra.

    2. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I’m a DD and wear a t-shirt style underwire bra with light padding. It’s just enough to hide nipples for me. But I’m not going to tell OP that she should wear this style of bra, because I assume she’s tried this style and decided it’s not for her. I’m actively jealous that she can wear sports bras all the time! I tried that during covid, and it increased my cycle-related breast pain by orders of magnitude. I’m still angry that the conventional “wear a supportive bra” advice for breast pain actually works and isn’t just brainwashing by the patriarchy. :(

  16. toolegittoresign*

    I have this same problem and I just opted to wear patterned or textured tops in the office. There are a lot of tops that are basically t shirts but have a more textured fabric or a pattern and it’s enough to obscure any bumps. Entirely up to you whether you think it’s worth doing just to make it one less thing you have to think about.
    This is the sort of top I mean:

    1. Haiku*

      Came here to say this. I have a lot of shirts with flowers, swirls, abstract patterns, so if my headlights are making themselves known, no one else knows.

      1. Anon 4 now*

        One of my favorite new hits as I’ve started sewing is finding GORGEOUS fabrics (cotton batik, jerseys, etc) in my favorite colors (fuchsia, turquoise, all the happy neon colors) in patterns that would make Lily Pullitzer applaud. They’re so easy to sew and they make me happy every time I wear them.

    2. A Significant Tree*

      I think this is a great suggestion. I actually have the opposite problem (cancer forced a double mastectomy, am completely flat) and I have stocked up on textured and high contrast pattern tops. The effect is like camouflage, if only mental camo for me, in that it keeps me from thinking about my (lack of) shape too much. I also overheat pretty often due to the meds so lightweight is key but a gauzy scarf is also a great accessory for making a sleeveless top or t-shirt look just a bit more polished.

      FWIW when I had (D-cup) breasts, I wore a lot of otherwise unpadded sports bras with those removable inserts that come with swimsuits and bras. I found that the insert outlines weren’t visible at all and didn’t make me too warm.

      1. Anon 4 now*

        For some reason those inserts, even when flat, show up a two weird triangular dents. I love wearing lightly padded tanks, but it bums me out that the pads are so weird!

        1. toolegittoresign*

          Yeah — these pads don’t fully obscure my nipples and my G cups make it obvious there’s a pad only covering part of the boob. In the gym or at the beach it’s whatever but in the office I just don’t want to think about any lumps or bumps.

          1. Storm in a teacup*

            I don’t understand why brands use the same size inserts in D cups as they do for larger sizes. It just looks weird.

        2. Rainy*

          I immediately remove those inserts from everything–they look really weird on me because of the shape of my breasts. Same with anything with the molded padding–whatever shape they expect breasts to be is not the shape mine actually are and the effect is *dismayingly* bizarre.

    3. Bee*

      The fabric you wear can definitely make a difference! I have very small breasts and often prefer to go braless in the summer, and the only way I’m willing to do that at the office is with a stiff woven fabric – half my summer wardrobe is linen, which perfectly conceals everything I want concealed while also being nice and airy. But also agree that it’s fine if you don’t want to bother!

    4. Mom2ASD*

      Here too – I won’t wear a bra unless I’m somewhere formal (where my clothing doesn’t fit right unless I have some shaping). Instead, I opt for patterned shirts or wear a shawl / sweater. I’m luckily small enough to not need to worry about it, but post breastfeeding, I have nipples that are out and proud. My husband was uncomfortable with this, until I pointed out that he’s more than welcome to wear a bra if he feels uncomfortable with HIS nipples showing.

  17. FreeTheBoobs*

    Have we decided as a society it’s okay for women to go obviously braless yet at work? I’m ready!

    1. bamcheeks*

      Honestly there is a thesis to be written using AAM answers and comments as a primary source. I think it’s one of the things Alison has said she has really changed her approach to over the last 10-15 years.

    2. Sharpie*

      I would love to go braless but like LW I am endowed with headlights. And my boobs are a weird shape (kinda torpedo ish, long from my chest to the nipple but not big around despite me being a UK 38F) that means I haven’t found the perfect bra and doubt it exists.

      Le sigh.

      1. Banana Pyjamas*

        Sharpie we are very similar. I highly recommend Panache Ultimate control underwire sports bra. I size down in the cup because the top of the cup is roomy. If your shoulders aren’t too narrow balconette styles are also great.

      2. kupo*

        I’m similar. I wear tanktops under my shirts and it helps make them a little less torpedo. It took me a while to feel comfortable, but now I don’t care going out in public like this and if I go back to the office I’ll continue not wearing a bra. If I get approached about it I’ll ask if male colleagues have to wear support undergarments as well.

    3. Braless*

      I’m medically unable to wear a bra and it’s been an issue periodically but not often and not at all in over a decade (but I’ve been veering more toward fully remote than hybrid in that time, and have been 100% remote since mid2019 so opportunities for people to care have lessened).

      FWIW, I work in male dominated fields.

  18. Anon 4 now*

    I feel your pain. My 6th grade daughter has protruding nipples and a back brace, which emphasizes her chest even more. She is self-conscious, so we try different ways to work with both nipple covering and skin protecting under the brace. We’ve gone through a few dozen different ideas so far, since the winter solution took a while to figure out and now we need a summer solution.

    That being said, she’s a kid in the midst self-conscious phase of her life surrounded by other kids who find unholy glee in picking on differences. IF your office is more mature than a pack of half-feral twelve year olds, then do what you feel comfortable with! If you feel self-conscious, you can try an additional layer of thin foam to line the sports bras. If you don’t feel self-conscious, then just keep rocking what makes you comfortable. If your nipples make others uncomfortable that’s a THEM problem, not a YOU problem. Do you.

    1. OP*

      OP here. I looked like I was 16 when I was 11 and it was confusing! Add in the extra consideration for her brace and I bet that is a lot for you both to think about. Tell her the only people who can tear her down are those who are below her and no one who is happy with their life has the time to waste on bullying other people. And keep up the good work!<3<3<3

      1. Anon 4 now*

        Thank you for your love. I’ve taught her to hear any derogatory or negative commentary as someone calling her a duck… and quack in her head as a response to remind herself she is not, in fact, a duck. And she is not in any way what the other kids are saying. It sounds silly, but for a 5-7 year old moving to new environments it helped.

        Also, her schools have been excellent about shutting down things when they’re brought to adult attention. The problem is that 6th graders don’t always want to involve the teachers. We talk about what she’s hearing about herself and her friends, and I applaud when she stands up for herself and her friends. She is definitely growing a strong backbone, both physically and emotionally. :)

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Teachers need to come down on this stuff hard. It’s to everyone’s benefit; if the kids think it’s okay to body shame now, they’ll be doing it in their offices of their future too. We would definitely stamp this kind of thing out at my school, which was why I get so surprised when it doesn’t happen at others. My sister’s school has a busty TA, who was helping out at lunch, leading to giggly five year old boys if she bent over and showed any boobage (she was appropriately covered). The headteacher never considered addressing the boy’s behaviour at all but decided wearing a tabard would be a good idea for the TA.

  19. Anon for this*

    Obviously do what makes you comfortable, but as a fellow busty lady I do have a recommendation if you want it.

    I’ve found Evelyn and Bobbie bras to be a lifesaver! They’re wire free, have a pad that’s removable and usually masking, and hold like a normal bra (but also have styles that are cut a little more work clothing friendly than sports bras).

    1. Alex*

      I have four of these, and they are AMAZING. (I usually toss the pad though, as I find it moves around on me.) They are expensive but they do have sales on the limited edition colors sometimes. (I got all of mine on sale)

    2. Esmae*

      Knix and True Body are also great if you’re looking for something more bra-like than a sports bra but still stretchy and comfortable.

    3. OP*

      OP here and thank you! They are nice comfy looking bras and I will try them out. My nips will probably show through those; I’ve measured them and they’re hilarious in their audacity. I would have to have the ‘push-up’ kind of thick padding to cover them.

      1. Anon for this*

        They’re the best! Nips or no, and I find them more comfortable for a full day than a sports bra! (And if you’re busty like I am, this is the only brand that makes big enough wireless bras… I’m a 34J and I wear a medium in E&B which says a ton about sizing etc)

      2. SJ Coffee Adict*

        Please don’t try to change your wardrobe to “fix” the problem. There is no problem. Everyone has nipples.

  20. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

    Honest to God, as a 70-year-old retired woman, I HATE that women have to go through this calculation. Silly Younger Me thought that by this time the culture would have matured enough.

    That said: OP, I second/third the scarf option. I get warm easily too but (silk or chiffon) scarves don’t add heat and draped strategically, obscure any nipplage. Also they’re a great way to wear the same half dozen or so tops regularly but still look different.

    1. Sharpie*

      I second scarves. You can get some truly beautiful 100% silk scarves from eBay – just filter out the ‘buy now’ stuff because it’s mostly horrible cheap Chinese polyester.

    2. Morgan Proctor*

      Silk ABSOLUTELY adds heat! That’s why it’s such a common/premium base layer for cold weather sports. It’s one of the most efficient heat layers in existence! Linen or 100% cotton are better options for summer scarves.

    3. OP*

      Bless! OP here and I feel this so much. I have had so many conversations over the years about how to look and act as a woman and how that will be interpreted by others. I’m comfortable with myself and with what I’m wearing but gosh some people interpret anything as a play for attention.

  21. SJ Coffee Adict*

    All of the “suggestions” on how to minimize her nipples, is why being a woman in society is so exhausting. OP, you have nipples, men have nipples, we all have nipples. Dress as you wish, if someone is commenting on your nipples in a work setting, that is a them problem, not a you problem.

    1. Ariaflame*

      Unfortunately this is true up until the point where they make it a you problem.
      There are some things I don’t bother doing… unless I’m going to see my mother and know she will see, and I just do them then because I don’t care enough about them either way to deal with the ‘issues’ when she sees I haven’t.

      1. Missa Brevis*

        I shave my legs about once every four or five years, when a visit to the relatives who care about that sort of thing happens to coincide with shorts weather.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      I think people are making suggestions because OP shared they have tried some things (and didn’t care for them) implying that they may be interested in covering to an extent. Pretty much everyone has caveated that with a if you’re just done, then that’s perfectly fine.

      By and large all the comments have been fully supportive of OP simply existing as she is.

      1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

        OP mentioned some things she tried. She did not ask for suggestions on other things to try.

    3. Morgan Proctor*

      Thank you! This comment section is so dismaying. There’s so much internalized misogyny here, and a lot of projection. I think there are many breast-having people here who feel some kind of way about their own breasts, and assume that all breast-having people feel the same way. We don’t! Some of us genuinely don’t give a damn.

    4. OP*

      OP here – thank you all! I think everyone is correct to a point. I am a woman and know my appearance is scrutinized differently. I do not want to change what works for me but I do want to make sure I’m not the subject of career repressing gossip. In my personal life I am 100% DGAF I do what I want but I need to pay my bills and prefer not to work for myself so I need to tow the line sometimes.

    5. CB212*

      I generally wear unlined underwire bras and have literally had men yell at me to “wear a bra” i.e. I suppose one of those molded-cup numbers that just give you a Standard Smooth Shape? It makes me so angry that the widely-accepted garment for under a t-shirt is *molded foam domes*. They weird me out so much.

  22. Ginger Baker*

    Patterned tops are my go-to for this – I haven’t worn a bra in years and work in a very Corporate Office with large nipples that are just generally not noticeable through the magic of patterns as camouflage. This does mean I basically never wear plain/single-colored tops in the office but for me the camouflage effect is very worth that trade off.

  23. X*

    Until they start making Kevlar bras, some of us are always going to have visible nipples. I really wish certain people would just get over it

  24. Alex*

    Large-breasted woman here, and I HATE padded bras. They are never comfortable for me, and very hard to store in a size H cup! They’re HUGE.

    I don’t think I usually “poke through” but sometimes I do. Oh well. It’s never been an issue for me.

    1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      Fellow H-cup here, I used to really like Lane Bryant’s lightly lined underwire bras back when I wore that bra type. I rarely wear underwire anymore, but those were my favorite of the lined/padded since they didn’t add hardly any bulk. But yes, they are huge, and hard to pack. All of my bras now come from Fabletics or Tomboyx, they are cheaper and way more comfortable!

      1. It’s Suzy Now*

        Solidarity! DDD here, Lane Bryant’s lightly lined/full coverage bras are my go to, I find them really comfy and like the smooth surface. But they take Soooo much suitcase room!

    2. SJ Coffee Adict*

      There with you. I work in a very male dominated industry and I wear the bras that are comfortable for my dd boobs. Nips showing through and everything. I DGAF if someone has a problem with it. Why are you looking at my boobs? My face is up here.

  25. 3-Foot Tall Inflatable Rainbow Unicorn*

    As someone else with that problem, I alternate more or less evenly between three options:
    1) Distract with patterned clothing (less likely to show)
    2) Cover with a very light cardigan (such as a short sleeved cotton shirt open over a t-shirt)
    3) “We all have nipples, deal.”

  26. Generic Name*

    I mean, if anyone dares complain, you could always ask why they are looking at your breasts.

    1. Mid*

      Exactly. I see men’s nipples all the time and no one complains about them in the office. (And given my height and the average male height, sometimes those suckers are literally staring me in the eyes.) Unless something is illegally exposed, mind your business and don’t comment on people’s bodies, especially since we are all mammals and we all have nipples.

  27. K8T*

    Keep a light cardigan or scarf at your desk. This way you’re not left in a lurch if you feel you need more coverage. Also seconding patterned tops – I once had a coworker who did not like bras but was partial to white shirts and she was eventually spoken to. She remained bra-free but wore patterned/thicker tops after.

    1. K8T*

      also FWIW, deep in my company’s dress code it does specify “appropriate undergarments” which seems to be specifically aimed at women wearing bras/no colors that you can see through your clothing. If no one has said anything to you, keep on trucking but if they have maybe double-check so you don’t run into any documentable issues.

  28. Apt Nickname*

    I just want to quibble with the language used a little bit- your nipples are NOT visible through your shirt. If they were this would be a very different letter. The shape (outline?) of your nipples, however, may be visible. The shape of a lot of body parts are visible through our clothes.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I think this might be a nitpick with a point, though: society tends to frame these things as more scandalous than they are, including the way we discuss them. We aren’t talking about exposed genitals here, just the *general shape* of secondary sexual characteristics whose primary biological purpose is to feed our young.

        It’s particularly ridiculous because men can have the exact same body part *literally* visible with zero social consequences (unless it violates a dress code).

    1. OP*

      OP here – you are correct! I wear sturdy opaque fabrics; think cotton blend. However my breasts and nipples are large enough that the outline will be visible.

    2. metadata minion*

      I think it’s clear what the LW means. The shape of plenty of people’s nipples *isn’t* visible through their clothing, due to some combination of clothing choices and anatomical quirks.

  29. Czech Mate*

    I work in higher ed. I wouldn’t think twice about a coworker having the outline of their nipples showing slightly through their shirt, and I think in most higher-ed contexts, no one else would, either.

    If you’re giving a formal presentation or meeting with fancy donors/trustees/the president and you want to convey extra levels of polish then yes, as others have said, it could be good to find a light scarf. (Patterns and textures are good for this.) Otherwise, I don’t think you’d need to worry about this.

    1. OP*

      OP Here and thank you for the suggestion! I do wear suits/jackets for presentations and formal meetings. It’s just my normal day-to-day office attire. Mostly I just want to make sure I’m not the office joke and just don’t it. :D

  30. ForestHag*

    I’ve been working in higher ed my whole career, and for the most part, I would say you are totally fine. Nipples happen to everyone. I can’t tell you how many times – especially during the summer – when I’ve seen male torso features due to them not wearing an undershirt with a light colored top. Many (but not all) colleges are much more relaxed about the dress code, unless you are meeting with someone top level, like the president or provost. For those situations, I would figure out a scarf or a very light jacket to throw on, if you think it’s needed.

    My one exception was a private religious university I worked at for a couple of years that would have gone out of their minds about this – clothing was very formal. For certain people. It was definitely not enforced equitably. But I left that place pretty quickly, for a multitude of reasons. :D

    1. OP*

      OP here; I do keep a light jacket in my office if I need to look a little more formal. I also tend to choose more sociall relaxed workplaces so part of my curiosity is what would happen in more traditionally corporate settings. I grew up with religion and those dress codes were often so strict and one-sided that I felt like it gave me skewed view of what is appropriate.

  31. S Curve*

    Hi all I’m the OP, thanks for all your comments! TBH I don’t want to change the way I dress, and that is partially because I have a nuerodivergent diagnosis including sensory issues. Wearing a scarf would drive me insane, as would wearing pads or silicone nipple covers. These would distract me so much it would impact my job performance and stress me out. However as a woman in the world I know my appearance is often scrutinized and judged.

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      I’m really sorry you’re getting those kinds of comments. It was clear from your letter that you weren’t looking for ways to cover up. These kinds of letters always bring out the victim blaming and internalized misogyny and projecting. The way you’re currently dressing is fine. Nipples are fine. Breasts are fine. You don’t have to cover them up.

    2. AmuseBouchee*

      I have smaller breasts and I don’t wear a bra often. I really hate wearing them at all and do only for societal pressures. It’s incredible how many suggestions for hiding them you’re getting even though you didn’t ask for that. I truly am shocked this is still a thing for us.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      Hey OP*! Thanks for commenting.

      If you don’t want to change the way you dress, you shouldn’t. From your comments, it sounds like you’re in a relaxed-enough work environment that it doesn’t matter, and you have a light suit-jacket you can wear when you need to be a bit more formal. It sounds like you’ve got this covered, so keep doing you!

    4. A Manager for Now*

      Hey Friend! I have super powered nipples, essentially, where all the padding outside of a solid push up is not going to disguise my nipple shape. I totally get being stressed out by it, because I second guess myself always. I think this is definitely a time to say, “If me having a body makes you upset, that’s a you problem”

    5. Ismone*

      I’m not neurodivergent and I would never wear a damn scarf either. Sorry you’re getting the advice. I also have huge boobs.

      PS, to everyone who is team cardigan—idk how your cardigans are cut but mine often slide to the side of my breasts. So not reliable advice either.

    6. mreasy*

      OP, you don’t need to change the way you dress.

      I guarantee you are noticing your nips more than anyone else, and if someone at the workplace is going to judge you unprofessional for them, they would be just as likely to consider you unprofessional for something like, having big boobs, having any boobs, wearing makeup, not wearing makeup, dressing too feminine, not dressing feminine enough, having a loud voice, or having a quiet voice.

      Unfortunately but kind of fortunately, someone who wants to judge women in the workplace for their appearance will always find a way. In this case, though, you can rest assured it’s not because of your extra pointy nipples.

    7. Innominata*

      Hey OP! I have the same issue for what sounds like very similar reasons, thank you for writing in! This probably would never have made it to the top of my list of work related concerns to write in about but I do wonder about it sometimes, and now I don’t have to.

    8. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’d love to say it gets easier when you get older and your ‘I don’t care what others think of me’ filter gets installed but it doesn’t always. Facts of life as someone with knockers is that some people (usually men) will see that as the main focal point of you regardless of what you are wearing or if a shape can easily be seen. Wear a low cut top? Showing too much. Wear a turtleneck? It’s too tight.

      As possessor of boobs of unusual size I’ve never found a way to totally shut off the judgement. Although I’ve just gone in with the attitude of ‘I’m wearing clothes, the relevant areas are covered and anyone with any issues can stop staring at my tits thanks’

      THAT does get easier as you get older. Be a battleaxe :)

    9. still fighting that ol' internalised misogyny*

      Sorry you’re getting these responses! this is reminding me a bit of the only time I ever cried reading AAM comments, which was reading the replies to this post ( at a time when I was really struggling with some Big Feelings about my body, ‘professionalism’, and sensory issues. I’m far enough from that moment now that I can recognise that the comments weren’t meant in this way, but there were *so many* about breast reductions that it felt (emphasis on ‘felt’: I don’t think I interpreted this fairly) that they were saying the only way to be physically acceptable was to get major surgery. It’s not – I mean, good for those this works for, but there is nothing wrong with having a body, and we should not have to hide or change it in order to be ‘acceptable’. I rationalise this to myself now like this: I work in an industry where there are relatively few visible fat, large-chested women, and by existing as one within it I get to show people (students, in this case) that you can be one, and dress how you like, and still succeed in it, visible nipples or not. Sorry, that was a bit of a feelings dump, but I have a lot of feelings about a) ‘acceptable’ standards of dress and body shape for women; b) well-meaning advice about hiding oneself!

  32. Storm in a teacup*

    Fellow 40 something with big boobs, a shared hatred for padded bras and perimenopausal faulty inner thermometer.
    I find layering helps. Thin camisole or vest top under dresses or other tops. Also helps hide cleavage if it’s a v shape.
    Sheer kimono, cardigan, shawl or shirt over a vest top or dress.
    Despite what you do there will be some starers who are gonna stare. I’ve just stopped caring TBH

    1. OP*

      OP here – love this! I used to be the most stylish person at the office but now I’m here to get my job done and not look a mess.

  33. Overthinking it*

    You absolutely have the right to be comfortable! But visible nipples make YOU uncomfortable, so don’t feel you have to “stand up for women everywhere” by letting it all hang out if you don’t like too. And don’t buy new bras (especially padded – yuck!) or “uncomfortable ” nipple covers. Just slip a couple of round cotton pads – the kind used to wipe astringent on your face – into your regular, comfy spots bras. You won’t even feel them.

    1. OP*

      OP here – thanks for the advice! For clarity my nipples do not make me uncomfortable – but I’m also pretty clueless about office gossip and have been bullied by other women in the past. I have a great boss and colleagues but I will probably not be here forever.

      1. anonymous 5*

        FWIW, OP, if you currently have a great boss and colleagues, you can absolutely use this as the chance to bolster your sense that you are fine as-is and that you’d be in your rights to complain and expect correction if anyone started bullying you. Living with that level of confidence for however long you *do* stay at this job will give you that much more ability to call bullshit if you ever *are* in a position where people are less than stellar!

    2. Morgan Proctor*

      Why would you say that OP’s nipples make them uncomfortable? Nowhere in the letter do they say or imply that.

      1. K8T*

        It also reads to me that they’re self-conscious about it. I see they clarified they aren’t but I 100% got that vibe as well.

    3. metadata minion*

      Different people find different things comfortable. I don’t mind padded bras at all, but I intensely dislike the thought of putting cotton pads in my bra. I’d keep worrying that they’d shift or fall out, and they’d inevitably leave little cotton bits on my skin afterward, eurgh.

  34. Susie*

    Serious question – do men ever get dressed, start heading out the door and think ‘oh wait, let me check if my nipples are showing’?

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Eight years ago, when Instagram and Facebook didn’t allow any photos of women’s nipples (with exceptions for breastfeeding and mastectomies), there was a humorous campaign offering a resizable template of an “acceptable male nipple” that should be used to cover the “unacceptable female nipples” in photos.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Not at the same level as women, but some men do want to hide nipples. You can find a bunch of internet articles and discussions if you’re interested. Standard advice is to wear an undershirt.

    2. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      I do but I’m AFAB and top heavy, so no matter how masculine I dress and no matter whether I’m wearing a binder or not, some people do act like I am somehow Having Boobs At Them so it’s a thing, yeah.

      About to have cards printed up with my PayPal so people who feel the need to remind me they can tell I have boobs can do something about it by contributing to my top surgery fund.

      1. Walk on the Left Side*

        I’m sorry you have to deal with this kind of crap. No one deserves that. :(

    3. Joron Twiner*

      Men are definitely teased for this and the prominence/shape of their chest. Remember that scene from Fight Club where the big guy with a large chest is depicted as emasculated because of his body?

      Women are not unique in body policing each other.

  35. allhailtheboi*

    I just want to say how much I appreciate that Alison’s advice is always realistic. No, the letter writer shouldn’t have to do anything about her nipples, but I’m glad that Alison’s advice acknowledges that in some situations LW would be disadvantaged, WHILE not condoning this and advocating for change. I think this is typical of Ask A Manager and is one of the reasons I love reading this blog.

    Good luck LW!

  36. NaoNao*

    I dunno…while I think that in *theory* women (and really anyone with visible nips) has the right to slight visibility here and there, this comment section is really out of touch with reality sometimes.

    The reality is that male chests and nipples are not sexualized the way women’s are. They aren’t atop projected flesh like women’s are (at least most are not)–and breasts in women are seen as a secondary sex characteristic and a sign of fertility and womanhood, unlike male breasts that exist from birth. And when we add in general patriarchy/sexism at most work places, there isn’t the risks (not just literal safety like harassment or unwanted attention, but being seen as less than professional or serious) for men that there are for women who choose to go bra-less.

    Leaving aside the argument of “well men show theirs too!”, I don’t understand how people are deliberately being obtuse that visible nips are distracting. You don’t have to be “staring” or otherwise a creep to be a distracted viewing something that most people in the professional world keep private. To me it’s not like male visible nips–it’s more like seeing the outline of a man’s testicles (or something else similar in that same area) in super tight pants or something. It’s an area of the body *most* people consider private and intimate and seeing indications of it feels like you’re seeing something you “shouldn’t” or you’re intruding on someone’s private personhood.

    I also think there’s another discussion around general business dress here that people are glossing over: regardless of the gender or gender expression, etc, work dress is about minimizing distractions *of any kind* and that includes typically-private body parts. The same way you don’t want to see a coworker’s “crack” due to extremely low slung pants, or you wouldn’t feel comfortable with them wearing ultra high cut shorts that show “cheek” or a crop top that shows under-or side-boob, ultra-high slits on the leg, sheer garments that show bathing-suit areas, and so on, I think it’s not unreasonable to dictate that work be a place where private body parts be reasonably concealed.

    Having said that, of course an occasional view is not going to cause lighting to strike the earth and split it open. But come on people, be real here.

    1. Dahlia*

      Testicles and nipples are not the same thing. Nipples and nipples are the same thing.

    2. AmuseBouchee*

      I don’t personally find visible nipples distracting. Can you expand on that?

      1. NaoNao*

        I’m pretty sure people who are mentally dedicated to not finding it an issue won’t be swayed by any “expansion” on the discussion, but it’s distracting in the same way that anything unusual or out of place in a conventional office setting is, like a full sleeve of tattoos, many facial piercings, very unusual clothing choices like 5″ platform heels or vinyl/leather clothing, whatever. I don’t mean it renders me unable to think straight for hours, I mean it’s a very slight visual distraction from whatever else is going on for a few seconds, that’s all.

        1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

          You are comparing apples and oranges. A body part most people are born with still showing a little bump when fully covered with cloth is not even remotely like a facial piercing or 5″ heels.

        2. Medicated Ginzo*

          I think you’re making a big assumption that everyone’s distracted by the same things you are! Your list includes things I personally wouldn’t find unusual in an office setting (heavy tattoos and piercings) and things I’ve never noticed about someone else’s clothes (visible nipples, balls outline, side boob). Likewise, I’d bet there are things that distract me and not you – floral prints or logos, say. I’m distracted – nay, mesmerized – by people who can walk gracefully in >1 inch heels, but I doubt that’s a universal experience. Not because everyone else is mentally dedicated to pretending they’re not like me, but because they don’t have my weak ankles and decades-long history of wedding pratfalls.

          I mean it’s a very slight visual distraction from whatever else is going on for a few seconds, that’s all.

          In that case, who cares? It’s a slight visual distraction when someone walks by my desk or changes their hairstyle or has a corny coffee mug. That’s just sharing space with people. I don’t think “minimizing distractions *of any kind*” is a common or reasonable standard in dress or anything else.

          1. Pizza choo*

            “ Your list includes things I personally wouldn’t find unusual in an office setting (heavy tattoos and piercings)”

            Okay, you wouldn’t find those elements distracting but other people in other office/work settings (including clients, external stakeholders, higher-ups like the CEO, etc) very well might. Depending on the industry or individual company or even the individual team. I know it’s halfway through 2024 but I can think of at least 3-5 people who are very put off by tattoos of any type or quantity on people, as an example. They know it’s their own hangup to deal with but it does still exist. And no, they aren’t 85 years old.

        3. mreasy*

          But also, so? If someone is super short or super tall, that is also distracting, or if someone is exceptionally gorgeous, too. Why do we expect people’s human bodies not to distract us if we are distracted by aspects of people’s human bodies?

          1. Giant Kitty*

            I’m a tall woman and I got used to the fact that people would find my height distracting in *grade school*. It sure isn’t anything I could change to be *less* distracting.

      2. Maggie*

        Just because it’s not true for you doesn’t meant that no one on earth thinks it. I don’t find them distracting really either, at least not more than a “oh I happened to perceive that and now I’m moving on” kind of way. If my nipples showed frequently my boss would pull me aside and tell me to wear a thicker shirt or otherwise deal with it. Unfortunately our workplaces are lame sometimes but it’s the reality

    3. AMH*

      “I don’t understand how people are deliberately being obtuse that visible nips are distracting.”

      I don’t understand how you find them distracting, tbh. There’s a difference between briefly noticing and finding them distracting – the latter implies continued thought or continuing to notice, which frankly is on the VIEWER to fix. And it is absurd that you compare them to “seeing the outline of a man’s testicles (or something else similar in that same area) in super tight pants or something” instead of to the exact same part on a man. I understand your point about sexualization but again — that’s a societal problem and it is absurd to say women must therefore correct the issue instead of people should work on their hang-ups about perfectly normal anatomy that is appropriately covered up.

      1. TitusAndromedon*

        But they’re obviously perceived differently by the vast majority of the population, hence why men go shirtless on the beach and the vast majority of women do not. That’s reality, regardless if you agree with it or not. And that will influence how people perceived visible outlines of nipples in the workplace even if they’re not uncovered. Doesn’t mean you have to cover them but some people will absolutely think it’s distracting and inappropriate at work.

        1. Amh*

          They are perceived differently, which is why woman cover them with clothing even in public settings, yes. And in work settings, they cover them with work appropriate clothing. That does not mean that the nipples shape will never show, because it’s anatomy. That’s reality, regardless of how you feel about it.

          I understand that some work places may be absurd about it, and it’s important for OP to consider that about her workplace to decide how much she wants to push back (luckily it sounds like a non-issue for her) but that does not change my point that I do not understand why someone seeing the outline of a nipple under clothing finds it “distracting” on the same level as testicles in tight pants. Come on.

          1. TitusAndromedon*

            Well, clearly people do. You don’t have to understand or agree with it.

            1. Angorin*

              Well, clearly one person does. You. The rest of us grew out of being 13 years old some time ago, and learned some self-control and decency. Maybe one day you will too, but in the meantime o don’t see why anyone shodlnage to change to suit your narrow little brain’s limitations!

    4. MigraineMonth*

      The allegedly distracting body part is fully covered, you can just sometimes see its shape. Just like you can generally see people’s shape under clothing.

    5. K8T*

      I feel like people here get very much caught up on what the world should be like that the comments aren’t realistic. People will notice, and many workplaces will care (I commented upthread but my workplace has a specific notation for “appropriate undergarments”). Luckily it seems their office doesn’t care so they’re good to go but that’s not viable for everyone everywhere.

    6. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      I have never once seen the shape of a man’s testicles through work-appropriate clothing. Try again.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      Do people really look at men’s pants trying to see the shape of their testicles? That just would never occur to me as something to look out for. If, as their manager, the trousers looked unprofessionally tight, I’d just say “Less sprayed on, please”. Of course revealing, tight, or see through clothing is unprofessional, but OP is not doing any of that. If some guy was wearing unprofessional *clothing* I wouldn’t even be considering whether their testicles were unprofessional too! I do agree with part of what you’re saying though! The world (a small backwards minority of it) does view women’s nipples as different to men’s and it’s a (tiny) detail to be put on the weighing scale. If you have well behaved nipples and are just as comfortable in a sturdy padded bra as you are in a sports bra, then it’s a worthwhile detail to observe, because even though it’s not unprofessional to have your nipples unpadded, there’s a small risk that someone thinks it is, but it’s an easy risk to eliminate. But if you’ve got impossible to cover up nipples, and severe sensory issues then it’s just not worth worrying about… because it is what is. The risk of people being sexist jerks is so slight compared to the more definite risk of being paranoid, distracted and uncomfortable. If you have the type of nipples that you can’t do anything about, you may need to be more careful about the culture of what type of “world” you end up in. i.e. less sexism and less body policing (which is different to requirements about clothing).

    8. Head sheep counter*

      If your point is things we see that aren’t part of the fabric of our everyday life catch our eyes (even if its just a moment) then I agree. Someone with fantastic fantasy color hair is going to catch my eye (and because its something I like for probably longer than a second or two).

      I find that my eye might catch briefly on… well… almost anything that is different than the rest of the room. We are fooling ourselves if we think it won’t. Add in sexual characteristics (and these are widely varied for people (think forearms, breasts, butts, crotches, eyes, lips and on and on)) and ta da our eyes might linger for even longer than a dip and go.

      Women unfairly bear the burden here to police themselves for the comfort of someone else. Men do indeed blithely go about living their best nipply lives where women pause and either consciously adjust for norms or deliberately flaunt norms. So the everyone has them crowd is fantastic and I wish we could/would shout it to the world. We are mammals.

    9. Off Plum*

      I really do think there’s a difference between “things that are slightly noticeable in office-appropriate clothing” and “things that are shown by inappropriate clothing.” Your examples are extremely low-slung pants, ultra high cut shorts, crop tops, etc. You even say “private parts [should be] reasonably concealed.” OP isn’t asking about going braless or wearing sheer blouses – she’s asking if she needs to go beyond “reasonably concealed”.

      Yes, it’s possible that some coworkers or bosses might have an issue with nipples that visibly stick out through bras and thick tops, in the same way that it’s possible that some coworkers or bosses might have an issue with a woman not wearing makeup/pantyhose/heels. But it’s not many people, and it’s not unreasonable to say that such people need to get over themselves. Having a slightly atypical body is not at all equivalent to dressing unprofessionally.

    10. mreasy*

      I cannot tell you the last time I noticed ANY coworker’s nipples showing or not showing. And I’m a bit of a fashion person so I look at folks’ outfits! We work in a freezingly air conditioned office so they’re definitely out there sometimes. Buttcrack, sideboob, top thigh, and crotches showing are nothing comparable to seeing the outline of someone’s nipple through clothing they are wearing that is non-revealing and covers their bits.

    11. Head sheep counter*

      For the “can you see men’s testicle crowd” it has a name… its Moose Knuckle and its definitely a thing. Some lads wear pants that as the old saying goes “you can tell their religion”.

    12. Joron Twiner*

      This. Should OP and others be able to wear whatever undergarments they prefer (or prefer not) to wear? Yes. Clothing standards are arbitrary and socially determined, bodies are fine as they are.

      But in formal professional business situations, it’s still not socially acceptable.

      Kind and savvy people will avert their eyes and pretend not to notice and choose not to comment. It’s not polite to comment on others’ faux pas.

  37. lime*

    I have a very similar problem. I wish that I was unselfconscious enough to not care and to just own that bodies are bodies and they’re going to do what bodies do. However, the reality is that I work in a male-dominated environment, and I’m relatively young-looking, and I just got tired of men blatantly staring at my chest. I don’t just mean a glance every now and then – I mean staring for several seconds with their mouths open or stopping in their tracks to do a double take. It’s really gross behavior, and in an ideal world, these men would learn how to have self-control and would stop doing this, that’s unfortunately not the world we live in. So, I cover up using silicon covers. I was worried that they’d be uncomfortable, because I am a bit sensory sensitive but they’re surprisingly comfortable. Sometimes I even forget I’m wearing them and forget to take them off at night. I shouldn’t have to do it, but… it is what it is.

    1. Definitely anon for this*

      That is really gross, and I’m sorry that it happens to you (and to many others.) I worry, with one US presidential party’s candidate being infamously gross in such ways, that progress on this problem might be reversing, too.

  38. Alexandra W.*

    As a woman who teaches at a high school, I receive instant non-verbals from students when the outline of my nipples are showing through my tops. For my own comfort level, I purchased soft nipple covers (it took a bit of trial/error on Amazon to find the best option for me) that I wear with certain outfits. There are times that I resent wearing them, but my comfortability calculus leans toward coverage at work.

  39. BralessInTechland*

    I am medically unable to wear a bra and, frankly, I’ve got bigger things to worry about. If you want to be bothered by it, that’s on you. If you want to raise a stink about it there’s not much I can do and my doctors will back me up (while making snide remarks about people caring about the dumbest stuff). But most of the time no one cares, at least not enough that it becomes an issue.

  40. Accidental Manager*

    If you are looking for suggestions and you’re comfortable with it, try wearing tops with in a print fabric rather than a solid. From my own experience, the print makes my nipples much less noticeable and no extra layers are involved. But I don’t think you need to do anything differently from what you’re doing now.

  41. Janeway, Her Coffee In Hand*

    I also have this problem and it makes me incredibly uncomfortable, doubly so because I’m nonbinary and hate my nipples. Even under a binder and button down shirt, they make themselves known. My plan to correct this (and my dysphoria around them) is to eventually get blank chest top surgery to remove them completely, but that’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea.

    1. OP*

      OP here. Thank you for sharing and good luck on your journey! Solid Star Trek reference – respect.

  42. RVA Cat*

    Would Kit Harrington get called out for well-tailored pants that show his Game of Glutes?

  43. AmuseBouchee*

    She didn’t ask HOW TO conceal them. She asked Allison if they were appropriate in a higher Ed workplace setting. Jeez, people, sometimes it gets so patronizing when you’re not even answering the query. She doesn’t want to hide them. She’s asking if society has gotten to a point where they are acceptable in her work setting.

    Thank you for reading.

  44. NotHannah*

    Once I brought silicone nipple covers to a writing workshop and put them in the middle of the table before the day’s work began. The men in the workshop were baffled — they had no idea what they were or what I was doing.
    The reason I did this was because I was filled with rage at one of these men’s stories, which we were about to workshop that day. He had written at some length about a (random) woman’s nipples being visible, and how that meant they were absolutely signaling a need to be touched …
    It was nauseating. I don’t think I changed any minds that day, but it felt good.
    BTW, I am an E cup, and I deploy all the suggested smoke and mirrors to make this go away, especially if I am teaching, and especially if I am teaching undergraduates. Because while of course we have bodies, I come down on the side of not wanting it to be about that, ever. Sigh.

      1. NotHannah*

        thank you! I have to say that was NOT characteristic of most of my workshops nor my MFA program, thankfully.

  45. Amphigorey*

    Hi, your friendly neighborhood bra expert here. You can bend the wire to fit your body. Wires are flat and bodies are curved, and many people find that a little customization works wonders. I suggest this to my customers regularly. Of course the bra has to fit you in the first place, and that’s the fundamental problem many people have with wires: they hate them because they’ve never had one that fit, because the vast majority of bra stores carry only about 25 sizes, which covers about 20% of the bra-wearing population. (My shop carries about 180 bra sizes, and no I’m not kidding, there really are that many sizes.)

    Anyway, underwired bras might still be wrong for you; they certainly don’t work for everyone. But it’s nice to have the option. For my part, I can’t wear wirefree bras; they’re just not comfortable or supportive enough.

    1. Rainy*

      There’s at least one comment above talking about the commenter’s bra size and how they wear VS bras only and I wish that person would come to your shop and get fitted, because oh my god VS bra fitting is nonsense.

      My doctor gave me the big “oh, you should wear wire free bras, they’d be more comfortable” talk and was super shocked to discover that what’s comfortable for me is support. Of course, she’s a B cup and I’m an H cup with a proportionally smaller band size. Wire free bras that come in my size are actually not comfortable and the straps are so wide they cut my traps. (I have super thick hair that I wore to my knees for years, and my traps got…like, not Mr Olympia big, but pretty damn big.)

  46. Objection*

    Fellow large-breasted professional woman here. I used to always worry about this and wore exclusively T shirt bras so neither my nipples nor bra seams were ever visible. And not surprisingly, I always felt my bras weren’t supportive enough. Well, I eventually learned that’s because T shirt bras aren’t particularly supportive for larger breasts. The seams of 3 and 4 part cups actually help support and lift larger breasts. I also learned that T shirt bras are a very American thing. I started wearing bras that provided good support, and I stopped caring if seams or nipples showed (as long as they were covered). Everyone has nipples; why do only women have to pretend we don’t?

  47. Paisley*

    Interesting enough, this is not just a female issue. My boss (our CEO) has this problem too, though, I don’t know if he perceives it as a problem. We have a fairly casual office and he usually wears golf shirts or sports-type shirts. You always see his nipples protruding right out and in photos, they are always right there. Since I do most of our media I always spent a lot of time trying to find a photo where they were not visible, but it’s almost impossible, so I’ve just given up. It’s his body, so what. We all have nipples. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I just thought it was funny that it’s not just a problem for women.

  48. Babbalou*

    This is my body as well. I decided decades ago to just not worry about it. I have boobs and my boobs have nipples. I wear a bra and a shirt. It’s not like they’re not covered.

  49. Strawberry Snarkcake*

    I find it so sad that this is something we have to worry about. My male colleagues frequently wear very thin polos to work and clearly do NOT wear undershirts and yet I bet this thought has never once occurred to any of them.

  50. Just me*

    You just worry about being comfortable, if anyone is bothered at all they will have to get over it.

  51. sequitur*

    I’m sure I’m not the only AAM reader who doesn’t have any nipples, but I’d be curious to know how many of us are out there.

    Had mine removed as part of top surgery, and I must say I do love never worrying about them being visible.

    1. Blarg*

      Mine came off cause of cancer. Well, one had cancer. And I wanted a matching set. ;) I did get implants so when wearing clothes I appear to have typical cis women’s breasts. But without clothes, they look weird. I’m only 3 months out from surgery so still getting used to them, but the biggest surprise has been how much the nipple shapes the breast — kind of drawing it to a center point. Without it, they are more flat at the front and just look kind of odd, like they are super-glued to my chest or something.

      Anyway, mostly it is just interesting to me. But fellow non-nipple havers, unite. :)

      1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

        Same for me, Blarg, except that I didn’t choose to have reconstruction. Although I haven’t ever thought about having it done for more than 5 minutes, I do know that medical tattooists do fabulously realistic nipple tattoos – so if you ever think you want a different look, there’s that option!

  52. Anonnnn*

    sometimes I’ll be wearing a bralette, tank top, undershirt, and shirt and mine will be visible. I get it.

  53. Blarg*

    My nipples were removed in cancer surgery. Now my breasts are basically the same size as they once were (though differently shaped — the nipple really kinda pulls them together), but they no longer move basically at all. And I don’t have to “worry” about whether anyone sees my nipples, since they don’t exist. I’ve basically stopped wearing bras all together and it has been delightful.

    I do keep wondering — if the reason women’s breasts are sooooo dangerous is the nipples, and I no longer have those, can I stop wearing shirts all together?

    1. allathian*

      I suppose your question’s intended as sarcasm, but just in case you were serious, see below.

      I doubt it, the lack of visible nipples would make may people feel very uncomfortable. I know I would, although I’d be doing my best not to show it and I certainly wouldn’t comment on it. Others might not be as polite and some might get violent, given the current anti-trans climate. Which would affect you too, even if you had surgery to treat cancer rather than gender dysphoria. Both of which are equally valid reasons to have surgery! My discomfort with surgically altered bodies that don’t fit the binary is *my* problem, not the trans body haver’s!

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        Wait, what? People born with a Y-chromosome still have nipples. If they’re getting surgical breast implants they’re going to keep the nipples, why would they get rid of them? Most often additional estrogen will give anyone bigger breasts without surgery, anyway, regardless of underlying chromosomes.

        If you’re seeing someone with breasts and without nipples they’re statistically almost guaranteed to be a person without a Y-chromosome who has had breast cancer. There’s just no reason to remove nipples otherwise – because they’re universal, not binary. It’d be like removing your belly button or your nose to treat gender dysphoria. It’s just not a thing.

  54. Anon Anonymous*

    As a man, my nipples are often showing and I don’t think anything of it.

    You’re human, so you probably have nipples. People need to get over other people’s bodies.

    I know it can be different for women, and I sympathize, but all I can do is make it a non-issue for me and shut it down the best I can if others start being judgmental on bodies.

  55. TrixieD*

    Oh, fellow ProtrudingNippler™ here! I used to compete in collegiate forensics and had to dress professionally for events. After receiving feedback at multiple tournaments about how distracting my nipples were (this was in the late 80s/early 90s), I started wearing bandaids over my nipples so they weren’t sticking out through my bra, camisole and blouse (yes, three layers, and they still came out to play in the air conditioning). I wish I’d had the backbone (and support) as a 20-something to tell others to pack sand and just be myself.

  56. Maggie*

    I’m not sure this advice is universal. It would absolutely be A Thing at my job if someone’s nipples were frequently visible through clothing.

    1. Glitta*

      How sad for you that you have to work somewhere so focused on policing women’s bodies! I’m sorry that you have to put up with that. Hopefully you’ll be able to find employment somewhere more reasonable in future.

  57. Head sheep counter*

    I have a colleague who doesn’t wear a bra and wears large loose armholed dresses… and I’ve decided this is a me problem at this time. She’s not asked my opinion. She’s clearly comfortable. And while this is a very far distance from the LW’s problem… I hope she also has colleagues who’ve recognized that its a them problem. I don’t exist to police others.

    I will say if she was instead a direct report and new to the workforce, I might write a letter for advice as to how to gently mention visibility and some of the problems we face in the workplace when our colleagues see more than they should. I’d write the same query for a person with mooseknuckles as a fashion choice. I think early career folk can benefit from having knowledge about presenting themselves in well fitted clothes but its such a tricky issue.

  58. Lady Kelvin*

    I’m a higher ed émigré (escaped and now work in government) but I think you have less concerns there than any private sector office place. My advice is to pretend like everything is normal (even if it feels weird inside) and no one will say anything. Being anxious or nervous about things is usually what draws people’s attention! I do feel for you – after nursing both my kids my nipples are permanently pointy, although since I barely fill an A cup I have no problem wearing padded bras.

  59. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    “Do I have to cover them up?”
    If there are any men with visible nipples, then definitely no.
    Otherwise, still no

  60. James*

    I sometimes realise that I live in a completely parallel universe by being a gay guy. First of all, I’m not going to notice [thing about bodies]. Second, if I did notice [thing about bodies] I’m not going to think about it, let alone say anything. And third, someone else noticing [thing about bodies] and mentioning it to me would get short shrift.

    Hang on, is that a gay thing or is it, now I think about it, just me being British?

    1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      I think it’s a British thing!! I haven’t noticed a gay friend of mine not have many many opinions on people’s bodies, which he doesn’t share with them but he certainly notices!

    2. Off Plum*

      Considering the comments made to me by a gay male colleague at my first post-college job, it would have to be a British thing. Or a you thing. (Or a civilized and mature thing.)

  61. WS*

    I have large breasts and was once told off for wearing revealing clothing in the office when I was fully (and not tightly) covered from neck to wrists to ankles. After that I decided that I was going to be comfortable and professional and people can just deal with me having a body.

  62. cubby*

    i feel like i could have written this letter. i finally gave up on bras a couple years ago after i couldn’t find a single one that didn’t give me a headache after a few hours. i also have sensory issues and get overheated easily so. i’m in my owning-it phase too. sometimes i’ll wear two tank tops to stabilize things a little but my nipples are often making themselves known, and probably a little jiggle too. if people are going to think i’m unpolished or unprofessional over it… not having a blinding headache at the end of the day is a fair tradeoff for me.

  63. ThatOtherClare*

    It’s a university. It won’t get you fired. It won’t even get you a ‘talking to’. But it may affect your career progression and/or your colleagues’ opinions of you. However, I restate, it’s a university. A large number of your colleagues will be choosing to present themselves to the world in ways that affect their career progression, from the professor down the hall who wears his wizard robes, excuse me, academic gown every day, to that new young hotshot with the abrasive personality whom nobody wants to work with.

    Many women in academia, and indeed the working world more broadly, are determined to minimise any and every adjustable variable that may affect their career progression, due to their awareness of the many variables that they can’t alter which set women at a disadvantage. However, many women decide that sounds far too exhausting, and decide on an approach of reduction rather than minimisation (or the other extreme of ignoring the variable altogether).

    If you decide you want to reduce the impact of “Does/doesn’t dress like a stereotypical ‘profesional'” instead of minimising it, you can. There’s nothing to stop you. How much impact will it have? Nobody here can really tell you, but look at the career progression and/or research/teaching opportunities of other similarly presenting women in your area of the institution. How much have they been impacted? You should be able to interpolate/extrapolate from them. I wish you the best of luck in finding an approach that you are comfortable with.

Comments are closed.