≡ Menu

“Look At My Boobs!”

A businesswoman friend of mine wanted to meet me for a beer after work.  We arrived separately at about the same time, and I was walking past her car as she got out.  When we were walking in I noticed that her blouse was open, and it was obvious she had “missed a button”.  Since we were walking into a nice restaurant, I was a little uncomfortable about it but simply said, “I think you missed a button”.  She said, “No, it’s just too tight.”  That happened about a month ago, and ever since then, I have noticed it must be fashionable right now, because a whole lot of women have “missed a button”, and it’s way past showing a little cleavage, and more like “Look at my boobs !”  What’s a guy to do?    0502-11
The problem with pointing out attire malfunctions of a delicate, personal nature is that it is an admission that one’s eyes having traveled to look at those areas.   How does one tell a man his fly is wide open revealing that your eyes have zeroed in on his private parts enough to have noticed ?  If it’s my husband or a male member of my family, I whisper it in their ear.  But if it’s a man I know somewhat or not at all, I point it out to my husband or son who then informs the other guy of the problem.  Most of this is to reduce embarrassment for the guy.  Some will disagree with me but I just don’t believe it is appropriate for an unfamiliar woman to be telling a man that his genitals are not adequately covered by means of zipper functionality.

As for undone buttons on a woman’s blouse, once a woman is an adult, the days of anyone telling her how to dress should be over.   Deep cleavage via the unbuttoning of blouse buttons is not a clothing malfunction.   It is a fashion and life style statement.   Despite the obvious non-verbal invitation being given to direct one’s eyes to the mammary valley, a gentleman does not accept the invitation, at least not in public.   And for heaven’s sake, he NEVER comments on “missing buttons” thus confirming that the invitation to take a look has been acted upon.

And one thing you, the OP, should seriously consider is the danger of appearing too interested in the number of buttons buttoned or unbuttoned by your female co-workers.    It is unhappy fact of life that some female employees do not dress in a professional manner but rather in a provocative way which opens the door for their male counterparts to step on the slippery slope of ogling the offered goods and right into a charge of sexual harassment.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Chocobo May 12, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Add me to the list of posters who feel that while there IS such a thing as appropriate dress, women do not and should not hold any responsibility for men’s self control. Clearly women are able to control themselves around half-naked, shirtless men at the beach/mowing the yard/playing basketball/at the gym/anywhere it is mildly warm; I don’t see how that is any different for men when women (by law) are twice as covered in public as they are.

  • weasel May 12, 2011, 12:56 pm

    I have to disagree with the admin on the subject of flys. Not everyone has a husband they can conveniently tell the problem to. Personally, I would rather endure the mild discomfort of someone telling me that my fly was undone than to endure the much larger one of discovering it when I returned home at the end of the day. Realising how many people might have noticed it is just worse in my opinion.

  • LovleAnjel May 12, 2011, 1:02 pm

    I’m going to chime in as a girl who has had a top button undo itself in the middle of the day – I am medium-busted, and my shirts fit fine. Maybe it was mis-buttoned or I was doing a lot of physical moving and it just came undone that way – but please mention it! If you don’t want to be creepy, say it quietly while standing next to the person and looking off into the distance.

    I know women who are…naturally bountiful and most stores/catalogs don’t make shirts big enough around for them. So yes, it can be extremely difficult to find a shirt that fits, esp. if the only people commonly your size are surgically augmented for their careers.

  • Mechtilde May 12, 2011, 1:08 pm

    If a lady’s blouse is too tight over the bust then she needs the next size up. Or maybe more than the next size up. Missing a button isn’t acceptable.

    Yes, it is hard getting clothing to fit the larger bust. Trust me, I know. But gaping or missed buttons are not appropriate.

  • KW May 12, 2011, 1:27 pm

    I invest in fashion tape. It is a really easy to use double sided tape that is flexible and won’t harm clothing. I do have large breasts for my size, and soemtimes a shirt that fits the majority of my body, does the little button pull that would allow for someone to see in the gap. For me personally, it is not acceptable.
    This being said, how much or how little one choses to show of their body is their business. If it makes you uncomfortable, then don’t look. If you can’t help yourself, then remove yourself from the situation. Modesty isn’t for everyone, and luckily we live in a society that allows people to dress how they feel. I would never want someone to tell me what they feel I should and shouldn’t wear, so I wouldn’t dream of doing it to someone else.

  • Hemi Halliwell May 12, 2011, 1:28 pm

    I work in an office with several well-endowed women. So far, none of them has had any problems finding clothes that fit well and stay buttoned.
    There are a few other ladies at the office of average bust size that seem to wear button-up shirts undone to intentionally expose their cleavage so I think it’s more a fashion choice.
    I, personally, would not leave buttons undone to show cleavage. I prefer not to call attention to myself in that way.

  • Library Diva May 12, 2011, 1:34 pm

    I have never forgotten a particularly full day in graduate school. I attended a conference session, a lunch, then another session of the same conference; met with a student who was interested in applying to my program; met with my advisor; traveled with friends to the main campus of the college, where I went to the registrar’s office and the library, then went grocery shopping with the same friends. When I came back to my apartment, I discovered I had a piece of spinach from lunch lodged between my front teeth. There is no way that all of those people could have failed to notice it, but no one said anything?

    Ever since that day, I inform co-workers and friends immediately if something’s unzipped or unbuttoned or they’re wearing part of their lunch. No one’s ever taken offense. I agree that Admin was a little hard on OP about this whole thing. OP wasn’t trying to embarass his colleague, he was trying to save her from what he believed to be future embarassment.

    As to “showing off” at work, there’s a time and place for that. Women need to distinguish between office wear and club wear. And I do believe that if they choose to show off, they have to deal with any stares that may result. I’ve seen women dressed so revealingly that even as a straight female, I have trouble averting my eyes from their chest. You just can’t dress like this at work and expect to be taken seriously.

  • Alex May 12, 2011, 3:04 pm

    I have to disagree here with all of the posters putting this on the woman. If this man is noticing that there are lots of women “missing buttons” then perhaps his view is a bit skewed. I rarely see a woman dressed where she looks like she missed a button. (although I often see women dressed to show off their cleavage.) I think its quite obvious which is the case, and perhaps this OP is a prude who has suddenly decided to be offended by this.

    He should keep his eyes and thoughts to himself. Or stay home if this style of dress is too tempting for him to resist.

  • YWalkalone May 12, 2011, 3:43 pm

    I fully agree that men should not be absolved of their personal responsibility. As other commenters have said, we have rational minds and should be capable of controlling our impulses, &c.
    That being said, re: dressing provocatively (in the workplace especially, but also in everyday life)–I am reminded of one of the best pieces of advice my very wise father told me: “Everyone wears a uniform.” Meaning, consciously or not, people choose how they want to be perceived by how they dress, so think very carefully about how you are presenting yourself, because it WILL affect how others perceive you…and how they consequently treat you. I think this applies tenfold in a professional setting.

  • shiksa baba May 12, 2011, 3:52 pm

    I find people’s reactions here interesting, because i recently told a story here about a similar situation where the girls were hanging out, and most posters told me she had every right to dress as she wanted and that I was too invested in other people’s clothing. I wonder why the posters comments are different now?

  • Enna May 12, 2011, 4:17 pm

    I agree with Admin to a point: it depends on the time and the place, the way it is said and the attitudes of the individuals involved. I like the OP – he comes across as a man who can look at a woman and respect her and doesn’t want her to be embrassed. What is an interesting point here is that it is the oppisite of say a man smacking a woman on her bottom.

    Now if I had a button undone I would rather someone told me, man or woman in a polite way. So long as it was said politely and kindly then what is the problem with that? The only time it would be a faux pas would be if the man was rude, crude, pervy etc about it: then it would be sexual harrasment.

  • Orwellian May 12, 2011, 4:18 pm

    I think that there’s no way I would say anything to a woman about buttons unless I knew her well and had a sense of her style. At work that can get you fired, quite frankly. I once had a job where I went to different county agencies to audit them for compliance with federal regulations; we’d be at a facility for two weeks to two months and then move on. At one of them, a sexual-harassment complaint was filed against a male co-worker because he was doing paperwork on a chair in a hall. He hadn’t ever talked to her and couldn’t see into her office, but it was enough that several man-hours of conferences had to be conducted to make sure that there was a paper trail in case she complained. Talking to a woman about her buttons, if the woman decides so, is sexual harassment or sexist or both.

  • Rae May 12, 2011, 4:19 pm

    When I’m at work I dress semi-professionally (I work a semi-professional job). To me this means no cleavage and bottoms no more than an inch above my knee. If I wear a dress that’s what I feel is too short I throw fitted jeans underneath it and wear it as a top. If my shirt won’t button (and I do have tops that don’t button thanks to my large chest and due to buying most of my clothes from Goodwill and there being a spotty selection the “get a size larger” argument doesn’t usually work) I wear a modest camisole underneath it. I discussed this with my boss when I was promoted because there is no set dress code and she said that I dress fine and she’s never thought my outfits were inappropriate.

    However, when I go out on the town (as in dinner or clubbing, not church) with my girlfriends I don’t go to great lengths to cover up my cleavage. I like my boobs and how they make my outfits look and don’t really care if some guy looks at them. They’re out there so I’m not gonna fault some guy for taking a gander. If I wanted no one to look I’d dress a lot more modest. However I would fault somebody if they thought this was an excuse to harass/rape me because “I’m asking for it.”.

  • Enna May 12, 2011, 4:20 pm

    But fashion designers and clothes designers need to desgin and make clothes that fit properly. I have broad shoulders, elbows and cruves finding shirts/blouses that fit are trickey.

  • jen a. May 12, 2011, 4:23 pm


    Seriously? Did you actually say that? I could go on, but others have already done a great job of explaining why your comment is off, so I’ll just co-sign on what they’ve said.

    Personally, I don’t get too hot and bothered if someone is showing their boobs. They’re just boobs! Most of us have seen at least one pair in our lives. I know some people feel differently, though. Seriously, I think Admin is right on – the OP should worry more about appearing a little too interested in his coworker’s, um, buttons.

  • Another Beth May 12, 2011, 4:43 pm

    @Jo–YES! That’s what I’ve learned, possibly from Miss Manners. If it can be immediately fixed (button undone), point it out. If it isn’t immediately fixable (stain on shirt, shirt appears three sizes too small) best not to mention it.

    Of course, there was one day at work I learned that I had a huge rip down the back of my new dress. The fabric was lightweight and I still don’t know how long it was like that. In that case, please tell the person. At least they can grab the stapler to make an emergency fix!

  • Louise May 12, 2011, 4:52 pm

    I don’t understand why people keep talking about inappropriate clothing in the workplace. This was after work. It’s possible she was all buttoned up at work and then undid one when she left.Whether that’s still too much is up for debate, but it doesn’t mean she dresses inappropriately in the workplace.

  • --E May 12, 2011, 5:12 pm

    The problem arises if it’s a judgment call as to whether the undone button is accidental or deliberate. If all the buttons are in matched to their correct buttonholes, and the unbuttoning is all consecutive buttons, then one should assume it’s a fashion choice. If the buttons are misaligned with their corresponding holes, or a random middle button is undone, then one should quietly inform the wearer of the situation.

    I deal with this problem by not owning any button-down shirts (I have never liked them, anyway). One of the benefits of being a woman is that we have many options when it comes to office wear; we’re not trapped in oxford shirts.

  • Mally May 12, 2011, 5:18 pm

    This is why I try and avoid button-up blouses as much as possible. If it fits over my bust, it’s too loose elsewhere. If it fits properly everywhere else, it doesn’t fit my bust. And I’m not even well endowed! Easier to look professional with non-button up blouses instead of ill fitting button up blouses. I get the whole top buttons off a blouse not being done up, but not in an office setting.

  • Jenny May 12, 2011, 5:57 pm

    As a mere student, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to wear tees or tanks under my blouses (i.e. it’s not considered too casual), so that’s what I do. Also, if the buttonholes are too loose (it happens), find someone who can sew.

  • Edhla May 12, 2011, 6:19 pm

    Whenever I’ve had occasion to tell someone they’ve had a “wardrobe malfunction”, whether that be a missed button or an unzipped fly or whatever, I’ve always tried to mention it in a fairly discreet but matter-of-fact, unembarrassed way. There’s few things I hate worse than when something like that happens to me (and let’s face it, those sort of things happen to pretty much everyone at least once!) and someone sidles up to me, murmuring the dreaded news in such a shamed, low-voiced, fashion that it screams “despite the fact that this sort of thing happens to plenty of people, you should be HORRIFIED that it’s happened to you. Humiliated. Heck, I’m deeply embarrassed just having to TELL you about it!”

  • Tundra May 12, 2011, 7:40 pm

    Sounds like some women here are wanting people to button all their buttons to the neck. I want to be told if a button has popped in the middle of my shirt (like one’s done up above it and one below), or if I’m showing my bra, since I don’t usually do that. My friends tell me if it happens. But if I have some buttons undone and there’s a bit of cleavage showing, it’s usually deliberate and it’s also not slutty to do it or something. Unless I were working. I work in a school so then that wouldn’t be appropriate. But I wouldn’t have my shirts done all the way up for many other jobs. Also, getting the ‘next size up’ means it’s often too baggy on my body and just looks wrong.

  • Mike Johnson May 12, 2011, 9:13 pm

    This is a case where no matter what a man does it’s going to be wrong. If he mentions it then he is either a prude or a perv. If he doesn’t then he is impolite for letting a co-worker go around in a manner that she doesn’t want to present or else is a jerk for not noticing that the woman is trying to be attractive. We have reached a point where no matter what we do it is going to be mis-construed or out right resented. I hold a door for one woman and I’m a sexist, I don’t hold it for the next and I am a rude boor. Really what are we supposed to do? I’m not trying to be a jerk but I have all of the above happen to me and I am really in a state of confusion about what behavior is expected, and yes I understand that there are differences based on location but until we get back to some sort of standard men are always going to be doing the wrong thing based on who we are interacting with. It’s confusing and frustrating because I feel like I go out of my way to be polite to everyone, male or female but it seems that society has thrown us into a mine field of potential faux pas’.

  • Nicole May 13, 2011, 1:25 am

    Tell your friend to go to http://www.bravissimo.com, they make shirts that are fuller in the bust. Also, eris apparel.

  • Katie May 13, 2011, 3:21 am

    Ah, a topic close to my heart! Firstly, I don’t think the OP did anything wrong – it didn’t sound to me like he was criticising her style of dress, more than he really thought she’d had a wardrobe malfunction. And that I have no problem with.

    I will always remember how embarrassing it is to have no one mention a wardrobe malfunction all day at my last job. My pants had a side zip but somehow managed to come apart at the seams in the middle at the front- not completely, just a couple of inches and enough to flash open when I walked. I don’t know when it happened or how I missed it when I got dressed, but a few times during the day, right from the morning, I caught people looking at me strangely. I checked myself in the bathroom mirror but couldn’t see anything wrong because the pants stayed in place when I did – the people would’ve only seen when I walked, so I dismissed it as me being paranoid. It’s really quite a moment to go home and take off your clothes, and then come to the realisation that you’ve been flashing your bright blue g-string at colleagues all day. People clearly noticed, and NO ONE said anything! No one! Not my team leader, not any of my workmates, not even my close friend who was working on the same floor as me at the time. And this was mostly a floor of girls, too. I would’ve really appreciated someone coming up to me and quietly saying, ‘Katie, I think your pants have split a little at the front’, so I could’ve grabbed a safety pin and fixed it until I got home. I’m not much of a prude and I don’t mind showing off some skin if I’ve chosen to do so, but THAT was really embarrassing! Especially when I had to go back and work with them all the next day.

    I’ve told complete strangers that their button has popped off, that their skirt is unzipped, that their fly is down, and most embarrassingly of all that their period has started without them realising (luckily I knew that last one, can’t promise I would’ve told a stranger that!). Always been very matter-of-fact and discreet, and never has anyone been anything except grateful. It’s so much better to be told than to unintentionally flash yourself, and realise that night that everyone saw and just let you go around like that!

  • Xtina May 13, 2011, 7:46 am

    I would want anyone–stranger or not–to tell me if I was having a wardrobe malfunction; if it was a man who told me (a woman) about something embarrassing, I would not immediately presume that he was checking me out *there*, but even if he was, it turned out to help me in that situation so I’d say all is forgiven since he had to admit it to help me out, haha.

    It seems like the only clothing you can buy these days is deeply cut and shows a lot–the manufacturers of the clothes make them that way and I always end up having to buy shirts bigger, or wear something underneath them to cover myself appropriately. It sucks, but there’s not much else to be had, it seems, unless I want to shop in the department that caters to grandma.

  • Mechtilde May 13, 2011, 8:48 am

    I’m not suggesting the women should button their blouses all the way up to the neck, and don’t do that myself. The problem is that if a blouse is too tight over the bust, it gapes and looks very unsightly. Misbuttoning looks unsightly too. Also either can lead to showing underwear, which is not polite- showing straps is OK but not the main body of the bra.

    I’ve sewn up parts of blouses before now, to make sure that I could wear them properly.

  • AS May 13, 2011, 10:13 am

    @Mike Johnson – you are thinking too much. It is true that every woman’s perception of what constitutes polite is different. So, if you know what the person likes, do accordingly. Otherwise, be yourself and do what you think is right. Like most things in the world, what is right to someone is wrong to someone else. So, best to be yourself.

    For example, I am one of those people who think men don’t have to hold the door for women. I don’t think it is sexist; but I don’t see the point in it in modern society, especially when the woman is the one driving the car. When a woman wears dressy dresses or skirts, it is convenient if someone holds the door when they are coming out, especially if the door tries to keep springing back on them. But when we wear jeans or pants, it doesn’t matter much. But if someone holds the door for me, I think still think it is sweet.

  • Shalamar May 13, 2011, 11:59 am

    I once left an extra button undone on a blouse – it was one of those times when fastening the button would have made the blouse uncomfortably tight around the neck, so leaving it undone was the lesser of two evils. My pervy male co-worker came up behind me without warning and WHISPERED (ugh) in my ear “You’ve left a button undone. But don’t do it up on my account.” EWWW! I felt like showering.

  • DGS May 13, 2011, 12:50 pm

    @Mike Johnson, I don’t think it’s sexist when someone opens up the door or gives up the seat for a woman – I think it’s sweet. I also think that being complimented in a nice, gracious way (e.g. “You look lovely today!”) is perfectly appropriate, depending on the context (e.g. colleague to colleague – great; inmate to guard – creepy). As long as you are yourself and use good judgment, I don’t think you’ll run into too many problems.

  • aventurine May 14, 2011, 1:28 am

    Mike: I hear you. I take such gestures as men holding doors for me, etc, in the spirit in which they were offered. My husband feels the same way you do – he’s a proponent of old-fashioned “chivalry,” for lack of a better word, and he gets mixed reactions even in our native American South.

  • anonymous May 14, 2011, 11:08 am

    I’m with DGS on the subject of Aje’s statement: “It must be terribly difficult for guys today trying to faithful to someone while the rest of woman-kind has themselves hanging out for the world to see.”

    I’m sorry, but that is just a few hops and skips to “men can’t be expected to be faithful, so women need to cover up” (which infantilizes men and imprisons women) and “she was dressed provocatively so she deserved it…men are men”. Which in my humble opinion is simply not true.

    I agree that there are general guidelines for decent dress in the workplace and social settings that it would be best if people followed, but a choice to do so or not is up to the individual as long as it’s within the law and workplace or venue rules/guidelines. How a person – say, a man reacting to a scantily clad woman – is the 100% total responsibility of the person who sees the provocative dress, not the dresser. To imply that men are unfaithful because women show off their assets is putting all of the blame on the women, and none on the men – that’s unfair to BOTH genders.

  • Mary May 14, 2011, 3:40 pm

    “An interesting assumption that women are ‘up for it’ because they wear revealing clothes. I believe rapists used to like this defence.”

    I would not say that women who wear revealing clothing are asking to be raped. HOWEVER, I do believe that they are trying to attract attention or to get men to look at them. Why else would women have their bellies, excessive cleavage or the top of their butts exposed? Because they want the attention and want people to look at them.

  • Cat May 14, 2011, 6:16 pm

    I work with a guidance counselor in a high school who insists that she must “look sexy”!

    Yes, just what every teenage boy needs-a sexy looking, forty year old counselor to tell him to keep his mind on his studies while she wears low cut blouses. After all, she paid for the breast enhancement surgery so she may as well flaunt it.

    I remember the days when we wore suits or dresses with high heels. Now I know how the dinosaurs must have felt.

  • karma May 14, 2011, 6:51 pm

    The OP didn’t sound either turned on or prudish. He sounded like he simply wished to tell a work pal that her clothing had misfired only to find out that to his chagrin that she *meant* to do it. Meanwhile, he just lamented that is sure is hard to tell sometimes when to speak up and when not to.

  • Elinor May 15, 2011, 9:56 am

    If you are opening doors for women, you should be opening doors for anyone who needs it. I hope that is what is happening.
    I can’t fathom holding a door open because you see a woman, approaching from several yards away, who isn’t carrying owt and would be quite capable of opening her own door, and standing there waiting because she’s a woman. And then letting the door shut in the face of a man with armfuls of luggage. That’s the extreme, but holding doors only for women, and not anyone who might benefit from it, *is* sexist because it assumes women invariably need more help. Condescending. Sometimes everyone needs a bit of polite assistance.
    The problem with ‘chivalry’ is that, originally, it was only extended to a few people. Women, yes, but only women of a certain social class who were deemed valuable enough to be worthy of it. Everyone else could fend for themselves. Now people seem to have this romantic idea that ‘chivalry’ was coming to the rescue of anyone in distress- or at least any woman- when it was quite strictly codified.
    As for ‘standards’ in the past, they may have made the social minefield easier to navigate, but these standards were also based on people knowing their place. For most of us, this would have been a pretty unfair place with little opportunity to improve things. I would gladly take some social awkwardness to even out a rigidly stratified society.

    I have no idea if people would consider my dress in the category of what’s being discussed above- although I often show my navel, so probably- but I’m wearing what I think looks good, and I am honestly *not* dressing for anyone else. Only to please me. With different standards of covered-upness depending on the individual, I cannot scan every person I’m likely to meet and divine how each one is going to respond to my outfit- this person thinks it’s noticeable, this person is used to much more laxity, so the net ‘attention’ effect is… no, impossible. Usually I have a coat on while walking to wherever I’m going for a night out- my outfit might be spectacular when I’m there, but I want comfort and warmth outside.
    Some of my clothes are modest (full skirts, arms/chest covered etc.) but I dress in a particular unusual fashion, which is very different from everyday styles. I know people are going to notice it, but I wear it because I like it- I’m not doing it to get a rise out of random strangers. I’ve heard it said about bullying victims that ‘if you weren’t so weird, people wouldn’t make fun of you’, and this seems a little like that- people will notice, people can *think* what they like, but they absolutely do not have to comment or make a nuisance of themselves. And no, my clothes did not ‘make’ you do that.
    Lastly, when I go out fully dressed up in what could be termed my ‘pulling gear’, I assure you I’m not looking for attention *from men*.

  • Elizabeth May 15, 2011, 6:37 pm

    “It is unhappy fact of life that some female employees do not dress in a professional manner but rather in a provocative way which opens the door for their male counterparts to step on the slippery slope of ogling the offered goods and right into a charge of sexual harassment.”

    Then perhaps the male employees should file a complaint with the HR department. If women are walking around the office in revealing clothing, THAT could be considered sexual harassment.

  • Mary May 15, 2011, 9:42 pm

    Amen to that, Elinor. I disagree with some posters that EVERYONE that dresses differently from the norm is only ever looking for attention- some people just feel more comfortable in clothing that is different than yours.

    If I may, I’d like to recount a brief story from my past. I dated a Mormon once; when I learned about various rules about his faith, I started to try to follow the dress code when around his family or at functions to show my respect. So I only wore skirts that went below my knee by a few inches, and never any tank tops (his family wasn’t so strict to forbid t-shirts, but some Mormons promote wearing three quarter length sleeves at least).

    I went to a Mormon dance gathering, and dressed appropriately. A girl raised in the Mormon faith was there, and her dress was quite tight and short. It was obvious to me the dress was a hand-me-down she had grown out of. The other girls snipped to one another about her impropriety, how she clearly wanted male attention, etc. If any of the people on the board saw her, they would see she was mortified by the attention she got, and would think she dressed quite modestly. My point is that everyone’s determination of appropriate is different.

    Also, to go off on a tangent, those clean cut girl that night were horrendous people- they didn’t swear or dress “suggestively,” but they were quite mean-spirited. On the other hand, once I was stranded and a girl with bare midriff, a glued purple mohawk and piercings everywhere helped me get home. So, no one ought to judge a book by its cover and no form of dress is more moral than the other.

    I just wanted to briefly remind people that there are other professions where one can wear anything they want and ought not to be judged against the standard suit and tie combo and be found left wanting because they have opted out of that particular choice. I DO agree, because it is proper etiquette, that if someone has a job with a dress code it ought to be followed, and when participating in different cultural events or traveling to countries where other garb is considered appropriate, one should adapt to fit the circumstances to be polite. However, if someone is a fish out of water in “your” culture and is not dressing “your” way, the polite thing to do is keep quiet unless advice is sought.

    I know I went on a tangent, and I apologize. Finally, I love this etiquette site and the posters on it bring such intelligence to the discussion and I thank them for it.

  • Enna May 16, 2011, 4:15 pm

    I was thinking that if someone is being preachy or a prude then they would point out things like this all the time. As for the title “look at my boobs” could be a bit misguided – sometimes tops shrink in the wash over time.

  • Elizabeth May 17, 2011, 2:04 am

    Most of my button-up shirts are sewn closed, rendering the buttons as decorations only, as the width of my shoulders and torso usually causes a gap. Because I know that the gap will be there, I choose to alter the shirt to make it more modest, just as I choose to wear longer skirts or trousers to avoid any ‘wardrobe malfunctions.” Life is just so much easier and nicer if I don’t have to worry about anything accidentally showing. But sometimes, this backfires on me. One of my pet peeves in an office environment in the summertime (I live in the South) are women who dress very lightly (sleeveless top or tank style top with a short skirt) and then complain about the air conditioning being too cold – it makes me feel as though I’m being penalized by having to swelter in a warm building because I chose to dress modestly for work and they didn’t.

    On a related note, I have also seen a news story recently about a woman, who was very slender and attractive who, according to the article (I’m sorry, I couldn’t find a link), always wore a high-neck or turtleneck top with a blazer or jacket, and a knee length skirt to work. The accompanying picture didn’t show her wearing anything excessively tight or form-fitting, but the outfit didn’t disguise her body’s shape (and, in a nod to the poster who equated male marital fidelity with the scantiness of a women’s apparel, nor should it have to disguise her shape). She was suing the company she worked for because she felt that she had been denied promotions and treated unfairly due to her attractiveness; a modern take on “No one takes a pretty girl seriously.” Nice problem to have, but if a turtleneck + blazer and a knee-length skirt isn’t modest enough, what else was she supposed to wear? Sackcloth and ashes?

  • Shea May 17, 2011, 4:09 am

    This is why I wear stretchy camisoles or tank tops under button-up blouses and shirts. Hormones (or other factors) can cause things to swell a bit, even after getting dressed in the morning. This insures I’m covered (quite literally). A shirt can fit perfectly one day and barely button the next, and it’s not always predictable. This doesn’t mean I need to always buy shirts that are too big for me a majority of the time and go around looking frumpy on most days.

  • Elizabeth May 17, 2011, 9:04 am

    @Enna “sometimes tops shrink in the wash over time.”


  • Bint May 20, 2011, 9:46 am

    @Elizabeth – not everyone can afford to stop wearing clothes because they’ve shrunk. Not everyone wants to either.

    And please don’t shout.

  • CMHValex May 26, 2011, 2:16 pm

    I would say that if you notice someone with an obviously accidental fashion faux pas they are unaware of, please alert them to it, regardless of whether they are the same gender as you. Do, however, let them know in a discreet manner, and don’t say anything if it isn’t obviously accidental. I once had a male professor (I am female) who had nicked himself shaving that morning. He had put a small piece of toilet paper on the cut to stop the bleeding and forgot to take it off later. We’ve all seen it happen. It’s never on purpose. Clearly, he didn’t mean to come in with it still like that. I and another student had gone to talk to him in his office before class, and after the other student walked out, I ducked my head back in and made a nonverbal sign with my hand that there was something on his neck. He automatically knew what I was talking about, took it off, and thanked me. I’m sure he was a bit embarrassed, but can you imagine how much worse it would have been if he had taught my class and all the other classes he had later that day with that piece of tissue still on his neck? At least this way, only he and I (and potentially the other student, who didn’t say anything) knew about it instead of several classes full of people.

  • CMHValex May 26, 2011, 2:27 pm

    Also, for the record, I am a rather busty gal myself. I completely understand how difficult it is to find button-up shirts that fit, don’t pull at the buttons, and don’t open up that little gap between buttons to show the world what your bra looks like. I also understand how buying shirts can be trying, as necklines that are modest on many women show a lot of cleavage on those of us that are larger. I have discovered that spaghetti strap shirts and camisoles are absolutely amazing wardrobe-savers. I have one brown cotton shirt that is wonderful and dressy for day to day wear, but a bit to “night out” for the office (read: it shows a bit too much cleavage). I just match it with a white spaghetti strap, and the neckline is instantly fixed. It’s not too bulky (dressing in layers often can be), it looks like the shirt was made with the white bit already in it, and I don’t have to worry about accidentally showing off the girls or buying a new blouse.

    And as a friendly word of advice, just in case you need it: I always do a “look down” check as well as a mirror check. My job requires a lot of sitting, and I tend to work around several people that are taller than me. In the mornings, I look down at my chest to make sure my top is still modest from above instead of just relying on the mirror, which can only give me the perspective of someone at the same height level as me. The varying perspectives is a good thing to keep in mind, if you’re worried about whether you’re showing too much chest.

  • AMC June 2, 2011, 8:47 am

    I had an incident yesterday that reminded me of this post. I went with my husband to an icecream shop yesterday evening. We live in a college town and this place is very popular with the students. I walked in and went to the back of the shop where the self-serve station is. There I notice a young lady chatting with a couple of male friends. As I made my way around them to grab a container, I noticed that the girl had a very large rip in the back of her very tight shorts. I almost didn’t say anything because I know kids sometimes where clothing with rips in them, but this tear was straight down the cheek and some of her undergarment was peeking out. I tapped the girl on her shoulder and discreetly let her know she had a rip in her pants. Turns out that the tear was *not* intentional, and she thanked me for letting her know so she could hide it. I figure it was better for me (another female) to take a chance and let her know about the rip rather than say nothing and let one of her male counterparts make the discovery.

  • justme June 23, 2012, 11:13 am

    What strikes me as odd is that the OP has acknowledges that this trend “must be fashionable right now”, and then finishes with “what’s a guy to do?” The obvious answer, of course, is “Nothing.” The trend is obviously deliberate, and it is up to other people to choose how they want to dress (and thus how they want to be perceived). You may not approve of the way a person is dressed, but it is not your place to say so (unless said person is clearly dressed inappropriately for the workplace, and you are his/her boss). If your coworker was not dressed in a manner that would get her kicked out of the restaurant she was in, then it’s probably a matter of opinion. If you feel uncomfortable eating with someone who is showing that much cleavage, you are within your rights to not extend or accept any future lunch invitations. But your coworkers are also within their rights to dress themselves without your input.

  • Sarah Elisabeth July 26, 2012, 11:32 pm

    I know too many women who refuse to dress modestly, even when the setting is more upper-class (like the nice restaurant the OP was talking about). I’m female, but I know how hard it is to keep focused when someone is dressed provocatively. Also, call me prude if you like, but it’s my belief that lust is wrong/bad/a sin, whatever. While controlling my thoughts is my own problem, the men around me definitely shouldn’t help me stumble. Same goes for women around men.
    Now, it is everyone’s choice, of course, and I’m not trying to force anyone to dress the way I do. All I say is that we should take into consideration everyone around is and try not to make others uncomfortable so we can show off cleavage for whatever reason.