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“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.

  • Greenpea May 12, 2011, 4:47 am

    As an engineer working with 90% males (and sometimes I am the ONLY female when on site) I would definitely want my colleagues to politely inform me if I was ‘missing a button’. For them to remain silent and wait for another female to tell me means that I might be exposing myself for the whole day to countless other men. I would MUCH prefer my close co-workers and friends, regardless of gender, to tell me than not at all.

    That said though, I would feel uncomfortable if I was informed by someone who was just an acquaintance or stranger.

  • lkb May 12, 2011, 4:51 am

    In an effort to put a charitable spin on this — I have noticed that some manufacturer’s seem to make their women’s shirts intentionally badly so that a key button slips out of the buttonhole while the shirt is being worn. I’m not particularly well-endowed and I don’t wear shirts that are too tight but it has happened on more than one occasion.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen women dressing apparently for a different kind of success than I’d want. Case that comes immediately to mind is the reception at our local car dealership’s service desk — always down to there and up to there KWIM (and she’s at least in her 40s(?))? One day I was there and from the desk up, I could have sworn she was wearing my pink fluffy bathrobe. When she got up to deliver a message, I could see it was a sweater but her skirt was way above the “fingertip” length that my daughter’s school requires.
    She may be quite good at her job but her attire screams “bimbo” and I can’t help but assume that’s how she got where she’s at.

  • Maggie May 12, 2011, 5:05 am

    If I saw this:
    A button done up > then one undone > and then one done up

    Then I would tell someone, whether I was a man or a woman, as it’s an obvious mistake. In fact, I’ve regularly told men and women that this has happened.

    However, I wouldn’t dream of telling someone that their top was too low/unbuttoned , even if I thought it was an error. The worst that would happen is the woman realises later on and thinks “Whoops.”

    However if you say something the worst that could happen is someone thinks “how dare that pervert/prude tell me how to wear my clothes” . It’s really none of your business if someone you don’t know is showing too much flesh.

  • josie May 12, 2011, 5:50 am

    I’m one of those gals who will inform a guy that his zipper is down. Sometimes you’re not intentionally reviewing his package but rather you just notice that it’s down. Just tell him already.

  • Aje May 12, 2011, 5:53 am

    My favorite thing now is bathing suit season. Girls at the beach put on their short-shorts over their bikini and leave the zipper and button undone on purpose.

    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.

  • QueenofAllThings May 12, 2011, 6:14 am

    I think that some of this comes about because of what we see on TV as suitable for women who work outside of the home. Think of fictional women (Lisa Cutty of ‘House’ comes to mind, as do all the women of ‘Bones’ and ‘CSI’), and real working women (‘Real Housewives’, anyone?). All of these women are falling out of their clothes when they are on the job; they are attractive, slim, fit and well-endowed – and they (or their characters) make sure that everyone knows it.

    I cannot imagine arriving at work with that much flesh on display (or, for that matter, clothes that tight or heels that towering). I’m no prude, but exactly what profession are we touting?

  • Jojo May 12, 2011, 6:51 am

    As someone who is quite well endowed in terms of cleavage, it’s a nightmare wearing shirts and finding ones that fit properly. I have no choice but to ‘miss buttons’ if required to wear a proper shirt for work. Generally I will wear a top underneath so that less is on display but there are occasions when this is not possible and I just have to make the most of my assets. I figure that at least it takes attention away from my abundant thighs and not so smooth stomach.
    I would only ever suggest that someone had a problem with their clothing if there was proof- a sticking out label, or undone fly. As a courtesy, I believe it would be suitable to mention a garment’s shortcomings to a stranger in the form of a little friendly banter or conversation if the chance arose in order to avoid them experiencing the embarrassment of discovering they’d spent 2 hours with a price label hanging from their dress or fly open.
    Anything else I would regard as personal choice, no matter how ill fitting, and make no comment. Unless, of course I had a compliment to make.

  • DGS May 12, 2011, 6:54 am

    I have to respectfully disagree with Aje’s statement above that it “must be terribly difficult for guys today trying to be faithful to someone while the rest of woman-kind has themselves hanging out for the world to see”. While some women may choose to dress more provocatively than others, blaming their attire for men being unfaithful is akin to a) blaming a woman who dresses provocatively for being raped or molested and b) denying men the common sense, wisdom and restraint that differentiates men from animals. Someone’s provocative attire may draw more attention to them, but that is not a reason to behave inappropriately or criminally, or to be unfaithful to one’s partner.

    That being said, I do think that attire communicates professionalism. Being a psychologist and a younger woman, I tend to dress very conservatively for my position, as I believe that it communicates respect for my occupation, respect for my patients and their families and a focus on treatment rather than on my appearance. However, I tend to dress more provocatively on the weekends (appropriately and age-appropriately, but more provocatively, as in fitted clothing, lower necklines and shorter hemlines, not as in skintight clothing, plunging necklines and microminis), when I am out with my husband, friends and family. I am a young woman who has (not now when I’m pregnant, but normally) a decent figure, and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with wearing fashionably fitted but age-appropriate and tasteful clothing. However, one needs to be aware of one’s setting, err on the side of conservatism at work and not mistake being an attractive woman in one’s 30’s, 40’s or 50’s for the opportunity to dress like a teenager on the set of a MTV show.

  • Hollanda, UK May 12, 2011, 7:12 am

    I work in the UK in a hospital environment (working in an office). Our dress policy is very clear in stating that employees should be adequately and professionally dressed at all times in accordance with our Trust Policy. This includes not showing off too much flesh, although it is not stated exactly how much is “too much”, and we are mostly trusted to use our own initiatives on this. It would be clear to me, however, on a professional basis, that going into work with buttons unfastened on my shirt to show off “cleavage” flesh would constitute too much being on parade, and although I can see accidents happen, it is up to the individual to ensure that they wear suitable clothes in order to portray a professional image at all times. If I were showing off too much flesh, I would expect to be pulled up on it, whether by a colleague or by senior management, who frown heavily on these things.

    I personally have noticed that there is a great deal more flesh being shown these days, particularly by younger people and whilst I am aware that fashions change throughout the years, I am not in favour of people walking around with everything “hanging loose”. It makes me feel uncomfortable to see people (men and women) showing off parts of their bodies that are clothed for a reason! Although I would never say anything for fear of retribution (believe me, that could happen!), it alters my perception of someone if I can see, for example, that person’s belly button. It makes me query subconsciously what sort of attention that person wants.

    In addition, when a female dresses in a way that can be construed as “provocatively”, she never knows what surrounding or passing men might be thinking. IN NO WAY am I saying that women who dress provocatively deserve to get attacked any more than women who don’t (I wouldn’t wish that on anyone), I just feel that there are people out there who would – or could potentially – take advantage of something that they may see as being “offered on a plate”. I would personally feel mortified if I had spent the whole day walking round showing too much cleavage or whatever, but I know there are people out there who wouldn’t. I would prefer to be quietly told that my button was unfastened, whatever, but I would never choose to tell someone else voluntarily unless that person was a VERY close friend of mine.

    This is partly to do with etiquette, I guess (it could be considered rude), but also as I said earlier, that person could easily turn round to me and use what I had said as an excuse to be aggressive…in this day and age, you just don’t know, and sometimes I feel it is better left alone and ignored, rather than undue attention be brought to the rather obvious fact.

    I may be wrong here…sorry for long post btw!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • Livvie May 12, 2011, 7:37 am

    It’s pretty clear you knew she hadn’t actually “missed” a button by the fact that later on you acknowledge that lots of women are doing it.

    As for your question- What’s a guy to do? Nothing. Enjoy the view if you want, but it’s not your place to be telling grown-up women how to dress.

    And the tone of the commenters here worries me. In particular “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.” Excuse me? Since when is it my problem that someone has trouble keeping it in his pants whenever he sees a pretty woman? And yeah- I got boobs. And when I meet a friend at a bar for a drink, they may be “hanging out for the world to see.” Because they are hot. And I like them.

  • boxy May 12, 2011, 7:42 am

    In a business setting it’s inappropriate for a woman to allow her breasts to be the focus of attention by leaving buttons undone.

    In a social setting it’s a different set of rules. However, she shouldn’t call a man out if he looks at her breasts, intentionally or otherwise.

  • Amber May 12, 2011, 7:43 am

    Who says the first woman didn’t undo that button AFTER work, when looking professional isn’t quite so necessary, and showing a little cleavage is standard? I mean, they were going out for beers!

    I say let it be unless the woman is at work and literally falling out of her clothes.

  • Bint May 12, 2011, 7:48 am

    “once a woman is an adult, the days of anyone telling her how to dress should be over”

    Thank you. I completely agree. Although having lots of cleavage on display in most businesses just looks unprofessional.

    For men with their zip down, our standard phrase is ‘you’re flying low’.

  • SHOEGAL May 12, 2011, 7:56 am

    I think men regularly oggle the assets of women – they really just can’t help themselves. I find that my husband will often blame the oggling on the woman herself because her chest seems to be out on display. He claims it is like a deer in the headlights or a train wreck – you can’t look away. As a woman – I rarely notice these things myself. On several occasions we were out shopping and when I made my purchases and we left the store together – he commented on what the cashier had on. He said it was such a low cut top that it was almost blinding him. I never once looked at her breasts and didn’t notice the low cut top at all. I don’t think he ever comments on this to the actual woman – but he can’t help but look.

  • Giles May 12, 2011, 8:10 am

    Although it’s not an etiquette matter, the co-worker might not know how to dress appropriately. My daughter wore too loose clothing in her pre-teen years because she was embarrassed about her larger chest, then went through a (short) phase where she’d wear way too revealing stuff as a teenager. I just sent her shopping with her aunt and my credit card and her aunt helped her pick out stuff that was appropriate. Not everyone gets this advantage.

    On a personal level, I think people should be polite enough to look at someone’s face and not be distracted, though. Then again, this is me and maybe it’s not that simple…

  • Ashley May 12, 2011, 8:10 am

    Admin, I think you’re being too hard on the guy. He thought that the woman had had an *unintentional* wardrobe malfunction and was pointing it out to her in an attempt to save her from the embarrassment of walking around in public revealing more then she intended to. It just happens that he was mistaken about the *unintentional* part of it.

  • Chocobo May 12, 2011, 8:17 am

    I would definitely say something if there was clearly a button done wrong (in the middle of the shirt, or something), man or woman. Otherwise, it’s not any of my business. What constitutes appropriate clothing means different things to different people — for my grandmother, nothing less than a sweater-set cardigan up to your neck will do. For others, a little skin is okay. Who knows how the woman in the story actually dressed. How low was that button? Was she falling out all over the place or was it a peek of clavicle? In any case, I don’t believe it’s my place to tell adults how to dress.

    This whole issue drags all kinds of social arguments out of the basement: should women be ashamed of their bodies (in particular, breasts) and cover them up? Or should they be allowed to be proud of their figures and show them off? Is it women’s responsibility to control men’s behavior by covering themselves? What exactly constitutes “covered” vs. “exposed?” (or more crassly: how much boob is too much boob?)

    None of the above questions are easily answerable, probably have as many opinions as there are people in the world. Honestly, unless the wardrobe is egregious, it’s really not the kind of topic you want to bring up in the workplace, especially when you aren’t the boss. In my opinion it is akin to bringing up the Great Breastfeeding Debate or Housewife vs. Working Mom — too many strong opinions that will just make you look like a jerk in the end.

  • Sabrina May 12, 2011, 8:33 am

    I would respectfully disagree with the Admin on this one.

    I am well-endowed, and have to choose clothes carefully. Some things just fit awkwardly. I am incredibly appreciative of a family member or friend politely and privately pointing out that I may want to adjust my shirt. (A particularly challenging period of my life was when I was breastfeeding. I had to purchase new shirts that accommodated my bulging bosom. But, as my baby grew older, I nursed less, and the bulge reduced. But I still couldn’t wear my old clothes; I spent a month or two wearing shirts that hung low, and was constantly adjusting myself, hiking the shirts up, trying to cover my bra straps, etc. It was embarrassing, and many family and friends apparently felt uncomfortable telling me that my bra or breasts were hanging out. )

    If a person believes that a companion’s clothes have shifted out of place, or they notice an opened zipper or button, I feel it is always appropriate to tell them as quickly and privately as possible. In the case that the person’s button was intentionally left undone, oh well! The embarrassment, to me, lies with the person with the apparent poor taste.

    If anything, this could be a polite way of pointing out to someone how their clothes are being perceived by others. I’m imagining a mother at a children’s sporting event with one too many buttons left open. One might pull her aside and in a very friendly way, say, “Oh, I think maybe you missed a button!” And if she replied, “Oh, no, that’s how I wear this shirt,” you can simply reply with a nervous laugh, “Oh, I’m sorry!” and offer a warm smile. The message should be received.

  • Phoebe161 May 12, 2011, 8:34 am

    “Clothing malfunctions” are a sticky subject. This a excellent subject to discuss what is the best way to handle unbuttoned buttons & unzipped zippers. The so-called women fashion styles makes this a veritable landmine for men. And we always don’t have a convenient spouse nearby to relay a problem to the opposite sex. I work with men, also, so if I have a problem or they have a problem, I would want them to *discreetly* tell me & vice versa. But with strangers of the opposite sex, this is tricky, and I look forward to reading other posters’ take on this.

    On a side note, my male co-worker told me that he has seen older men in WalMart’s restrooms who forgot to “put things away.” He discreetly asks them to go back into the restroom with him so he can tell the man he has a problem.

  • Typo Tat May 12, 2011, 8:35 am

    @Aje: What’s so wrong with wearing open shorts over a bikini? Surely it’s more modest than bikini without shorts… Definitely nothing to excuse cheating.

  • Gloria Shiner May 12, 2011, 8:48 am

    If my buttons are not done enough to adequately cover my boobs, it’s because either I’ve missed a button (or it has come undone) or because I have another shirt or camisole underneath. I appreciate someone telling me (quietly) that my buttons need attention.

    If someone’s fly is open, the zipper is showing. This means there is a shiny or metallic presence where there is generally not one, and that draws attention to itself.

    While I agree that too many women, and girls, are all too willing to expose their bodies to the public, I disagree that one should not mention wardrobe malfunctions.

  • Chicken May 12, 2011, 8:48 am

    If it were me in this situation I wouldn’t have said anything, unless I knew the woman in question to usually dress modestly. I think it’s just rude to point out something like that unless you’re absolutely positive it’s a mistake and you don’t want them to be embarrassed, like a run on the back of a lady’s pantyhose.

    As for the fly comment, I would tell someone if it were down. I recently had a problem with this and was really upset when I discovered it at the end of the day. I’m 5′ 10″, quite slim, and 26 so people tend to stare (not polite on it’s own), but one day I noticed the staring shifted from the usual stares to men openly gawking. So I went about five hours with my fly down, to me thats way more embarrassing than having someone tell me as much.

  • Griffin May 12, 2011, 8:50 am

    I’d want to know if a button had come undone. I’d hate to wander around flashing people because someone didn’t want to speak up because they thought it was rude. Same with a fly being down. Regardless of gender of who told me, it would be far less embarassing to have one person point out the problem then to get home and wonder if the whole office saw and didn’t chime in.

  • Raven May 12, 2011, 8:59 am

    In the professional setting, of course one should be dressed appropriately. Women shouldn’t have their cleavage hanging out, men shouldn’t have their chest hair hanging out, skirts shouldn’t be too high, pants shouldn’t be too tight, etc etc. Even though most HR departments don’t spell it out too clearly (thus leaving “appropriate” to personal interpretation) I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out what’s appropriate for your job.

    Aje, your comment is ridiculous. It is not a woman’s fault if a man is not able to control his own behaviour. I assume your comment is based on your own experiences in being unable to remain faithful to a partner, and not being man enough to accept the blame for your actions. If a little cleavage is all it takes to make you unfaithful, then clearly you’re not the faithful type.

    I’m not one of those super-feminists, but I find comments like Aje’s to be really infuriating. I don’t dress immodestly (I don’t think) but I still have guys say things as I walk by them on the street. I know I look great in my grungy jeans and hoodie guys, but keep your creepy cat calls to yourself. Women don’t have to dress “immodestly” to be harrassed by men. Men need to take responsibility for their own behaviour and stop putting the blame on us.

  • Hollanda, UK May 12, 2011, 9:11 am

    I have to add, however, that I have seen people dressed inappropriately for work. I have not called them up on it as I believe it is the place of a manager to do so…

    Outside of work IS different but there are still rules of social acceptability to follow…this is a toughie!!!!!!

  • LBC May 12, 2011, 9:24 am

    Lay off the guy; he was just trying to help her avoid embarrassment later.

    And, sorry, but, ladies–and this includes myself–don’t dress to highlight your “assets” and then complain if they get noticed. They might not get noticed by the kinds of people you’re hoping will notice them, but that’s a risk you take when you’re dressed for public viewing. I don’t like to be ogled, so I dress, not prudishly, but so that nothing is on view on which I wouldn’t want to receive a comment.

    Aje, however, needs a mindset adjustment. It’s not the fault of women if men have no self-control.

    I tell people if their zippers are down, too. If I don’t want to embarrass a stranger, I’ll write “zipper” on a piece of scrap paper and hand it to them discreetly. Good grief, I’d want somebody to tell me! What if I didn’t meet up with anyone who knew me well enough to think they had a right to say anything, and ended up walking around all day with my pants open?

  • Bint May 12, 2011, 9:24 am

    “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.”

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

    And surely this also means women must find it terribly difficult to stay faithful every time they go to the beach or a sports game? His shorts were tiny, your Honour! He was asking for it!

  • 1st-Time Mommy May 12, 2011, 9:28 am

    Has anyone considered the possibility that she was participating in BoobQuake? After all, we don’t know when this incident occurred.

  • Just trying May 12, 2011, 9:29 am

    Here’s what I do. Let’s say I see a guy with a zipper down. I take the guy aside and speak to him while simultaneously staring off in the distance. “Hypothetically, of course, would you want a woman you do not know to advise you if your zipper was undone?”

    I remain staring off in the distance while he fixes his pants. (Nice clouds up there. Does it look like rain?)

    The OP wasn’t clear if the missing button was in the middle of done-up buttons, or was the top undone button. If it was the top button, then I would assume she did it deliberately, and would say nothing. If it was a button in the middle of the pack, then I would assume it was a mistake and use the same “Hypothetically…” technique.

  • Pam B May 12, 2011, 9:34 am

    If someone thought I had accidently left a button undone, I would appreciate a discreet comment. Same as if the tag was sticking out of the back of my shirt – SO embarrasing to notice later and wonder “why didn’t anyone tell me”! As far as women wearing clothes that are very revealing, I honestly feel that people are valuing themselves for the wrong reasons…. Yes, I am making a judgement call, yes, I could be wrong (!) but my personal opinion is that your physical appearance should not distract from your inner-appearance and showing a lot of skin is distracting. I like to watch “What Not To Wear” and the things they say about showing a little too much are very good.

  • b-rock May 12, 2011, 9:41 am

    DGS, well said! i do not believe that women dressing provocatively makes it “terribly difficult” for a man to remain faithful unless it was “terribly difficult” for him to remain faithful in the first place. provocative clothing draws the eye, but it doesn’t draw anything else unless it’s from someone who is already not very good at the whole monogamy thing.
    i agree with the rest of what you said as well. professional dress is necessary to maintain respect and trust in your professional setting, and it’s ok to dress down a bit in your personal time. although i wouldn’t put my whole cleavage out on display, i definitely wear things out socially that i would never wear to work.
    regarding the OP, i think what he did was appropriate. if a friend of mine thought that i had unintentionally missed a button, i would want him/her to tell me that. and once i explained that it was not unintentional, i would expect that to be the last i heard of it.

  • Elizabeth May 12, 2011, 9:43 am

    A little rule of thumb that has served me well … when dressing for public (read: outside of the house), if it jiggles, cover it up. This applies to all body parts. If you choose not to, you’re trying to distract and elicit attention to that area.

    Clothing comes in all shapes and sizes and the Internet only adds to the choices. It isn’t acceptable for well-endowed women to lament being unable to buy a blouse that fits correctly. Buy the next size and for less than $10, the tailor can pull in the lower half to make it more fitted.

    Some folks, whether they admit it or not, are pointedly trying to draw attention. What is a guy to do? I guess that is up to the guy. My husband ignores strangers’ needy demands for attention in public.

  • Wendy May 12, 2011, 9:56 am

    When he worked for state government, my fiance had to endure sensitivity training (everyone was required to be there). As part of it, the woman conducting the training came in wearing a skirt slit to the hip, a tight blouse showing more than just a little cleavage, and an attitude. In short, she told everyone there, men and women alike, that she had a “right” to dress “comfortably” and if the men (or women for that matter) looked, they had a problem, not her. In other words, she could advertise her wares all she wanted, dress like a harlot if she wanted, and no one could say a word about it.

    I’m all for teaching men (and women) about sexual violence and appropriate boundaries, etc. What blows my mind is women (and men, for that matter) who dress in a certain way and then get mad when they attract unwanted attention (How DARE you look at me there!) or aren’t taken seriously. How you dress does matter and I wish someone was teaching kids today that they will be judged by how they dress…whether it’s provocatively or slovenly.

  • Louise May 12, 2011, 10:02 am

    If you honestly believe a button is mistakenly undone or a fly is accidentally done, I think you can tell the person regardless of gender. If a strange guy walked up to me and said, “I think you missed a button on your shirt,” I wouldn’t think, “OMG, creep looking at my chest!” I’d think, “Oh, whoops.” If a man insinuated that I’m overtly interested in his genitals just because I happened to notice his fly is down, I think I’d have a good laugh at the size of his ego. Sometimes, you just notice.

    “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.”

    As for this, what on earth?

  • Stepmomster May 12, 2011, 10:02 am

    I agree with sweetpea, since I also work with 90% males in an engineering environment, I would want my co-workers to say something, especially if I am heading into a meeting with upper management.

    I do have to say though, as a “grand canyon” cleavage girl, I avoid button up shirts entirely for that reason, and my closest is full of lace-top camisoles to avoid cleavage issues at work. Call me old fashioned, but I consider women who let it all hang out at work somewhat desperate looking, and unproffesional. (I am 32, not 52, but I’m old enough to know that your work should speak for you, not your bra size)

  • AS May 12, 2011, 10:35 am

    I agree with the admin and several other posters. If a button or zip is obviously undone by mistake, I’d point it out to the person. But otherwise, I’ll leave it at that, and think of what is important at that moment, like the business chat as in the case of this story.

    I am a woman, and I think I dress up quite conservatively. In fact, some of my girlfriends tell me that my tops aren’t “sexy” enough. But my parents sometimes find fault with the same tops, and say they are too tight, or short or something (I don’t wear any extra tight clothes, going a size up if needed; and usually wear the standard length t-shirts that you get in Lands End type of stores). So my point is – what constitutes “modestly dressed” is different for different people. I don’t like it when women show too much boobs or other kinds of flesh. But that is my opinion, and I keep it to myself. To answer OP’s question – “what do guys do?” – Just take your eyes off the boobs and continue with the conversation. If you mention something, no matter how benign your motives are, as the admin said – you run the risk of being accused of sexual harassment. You’ll surely embarrass a woman unless she is one of your close friends. I think you can tell them if it is obviously wrong. But when you are in the grey area between fashion vs. error, I think it is better to stay away from saying anything.

  • ashley May 12, 2011, 10:36 am

    I think sometimes it’s hard not to notice when someone’s blouse or fly is too open especially if the woman is particularly busty or if the guy is wearing jeans with a big zipper to where it’d be very easy to notice. I agree with admin that it might be best to whisper your observation to someone the same gender as the person to avoid embarrasment, because most of the time it is just a harmless observation.

  • K May 12, 2011, 10:36 am

    If she actually missed a button, of course I’d say something. Because it happens and who wants to look tacky all day?
    Ok, she did. If she responded that it was because her shirt was too tight, I’d probably say, “Seriously?” and burst out laughing. Come on, how sloppy and lazy! I’m a frickin’ 36DD and have never skipped buttons to get into shirts. Simply find a different size or style. You don’t get to squeeze into clothing haphazardly, pretend it fits only because you’re wearing it incorrectly, and then expect to be taken seriously.

  • Ashley May 12, 2011, 10:36 am

    I think that Admin may have been a tiny bit too hard on OP in this case. Maybe he honestly thought a button had slipped open and that the woman is not in the habit of looking down at her own boobs and hadn’t noticed. If that were the case, it would have been a welcome comment, as not every woman wants to show ample amounts of cleavage. I don’t have large breasts and I don’t wear shirts that are too tight, and even I have issues with buttons occasionally coming undone of their own accord, so if I were in this woman’s place, I would have honestly been thankful for the comment from OP.

    If he had seen her earlier in the day, and knew that is how her shirt had been all day, then yes, the comment from OP would have seemed a bit out of place.

  • Miss Raven May 12, 2011, 10:37 am

    It sounds to me like everyone is misinterpreting what happened here. In my world, “missed a button” indicates that a button has come undone in the midst of buttons that are still fastened (in my case, ALWAYS the one directly over the widest point of my chest.) It’s not cleavage-baring so much as now EVERYONE CAN SEE YOUR BRA. And not the straps, either. It’s like a full-on flash of boobies. And unless someone points it out, it’s difficult to notice. (It’s happened a couple times. With those of us who are disproportionally well-endowed, just wearing a bra with slightly too much lining can be a recipe for wardrobe malfunctions galore. Not a whole lot of button-up shirts are created for women with L tummies and XXL chests.)

    If OP was pointing out that this woman’s shirt was too unbuttoned, that does seem criminally naive, although I think he’s getting too much blame. But that’s not what “missed a button” means to me.

    On the topic of “men trying to be faithful,” no. Seriously, just no. No, no, no. I will not, and nor will any woman I know, take responsibility for the wandering eyes (and other things) of any man in a relationship. No matter WHAT I’m wearing. That is lunacy in this day and age, some sort of awful 1800’s sort of thinking that puts the responsibility for the libido of EVERY man onto EACH woman. Don’t show your ankles! You’ll get him all riled up and then he doesn’t have to take responsibility for his actions!

    No. It doesn’t work that way any more. And it never should have to begin with. If you cheat on your girlfriend because you saw another girl with some short-shorts on and her top unbuttoned to her navel, that is on YOU. And seriously, that’s all it takes? Either you have a commitment phobia or your relationship is already in the toilet and either way, those are issues that you need to address.

  • Butterfly May 12, 2011, 10:48 am

    Ever since the stupid term “wardrobe malfuction” was coined everyone in the world thinks it’s an excuse to become amateur flashers! Are we all so insecure in our personalities that we need to put our bodies on display like fish in the market? I guess so, otherwise we wouldn’t have muffin tops either.

  • livvy May 12, 2011, 10:56 am

    I’m with DGS on the faithfulness issue – your spouse should remain faithful, no matter the provocation. It’s a choice to have sex, not a mindless bodily function we can’t control.

    I teach harassment seminars in my work, and whenever I get the “she’s asking for it” arguement, here’s what I say – If a woman were to wear a fur coat and lots of jewelry in a neighborhood known for muggings, does that mean it’s ok to steal her things? It might not be terribly smart of her, but it doesn’t make it less of a crime for the criminal to steal.

    The important distinction is what goes on in mind versus what we physically do. We’re allowed to think what we want (as we may think negatively of someone dressed unprofessionally), but we’re not allowed to act (staring, copping a feel) on those thoughts.

  • Robert May 12, 2011, 11:05 am


    I started working with a fellow heterosexual male when I was seventeen and we later became friends. He told me when he first met me that he thought I was gay because I never “checked out” all the “hot women”. I told him that I most definitely look at women as I do find them attractive. What I don’t do is stare at them or any particular part of their anatomy. There is a difference between looking and ogling/staring. When I am actually interacting with a woman other than a girlfriend or now my wife (co-worker, bank teller, cashier, whatever) I make eye contact and keep my chin up because I am dealing with them as a person, not as an object.

    @ Aje RE “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.”

    My wife and I like to vacation in Jamaica and at the place we go many woman go topless. It is not unusual to see a woman sunbathing, swimming or walking the beach completely nude. I have never had a problem being faithful to my wife. I often tell her she is the most beautiful woman in the world because, to my eyes, she is.

  • Leslie Holman-Anderson May 12, 2011, 11:10 am

    What an interesting flurry of comments! And how serendipitous (or is it?) that this topic should be posted just now, when “Slut Walk” protests are happening all over the country in the wake of a police officer’s comments, similar to Aje’s but even worse, about a rape victim.

    I would be mortified if someone of either sex told me I had “gaposis” as we called it in my family, but not that they’d told me — I’d be grateful for that. I’d be mortified that I’d been walking around oblivious to the gaposis.

    A well-made shirt, men’s or womens’, used to have button holes perpendicular to the opening, i.e., -| Gaposis wasn’t a problem, as a pull on the fabric simply made the button fit more snugly into the end of the buttonhole. Then clothing manufacturers decided that took too long to sew for maximum profit and instead began making buttonholes parallel to the edge; every time there’s a slight tug on the fabric, the button hole gapes and the button just slips out. Gaposis ensues.

    Re-posted after I fixed typos…

  • Hollanda, UK May 12, 2011, 11:42 am

    The point of men not being able to control themselves around scantily-clad ladies is also a good point. IMO, the way a woman is dressed SHOULD ideally bear no influence over how she is treated by men, but unfortunately there are opportunists out there who would take advantage of the situation and then claim the adage “Look at how she was dressed, she was asking for it.” Was the OP really doing a bad thing by addressing the situation and trying (I believe) to avoid her receiving unwanted attention? I don’t think so, really. Objectively it could be said that he should have said nothing, just in case it was misconstrued, but my point here really is surely the bad etiquette lays with the people who choose to misinterpret good intentions rather than the people who do things with the best of will intended.

    I’ve said things to people in certain situations, only to be abused and shouted at for “being rude”, but I am not convinced that by mentioning certain things to people (tactfully) then you should be condemned to etiquette hell. Surely the point with etiquette it is not so much WHAT you say, it is HOW you say it.

  • Marlene May 12, 2011, 11:58 am

    I can agree the person who said women dressing a certain way invites men to cheat is silly, but can we stop comparing making a pass to rape? :-/ It doesn’t help to conflate everything.

    I think it’s polite to inform someone if a fly is down (even though it does say “yeah, I was looking,” but I really hate this idea that suggesting a woman has dressed inappropriately for work can invite sexual harassment charges. I know it happens, and sometimes it’s justified, but what are we as women doing to ourselves when we put our cleavage front and center and then get upset when people notice (and I say “notice,” not “drags you off to a dark alley and rapes you”).

  • DGS May 12, 2011, 12:05 pm

    Thanks, B-rock!

  • Athena Carson May 12, 2011, 12:05 pm

    @ Just trying – love your comment! Hypothetically, of course. (Nice clouds up there – looks like a double rainbow!)

  • Jo May 12, 2011, 12:19 pm

    I disagree with the premise it’s not appropriate for a person of the opposite sex to tell someone if garments have come undone (button, fly, whatever) because it shows you’ve looked where you shouldn’t. Obviously you want to minimize the embarrassment. Pass off the task to someone of their same gender if possible; mention it privately/lightly if not. If it’s a total stranger, I’d think twice – depends on the issue. But if someone I knew, I’d definitely intervene. I was taught that if it was fixable, you should tell the person (button undone, spinach on teeth) in a private, helpful, non critical fashion. If it was something that couldn’t be fixed at the moment AND not anything that would cause serious embarrassment (run in hose, small stain), then ignore it. In the case mentioned, if the woman’s button had accidentally slipped its anchor, she would be gratified of being told. If not, then she obviously WANTED people to notice, so you’ve satisfied her intent. As a woman, I do hate to tell a guy his fly is open and try to defer that to another male if possible. But I’ve found a quietly stated, “You might need to check your slacks.” works well.

  • Andi May 12, 2011, 12:26 pm

    As far as the workplace goes, I’m all for HR outlining the dress code in painful detail, and if someone’s breaking it (intentionally or otherwise) then someone from HR ought to take this person aside to set them straight and give the offender time to fix the problem.

    As for missed buttons and zippers, I personally don’t mind someone pointing it out (a quick whisper of “XYZ” not an announcement to the entire bar.) I never considered whether I’d prefer this came from a woman or man, as I’ve only ever had women point out showing tags and whatnot.