Sheer Blouses: Some Don’ts Should Stay Don’ts

xojaneA reader alerted me today to a post on XO Jane about a fashion editor wearing a sheer top to work, entitled “DO THIS DON’T: WEAR A SHEER SHIRT TO WORK.” Uh, no.

Now, as this editor admits, she’s never worked outside the fashion and beauty world, so maybe our resumes just aren’t lining up — but even for a creative field, this is the kind of look that would just make me think “Wow, that poor girl must not realize her top is totally see-through.  Maybe I should tell her?”  In fact, I disagree with almost every single line in her column.  So I thought I’d give my take on dressing in semi- or totally-sheer looks for the office, compared against her tale…

1.  “Yesterday I knew I wouldn’t have the chance to stop home after work before going out that night, so I wore this completely see-through, sparkly Isabel Marant top with a tuxedo jacket.”  Dear readers, there are these amazing things called “handbags” — sometimes called “purses,” “totes,” “briefcases,” or even just “bags” — into which you can put all sorts of things, including changes of clothes.  Now, with all due respect to this editor, perhaps she had a big work function that night that required her to wear an edgy, sheer top.  But for more conservative fields like law and others, the message you broadcast when you wear eveningwear to work is that your evening is more important than your day — not a good message to send.

2.  “In real life the nude bra underneath wasn’t visible, so I sort of looked topless, albeit glittery. Like a figure skater.”  I’m going to step away from the proposition that it’s ok to look like a figure skater at work, and instead focus on the first part of the sentence — “in real life the nude bra wasn’t visible.”  Bob, can we have a big gameshow “unnnh” wrong sound again?  If it’s visible when you take a picture of it, I’d say your bra has a 95% chance of being visible anywhere.  Just because the lighting in your bedroom doesn’t detect it doesn’t mean that the lighting in your office — or the coffee room — or the conference room — won’t be the same.  In fact, I would advise all of my readers that when you’re in doubt about the appropriateness of an outfit, take a picture of yourself on your digital camera that morning and check it out.  Sheerness, visible pantylines, wrinkles, stains, and more will all be visible.

3. “…You could always layer a nude cami under either of these options, but I never do, since adding another top ruins the way your see-through one naturally hangs.”  I’m going to disagree with all of this.  I think a good quality camisole will never ruin the way a blouse hangs on you — if it does the camisole is way too big or the blouse is way too small.  I’d also argue that for the workplace, you should never wear a nude camisole — stick with black or white.  The reason?  So you don’t look naked beneath your clothes.  While the editor describes wearing the sweater to a big meeting where “no one gave her a second look,” I’m sure that wouldn’t be true if she worked in a more conservative industry.  You never want people to have to take a second — or third — look at your outfit, because while they’re inspecting your outfit, they’re not listening to what you’re saying.  Worse, your coworkers should never feel like they CAN’T look directly at your outfit for fear of seeing something they shouldn’t.  (For example, that really nice, married, older male boss who has a daughter your age — he may be too embarrassed to look at you, or purposely avoid working with you in the future if you dress like that.)  A plain (non-lacy) black or white camisole makes it clear that they can, in fact, look at you.

4. “[Wearing a nude cami] defeats the purpose of wearing a sheer shirt.”  What is the purpose, exactly?  Is it “to show your bra”?  Because if that’s the purpose, why wear a top at all?  I would argue that there are some sheer fabrics — silks, cottons, even the occasional chiffon — that add an interesting drape, or a lovely softness, or even the perfect misty white, that make them worth wearing to work, despite the fact that they’re sheer.

I would say, obviously, that sheer or semi-sheer tops are still risky for the office (see my points above in #3), but possibly acceptable if accessorized appropriately — with a black or white camisole — or even a turtleneck — beneath, or worn under a vest.  Readers, what do you think of the XO Jane article?  Do you wear sheer tops to the office?



  1. I have a sort of sheer silk blouse on today, but I have a white camisole under it and a long sweater over it. That being said, I played around with what I would pair under it to make sure it would not be offensive or too suggestive.

    The idea of not wearing anything under it is insane unless you are planning on going to a club ( I am too old and have never been bold enough for this look). I agree with the comment above that wearing something under a sheer fabric can actually improve the look. I think sheer can be work appropriate, but you have to style it a certain way.

    • Research, Not Law :

      LOL, so do I! Styled the same way: white cami, sheer voile top, cardigan that covers the cami (and bra – which is nude and visible) straps. I might not go sheer for a big meeting, but it can be appropriate for work… just not the way the article proposes!

      My basic rule of thumb: I should be able to take off the sheer top and still look appropriate.

      • I like this rule of thumb!

      • Anonymous :

        Love this topic. It is a pet peeve of mine. I consider myself to be and dress professional. Issue I have is just about every store that sells career apparel that does not look like something Grandma would wear…… sheer. Although I know many wear them to work (I am a Property Manager) I feel very uncomfortable. I just came from the mall at the Express shop where they sell very expensive career and non career apparel. The blouses are all sheer and when I tried pairing them with suggested camis it did not look right! It was visable the cami and the sheerness. I would not be able to take off my blazer. I want something that I can take off my blazer and still look professional. Another thing I hate is when trying on clothes at stores………always dimly lit and hard to tell until I get them home that they are completely see through. Aggravating.

    • Anonny non :

      Just curious – how do we feel about silk tops without a sweater/blazer on top? They’ve always made me uncomfortable because silk tends to be so sheer on its own, but there are a few women in my office who wear silk long-sleeved blouses with skirts/slacks (sans camisoles) and look lovely, albeit a bit more ‘evening’ than I might feel comfortable with.
      FWIW – their blouses are not see through, but you can see the outline of their bras (which would make me a bit self-conscious). Thoughts?

      • I’m not a fan… I don’t know if there’s a way to wear silk without underthings showing at all but it seems showy in the “oops” way, as opposed to sheer which does it in the “batting eyelashes” way. neither appropriate for work, the latter not so bad for clubs or something.

        • Actually I wear silk blouses all the time, not to clubs… and I thought it is perfectly formal and appropriate.

          • Anonymous :

            Im a secretary and i always wear see through blouses to work. My bra shows underneath but all the secretaries wear sheer blouses in my office it makes me feel sexy and flirty.

      • I always thought a silk blouse, wool flannel pants and pearls was absolutely bog-standard for “formal work outfit that’s not a suit”. How sheer are the blouses in question? I feel like a good quality silk-satin or silk twill is absolutely appropriate for work – neither should be see through. Even a tightly-woven “parachute silk” (back in the eighties again!) blouse should be opaque.

    • BarleySinger :

      This sort of thing heavily depends on what part of the world you are in, the sort of business you are in, and how high up you rank. If I was in a high end dress shop in France and the woman waiting on people was wearing a sheer gown (with or without bra) it would not mean what it would int eh USA because not all nations act like young boys when it comes to breasts.

      I know that sheer can be just fine at work as I have seen it done (with no trouble caused at all) on two continents now. I worked as a specialists contractor (male with female bosses who dressed that way) in many types of business – from the oil exploration world to computer tech and software. In fact, come to think of it way back long ago when I was in my late teens (about 1982) and I worked in a Denny’s restaurant washing dishes to pay for college, the waitresses blouses were ISSUED from the company and they were all semi-sheer and so was that of every female manager in the place (then again that was normal on the streets every day).

      It is true that the more extreme by our strange social ideas that the look goes (for instance – braless and very sheer top) then the more you will need to be “right person” in the right sort of business, in the right country to get away with it without any issues. However also recall that not all the world in the bible belt of the USA. Of course the “sandwich lady” at work certainly does not get to normally wear a 20 den silk blouse (limit would be about 40 den) but if the president is a female and SHE cuts a nice figure and she has many millions of her own money, then she has no reason to pretend and she can do as she wishes.

      The look just has to be done well to work and the more sheer the garment is the more expensive and lovely it must be to avoid being “cheep”. Frankly, “Hustler” is not the idea one wants to convey. As to the idea that a woman loses the men’s respect by dressing this way, is just not true unless you are deal with a serious pig ( a person who would fail a test of harassment in the workplace) . Especially if sheer is done with beauty and moderation is it fine. I had a female boss who dressed all teh tiem in fairly sheer tops with lacy black bras underneath and also mini skirts (slit up the side) and they were all hiigh end material, all very good looking (not PVC or bad polyester) and she had ever persons’ respect in the place and made them millions. Certainly showing up to your 9:00 am meeting looking like Rose McGowan on the Red Carpet would not be a great career move (too glitzy for work anyway, and probably a bit cold in the air conditioning <<>> ) so that is not a good idea, but frankly; ANY person in a professional setting who cannot manage to separate how a subordinate, a fellow employee or their boss is dressed, or can’t get past their gender, race, sexuality, religion, or any other quality about them – if they cannot just do the job they are there to do and give the other people the respect they deserve then – that person ought to be out the door. They are not acting like an adult. People work to survive and a big piece of that is “get the job done”. The job is not being “catty” or treating other people as lesser beings because they have less cloth covering their skin than another person does..

      Just remember this. How did NANCY REAGAN dress for 8 years in the white house. In a moo moo? In a pant suit? NOPE – most of the time she wore a lot of very expensive (one of a kind) designer (often *sheer* ) dresses. Sheer does not mean you lose respect, it means you must exude it, and the lower on the totem pole you are the less you tend to be able to “exude” anything aside from desperation.

  2. She should change the headline to WEAR A SHEER TOP TO WORK…IF YOU WORK IN AN INDUSTRY WHERE BEING NAKED AND GLITTERY IS ACCEPTABLE, let’s be real. The author even mentions that a coworker was wearing a super thin shirt braless, so if that describes something that would fly in your office, then go for it! I don’t know why I would want to present myself as being naked and glittery at my job, but I could understand a tasteful chiffon top OVER a coordinating camisole.
    It seems like the commenters are NUH UHing her, so there’s hope.

  3. OMG!!! The XO Jane article is satire, right? Right??? Or she was just trying to mislead her female readers so as to eliminate professional competition? Good lord, tell me she isn’t serious.

    • Ugh @ Jane Pratt. I used to love Jane Magazine so much, but her new website is just so . . . the opposite of that.

    • I don’t know, yo, but I love Kat’s snarky response. Love. It.

    • The concept of “do this don’t” is based on satire. I read xojane and safely concluded that a young journalist in a hipster magazine was not providing me advice on my attorney togs. While this skewed too risky, the same can be said about this blog skewing to stuffy. It is all about the audience. I am disappointed that we are trashing something that was so clearly not intended for our set. It would be like having a Google employee recommend that we install a ping pong table in our office. We should tone down the snobbery. I personally was a little wistful I did not have her job.

      • Joan Holloway :

        Yours is my favorite comment today, Gina127.

      • Completely agree. The context of Jane’s post was not “wear this in a conservative law office.” She explicitly acknowledges that her look might be appropriate in other offices and solicits opinions. The tone of Kat’s post is snide and unnecessarily mean.

      • anonymous :

        I think it’s bad advice for any woman who isn’t working at an edgy fashion magazine. She also should be under 25 and super hot and not care about being taken seriously.

        Advice like that is why young women for a time thought it was fine to show up in professional environments in outfits with visible thongs, etc. To be fair, I also hate to see young men with their pants pulled down, but normally that’s not in offices.

        No, we’re not the target audience, but to dress like that would be horrendous judgment for 99% of women.

  4. another anon :

    A semi-related thread jack: Yesterday, I wore nude heels; nothing special, just your standard Cole Haan closed toe pumps with a 2 inch heel, in a shade that matches my skin tone pretty closely. I went to get a hair cut after work, and one of the ladies there commented that she liked my shoes and that “Those are sexy shoes!” Which is definitely not what I was going for, having worn them to work all day. Can someone please reassure me that this lady was a bit bonkers, and that these shoes are OK for work? I wear them a lot because they go with almost everything, and they are pretty comfy.

    • I don’t think I’d consider any shoe with a 2″ heel in sexy. My nude pumps are open toe with a 3″ wedge and no one’s every told me they were sexy!

    • You are totally fine. Nude heels are fine professional attire. There are some people who associate nude with sexy no matter what the outfit, because the nude color equals flesh to them. Also, nude heels lengthen the leg. However, this is more likely with a skin tight dress than modest heels.

    • nude shoes elongate the leg since there isn’t a color to break up things at the ankle… maybe she figured anything that elongates the leg is sexy? maybe she’s only seen celebs in magazines wearing nude heels and thus they’re “sexy” because celebs wear them?

      If no one’s said otherwise and they’re not 17 inch heels, it doesn’t sound intentionally sexy to me!

    • anon prof :

      Don’t let it worry you. People have very different, sometimes wacky, ideas about what constitutes sexy shoes. I once had a co-worker who wore mushroom colored suede shoes with maybe a 1/2 inch heel that she, not joking, called “her sexy shoes.”

    • The lady was a bit bonkers and your shoes sound absolutely work appropriate.

    • Some people use that word instead of “pretty” “flattering” “nice” or “fashionable.” You may be taking something literally that’s not meant literally.

      • Second this.

      • Yup. My 26 year old husband (and all his friends, for that matter) uses the word in lieu of “cool” or “awesome.” In the past week alone he has called a sandwich, a dog collar, and a plug-in air freshener “sexy.” The shoes sound fine and I wouldn’t worry about it.

        • anonymiss :

          Hilarious! A sexy sandwich? I personally blame this for why it can be so hard to dress appropriately; when the default and positive description is “sexy,” that becomes the main focus.

        • Now, dog collar I could see…

    • anonymous :

      She sounds like she is vocabulary-challenged. Or, she’s fallen prey to the American habit of unthinkingly sexualizing everything. Something can be good or attractive without being “hot” or “sexy.”

  5. reminder that anyone wanting to talk about dating, join Corporetters here:

    it’s kept private so no one else will know!

    • soulfusion :

      I must have missed the original explanation of what this is about, can you explain?

      • So many of us chat about dating in the comments here that we decided it might be nice to have a place to chat about it other than just in the random comments here. The group is private so no one else can see it, just a place to trade stories or ask about an outfit choice or vent about a bad date :)

  6. You should refute line-by-line more often, Kat. Stilll got itttt!

  7. I mean, I get that the fashion industry is its own ball game. I just don’t understand why fashion writers persist in writing about it as if it has any relevance to the rest of it.

    Also, I’m sure this says nothing nice about me, but I’d love for someone to wear a shirt like that to a big meeting so that my co-workers and I could gossip about it FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.

    • I was thinking this when Kat guest-blogged at Lucky for a while. I kept picturing her sitting there as they did their “wear it to work!” spreads saying “OK, but you do know that any of my readers would be encouraged, then forced, to take a mental health day if they showed up at work wearing that, right?”

    • Research, Not Law :

      “I get that the fashion industry is its own ball game. I just don’t understand why fashion writers persist in writing about it as if it has any relevance to the rest of it.”

      Well said. It’s like a comment posted a while ago to the effect of “I’m tired of work-inspired outfits in magazines. I don’t want work-inspired, I want simply work.”

      • O that was me. See my continued rant above.

      • Anonny non :

        I swear those ‘wear it to work’ features are responsible for about 50% of the misguided outfits I see on our young/new hires. Just because they sell it in Bebe doesn’t mean its an appropriate suit for a law firm, and just because Cosmo claims dark denim is work appropriate does not make it so. Sigh.

        • Thank you for saying that! I am a late 20’s recent grad, and I am small (00 or xs) and find that most office attire does not fit me properly (i.e. too big in shoulders or thighs). Because of this, I have to resort to “teenager” stores like Aritzia that have very few office appropriate trousers and blouses (in Canada – now I can get some things from JCrew since they came here in 2012, thank goodness).

          Anyway, I was searching for an answer to the question about appropriateness of sheer blouses because I just got one that is beautiful and was having a hard time deciding on a cami colour (or whether I could wear it in an office at all). I will wear the blouse under a navy blazer (planning / landscape architecture profession). While shopping, the sales people were horrendous! They were all trying to dress me as if I were going to the club! I have also witnessed my peers wearing UGGs to job interviews, wearing black tights to give presentations, and doing the coloured bra under sheer look (some of whom have found jobs)! I feel like an old prude, but will stick with my camis and blazers – I hope someone will eventually hire me!

          • What is wrong with black tights? Or do you mean like black tights without a skirt?

            And yeah, I live in Europe, and here it is quite usual to wear short skirts and colored bras and still getting a job :)

    • Not a sheer shirt, but… once I had a coworker that wore a dress that was pretty much backless. As in, you could see her entire back – I think it stayed up because there was a little tie on top at the base of her neck. This woman was prone to wearing very “interesting” outfits to work. As a result, a literal parade of all of the human resources staff in our office, as well as many managers came by to check it out. An email went around human resources that said that they HAD to take care of the situation before another coworker, prone to making loud, inappropriate jokes, came in. Ultimately, I think the lady ended up going home to change (or maybe someone gave her a shawl).

      I honestly don’t really remember many incidents from that job but I will always remember that!

    • Fashion stories on work wear crack me up. I have quite a few sheer or semi-sheer blouses but always wear visible coordinating camis underneath them so only the arms are sheer and then pair them with more conservative bottoms.

    • Amelia Pond :

      I am a consultant and right now I am on a contract at a city gov’t office. We get some doozy outfits. Today (there is a high of 38 degrees) a woman is wearing a sheer sleeveless top with a tubetop cami underneath. The best part is a full 3/4 of the tattoo on her right breast is visible. (Which then started a conversation on who Terrell was. It’s her brother.) That is actually a tame outfit.

      • Lawyer Bird :

        She has her brother’s name tattooed on her breast? Yikes.

      • The tubetop cami is the best part of this.

        Maybe something unfortunate happened to Terrell?

        • I’m now inexplicably concerned for poor Terrell.

          • I wish I could tattoo this minithread on my heart.

            Also, yes, I’m pretty sure poor Terrell is resting in peace. He’ll be missed.

    • MissJackson :

      count me in on the “I’d love for someone to wear a shirt like tha tto a big meeting so that my co-workers and I could gossip about it FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.”

      And also every other sentiment that you expressed.

      I would not wear this to a club, let alone the office.

    • THIS

    • Anonymous :

      “I just don’t understand why fashion writers persist in writing about it as if it has any relevance to the rest of it.”

      This x 1000. (where’s the like button?)

      The worst part is, there are very few fashion writers/blogs giving them any competition by coming up with anything helpful for those of us who work in the average office. I count two blogs.

  8. I have to admit, I’m kinda waiting for Ellen to show up with something like, “I only wear sheer shirts to work, it’s what got me a million dollar salary, but I only got a 25k bonus this year, FOOEY!”

    • Haven’t you seen her 5 million posts about never being able to wear certain items because the manageing partner would stare at her all day?!?

    • Actually, Ellen has been emphasizing the need for full coverage lately, and when she asked for a raise in December the manageing partner only offered her some of his wife’s old shoes. Times are tough all around!

      • Poor Ellen, I’d rather get nothing at all than the manageing partner’s wife’s old shoes.

        Well, except if they are Choos or Louboutins.

    • No, I do NOT want to show my breasts to the manageing partner. He wants to look but NO way, I will only do that once I am MARRIED! FOOEY!

  9. Sorry ahead of time, but thread jack: I wanted to know if anyone here has had a mentor in their field, and if so, how they found the person, how the relationship formed, etc. I am an attorney pretty early in my career and I would love to find someone whom I respect that might be able to help me grow both skill and career wise. I have many people that I like and have formed relationships with, but I am wondering how you can take it to the next level.

    • I have a few… I read a lot of the professional magazines and such for my field. When an article strikes me, I email the author. I also try to attend conferences out of town and make sure to send an email to anyone interesting after the event, using their business card. Some people respond briefly and put themselves in the “professional contact” category for me, others are more chatty or longer-winded, which begins a dialogue. I use that to build a relationship slowly and it sort of just happens that they become a place I can go to for advice. I also find that someone further away can be better so I can speak more freely without the person knowing the others involved and such.

    • I met mine when I was working as an intern, and she was one of the directors of the department (I reported to her fellow director, not her). She started off by giving me little projects here and there, liked my work, and started giving me more responsibility and having me assist her with larger projects. Since we were working a lot together, we developed a friendship and she would often say how much herself she saw in me.

      She later helped me get hired full-time by the department, and I now credit her with starting my career. Once I was a full-time employee, my new boss actually suggested that I formally ask her to be my mentor, even though she was already unofficially acting in that capacity.

      She left almost a year ago to go to another company and now I work in a new department at the same company, but we still meet a few times a year for lunch and I still call her my “mentor”. I love running workplace issues or problems I’m having by her and getting honest feedback. This reminds me – I need to call her!

    • Are there any mentoring programs through a local bar association or industry group? I’ve been a mentor through a bar association program. As for finding mentors, I find this more difficult, so I’d be interested to hear any other responses. Even though I’ve been practicing for a while, I still see the value in mentoring relationships..

      • I actually was involved in a mentoring program as part of a bar association membership, but it sort of fell apart i.e the “circle” was filled with people who weren’t that interested in attending get togethers, etc. I am in New York, so if any one has any recommendations, I would be incredibly appreciative.

    • Sorry this is a day late, but the National Association of Women Lawyers has a mentoring program. I copied and pasted from the website:

      In 2007, NAWL established a nationwide Mentoring Program intended to empower women lawyers and help promote their social, political and professional advancement. The Mentoring Program matches attorneys who have been practicing for more than ten years in a variety of legal fields with attorneys who have practiced for less than five years. Mentors play a central role in the advancement of women in the legal community by providing encouragement, motivation and support to their mentees.

  10. In college (undergrad), I dressed like a college kid; jeans, hoodies, sneakers. In my Master’s, I was in south FL, and an intern, so the style was mostly Editors pants from Express and a nicer top. My first post-Master’s job had a dress code much like my internships, with summer being jeans-permitted (plus I was the boss).

    Now I’m job-hunting everywhere and am somewhat afraid of a different dress-code. No clue how to find clothes that I can both afford (while living on unemployment) and that look professional without being too uncomfortable. Plus I’m in my late 20s but look younger and I don’t want to pass for “18 playing dress-up” or “why’s she still dressing like an 18 yr old.” Throw in that I’m hourglass shaped (small waist, lots of hips), and so many things don’t fit and whew!

    • Research, Not Law :

      Same body type, also look young, and been there for the budget. Transitioning from school to career without any money is hard.

      Clearance racks at Nordstroms, Ann Taylor, and Loft were my go-to. They have great clearance. AT/Loft particularly for the curvy fit pants. I focused on obtaining a handful of professional outfits that were at least somewhat mix-and-matchable. It got me through the interview process and the first couple of months of work until I could afford to expand.

      • Loft is having 60% off all clearence right now – including lots of dress pants which end up in the $25-30 after the dicounts and sale. Alot of the pants aren’t lined though, so just make sure the fabric is a decent weight.

    • ohmydarlin :

      I’d suggest Banana Republic as a good starting point. You’ll probably want to avoid Express, since they kind of lean toward the, um, tight-fitting, borderline-appropriate end of the spectrum. Banana has petites, tall, regular, and so on, so you’re more likely to find a good fit without having to get much altered. They also have outlets which are the Retail God’s Gift to Small Paychecks :)

      Y’all agree? Other suggestions?

    • I have a similar body type and I wear a lot of dresses. Finding pants that fit is a nightmare and while I love pencil skirts, they can be a bit va-va-voom if I’m not careful.

      Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, LOFT, and even GAP (on occasion) have great sales where you can stock up on work basics at very reasonable prices. Ann Taylor just ran a 60% off everything on sale promotion, and I nabbed a gorgeous $170 dress for $65. Sign up for the email alerts on their websites and you’ll be notified of all of their promo offers.

      Also, regarding the looking young thing, make a conscious effort to look consistently polished and put together. I look young (and actually am young for my job and my field) but I counter it by a) always wearing makeup and b) always styling my hair. Those two things are non-negeotiables for me. I also have certain rules, like never wearing my hair in a ponytail at work unless it’s ‘styled’ (height at the crown, no flyaways, etc.) and only wearing flats to work on casual days. It takes a bit more time and effort in the morning, but if it means no one mistakes me for an intern, it’s worth it.

    • Watch for the 40% off everything sales at Loft. They have lots of basics and good prices.

    • Also try H&M for some very basic tops. In the past they’ve had great blouses that have good darts but a bit of stretch. You can also get basic plain sweaters there pretty cheaply that you could pair with some dress pants. Not exciting, but work-appropriate.

    • Salit-a-gator :

      Talbots is having a 60% off sale right now. Sizing is sometimes off, and its final sale, so I would only buy if there is a store nearby you to try everything on. Excellent business casual and business formal outfits though.

      • Also try New York & Company. They have really good discounts for teachers and public service professionals, plus tons of sales. While their stuff is often acryllic, its conservative enough for professional wear… and you can get special sizes (petite, tall) from their website.

    • I am in a similar boat (unemployed, trying to build a career, student loans). Some people think I am 19 (late 20’s), and I do not want to be seen as playing dress up either…. but I live in Canada and our stores are different. I will say that I LOVE JCrew and wait for their sales. Their shirts and suiting fits my shoulders, and I would rather get one good article that I can mix and match. This helps me feel that I am not cheap.

      My trick is that I set up a separate email account where I can sign up to corporate emails. I get alerts from JCrew and some other Canadian stores (Moule, Aritzia, Mango, Gravity Pope, etc) when they are having a sale. That is the only time I even LOOK at clothing. I also have rules that 90% of my clothing budget must be classic. This way I don’t have to worry about trends, but can still have an odd trendy blouse or shirt that keeps me from looking too boring. Finally, I prolong the life of my clothes (saves money from less replacing). Examples are that I only use Woolite and follow laundering instructions on tags (i.e. hand wash does not mean the gentle cycle of the washing machine).

  11. Is it April fools day? Did I miss it? I’m disoriented. What time is it?

    Put some dam clothes on.

  12. Along the same line- how do I address the my boss’s skirt length other than consistent reminders that she’s flashing me….

    • How about, “Dude, if you bend over one degree, I’m going to see your vag.”

      • I’m afraid that line has already been crossed…. O_O
        I keep reminding her I don’t think it’s sunk in. This is the third short skirt this week.

      • I love you. I may stalk you. Be careful of personal details.

    • I had a frank chat with with her about her skirt lengths and how to sit, bend etc. in short skirts. Including showing her where the slit on the back of her skirt sat when she was bending over my desk earlier. She seemed embarrased about it but it’s something I’d want to be informed of…..

  13. Brava! This was an interesting post, very well stated. Work is about WORK, and unnecessary distractions are unwelcome. I’ve read elsewhere that, if the standard “uniform” of your vocation is so galling to you that you hate wearing it, you are quite possibly in the wrong profession. The issues are, in fact, correlated.

  14. Point 1 cracked me up, because today, in preparation for a hearing in the state capital, I put on full winter-weather bus-commuter gear (jeans, longjohns, wool socks, snow boots, fleece jacket, waterproof jacket, scarf, hat, ski gloves, etc.), and then packed an entire court-appropriate suit + accessories into my rolling document box. If I can fit a wool suit, pumps, a top, make-up, jewelry and hair accessories into a doc box with a lap top AND a set of hearing documents, surely this woman can tuck a top into her tote.

    (Of course, the hearing was cancelled, but only after I was halfway downtown, and I had to schlep my doc box, Dr. Zhivago-like, for a mile over the half-frozen snow ruts and slush puddles before I finally found a bus that was headed back to my neighborhood. WOE is I.)

    • The Dr. Zhivago music has been playing in my head for the last 30 minutes since I read this…just had to comment. You painted the funniest picture in my head.

    • girl in the stix :

      Snort! Seattle, right? I hated snowy commutes. I used to work at Harborview and it is literally uphill both ways. No kidding about walking a mile or more to find a bus moving in the right direction. Head home for Chardonnay and hexes . . .

  15. I wonder half the time if the stuff at XOJane isn’t just to see what people will read and go along with just because Jane magazine was cool back in the day.

    Although I’d bet there are a ton of fashionistas out there trying to figure out how to layer a glittery nude see through top into their wardrobe so they can pose pensively under an old railroad bridge, or out by the gazebo and be all sartorially savvy and stuff.

    For the record, no. No I would not wear a sheer top anywhere. And I carry those bag things Kat mentioned and let me tell you, they can hold all sorts of things, so if I do need to do something after work that requires a change of clothes, I can pull it off without looking too crazy. To curb the question before it arises, no the bag is not see-through. When I stopped working in the mall after college, I stopped carrying see-through bags.

  16. “As someone with zero curves, I’ve always been down with visible nipples, tops cut past the clavicle, tiny shorts and, yes, sheer tops. To me, these things just don’t look overtly sexual without a womanly body.”

    I can’t. I can’t even formulate a response to this other than WTF?!

    At least she said she’d never wear any of that to work. But, please, put some d*mn clothes on.

    • soulfusion :

      I had a difficult time getting past the “visible nipples” line myself. I just don’t think someone who says something like that operates in the same universe as I do. At work or at play.

    • Blondie, Esq. :


  17. Where can I find on the ground information about JD/MBAs? I’d like to know how it is viewed by law firms as well as consulting companies and the advantages and disadvantages of earning one. I haven’t been able to find a lot of information on the topic and I only know of 1 person who has one.

    I’d like to work in Biglaw after school, specifically doing M&A work or bankruptcy, and hopefully transition into an in-house position or some sort of consulting firm. It seems to me a MBA with a focus in finance would be very helpful but I’m not sure if it would be worth the extra time and cost or if the same career path could be accomplished without it. In this current market would having the MBA be a good way to distinguish myself? Has anyone else considered a JD/MBA program?

    • You know, I’m not really sure about resources online, but I know that there are JD/MBA student organizations at a number of schools (like Northwestern and Penn) – I bet if you emailed them and asked them questions as a prospective student, they would be receptive and might be able to give you more advice.

    • M&A lawyer here. I’m not sure it would make a difference to us in the hiring process – good grades from a top law school will remain the key. It *might* make a difference between two equally qualified candidates, but frankly, the decision would more likely turn on how you performed in the interview. This would be especially true if you don’t have significant post-undergrad work experience – the general consensus, at least among those I know/talk to, is that more value is derived from an MBA when the student has spent time in the working world.

      • Thanks! I have heard that some law schools allow you to take finance/business courses while in school. Assuming you can keep your grades up in your law classes, is there any real benefit to doing this?

    • MBA here, who now works in transactional corporate law–I do everything from financings to lots and lots of IPOs of late and also big M&A deals (generally $1B+). I can say that my MBA helped me have a deeper understanding of the “why” of a transaction (what industry forces might have caused consolidation or compression of operating margins which forced a sale, etc.) and I am definitely whiz-bang at spreadsheets like liquidation analyses. I understand cap structures and all the bs that goes on at banks (because I was once a banker). I value my MBA and am glad I got it.

      However, when it comes to me getting a deal diligenced, signed, negotiated, or closed…I have plenty of colleagues that “only” have a JD, who are awesome at their jobs. They got great on the job training at law firms and seem to let the “finance” be done by the bankers(Side note–there are some firms that rock at M&A and others that will always do smaller deals–you will learn a lot either way, and the size of the deal by no means dictates its complexity. But if working on headline deals matters to you, go to a school that will get you into the door at say, Wachtell).

      I did a lot of research when deciding whether to do a JD/MBA, and met with many of the summer associates at my firms who had both degrees (I worked in both law and i-banking before school). I think you have a good idea of the fact that eventually, you have to pick a side at the table–you are either the banker or the attorney on a deal, and you can’t really be both. But you can have the training and skillset to understand where the other players around the table are coming from.

      Other points to consider–when you do a JD/MBA, you lose your “cohort” in both programs as you generally start in law school, do a year there, then do a year in b-school and then split for the remainder. That is to say, you will always be a little bit of an outsider in class, especially when doing group projects (v. common in b-school). If you’re extroverted and don’t care as much about the networking aspect of school (your network will be broader, but less deep), then it’s fine. Just something to consider.

      Note that Northwestern has a 3 year JD/MBA. It’s fast. And a lot of work. I got into it back in the day but did not elect to go as I gelled better at another school, and got more money there. That brings me to my last point. I spoke with several people who said that JD/MBAs routinely get the short straw on financial aid, as usually both schools have to vet you before you are fully-admitted, and the pot of money is often gone by then. Also, many schools assume that you are so committed to the dual degree, that you will come without scholarship $$, so they don’t offer it. This is anecdotal, but in my experience (and that of several friends) proved to be true. Most schools charge the higher of the two programs’ tuition. Ouch.

      Anyway, I think you are smart to do research. In terms of reaching out to people, I would work with your college alumni office to locate some alums. Alternately, you might just want to check out some law firm websites and ping some junior associates who have both degrees–I am sure some of them would chat with you.

      Also, on your point to transitioning in-house doing M&A or bankruptcy–do more research around that. Not that many firms have the cash or stock to keep M&A counsel in-house (exception–many of the giant tech titans who have tons of cash and are serial acquirors, like Cisco, Intel, Google, etc.). So just know that in-house exit opps for M&A are limited, specialized and hard to nab.

      Last, just know that women are sometimes less welcome in the M&A world. I am not saying that to discourage, but just so you know–you will not “earn” a seat at the table as easily as other associates. Its the “assertive b_tch” vs. “good negotiator” male. Just how it is…just pointing it out.

      You might also want to check out the forums on this–there were a lot of posts archived regarding the topic when I was applying to schools a long time ago.

      • This is very helpful. I am wondering about your comment about the difficulty transferring to in-house is usually difficult. With this kind of specialized experience, where can you go if you don’t make partner at a firm? Are there a lot of options or is it difficut to translate your experience? Also, I am assuming that M&A work is hard to come by right now – what does hiring current look like? Is it even a decent possibility to land a job in this practice area?

  18. OK, Jane is kind of wackadoo and creative and owns her own company, so yeah, she can probably show up half naked and no one would blink an eye. If you’re in the same position as the owner of a hipster women’s blog, go right ahead.

    What’s that? You work everywhere else in America? Oh, then don’t wear a sheer blouse to work unless you’ve got another opaque layer under it.

    How is this even a question?

  19. I have one semi-sheer top that I wear a cami tank under. It’s definitely designed for the office, not the club. I can’t imagine just having my business out there at business meetings. Um, no.

  20. I agree with other comments that “wear to work” fashion posts and articles are WAY annoying. Just because you put a blazer over a slutty top doesn’t make it acceptable to wear it to work.

    • Maybe “revealing” would be better to use than “slutty”? The way a person dresses or how a piece of clothing is cut does not indicate promiscuity. I know it’s a common thing to call clothes “slutty,” but it suggest that anyone who wears something revealing is a slut. Whatever that means. Which obviously isn’t the case.

      Anyway, I agree with you. A lot of the Wear to Work type posts seem much more like stuff I’d wear out.

  21. Ooh, this brings to mind a question. I’m looking at the Zoey Pullover from Anthropologie (in white), with which I’d wear with a white camisole + blazer or cardigan on top. I am in a creative field (arts/entertainment) but going to an industry conference. It’s a daytime event. Can I rock this during the day? I going for a low-budget Stella McCartney thing, fwiw.

    • Ooo, pretty top. I think that this outfit would be totally fine for most work situations, although I don’t know very much about industry conferences in the creative field – assuming that the look is not “suit” (I’m in law, so it often is), I think that you should go for it.

  22. I’m an undergrad (junior), and I only wear sheer tops without a camisole underneath if the top is nearly opaque and it’s really hot outside and it’s the weekend. Or possibly if I’m going out. But I tend to stick with dark sheer tops because it really does just look ridiculous to have your whole damn bra showing under your shirt. What an asinine article. Has anyone seen that episode of Daria that makes fun of Jane Pratt? Particularly spot-on regarding this article.

    Here’s the first part of that episode:

  23. déjà pseu :

    Wow, can you say, “desperately seeking attention”?

  24. Rural Juror :

    A young (late 30s) partner in my office recently wore a sheer blouse to work under a suit. I was in her office and she had the blazer open and I could see her whole bra (nude). I guess the shirt was working when her blazer was fully buttoned, but maybe she forgot(?!) and unbuttoned? Or maybe it didn’t seem so sheer when she left the house? I was pretty mortified. I didn’t know where to look. She is normally very stylish and appropriate and I look to her for inspiration on what to wear, but this was just indecent.

    • Blondie, Esq. :

      You raised a really good point here – this sort of dressing makes other people uncomfortable!

  25. I was on vacation in Philadelphia a few months ago when the weather turned really hot. I had packed only long-sleeve tops, so I told my SO that I just needed to run into the clothing shop closest to our hotel to buy a cheap T-shirt. Fifteen minutes later, I emerged from Urban Outfitters, empty-handed and with a dazed look on my face. As he has never seen me come out of anyplace ever without a shopping bag, he asked why I had not bought anything. “Everything was … see-through,” I stammered. And I mean everything. I would have had to buy three items and layer them to even walk down the street. I like lace, I like sheer sleeves, but I do not like this trend.

  26. I asked in last week’s open thread about a half sheer blouse – top part over the breasts down to right above the belly button is sheer. Not for work. I received positve responses. I am assuming this is a completely different thing because its only the tummy part that is sheer.

    (in the mint color)

    For the record, I am of the age where I saw the blouse and it reminded me of this: (bottom outfit)

    Which, I know is a terrible reason to buy it consider both she (wearing the outfit) and I (lusting after the outfit) were in high school at the time of the wearing/lusting. But, I did it anyway.

  27. Hahah, this is an awesome post! In all seriousness, I do have one sheer pale pink accordion pleat blouse that I wear to work. Hard to explain, but it is lovely under a navy suit. I wear a cami underneath (nude, because white would just look weird for reasons I can’t articulate). It is a little high maintenance, because I don’t take my jacket off when I wear it (which I know breaks a Corporette rule). But it looks so awesome that I do it anyway.

  28. I bought a sheer houndstooth print top at Talbots today. Final sale. It does have a cami with it. Is this a don’t? I was planning to wear it with a v-neck cardigan.

  29. Anonymous :

    I even thought J Lo looked inappropriate wearing a sheer blouse sans cami on American Idol last night. I would understand it in a video, performance, or nightclub appearance, but as a judge during auditions in a convention center, she was “at work.” Perhaps I am being overly prudish, but I thought it looked ridiculous, and the fact it had a high tie-neck only made it worse, not better. It would have been beautiful, law-office-appropriate wear with an appropriate layer beneath.

  30. Diana Barry :

    There was a feature in Lucky this month about how to wear sheer stuff to work. UGH.

  31. This might be weird, but I just wear a white cami every day to avoid the “is it or isn’t it sheer” question. I have a whole stack of them that I get at Loft for like $4 a piece when they’re having one of their sales. They’re also great because I tuck them and they stay tucked – so if I’m wearing a sweater or something that isn’t tucked and need to carry around a file box or something – I know I’m not flashing my stomach or back or something.

  32. Me too. I wear a cami, tucked, under everything. I never have to worry about gap-age, at top or bottom. Also absorbs sweat on those trying days…

  33. I would never wear anything sheer to work, ever. When in doubt: picture the men. My company is very male. I get to wear color, skirts, etc. next to their blue shirts, but things that remotely cross the line= no. Even with sweater on top. Sorry, just don’t think conveys serious professional even then.

    Was at international negotiations in a foreign country last year. Two women my age and younger- in a room full of a few hundred mostly old men from countries around the world- wore short, tight skirts. It was so embarassing. All the men did not take them seriously, and I hated being potentially grouped in with them despite my black and grey suits. It always amazes me what people think they can ‘get away with..’ sure you can, but you can also lose all respect and credibility. Again, when in doubt, picture male businesswear. We don’t emulate it, but no reason to push the boundaries.

    • I’m with you on this– while it’s not right for someone to not take these women seriously just because they were wearing short, tight skirts, that is a common enough (if unfair response) that they should be more aware.

      There used to be a woman in this company who always wore dresses from bebe that were at least 1 size too small or, short tight skirts with skintight tops with deep v-neck lines.

      She’d also wear super-high stilettos and would totter around everywhere on them. If you saw her with other people in this company, you’d think that there was a time-space continuum rupture, and that she was suddenly plucked from the hostess-stand at a popular nightclub and dropped into a business-casual-but-mostly-just-stodgy financial services place.

  34. anonymous :

    I can’t help thinking about the debacle a few years back when a Glamour Magazine editor or blogger told Cleary Gottlieb lawyers (or summer associates?) that wearing one’s hair in a natural style was too “political.”

    What are these idiots doing presuming to advise working women? They are clueless. The fact that women’s mags and the fashion industry don’t exactly have the best interests of women in mind makes it worse and even more unfathomable.

    • Philly inhouse :

      Agreed. That’s why I prefer blogs like this one from people in the field versus some magazine or fashion editor’s opinion. The comments are as useful as the posts themselves.

      I do wish I could find a nice blog for weekend / date / smart casual looks that wasn’t just some rehash of the magazines, preferably with a somewhat local (Philly / mid Atlantic (not NY uber trendy)) flavor. You Look Fab is pretty good for basic principles, but her actual recommendations don’t usually inspire me at all (e.g., the ruched sweatpants up now – really??)

  35. anonymous :

    I don’t know that it’s unfair for them not to be taken seriously. Part of being a business person or professional is an awareness of how to present yourself and how you are being perceived. If you’re presenting yourself like a kewpie doll, you’re either daft or trading on your looks. Plus, you’re undermining other women. There are ways to be young, cute, and look businesslike.

    Men have it much easier, but even they make sartorial compromises to fit in. They dress to be taken seriously above all else.

  36. Blondie, Esq. :

    I love your take on this ridiculous article!! I’m personally not a fan of the sheer top “trend” in general, but I can’t think of any office situation where it would ever be appropriate. (My caveat is wearing a sheer top over a camisole, which one of my friends does and looks fantastic. On the weekends, of course!)

  37. I don’t see how the choice of outfit of a 20-something woman in a creative industry undermines other women. In fact, it’s this type of thinking, which embraces the attitude of those men who undermine a woman’s intellect because of her perceived sexiness that cripples women’s efforts to be identified by things other than her gender. If a person does not take a woman seriously or gets uncomfortable around her because she is “sexy”, it’s his or her damn problem. You don’t have to dress like Dorothy Zbornak in order to prevent the possibility of ever being found sexy at work, that’s a losing battle anyway. Being professional does not mean we have to hide our bodies beneath layers of clothing just to spare someone’s feelings of shame or discomfort. I personally would not choose to wear a sheer blouse to work because it’s not my style nor it is acceptable in my office. The definition of sexy in my office would probably be high heels and a tight-fitting pencil skirt, and I don’t hesitate wearing either within limits because I actually am more confident when I’m pleased with what I see in the mirror. Intelligence and femininity are not mutually exclusive, and if someone thinks they are, there’s nothing you can do about that except for being the best you can be professionally because you will be judged harshly by *sheer* virtue of your sex.

  38. The really sad part of this is that someone is going to take this article seriously and think it might be okay to wear a sheer blouse to the office. Figure skating attire has two places…on the ice, obviously, and at a Halloween party. Not at the office.

  39. Like you really need another comment but WOW! This person is insane! You should absolutely not wear a sheer blouse to work!!

  40. What a hero. That’s all I can say.

    This is something a very dumb teenager would do. It’s like, unspeakably obvious that you SHOULDN’T do that, no matter how “boyish” your figure is.

    By the way, I REALLY like the font on your page. Just thought I’d let you know!

  41. WishfulSpirit :

    I wouldn’t wear that to work if I worked in the dirty videos industry. Mom told me that you wear a slip if you can see through your dress, and that applies to tops too.

  42. I see women in grocery stores wearing what I think are school clothes or office work clothes wearing a conservative white shirt that is sheer enough attract your eye and notify you that you are seeing skin underneath. There will generally be a white bra worn with it. It looks like it would violate the spirit of a “repress sexiness” dress code if not the letter. I think it may be accidental. I’ve seen similar outfits for decades, across the U.S..I can’t find any pics of this on the internet. I think it might be designed to have a camisole under the shirt. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

  43. I am very late to join the convo — years late! — but I stumbled across Julie’s article (on xojane) when researching ‘fashion rules to break’, and I was appalled by pretty much everything she wrote. Thank goodness I found this response post by Kat aftwerward! I agree with everything Kat has written, and I find the slightly snarky tone quite hilarious. ;)

    Can you wear sheer shirts to work? Absolutely. Pair that blouse with a silk camisole and it is completely fine to wear in a professional working environment, and it looks great. Wearing a see-through blouse with nothing underneath but a bra is NOT appropriate for a professional setting, and I have no idea how Julie got away with wearing it. (And she claims no one noticed or called her out for it. Maybe they did notice, but weren’t sure how to say, “Hey, you do realize that we can all see what’s under your shirt, right?”) Maybe her job as an assistant beauty and style magazine editor allows for her to show off her underwear and pretend she’s a sparkly nude figure skater, but elsewhere in the professional world it’s simply inappropriate and can even be distracting to others. For the record, I am a young woman who can get away with certain fashion trends because I am not very ‘curvy’ – I just think there’s a time and place for every outfit.