« | Main | Because, because, because….because………. »

Underwear info page

Part of civility is showing respect for others as well as displaying self-respect. One way is through appearance. As society and workplaces become more diverse and more multicultural, perhaps we need to rethink what is appropriate. Does our clothing reflect favorably upon ourselves, our department, our colleagues and clients? From three-piece suit to baggy surfer shorts, mini-skirt to burqa -- make sure what you wear fits properly and is appropriate for the work you do and the situation you are in on any given day.

Here’s an example from Iowa 4-H about a clothing problem. The following is condensed from e-mails among state 4-H staff.

Underwear—Most of us wear it, but we don’t want proof!
At the end of the three-day 2006 state 4-H clothing event, the judges called me in to visit about underwear!

The judges could tell from watching participant modeling that some were wearing thong underwear, some had lace-edged underwear and some were wearing no underwear. The judges were not concerned about the choice, just the fact that they could tell from the lines showing through the clothing. (Slips may be out of style, but they did serve a function.)

As a result of this conversation and others
There’s a new bullet point in the 4-H clothing event judge’s form under modeling evaluation, fit, stating “No visible undergarment lines”. Seeing visible underwear lines is a fit problem. The judges will have a chance to educate participants on what proper fit looks like and what it doesn’t show. The 4-Hers will be alerted to this new point when they fill out their entry form, plus there’s a note for 4-Hers, “If these lines are a current fashion trend and you wanted them to show, include that explanation here.”

Part of this is a guest post by various people in my office building. Some were sure this would be a good post. Others weren’t at all sure. When I said I didn’t know how I’d connect it to civility, one wrote the introduction. So thank you Laura, Sue, Elaine, Mary Kay and Mitch.

Actually, there’s a connection here to reasons for incivility
Giovinella Gonthier in ‘Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace’ includes this in her 10 reasons why we behave uncivilly. “When our employers tried such experiments as ‘casual dress,’ they failed to formulate guidelines or think through the effects”, she says. It’s professional image. You are what you wear, how kempt you appear, how you dress for your position and your workplace culture.

A checklist for choosing the day’s mode of dress (from the book)
What are my activities for the day?
With whom will I be interacting?
Where will I be meeting them?
What will my clients be wearing?
What will my superiors be wearing?
What will my coworkers be wearing?

And then of course, there’s always that surprise—you get called into a meeting that wasn’t on your schedule, or someone comes into your place of work that you weren’t expecting. It’s in your best interest to be well groomed and dress appropriately every work day, including having the proper ‘fit’.


Good post. I think quite appropriate. I just wish people would keep in mind...you can't control your overall body shape. It is something you are born with. Whether it is large thighs, large breasts, small breasts, large buttocks, small waist, thick ankles, etc., etc, etc. Yes, you can exercise and have some control over your weight and certain aspects, but people should never be "judged" on how they are put together. The same clothing choice on one person will look entirely different on another person. Anyone care to respond to my post? I'd love to hear what others have to say about my thoughts. Because I truly believe so many people are judged unfairly over something they can't control....body shape. One example: Oprah Winfrey. I've seen her at her heaviest looking fabulous and I've seen her quite thin looking fabulous, and appropriate in either instance. It's a matter of subjectivity to a certain extent. I know of several graduate students in our own office who look like fashion models no matter what they wear. More power to them. And I've seen people who have come in to our office who have quite a different body shape and look like fashion models, because they've probably taken the time to recognize that what they wear does influence another person's perception of them, and they dress accordingly and have taken the time to find out what fits their body shape best. In my view, choice of fashion is a freedom of expression and a right. But certainly one must be aware of the occasion. I, for example, look at my work calender before I go to bed each night to note what appointments I have the next day and set out my clothing for that day accordingly. It's common sense, really. And it's really nice if a colleague or client makes a Sincere, nice comment about how you've dressed. Notice the upper case S in Sincere. I'm so exhausted by people who judge us by what we wear, even if appropriate by all standards, just because it's not someone else's styl e or because you happen to have certain body shape. Can you tell you've touch a nerve? That's what a Blog is all about yes? To get people talking....

Great subject for the workplace. I would like to make a comment on the 4H guidelines in modeling. When it states, "no visible undergarment lines." Does that mean underpants AND bras?? I don't care how nice a garment fits you - the only way to be absolutely sure of "no undergarment lines" - is just to not wear any! Judges should not be upset or commenting on girls wearing no underwear or thongs, because the girls were following the judging guidelines!!
I also don't think the solution should be "if it is a current fashion trend and you want to show them, write that explanation here." For crying out loud, are there really parents out there who want their young 4H daughters showing off their thong undies lines while modeling and "explaining" to the judges why they are doing it???? Or maybe "Susie" wants to wear a padded push up bra while modeling the tank top she created and her bra straps slide out a little on her shoulder as she models. Is she quickly eliminated from competition? Guess she should have just left the bra at home!! Hope I am not being to radical here.....I just want organizations/clubs like 4H to encourage modesty, humility, beauty in the way teenage girls dress. I believe it is important for their future jobs!

Ah yes, fit and fashion. Even the svelte fashion plates can look ill-suited in garments the bind, tug, and torture the flesh. It's all about fit. It's easy to find helpful resource materials (in 4-H, in libraries, on the Web) about garment design lines, fabrics, and colors; each person should be able to study and understand what looks best on his or her shape.

For the teenager, however, it takes courage to step outside the current fad and consider clothing that flatters rather than clothing as worn by the current pop star. How long will the kids be cowed into baring bulging flesh that lops over drop-waist jeans?

For others, it takes an understanding that appearance makes an immediate impression. It also takes caring about one's appearance. No matter what the physical asset or figure flaw, it can be accentuated or diminished by a person's choice of clothing. It's about line, color, and texture, but it's mainly about fit.

What does this have to do with civility? I like the comment about wearing clothing appropriate for the situation. That's being considerate of others in the workplace.

This can be summed up by an old expression -- don’t try to put 10 pounds of sugar in a 5-pound bag. No matter what size or shape you are or what gender you are (yes guys, it applies to you too), if your undergarment lines (of any type) are showing through your clothing, then your clothing is too tight and does not fit you properly. Although that “look” (no matter what size, shape, or gender you are) may be appropriate in some situations, it is not appropriate in an office workplace. That’s the message I’m getting from this Civility blog entry. Use some common sense and figure out what to wear based on the type of clothes that fit you and what’s appropriate for whatever you have to do at work.

The anything goes attitude when it comes to dress seems to parallel other issues in our society. Do people understand that customers and clients just might wonder if that casual dress attitude spills over into performance?

Remember first impressions. When I walk into an office (university and extension included) and see staff in flip flops, jeans, shorts, tank tops, etc. I have to wonder where the professionals are. Pride in appearance is part of being a professional. I was taught early in my career to dress a step above the clientele.

If we're concerned about how kids are dressing, perhaps we adults should look in the mirror and see what we are modeling. Does a 4-Her walk into the local extension office and see appropriately dressed staff?

Recently I've had conversations with directors of child care centers. They are having similar issues with employees showing too much flesh. And we all know working with children requires constant movement. One center solved the problem by purchasing t-shirts with ample coverage for the employees.

Appropriate for body type, employment and situation - seems like common sense. But alas - how common is the sense of appropriateness!!