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I work in data analysis, in the office space of a factory in France. There is no air conditioning where I work and it does get quite hot. My question is: Is it acceptable to wear a tank top to work. I'm not talking about spaghetti straps, or anything particularly revealing here, just something without sleeves. I have to have covered legs and closed shoes for safety reasons working in the factory so my upper body is really the only part I might be able to cool down.

I am the only woman who works here (which is probably an issue for another question), and the only woman of my age (early 20s) that I know of in the whole company. The men in my office wear T shirts regularly, and jeans and sweatshirts. It's a quite relaxed dress code. However, I don't have any women on whom to model my own fashion choices. Tank tops are not a common piece of male fashion in general though, so I don't know if they don't wear them because they don't want to, or because there's some rule. I have seen factory workers in a "wife beater" kind of get up, but it's not really the same environment in the office.

I don't have any contact with clients or even colleagues most of the time (literally work solo in the corner of the open space facing the wall), and wouldn't even consider this if I had an important meeting or a chance of seeing clients, but isn't getting sweaty and gross less professional than going sleeveless? Also, there are showers in the male changing rooms, but not the women's so if I do get gross, there's no solution for me.

Standing out is not an issue for me here, and I'll admit it's a bit of a fashion choice too. Not really asking for tips on cooling down, just asking if there's a general consensus on this kind of top in the workplace.

Note: I contacted the HR person, who told me to check the "règlement interieur" (basically the company rule book), and I couldn't find anything in there about clothes at all. I did make it clear in my email that this is the kind of information I was looking for and I was just told to check the rules, so I don't think there's an official stance....

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    There's nothing really wrong with a T shirt (although sweating in a T shirt isn't really the same as sweating in a tank top), just wanted some input. – E.Aigle Apr 20 at 11:42
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    @Kilisi See Wikipedia for the wife beater reference. – Philip Kendall Apr 20 at 11:54
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    @Kilisi There are no other women in the part of the company I work in. There are some older women in customer relations and marketing positions, but they have AC over there, so they wear blouses and high heels and skirts and things I'm just not allowed to wear. – E.Aigle Apr 20 at 11:55
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    I think you really shouldn't ask us, but your manager or supervisor. I'm sure there is no law against tank tops. I'm sure it is against the laws to wear clothing that would be so revealing that it constitutes sexual harassment, but a tank top in France wouldn't be anywhere close to that. If your manager agrees, all is fine. If they disagree, things get interesting. – gnasher729 Apr 23 at 10:42
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    In that case go to HR. Anyone you feel is sympathetic with your case. As you describe it, there's no work related reason against a tank top (in some industrial situations certain clothing could be dangerous; there are places where a man wearing a tie could be in lethal risk), so HR should be fine with this. The other obvious way is to turn up in a tank top, bring replacement clothing to be on the safe side, and wait for anyone to complain. – gnasher729 Apr 23 at 11:25
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If you are not in a customer-facing role and the dress code is casual enough that most people are wearing t-shirts and jeans, a sleeveless top is acceptable for a woman.

If I’m going to wear a sleeveless top to work, I choose something loose-fitting with some detail that makes it nicer than a t-shirt. A plain sleeveless t-shirt is too casual to be worn on its own. Anything that looks like you just came from the gym is too casual in my opinion.

Anything you can see the outlines of your bra through because it is close-fitting or the material is very thin is not something you should wear to work. If you have a top that is a little too see-through to be worn on its own, wearing a cotton camisole underneath it will solve that and help soak up sweat.

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    Yes. I might wear something sleeveless in high summer, but it's a blouse with buttons and maybe a collar. Linen is coolest. Thick cotton which won't stick to you is cooler than jersey, also seersucker is fine. – RedSonja Apr 21 at 13:05
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    @RedSonja Absolutely. A collar, fabric choice or a small embellishment can elevate a top from a bumming-around-the-house shirt to a work-appropriate shirt. And of course the armholes should fit around your arms... Any clothes that expose your undergarments to your coworkers during normal work activities should be avoided regardless of gender. – ColleenV Apr 21 at 13:14
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    I wear sleeveless tops/blouses frequently, and my office is business casual. But I also always wear a jacket when moving in and out of the office, and keep a suit jacket on a hook in my office in case of a surprise meeting with people who don't know me. – Chelsea Apr 23 at 19:01
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    @Chelsea I do the same, except with a cardigan because we’re very casual (even our customers show up in jeans sometimes) The temperature in our office building is unpredictable and seems completely unrelated to the temperature outside so dressing in layers is a necessity. – ColleenV Apr 23 at 19:09
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A tank top will certainly make you stand out. Whether it's okay or not is probably second to the fact that people will notice you.

All the eyes will be following you when you walk around. To be fair, if a male worker showed up in a tank top, there would probably even more eyes following them. Maybe for other reasons, but still. You will stand out. You may not want to stand out.

Full disclaimer, I'm male, but I think my experiences apply to all genders. In an office without air conditioning (and in western/central Europe that's probably "all of them except for the bosses") wearing less clothing does not help. It's still hot. You are still sweating.

So instead of going for "less clothing", go for "proper clothing". You sweat a lot? Look at sports clothing. That's definitely made for people that sweat a lot. Now, sports clothing comes in very many variants. You may not want to come to work in a bright pink beach volleyball tank top. You don't have to. Golf is sports too, and you will be almost overdressed for your regular office when wearing golf sports clothing. It's the same functional stuff, same material, same properties as the stupid bright "here we go" sports clothing, but it looks like you just had tea with her majesty.

So find a retailer for sports clothing. Find a pair of functional pants, probably somewhere in the golf section and get some nice polo shirts.

Personally, I like "Under Armour" as a brand, but others like Adidas have picked up over the last years and you will probably have a good selection. They have online stores, too.

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    This is a great solution that allows the OP to be comfortable without being too casual and/or attracting unwanted attention. I think you can improve the answer by giving some keywords to look for: "performance clothing", "sweat wicking", "CoolMax" (a brand of fabric), "Dri-Fit" (another brand of fabric). Perhaps someone in France can supply the equivalent terms. – shoover Apr 20 at 16:20
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    I really appreciate this answer for solving the problem of being hot, but I also just like tank tops and don't care at all about standing out. I'm not exactly asking how to cool myself, just if it's ok to wear a sleeveless top to work, in part because it's hot, and in part because I want to. – E.Aigle Apr 20 at 17:00
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    hm, okay, then I'm afraid the close vote is correct. Your employer can (sometimes must) legally require you to wear certain clothing or not wear certain clothing. Whether your specific employer allows you to wear this specific item of clothing is something only your employer can answer. – nvoigt Apr 21 at 6:19
  • Adding to the option of golf clothing: One big outdoors retailer rhyming to marathon offers clothing made for hiking with a rather dress-ish appeal. I'm not coming from a super hot climate but we had our share of days with 30+ °C and so far they were impressively comfortable. – antipattern Apr 23 at 14:14
  • in western/central Europe that's probably "all of them except for the bosses" I'm Italian (we're famously resistant to aircon) and I've literally never seen an office without it. I've seen offices where the air conditioning was shit and it barely worked, but never an office with no aircon... – Demonblack Apr 23 at 14:43
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Unless there's something contrary in your company's dress code, then you can certainly wear a tank top if you want to.

If you find you're getting sweaty in general (and you're just as liable to sweat in a tank top or a t-shirt), then explore other ways of keeping cool - open doors/windows to get some through draft, a fan, portable aircon unit, etc.

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  • Fan is a good idea, even USB ones are cheap and keep a good airflow going around the upper regions from short range. – Kilisi Apr 20 at 12:04
  • Just on a technical note, a portable aircon unit will do absolutely nothing to cool anyone down in a big space like a factory, and will in fact make everything hotter on the whole. An air conditioning unit needs an exhaust to the outside to work; if there's no "outside" you can access, it will not work. Units that are sometimes sold as "personal air conditioners", which are actually evaporative coolers, need sufficiently dry air to function and will likely also make things worse in a factory in France. – mathrick Apr 21 at 23:06
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Generally a t-shirt is better than a singlet in hot environments because there is no cooling advantage to a singlet unless there is a breeze. Whereas t-shirts or short sleeved shirts do confer an advantage.

A t-shirt will soak up sweat that would otherwise drip down your arms, which is vastly preferable depending what tasks you do. So if it's just about comfort then you can just do what everyone else does.

If it's about fashion, then check the factory safety protocols and dress standards first. If they're fine then a tank top would probably be OK.

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