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I recently attended a lab session at my university. The lab instructor was dressed professionally in a dress shirt and dress pants. But I noticed that in certain positions, due to the lighting in the room, the back of her shirt was see-through. You could see her blue bra. I was surprised by this because those clothes are professional attire. Shouldn't the manufacturer have made sure nobody can see through their professional attire?

She's a classy and stylish woman, so I don't think she did this on purpose, especially since this is her workplace. So is it likely that she had no idea this was happening, or are all women aware of this? Should I have told her about this, or is it not okay to mention it?

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    Next up you'll be telling us that you caught a glimpse of her Ankles! The Absolute Scandal! Seriously though - if you notice something like that, look back at your work and pretend you saw nothing. Mar 12, 2023 at 6:48
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    A woman wearing a dark bra under a light-coloured shirt is almost certainly aware of the possibility. If she cared, there are skin-coloured bras that wouldn't be visible. It'd be more likely that she wasn't aware if the bra was the same colour as the shirt. But seeing the back-strap is about as scandalous as noticing the edge of an undershirt under a man's shirt. You may not consider it aesthetic but it's not a big deal and not unprofessional. Just don't keep staring at her back (that'd be weird whether anything is visible or not).
    – Anonyma
    Mar 12, 2023 at 9:36
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    In most modern cultures this is not shocking, and it is not your place to offer intrusive fashion advice. If you were a close female friend you might check that she was aware of it in case she might someday be in a situation where she cared, but from your description you do not have that privilege. Assume she doesn't care, accept that you shouldn't care, and let it go.
    – keshlam
    Mar 12, 2023 at 14:42
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    @Anonyma Do you really think that it's not unprofessional? This is her underwear, after all. And it wasn't just the strap, it was the entire backside. I don't think it's professional to show your underwear at work. Mar 12, 2023 at 15:20
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    @tailingfibers Well, cultures are different and you don't reveal where you are. But where I live and work (same country as nvoigt, I believe) it would not be considered noteworthy. Except maybe if we're talking about a school teacher and a classroom full of teenagers, but then I'd hardly consider teenagers' reactions the arbiter of professionalism.
    – Anonyma
    Mar 12, 2023 at 16:09

3 Answers 3

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You should have ignored it because it had nothing to do with you. If you are offended by seeing the a bra strap you may want to stay home and avoid going outside.

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If you are wondering whether you should talk to her about her clothing choices, the answer is NO.

Maybe she is lucky and has a close confidant in the company that will tell her without wondering if it's okay, because they know it's okay and they are at that level of trust. You are not that person.

By the way: men's "professional attire" has the exact same problem, half the "white" shirts are really just transparent and look white when stacked on top of each other at the store. I don't buy them, I would look like a stripper in them and an overweight, desperate one at best. I don't know anyone wearing them, but I guess they do get sold. After all, they exist in a market economy. One can only wonder.

That said, you did not see anything out of the ordinary. If you had met her at the beach or at an indoor pool by chance, you would have seen her the same way just without the professional see-through attire on top. So nothing happened. At least nothing more than if she had worn two colors that you think don't match.

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  • So why exactly do those clothing manufacturers make their clothes like this? Is it scientifically impossible to stop white shirts from being see-through? I need you to explain this because I don't understand the science of how they make clothes. Mar 12, 2023 at 15:15
  • I have no idea. I have no idea how it technically works (I guess white silk is more see through than white cotton, but that is just my totally uninformed guess), nor do I have any idea why it's still sold. I mean tailoring is not exactly rocket science, when even rocket science is a well known technology in most places today.
    – nvoigt
    Mar 13, 2023 at 6:58
  • I just put it off to the "fashion industry" that manages to disappoint me time and again, whether it is fabric that is transparent without need, or the fact that the same jeans from the same brand and the same product id, when manufatured in Egypt is 5cm shorter than when it is manufactured in Pakistan. It's not like a measuring stick with a mark at 36 inches is somehow the pinacle of scientific revolution that hasn't reached those countries yet. But making clothing is no longer a process where someone wants to excel I guess. Produce a lot, sell it to stupid people who don't complain, profit.
    – nvoigt
    Mar 13, 2023 at 7:00
  • It is expected that men will wear white under shirts when wearing the thin dress shirts. This allows the under shirt to be washed more frequently and reduce the need to wash the dress shirt (which typically has more restrictive washing and drying instructions).
    – Anketam
    Mar 13, 2023 at 15:44
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    Do you live in a country where you would you see her in a bikini at the beach or pool if you met her by chance? Then it isn't scandalous. Now, it probably is not what she wants. And that is understandable. But it has a great potential to get you into trouble if you do something. It's her own job to look into the mirror before leaving the house and nothing material is lost if she doesn't.
    – nvoigt
    Mar 14, 2023 at 6:36
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In the case you stated, you don't seem to have a close enough relationship for you to speak to her about such relatively small things. Maybe it was by design? I know that some people like to show a little more skin than is strictly professional, just because they can.

It would have been different if her pants had split at the back seam or were open at the front, displaying "everything". In that case it would have been the humane thing to tell her.

My rule is: Tell people if their flies are open, their clothes are damaged or massively stained in places that may not be obvious to the wearer ("I believe you just sat on a doughnut"), and otherwise hold my tongue.

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