I work at a state park, and I am one of the few women that work here. Our uniforms are the same for the men and the women: dark green trousers and a khaki button up shirt.

At first, I was upset that they weren't going to provide me with a uniform that is made to fit a woman. Then I thought maybe it's better that way; at least I get to dress the same instead of being forced to wear some overly feminized ranger outfit. That being said though, I am still uncomfortable in the uniform. I am quite small and petite. They gave me the smallest uniform clothes they had, but they still hang off of my frame in a comically over-sized sort of way. I don't feel like I look professional at all. I usually just shove all of the extra fabric into the trousers, pull it all up with a leather belt, and try to cover it up with the unisex vest (which is also too big). We aren't allowed to have our uniforms altered either, I checked. I think the maker of the uniform even has the same shirts in a female cut, the park just hasn't purchased any.

I am not trying to look sexy or anything, but if I'm not careful, I'm going to get this ridiculous clothing caught in a helicopter or something. It also makes me feel like I can't and won't be taken seriously. The other women aren't bothered by it because they aren't nearly as petite so their stuff fits better.

So my question is: should my employer be required to accommodate workers with a more appropriately cut uniform?

How should I go about addressing the issue without putting my job in jeopardy?

  • 15
    I feel like this should perhaps better be worded to something like "appropriately-sized uniforms" since you seem to be asking about a smaller size rather than a different cut. That said, a female cut may still be preferable, without, as you say, feminizing the outfit.
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 2, 2016 at 18:10
  • 4
    If they did not have large big enough the for largest they would have to accommodate that.
    – paparazzo
    Jan 2, 2016 at 19:31
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    In Europe, feminists are suing companies that actually have their female staff wear different uniforms. Trousers and shirt should be unisex enough for everyone to wear. You should probably focus on the size, not the cut.
    – nvoigt
    Jan 2, 2016 at 21:13
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    Have you talked to your boss about your safety concerns (eg, caught in a helicopter, etc?)
    – Jane S
    Jan 3, 2016 at 5:04
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    How should I go about addressing the issue without putting my job in jeopardy? "Hey, boss, my uniform doesn't fit very well and I'm concerned about general clothing safety (snags, etc) and a professional appearance as a ranger, as we represent the park. We aren't allowed to alter the uniforms, though. Would it be possible to get one in a smaller size?"
    – user8025
    Jan 3, 2016 at 20:57

4 Answers 4


Clothes should fit: I would think you have a case there. You just need to keep pushing. If you're a new employee quite often employers are reluctant to go to any extra expense for you at first but, after a while, there shouldn't be a problem. When I was a forestry worker we were not allowed to alter the gear either. This was because the gear would go to someone else eventually. We had a little chap (great worker) who looked ridiculous for a while, but eventually they sprung for a new outfit after he had proven his worth.

If there is a safety issue, then by all means pursue that angle. I'm unaware of what a ranger does, but safety is a primary concern in most outdoors, woodsy type occupations where you may be working with potentially lethal tools and quite often medical assistance might be 50 miles away over rough terrain. Both for your own safety and because you may need to assist someone else at some point.

I cannot see you losing your job over complaining about the gear. You looking professional and moving efficiently is good for both you and the work.

  • 25
    I know a chef who is consistently the first person at her workplace to need extra small chef jackets. Chef jackets are (usually) genderless, but it's rare for a male chef to need such a small size. She gets by until the extra smalls arrive (tying an apron around your waist works similarly to the belt technique the OP uses) but, and this is key, she insists that extra smalls be ordered. Not that they be there on the first day, but that they be ordered. In other words, I agree "You just need to keep pushing." Jan 2, 2016 at 21:07
  • 9
    @Kilisi That may be fine while wandering around the house, but if you are the manager and senior technical resource of a software team, looking like you are wearing your husband's shirt doesn't exactly look that professional.
    – Jane S
    Jan 3, 2016 at 9:40
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    @JaneS ahaha , I guess not, but at least you're not likely to get your chainsaw hooked on it midswing :-)
    – Kilisi
    Jan 3, 2016 at 9:47
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    @Kilisi No,that's not one of the most likely occupational hazards in my profession ;) Still, I completely get the OP's concerns about not being taken seriously, especially as a woman in a male-dominated industry or organisation.
    – Jane S
    Jan 3, 2016 at 9:51
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    @KateGregory "she insists that extra smalls be ordered" unintentional taken-out-of-context humour: "smalls" is British slang for underwear. Jan 3, 2016 at 14:16

should my employer be required to accommodate female workers with a more appropriately cut uniform?

No. But they should be required to provide a uniform that is safe and effective. If your uniform is baggy and that bagginess causes a workplace hazard, then you have a lot more leverage to push with. Likewise, if your uniform is tight in weird spots, which causes chafing or other physical issues, you should have a lot of leverage.

If it just looks poor, then you should probably still try to make it better - since that will impact your ability to do your job, but it gets into sticky situations about a "appropriate feminine uniform" is.

How should I go about addressing the issue without putting my job in jeopardy?

Focus on how the uniform effects your ability to do your job. Even if that is "nobody will take me seriously in this", focus on that. Your employer should want you to do your job well, so they should listen to you when you're offering suggestions to try to do that.

If you are concerned that you may be labelled a troublemaker or excuse-maker because of it, be wary of how much you push. Make the suggestion, make sure it's heard, then back off if it doesn't go anywhere.

  • 3
    +1 for no to accommodating female workers and yes to accommodating anyone who needs this for safety and effectiveness. I believe that's exactly the point - gender shouldn't matter, only ability to do your job should.
    – Mołot
    Jan 3, 2016 at 0:06
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    @Mołot Why would anyone think it's OK for any organization to provide clothing that is appropriate only for one gender? Jan 4, 2016 at 2:50
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    @Molot You can't ignore that women's bodies are a different shape to men's. How would men react if the uniform was made to fit a more feminine shape? Do you think they would say, "No, it's okay for us wear the same uniform as the women, even though they don't fit properly?" I very much doubt it, but that's often what women are being told to do.
    – Jane S
    Jan 4, 2016 at 3:21
  • @JaneS I can and I should ignore that, by providing different sets to chose from and if someone does not fit, by providing custom piece. Being woman, being really short or tall man, having calves to big for standard trousers, reason does not matter and shouldn't matter. And if woman can get custom uniform because she's a woman, but man can't and have to wear to short one because he's a man, that's sexism.
    – Mołot
    Jan 4, 2016 at 7:15
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    @Mołot I don't disagree with you. What I am saying is that it is the default for "unisex" clothing is to be masculine cut, which may not fit women properly. A uniform for a woman shouldn't have to be custom fitted, given we are about 50% of the population there should be readily available options that fit men or women.
    – Jane S
    Jan 4, 2016 at 7:24

You have to tell your boss about it. It would be nice if he were to notice how obvious this his, but some people need to have a picture drawn.

If there are any budget issues or "they don't make them any smaller" ask if you can have them altered. Hopefully you could get reimbursed for the expense. Focus on the safety concern.

  • 5
    "We aren't allowed to have our uniforms altered either, I checked"
    – teambob
    Jan 3, 2016 at 5:56
  • 4
    @teambob: That can mean anything from "I was personally told not to make any changes in this particular situation." to "The employee handbook contains a note saying 'Do not alter your uniform.'" In the latter case, it is completely reasonable for the OP to ask whether she can have her uniforms altered on grounds of the described situation, which might well not have been considered by whoever originally wrote the generic rule. Jan 3, 2016 at 18:06

SHOULD the employer be required? That's a subjective question that people could debate endlessly. The obvious reason to say "yes" would be that all employees should have uniforms that are reasonably professional-looking and comfortable. The obvious reason to say "no" would be the potential cost: if the existing uniforms fit 99% of employees, going out of their way to create a special uniform for one person could be a hassle and an extra expense. This would be especially true for a new employee. Do they have to spend a bunch of money to get a custom-made uniform for this one person, when the person might decide they don't like the job for any number of reasons and quit within a short time?

What you might do about it is more answerable.

If the uniform you were given is clearly way too large, if you could turn around in the pants three times and they wouldn't move, etc, you could certainly approach your boss and politely say, Hey, this uniform really looks unprofessional. If there's a legitimate safety issue, if you really are routinely called to work around machinery that baggy clothes might get caught in or some such, bring that up too. Let me emphasize "politely": Going in screaming about the injustice and discrimination or whatever can make you look very foolish if it's an issue no one else has even noticed and they are all happy to remedy. And if you're new on the job, you don't want to make everyone's first impression of you that you're the angry screaming person who is impossible to get along with. No way is that good for long-term job prospects. And if safety isn't really an issue, don't invent unlikely hypothetical safety problems so you can make the problem sound more serious. Your boss will likely know that you're inventing problems that don't really exist, and that won't work to your favor.

Anyway, you go to your boss and describe the problem. If he says, "Oh, I hadn't noticed, of course we'll deal with that", then great, problem solved. If he gives some semi-satisfactory answer, like, "We'll see about getting you a better-fitting uniform when you've been here for six months", I'd accept it.

If he tells you to shut up and go away, then you have to consider your options. Maybe you could win a sex discrimination lawsuit. I don't know; you'd have to check with a lawyer. If it's a big enough deal to you, you always have the option of quitting. You can decide to put up with it.

Perhaps you can suggest practical alternatives. Like, what if you pay a seamstress to alter your uniform out of your own pocket? (Or do it yourself if you have the skill.) Would that be acceptable to the boss? I don't know how distinctive the uniform is. If it's basically just green pants and shirt, can you just get green pants and shirt at a department store that fit you and wear those? Etc.

Also, bear in mind that the situation you describe presents the employer with a catch-22. If they create a women's uniform that is a noticeably different style and cut than the men's uniform, some number of women will complain that they are not being treated the same as the men and this is sexism. If they expect the women to wear the same uniform as the men, some number of women will complain that this doesn't fit well and this is sexism. Unless you like confrontation, try to give your boss a solution that doesn't put him in a bind.

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