“Your Slip is Showing”: Indicating wardrobe malfunctions

by epi on November 5, 2012

Q: Is it proper to let a co-worker know her slip is showing and can a male employee say this, or should a female do the advising?  Or is it better just to let the matter “slip” by?

A: If your fly was down, would you want someone to tell you?  I sure would.  If a guy wasn’t available, then I’d want a woman to take me aside and let me know.  I’ll wager that any woman whose slip is showing or blouse button has come undone or anybody with spinach stuck on his front tooth would feel exactly the same way.  In short, be a friend: Let your co-worker know something is amiss.  Do it in a quiet, matter-of-fact way, so as not to embarrass her.  All you’re doing is making it possible to correct the situation.  She’ll appreciate you for it.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Chocobo November 5, 2012 at 10:31 am

The way to tell someone there is a wardrobe malfunction with least amount of embarrassment is to introduce a seed of doubt, such as prefacing the statement with “I think–”. It allows the coworker to save a little face by believing you didn’t see much. So perhaps take the coworker aside and say: “Mary, I think your slip may be showing” or “Frank, I think there may be something in your teeth” to soften the blow.

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Michi November 5, 2012 at 11:49 am

@chocobo- That’s good. Thanks for sharing!

The “I think” makes the indication seem much more like you just caught a glimpse rather than sounding like “Your slip is completely showing and everyone can see it.”

Also, this should be delivered in a matter-of-fact, no-big-deal way which means stating the issue directly and NOT making a joke. I’ve experienced being told this in a joking way (“Looks like a little lunch is sticking around.” “What?” “Some of your lunch is still hanging out between your teeth.”). I think the person was trying to make it less of a big deal, but by doing so he made it even more embarrassing.

Finally, if you feel uncomfortable mentioning the slip specifically because you’re male and she’s female (it is an undergarment after all), you can say, “I think you may want to check the hem of your skirt.” Though less direct, if mentioning the slip makes you too uncomfortable, phrasing the comment this way should at least have the appropriate effect. Better to give this advice in a slightly veiled way than to not give it at all.

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Winifred Rosenburg November 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I agree with previous posters. I also think there may be some cases when it’s not worth it to say anything at all. If the slip is barely showing where others probably wouldn’t notice, it’s not worth embarrassing the person. Also, keep in mind that some modern-style skirts have slips that are made to hang past the skirt a little. If you think that may be the case, you shouldn’t say anything.

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Country Girl November 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I’m afraid I have to disagree. A slip is an undergarment. Although I don’t wear slips, I almost equate it to a male colleague telling me my bra strap was showing. I would feel pretty uncomfortable having a male colleague inform me of a wardrobe malfunction of this nature… and actually especially uncomfortable if he took me aside in private to do so. Unless perhaps her entire skirt is tucked into itself, a showing slip isn’t necessarily a noticeable accident like a fly down or food stuck in the teeth. I think it is more appropriate for a male colleague to let this slide.

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Jody November 5, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I’m with those who say that the person should be told of the wardrobe malfunction, but it needs to be done in a discreet manner. It doesn’t matter to me (I’m female) if a male or female tells me, as long as it’s done quietly — don’t yell it across the room. I was traveling with a business companion once, and as he came down the hallway I noticed his fly was open. I walked up to him and quietly told him; he appreciated the information and quickly stepped aside and fixed it.

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Melissa November 6, 2012 at 12:27 am

I’ve heard it said that you should tell the person if its a fixable malfunction. A run in the nylons or a rip in a piece of clothing is not a quick fix and therefore should not be pointed out. Is this correct?

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Winifred Rosenburg November 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm

That’s generally a good rule of thumb. If the person can’t fix it, what’s the point in pointing it out?

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scdeb November 6, 2012 at 12:33 am

This happened to me today–a man I admire and respect from a different dept and someone who is higher up on the pay scale came into the break room where I was eating lunch with two female co workers. He had taken the day off from work but had been called back because of a problem and was dressed very nicely BUT his fly was down. Nothing was showing but I could not bring myself to say a word–I was afraid I would embarrass him. There was no one to tell as we were all females. I felt really awful that I did nothing.

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Ruth Peltier November 6, 2012 at 6:19 am

Which reminds me of one of my pet peeves: people who come up behind me and tuck the tag back in my shirt. I do NOT like being touched, especially from behind. Tell me if you must, or leave it alone, but do not touch me.

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Laurie November 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I don’t have a comment on the slip-showing conundrum, but I do have an etiquette question that I myself need help with. I am throwing a 40th birthday party for a dear friend with a Greek theme (she has always wanted to go to Greece) and had the thought of asking the guests (in lieu of a gift) to donate toward her trip of a lifetime. Would that be considered rude? She can’t afford to pay for the trip herself & has gone through a rough last couple of years so I thought something like this would be perfect, but I’m not sure how it would be perceived. Thoughts, please? (I didn’t know how to ask this on the blog in general – there didn’t seem to be a place to do that.)

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Alicia November 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm

No do not direct guests on gift or even if they should get one for the birthday woman. People do not always give gifts to adults for birthdays and if they do they should be able to give whatever is within their means and desires. Particularly on such a high ticket price gift. Think about it if guests combined give her say $300 toward trip she may still be unable to afford to go and then there is the awkwardness of not going on the gift trip or the fiscal pressure to go on a trip that can not be afforded because you told everyone that she would use it for the trip. Invite people have some good greek dolmas, baklava, ect and let people decide for them-self what if anything they wish to give as a gift to the birthday honoree

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Brockwest November 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm

1) Though it is awkward, I appreciate when people or strangers point out a wardrobe slip. I agree that one should draw the line at embarrasing parts showing. For instance if I see a female walking out of the bathroom with a trailing piece of toilet paper attached to her shoe, I try to step unnoticed on the paper and not let her know. I would not mention a bra strap. I would not mention something that can’t be fixed (your dress/blouse is see-through in this light.) I would tell someone if they had clothing ripped….a safety pin can prevent further damage or hide damage. One should never ever touch the person’s defect to fix it.
2) On the birthday money request, sorry, it’s incorrect to use a birthday party as a money-making device. Even bridal showers, weddings are not supposed to include requests for money or even gifts. As an alternative, you could change the party to a “fund-raiser to help Jane get to Greece.” That way the purpose of the party is well-known and only those who wish to contribute may do so. Please don’t mix fundraising with birthdays/anniversaries/weddings/showers/graduations etc.

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