Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sheer at School?

I picked up the phone. It was my mom.

"Have you responded yet to that person who commented asking whether a sheer black blouse was appropriate for a teacher to wear to work?"

I thought back to all the comments I'd saved to respond to in later posts but hadn't gotten to yet. I pulled up the comment:

I work in a public school, directly with the students, so I have to abide by the school dress code. One of the rules is that no tank tops are allowed.

But, one of my favorite things to wear is my black tank top under a sheer, black blouse. It's very comfortable and I personally think it looks pretty respectable, not too casual or anything. I cannot wear tanks without a bra (even the kind with the built-in bras), so the bra straps do show a bit, but I wear a black bra so it's not really noticeable.

My question is, do you think that wearing a tank top under a see-through blouse would violate the school rule or just in general make me look unprofessional?

I thought about it and responded, "No, not yet, but I think I know what I'm going to say. I think a dark, sheer blouse is appropriate if it's not sheer all over and isn't overtly sexy, you know, like one of those more Victorian-inspired blouses..."

She cut me off. "Meg. Sheer=sexy and that is NEVER acceptable for someone working at a school. Anyone over 25 will agree with me on that, and the parents of those kids are closer to my age than yours."

"I don't know Mom, I think you can make it work, presuming you're fully covered... there are a lot of ways that you could make normally unsexy clothes sexy (a shirt or blouse that shows a bit too much cleavage, a pencil skirt that's very tight), and I think it goes the other way as well."

"You've never been in a PTO, you don't know how those women talk."

"Point taken Mom, but I'm the one with a fashion and etiquette blog, not you. Thank you for your unsolicited advice, I love you, we'll talk later."

My Mom did have a point- these days you can get into a lot of trouble for being perceived as dressing provocatively around children or teens. And without seeing the blouse in question, I can't say whether it would be appropriate or not- I think it depends on the piece and what you pair it with. Also, it's not just how much skin you're showing, but how much of your body is being shown off (I don't think it would be appropriate to wear a tank top/sheer blouse combo if you had large breasts, for instance). But as I said before, if you can find a piece that doesn't show much skin, isn't too tight fitting and has more of an old-fashioned, buttoned up vibe, I think it would be okay. Here are a few pieces that I think would be acceptable to pair with a modest pair of dress pants or a skirt:

If you've got something that you want to wear to work but are unsure if it's appropriate, why not bring it in (along with an extra change of clothes) and before school starts, ask a co-worker or two whether they think it's okay. If the consensus is that it doesn't fly, just change into your other shirt. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

What do you guys think?


Anonymous said...

If you're going to wear any sheer top to work, you can only do it if you wear a solid layer underneath it. This is true for almost any job you could mention outside of the entertainment industry.

For this teacher, a tank top worn under a dress is not called a tank top, it is called a layer, and therefore doesn't violate the school dress code.

If the lower part of the dress is sheer, a slip probably won't be adequate and she'll probably have to wear trousers underneath it. This will only work if the trousers are completely flat-fronted with no waistbandy bulk or buttons whatsoever. It will also only work if the dress is knee-length. If it's not, then she should probably accept that the dress is only for wearing outside of work.

If wearing a dress with trousers, sweaters and coats only work in two lengths: underbust-length, or the same length as the dress.

Ang said...

My guess is that a student who tries to get away with wearing a tank top under a sheer layer could just as easily be viewed as trying to bend the rules and be asked to change. Since tank tops are apparently explicitly banned, I don't think the teacher should try this look, even though she would be well-covered. Although the spirit of the dress code is probably directed towards avoiding bare arms, bra strap, and cleavage exposure, I think the teacher should follow the dress code to the letter. If what she's wearing under her sheer top is identifiable as a tank top, and essentially in plain sight, then I think she ought not to wear it. Although the sheer top-tank top combo is likely very cute, it doesn't seem to me that it will inspire the respect of her students and parents or her colleagues in the context of her position as a teacher.

Anonymous said...

I am the one who posed the original question. Most people who work with me are on the older side, so after hearing what Meg's Mom said I figured I probably shouldn't try wearing it. Sometimes it's kind of hard to go from wearing whatever is still clean in college to formal attire at your first real job.Thanks for your input!

Anonymous said...

Hi Meg, I find sheer looks very hard to pull off professionally, I don't do it. As for school, I really don't know what is acceptable these days but if I had a teenage daughter she wouldn't be wearing sheer anything to school.

Meg's Mom said...

It's always satisfying when someone listens to a Mother's advice! Good luck, Anonymous, with your new job. It sounds like you'll be a very conscientious

Corey Doyle said...

I think that it depends on the sheer-ability. If it's the completely see-through sheer, no I wouldn't wear it. If it's the more of an opaque sheer where you CAN see through it enough to need another layer I would. Much like the shirts that are posted I guess, they are technically sheer but really are tasteful and not too sheer.

Lisa said...

Also, it's not just how much skin you're showing, but how much of your body is being shown off (I don't think it would be appropriate to wear a tank top/sheer blouse combo if you had large breasts, for instance).

That's definitely not a rule of thumb I recommend following. If sheer top + tank top is okay for anyone, then it's okay for everyone, regardless of body type. Yeah, I wouldn't wear something low-cut or revealing, regardless of my breast size, but if something fits correctly then there shouldn't be a problem.

Distar said...

but with some items of clothing, it's not neccesarily about how revealing it is but what it alludes to...

With all these school teacher-student scandals going on, any "conscientous teacher" most likely won't want to add fuel to the fertile minds of her students.

I agree with wind- sheer anything is not work appropriate.

Talking about innapropriate teacher/student relationships- just watched "Notes on a Scandal" (out on dvd today)- GREAT film!

MeLizzard said...

Some clothing items are just off-limits for school, and "sheer" is on the list. This is a very conservative work environment in most areas. A lot of clothing which appears completely innocuous to adults can appear sexy or provocative to teens, particularly boys. They're easily distracted, and even more easily aroused. The issue, I guess, isn't the tank, but the sheer fabric. I have worn a tank under a jacket, but the jacket has to stay on. I think it's wrong, also, to enforce a student dress code which faculty and other employees ignore. It's hard to justify making a student change out of an offensive garment if we're dressed like students.

Rebecca said...

I have posted on sheer at work before and basically I agree that in alot of cases it can work, but not this one. The last thing a teacher wants is to be seen as trying to get away with something.

I also think it's helpful to make the distinction between a tank top (which many consider clothing) and a cami (which is widely seen as underwear).

Now, I know this wasn't the question, but what do you and your mom think about sheer or crochet white over color? Maybe two long sleeve tops? What I have seen in stores that I love is white with a paisley pattern of sheer. I think worn over black or a bright it would just be a cool patterned shirt.

What do you think?

Kathryn said...

my rule of thumb for work-related wardrobe issues is that if you are questioning it, then it likely is inappropriate

Anonymous said...

I teach HS and just let me say NO NO NO NO. No way no matter what your age or body shape. Your principal will think less of you and it will hurt your career.

Not to mention the kids would make fun of you. ;)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that this sounds really strange to me (I'm from Europe), I seriously cannot imagine any student being forbidden to wear a tank top to school or even, God forbid, being made to change out of it! Is a tank top really considered to be offensive?