Does Your Butt Need a Bra?

November 12, 2009

I do not mean to offend, but sometimes a graphic image is needed to bring home an essential truth: some people’s buttocks need the support of a good pair of underwear. I know this because I’m an observer and I began to notice this phenomenon when thong underwear first became popular. (I will not discuss underwear as a decorative accessory here, nor will I write about the questionable delights of back cleavage, once known as plumber’s crack, but really folks, these things should not be seen in class.) Almost every day, I see someone who probably thinks that there is no VPL (visible panty line) in the rear, yet there it is, the visible bounce of unfettered flesh—and if the thong is a bit small, the effect is even more startling to those behind the behind.

I was observing a student teacher several years ago, a lovely young woman who always dressed appropriately. This day, she was wearing a solid color skirt made of a fairly thin material and as she wrote on the board in front of a class of mostly-male adolescents, her nether parts jiggled gently with each stroke of the dry erase marker. She was clearly wearing a red or dark pink thong and the students were clearly fascinated. When she erased something, the effect was magnified. It took me just seconds to decide to intervene since it seemed better to let her know than to let things continue and tell her afterward. She returned to the board with her sweater tied around her waist.

I often think about professional dress because I work with student teachers. While most of them understand that appropriate clothing adds to their gravitas and helps them gain authority as teachers, it’s sometimes a struggle to convince a few of them that they should dress professionally. What they’ve seen growing up in public schools is often casual Friday run amok every day: teachers in flip flops, teachers in short shorts and sweats (this is not a criticism of P.E. teachers—they need to dress appropriately for their work), teachers in clothing that is unpressed and messy, too tight, too short, too revealing). I read a blog recently in which the the author was talking about the inappropriate dress of young professionals in the business world and said that it was no wonder they didn’t know what to wear since their teachers didn’t provide an appropriate model of professional attire.

Then I started thinking about what I’ve seen in class and on campus. That led me to thinking about why it might not be a good idea to wear inappropriate or overly revealing clothing to class. This doesn’t mean that students need to dress up around campus, just that they should think about what’s being revealed literally and figuratively by their choices. I would be nervous about recommending someone for an opportunity on campus or in the community if they’d demonstrated that they didn’t have any sense of public appropriateness in their clothing choices. This is just another of those things that most teachers aren’t likely to tell students: what you wear to class matters. And, oh yeah, does your butt need a bra?

What do you consider professional dress?

My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably.
• George Bernard Shaw



  1. I consider “professional dress” to be a variety of things. As for the clothes, I agree that a thong showing when you bend over definitely shows the wrong message. As I am a Kindergarten teacher, I am quite sure that within five minutes of class I would have five different students let me know that I had a string in my butt! I feel that any kind of revealing or tight clothing is definitely not appropriate. A nice sweater, long sleeve shirt, or dressy shirt is good. Followed by nice dress pants or skirt (if desired). I don’t feel the need to wear skirts or dresses to be “professional”, as I spend a lot of my time sitting “criss cross applesauce” with the kids or kneeling down to tie shoelaces. Flip flops or regular laced shoes are not professional. At my school, we do practice the Friday casual dress day. On those days, many of us wear jeans (which feels so good). I always make sure to still wear a nice shirt and shoes to dress it up a bit. I do not feel that there is any harm in this. One additional thing that I feel is important is to wear no (or very little) perfume as this can be very distracting and to be conservative with makeup. The kids notice every little detail about my hair, jewelry and clothes which constantly surprises and amuses me. It is a great reminder to stay professional!

  2. Kindergarten teachers fall into a special category as far as I’m concerned. Amen to the perfume. It gives me a major headache when my students wear it. Even adult students notice your clothes. And when I taught high school, a group of ninth grade girls told me that they had perfect attendance because they didn’t want to miss one of my outfits. W-OZ

  3. Oh, my, …..did this spark a chord with me. And What Is Letting Innocent Bystanders Glimpse Your Private Undies! Not all of us have 21 year old perky derrieres. Hide it, lift it and keep it to yourself!

  4. i agree that Kindergarten teachers fall into a special category. I had fun dressing in seasonal, fitting the occasion clothing for them. And they do notice everything! Once when I wasn’t even dressed up, a little girl raised her hand and said, “Ms. Shanon, I think you forgot to brush your hair today.” I was speechless at the time but I love that memory now. I like dressing in comfortable clothes. I like the jeans on Friday but I really like dressing professionally. We worked hard to become teachers and we work really hard at school. I am a big fan of unusual colors but I think my dress is fairly conservative. I like it when the parents come to visit (usually in jeans) and I am dressed up a little. It makes me feel professional.

  5. One of the problems that we’ve seen in our society is the trend of relaxing standards in a number of areas. Professional dress is a major issue with students and teachers today. The need for people to be comfortable and express themselves in their preferred clothing is the norm. I had to explain to a graduating senior that wearing a baseball cap during commencement wasn’t allowed due to the dress code set by the school. Teachers must set the example in this issue and remind students that many people, whether we like it or not, allow first impressions to dictate their decisions. Teaching in a depressed community, I have found difficulty on the day before presentations of telling to students to dress “like their going to church or going to a job interview,”not very successful. If you want to be taken seriously, you must dress in a way that shows your students that you’re serious about the profession!

  6. I agree that we need to dress correctly for our profession; however, there are some certain things I will not do. My mother came to me the other day with a sweater she thought I would like to wear to class. It had kitties on it. HELLO McFly! I will not wear a sweater with kitties on it? My mom said it was a “teachers” sweater. Ug! No…it is not this teacher’s sweater. It is a sweater that should be burned! Don’t get me wrong….I like kitties. They are sweet, cuddly and make my eyes itchy, but does this mean I want to wear them on my chest for the world to see? NO! Yes….we must dress as professionals, but I refuse to conform to this “teacher sweater” that my mother thinks I need to be wearing and continue the way I have been going. Kitty less!

  7. I have often been considered “over-dressed” since moving to the much more informal Oregon coast. Having moved from the east coast (just outside of Manhattan), it was a bit of a culture shock, to say the least to find myself living in a town where blue jeans and a t-shirt are an acceptable ensemble at even the nicest of restaurants! But I have found that my proclivity for more formal attire has made an impression on students, teachers, and colleagues alike.

    I was a bit surprised when a former parent asked me where we were going while on her way to visit her daughter’s current teacher. I wondered how she knew that it was a field trip day in Room 10. When I asked, she replied, “You’re wearing pants! You only wear pants on field trip days!” Well, a serious back injury – and the lovely physical changes that accompany complete and total lack of physical activity! – have led to a wardrobe shift. I now wear pants daily in an attempt to avoid the accidental tug of a student stepping or sitting on my long, flowing skirts during our carpet time. And yes, my colleagues noticed and commented on the shift when I returned to work!

    I pride myself on being viewed as a professional in my behavior and my attire. I believe that people should dress for the job they WANT, not for the job they HAVE…and I want to be seen as a leader and a professional in my field. This belief led me to wear skirts and sweater sets throughout my student teaching whenever I was dealing with people in education rather than to dress in accordance with my position as a college student.

  8. Having worked in banking and finance for most of my life, I’m very aware of professional dress in the workplace. Since I’m nearly 50, I probably have a different perception of professional dress than a 25 year old. But the fact of the matter is, if you’re going to have clients, parents, or whoever you are dealing with that are of the over 40 generation, you should abide by more conservative dress if you want their respect and want to be treated as a professional

    • That is a very good point Cindy. I have found, as a young teacher, that when I dress more professionally I am treated with more respect.

  9. I think that there are different standards of dress for different situations. It seems that some of these standards are getting stretched further and further. I see kids come to school in pajamas. This would not have been acceptable at my house growing up. You got dressed in the morning when you got up. That was the rule. It may not have been anything fancier than jeans and a sweatshirt, but leaving the house in last nights pajamas was not an option. Now you see people all over town in underclothes, and things worn to bed. I see several each time I’m in the Walmart near our home. I must say, I have run to the store in work clothes when we are working on a project in the yard. But these people to do not look as though they are working, they just look like they were too lazy to get dressed. I wonder if they have ever thought about why these types of clothes are considered pajamas. They are not always the most flattering, and they definitely do not give a first impression of someone hard working and thoughtful. I like comfort as much as the next guy, but there is a time and a place for it.

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