Let me fast-forward to the punch line of my story: Two buttons in the middle my button-down shirt popped while I was talking to a best-selling author. And, I didn’t know it until after our conversation was over.
I was hosting a book-signing event for this esteemed best-selling author, so I wanted to look smart and stylish, without appearing that I was trying too hard. So, that morning I selected a lovely plum button-down shirt with a smart, stylish collar. It was a shirt that I’d worn, without incident, many times before.
During our initial meeting, I escorted the author and his tour manager into the auditorium so that we could review the event. I enthusiastically gestured with my arms and pointed out various features in our large auditorium. The author and his road manager were quite engaged during my presentation. To their credit, their eyes were on my face the entire time.
After they exited the auditorium stage, I walked down the corridor into the main hallway. A co-worker who was assisting me with the event pointed to the center of my chest. I looked down and I could plainly see the front of my sparkling white, padded bra was showing prominently for all to see. Oh, the horror…
I may be an African-American woman, but I can guarantee you in that moment, my face was as red as the bottom of the pair of Christian Louboutin shoes. I wanted to go home and hid under my comforter and never show my face again. But I couldn’t. The show had to go on!
I quickly buttoned my shirt and plastered a smile on my face before going back to work. I was dying inside, but I faked confidence until my real confidence returned. As the event leader, my team was counting on me not to go sulking into a corner. The night was a success and the author appreciated all of our hard work. He never made a comment about my wardrobe malfunction and to this day, I appreciate his gracious professionalism in the face of my horribly embarrassing moment.
But, that wasn’t my last embarrassing moment. As part of our church’s weekend team and women’s conference speaker, I’ve had a few unexpected clothing disasters over the years. I’ve lived through belts that come unhooked, scarves that slide off and zippers that fall down. I’m not special. We’ve all been there.
While the term “wardrobe malfunction” was made popular after the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson Super Bowl scandal, we’ve all experience one clothing catastrophe or another. We’ve left the house in mismatched socks or a shirt worn inside out. Many of us have split our pants or popped a button on a shirt. These moments are never convenient and the most we can hope for is that we discover that open zipper or stop Aunt Flo’s early arrival before anyone and everyone notices.
So, what do you do when a clothing catastrophe strikes? How do you handle that wardrobe catastrophe with style and sophistication AND without creating additional embarrassment:
- Stay calm – If something has come loose or split apart, stay calm and still. Quick or jerky body movements will make matters worse. Take a deep breath and repeat this: “I will be okay.”
- Enlist a friend – It’s not a good idea to yell, “Oh, my goodness! I just ripped a hole in my pants!” to the entire office. But, you can get the attention of a friend or co-worker you trust to be an ally. This person can be your excuse-maker, clothing donor or human shield, depending on the situation. I suggest asking another woman, but a good guy with a handy suit coat will do in certain situations.
- Plan your exit – Think about how you can discreetly exit from the your current situation with the least amount of attention. You may think that all eyes are own you, but trust me, most are checking their Twitter or playing 2048. Walk quietly and directly to the nearest exit. Beg a friend to follow behind if your wardrobe catastrophe needs a shield.
- Don’t overshare – Once you’ve addressed your clothing drama, come back to the gathering or slide back into your cubicle. Only do this if you can slip back in without drawing attention to yourself or outfit. Here’s the big tip: Don’t overshare about what happened. Letting folks know you had a clothing issue or malfunction is 100% satisfactory without going into details that could be used for office gossip later.
- Let it go. It happened. It was embarrassing. It’s over. You survived. Move on. Smile.
And remember, one day it will happen again.
Q4U: Do you have a wardrobe malfunction story that you’d like to share? Trust me, the best way to overcome the embarrassment is to share it and laugh about it! Let us laugh with you!
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