#1309: My housemate is accidentally flashing me

Dear Captain Awkward,
 
My (he/him) housemate (also he/him) wears skirts almost all the time, both at home and other places – knee-length and baggy. Which, you know, cool. He also mainly wears boxers, the kind with a wide leg.
 
The problem is that because he’s only really felt comfortable wearing skirts for a few months, he doesn’t have a lot of understanding about what they do and don’t cover in certain positions. Add in the wide-leg boxers, and he’s accidentally flashed me a number of times.
 
I’m certain this is accidental. He’ll be in the wrong position before I even come home from work, and there’s no hint of him moving to a more compromising position when I’m in the room. Also, although I’d be completely fine peeing while he’s in the shower, or vice versa – we only have one bathroom – unlike most of my other cis male friends, he told me he’s not comfortable doing that.
 
I’m also certain that he would be completely mortified to learn he’s flashed me, and possibly other people.
 
But I also really feel like I should tell him. So he can get underwear which covers more and be mindful of sitting with his knees together. Plus to stop him flashing anyone who doesn’t know that it’s a wardrobe malfunction and thus feels unsafe when he’s around.
 
But… what words? What medium? How do two very awkward people have an even more awkward discussion? I don’t want to see his junk, but I also don’t want him to feel he should stop wearing skirts.
 
Thanks for any advice,
 
Eyes averted.
 
Hello there, Eyes Averted!
 
I’ve been wearing skirts and dresses for 46 years, and sometimes they just don’t act right. Like the night I first met my future mother-in-law, for instance, when we were out at dinner, and I came back from the restroom not realizing I’d tucked the back of my skirt into my underpants and was giving the Lou Malnati’s dining room a sight they could never unsee. She noticed, and as I sat down, she leaned over and quietly said “double-check your skirt situation” or something similar. I quickly remedied the situation and thanked her for telling me. It was embarrassing, and there were many blushes and good-natured giggles to go around, but it was way less embarrassing for me and safer for my fellow deep-dish diners than if she hadn’t told me and I’d discovered it on my own later. She was brief, direct, and timely, and I appreciated all of that.  
 
Bodies are weird, and clothes are imperfect vessels, even for the fanciest people! Have you ever had your fly unzipped or accidentally had something hanging out of your shorts or swim trunks that shouldn’t be, and then had someone swiftly and quietly tell you about it? Like, “Hey buddy, the barn door’s open” or making that cross between a point and a wave gesture that means “Pull it together, friend”?  Have you ever had to do that with a fellow penis-operator who wasn’t in a skirt? What did you do or say? What happened afterward? I’m guessing here, but my strong suspicion is that it went fine. They told you, or you told them, everyone felt weird for a minute, and then the problem was solved. 
 
So, I think that’s exactly where you should aim, here. Next time you come home and accidentally glimpse your roommate’s undercarriage, say something right away, with the exact same tone you’d use if your workmate had their tie buttoned into their pants or toilet paper stuck to their shoe or spinach in their teeth: “Oh hey, how was your day? Whoops, hold up, your downstairs needs rearranging.” 
 
You’ll look politely away (throwing a hand up as you avert your eyes is a good non-verbal cue), he’ll fix it, he’ll probably be a little embarrassed and apologetic, so you’ll say, “No worries, it happens, and please always tell me if I’m giving you an accidental peep show.” Hopefully everyone will laugh sheepishly about it for a second, or bond over flashbacks to weird locker room moments, and then there will be a lovely subject change. 
 
In your shoes, I would also treat the next time as if it were the first time. If he doesn’t know it’s happening, then he doesn’t know that it’s a problem or how much overthinking you’ve been doing to avoid making him self-conscious about it. You get to restart the clock from the first time you say something. 
 
If it happens again? Because it probably will, while he’s figuring it out? It’s okay, you can do the same thing again, deliver the exact friendly, casual, helpful “Oops – wardrobe malfunction!” you’d want if a friend noticed your shorts were adrift or your fly was undone.
 
If it remains a serial problem after you speak up a time or three, that’s when to combine “Yikes, your skirt’s riding up again” (normal, calm, casual) with “Hey, I really don’t want to make it weird, but this seems to happening a lot? Maybe skirts require a more secure underpants situation than you’re used to?” Barring that, the less you make it about THE SKIRT and the more you make it about “clothes are weird, whatever, what were you saying?” the easier it will be. 
 
We all had to be taught to wear clothes, at some point, and I can recall approximately a million reminders about how to sit, as well as shopping trips for dance-briefs for show choir and slips for looking “professional” and finding bike-short-like solutions to prevent accidental butt-shows and chub-rub. I have, like, nine distinct kinds of underwear depending on what I’m wearing and where I’m headed and how I’m getting there! It’s not intuitive! It’s not strange that your friend would encounter a learning curve if he didn’t grow up in one of the many sarong, loincloth, robe, and kilt-wearing cultures on earth, where I presume parents give “how to dangle your jangles in polite company ” lessons, the same way they do with facial hair maintenance and tying a tie. There are many, many online guides out there for pants-wearers who want to branch out, and your housemate will figure it out. 
 
You don’t have to manage all of that for him or worry this much on his behalf. Telling him directly and calmly when there’s an observable problem, with the assumption that it’s unintentional and he’d want to know, is the way to be kind to everyone in your house, including your housemate, including yourself. Anyone who is truly doing this accidentally and who is some combination of self-conscious and self-aware about privacy and body parts (like a housemate who strongly believes that bathroom is alone time) will get the message and fix it ASAP. This is going to be okay. 
 
Comments are open. I want to hear especially from:

People who adopted skirt-wearing as adults: What was your “Not Accidentally Re-Creating Famous Subway Grate Glamour Shots” learning curve like? Where did you first learn The Good News about the boxer-brief compromise between freedom and secure containment? Did anyone have to helpfully remind you along the way? 

People with stories about being told about an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction and it going just fine.

People with guidance, examples, or strong opinions about when TO definitely say something vs. definitely NOT say something. I think my personal code, which I came up with just now, is built around a combination of “Is it fixable,” “Is it fixable fairly immediately” and “Can I tell them, and can they fix it, without making anything harder or worse.”

Example: A workmate’s sparkly necklace has become looped around one boob. She’s about to go up and give a presentation. I’d absolutely say “pssst, your necklace” or catch her eye and try to signal her about it if I could before she gets up there. Fixable! 

If she has already started her presentation? What necklace? There is no necklace. There was never a necklace. Maybe, if this thing is being recorded or broadcast, I find a way to interrupt or slip her a note, but otherwise I’m not going to interrupt her flow or draw attention away from her words if I can possibly help it. If it’s still tangled when she’s done, only when I could catch her privately in the hall or restroom, would l say “oh hey, your necklace,” as if I have just noticed it for the first time. If she asked how long it had been like that I would not lie, but I would also hope with my entire soul that she would not ask, so that she might be spared. 

If she had a stain on her shirt and would have to go home and change, that’s not immediately fixable, so I’d go with: Stain? What stain.

Where I learned this, I think: My very elegant, polished, Washington, D.C. boss once pulled a tampon (unused, thank Maude) out of her pocket instead of a laser pointer or pen during a client presentation, and began pointing out areas of the map on the slide with it. It had a blue plastic applicator and had come loose from the wrapper in her pocket, so it probably felt like a Sharpie or close enough, and she was very involved in what she was saying, so she didn’t notice for a while. The other women in the room froze, darting eyes at each other. I don’t think the men noticed, but if they did, they did not react. She eventually realized (the string was making a distinct shadow on the projection), said, “Oh” with a little laugh, tucked it back in her pocket, pulled out her pen, and kept right on going. 

In the Letter Writer’s situation, it’s fixable, it’s fixable right away, he’s stuck at the “oh no will I make it worse” stage, understandably, but at home, a quick “tuck yourself in, bud” isn’t going to shatter anyone’s world, which is why I’m firmly in the camp of “say the thing right now.” 

Edited To Add: I was cleaning out the spam and trash folder and accidentally deleted a legitimate comment from a gentleman who said, “Respectfully, people who wear boxers know when their jumblies are out. He’s probably doing it on purpose.” Apologies for the deletion, sir! If this were in fact the case, I still stand by the recommendation for the Letter Writer to avert his eyes and matter-of-factly suggest a rearrangement – right away! – whenever it happens. If the problem stops after a time or three, good news, it was accidental or as good as, and now the problem is over.

If it doesn’t stop when you do the polite, reasonable thing, then you *know* something is wrong – either the person is doing it on purpose, or they have that kind of obliviousness that is indistinguishable from bad faith – and at that point it can be a “Fix it forever or move out” level discussion. Which would be awful! But if it came to that, the Letter Writer could go into that conversation without having wasted months guessing about and assuming the other person’s intent. When you speak up early, when something bothers you, you stand a better chance of stopping problems while they are small and fixable. You give good people who made an honest mistake a chance to do the right thing, and you remove that “maybe they don’t know” shield of plausible deniability that crappy people use to get away with so much bullshit in the world. You told them, so now they know, and what they choose to do with that information tells you who and what you are dealing with. 

Letter Writer, I’ve been on the receiving end of at least one “oh weird, your fly is unzipped, again, but only when I’m at my desk and you’re standing very close with your crotch at my eye-level, again, and never when you are talking to your boss, again” situation, and I’m not getting that read here. I could be wrong, always, but fingers crossed, I think it will still go fine. 

171 thoughts on “#1309: My housemate is accidentally flashing me

  1. I, a lifelong wearer of skirts and dresses, had a series of Very Unwelcome Surprise Malfunctions when I switched to a new backpack in college that had material along the back that seemed to attract/cling to my skirts. I’d leave the house with everything shipshape and by the time I got to class the back of the skirt would be up by my buttcheeks. I am sure it did not help that my campus was full of hills and stairs to climb. Each time I was stopped by a friendly passerby. The first time it happened I wrote it off as a one-time thing but after it happened twice (!) more (!!) I figured out it was the backpack’s fault and purchased a new shoulder bag as soon as I possibly could.

    Guess who I didn’t blame? The messenger. Bless those kind people who tried to be helpful and prevent me from developing a reputation as the quadrangle butt-flasher.

    1. I also had a similar “backpack with insatiable appetite for dresses/skirts” problem, and I think the fact that skirts are so airy in general is also why it can be so difficult to realize that you’ve veered into malfunction, especially if your lower half is just happy to be allowed to feel a breeze on the reg. Thank goodness for kind strangers who quietly and briefly alerted me to the situation!

      1. Huh, this reminds me of how I am uncomfortable in short or structured skirts. I rely on that fabric brush against the back of my legs to tell me everything is ok.

        1. When my school switched from winter uniform (heavy wool skirt and tights) to summer uniform (cotton tunic, no tights), it took a couple of weeks to re-calibrate and be confident that everything was as it should be

        2. I got rid of a very light skirt that I couldn’t feel on the backs of my legs because I was constantly checking to see if I was exposed back there. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life!

    2. I had a similar issue in college with my favorite sweater. It was beautiful and soooo comfy, like a calming spring green silken cloud cradling me oh so gently. It also had the most unfortunate tendency to devour my skirts. Like, they would start out knee length, but would start disappearing upward into the sweater, pulled by some kind of hellspawned version of static cling. I ended up flashing everyone a couple of times before I just switched to jeans. Both times, a kindly passing stranger had a quick word and clued me in. Embarrassing, but not the worst thing ever. Then, my beloved-but-clearly-out-to-get-me sweater tried to steal my shirts. I took off the sweater in class and flashed my professor. Thankfully I was sitting in the back of the class. My 60-something professor turned beet red and pretended he hadn’t seen my (braless on that day) breasts. We never spoke of it.

      Maybe just casually tell roomie that the barn is getting a bit too much air and the ponies are trying to escape? And then vaguely wave at the skirt? No big deal. It takes practice to wear skirts. I had my new wrap skirt fall off once at a nice restaurant. It was my first time wearing it and I didn’t tie it correctly. It happens. Frequently, if you are me.

      1. Eek, this reminded me of the time when I was on an awkward attempted-date with someone I’d known for ages as a friend. I was getting a bit warm so I automatically went to unzip my hoodie – only I wasn’t wearing one, I was wearing a dress with a zipper down the front and very little underneath. He looked horrified, I quickly zipped back up again, and we pretended nothing had happened.
        As the parent of a female-assigned child who is still somewhat learning to wear clothes, I think the dilemma is actually quite similar, in that I want to teach her socially accepted norms but avoid body-shaming. It’s a really tricky balance, and I agree with the Captain’s policies of keeping things as immediate, matter-of-fact and low key as possible, rather than a great ‘big picture’ conversation that just makes it a much bigger issue.
        Can I just say also that the OP sounds lovely and it’s great to hear him thinking so gently about the best way to support his friend.

        1. I (unfortunately) had to have a big-picture conversation with one of my own female-assigned offspring to let her know that she must wear some sort of undergarment when wearing dresses. This was after addressing it in the moment several times and coming to the realization that she (at school age) somehow felt this was optional in our current society. truthfully, undergarments are only currently optional for school age individuals if the garment over them makes it impossible to tell that they have been left off.

          This conversation occurred after I realized that she had played a summer piano recital in a beautiful dress and lovely slippers and with her hair done nicely and no undergarments whatsoever.

          1. A friend’s grandchild attends a daycare center that’s also a gymnastics academy. The preschooler has been tasked with getting herself dressed for “school.” One day they were bouncing on the trampoline and it quickly became apparent that kiddo had neglected to wear an undergarment with her dress.

            The kids have a clean set of clothes in their cubbies at all times because Preschoolers. No harm, no foul. But now her parents check to make sure she hasn’t forgotten to don skivvies before she heads off to class.

        2. Yes, exactly. A big picture discussion makes it way too much of a big deal. Life is difficult enough, and no one needs to start feeling all self conscious on top of everything else. A casual word and acting like it is no big deal because it *is* no big deal is the best and kindest way to go.

          And, OP? It really is kind of you to be so concerned for your housemate’s feelings.

      2. I’d encourage people not to be too vague/abstract/metaphorical when having this conversation – I would have no idea what “the barn is getting a bit too much air and the ponies are trying to escape” meant. I once had a doctor refer to my “nether regions” and it was several days later that I realised which part of my anatomy she was talking about. It is a lot less awkward to be straightforward with your language.

    3. Yes! Backpack+ dress is so dangerous. I had this problem in grad school of all places (warm climate meant less frequent tights for protection) and I am so grateful for the stranger who stopped me before one my of colleagues/students noticed.

    4. My friend had something like this happen a bunch of times when we visited a large mall in a near-by city. Only, as far as she was concerned, the skirted garment she was wearing was a long shirt, and the ride-up was not a concern. The shorts she was wearing were quite short, but otherwise didn’t look much like underwear. Several people kindly pointed out her “situation”, including one older lady who just pulled it back down without saying anything. Didn’t at the time realise her backpack must have been the cause, but so many people tried to help it was a bit uncomfortable

  2. Way back in college, I was at a sub shop and this young woman came out of the bathroom with her dress tucked into her tights and proceeded to stand at the counter with her back to the entire place. I got up, stood behind her, kind of blocking the view and told her so she could fix it while I was a sight-line barrier [I am not small]. She was very grateful! That’s the only incident that immediately comes to mind.

    1. I had almost the same thing happen as I was walking down a crowded street in Chicago – i.e., very big city with lots of potential witnesses – when I noticed a woman going the other way had her skirt was tucked into her tights. And I do mean tucked in allllllll the way. It was a little complicated since telling her about it meant I had to pivot quickly to catch up with her before she got lost in the crowd, all while figuring out what to say. And what I said was, “I think you might want to check your skirt.” I didn’t stick around to see what happened after that, but I did catch the chagrin on her face. But I’m sure she would have wanted to know because who wouldn’t?

      I also remember an anecdote from one of the Miss Manners books. In the days when pants first became acceptable as fancy evening wear for ladies, a lady of Miss Manners’ acquaintance wore a pair to an evening party, only to find out when she came home that her fly had been down the entire evening. According to Miss Manners, the acquaintance held it against every woman at that party that NOBODY told her. And I don’t blame her, really.

      BTW, Captain, Miss Manners’ rule for when to speak and when not to speak is almost exactly the same as yours. If it can be fixed, say something. If it can’t, it didn’t happen, at least not so’s anybody noticed.

      1. Miss Manners! That’s who I was thinking of. I knew that I’d read this rule in some newspaper advice column.

    2. A fellow interviewee for a prestigious grad school program saved me from exiting the public bathroom to head to the next interview-weekend event with my skirt stuck in my tights. (I was an experienced skirt-wearer, but tights were a newer thing, as I lived in North Carolina but the interview weekend was in Boston in January.) She clearly felt awkward about telling me, and I was extremely embarrassed but also grateful.

      A few months later, at the orientation for a different grad program I had actually enrolled in, one of my new classmates said, oh, hi, didn’t we meet at the ____ interview weekend? She did not allude to my skirt malfunction but I remembered it clearly, now with less fresh embarrassment but the same warm grateful feelings. We were good friends throughout our three-year program and collaborated on lots of cool projects.

  3. Ah, life in convent school, where between youthful exuberance and the uniforms, we all had issues with panty flashing at one time or another. Which meant we all learned that friendship means speaking up when your friend is flashing, and taking it with gratitude when a friend says you’re the one flashing.

    Much fun can be had by making light of it, such as contest for who could wear the most ridiculous boxers under their skirts.

    Or when I wanted to know if centrifugal force would keep my skirt over my panties during a cartwheel, and tested it a bunch of times to find out.

  4. I started wearing skirts after college! I had been put in dresses against my will as a child and had hated them but as an adult I realized I hated pants more. for me, the learning curve on bike shorts was a hard one!

    I spent quite some time fighting chub rub on my inner thighs with all kinds of liniments and powders to no avail and I remember distinctly asking my mother if something like a kind of underwear existed that was like wearing tights but like, down to almost my knees, like a modern bloomer, and she replied worriedly that such a thing might exist for very fat women but she had no direct experience with it. this, as you might imagine, did not help. but her perspective was, on the whole, that wearing cute skirts was somehow anti-feminist, a regression to childhood (I spent the majority of my childhood wearing overalls) and she wanted me to stop.

    eventually my sister, who is actually fashionable, discovered Jockey Bike Shorts, turned me onto them, and I have not really looked back. they are breezy, they keep my thighs from rubbing, and they are actually pretty hard-wearing like, I expected to chub rub my way through them the same way I do jeans and tights and this has not happened. they have yet to deteriorate to an unwearable condition.

    my mother’s attempts to help with the shirt flying up situation was to try to get me to stop wearing skirts. my sister was like, lol we can see your entire hoohaa, keep it together and then to help me get some dang bike shorts. I do mostly wear longer skirts so I have less issues with my skirt flying up on me, so that’s also an option.

    1. I need to look into some bike shorts because the jeans thighs situation is becoming dire. I have extremely tall hipbones though, so all pants, more or less, have a tendency to migrate downwards that I don’t appreciate, because there’s no inward curve for the waistband to rest on that isn’t halfway down my butt!

      I’ve been getting away with double thick leggings under skirts as I procrastinate on replacing my work appropriate jeans, but I don’t think they’ll ultimately last either.

  5. One morning at work, I saw a female, skirt wearing coworker. Her skirt seam had come undone. Vertically, from hem to waistband. As she was wearing tights underneath, she hadn’t yet noticed. I walked over to her and quietly said “your skirt has a problem.” She looked down, realized, looked like she was dying a bit inside, and turned so that the open seam faced the wall. I asked her where her coat was, grabbed it, and she was able to cover up. That’s the day we also found out which clothing stores were open at 7:30am. She returned about 45 minutes later wearing a completely different outfit.

    It’s embarrassing and no one wants to deal with it, but it happens and we get through it.

    1. Not really relevant to the OP, but that story reminded me of one of my own stories — not the biggest wardrobe malfunction in the sense of severity, but the one that ended up becoming the biggest chaos whirlwind due to the various factors involved.

      It all started with a job interview. At the time, I couldn’t drive and had taken public transit, and as experienced public transit riders do, I went for the bus one before the last one that would get me there on time in case of delays/missing the intended bus/what have you. There were no delays, so I arrived at the bus stop (about half a block from the location) about 35 minutes before the start of the interview, and upon getting off the bus, realized that I had a huge run in my stockings, with the worst part well below where my knee-length skirt would be any use in hiding it.

      By sheer luck (no pun intended), this particular job happened to be in the city where I grew up, in a part of town I was extremely familiar with, so after a minute of “oh, crap, what now”, I remember that there’s a discount clothing store about four blocks away. Cue me half an hour before my interview running across a series of skywalks (more direct and no intersections), running into the store, grabbing the first pair of stockings that seem like they’ll fit and won’t look ridiculous on me, running through the checkout line, sprinting to the nearest bathroom to make the change (and for any reader who hasn’t had the experience, putting on stockings is an extremely delicate process that you really can’t rush no matter how much the clock is ticking), and then retracing the skyway route back to where I started, all the time thanking whatever higher power may exist that I hadn’t worn completely impractical shoes that day. Somehow got to the interview with about five minutes to spare.

      1. This is a story from my mother, who worked an office job in a male-dominated field in the 1980s. After commuting for two hours into D.C. for work, she stumbled coming off the train and ripped the seam of rigid suede pencil skirt from the bottom right up to the waistline. Luckily, the train stop was underneath a mall that contained a seamstress’ shop. My mother wrapped her suit jacket around her waist like it was a cardigan, went directly to the seamstress, and was invited to sit behind the counter as she waited, bottomless, for the seam to be repaired.

        I like to think that she told me this story growing up to reinforce the idea that there are solutions to a lot of problems if your first reaction isn’t to panic, but to think about possibilities. For OP, the lesson might be that wardrobe malfunctions happen all the time, to all of us, and there are lots and lots of solutions that people have been figuring out ever since an apple fell on Eve’s head and she discovered gravity, or whatever.

    2. Many years ago I arrived early in the office, followed moments later by my boss, hobbling to hold together her (rather snug-fitting) dress which had split up the front from knee to midriff as she got out of her car. She had paperwork to prepare for an important meeting and no spare clothes – double panic! No problem, ma’am. Wearing her cardigan on her top half, and my large pashmina scarf on the bottom half, she got on with her paperwork while I used the office sewing kit (one advantage of a female workplace) to repair her dress. The biggest problem was getting my scarf back, since she discovered she rather liked wearing it as a sarong!

  6. I was a freshman in college and still definitely trying to identify my own style that included clothing that could range from very modest to very revealing. One day, I choose a very long, flowy skirt, black tank top, and as I still vividly remember – black high waisted underpants.

    I meet up with a group of friends and one friend essentially made a comment about wearing a very bold/daring outfit – as it was very clear this skirt was FAR less opaque than I had thought it was. At the time I remember being immediately mortified and just thinking about every other time I’d worn this skirt and the whole universe of folks seeing how many kinds of underwear I owned.

    After that rush of embarrassment – my friend’s comments gave me a boost that this was a bold fashion choice I didn’t need to be ashamed of and beg for something to wrap around my waist as I ran back to my dorm room. I’ve seen versions of this work really well when it turns out someone is wearing something inside out – for example “the exposed seams actually look really nice on that sweater”.

    1. I in my early twenties went to a funeral for my then-partner’s side of the family, wearing, politely, a long flowy black skirt. Various photographs were taken of the mourners arriving at the funeral home for the service. MONTHS later, when the sharpness of the emotions had worn off, my partner’s family brought out the photos to reminisce over, and…

      I was clearly wearing panties with polkadots.

      1. I pretty much live[d] in jeans or black pants and dark / jewel-tone tops or jackets over black shirts. But, breaking with that trademark look, I once had a favorite dress that I’d wear all the time that I fould at a thrift store. It had a long semi-sheer layer on top, in a kind of icy-minty-pale-sky-blue color with flowers printed on that, and a white sewn-in slip with TWO layers. “A slip,” thought I, “how modest! This is the dress for me!” I wore it during the day, I wore it on dates, I wore it to work, I wore it at night, I just wore that stupid dress all the time.

        One night I wore it to a gallery opening. I have many photographer friends. I was shown the resulting photos.

        My undergarments showed up, clear as day, in every photo taken with a flash. I was favoring granny-style beige underwear. You could see the seams, the bra front-closure, the strap adjustment clip things, a large percentage of both of my areolae through parts of the lace on the bra, the underpants’ tag, even the tiny bow at the waistline, if you knew to look for it.

        It was not a good look.

        Not ONE of my so-called FRIENDS ever TOLD ME my dress was see-through. NOT ONE.

        I went back to wearing mostly black and jewel tones. I still do. I don’t think I even own any white / pale pastel clothes any more.

  7. One of my first jobs right out of college was working at an exceedingly goofy murder mystery dinner theatre – once in my “French foreign legion” character (hold on, I need to cringe for a second), a patron leaned over to let me know that my zipper was down. I glared at him and said “onh HONH you ave passed zee first test of zee detecting, Aye preedeect zat you weel solve zee meesteree.”

    Got a pretty good tip afterward.

  8. When I was 12, miniskirts were newly back in fashion. Until that point, I’d mostly worn pants or skirts that came past my knees, even while sitting, once I’d grown out of the ruffly-butt tights toddler stage. A couple of my friends and I were lounging around in one of their basement rec rooms, playing with my new Polaroid camera I’d gotten for my bat mitzvah. Picture our embarrassment when the photo materialized and ALL of us had our panties showing while we were sitting on the couch! I got a lot more careful about how I sat after that bit of evidence.

  9. Yep! I had a cis male friend who bought his first utilikilt, came back to our campsite, and immediately sat down wrong. What i did was laugh, look away, and say to his wife “Your husband just flashed me!” Maybe not the most tactful choice of words, but it worked well to point it out in the instant it was happening, so he could immediately troubleshoot.

  10. I was at a friend’s wedding when I saw an older woman walk back into the hall with her skirt tucked into her stockings and trailing toilet paper from her shoe. I debated a bit (young woman in her 20s and this other woman was a total stranger), but ultimately walked quickly over and said very quietly: “Excuse me *waited for her attention* Your skirt’s tucked in and you might want to check your shoe.” And then I went right back to my seat.

    She quickly readjusted her skirt while remaining seated at her table and kicked the toilet paper off under said table.

    No fuss.

  11. Since he’s new to wearing skirts, he may also be unaware of the adjacent issue, when you’re not flashing but there is someone who keeps looking at that part of you in the hopes that you will.

    It’s rather unsettling the first time you find out that’s a thing.

    1. The OP’s friend should also ask a more experienced skirt-wearer friend or acquaintance of his to teach him how to sit and get up in skirts. Last (pre-pandemic) Pride I had to teach a boy who was wearing a skirt for the first time that one shouldn’t sit cross-legged on the floor while wearing a knee-length skirt, and how to get up from said position without exposing himself (we didn’t care, but he was shy) and, let me tell you, it’s way easier to demonstrate when it’s not mostly dark around and people are not already tipsy.

  12. I am eternally grateful to the kind woman on the street many years ago who let me know my skirt was riding up underneath my backpack as I’d walked. She was quick and matter of fact and I appreciated it to no end. I try to do the same.

    1. ME TOO! I was a grad student walking home from a professional conference and had stopped in the restroom right before leaving and had tucked the back into my tights somewhat. Luckily the kind jogger woman told me right away. Eternal gratitude.

    2. Oh gods, me too. A kind lady stopped me at quite a busy traffic light in my city. I was quite mortified, to be honest, because I’d walked quite a way from my office to this particular traffic light, flashing essentially the whole main road. So I really appreciated that the lady told me, because whoever knows how long I’d have been walking about showing everyone my underwear before noticing myself.

  13. Definitely go along with the “can this be fixed in 10 seconds or less?” rule. My friend’s zip came partly undone on her wedding day. Just an inch or so, totally would have thought it was part of the cut of the dress, if her mother had not wandered up to the alter and started yanking on it just as they started to say their vows. If it can be fixed quickly and discreetly, then you say something. If it can’t, it’s part of the social contract that we ignore those things so that others will extend the same grace.

    1. Wow, i feel terrible for your friend and her spouse. That’s not helpfulness, it’s “look at me” theater.

  14. In the Before Times I (she/her) helped run a weekly social dance. I’d sit at a table, which is just around the corner from the loo, and take entry fees. This put me at eye level with flies. It happens regularly that someone hasn’t fully zipped up. I quickly and quietly say something like “check your fly,” or, “XYZ.” Same thing with skirts tucked into undies. Quick, quiet, unperturbed, as privately as possible. Works every time.

    1. Here in Pittsburgh, sometimes the saying is “Kennywood’s open.” (Kennywood is our local amusement park.)

    2. XYZ! I haven’t heard that in years.

      Back when the Earth was still cooling, we girls were not allowed to wear slacks to school. If your slip showed, another girl would murmur, “It’s snowing down south.”

      I do not miss those days.

      1. I had to explain XYZ to someone about ten years younger than I am! Sort of misses the point of a quiet, discreet notice of “wardrobe malfunction” when you have to define the acronym! 😀

  15. I seem to remember a whole episode of the sitcom Friends where this was a thing? So that might help???

    1. Yeah, Phoebe’s solution was to break up with the guy rather than have the awkward conversation :’)

      I think many of us can relate to that

    2. I was reminded of that episode as well, and also the one where Rachel accidentally flashes the parents of the man she’s started dating and then waives it off saying something like “It’s ok, I’ve got nice boobs.” I don’t generally recommend that show for life advice, but I did appreciate that moment. Seeing even a fictional someone have something like that happen and not immediately want to crawl into a hole to never be seen again was a nice reminder that for accidents* like that, it’s ok to just tell yourself “it happens” and shrug it off.

      *this doesn’t include creepy people who deliberately have the same “accidents” over and over.

  16. On yes! I went to a Scot’s University, and lots of English students wore a kilt to Balls. I developed a very quick eye-hiding reaction to men used to the privacy of trousers sitting/lounging in kilts!

    1. ….

      It took me too long to figure out that you meant “wore a kilt to social events” and not, you know.

  17. With close friends that I’m familiar with we fix things without telling each other, just walk up and un-boob the necklace, pass behind each other to pull the skirt back down. I wouldn’t do that with someone who is a bit skittish around me and I imagine it’ll all be different when I get to actually see my friends again.
    There’s a whole language around it, a habit of making eyecontact, licking my teeth, them showing me their teeth after they’ve done the same, and a nod and smile to give the all clear. People that don’t have experience with this don’t respond to the cues (I have to tell my dad, with words, every time he spills something).
    Very many people have told me my underwear/nipples/unmatched socks were showing, but the people that point out I have a toothpaste stain are my favorite. Best of luck to LW and his housemate – y’all sound like good people

  18. I was interning in a biology lab, and much like the Captain’s story, had managed to get my skirt tucked into the back of my tights during a trip to the bathroom and didn’t notice – just went back to my bench and starting working again, headphones on. The lab manager, a dude with whom I had a politely friendly working relationship but was not at all close to, noticed and came over and stuck a post-it on the bench in front of me that said ‘check you skirt’ or something to that effect. I fixed it, thanked him, and we both carried on with what we’d been doing. Of course I was embarrassed, but I was grateful to for the swift and matter-of-fact way he handled it – much much better than unknowingly showing my ass until my next bathroom break.

    1. I had that happen at my first teaching job. Thankfully, I stopped at the copier to make a copy and the principal calmly let me know that I needed to check my skirt because I had tucked the back into my underwear or tights.

      I was horrified because I was wearing a long floor length skirt and had no idea that I wouldn’t feel the difference when an entire freaking yard of fabric was missing from my legs and rump.

      I was also insanely grateful because as awkward as that piece of info is from a male supervisor, I don’t know if I could have ever worked up the nerve to return to a classroom ever again if a student had told me…….

  19. Ha, I used to get my skirts stuck in my tights all the time when I was teaching overseas. And while the other teachers were deeply mortified on my behalf, I appreciated their concern without feeling particularly embarrassed myself, because there wasn’t anything interesting to be seen, just a bit of awkwardness. In other situations at other times of my life when the wind did show my bum, I could shrug and laugh and hope someone enjoyed the show. Best of luck to you and may things be as minorly uncomfortable as possible going forward!

  20. I recall a university professor posting on a blog about how changes in what students think is reasonable attire meant that she now had a regular supply of male students who wore basketball shorts with no underwear when coming to her office hours, and with manspreading in their chairs, they were exposing themselves to her.

    I’m pretty sure any of my male professors in engineering would have fainted with terror on being faced with the equivalent problem with a female student, but this prof was made of sterner stuff.

    As far as I recall, her solution was to hold up a binder in front her her in the right position to block the offending part of the view while saying calmly, “I can’t talk to you while you’re flashing me.”

    Eye-hiding, as Margaret put it, is helpful, I think, when you’re concerned about making it clear you’re not trying to see what is being inadvertently shown, which is rather important when you’re in a position of power over the accidental flasher.

    1. This did actually happen to me (he/him) when I was teaching, though it was less ‘actually being flashed’ and more ‘flashing kept being imminent’. One guy always wore basketball shorts, always sat in the front row, and always had his knees about two feet apart.

      Eventually I had a discreet-as-possible chat with the guy after class, who clearly wanted to die, but it did fix the problem.

  21. One solution to this is simply longer skirts.
    Course even that can fail. Once I was walking through airport following meeting and somehow the action of me walking and my laptop bag shifting basically inched the back if my floor length skirt all the way up to my waist. Like four people stopped me at once. Was especially annoying because I was looking for bathroom to change into jeans for the flight. Can only laugh and fix it and move on.

    1. There’s such a complex interaction between skirt length and skirt volume when determining flash likelihood, I’m not surprised the learning curve is steep. With a short skirt the flash risk is more obvious so you plan your underdaks accordingly. But a longer, fuller skirt can have a high flash risk too, and it’s not always the first thing you think about.

      At my first high school we had summer dresses that were below the knee, but due to the shape would flip right up at the slightest breeze. And I mean RIGHT up. Like, struggling to get them down from around your face up. It was basically an unspoken rule that everyone wore shorts underneath. Which many of us learned the hard way.

      1. ^ This! Sheesh. Sometimes longer skirts are more to contend with than a shorter one that stays put. As a gal who didn’t really appreciate skirts until I was in college, I’ve had more than my fair share of super awkward and embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions. Ironically, it always seemed to be the ones that were just above the knee or lower that caused the most issues. lol Some involved unfortunate gusts of wind, some involved unfortunate seating arrangements and angles, others were just the mechanics of moving (pro tip: don’t wear a backpack while wearing a skirt unless you’re REALLY sure it’s not riding up so you don’t flash an entire airport!).

        My point is, in most of those instances someone said something to me, quickly, discreetly. Some of them were complete strangers, some were coworkers. Shit happens. We had a laugh and life went on but I was sure appreciative that they did so I could correct and/or be aware that my ass was hanging out or about to. I tend to diffuse awkward situations with laughter so even though I was hella embarrassed every time, not having known would’ve definitely been worse.

      2. Hahaha – I was helping a coworker haul a rolling cart full of banquet stuff over a sidewalk that was tilted when we walked over a subway grate. Cue full-on Marilyn Monroe moments for both of us, while being unable to quickly get off the grate because of the full cart of glass bottles.

        Passersby were very amused.

      3. I went to a boarding school with a veeeerrrry strict and super sexist dress code. Girls had to wear long skirts, and all shirts had to be tucked in. There were many layers involved, just in case things were the least bit see through. If sweaters were any of a few different styles that were deemed shirt-like, they had to be tucked in, too. It led to all kinds of wardrobe fails, and those were harshly punished if we were “caught” by the adults or by the girls who were given authority to issue punishments. Oh, and we usually weren’t allowed to talk to each other at all or write notes. Total silence. It was nightmarish, of course, but it did lead the rest of us to develop some creative ways of signaling when a tucked in sweater had opened up the skirt zipper (raised eyebrows, look at waist), when a skirt was a bit see through (raised eyebrows, wide open eyes, then squint like the sun is in your eyes), or a skirt was riding up (look intently, then brush the hand down the front of the body). We had other signals, but those are the ones I remember.

        That school sucked, and is the reason I started sewing little weights into my more flippy skirts. It works pretty well, except when I wore my spring green skirt eating sweater. It was gorgeous, but I swear it was cursed with demon static cling or something.

      4. Of course, that presents a dilemma to people who want to be modest. If the skirt is too tight, too much of the body is seen. If the skirt is too full, then accidental flashing is a problem.

      5. I had a top like that – seemed ok in the house and in the office, nipped out of the office without a coat/cardigan to take a call, and was fighting to stop my top from blowing up and showing my bra to all and sundry.

    2. I always apologize when someone points out a wardrobe malfunction. I am 46 and fat, so I am concerned about causing more offense than, say, someone Grimes’ age and build.

      1. There’s nothing inherently offensive about your body, and poo to anyone who thinks so.

      2. Oh that makes me sad!

        And for the record when I tip someone off about a wardrobe malfunctions, I’m worried about their comfort, not mine. A thank you is nice but an apology is NOT required, no matter your body type, age, etc.

      3. You are beautiful just the way you are right now! Please try to internalize this (it took me 42 years and sometimes I still struggle…)

  22. One time I left the house at 7am, rode around university on my bike all day, and came back to meet my friend for dinner around 6pm.

    She kindly let me know that my (very short) dress rode up while I was hunched over my bike and you could clearly see my underwear. 11 hours of inadvertently flashing strangers.

    Really wish we’d met for breakfast instead.

    LW your friend will definitely thank you for giving him a heads up!

  23. The “tell them if it’s something they can fix now” rule is Miss Manners’s rule as well, and I think it’s a great one.

  24. I (she/her) wasn’t a skirt wearer until I became an exchange student in a country where school uniforms are standard. I got a crash course in riding a bike and sitting cross-legged in a skirt (think cycling, holding an umbrella, and holding your skirt down against the wind). As I got used to it, other girls would just tell me they could see my underwear. After moving to a rather windy city I have taken to wearing tights or shorts under every skirt.

    If, and only if, your roommate brings up the contradiction of hating tight underwear but not wanting to dangle quite that freely, you could suggest trying to find longer shorts that are loose and comfy and can be modified to have the bathroom-advantages of boxers (I just assume that’s what the gap in the fly section is for).

  25. I started wearing skirts and dresses in adulthood! Once I figured out that no, you don’t have to wear slips, hose, and heels with them. Pantyhose in particular feels like fucking sandpaper. Leggings, on the other hand (foot?) are basically sweatpants, but better. I’m very self-conscious about my bare legs anyway, leggings are a lifesaver.

  26. One day in my second year of teaching college students, I was wearing a silk skirt. I sat down on a chair in my classroom and somehow the fabric of the chair just split the whole skirt open in the back, making an audible “rrrrrrrrip!” sound. One of my students looked horrified but then he kindly offered me a sweatshirt to wrap around my waist while I called a friend who brought her gym shorts to me and it was fine, we never spoke of it again, the end.

  27. LW, your housemate is lucky to live with someone who doesn’t want to shame him for his clothing choices and who respects his privacy!

    I think it’s especially kind to say something now, when this occurs at home, with someone who he knows reasonably well. That way he can be aware of the issue before we start spending more time out in public again.

    I just want to strongly vote for averting your eyes when this happens— I think that will help him feel less “exposed” and signal that you are not trying to see anything that you don’t want to.

  28. As a teen, I wore a new skirt to an event. It turned out to be slightly shorter than I was comfortable with, so I kept tugging at the front hem to make sure it wasn’t showing anything (the skirt was barely above my knees, teenage-me had some leg insecurities). A friend’s grandma pulled me aside to tell me that all my tugging was pulling the skirt akimbo with the back hiked up. I fixed it, and wore tights the next time I used that skirt. I’m just glad she caught me before I was onstage!

    Even as a life-long skirt wearer, new contexts always bring up strange wardrobe issues. When I started swing dancing, I knew to wear shorts under twirly skirts. I did not know to check how low the backs of my tops were. In partnered dances, the lead’s hand rests on the follow’s mid-back. Low back tops = a near-stranger’s hand on my bare, likely sweaty back = awkward for all parties. I had one or two uncomfortable evenings before I figured myself out, but again no harm done.

  29. My recommendation is that whatever you (briefly and politely!) say, it’s clear. Not necessarily blunt, but it needs to be quickly understandable.

    One of my mortification-FOREVER memories is from highschool. Bunch of us sitting in a classroom, on chairs and desks, all wearing our summer uniform (knee-length dress). Someone called out to me “Close the curtains!” so I….got up and turned around to close the curtains. I wish that she’d said it a) discreetly to me and b) hadn’t used a euphemism that I hadn’t encountered before.

      1. I think I’d been sitting with my knees too far apart so my undies were showing. The ‘curtains’ I was meant to close were my knees – bringing them together.

    1. Agreed! I love all the polite corrections in the comments here but I am a little obtuse when it comes to euphemisms so I’d probably just wander away thinking that person is acting weird, with my wardrobe still fully malfunctioning. Clarity is key! LOL

      1. I’ve had the same clueless response to euphemistic corrections.A male coworker once semi-whispered to me “it’s snowing in the south” and I responded “where, in the Sierra’s?” He meant that my slip was showing beneath my skirt. That was awkward.

    2. my ex used to do a bad imitation of a bird whistle for “your fly’s undone”.

      reader, do not do a bad imitation of a bird. it is not nearly as subtle and intuitive as my ex thought it was.

  30. The skirt advice I didn’t know I needed until someone clued me in: SKIRT WEIGHTS.

    You can sew heavy coins or buttons in the linings or hems of dresses to keep them from flying up on a windier day. Personally- I like using fishing line weights.

    1. There are also pewter weights for curtains that you can buy from drapery shops.
      Members of the British royal family are known to use a similar device.

  31. I’m a school bus driver for a private school that has skirt-based uniforms. My students are on the bus for upwards of 45 minutes, and most of them take a nap while we’re traveling – so you can imagine that sometimes someone ends up in disarray. I find that looking away with a quick, “Ope! Check your skirt!” gets the job done with results in minimal embarrassment. (The “ope” is an optional Midwest addition.) I know (because they’ve said) they’d rather have me catch it while the bus is blocking the view, rather than walking out where everyone in the parking lot and sidewalk can see.

    As a skirt-wearing person myself, it’s definitely my preference that whoever first notices a wardrobe malfunction informs me as quickly and as discreetly as possible. It’s especially a non-issue if a friend/family member/roommate tells me – then I’m not even embarrassed that the person telling me knows, just grateful that they told me.

  32. My Butt is very large and I am very tall. These two things combine to mean all skirts are very short on me and pants are very hard to find. Since I now live alone I have an entire mirror set up to check just how far I can bend over. It took a lot of trial and error and I know people still probably see more than they should a lot.

    1. I have a friend who is very tall and very slender, and who likes to wear skirts and dresses. But what is mid thigh on someone who is the expected height for the smallest size in the store, is not mid thigh on someone who is 5’11”.

      When we went bowling some , we all saw her undies every time she bowled, and when I discreetly said “You’re showing your underwear” she responded “Good. They are cute and I like them.” She then explained that since there was a significant chance during her everyday skirt-wearing life that her underpants would be on display, she matched them to her outfit and treated them as part of her outer clothing.

  33. I did once walk over to a friend lounging about in his Utilikilt and said quietly, “You know, Steve, there’s a reason women wearing skirts never sit like that.”

    He thought about it a second, blushed bright red, and sat up, and we all pretended nothing happened.

    1. That seems like the perfect comment to me – tells him it’s potentially systemic, plants a seed of useful comparison for future issues, generally gives him the heuristic to work by in the future. I feel like thinking it through himself will make it more memorable than just telling him to change position that once.

  34. The best way to approach it is to be low key but direct.

    Some years back I wore a skirt with a back zipper to my therapy appointment, and I must have been in a rush getting dressed that day because I’d done up the waist button but apparently forgotten to zip up and my undies were on full view to anyone behind me. Because of the room layout it was only obvious as I stood up and walked to the door after my session. My (male) therapist calmly said “Uh, ZC, you probably haven’t noticed but your skirt zipper is undone”. I felt mortified in the moment, but just said “oops”, did it up and went on my way. Although, as I’m sure anyone who’s been in therapy knows, a wardrobe malfunction is probably one of the *less* cringeworthy moments …

  35. Once at a dog show, a fellow competitor was wearing a wrap-around skirt. It of course became untied and fell off at the worst-possible moment- when she was bringing the dog in front of the judge.

    She handed the dog’s leash to the judge, picked up and retied her skirt, took the dog back,and went on to the next phase of the competition. Now that was cool and collected.

  36. I once gave a woman in a Starbucks a heads up that her middle button on her shirt (you know, THAT button, the boob containment button), was unbuttoned. She gave me a “weird” look and didn’t really respond. She grabbed me on her way out though, to say thank you. So be ready for maybe a weird or SEEMINGLY rude response, because sometimes in the moment, people’s brains freeze while they do the mental embarrassment gymnastics or whatever. My rule of thumb is typically, would I want to know if this was me? And proceed accordingly.

  37. When I was in high school theater, those of us who played female characters who would wear skirts wore character skirts and shoes to practice moving on stage. I had a white pleated skirt and I didn’t bother with a slip. We got to the point in rehearsal where the stage lights were turned on, and I was standing on stage when the director called me down. She told me that the lights made my skirt completely see through, so I needed to put on pants underneath today and next time wear a slip or a different skirt. I was a little embarrassed, but I would have been way more embarrassed if everyone had seen my see through skirt!

  38. When I was first applying for graduate school, I was invited to interview at a lovely university located about an hour away from my younger sibling’s college at the time. I stayed with them the night before and left early in the morning (pre-dawn) to drive to the interview. I took a “shortcut” walking down the hill to my car and slipped (butt-first) on the wet grass, hurting (I thought) only my pride – a quick check in the car’s window reflection showed nothing on my black dress pants, so I assumed I was fine, albeit a bit damp.

    Several HOURS later into the interview process, I was walking across campus with one of the higher-up faculty members across campus to tour one of their library archives, when an older woman essentially grabbed me and pulled me aside. “You should check the back of your pants,” she said, and disappeared into the crowd of college students.

    As soon as we got to the library building I excused myself to go to the restroom and there was…..light. brown. dried. mud. streaked COMPLETELY across the seat of my black pants. It looked like I had an extremely unfortunate accident…. I was MORTIFIED. But so, so, so relieved she had told me.

    5 minutes later with some wet paper towels and the situation was fixed, and I emerged from the bathroom… not a single faculty member or interviewer said a word about it the entire time. It absolutely ranks up there with top embarrassing moments but ya know what… I got the position, didn’t end up going to that school anyway, and now it’s a story I love telling!

    Moral of the story — go ahead and tell whoever it is you see having the wardrobe malfunction and…. I guess don’t expect the older male interviewers to???

    1. Oh god.

      So when I was in college, on a class trip, I fell a significant amount of the way down a hill that turned my ankle and ate my entire pants. It started with the back pockets (because cargo capris were a thing right then) and just kept going until there was no ass left.

      So I had to limp back to the nearest building, a very fancy hotel, with pink underwear on full display because nobody had a jacket or anything, and we were more worried about my ankle.

      Fortunately, due to where we were, anyone who may have had an opinion about my choice of underwear said it in a language none of us understood, but I had to wait until we got back on the ferry boat to be able to cover my ass.

  39. My mother fell in love with my father because he quietly informed her of her undone zipper during their first date — forty seconds of awkwardness that led to forty years (and counting) of companionship.

    LW should not expect this exact outcome, but he should absolutely expect his roommate will be glad to know, and it will be totally fine.

  40. Job interview 3 months after having a baby, wearing an adjustable string tie skirt. Stood up at end of interview, skirt fell down. Had to ask interviewer to please turn around and give me a moment. Didn’t get the job.

  41. Something similar. I (female) noticed another woman in a gym locker in her bra. The inner cup linings (which are deisgned to be removable) had shifted to the side leaving her with an odd lump on one side. I went up to her and said, in a quieter but upbeat tone, “I’m not trying to flirt with you here but I’m afraid you need to fix your bra cuip liner.” She looked down, laughed, and it was no big deal. It’s a nice line you can use to convey “I noticed this personal thing…but I wasn’t looking at you Like That.”

  42. I wear skirts a lot, mostly very light gauze maxi skirts (weather permitting…which is most of the time on the Gulf Coast). So I’ve had my share of moments, and definitely don’t go out wearing most of my skirts without either a slip, or those underwear shorts as mentioned by others.

    my BEST/worst accidental exposure story involves pants, however, LOL

    so, I’m at work at a law firm, wearing somewhat thick dress pants, and I get the urge to go to the bathroom, IN A HURRY. I get to the bathroom and get in a stall…and my zipper sticks. Absolutely stuck. I’m moments from peeing myself. I give up on the zipper, and since the side seam on the pants went all the way to the top of the waist due to how they were made, I decide I’m going to just rip my pants, pee, and then figure out what happens next when I can THINK.

    Friends…ripping out of clothing is a LOT harder than movies/tv make it look. I nearly peed myself trying to tear the damn pants off me.

    I DID succeed, and pee…and then had to scuttle quickly back to my desk holding the sides of my pants together awkwardly, grab my work cardigan, tie it around my waist, and scuttle to the office manager’s office and inform her something had come up and I had to go home NOW.

    I wasn’t embarrassed per se, because I had done a lot of costume and theater adjacent stuff, so I’m not particularly body shy…but that incident IS why I started taking my purse with me to the bathroom (I never used to be that person). My purse has knives in it. If that ever happens again, I’m not going to kill my hands trying to rip fabric or a seam…I’m CUTTING MY WAY OUT.

    The End. LOL

  43. I started wearing kilts a few years ago.(male, cis, 50s) There was a bit of a learning curve for things like getting in and out of cars, but figuring it out just requires some observation and thought. Underwear choice varies with activity: Contradancing with lots of twirling means bike shorts. Boxer briefs work for normal wear. Loose-leg boxers are nice for hot weather but are only worn at home — flashing someone in public could have serious legal consequences, and I don’t want to risk that.
    If I had a wardrobe malfunction, I’d want to know as soon as possible.

  44. I’ve tried Snag Tights chub rub shorts and they are pretty comfortable! Might be an option for housemate to comfortably contain things?

    1. I’ve had similar things come up with food. A casual ‘hey, you’ve got a blob of sauce on your cheek’ or something similar invariably does the trick and I can’t think of a single instance of drama as a result.

  45. One time, in a hotel when I was on business in another country, a woman stopped me in the lobby and asked me to zip up the back of her dress where she couldn’t reach. I felt so welcomed in that moment, just this little piece of solidarity ❤️❤️

  46. When I was in college, one of my best friends who attended a different school came to stay with me for a weekend, and some mutual friends came over to hang out. I was wearing a new mini-skirt.

    After they left, my bestie said, “Just so you know, that skirt flies out when you sit down, so be careful–but don’t worry, no one saw but me!” It’s been 15 years and I no longer own that skirt, but I am still really grateful she said something!

  47. I’ve been told my skirt is tucked into my knickers via work IM before, and told other people their bra strap has fallen down or whatever. In either case it’s been a thank you and a quick rearrange. I also have had bag straps undo my shirt buttons or shirts stick to my sweater. All fixable in 20 seconds and I’m always grateful to people who point it out.

    My mum likes full coverage bras and scoop neck tops and about five times a day has to be told her bra is on show so she can hoik her top back up. At this point it’s basically routine. Hopefully your roommate will switch to more compatible attire, but a quick shout of “legs!” every day to remind him to close them is not a terrible outcome here.

    As someone who started wearing skirts as a late teen: leggings are your friend. Protection from peeping, the elements and chub rub, all in one. Cycle shorts or knee length leggings in summer. You can make them into t-shirt yarn when they inevitably wear out.

  48. As one who’s been faced with having to tell someone during a presentation that their skirt seam was steadily becoming more and more ripped and showing more network architecture than the meeting was about:

    The more casual and matter of fact you make the comment the better. Give it the same inflection as you would ‘there are 8 chairs in here’ or ‘you dropped your pencil’ was what I did. I think (was a while ago) I merely said ‘your skirt’s a bit broken mate’ and they felt round and with the quickest move I’ve ever seen grabbed a cardigan and knotted it round their waist. The presentation just continued on.

    For accidental exposure not related to seam rippage I’d use/prefer ‘you might want to fix your skirt’ which invariably leads to me/the person involved figuring out the problem and if not they’ll ask the exact issue and that’s where matter of fact ‘I can see your under chassis’ comes in.

  49. I have a friend who once wore a skirt on a first date on a lovely spring day. While walking down the (busy) street, the underwear elastic let go, and some stretched out, somewhat stained, threadbare grannypants hurled themselves to the earth. My quick thinking friend simply stepped out of them and never looked back, and eventually married the person from the date, who claimed to not have noticed the the incident.

    1. HAHAHA!
      I posted a list of my many wardrobe malfunctions but I’d forgotten the time I was wearing shorts and my grannypants blew out their elastic to fall and hang gracelessly from my crotch.

  50. I am the mom of a young male person who is figuring some of this out. Boxer briefs are an underwear form factor I had not previously known, that so far are handling all holding issues extremely well while continuing to be comfortably loose. If it gets to the ‘longer conversation’ point, OP could mention those.

  51. As a moderately young, always fat person, I worked up the courage to wear a bikini top while swimming. I think I was with camp counselor coworkers. I wore a t-shirt in the water, and then took it off to dry off afterwards.

    Welp, the band of my top had ridden up over my breast and there was at least half a nipple and a copious amoung of areola on display. Someone casually said, “Your top got twisted” and with extreme embarrassment I tucked my breast away and experienced total mortification for a few minutes. No one ever mentioned it again, and even though my supervisor was there I got asked back the next year.

    Also as a skirt-wearer, boxer briefs are the bomb. I love knowing that my whole behind is covered in the event of a sudden wind (or once, a kiddo in my classroom flailing around with a pencil that got caught on my skirt). I wear a lot of “shapewear” shorts in sizes far, far bigger than intended for me too, and my wife loves 9-inch boxers for wearing under things.

    1. Oh, the memories!

      We had a senior year retreat the week before school began at Lake Michigan. I felt a bit self-conscious in a bathing suit – but I didn’t want my insecurities to get in the way of having fun in the water.

      I was enjoying trying to catch water-balloons being launched from shore in a catapult with a bunch of male friends in chest deep water.. I noticed them glancing at me with an expression I couldn’t quite get, then looking away quickly.

      A few minutes later, I looked down and realized that my right breast had worked its way out of the upper part of my swimsuit. I gaped for a second, dunked myself down to chin-level, returned the wandering breast back into the swimsuit and continued to play in the water.

      Through most of my life that would have caused me to die of embarrassment – but this time I just thought, “Well, at least I have nice breasts” and moved on.

      For the rest of that beach time, I looked down to make sure my breasts stayed put sporadically. Before we went out the next time, I ripped a hair elastic and used that to tie the straps together into a racer-style suit that did a fine job.

  52. Probably not applicable to your friend, but a big thing when I was in fourth or fifth grade was for boys to come up to girls and pull their skirts up for pointing and laughing purposes. Ugh, right? Well, my response was to pull up my own skirt, even higher if possible, and go, “yeah, so?” Took the wind right out of their sails. Also pretty funny–to me, at least. I’ve also (in the Before Times) been to a lot of Scottish Festivals, with the attendant universal kilt-wearing for men, and the number of mid-60s men manspreading with their white Hanes on full view is…too many.

  53. Classic comment from the kilt-wearing segment of society: “If you’re going to dress like a man, you’ve got to sit like a lady.”

    Usually delivered by a large, heavily muscled, bearded guy to any new adopter of the kilt, acompanied by brief demonstrations of How To Sit Decently. In the current era, I believe there are YouTube videos on the subject.

    Bear in mind, too, that many of the kilt-wearing fraternity do not wear underwear at all; the idea is for nobody to know whether you do or not. This can only be accomplished by never giving anyone a clear view of what might of might not be there.

    It helps that the classic kilt is full enough that fabric folds can be deployed to cover the crotch when sitting with the legs apart, but it takes a bit of practice as well as awareness.

  54. I could write a book on the wardrobe malfunctions I’ve had – with different levels of embarrassment. I remember being a freshman in high school, on day where I was feeling particularly confident about my overall look, and then being told that I had a piece of that tape they put on wooden bleachers to avoid slipping stuck across my butt. It was a sweet older girl who pulled me aside to tell me. She even shielded me while I removed the tape from the seat of my skirt. Or there was the time I was working in a woman’s clothing store. A man who was there with his wife asked me to help him find sizes for his wife, who was in the changing room. I was standing on a step ladder at the time, my breasts at his eye level. The front closing clasp on my new bra suddenly snapped – audibly! – and my breasts went swinging away from one another very visibly (I’m large chested so this was highly obvious). I turned red, he turned red. We both paused in our conversation and then resumed where we left off, both of us making the decision to not acknowledge the bra malfunction. I’ve also had a breast slip out of the armhole of a tank top while sleeping at a friends house…recently. I was on her couch and her husband walked in the room as I was waking up and had my arms above my head while laying down. He just turned his head and did that silent wave thing that Captain Awkward mentioned above. I didn’t make eye contact with him for the rest of the day out of embarrassment, but I eventually moved on.

  55. I’m the nice lady in many of these stories (not literally, figuratively). I live in a big city and have had this interaction dozens of times. I’ll lean over and gesture, often silently, but sometimes with a muttered “Your slip is showing” comment — or a gesture to the mouth if it’s food or something. I’ve never once heard anything but gratitude.

    I’ll point out that I’m the definition of unthreatening — an overweight, middle-aged white woman in comfortable shoes and a wash-and-go haircut who suffers from resting hufflepuff face. That may be relevant.

  56. Please be direct and accurate when you tell your roommate.

    The person who told me my friend was here when I bled through my martial arts uniform confused me.

  57. My advice to anyone who is trying a new style of thing is to try it on (in a dressing room, at home in your bedroom) and then….sit down. Clothes fit differently standing up and sitting down. So try on your new piece in front of a mirror and… sit down. Sit with your legs crossed. Sit casually. Lean over. Lean back. Do things ride up, or move out of place, or just shift somewhere else and is displaying Things Which Should Not Be Displayed in Mixed Company? If so, maybe you will just need a different under garment, or a hidden safety pin or a few little added stitches in the right place. Or maybe the clothing isn’t worth the risk and you buy something else instead. Either way, check!

    I once bought a pretty dress which was a “faux wrap” style with two pieces of fabric swooping down over each boob and attached at the waist. I am a woman over-gifted in the boob region, but when I tried on the dress in the dressing room and twirled around to make the skirt flare out LIKE A PRINCESS and everything stayed in place, I thought I was good to go. So a few days later I put on my pretty new dress and got in my car and headed for work and then halfway down the highway looked down and OMG the wrap part of the top, which had looked very nice in the dressing room, had gapped open completely and the girls were just OUT THERE FLASHING EVERY PASSING CAR and thank god I noticed because I turned around and went home and put on a cami underneath to reign in the girls and I wasn’t fired for flashing the fraternal boobie twins to all my coworkers.

    So. When you get new clothes – try them on, and SIT DOWN. I hope that’s helpful to someone out there!

    1. I’m a wheelchair user and I actively choose to shop for clothes on sites that *show the models sitting down* in the clothing they are selling. Most clothing is designed to look good and fit well when worn by a standing person and an image of a standing person tells me less than nothing about how clothes might fit me.

  58. As a teenager I was swimming once and a woman’s bikini top had caught on her nipple (so she was half exposed). She hadn’t noticed because she was occupied with her children. I said something like “Excuse me, your bikini top …” and gestured toward the situation and she had a chance to fix it. No hard feelings, of course.

    What I’m trying to say: In a lot of cases, you really don’t have to phrase it in Very Detailed And Embarrassing Words. Letter Writer, have one phrase at the ready when it happens next, blurt that out, maybe with some gesturing and that will probably be all it takes in the moment.

  59. Reading this it made me think of Gerard Butler wardrobe malfunction with the kilt (basically same accident, in church nonetheless. He spoke about it on Graham Norton. It might be a good way to show someone famous who rocks skirt-like clothing and experiencing the same embarrassing moment

  60. Oh yes – on more than one occasion I have been walking to work and seen a woman whose messenger back had caused her skirt to ride up because of friction or getting caught. If I can catch up with them a friendly “hi! Your skirt is caught in your bag!” and then I keep moving.

    I, personally, am the queen of putting shirts on backwards or inside out and not noticing until halfway through the day.

  61. I’ve definitely been the giver and recipient of “oops, bra strap!” or “Zipper!” amongst family and friends, with strangers and acquaintances, I try to explain a little further like “Check your zipper!” It is awkward for everyone, but way, way less awkward when you discover your zipper down when you get to the bathroom and realize how long it has been down and how many people noticed and DIDN’T say anything :/

  62. I used to mostly eschew underwear because I found it uncomfortable. I also mostly wore long (knee-length or longer) skirts pretty much exclusively, and since I grew up female and used to skirts and dresses, I rarely had issues with this.

    HOWEVER. There are two occasions when I had An Issue.

    Occasion number one was when I was running late and on a public bus. I was wearing a mid-calf length skirt that had a zip and a hook-and-eye closure at the back. I’d secured the hook-and-eye closure, but either I’d forgotten the zip or it had come undone. My Whole Entire Ass was on view to the bus (or really, just a glimpse of it, but it felt like the entire thing) and some lady had to tell me.

    Occasion number two was during Torah study at synagogue! Ugh! I had on a below-knee-length dress, but apparently I had done an unwitting Sharon Stone impression while uncrossing and recrossing my legs under the table, and a lady from the synagogue came around to my side and whispered that she had seen things she didn’t need to see, and perhaps I should be more aware of all of that.

    Both of these situations were totally mortifying, and they make me cringe today (a decade after the fact) but nothing terrible happened. In the first case, I just… didn’t take that bus for a while, and in the second, no one ever mentioned it again. I’m pretty sure everyone but me has forgotten. This is ultimately not that big a deal, almost everyone has dealt with it at least once or twice in their lives, and your roommate will survive it too. And definitely better it be you that tell him than someone on the bus or at his synagogue/church/mosque/temple/annual flying spaghetti monster convention!

  63. Just had to tell a colleague today her fly was open in the teachers’ room. She was a little embarrassed so I drew attention away from her while she was fixing it by telling my other colleagues we should check ours too (I know the other colleagues we were with very well and knew this would go well). It was a fun moment and we quickly moved on to other topics. Don’t hesitate, be clear and matter-of-fact. Don’t overthink it 🙂

  64. I wear skirts for comfort. I wear calf-length skirts so I don’t have to worry about wearing a skirt.

    Oh, which wardrobe malfunction shall I tell?
    The time a lady client quietly told me my dress was on inside out?
    The time a club goer told me my black dress was not opaque?
    How about when the guys at the auto shop drew straws to determine who was to tell me my skirt was unzipped?
    My lovely vintage dress that blew out its side seam from armpit to hip when I stood to go up on stage to accept an award?
    My pretty dress knitted in stripes with different yarns, one of which cut through the other so the fabric literally disintegrated along each stripe?

    Honestly, the only one that embarrassed me was the damn black dress because that was just tacky. I was so grateful to the woman who told me. Everything else was hilarious, although I feel back for the poor mechanic who got the short straw. He was infinitely more upset than I was.

  65. When I started my first grown up job I got a bunch of pencil skirts for the first time ever. It took me more than three months to realize that I was supposed to remove that one awkward stich they all had in the middle of the back split. Finally someone told me you were just supposed to cut it so your legs could move around properly – and wow I was mortified. Even wearing skirts for 20 plus years skirts can still sneak up on you and do something tricky.

    I also reacted to a situation like the above very badly around that age. I was sitting on the floor and a guy friend was sitting on a couch with loose shorts and loose boxers and I looked up and could see some stuff I was just not expecting. I kinda “Ahhhhhhh!” and he kinda “Ahhhhhhh!” and he was defensive and I don’t blame him one bit. Poor dude.

    Personally I have a lot more trouble with cross-sex wardrobe malfunctions than same sex. I can stop a total stranger or the super boss lady at my work and be all “Hey, FYI – you’ve got a thing happening there” but with dudes it is much harder.

  66. I discovered skater skirts in my 30’s and loved the way they made my legs look. One of the first time out in public with a new one, I was shopping when some woman started yelling at me, basically calling me a whore. She was thirty feet away, pointing and yelling and I just felt sorry for the crazy woman and turned down another aisle.

    A moment later, a gentleman passed by just close enough to inform me that my skirt was caught up on my purse. He moved off before I could even check, but sure enough.

    I had been flashing the whole store my new thong.

    1. Wow, thanks for demonstrating what NOT to do, crazy lady in the store.

      Thank goodness for decent people who’d rather help than judge, right?

  67. Every year, my high school put on a musical. My freshman year, we performed Brigadoon complete with kilts. The director, Mrs. K, was our (seemingly) 100 year old English teacher.
    Well, there is a reason why stage productions have DRESS rehearsals (or, in this case, KILT rehearsals). JD made his first kilt-clad appearance of the evening, strolled over to a chair and sat down WITH HIS KNEES ABOUT AS FAR APART AS IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.
    Mrs. K paused the action and called out from her perch in the front row, “Would one of you ladies PLEASE show Mr. D how to sit in a skirt.”
    She was truly unflappable.
    We all found it hilarious (even Mr. D.)

  68. As a teenager I realized i was in fact just allowed to wear skirts all the time, not just to be fancy.

    Wrt underparts situations, another possible fix for this might be acquisition of a longer skirt. Both length and floofiness help provide fabric that can cover the underwear. Suggesting this mainly bc sometimes people underpants choice is based on comfort, so a knee length or longer skirt should hopefully work better with loose boxers.

    Otherwise, it takes some time to learn the habit of checking where your skirt is draped right now, but that´s pretty much the solution. Basically you want either your knees together or some fabric hanging over the area in question.

  69. Two things: as others have pointed out, it’s really all about tone. If you’re low-key and friendly, you’ll be fine. AAM once ran a great story from a woman who said that once, she had gone in for a job interview, swept her hand over her forehead to get her bangs out of her eyes, and inadvertently popped a pimple on her forehead that started bleeding. Her interviewer was a very, very nice man, who gave her a kleenex and said, “you have a little something on your forehead, there” and didn’t say anything else about it, just conducted the job interview like nothing happened, and put her right at ease.
    That’s the WORST, right? To have bleeding pimple in the middle of your forehead right at the start of a job interview?? Yeah, but maybe not as bad as my skirt story. One evening at junior orchestra camp I was wearing an above-the-knee circle skirt and sweatshirt. About six of us were walking back to the dorms after dinner, and I don’t know what sort of summer deliriousness came over me, but I decided to run ahead of the others and perform this marvelous, magnificent leaping tour jete, realized while I was in the air that my circle skirt was floating around my waist, made a perfect landing, and buried my face in my hands, burning with shame while my fellow campers caught up to me, whistling and whoingd and yelling shit like, “Really? GREEN underwear?” And the next day, they all forgot about it. No worries, dude. Just be a friend about it.

  70. There is a special hell that is being in middle school and bleeding through your pants when you’ve never gotten your period before. That is definitely a situation where it takes more than 10 seconds to fix but you should say something anyway. Another girl told me and I managed to get a sweatshirt around my waist and tell the (male) teacher “I HAVE to go to the bathroom NOW” which message male teachers of middle school girls generally respond to promptly.

    Even worse was the moment of panic I had when I got out of my car for a job interview, and set down the papers I was carrying to lock the car. The wind took them, and as I bent down to pick them up I felt/heard the seat of my pants rip. Luckily, some frantic checking proved that only the lining of my suit pants was damaged.

  71. I have many male friends who wear utilikilts, and they almost all wear boxer briefs. I know, because being male, they almost always forget at some point and manspread when sitting down. There was also one memorable Marilyn Monroe moment on a windy day. As others have said, you treat it the same way you’d treat a fly being down, inform them, but act like it’s no big deal.

    During the pandemic I’ve switched from wearing jeans and t-shirts to house dresses. And also switched from my normal granny panties to a 9-inch boxer brief from a company that makes their gender-neutral undies in fun prints. So even if I do end up accidentally flashing someone, what they’ll see will be rainbows or popsicles or sloths. If boxers aren’t covering enough, boxer briefs may be a comfortable solution to unintended flashing. I’d rather see underpants than undercarriage.

    1. Ooo, do you mind if I ask the name of the company that makes the fun gender-neutral boxer briefs?

  72. I’ve alerted dozens of people about clothing shenanigans (and always appreciated when I’ve been alerted myself!), but the most memorable was definitely a couple years ago when I noticed a woman walking ahead of me seemed to have really sheer pants. As I caught up to her, I realised I was actually seeing pantyhose, and her dress had twisted its way all the way up past her hips. I sped up and just said “excuse me, but I think your dress has ridden up.” Then I just kept going. I’m sure she was embarrassed, but less so that she would have been if she hadn’t found out until she got to her office and had a co-worker tip her off.

    A few years prior, a woman had politely let me know my bits were on full display when I made the grave error of weaving my way up a crowded escalator whilst wearing a dress with a deceptively high slit in the back… and sheer nude pantyhose with nothing else. Do I still occasionally stare at my ceiling at 3am, picturing with excruciating detail what everyone else on that escalator saw? Yes. Am I still extremely grateful that woman told me so I didn’t do it again? Also yes.

  73. I once walked through my parents’ hometown with my skirt accidently caught up with my backpack, essentially presenting my underwear-covered behind to everyone for at least 15 minutes. At the station some teenage girls saw it, got up, caught up with me (I was walking very fast because: train) and said “excuse me but your skirt is up”. I thanked them, pulled the skirt down, and spent the time in the train between mild shame and mild laughter.

  74. About a year into my office-job career, I was about to walk into a daylong meeting with my team and another team. On my way to the meeting room from the bathroom I stopped to say hi to a colleague I barely knew, then kept going towards the meeting room. A minute later this colleague runs up to me – she had followed me down some stairs even – to let me know my skirt was tucked into my underpants. I think she said something like “you gotta fix your skirt”. I was mortified but I thanked her, fixed my skirt and went on to the meeting and she went back to her desk. We never mentioned it again.
    I was really grateful to her for saving me from further embarrassment!

  75. I’ve had something like that happen. Bought new underwear just a smidgen too small and the seams gave way while I was wearing my favorite dress. Nobody said a word about it.

  76. While I was on senior trip (so that great embarrassing age of 17 anyway), I was walking down the street with a friend wearing a dress that consisted of a slip-like underdress with a lace over dress. I kept feeling like the under-dress was riding up in the back. I kept asking my friend who said it was fine, until a kind passerby-er let me know the underdress was bunched to the small of my back. It was the final straw that broke that friendship.

  77. I actually had a very similar situation just yesterday: I was looking for my car keys and thought my roommate/partner might have left them with his wallet on his bedside table, so I thought I could sneak in while he was sleeping and grab them. Instead I discovered he was laying on top of the covers, full-on nude. I immediately shut the door and knocked instead, to wake him up, firmly resolving to pretend it never happened; while we’re dating, he’s asexual and very very body shy, to the point where I’ve never been invited to see him without pants on and only in very rare occasions without a shirt. So I knew right away he wouldn’t want me seeing what I saw, so I resolved to pretend it never happened. I’ve been in situations before where I got an accidental glimpse and I found that pretending nothing happened works well for everyone involved if there’s nothing to fix right away.

    Only, apparently, he’d been awake enough to register what happened, so he hid in his room until well into the afternoon before he emerged, feeling fragile and uncomfortable. When he brought up that he knew what happened and it was bothering him, I apologized immediately, asked if there was anything I could do to help make things better (he said no), and gave him the gift of normalcy afterward, talking about inconsequential things. There were extra cuddles for him (his love language is touch), and I briefly mentioned when he brought it up again that I had barely seen anything other than to register that there was too much flesh on display, so if it helps I hadn’t seen as much as he might be imagining. But basically acting normal, with some extra TLC, was how we handled the situation. I’m interested to know if there’s anything I missed or could have done better in this situation.

    1. Had you discussed before whether you both were comfortable with entering each other’s bedrooms? And entering when the other person is inside? Or looking through each other’s stuff such as bedside table? I think this would prevent future situations like this. Also, establishing that if there is something you both use then it needs to be stored in a common area (living room, etc.), not a personal bedroom. To me, personally, this is less of a wardrobe malfunction and more of an issue of boundaries around living together. (But, I am not your partner and I don’t know how he feels, and I am not an advice columnist either.)

    2. Huh, if it was my partner I’d have knocked and let him know right away I’d accidentally seen him, apologising and letting him know it wouldn’t happen again. Between partners, I feel that it’s best to address breaches of trust as soon as possible, because the other person has a right to know and you need to be able to talk things out.

      My partner has therapy via Zoom call and our walls are paper-thin, so even though I listen to music on my headphones during his sessions to protect his privacy, I sometimes cannot help but hear him speak. If it’s inconsequential I don’t bring it up, but once it was long enough to understand something, so I let him know.

  78. When I first had a Large Number of Roommates (senior year of college) I, a lifelong boxer-wearer, had to be informed a couple of times that I was Making More Known than I meant to. I always appreciated the heads up. Since then I’ve moved from a boxer to a boxer brief, and I don’t feel any more restricted, but the risk of up-leg boxer exposure in subsequent roommate situations has fallen directly to zero. Good luck!

  79. Being matter-of-fact and an expeditious subject change is key. I jumped off the pool’s high-dive once and ended up with a boob sticking out of my swimming suit. A male friend of mine pointed it out right away and it was fine!

  80. About a year into my office-job career, I was about to walk into a daylong meeting with my team and another team. On my way to the meeting room from the bathroom I stopped to say hi to a colleague I barely knew, then kept going towards the meeting room. A minute later this colleague runs up to me – she had followed me down some stairs even – to let me know my skirt was tucked into my underpants. I think she said something like “you gotta fix your skirt”. I was mortified but I thanked her, fixed my skirt and went on to the meeting and she went back to her desk. We never mentioned it again.
    I was really grateful to her for saving me from further embarrassment!

  81. Heading towards my dissertation defense, (junior, female) faculty member (not in my committee) complimented how I had arranged my hair, wished me luck, and nonchalantly mentioned lipstick on my teeth. Zero awkwardness. (I passed.)

  82. Once I was in a hospital emergency room after falling out of the streetcar on my way to a party and smashing my knee. I had to take off my leggings to let the triage nurse examine me so I was rocking out in a wheelchair, in a shortish dress, waiting for an x-ray and ugly-crying. A very nice lady came over and whispered that I needed to reposition a bit and I was grateful through the haze of misery.

  83. Everybody has such amazing stories here!

    My favorite story of this variety is from my partner and his dad, who visited Fiji when he was like, nine I think? They had been invited to participate in a kava ceremony with a village elder, and everyone was wearing sarongs in the specific way that Fijians do. Of course the visitors weren’t used to this, but they were told to abide by the customs, and no matter what happened, not to deviate from the steps of the ritual. Well, one guy hadn’t tucked and folded his sarong correctly, and when he entered and bowed to the elder, it fell to the ground and the guy was just standing there stark naked. Not wanting to deviate from the ritual or call even more attention to himself, the guy bowed, picked up his sarong, and went to his seat without a word. The whole thing proceeded as normal.

    Of course at the end, when they’d ended the ceremony and gone into more normal social interaction, the elder fell over laughing at the guy, which eased the tensions for everyone.

  84. This is only broadly adjacent, but one of the professional photos from the signing-the-register part of my wedding managed to capture my mum re-fastening the hook-and-eye closure of the back of my dress, which had come loose and was threatening to allow more cleavage than I’d planned (and I had planned quite a lot). At the time I thought it was all terribly awkward but now it’s a lovely memory about my mum looking out for me even in the middle of the Really Big Thing that was happening!

    Link to the photo, because I can’t resist: https://flic.kr/p/d1nYem

  85. Pre-Covid days. Driving up a street near my parents house and I saw an elderly lady with a walking stick on the other side of the road whose skirt was caught up in her undies. I stopped my car, ran over to her and told her quietly, ‘I’m afraid your skirt is a bit caught up!’ and I stood behind her and to one side as she adjusted herself again, to shield her from the road, and said something like, ‘We’ve all done that!’. I asked where she was going, and she said she was going to see her doctor, so I told her who I was (my mum lives over there!) & offered her a lift. Five minutes later she was safely at her doctor’s and I was on my way. That works for the UK; it might not work in other countries.
    My rule would tend to be, what would I do for my own mum/dad/sibling? Then I do that.

  86. When I was 14 I played in my first Junior High orchestral concert. I played the cello. I’d never tried playing a cello in a skirt before and failed to realise the importance of voluminous, flowy skirts. My skirt of course ended up pretty much at my waist.

    Fortunately, I was second cello (out of 2) so was sitting on the inside. I think I (just) got away with it 😉

  87. It has happened to me a non-zero number of times that a cis male colleague has awkwardly but tactfully informed me that I had crumbs across the bust line. (Big boobs, somewhat messy eater, especially at conferences/other events where you’re kind of circling with a plate in your hand and chatting). Always appreciated. Female colleagues are usually comfortable just making a brushing motion while pointing at the general area but the men tend to be a bit more awkward about it.

  88. Have you ever been seated when Scottish dancers are dancing a reel? The kilt swings out when they spin round. I have seen this often, and I can assure you that they never, never wear boxers. Briefs every time. (Ever heard that Scots don’t wear anything under a kilt? This is nonsense. It goes back to the days before underwear was invented.)

  89. I don’t know if you’re queer, obviously, but I very visibly am, to the point I get called “sir” in cafes etc frequently (I’m a cis woman) . So I would not enter into any ambiguity by mentioning “flirting” during the conversation, even to disclaim it.

    When someone like me says something like that, it can very much come across as “she doth protest too much”.

    How you handled it was perfect – friendly, quick, discreet, precise.

  90. My guideline is whether the person with a possible fashion faux pas can fix said faux pas in 30 seconds or so. So, yes, tell people their skirts are tucked into their underwear, toilet paper is on their shoe, there’s a cat hair on their face, that they’re flashing the world more often than they’d really like to, &/or spinach is between their teeth.

    Leave people alone if they have a haircut or color you don’t approve of or think is appropriate. Don’t harass people about their body shapes or sizes. Don’t be a jerk about tattoos or other permanent body art things. If there’s no way they can change in the next 30 seconds and they wore something inappropriate to an event and have to stay, be gentle with them, don’t make it worse.

    If you eff up, apologize sincerely, but when it comes to commenting on other people’s physical being, get into the habit now of just not commenting on that stuff unless you are paying a compliment. No one likes the peanut gallery suddenly swerving out of their lane and into someone else’s with unsolicited criticisms.

  91. I’m late to the party, but I’ve had the misfortune to have to be informed that I had slightly peed myself while running into a wall.

    PE, we were playing a kind of “the floor is lava while the ball is not at the first base” where the bases were made out of all kinds of equipment and I tripped over a mat instead of stopping my sprint correctly…. Momentum took me into the wall and I basically had the “I peed a little while sneezing”-thing, just worse. I noticed, but I couldn’t really tell how bad it was.

    My friend pointed it out to me with the words “I don’t want to shame you, but I think you peed yourself, do you want my sweater to wrap around youself?” because they’re wonderful and kind.

    Yes, of course it was embarrassing and kinda awkward, but it did also made me feel cared for because they told me specifically so that the small embarrassment of being told prevented the big embarrassment of everyone noticing.

    I’ve also done the whole “eye contact, gesture-thing with a lovely stranger on the subway when she had gotten her bright red lipstick on her coffee lid and thus on her upper lip – she blushed, wiped her mouth and the lip, did the “is it gone?”-expression, I nodded, she mouthed thanks and we kept smiling at each other for the rest of the trip.
    I don’t remember the city or anything else, but it’s a lovely, warm memory in my head.

    What I’m getting at is that as long as you’re kind and matter of fact about it, people are going to be happy you tell them. It’s better to be embarrassed a little bit by someone looking out for you – which is what you’re doing by telling them – than to be embarrassed by whatever malfunction happened.

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