My Au Pair Dresses Like a Tramp. Help!

by cv harquail on April 27, 2010

Au Pairs and their appearance– another dicey topic.

We don’t like to think that an au pair’s physical appearance affects how we (or others) respond to her, but the ugly truth is– appearances are influential.

When we (American) host parents react to an au pair’s appearance, we’re invoking preferences, expectations and interpretations based partly in stereotypes and norms related to gender, race, class, national culture, and personality….

We need to consider all of these when we respond to this host mom’s concern: Her au pair dresses like a “tramp”.

(Actual word changed to avoid spammers.)

Dear Au Pair Mom,

I don’t know how to describe the problem we are having with our Au Pair except to be blunt about it.

Our au pair dresses like a “tramp”.

She wears very short shorts, tank tops, tight t-shirts, padded bras, high-heeled boots- and we live in Arizona, so there is never a chance that she has to cover up to keep warm.

It would be one thing if she dressed like this just to go out at night with her friends, but she wears skimpy clothing 24-7.

I’m not concerned about my dear husband (he is oblivious. He is more interested in her being a safe driver.) I’m more concerned about the way that our au pair’s clothing invites other people to treat her. I think she must get a lot of cat-calls and even propositions from various men as she takes my twins around downtown the stroller. I worry about her safety.


Maybe I should point out that our au pair is tall and slender, European, highlighted hair, and above average pretty. She has been a great au pair so far… my kids adore her and she is dependable and pleasant. But the Daisy Dukes, the Victorias Secret push up bras, and the Hot Topixx are more than I can handle.

Am I just being too uptight? Should I go with it? Or should I say something to her about how her clothing makes her seem to others?

In all honesty, her clothing makes her look “low rent” and “easy”, and she is neither.

What do you recommend? Say something? Stay quiet? Take her to the Gap?

See Also: Myths About Au Pairs: Au Pair = Hottie

Images: SDSU Sorority Girls from San Diego Shooter


PA AP mom April 27, 2010 at 9:53 am

Our AP also dressed too risque for me. I finally had to sit down and have a face to face conversation about it with her. My boys are 9 and 6 and my oldest would sometimes tell me about comments made to the AP when they were at the park, the store, soccer, etc.

She was shocked when I told her it was unacceptable to dress that way. She said that in Germany, everyone who has the body for it dresses the same way. I told her that doing so in this country often has a negative connotation.

She toned it down during work hours but I worried a lot about her going out in her off duty time. I dreaded getting a call that something had happened to her.

Anna April 27, 2010 at 10:10 am

I myself (long long time ago, when I was a teen) came from a country where the culture was that if you have a body for it (and even if you don’t quite), you show what you’ve got. Young women dressed in what is considered club or evening attire here, just to go to the grocery store or to the playground.
She has to be told about this cultural difference and how it is seen here in America, and how it reflects on her by people who see her dressed this way. She might honestly not know, and like her countrymates, think that Americans just don’t know how to dress and use makeup, and are all fat junk food consumers, don’t take care of themselves and their appearance, and dress frumpy. She doesn’t know the other perspective.

In terms of how to deal with it – I had a very young (and immature) Brazilian au pair, who didn’t dress quite like what you describe, but tended to wear hot pants type shorts and tops showing her midriff in the summer. We are a religious conservative family, and my daughter, who is taught to dress modestly, started asking questions. I spoke with the au pair, telling her about how americans dress, and asked her to follow the community custom (I didn’t ask her to follow our standard, just general american standard) – shorts not too high above the knee, shoulders, cleavage, and midriff covered… I was very specific. I also offered to sponsor a shopping trip for her new wardrobe (if she didn’t have any appropriate attire already) up to a certain sum (she refused, but she started dressing better).

My 2 cents April 27, 2010 at 10:24 am

As to on-duty hours, just get it over with and tell her directly that the way she dresses on-duty is not acceptable for your family. Give her examples of clothes that are appropriate, and leave it to her to figure out her wardrobe. Even if it’s what they may do back home, she surely knows her clothes are tight, low cut, whatever. She decided to put them on after all, and for a reason.

I have a friend in the exact same situation with 2 young boys. She told the au pair on about day 5 of her employ that it was not permitted for her to dress so provactively in front of them. She told her to go upstairs and change and come back down when dressed appropriately. It worked. No problems since. Their relationship has not suffered for it.

Off-duty, more tricky. If you feel strongly about it and it’s interfering with your relationship, your kids’ relationship with her (have boys of an age that will notice? Use that), and how you see her, I’d also be direct about it and tell her that she will notice that here in the US it makes a certain statement which is not positive. Is this really how she wants to be interpreted?

Anna April 27, 2010 at 10:30 am

My 2 cents,

of course she knows about tight, low cut etc., but she doesn’t see it in the same light! She doesn’t realize that they are considered unappropriate HERE, because in her country they are perfectly fine! And the reason she puts them on, is because that’s what she has in her luggage, and she is proud to show off her fit body.

I think the poster should tread gently, and give her the benefit of the doubt.

What I described in my case, also only related to on-duty hours. I didn’t ask her to change how she dresses when she goes out.

AnonHM-Europe April 27, 2010 at 10:44 am

Explain to her how “the average” person of your community will think of her just judging her looks. A European AP might not realize how clothes considered “normal” in Europe can offend American families. In Europe we have the problems with girls from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus… They dress even more “open-hearted” and once told of the affects were quite surprised and – ashamed. It’s part of your job as a HM to tell the girls about local customs – and it’s their part of the job to adjust.

Since most of the APs are proud not to be recognized as APs (or some other “foreigners”) you might point out that people will know she’s from a different country just by seeing her dress unproperly – that can do the trick!

Anonymous April 27, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I am latin american Au Pair and first of all, I dont care being recognize as a foreigner, so that will not do “the trick” second of all I think is totally disrespectful for someone to tell me what to wear on my free time. I understand if im on duty I should wear something appropiate BUT if my HM ever dears to even suggest a change on my wardrobe; that will be a deal breaker. I’m 25, I dont care If you are offended or not, MIND YOUR OWN BUSSINES,,,does your AP ever ask you to change your style or hair color or loose weight ? If U have it you show it..

PA AP mom April 27, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I can guarantee you wouldn’t last long in my home with that attitude. Our APs reflect on our family as long as they are living with us.

Anonymous April 28, 2010 at 8:47 am

Wouldn’t last in my home, either, PA.

anonmom April 28, 2010 at 11:37 am

nor would she last in mine, that’s for sure!

britishmama April 28, 2010 at 9:29 am

If you represent the average Latin American, I will make sure to request no Latin Americans become my Au Pair. All my Ap’s have taken pride in their appearance and have always dressed professionally. You have such a hostile spirit about you. I suggest you don’t work with children with a negative attitude like yours.

anonmom April 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

britishmama- this is just one reason why I never choose AP’s from Brazil.
In my experience the attire and attitude do not mesh with our values

Anna April 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

I am the mom who is a modest dresser for religious reasons, and most of my au pairs (three, with a fourth arriving shortly) have been Brazilian. But most were mature enough to understand what the appropriate attire for working with kids is, without me saying a word. Just one Brazilian girl had to be taught; and she had a very sweet attitude, just not very mature.

Busy Mom April 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm

As with most stereotypes, there are numerous examples of those who don’t fall into the “expected” model.

Our Brazilian au pair is terrific. Sensible, mature, considerate, excellent work ethic… Apart from an occasional inch or two of bare midriff, she would pass our middle school dress code. Ditto for her best au pair fried, who is also Brazilian.

Anonymous April 28, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Speaking to and about your host family ( or employer in any other situation ) or neighbors or colleagues in the manner in which you speak is just as inappropriate as the style of dress you advocate.
So , you are unqualified to be an aupair or a guest in our home on more than one count. Please show yourself somewhere else.

Au Pair in CO April 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

I don’t know if this is very different in different parts of the US, but where I live, all the girls (and by that I mean American girls too, not just au pairs) wear short shorts or skirts with strappy tops or tight t-shirts now that the weather is warm. For me, putting on a pair of short shorts (mid-thigh or shorter) is just about being too warm to wear anything longer. I come from a cold country, and would probably melt away if I had to wear knee-length shorts and shoulder-covering tops during summer..

(But of course, I totally see the difference between wearing this to the park, or when taking the kid to his religious pre-school. I’m warm, not stupid;)

Anna April 27, 2010 at 11:16 am

Au Pair in CO,

you actually feel warmer with the sun hitting your exposed skin in short shorts and tank tops, than in light and not clingy cotton clothing… Those bedoins wear cotton long robes for a reason.
Take it from somebody who is a reformed modest dresser (i.e. I have dressed both ways). You will feel quite comfortable in a short-sleeve cotton t-shirt, “melting away” from not wearing a clingy tank sounds a bit too dramatic to me.

There is also a difference between short shorts, and indecently short shorts that show you butt cheeks or stop just short of that. A tank top can also look very different in different fabrics, and shoes can give an outfit a different meaning. Like keds vs. high heel sandals…. Also details like makeup… doesn’t wearing even an ounce of makeup make you so hot and uncomfortable in the summer, LOL?

Au Pair in CO April 29, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I only wear mascara, no other makeup, and only flat, comfortable sandals, and I definitely don’t try to look sexy. It’s just that coming from a country where we’re lucky to get 30 days of temperatures above the mid70s a year, I automatically wanna get as much sun as possible here. (Btw, googling images of “tank top” now, I see that my definition of it is far from what the images show. I would not wear that to work.)

Taking a computer lunch April 27, 2010 at 11:41 am

I’m a HM that doesn’t really care how her APs look as long as they take good care of the kids. Really. I do warn my incoming APs that they should bring old clothes for caring for DD, affectionately known as The Camel for a reason. No one wants a brand-new outfit ruined by the launch of a rejected bite of dinner.

When I was younger I showed what I had, now that I’m fat, I dress frumpy, no doubt about it. However, in the summer, I too, want as little on as possible (no Bedouin black for me, thank you very much!).

In my experience, most of my APs have understood how to dress for work. I’ve never seen one try to wear a mini-skirt (who knows when The Camel will need to be picked up) during on-hours. I certainly change out of work clothes the minute I come up – nothing but old clothes on me when I face The Camel, that way I can enjoy my hugs and cuddles.

I have absolutely nothing to say about what my APs wear at night. I’ve seen everything from the sublime to the ridiculous and I never make a negative comment.

I can see, however, if your family dresses modestly for religious reasons, that you want your AP to cover up more when she’s working. I do hope that you’re up front when you match, so she understands and brings some clothing that is more conservative than what she usually wears. I’ve had APs whose friends put on club dress and make-up in my house because their HF had so much to say about what they wore.

Anonymous April 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I bet she is happy with you, mutual respect is key in the AP_HF relationship, sometimes one of the parts don’t seem to quite understand this… btw I’m an AP too, I love my kids, but I will leave them in a heartbeat if someone tells me what to wear and what not.

former extension au pair in CA April 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm

oh my god that sounds so mean :P

anonymous mom April 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Anonymous au pair, you are full of indignation, but do you realize that the conversation here is what the au pair wears when she is on the job with her kids? I don’t think you disagreed that there is appropriate clothing for that, and that the family can ask the au pair to dress a certain way during her on-duty hours. We are not talking about a nun-like uniform, we are talking about not dressing like a sl*t!
I bet you don’t, so you don’t understand what the problem is! If you have daughters and your au pair is taking her to the park dressed like she is on her way to work in a red light district, I bet you would say something to her.

West Coast Mom April 27, 2010 at 6:42 pm

I doubt very seriously you love your kids as much as you profess, when a comment about your clothing would send you packing “in a heartbeat.”

Isn’t part of the experience supposed to be about learning the cultural norms of a new country? ANd if that is true, then is a mere conversation about this such a terrible thing?

Anonymous April 27, 2010 at 7:17 pm

As a mother, I think that it would be just fine to have you leave if
you could not adjust to the moral standards of most American families. Schoolteachers, bank officers, business women all dress appropriately to there circumstances. What you are describing is not love

Anna April 27, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Taking Computer Lunch,

bedouins wear white robes in the summer ;)

I don’t care what my au pair wears on her own time; the issue came up only once with only one (out of 4) au pairs with the work clothes. But after that I for sure mention it during matching. None had a problem with it since I am reasonable. All of my au pairs except this one (and most were from the same country as her) didn’t have to change what they usually wear to care for my kids. Those were common sense clothes. I think some au pair and host mom responders here envision something different than the poster complains about…

Should be working April 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm

We had the ‘trampy’ look with our ex-au pair. It did bother me, and I waited too long to bring it up. After I mentioned it, she did tone it down during work hours, but there was still tons of makeup at all hours and her going-out outfits were still pretty awful (trashy in my view). I am a entirely progressive person but I realized for future reference that it does matter to me, for my 8-yr-old daughter’s sake, what kind of style the AP has, even on her own time. So I mentioned this in the interview with our next (happy current) AP. I will in the future discuss it in interview stage as part of the AP being a role model for my daughter (who has a worshipful relationship to the APs, past and present).

Calif Mom April 27, 2010 at 12:30 pm

This is where checking out those photos that APs submit during matching is really important! Our party girl (a lovely extension AP) definitely shared party photos in her profile. When my girls were really little, I didn’t care that much because this AP also had a good head on her shoulders, personal boundaries, and Mama Bear toughness. But now that my girls are interested in perceptions and trends, it would matter and frankly, I probably wouldn’t match with her if she came up as a prospect now. My girls are figuring out what’s appropriate, and Dad and I both care a lot because we remember what it was like when we were that age, and in our culture people DO get treated different depending on what they’re wearing. Where we live, flip flops and Daisy Dukes are de rigeur for certain subsets of the population, but not so much for our girls! We prefer Keens and require skorts, or bike shorts under EVERYTHING. So now, how AP dresses is something we consider. When they were babies or clueless toddlers? nope.

HRHM April 27, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I feel the same way – now that DD5 is starting to take notice of fashion, etc , I will definitely care more about how our APs dress. AP2 who left last month alternated between sloppy mess (same sweats every day) and tart. I noticed that DD started standing like her in pictures (ass out, chest out) and it turned my stomach. Fortunately AP3 seems to have better self-esteem and doesn’t need to flaunt her stuff even though she’s got it.

Anonymous April 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm

This is something that I think belongs in everyone’s handbook
if it is something that matters to you. I think that an unescorted young woman in a country not her native land is always perceived as a an easy target for unscrupulous people. That’s part of the experience – dressing to fit the cultural mores. I would not want an aupair dressed like this to pick my kids up at Catholic school just as a matter of respect. Of course, I see the girls getting off the local bus from the local Catholic high school and I wonder if they changed their clothes on the bus. Other religious traditions have standards of dress, too , and I respect them when I am on their turf. Golda Meir
was very secular but she wore a hat when she went to visit the Pope.
When in Rome…

Dorsi April 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm

A few thoughts: I travelled to central Europe a few years ago — for work — and brought my bland travel clothes (khaki skirts, plain tops), a step nicer than what I would wear for work at home. I realized that I was woefully underdressed and bizarrely inappropriate when I got there. Women my age were wearing tight tight pants (regardless of their body type) low cut shirts and heels. Lots and lots of make-up. (I forgot to even bring mascara — this trip was research based, in a rough area — I hadn’t planned on mascara. ) My lack of makeup was even addressed by a few well meaning folks from the home country. It really reminded me of how the best of intentions can come off as so wrong.

I have a different problem with my AP (this one and the last one, strangely enough). They both dress terribly. Nothing but athletic shorts, jeans, oversized t-shirts with annoying slogans. As far as I can tell, neither of them brought a skirt or a item of clothing that is not made of jersey with them to the US. I recognize it doesn’t affect their job performance and is none of my business, so I don’t say anything (and my 3-year old son doesn’t care a bit). It does, however, affect what kind of events I will take them to. When we have adult social events with people that I don’t know well, I do not bring the AP — I will not have some poorly dressed teenager in someone else’s home. I don’t know how to say, “you should dress nicer so you can go out with us” — so we just don’t bring her. (Before the anger starts — we do tons of family things with the AP all of the time, in public. Just not in other people’s homes.) For example, last year, a high school friend invited us to brunch at his parents’ house while we were on vacation nearby. No AP to that event — she would have been woefully underdressed.

I figure I am getting good training for having a teenager someday and learning to keep my judgment inside.

HRHM April 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I actually feel free to tell the AP “we are going to XYZ and you’ll need to wear (insert dress, skirt or nice clothes here)” I have never been rebuked when doing this and in fact I think they appreciated it. No one likes to show up to an event woefully under (or over for that matter) -dressed.

former extension au pair in CA April 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm

have you ever taken her anywhere where she needs to dress nice and she didnt? maybe she jusy hasn’t made the effort to dress nicer because she hasn’t been in a situation where she needs to yet?:P anytime im going somewhere with my family, they’ll let me know if there’s a dresscode (or i ask what i should be wearing) so i definitely dont think its bad of you to mention that she needs to dress up if you do decide to take her somewhere

Dorsi April 27, 2010 at 8:15 pm

I can’t say for sure about the current AP (she has only been here 6 weeks– maybe there are hidden depths to her wardrobe) — but the former AP did not have any other clothes. When she went out with friends: black shirt, hoodie, jeans. This current one goes out in athletic shorts and sports shirts. I must be unconsciously selecting for this, but I am not sure how.

franzi April 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm

if you doubt she even has nicer clothes, take her to a store like ross or marshalls and help her find something nice. this works best when there is a “dress nice” occasion coming up and you have told her she needs to dress in XYZ. though you would have planned the shopping trip it does come across as something spontaneous.

however, i do think that having a jersey/sweatpants wearing AP is better than having the tramp outfit at home.

Euromom April 27, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Going back to the original topic – all I can say is this.

How much does her style (or lack there of!) bother you? Enough that you might sour the relationship that you have with her at the moment because that is what you are gambling with here.

So what about how people percieve and judge her – if she doesn’t know them – and let’s face it propably will never see them again after the year is over then – honestly who cares.

Imagine her looking back in 10 years time of pics of her time with you and seeing pics of herself in her tiny little shorts (proud of her boby) with the kids playing away – do you want the memory to be scarred with – that was the last time I was “allowed” wear them shorts!

I am just very aware that you say you have a great relationship with the au pair and it would be terrible to sour it over something like this so take stock before you make any decision.

However if you do choose to talk to her be prepared – she may feel embarassed, insulted or just plain old angry but then it’s out in the open and you can move on from there – one way or the other.

Have you considered what you would do if she refused to change the way she dresses. How far are you willing to go?

anonmom April 28, 2010 at 11:56 am

Euromom, I disagree about the comment that if people dont’ know her who cares. She is an extension of the family with which she lives, and as you know, appearances, rightly or wrongly, are what most americans base their judgements. Not to mention a safety issue, in my view, when she is receiving unwarranted attention or remarks from workmen or whomever- she then becomes a target- and the children become targets by extension. I, for one, don’t need strangers following my au pair home from the park, knowing that no other adults are home.

Calif Mom April 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm

I do care, even though the politically correct person in me says I shouldn’t. Do you want your daughter to get multiple piercings? My bet is probably not, because you know it will affect how people relate to her, how she is taken seriously.

Concrete examples of why it matters what you wear:
I learned with my first baby that we were treated much better at the airport by both security and by airline staff if I put her in a cute dress and if I didn’t wear jeans and a t-shirt, (even though she had reflux!).

We actually had to move one nanny along because of social issues; my kid felt uncomfortable out in public with this clueless nanny who would say just plain stupid stuff, and it embarrassed/concerned my kid. It wasn’t clothing, but it had a similar effect.

So while perhaps in theory it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing, she can look like a tramp if she wants to, she DOES reflect on your family–to other parents at the school, to teachers, to the little old lady down the street–and at least for us, our kids *want* to feel proud of their au pair, to feel that people respect her and by extension, them.

I’m sorry that looks matter, but they do. I’m sorry that being nice and what you wear are more likely to lead to career success, but that, too, is proven. We’re not just being uptight with this one. ;-)

StephinBoston April 27, 2010 at 5:36 pm

I would have a problem with an au pair dressing like that if it interfered with her job. I need athletic au pairs who want to run outside, bike around, play sports and be completely crazy with my 2 boys (3 and 5). So if my AP showed up dresses in a mini skirt and heels, with a tiny shirt, I’d tell her I’d rather have her dressed for the job. That being said, 3 au pairs and no problems with that. I’ve had only one who had THE body and she wore clothes that were skimpier but nothing that that would offend people. When it comes to the au pair’s social life, they can wear what they want. Never had a problem there either, we actually laugh together about the tiny outfits girls wear in clubs around here. Especially since it’s so cold in the winter, none of them have been interested in looking like that, lucky us I guess.

Janet April 27, 2010 at 8:05 pm

We had one au pair who wore revealing clothes (lace shirt with no bra, skimpy shorts, panted on jeans). We had to tell her to stop wearing these clothes when she took our son to preschool because our son started saying “Mama, I’d like to bang” and other suggestive comments that he had heard from the teenagers who hung around the street where our preschool was located. I think she must have been quite the attraction from what the preschool teacher told me.

No problems since.

Sota Gal April 27, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I think you should talk to her and tell her the clothes that you think are appropriate for work. We also live in a hot climate so I take great pains during the interview and match process talking about our long, hot summers (converting to celcius to get my point across) and what is good to wear when working with our kids. I am ok with tank tops so long as most cleavage is covered, most of abdomen is covered and shorts as long as your hands extended by your sides and not too low cut and flat-ish shoes/sandals work best, shoes that are comfy and can get dirty are even better. Explain the cultural differences and you should be fine. You also don’t want your twins first words to be mimicking the cat-calls that she is most likely getting.

We have had several talks with our current AP about how most americans in our area dress, and she wants to fit in at places like the mall. Her first shopping trip she wore 4 inch stripper heels (we found out that her dad calls them prostitute shoes so she wasn’t too shocked) , skin tight pants, tight, low cut top, big hair and smokey eyes/heavy make up. I talked to her about where she would look beautiful wearing that (clubs or anyplace downtown on the weekend) and where she would look out of place and have things said about her and to her. She really appreciated our honesty and has toned it down when needed but will still go all out when she is going to a club. FWIW, I also talk about swim wear as we spend countless hours at the pool. Most young women don’t think about what kind of a suit works for swimming with kids. I share a very embarrassing story of our first born exposing me at the pool by grabbing on to my top. Oh.the.horror. If she doesn’t come with something that will leave her well covered for swimming with 2 preschoolers and a 2nd grader, I take her shopping for something new that she will feel more comfortable in for work and tell her to save her nice suits for when she isn’t working and they’ll be spared popsicle stains…

MommyMia April 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm

We should remember, though, that many cultures are not as prudish nor shocked by nudity as some Americans are. Exposed breasts are the norm on numerous beaches or poolside around the world, and only voyeurs give them a second glance. Not saying it’s acceptable in our culture, but another instance of talking with and explaining expected attire for any situation, especially while on duty. I’m OK with lounging by the pool or swimming in bikinis (by younger, more fit bodies than mine–you wouldn’t catch me in one!) but I do warn our APs taht for the water park slides what will happen – it just takes one time and they’re ready to find a new swimsuit!

CA-AP April 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm

To be honest, I do not know how those aupairs (wearing short skirts etc) manage their everyday-life as an aupair. Most of the time I work, I wear some normal jeans and regular tshirts, so I know that I won’t expose all parts of my body to public whenever I pick up something that fell of the stroler or when I push my two year old girl on the swings. Wearing “normal” closes makes some general things as an aupair way easier :D

One thing my hostmum did before I arrived: she send me a list of clothes I should bring with me. Of course, she did not tell me exactly what to wear at work, but it made packing way easier for me, since there is a little difference between the climate in Germany and the climate in California. But the list also included a fancier dress for family hollidays or some nicer pants.

I think some aupairs would be really glad to get some help from their hostmums – so maybe you want to start writing a short list with some “basics” (or with some “additional” clothes, they won’t need everyday but which might be important).

Aria April 28, 2010 at 7:28 am

My 1st HF (the one I rematched out of) also gave me a list of clothes I should bring with me, and I actually really appreciated it. They happened to live deeeeep in the boonies on a converted farmhouse, and they told me right off the bat that I would need to bring rainboots with me, or else be covered in mud everyday.

I think it’s a really good idea- if you live somewhere with some specific weather, send your AP a list of basics she might need before she arrives.

Darthastewart April 28, 2010 at 10:07 am

What kinds of stuff did they suggest you bring? I think this could be super helpful. I’ve made sure to tell APs to not bring towels, sheets, hair dryers, alarm clocks, and the like.. But clothes.. that’s a good idea.

cv harquail April 28, 2010 at 10:19 am

Modest swimwear!
That’s the one thing (along with coat, mittens, etc.) that i make explicit. Mostly this is for the benefit of Dear Grandad, who has nearly had heart attacks poolside, what with the brazillian bikinis and all. But also, it’s hard to watch kids in the pool if you are not wearing a bathing suit that you can actually swim in.

anonmom April 28, 2010 at 11:49 am

I totally agree with the modest swimwear! I am having this dilemma now- how much money do I give AP to buy a one piece suit? She has tiny bikini, and I will not allow her to wear that with the kids while on duty this summer bringing them to public pool. One reason is the lack of material, but the other, more important to me, is the tatoos all over her stomach. I don’t want the girls to see those.

Mom23 April 28, 2010 at 12:32 pm

$30 gift card to Target would be enough. Whatever she didn’t spend on a suit she could keep. I gave one of my au pairs a swim suit once. We were about the same size and she hadn’t brought one from her home country.

'sota gal April 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Along with the gift card to Target I would sit down at the computer with her and show her a modest swim suit. Not all one piece suits are modest… Another place to check might be Costco if you live near one – they have tons of Speedo’s for women under $20, offer great coverage and the styles aren’t completely horrible. They are however, great for swimming with kids without exposing yourself to the world.

StephinBoston April 28, 2010 at 2:58 pm

My Brazilian au pair had a tiny bikini too but quickly realized that wouldn’t be the best to play with kids, so I bought her a beautiful tankini at gap, still gorgeous on her figure but no risk of falling off in the pool, she loved it!

AUPAIR Momma April 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Tiny Bikini….. One college sophomore summer nanny wore a tiny string bikini EVERY DAY to our house. Thankfully she was a 100 pd 5ft 1 girl so really she didn’t ‘hang out’. All of our neighbors commented to me, though- “We saw your nanny today did they go to the pool and get the ‘wink'” I just roll my eyes and said “girls” — I never said anything. The boys to this day call her their ‘favorite nanny’. At our neighborhood pool brazilian bikini forbidden so that is the rule. Else I just keep my comments to myself. We’ ve had 10 aupairs/ nannies etc … It rotates between being completely frumpy (sweatpants , baggy t’s) to micro mini, cleavage hanging out. I personally don’t like them acting like babysitting is a job you where your sleep clothes to or that its time to club but thats just my personal dress opinions. Personally I prefer the nice gap, jcrew, even conservative abercrombie look for that age- but I really just go w/ the flow. Oh one au apair (Brazilian) didn’t wear a bra and wore a super loose tank – she took the baby from me and I saw EVERYTHING – I called our community counselor and mentioned to her to mention to all girls to wear underwear and bra to their job. Thankfully our cc agreed so I did get that addressed.

Aria April 28, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Well, first HF suggested heavy duty rainboots, or Wellingtons, and very heavy winter clothing (ie wool sweaters, winter coats, etc) and 2nd HF explicitly asked me if I had sneakers and jeans to chase after the boys (I showed up to the interview in a dress and ballet flats!). For the most part, you should have enough common sense to figure out what to pack (IMHO)- if you’re going to Florida, don’t pack thermal underwear. If you’re the only nanny wearing booty shorts at the playground, re-evaluate.

I DO think culture shock/ differences can be tricky to navigate, but we also live in 2010 in a world with McDonalds in practically every country. There is a point where common sense ought to take over.

CA-AP April 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I agree with you. most of the time you can guess what you’ll need.

But I really liked it that my hostfamily told me what to bring for family hollidays or parties. I know that there are families where it is okay to appear wearing jeans and tshirts and others who prefer a dress etc.

Taking a computer lunch April 29, 2010 at 7:01 am

I always tell my APs to bring old clothes for feeding The Camel. I warn European APs that it’s terribly hot and muggy in the summer (I figure they know how to dress for the winter) – hotter than they’ll ever know. I tell APs from the tropics that they can’t imagine how cold it is in the winter, and they should bring a selection of their warmest things, but that in the end they will have to buy warm clothes here (I always give silk long underwear as a Christmas present, it’s expensive but it doesn’t show).

While you can’t purchase many swimsuits at used clothing stores, you can purchase other clothing at an exceptional price – cheaper than Target.

Joan April 28, 2010 at 12:04 am

In my opinion, what they wear on their own time is their own decision. They are adults.

We’ve had 3 au pairs. One like to walk around the house in a black nightie in the morning, which my husband seemed to get a kick out of. There were never any disrespectful comments and it wasn’t an issue. And yes, she was from Germany – and a very good au pair.

All of the au pairs we’ve had have dressed in “club attire” when going out to the clubs. When going out in public with the kids they were always dressed reasonably by 20 year old American standards.

europhile April 28, 2010 at 1:33 am

I think you got some good suggestions — explaining cultural differences does help a lot, and she might be grateful to you. I also definitely agree that outside of childcare hours, she can dress the way she wants.

We have had three APs, and all of them have dressed appropriately for the job, so I have never had to deal with the issue. Good luck!

Karin Six April 28, 2010 at 7:07 am

Wonderful suggestions! I can use this advice as it sometimes comes up! Thank you host moms!

Anonymous April 28, 2010 at 8:58 am

I wouldn’t hesitate to say something, and in fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to mention off duty clothes if it was an issue, either. Because of my job, I am quite involved in our local community, and our au pair often attends community events with me to help with the kids – as a result, she as also recognized out in the community (a relatively small town). I would not be okay with her going out looking like a “tramp”. Yes, she wears club clothes, slightly revealing, tight fitting when she goes out on the weekeds – but nothing totally over the top. If she did, I would say something. As someone mentioned above, she is a reflection of our family whether she is working or not. And yes, this is something I make clear in the interview process.

I don’t consider it any different than my professional career – how I appear out in the community, whether I’m working at the time or not, is a reflection on my profession…I’m expected to act and dress a partcular way out in public, and I expect the same from my au pair.

I think this is relatively common for many professions…from my experience, many fire/police departments, schools and universities, law firms, government organizations, political organizations, etc…have code of conduct policies that extend to off duty hours – certainly in the school district where I live, my kids’ teachers would not be allowed to be out at the clubs in stillettos and a push up bra dancing on the bar. So yes, I think APs can be told how to dress and act off duty…just like other professionals.

Monique April 28, 2010 at 10:14 am

I am a future Brazilian Au Pair.
And what I say is not my opinion, is a reality of the world.

One thing is you to wear clothes short because you are with heat and and because you like. Another very different thing is you dress depraved, everyone will notice and comment, and your image will be easy-girl. This is in any country.
Brazil has a warm climate and we have free expression, and nevertheless, the people will not wear clothes depraved because they know others people will judge them by their image
And as already mentioned, it is not because the country of the au pair is a hot climate it will have to walk semi-naked.

And I think that in every country in the world, is not allowed to work with very short or provocative clothing.

The girl need have “good-sense”, and the family has every right to ask the au pair to dress better in their work schedules, like any other job.

Talk with your au pair, about the customs of his family and his country, the au pair will understand. And if she does not understand is because she is not mature enough to accept work with other people.

PA AP mom April 28, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Thank you for this post. It makes a lot of sense.

anonmom April 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

The first time my AP dressed like that to take the kids in the stroller I would have spoken to her about her attire. Yes, there are cultural differences that they do not know about. However, I would point out to them that right or worng- people will perceive them as slutty, or even as a poor caregiver, based solely on their attire. Not to mention the thought of unwanted attention by the wrong kind of men. If she chooses to go out like that on her own time, that is another thing. But I would certainly no allow someone she met while out like that into my home without getting all their information! If she is offended by speaking with her, so be it. This is another way of learning a new culture and of becoming a mature adult. I can’t go to work dressed in sweats, as I would like, so she, too, would have a ‘dress code’.

Anonymous April 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm

This is my thought… I do not want to be in a position of having to explain to her parents at home that she was raped or killed while dressed in a provocative manner. It is my understanding that we are to treat aupairs as part of our family and I would not permit my daughters to leave my home looking like that for safety reasons.
I really love the idea of sending a list of ” What you need… ” I know that there are wonderful girls out there with multiple piercings and tatoos but I believe it sends an unfortunate message to the general public and I do not want to have to deal with the consequences of unwelcome interest. And no, I do not want my children to get piercings and tatoos.

Should be working April 28, 2010 at 7:27 pm

I offer the reminder that clothes do not make men rape women; that women are not responsible for being raped, no matter how they are dressed; and that children, older people, unattractive people and modest dressers can also be victims of such crimes.

But the points about “unwelcome interest” are of course important when it comes to explaining the cultural ‘codes’ that accompany different styles in the US.

Sunshine April 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm

While it is true that men are responsible for their own actions, anyone can understand that you get way more attention, generally negative, when wear risque clothing. Women shouldn’t dress in an undecent manner and then act shocked when they aren’t treated well. It’s not rocket science!

TX Mom April 28, 2010 at 3:51 pm

This is a great post! I really like the idea of sending clothing suggestions in advance.
Our AP’s have all figured out quickly the right clothes to wear to work. (One broke her bikini top in the pool with the kids, another got milk stains on her favorite shirt…) They wear jeans and T’s for watching the kids and saving their “nice” clothes for going out. I would be worried about the emotional IQ of a young woman who didn’t figure out that she was inappropriately dressed. (I distinctly recall the uncomfortable feeling of looking like an American teenager in Europe; I can’t believe a young woman wouldn’t clue in.)
What about the cowgirl Halloween costumes? I can’t tell you how many AP’s have dressed up looking like Daisy Duke! ha ha.

HRHM April 28, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I think there is a real cultural disparity at play here that not all HPs will get/aknowledge. In other countries, dressing like a “tramp” is the norm for women. I am a doctor and my med school had a sister med school in Brazil. The medical students and residents from Brazil came to work in HIGH heels, full makeup, short skirts, low-cut blouses. This to walk around the hospital for 12 hours straight, potentially needing to do chest compressions in a worse case scenario. The ones rotating on surgery service with me got the smallest size scrubs available in the machine and would roll the tops of the pants to make them hip huggers and wear white baby tees with the pants while we weren’t in the OR. These are educated professional women, and they dress this way because this is how educated professional women in their country dress for work. It’s considered appropriate for lawyers, engineers, business executives, doctors, teachers, etc. This is a culture where physical beauty is paramount (40%+ of girls/women over 16 have had plastic surgery in Brazil- it’s widely considered to be the best place in the world to train for cosmetic surgery fellowship) and showing skin is not perceived as an invitation for rude behavior or a marker for promiscuity.

Having said that, this is the US and it’s part of our role in the cultural exchange to let them know that here is different. Here, you’re seen as loose or asking for it if you dress that way. If you impart the information in a non-judgemental way in the interest of helping them assimilate, it should be appreciated. Did you know that in India and parts of the middle east you NEVER touch people or eat with your left hand (it’s because they don’t use toilet paper and so rinse their bottom with the left hand after using the toilet) Most of us would never know that unless some friend told us – we would just wonder why people were staring while we made a huge social mistake.

Also, let’s not confuse dressing like a tart with wearing small shorts and a jog bra or tank top in the warm weather. If you don’t want her wearing clubbing attire while she’s working, I can see that. But if your just offended by her amount of skin in sports clothes/bathing suit, I think that you might want to rethink intervening. Look around at the 20 year olds in your local park, pool or gym. If they are wearing similar clothes, then maybe you’re better off letting that one go. If not, then point them out to her at the next opportunity.

Aupairgal April 29, 2010 at 4:47 am

I must say this is probably the most productive post here.

OB Mom April 28, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Interesting post, I feel lucky ours have all been relatively neutral during the week.

I do wonder if there are differences between our collective reactions as parents depending on whether we have girls or boys? AP’s of girls need to be much stronger role models for body image than those of boys.

I have boys and as long as the AP’s clothes can withstand a bit of wrestling and tickle games, they seem OK (at least so far). But I do notice that their clothing is clearly noticed by my friends’ daughters (and luckily my friends are bold enough that they would probably say something to me or the AP’s if they thought the clothes were not setting a good examples).

Ann from NE April 28, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I never had a problem with how either of my APs dressed while “on duty; there were however a couple of times when they were accompanying us as “part of the family” to church or formal (wedding) events or family holidays when I did make it clear what the “expected” dress code would be by the “subculture” of that event, or when we were hosting an adult birthday party at our house. It’s not just about generic American vs their home culture, but there are many subcultures within different families, i.e. my spouse’s family tends to dress down much more than my family of origin at holidays, etc. No one ever wants to feel over or under dressed for an occasion, so I think some simple friendly advance tips are just helpful. Plus it was so rare to see our APs dressed up with my daughter, it was a great photo opportunity…:)

VA HM April 28, 2010 at 10:34 pm

We haven’t had a problem with how our APs have dressed for work. In my mind they are young women, working with kids, and, in our case, have been very attractive. The college age girls in this area definitely where tank tops and short shorts in the summer, so I see no reason why an AP should dress any differently. Their work is with kids — going to the park or the pool or play dates. I don’t like all of the styles that this age group is wearing these days, but if the AP is generally in the main stream and can do her job in the clothes (i.e. spiked heals for the park would be out), I don’t see it as my role to dictate what she wears. And, to the degree it reflects on me or my family, I liken it to any other young adult of that age — your own child or AP. I made some fashion/hair choices in college which horrify me now, and horrified my mother at the time, but she was smart enough to realize I was old enough to make those choices myself and I think most thinking adults realize that your AP or young adult child’s fashion choices are not your own. As noted by other posers, for specific events, locations, or occasions, there are expected dress codes, and an AP should be told and probably would want to know, but it would have to be an outfit way out of the mainstream before I commented on it for the park. And I hope that my AP doesn’t lecture me on going straight to the grocery store from the gym as a bad reflection on her.

Phyllis Geistlinger April 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I am a Local Childcare Coordinator with Cultural Care. One of my host moms had this problem with her au pair. I talked with her about wrok attire and after work attire. I explained to her that she should save her party closthes for the evening and wear comfortable “play” clothes when on duty. Some of the au pairs have not had to make this distinction before.

NVMom April 29, 2010 at 1:53 am

Everyone has made really great points. My last au pair point blank asked me if what she was wearing was “ok” and to please tell her if she ever dressed “wrong”. Let me tell you, when I first picked her up at the airport I was very afraid. Massive heels, “big” hair, short skirt to fly in. BUT once home she changed into a t-shirt and shorts and she was honestly the BEST au pair EVER. She had great style and I can only think of twice where I advised her to change because where we were going wasn’t quite right for what she had on. Other than that she dressed just fine to play with 3 very active kids!!! I say open your mouth and talk to them, treat them like family and just be honest.

Previous au pair April 29, 2010 at 8:50 am

well when I volunteered at a preschool. They told us that we have to wear appropriate clothes that are not promiscuos eg short skirts, low jeans, skimpy singlets or anything with a mid riff. Actually they didnt even tell us it was in the contract before we started. I would say address the issue before the au pair comes that you would like them to wear more conservative clothing whilst looking after your children. As for worrying about what there wearing off duty.. sure you can say something but in the end its there decision. If you tell your au pair you are concerned by what she’s wearing might attract the wrong crowd in a carefully constructed way and the dangers associated with that then it is her problem if she chooses to ignore your advice. She is an adult but remember she is also young and sometimes young people dont handle criticism in the way you want to.

FormerSwissAupair April 29, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I had the opposite problem when I was an AP in Switzerland. I dress as a normal American woman who leans on the conservative side when dealing with children. I had a 7 year old girl to tend to, and I wanted to be a good role model. So the problem wasn’t with what I would wear, it was with the mother!!! She was almost 50, and wore things that were just down right embarassing, and allowed her daughter to wear similar things. We are talking about tube tops, shirts that were see-through, mini skirts, etc, for a small child! It because very uncomfortable for me to take her out in public and to her lessons, etc. because of all the stares we would get. I finally told the little girl that she could wear those kind of clothes with her mom, but with me she needed to wear clothes that were age appropriate. And I took her a bought her a couple of shirts and pants, with my own money, and she loved them. So thankfully getting her to dress somewhat decent wasn’t too much of an issue! But I did still have her mom giving me “advice” on what to wear to find a Swiss husband!

Anne Marie Segal April 29, 2010 at 10:24 pm

My husband is from Mexico so we live in a bilingual household. In the meantime, I have learned among other words the very useful phrase “con aviso no hay enganyo” (I don’t know how to put the proper spelling with the tilda in the comments). What this means–which is so much more elegant in Spanish–is that if you were advised of something beforehand you have not been deceived.

I think the best solution as a host parent is to make sure you are well advised beforehand about the clothing an au pair prefers. Ask for many photos and see what she wears. If she dresses a certain way, you can probably expect that she will continue to dress that way in your home. If you don’t approve of how she dresses, don’t hire her. On the other hand, if you have done your “diligence” and are nonetheless surprised–in a significant and negative way–by her choice of clothing, only then may this be something to be addressed.

One last thing, an au pair should be allowed to dress however she wants when she is off duty, as long as she’s not looking for attention from your husband or teenage son…. It’s her house too, and it’s her life!

MommyMia May 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Hola, Anne Marie
If you go to and search for ASCII character codes, you can find how to get many of the special characters not on a typical keyboard, i.e. ñ is typed by holding down “Alt” and typing 164. (Just a handy, fun, thing to have – I printed a copy and use it from time to time for German and Spanish)

Milla May 3, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I´m not AP, but i´d like to be some day. I´m from Brazil and i think that most of the moms here are rigth. It´s not case of unrespect, it´s the case of the AP see that it´s a job, and like a job you have to waer apropiated clothes. mainlyif you are living in a family house, that has husband and children of other person. In this case is very important to change your way of waer, and do that in your job time is not a bad thing…

Sorry about my english. =)

Beatriz May 7, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Hi, I’m from Brazil.
I’ve been thinking in become a AP next year, so I like to read this blog to know what to expect, what to do and etc. and I read some things that I really need to comment about.
First of all: in Brazil is not commom go to work like a tramp, is not accept, is not normal and is not something about our culture. Of course, there are some girls/women that dress mini-skirts short shorts, tight t-shirts, but this happen here just like happens in USA, but we don’t go to work like this, is not normal female lawerys, doctors, teachers and etc go to work dressed like this. So, please don’t say that is something CULTURE, because is not, don’t generalize.
I’m a teacher and I’m 24 years old, I work with kids, and I know how to dress myself and when is hot I don’t go to work with high heels or short shorts.
Brazilian girls aren’t tramps… OF COURSE, ALWAYS HAVE SOME CRAZY GIRLS THAT DON’T HAVE ANY SENSE, BUT… WHAT CAN I DO? I just want make clear that is not part of our culture, we know how dress ourself and we don’t go to work showing parts of our body, this totally disrespectful.
Tks very much!

Former Brazilian Au Pair July 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm

What an interesting post! I agree with most host moms about telling their Au pairs beforehand what their family dress code is, or what they expect from the Au pair.

I don’t agree with the “cultural” explanation for why some Au pairs dress like tramps.
Sure, in Brazil women tend to show more skin, they wear tiny bikinis, tight clothes, but only when they are in their free time, NOT AT WORK! Brazil has dress codes too, just like Americans do, especially at a work place.

I live in Arizona now, and I see many American women wearing super short shorts showing half or their butts off, I see many wearing tank tops, mini skirts and mini dresses (I had also seen it in Massachusetts). It’s not a “cultural or a nationality thing” but a “Common-sense thing”.

The same way there are clueless women in Brazil there are clueless women in other countries, even in the U.S.

The case of the brazilian med school students mentioned was an exception. It can’t be generalized. Some women tend to do that when they want to call attention, especially when they are surrounded by men.

But in the Au Pair case, I believe many of those girls who dress like a tramp do it so because they don’t feel like they are “working”, or that they are in a work environment. Many of them feel “at home”, comfortable to wear whatever they want. But they ARE WORKING, and they are living in somebody else’s house, in another country, so they should have common sense and follow the family’s rules.

Many formers Au Pairs and Au Pairs I know have searched beforehand about what to bring to America, what to wear and not to wear, and what to expect from the American culture. For instance, when I was planning what type of swimsuit to bring, I decided to bring my “tiny Brazilian bikinis, AND a one-piece suit because I knew that in the USA bikinis are not little as ours are, and figured it would not be very wise to be the only one wearing a tiny bikini and becoming the center of attention, especially when I would be taking care of kids. I wore my Brazilian bikini only during my free time, but never on duty!

It’s all about common sense. So please, don’t blame all attitudes Au pairs have on their nationality. And don’t feel bad to talk to your Au pairs about the dress code in your home.

Vanessa August 19, 2010 at 4:38 am

I was an AP in Europe program, being in a conservative and religous country and family I understand most AP host families. In order for the children and other person to respect you. You should also respect yourself. If you are an AP and your staying in the host families house, they have every right to tell you if you dress in unpropriate way, or did something wrong.

As an AP you are much to obliged for their house rules and regulations and take good care of well being of their children. It is not about how fit you are,,or how sexy your dresses are, you didn’t join the program for your self or to gain attention from men, the main reason is to help the host family to take care of their children.

If you don’t care what your host family thinks. do yourself a favor.. DO NOT ENROLLED YOURSELF IN AP PROGRAMs..!!! and if you don’t have a common-sense then wait until you have one…^_^

Jennifer August 31, 2010 at 8:44 am

Our AP has been with us for 2 1/2 weeks. She was a rematch and I am kinda surprised this wasn’t addressed with the other families. She has a nose ring and a belly ring – suprise to us! She also wears very tight clothing (short shorts) – not for clubbing but it is so tight it really leaves nothing to the imagination. She is a size 12/14. I think more of 14 trying to fit into size 12.

I have 2 boys – 13 & 9 and think it’s rather inappropriate. So, I feel like I’m not telling her to dress more conservatively but to wear better fitting clothes??? She takes my son to football practice dressed this way and she is representing our family. Also, there are 100’s of other boys his age that she is around.

Her year is up in December and she wants to extend with our family. So if we extend this has to change. Any suggestions on what to say?

Jess August 31, 2010 at 10:14 am

Wow. I’m truly surprised that she hasn’t clued on to how inappropriate that is! Especially around your thirteen year old. Gosh. He’s a teenage boy! I’m actually speechless.
It definitely is not something you can overlook; as you said, she is *representing your family*!
I don’t know that there is a way you can address it now without offending her. I think that no matter how nice you say it, she’ll still feel as though you are implying that she is a tramp.
Do you have a guidebook? Could you say it’s a little out-dated, and that you’ll be adding to it over the next week so she can review it at the weekend? Add a paragraph about how you expect your au pairs to represent your family through dressing modestly, being respectful, always polite etc. If she’s not clueless, she’ll catch on pretty quickly, and you won’t have to have a really really awkward conversation with her about it (unless she wants to discuss it after reading the new guidebook…)
Also, if it’s a warmer climate, you can’t expect her to wear jeans/pants and sweaters all the time (I know that’s not what you said, and I’m sure this isn’t what you expect), BUT, there are PLENTY of modest summer clothes she could purchase. Make a new rule maybe, that while on duty, skirts and shorts must be around knee length (except when at the pool, maybe?), and that no cleavage can be seen, ever.

The last thing you want is for your sons friends to discuss the au pair in an inappropriate way (which WILL happen if she continues dressing like this… boys will be boys). This will make your son very uncomfortable, I’m sure.

Hope it works out for you :-)

First Time HP August 31, 2010 at 11:01 am

Just a thought but do you think its possible that she has gained weight and isn’t able to purchase new clothes? APs don’t make much and if she trying to save up money for when she goes home she might not be able to go out and buy new outfits. Also, if she’s gained weight she might be hoping that she’ll lose it and therefore resist buying new clothes (don’t we all do this?).

My 2 cents August 31, 2010 at 11:16 am

You owe it to her and yourself and your family to tell her she is dressed inappopriately. It doesn’t matter what size dress she wears, it’s all too tight and short. She probably intuitively knows but doesn’t care or doesn’t realize how uncomfortable it makes you and your son and wouldn’t do it if she knew just how much it bothers you and just how much of a fool she is making of herself.

Be nice but direct. Tell her you can see her . . . .fill in the blanks. Tell her you’ve seen your son’s friends stare and oogle and that they are likely talking about her.

You can offer to take her clothes shopping if you want, but I don’t think you have to. She can and should be able to dress herself appropriate to her job.

Anon August 31, 2010 at 11:06 am

Could she have put on a little weight during her stay and that is why her clothes are so tight. If this is the case, please be sensitive. I know she is only with you a short time but commenting on this could be really hurtful to her and that won’t help matters at all.

Perhaps a sponsored trip to a local (cheap) clothes shop explaining that as she is going to be with boys (who like to play rough, football, on bikes or in fields), certain types of clothes are more appropriate, i.e. long shorts & t shirts, etc.

As others have said above there is no easy way of addressing this issue but by buying her a few items that fit and are in accordance with how you would prefer her to dress during work hours, it solves your somewhat delicate problem without coming out and saying “hey, your clothes don’t fit and you’re spilling out”

Also just a note for some, I have a naturally fuller chest and I find that unless I wear a polo neck, I have a cleavage so (IMO) the whole no cleavage rule is a bit excessive to me.

Jess August 31, 2010 at 11:12 am

I hope I didn’t offend you when I suggested a no cleavage rule. I guess this is something Jennifer will be able to judge and decide on. If her au pair is just wearing low cut tops, then t-shirts are much more appropriate, there isn’t a real need for a polo neck.

Jennifer August 31, 2010 at 11:25 am

Cleavage is not the issue, it’s the bottom half. Think about it! She will wear light colored shorts and we can totally see the dark colored brazilian thong underneath. She wears thin sweat type pants and well…. they are just TOO tight. I’m not going to buy her clothes as she goes out every weekend (haven’t seen that attire yet as she spends the night somewhere). She is also taking a trip to NY and wants to go to Europe.

My boys are the ones that told me about the belly ring because I didn’t really “check” her out. I usually make eye contact but after they were talking about it I had to “look”.

She came from 2 other families – I know! but this is our 3rd AP too. I insisted on talking to the last HM and she gave her great reviews except for she had younger kids and felt this AP would do better with older kids. But in this situation it is actually worse with older kids. She is doing a good job other than this. I don’t need or really want someone that is going to be “part of the family” and with us all the time. On weekends we are usually at a baseball tourney or football game and are often split as a family anyways. So I do need someone independent.

Should be working August 31, 2010 at 11:57 am

I had this talk with our first AP (we ended up in rematch over other issues). I told her that I had to bring up something with her that I was embarrassed to raise, because I think of myself as a progressive, nontraditional person. She was all ears, interested to see what embarrasses me, and I told her “You are a lovely, attractive, shapely young woman. Obviously you get a lot of attention, and that’s fine on off hours. But with the kids, I want you to dress more conservatively. Please show less skin and wear looser clothes. Again, I feel awkward saying this. I’m also happy to lend (or buy cheaply) some sweatshirts and sweatpants, for instance.

She still wore trashy-looking makeup and too much jewelry, but there was much less skin after that.

Jennifer August 31, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Thank you for the reponses. First, I know I need to address it and I really like what “Should be working” said. Kind of the compliment with what I want fixed.

Busy Mom August 31, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Yikes! Jennifer, I unfortunately don’t have any concrete suggestions for you, but I just composed a paragraph in our handbook about our “work” dress expectations. We have one of those “dare to match with us” handbooks, like Calif Mom’s dare to match with us family letter, which has brought us good luck thus far.

I realize that some people will think that a dress code is overly controlling, but when I used to work for a top professional services firm, the changeover to summer casual dress was always accompanied by a specific list of expectations in dress. i.e. no ripped jeans, no tube tops!

Good luck.

Marisa February 20, 2011 at 3:15 am

Ugh, I’m a little torn on this issue. As a California (born in LA) mommy, I am used to skimpy clothes, and even after 3 kids, (pregnant with the 4th), I still wear short shorts, cleaveage-showing tank tops, wedge heels, etc whenever I get back to my “skinny” weight after each baby. I grew up with an Eastern European Dad who definitely encouraged us to wear whatever we felt comfortable in, and told us that as long as we had the body for it- why not?? One day, we’d be old, we’d be wrinkled and that stuff wouldn’t fly. So, I’ve never had a problem wearing the skimpy stuff, in fact, I still wear string bikinis- after all my kids or even when I am pregnant, no issue with it whatsoever, it’s tied tight, no mishaps anywhere (and I have a 5,3 and 1 yr old).

THAT said…we are in the process of getting an au pair right now, a Latin one, and this whole conversation has gotten me thinking….I would not LOVE it if my au pair came out to breakfast in a see-through nightie, or if her butt-crack was showing when she picked up my kids at their private school. So, I guess there is a difference between dressing non-conservatively (as I would describe my own style) and dressing like a tramp. I’d say if your nipples or if your butt crack is showing, or if rolls of the nannies belly are hangin out, it might be time for a talk…otherwise, I’d say it’s just conservative parents vs. a 20-ish au pair who is simply comfortable in her skin.

jr23 June 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm

sounds like the wife is afraid of her taking the husband
i never heard that short shorts offend the average US citizen
millions of females wear them’
and yes they can be extreme dressers it is your problem.
unless you like burkas

how a person acts with the children is the important part.

Anonamomma July 4, 2011 at 6:52 am

CV – can you please remove the comment from “Jess” above – it is not nice to say the least.

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