Journal Square is a major transportation hub in Jersey City for bus connections and PATH train transfers. Much in the same way New York city’s “Times Square” was named after The New York Times newspaper, “Journal Square” is named after The Jersey Journal newspaper.

The Journal Square area is ripe with cultural monuments and ethnic identifications. India Square is one of my favorite places to visit and eat and drink! I also do my banking in the massive Journal Square complex.

The other day one of my favorite bank tellers, a young and vivacious Asian Indian woman, was obviously distraught. She was outside the bank and was inhaling cigarettes in one breath. She told a fitful story to her fellow female tellers who were also smoking and silently nodding.

They were all covered in a cloud of smoke and fumes and I couldn’t help but slow my pace to find out why everyone was sending out such urgent smoke signals. Together, they all blocked the entrance to the bank. You had to press through them, and their smoke, to gain access to your money.

“My boss said I’m wearing invisible pants!” My favorite teller said with blue ropes of smoke curling from her mouth and back into her nostrils. Her friends nodded but said nothing. I slowed down even more to try to see what “invisible pants” might look like.

I knew all about “vomit pants” because I invented the term, but the idea of “invisible pants” having such an emotional effect on the person wearing them — uh, not wearing them? — was too intriguing to pass up, so I came to a full stop.

I bent down and pretended to tie my shoe. I was covered by their nicotine fog so I didn’t feel I was being too obvious watching and listening.

“She told me to go home and change my pants or not come back from break!” As the smoke cleared, I finally saw them in the flesh… there — Invisible Pants — right there before my eyes — uh, not before my eyes? — in their creamy, soft, paper-thin, skin-toned glory!

“I paid $150 for these pants and I don’t pay that kind of money for something you can’t see!” Her friends blew smoke around her in response.

I understood what her boss meant. Her invisible pants were not work appropriate. They were beyond skin-tight, they were cellulite-tight where every bulge and ripple were in loud, advertised, evidence.

“This is a civil rights issue. We can wear what we want! Am I right?” Her friends said nothing. Her invisible pants were so tight she was not not able to wear underwear and that was obvious to anyone who bothered to look in her direction.

She no longer had “private parts” because every pubic part of her was public and highly defined and squirming for release beneath her invisible pants.

“She’s old and fat and jealous! Can I help it I got the junk in my trunk? I’m right, right?” Her friends said nothing. She looked more like a hooker than a bank teller and I felt for her that her boss had to tell her to go home and wear something that honored her beautiful work ethic instead of announcing her bad taste in clothes.

“I’m not going back in. I’m going home. I’m going to sue. I’m going to teach her a lesson. Right?” Her friends said nothing. I realized her friends were helping her by not answering her. I knew she would soon get the idea that, perhaps, invisible pants were more appropriate for invisible jobs where you don’t handle other people’s money all day.

I was happy there was still a boss in the world who cared about employee appearance and who held a minimum standard for dressing appropriately for an important job. I finished pretend tying my shoe and stood up to enter the bank.

My favorite teller recognized me and nodded as she blew a steady stream of smoke out of the corner of her mouth. I went back to the bank the next day and my favorite teller was there to help me. She was wearing an elegant pair of black velvet pants that honored her sophistication and intelligence.

Sometimes invisible pants can remind us of who we are — and who we are not — and set us back on the path of honoring our true selves and not what we purchase for pretending.

48 Comments

  1. I can tell it’s going to be a long day. Akismet is pulling all the comments for this article and marking them as Spam!
    So everyone bear with me here as I clean you out of Akismet all day long so it might begin to learn talking about invisible pants does not always equal Spam!
    😀

  2. A S —
    Yeah! $150 for pants that she probably would never wear again in public. What a waste!
    They also had to be really uncomfortable and pinching. I’m sure she was in some way happy to remove them from her hips.
    I’m glad her boss and her friends didn’t try to convince her she was right. They just let her stew in a $150 pot she boiled herself.

  3. It’s beyond my comprehension how people can act so dumb!
    Can’t we expect a minimum level of professional standard from every matured human being under the Sun?
    I am glad that I was not her boss – I would have called a cop!
    It reminded me of a recent news about a couple hiring a stripper for their son’s 16th birthday party.
    May be when this gentleman would start working he would go for an all ‘invisible dress’!
    I don’t get it – it makes me cringe.

  4. Hi Katha —
    It makes me cringe, too. The world is getter crasser by the day.
    I want to know who would MAKE invisible pants in the first place and then sell them for $150?!
    The sad part is the young woman thought she looked good. She didn’t think she was being inappropriate. She spent a lot of money to dress up for work. It’s a hard thing to tell someone they have bad taste when they spend a lot of money on what they think is “good taste.”

  5. My point is exactly the same.
    How come someone can be so oblivious about what’s appropriate and what’s not? Why? Just because she felt she looked good? How come someone can be so BLIND in every sense of the term? So CLOSED, that nothing gets through?
    People can make whatever they want, I can buy whatever I want too, but can I afford to be so insensible/insensitive to my environment? I don’t think so.

  6. Believe it or not those rules are not as restrictive as they seem – they are in a way liberating, allowing people to focus not on what a woman’s cleavage looks or the possibility of a nipple slip but what a woman is really like.
    I hang with people of all sorts. I just wouldn’t marry them all 😛
    In many ways men do have the same restrictions. The idea is that you shouldn’t be calling attention to yourself, to not make an effort to stand out in the crowd as it were. Additionally, some hold that men can’t dye their hair as it is a woman thing to do but with the advent of products like ‘just for men’ i have to say it no longer is.

  7. Dave —
    Crisp bills and crisp necks! I won’t “go there” when it comes to the crispness of your overtly gay employee and the back of his neck.
    I fixed “after-stare” to what I meant — “after-state.” I understand hickeys are clueless and unappetizing but they are not unsanitary are they? Your guy wasn’t getting his hickey while he was cooking bacon, was he?

  8. Gordon —
    Do you have a web link for the rules for men like you provided for the women?
    It’s an interesting argument for you to make that all those rules for women actually liberate them!
    Who decides if a woman is in compliance or not and what is done about it if there’s a difference of opinion?

  9. I understand, but it’s really scary when the concept of “high fashion” equals “public display of private parts”.
    She might be happy displaying…but she needs to realize that a bank is not the right place for it. The target audience is not right.

  10. Hi Katha!
    Yes, “high fashion” is a feeble concept at times that plays to vanity and not reality.
    What would you do if someone gave you a pair of invisible pants for your birthday? Would you wear them at home? Would you return them? Would you give them back to the King with a “thanks, but not thanks” thank-you note enclosed?

  11. I’m not aware of a site I could link with hard and fast rules for men however we do learn proper dress, in theory, from our observant parents.
    Who decides if a person is immodestly dressed? I think the laws of modesty make that decision. It’s almost a bit like smog emission. Either a car passes a smog emission test or it doesn’t. At both my old synagogue and the one I attend now, no woman has ever been reprimanded for dressing immodestly. However, that is one good reason there is a mechitza – seperator – between the men and women.
    It works best when, as in my synagogue in NY, the women are on the upper level and the men are on the lower level. (The whole building is built for acoustics so everyone hears quite well.)
    http://arielrubinstein.tau.ac.il/photo/mea_shearim/images/mea_shearim_8.jpg
    You will notice it is addressed at women and girls. I think this is because, thank G-d, men generally are never seen to walk around with their testicles hanging out. Jennifer Lopez will tell you that it’s quite possible to wear a dress and see nearly all of a woman’s breasts.

  12. Good question! 😀
    First of all, I don’t see any living creature in my vicinity who would even dare to present me a gift like that (A cat has nine lives, but a human being doesn’t!).
    My friends won’t, because they don’t encourage the idea.
    I don’t accept gifts from a mere acquaintance.
    If Someone wants to see me in those see-through pipe??? What I would do with them is a closed door activity, not for public! 😀

  13. Hi Gordon —
    It was this passage in the URL you provided that caused me to wonder about enforcement:

    Hair which is difficult to contain in a regular well-fitted hair covering is halachically (according to law) exempt from this obligation. This refers to hair which grows on the temples next to the ear or on an exceptionally low hairline that extends below what a net or tiechel (scarf) would normally contain.
    Although there is no obligation to cover such hair, nevertheless, if local shomrei mitzvos (observant Jews) are stringent and cover them, the halacha (law) obliges women who live in this locality to behave likewise. In fact, many have adopted the custom to be stringent because Kabbalistically much stress is put on covering all hair of the head without exception. If a woman is just temporarily in a place that is stringent, she is obliged to cover this hair in accordance with the local minhag (custom), even though it is halachically (by law) permitted for her to show this hair at home where people are used to it.
    There is no heter (leniency) for a lock of hair that comes from the upper head area to descend and protrude from the tiechel (scarf), snood etc. at the temples or even below them since such hair can easily be contained. There is no heter (leniency) for even a minor part of the hair to be uncovered over the forehead. Such hair must therefore be covered in line with all other hair.

    It seems there are lots of rules that can vary, perhaps even from neighborhood to neighborhood and the woman must, at all times, be vigilant and on-point to never offend anyone. That doesn’t seem like a very liberated life to me.
    Thanks for the image link you provided. So even non-Jewish women and girls can offend the senses by dressing immodestly? Isn’t that a little hard to enforce on a public street?

  14. Hi Katha!
    Wow! You’re a hard case to crack!
    So let’s say I was able to offer you a pair of invisible pants at half price. I will pay for them. I will ship to to you free of charge. You do not know the gift I am sending you is invisible pants until you try them on.
    They fit perfectly — just as you would expect invisible pants to fit.
    I sent them to you as a gift to remember this day we are sharing together. I have no expectation anyone would ever see you in the invisible pants except for those you choose to show.
    Would you accept my gift after opening it?
    Or would you send it back to me?
    Or would you place the invisible pants on eBay for sale to the highest bidding pre-teen from New Jersey?

  15. It’s not really a matter of offending people but sticking to local custom. This hardly ever comes into play in real life because most people tend to hang around people who follow similar customs to them. Moreover, though it does say that it is an obligation to do so but nobody is going to scream and yell if a woman doesn’t. It’s really not too big of a thing.
    As for the public street – the only way anyone would get into the neighborhood would be to walk past one of the posted signs. There is no reason anyone would have to go through those streets other than to be in that neighborhood. If you want to smoke, go to the smoking section. Don’t light up in the nonsmoking section. 🙂

  16. Dave —
    But a costume and makeup are immediately removable. If you punish a person for a temporary physical defect — a hickey — and refuse to let them back in the door to work until the hickey disappears aren’t you being discriminatory based on individual physiology? Not everyone heals at the same rate so you would be unfairly financially punishing those who are not quick healers.
    What about dark-skinned people? How do you distinguish between a hickey and a birth mark or a blemish?

  17. You could attend a wedding wearing blue jeans – but you wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if you did – but it would be inappropriate.
    Rest assured that if you have friends or acquaintences in the neighborhood you dress like that too. 🙂

  18. Let me give an analogy.
    When Phish used to tour, I went to as many shows as I could. I always wore black trousers and a t-shirt of some sort – sometimes a nicer shirt, sometimes a pretty plain shirt. I never wore a phish shirt because I figured the fact that I was there spoke to my being a fan. I sometimes wore a disney shirt and I had to laugh one night when I wore the standard Mickey Mouse shirt (you would know it if you’d see it) and Trey (the guitarist) was wearing a very similar mickey mouse shirt. 🙂
    Anyhow, people used to give me the weirdest looks – and I heard murmurings of “narc” from time to time. Why did people think I was a narcotics person, particularly when I would wear a long sleeved collared dress shirt? I stood out and therefore was singled out.
    Had I been wearing a phish shirt and jeans I would have blended right in. I wasn’t and was never a shirt and jeans person.

  19. I have one more point.
    As I can see in the Indian Square people are wearing all sorts Indian dresses, which are known to be modest.
    What if, as an Asian Indian woman, I start wearing those gorgeous dresses in my workplace from tomorrow? Without even revealing, exposing anything?
    I think my boss would ask me to go home and change. In fact, I would ask my employee to go and change if someone wears some ethnic dresses in a formal workplace. Provided, my workplace has a properly placed attire policy/dress code.

  20. I sorta like the idea of “invisible pants.” 😉
    Of course, those are better left at home and worn in the privacy of ones home.
    When the juvenile court was still in Gary, there was a sign that spelled out the dress code because people had forgotten that you can’t wear a bikini top or reveal body parts while appearing for court.
    Some people have no clue when it comes to dressing appropriately. Nobody has ever taught them how to dress to impress. What looks cute to your friends, may not be that appealing to others.
    When I worked at the grocery store during college, the management sent a guy home who had shaved his beard in such a way that it prompted complaints from scared customers. He had shaved stripes in his beard and had a Devil goatee. It was too much for the older folks to handle.
    I think some thought the Devil was asking if they needed any help out to their car!
    They couldn’t fire him for that because of the union contract, unless he violated the dress code’s rule for being presentable more than three times.
    Of course in Indiana, if there’s no contract, all employment is “at will.”
    An employer can fire you whenever he or she pleases.

  21. Hi Katha!
    Now that’s fascinating! I have students who dress in that sort of Indian outfit and come to class! I think those forms of dress are wholly acceptable for work here on the East Coast. I’m surprised you think your workplace would send you home. What would their reason be for making you change your clothes?

  22. Hi Chris!
    That’s interesting how there’s a dress code for court that is required. Isn’t that prejudicial on its face, though? If there is a minimum acceptable fashion look for court, isn’t that discriminatory against those who cannot afford that sort of wardrobe? If you cannot afford proper clothes for court, will shirts and pants be provided at no charge?
    😀
    “At will” employment is a sorry thing. The workers are consumables with no long-term protection or promises of employment.

  23. I don’t think the Court enforces the dress code, unless body parts are hanging out and distracting people.
    Also, they limit your free speech by not allowing obscenity on T-shirts! 🙂
    Very true about the “at will” employment situation.
    Of course, I have a contract with my employer, so it never hurts to ask for one.

  24. I think that Katha makes a great point on this. She qualified her statement in that it was a “formal workplace” with a “properly placed attire policy/dress code”. Her employer may find that the beautiful but culture centered attire to be distracting to clients or other employees.
    On the other hand, there may be instances where culture and religion may also address certain clothing choices. If a Jewish woman followed the laws of tznius as per the link that Gordon Davidescu provided or a Muslim woman wore a hijab to work or if there was a special time of the year where one of those dresses are to be worn, I do not believe that that could or should be discriminated against.

  25. Hi Chris —
    It’s interesting that we do have minimum modes for expected behavior. A person could not attend court without clothes because that would be public indecency, yet there is no universal government remedy for those who cannot afford to attend court except in tatters.
    Even contracts don’t promise employment. We all are really only “at will” unless we want to fight the system.
    😀

  26. A S —
    In the pictures Katha mentioned I don’t see anything in them that is offensive or not business appropriate even in a formal setting. They could even argue they are wearing religious garb and it is part of their belief system to always wear them in public. No court would rule against them.

  27. I also go to class sometimes wearing Indian outfits just because it feels very comfortable. Going to school is different.
    I also wear those when I go for shopping too. Sometimes people stare at me like – “which planet you are from?”
    East coast and West coast has a significant amount of Asian Indian population, probably you guys are used to it.
    Minneapolis (my nearest city) has a very large Indian population, but I can’t remember seeing anyone wearing Indian dress in any office.
    If I enter my office wearing an Indian dress, I am sure my boss is going to have some hiccups and would definitely goof up his daily agenda. Simply because he is not used to it.
    I am not 100% sure, but it’s my assumption that I would be very politely asked to dress professionally from the next day.

  28. On the other hand, I have seen some student employees here coming to work wearing a little better version than a spaghetti tops.
    If they were in India, they would definitely be asked to go home and change.
    I don’t mind following a rule, when that is followed by everybody – regardless of caste, creed and religion.

  29. Katha —
    I think that sort of Asian Indian dress is appropriate for any setting. It is beautiful, fashionable and elegant!
    I’m sorry to hear your boss might feel you need to change your clothes. I remember growing up in Lincoln a long time ago and there were a couple of teachers who came to school and went to a Christian church dressed like the women in the photos.
    Thin tops are tasteless no matter the culture. There’s a difference between being provocative and being culturally true.

  30. I wonder how accepting we are of other cultures even in the most urban parts of the U.S.
    How much do we expect of naturalization and assimilation in to the city one inhabits?
    Would we stare if someone was dress like this? http://www.terragalleria.com/asia/china/shaping/picture.chin4880.html
    Or if their face was intentionally scarred like this?
    http://unreysincorona.blogia.com/upload/west_africa_scarification.jpg
    What may seem to be good taste to one culture may be offensive to another. What exactly is the determinant for “good taste”? There seems to be some common rules that most people in the U.S. seem to adhere to but the rules may change over time. According to some “not wearing white after Labor Day” is still a rule to follow, while to others the rule is outdated and no longer applies. Is good taste simply a matter of majority rules?
    I found the whole 90’s baggy jeans that some teenage boys wore at the base of their waist with their boxers exposed distasteful but the culture of the group thought it good taste in keeping with the fashion of the times. If the style had greater permanence and was accepted by the vast majority, would it be adopted as “good taste”?

  31. Hey A S —
    I don’t see anything wrong with the way of dressing in your first link and I’ve seen that sort of formal dress on the East Cost in New York and New Jersey. The second link is dead for me.
    Taste is a matter of method. Good taste is a matter of training. It is difficult to have good taste in this world that is shared by more than those outside your aesthetic inner circle so you then try to honor the best intentions of others and if they need correcting because of crassness or ineptitude you try to help them through it.