Accidentally Naked

and Other Wardrobe Malfunctions

Most days, my life is held together by the bare teeth of broken zippers and the bent metal of safety pins. I’m only one wardrobe malfunction away from being fired, disowned by my family, or completely naked in public.

In the quest to write a book, I grilled friends about their happiest times as well as their most embarrassing moments. Listening to countless stories that ended with “And then I was naked” prompted me to dedicate an entire article to clothing mishaps and accidental nudity. If I can save one person from baring their assets at the worst time, then this piece served its purpose.

Unfortunately, I’m a qualified expert on inadvertent nakedness and clothing conundrums. I’m the genius who walked into a customer appointment with my male coworker trying delicately to remove the “I Voted” sticker smashed to the bottom-hugging part of my skirt. I’ve worn two different shoes to work and have duct-taped my skirt hems in a pinch. I never have enough buttons on my shirt, and I spill food and drink onto noticeable spots. Early years as a breastfeeding mom still keep me fidgety during extra long meetings—especially if I’m wearing a sheer shirt.

So many times in my life, I’ve wondered if it’s me or a tiny set of hidden gremlins who pack for business trips. Black patent shoes paired with yoga pants are not professional attire, and don’t get me started on the trip that sent me on a midnight Target run to buy underwear.

Growing up, I was a modest and private person and spent years hiding all that Adam and Eve barely graced with fig leaves. Despite our best intentions to cover it all up, there are places we end up naked when it’s clearly not appropriate or intentional. It’s the random kind that makes a fantastic story—and an excellent blackmail opportunity.

Listening to tales of my friends also confirmed a widely known scientific fact: little folks have internal love radars that can sense when anything remotely romantic is about to happen between mama and daddy. “So tired. I love my blankey. Snooooooze. Hey, wait! Was that the sound of Daddy’s zipper?”

One moment, you’re putting the kids down for naps and tiptoeing off to the bedroom. A nanosecond and a broken lock later, a cutie with toddler curls shows up at the bedside asking why mommy is playing cowboy and pony with daddy.

Flip that scene. What happens if your parents catch you naked? It doesn’t matter if you are thirteen or thirty—time doesn’t heal the embarrassment of being naked in front of the folks.

My best friend lost her dignity and bikini bottoms in the Gulf of Mexico. The undertow snatched her itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny polka dots and deposited her bare butt on the beach. Her hubby wasn’t there to rescue her, so her dad had to run her a towel while she fished her bottoms away from the sand crabs that had gathered to claim their booty.

Then there’s the worst kind of naked. That which happens in front of a complete stranger.

Like the time I skirted past the 6′ x 4′ picture window with the FedEx man staring inside. In my defense, I was getting dressed and needed something from my desk. Retrieval of lotion from the drawer was a trigger to send an e-mail, water the plant, and pay an electricity bill. All of this activity made me hungry, and before I knew it, I was prancing around like a topless Vegas showgirl backstage at the Mirage. When the doorbell rang, I stood frozen, in my birthday suit, at the corner of my desk—holding a PopTart. I thought the delivery dude would just ring and go, so imagine the look on each of our faces when we locked eyes through the window.

I dropped like a commando to my knees and crawled across the floor to safety. The incident served as an excellent reminder to avoid naked multitasking and that having dirty windows is a strategy more than it is an oversight.

Thanks to multiple mishaps, I’ve gained years of priceless knowledge and collated a list of rules so you don’t navigate the accidentally naked seas. For your benefit, I’ve included a few corollaries that will help you avoid being next month’s centerfold feature. 

  • The moment you decide to skinny dip in the lake or the hot tub is the same moment your “friends” will steal your clothes and leave you to fend for yourself.

  • Pay very close attention to instructions the nurse gives you about the exam room gown. There’s a reason it ties in the back.

  • You should never believe that there is an “us” in “Let’s all go streaking!”

  • A single towel is never going to get you up or down the stairs or across the house before a doorbell rings. Teenagers compound the problem when they invite friends over.  

  • Bo Derek moments always look better in the movies—nothing sexy about losing your britches midstride.

  • And finally, no matter how deserted the running path, Murphy’s Law dictates that someone will show up the moment you drop your drawers to take care of Mother Nature’s business. Not that I would know.

If you’re one of the two percent that this hasn’t happened to, just know that your time is coming. There might be an unsuspecting FedEx man waiting in your driveway right now.

By Michelle Terry

* A Note About the Author: Michelle Terry is a registered dietitian whose day job involves keeping people healthy through wellness, prevention, and chronic disease management. When she's not working or wrangling a teenager, she is running, boxing, and managing an unruly garden. You can read more about her imperfect life at