Have you ever observed a professional woman whose cleavage was distracting? Showing too much in the workplace is a big NO! It’s inappropriate for a business environment. Studies show that a woman whose work attire is too provocative can be sabotaging her career. It’s become harder for women to know what to wear in the workplace because our culture has become so relaxed about workplace attire. The 20 and 30 somethings have been raised in the Casual Friday Era and can be confused about what IS appropriate. Culture and upbringing come into play, also.
Business etiquette experts say unflattering assumptions are made about women who wear provocative clothes and they’re not taken seriously. A study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, found that women in high-level positions who dressed in what was viewed as “sexy” outfits were viewed as less competent, regardless of their skill sets. The facts show that dressing too sexy can be hurting you professionally.
Issues in the Workplace
My clients are successful entrepreneurs or businesses who value image. Without exception, every dress code I have read addresses the very sensitive topic of ‘too sexy.’ One male client specifically asked me to address it in my presentation to his employees. It’s difficult, with the threat of sexual harassment, to speak to female employees about skirts that ride too high or outrageous platform heels meant for clubbing. Think of the time and resources businesses are wasting on this topic alone.
Issues with Credibility
Let’s take this a step further. Last week I was working with a very beautiful client who has a tendency to dress sexy. She’s successful, but was looking to up-level her personal brand and increase business. She often works with couples. She indicated that women seem to be put off by her. I explained (right or wrong) that some women WOULD be intimidated by her and I’d venture to say there are husbands that stayed a mile away because of it. I wonder how much business she’s missing out on?
Some women are tempted to use their sexiness to get ahead. DON’T! A woman should never resort to being sexy in order to advance her career. She should focus on the quality of her work and maintain a polished and professional personal style at the office.
Shark Tank’s Barbara Cocoran stresses that we dress for the career we ultimately want or the customer we are trying to attract. I couldn’t agree more.
Image Tips for the Professional Woman
Fitted vs. Tight
Fitted clothes are NOT tight and fit your shape elegantly. Tight compacts or compresses and is not for the workplace.
Skirts and Dresses
Too little is too much. Skirt lengths should be no more than two inches above the knee and think fitted instead of tight.
Make sure there is at least one-inch of room between body and fabric and that it is long enough to conceal your midriff. Stomach, breasts, back and shoulders should be covered. Fabric should not be overly sheer and a bra should be worn (yep, I said it!). Visible bra straps are strictly out of the question. And, wearing a red bra underneath a white blouse… not so much!!!
Avoid skinny jeans or overly tight pants. Stick with neutral solid colors.
Heels should be no higher than three to four inches. Avoid strappy styles, big platforms, bright colors and distracting patterns.
Keep your hair simple and out of your eyes. Avoid the teased, wild or over-processed look.
Makeup and Nails
Keep it clean and natural. Avoid heavy eyeliner or overpowering lip colors.
A woman’s work wardrobe should compliment who she is, not define it or send the wrong message that may hurt her career.
What do you think?