Maryland Blogger Alliance

Alliance FAQs

Latest MBA Posts

May 14, 2007

Too sexy for your job

Frankly, I thought this article ("Are you too sexy for your job?") was going to be about me.

But it turns out to be about women who dress inappropriately for work. And by "dress inappropriately," I mean wearing the kind of attire about which Woody Allen wrote, "She wore a short skirt and a tight sweater and her figure described a set of parabolas that could cause cardiac arrest in a yak."

To some extent, these rules are unfair to women, who face more limits on their clothing at work than men. On the other hand, if you're a woman who thinks about practicalities, like being taken seriously not only by men but by other women, you might have figured this out on your own. So please don't complain about the rules. They're based on "science":

Dressing sexy can have negative affects at work especially the higher you climb on the ladder, according to a recent University of Lawrence study led by professor Peter Glick.

The study found that risqué dress on the job is viewed as inappropriate for those in all positions. Managers who dressed provocatively, however, were perceived less intelligent and less competent, while those in lower level positions (like receptionists) were not. The study also suggests that women who wear racy clothing are perceived as using their sexuality to advance professionally.
I'm kind of a traditionalist, myself, when it comes to office attire. And for men, too. The way I see it, people in an office should look as if they've dressed up, not dressed down, much less dressed for a night on the town. I can't really articulate a set of specific rules, but I know it when I see it.

So you'll be happy to know that the article has guidelines for you:
Skirts: Too little is too much. Skirt lengths should be no more than one hand-width above the knee.

Tops: 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 (with no straps revealed).

Dresses: No halter tops or cleavage-baring necklines. Avoid overly snug fits. Again, hemlines should hit no more than one hand-width above the knee.

Pants: Shun overly tight or hip-hugger pants that expose the midriff. Stick with neutral colors.

Shoes: Heels should be no higher than two inches; toe should be closed. Avoid strappy styles, bright colors and patterns.

Hair: Keep your hair sleek and off your face. Avoid the teased, over-processed look.

Makeup: Keep it clean and natural. Avoid heavy eyeliner or evening lipsticks.
And if you're President of the United States, you should definitely get a legal opinion before you show cleavage. As Susan Roane, a business etiquette expert who's quoted in the article says, "Clothing and appearance are visual shorthand. The point is to be noticed for your business skills, not your short skirts or push-up bra." The same applies to future Commanders-in-Chief.