What's wrong with dressing sexy at work?
In an age of 'business casual,' many up-and-coming professionals think nothing of wearing spike heels and short skirts to the office. But will it hurt their careers? Anne Fisher, in her Nov. 8 Ask Annie column, quotes a study that found "a sexy self-presentation harms businesswomen" who are in, or who aspire to, managerial jobs. What do you think?
Posted by Gabrielle S. 10:38 AM 103 Comments comment | Add a Comment

I've seen worse, much worse!
Posted By Clark - Norwalk, CT : Wed Nov 08, 03:04:25 PM  

I think it was Coco Chanel who in effect said: Dress poorly and they notice the clothes. Dress impeccable and they notice the woman. That has always been a guiding priniciple for me.
Posted By JB San Diego, CA : Wed Nov 08, 03:33:26 PM  

From my male, middle-aged perspective, having weathered the many storms about sexual harassment in the work place, I cannot conceive how a woman can possibly believe that it is okay to dress provocatively and not receive any male response.

I consider that to be pure harassment, if not evil!
Posted By Mark, Dover, NH : Wed Nov 08, 03:56:55 PM  

Your last paragraph says it all - however, beware of looking at the highest tier of women professionals, as they may have eased off the dress code now that they are where they want to be in the line-up.
Posted By Angelina, New York City, NY : Wed Nov 08, 04:00:07 PM  

Assertive, business-like, women who dress a little more aggressively than average I feel get promoted faster.
Posted By glenn, new york, ny : Wed Nov 08, 04:15:42 PM  

If she does not know the difference between club clothes and business clothes. How can I trust her to make the right decision for me. If she does not know what's appropriate, how am I supposed to trust her with my information.
Posted By Karen, Richmond VA : Wed Nov 08, 04:39:10 PM  

When taking a queue form a superior�s wardrobe remember� �Dress for the job you want not the job you have.�
Posted By Chris, St. Louis : Wed Nov 08, 05:03:19 PM  

Of course, it doesn't help that when a woman goes shopping many of the tops are low cut and shoes are sexy. I prefer to wear a simple buttoned up, collared shirt but one that doesn't have glittery or is low cut is many times difficult to find.
Posted By Nicole, Columbia, MO : Wed Nov 08, 10:57:51 PM  

As a male, I would prefer that women not expose so much skin. What is also sad is that often the clothes don't fit (i.e. they are too small for the body) which makes me wonder if the woman has any idea how sloppy she looks when the clothes don't fit. Short tops are the same issue.
Posted By Rich Seattle WA : Thu Nov 09, 01:23:11 AM  

In the experiment the people commented on who 'appeared most competent'. The question I want answered is 'who got the job?'
Posted By Edward, Baltimore, MD : Thu Nov 09, 08:16:22 AM  

As an owner of a medium size professional services business, a woman dressed as you described would be rejected for employment at the interview level simply for showing poor judgment. Someone who attempts to pass off provocative clothing as a "style" in an office environment is going to have problems at multiple levels.
Posted By Mark, Nashville TN : Thu Nov 09, 08:17:28 AM  

I am an accounting manager in a department that is obviously meant to be conservative. I understand the need to feel good about what you're wearing, so my advice to this woman's daughter would be to compromise. Wear the sexy heels with a more conservative sweater and slacks or a skirt that covers her knees. Or wear a blouse with a button or two open, with slacks and flat shoes.
Posted By SPS, Toronto, ON : Thu Nov 09, 08:19:46 AM  

I certainly agree with your advice and with the results of the research you cite. But the daughter may value her personal style over professional success. As a parent, I would make clear that that is the choice she is making.
Posted By Peter, Seattle : Thu Nov 09, 08:33:01 AM  

As an older woman who has discussed office dress with many a younger woman, it is a matter of degree. There is a difference between feminine and provacative, form-fitting and form-hugging, 1 1/2" spike heels and 3" spikes. One can be feminine, using jewelry, scarves, color and style. A pretty well-tailored blouse is good; a too-tight and low-necked sweater is not. Save turtlenecks for the ski lodge, mini-skirts for the boardwalk. We can not dress provocatively and still claim the right to yell "sexual harassment." We also don't need to dress like our maidenly great-aunt Matilda. As women, if we want to succeed, we must lead with our brains, not with our bodies.
Posted By Cheri MacLean Raleigh, NC : Thu Nov 09, 09:01:24 AM  

A woman with a great body with perfect hair in a Diorsuit looks just great. Very sexy. I think heels are ok, but not spikes.
Posted By Ron, Cape Town, South Africa : Thu Nov 09, 09:06:04 AM  

I agreed that showing skin in business institution is not place to attract sex. Smart, intelligent, beautiful women does not need to show their skin to get to the top. You are what you wear. Showing skin does not make you a smart person.
Posted By Simone, Dallas, TX : Thu Nov 09, 09:14:02 AM  

I'm 22 and just got my first office day job as a receptionist. I cannot even fathom dressing provacatively at work, how could anyone take me seriously?! I came from the world of bartending so I'm used to dressing a little on the sexier side but that is OUT of the question now. I think younger women especially (like myself and the daughter) need to dress very carefully to ensure that the focus is on our work, not how we look. This should be common sense!
Posted By Jennifer, Baltimore MD : Thu Nov 09, 09:23:01 AM  

Dressing like a Hollywood actress or a pop singer is stylish in some circles.
Dressing like a business professional is stylish in almost all circles.
If a lady wants to earn a good salary she should dress to look like she is competent to earn it.
Miami Florida or Miami Oklahoma, the same rule applies.
Posted By Lew, Siloam, Arkansas : Thu Nov 09, 09:36:24 AM  

Wearing what complements my body makes me feel good and youthful. There's a way to be tasteful and still sexy.
Posted By Shod, Atlanta GA : Thu Nov 09, 09:51:07 AM  

Is the woman's dress is modest, or is it immodest? If it is modest, wherever she is it's okay. If her dress is immodest, she is not dressed properly, wherever she is.
Posted By R M Kraus Akron Ohio : Thu Nov 09, 09:51:39 AM  

I think that women should dress appropriately for the work place. I work in an automotive factory. It is dirty. Most women wear little to no makeup. Jeans and t-shirts are standard. However, one woman at work makes it a point to wear so much makeup (particularly eyeliner), that we have named her Twisted Sister. She always wears her long hair down. Even on extremely hot days. And she dresses up like she is going out. Yesterday she wore khaki cords and an off white blouse. Then, we also have women who wear spaghetti strap tanks with a push up bra. This can be distracting and lead to unwanted comments by the men at work. I feel that the women who do this are just looking for attention. And the work place is not the place for seeking out attention that is not related to work duties.
Posted By Cozette, Carmi. IL : Thu Nov 09, 09:52:30 AM  

I would like to know if the study was replicated. I would also be interested in how the people made their decisons looked and dressed. People have different opinions on what is sexy and what isn't. Personal experience has shown women who are not attractive do not what to look at others who are, they are a perceived threat. Women who I see as uptight, I don't trust with my business, I like a sense of style not having to be "sexy" but not looking like a man either.
Posted By Brian, Jefferson City, Missouri : Thu Nov 09, 09:56:08 AM  

Women should dress professionally, period. Save "sexy" for after hours. I have a very intelligent friend in the office who can't seem to get that message. Dressing sexy in the workplace sends a message, just like it does in a bar. Is that the message you want to send in the workplace? Has my friend been passed over for promotion because of her appearance? Absolutely. Not only because of the way she looks, but because its a signal to management that she can't pick up on what everyone else in the company is doing. If you want to present yourself as a sexy person, then maybe the corporate world isn't for you.
Posted By Kiki, Washington, DC : Thu Nov 09, 09:57:26 AM  

As an engineering manager at a large company, I've seen women of all ranks get it right and get it wrong. The point is that if you want to do well in your career, you shouldn't dress or behave in ways that distract people from your work. If you dress like this young lady, people will assume that your primary goal at work is to attract a mate. Or worse yet, to be the Alpha female, which often gives men the wrong impression that you're after a mate. Men have it easy in that their standard wardrobe of khakis and button-downs doesn't call more attention to their six-pack abs than to their professional competence.
As a side note, if this mother is so involved in her grown daughter's career that she's compelled to write you about it, it's time for her to back off and let her daughter grow up. As an example, learning a hard first-hand lesson about people thinking she's a bimbo because she shows cleavage might help her develop some independent thinking and problem-solving skills.
Posted By Chris, Raleigh NC : Thu Nov 09, 10:17:14 AM  

It appears she is more interested in attracting a man/feeding her ego than building a career at this point. She'll either figure it out, or she won't, but I'll bet there isn't a bimbo sitting in the VP's office.
Posted By Dale, Oklahoma City, OK : Thu Nov 09, 10:25:46 AM  


This Column has helped me tremendously. :)
Posted By Heather, Gadsden, AL : Thu Nov 09, 10:48:25 AM  

Dressing to show skin in the workplace does not enhance one's ability to climb the corporate ladder. It has the opposite effect. Our company has a fashion consultant and annual company allowance for "business attire" for salaried employees.
Several of our younger (30's) female friends have shown up in Madonna style outfits at social events and shocked all those attending.
I guess this is the shock and awe era.
Call me an old fashioned male - the more left to the imagine is best for everyone. I am a baby boomer.
Posted By mike mccartney norfolk va : Thu Nov 09, 10:49:21 AM  

How you dress tells the world how you feel about yourself. This is more about self-esteem. If she realized and dealt with the feelings of inadequacy that trick her into thinking that it's better to represent herself and her employer by dressing provoctively, she would soon, on her own, begin to dress a bit more to impress. All she needs is a bit of self-worth, which she can find via compliments from her mother, her bosses, her friends and her co-workers on the days she wears something more conservative.
Posted By laura, austin, tx : Thu Nov 09, 10:52:06 AM  

I wholeheartedly can relate to this mother's concern for her daughter's appearance in the workplace. Females dressing sexy in the workplace only sends one message (SEX). My daughter finally realized this in order for her career to advance. The moment she decided to change her office appearance made all the difference in the world. She even surprised herself because she knew others saw her as being an intelligent person and not a sex object.
Posted By Mrs. Williams, Thomaston, GA : Thu Nov 09, 11:08:59 AM  

If it is appropriate for a club it doesn't belong in the office! I am surprised that she has actually gotten as far as she has if her dress is that sexy, as banks are very conservative. Their customer base has certain expectations regarding how someone in the banking profession should look -- I would not want to have someone who looks like a hoochy mama processing my loan!
Posted By Annette, Richmond VA : Thu Nov 09, 11:28:31 AM  

I would say it depends on your field. My wife is an attorney, and the courtroom is a formal setting.
Posted By Lewis Salem, Winston-Salem, NC : Thu Nov 09, 11:29:49 AM  

There is nothing wrong with dressing a little sexy at work--as long as you don't overdo it. Low cut blouse + short skirt + spike heels = too much. Pick one "sexy" item per outfit and make the rest look businesslike. (Though personally I'm not a fan of short skirts, you have to pay too much attention to how you sit.)
Posted By Raevynfox, Arlington VA : Thu Nov 09, 11:30:20 AM  

I work as an engineer for a major aerospace company, and we had the opportunity to interview a young woman just out of college, who, by all accounts was very smart, had a good gpa, and was considered an up-and-commer. When she showed up for the interview, however, she was very provocatively dressed; short skirt, heels, etc. My male collegues and I, while appreciating the eye candy, also felt it was terribly innappropriate in a professional environment. She ended up being hired anyway, and has since toned it down, but I think it ought to serve as a warning to young women entering (in this case) a predominantely male workplace.
Posted By Brad, Denver, CO : Thu Nov 09, 11:31:08 AM  

I am an attorney and I frequently wear 3in heels in the office and always wear them when I'm in court. However, I wear them with a smart pantsuit or a skirt of an acceptable length. If I wear a shorter skirt, I opt for a lower heel. If I wear open-toed heels, it is with slacks or with fashionable opaque hose and a skirt. I don't dress like a square either, I'm thin and tall so I'm able to wear very fashionable clothing. Balance is everything. If I wear a low cut blouse or a camisole type blouse, I wear a suit jacket over it. Looking feminine and "office-sexy" has worked to my advantage. I am frequently complemented on looking professional. The key is not to make your male business associates feel uncomfortable. If in doubt, I gauge myself by asking if I'd feel comfortable wearing a particular outfit or article of clothing around my father.
Posted By J. Alyssa, Topeka, KS : Thu Nov 09, 11:54:48 AM  

I agree with SPS in Toronto. It's all about compromise. I'm a 26 year old legal secretary at a large I.P. firm in Dallas. I wear the sexy 3 1/4 heels. But I wear them with pants and tops/button downs that fit properly. And what's up with the short skirts? Everyone knows that knee length pencil skirts are far more smart and flattering. The point is, you want to look sharp and trendy, and you don't want to be the topic of all the office gossip.
Posted By M.B., Dallas, Texas : Thu Nov 09, 12:02:16 PM  

As a fellow 26 year old woman who has worked in banking and insurance, and I can attest that the financial industry is very conservative. Working for a conservative business means dressing for the part. My rule of thumb? If the top I want to wear is low cut, pair it with a nice cami, absolutely no skirts above the knee, and slacks are always appropriate. Pair any of these with a great heel, and you will still feel sexy. This woman needs to wake up and smell the coffee.. she can advance only so far dressing like a sex kitten in a conservative workplace. If she is attractive to begin with, smart clothing choices will better compliment her body and she will finally be noticed and promoted for all the RIGHT reasons. Has her mother thought about nominating her for TLC's What Not to Wear?? Sounds like she'd be a perfect candidate.
Posted By Renee, Columbus, OH : Thu Nov 09, 12:04:41 PM  

I think women who have a sense of style feel they must dress more provacativly to overcome the lack of feminine feel to some business clothes. Properly tailored clothes in bright colors have helped me with that. However, I say if you can wear a high heel, do so and proudly the higher the better, just not with a short skirt-I think it shows confidence.
Posted By Ashley, Brentwood, TN : Thu Nov 09, 12:11:36 PM  

I think Annie is right! Unfortunately I've seen women get promoted because they dressed in a revealing manner, however: when it was time for them to perform their job, they came up short. Women have worked hard to advance and we do not need to show skin, to get promoted. Showing skin and batting your eyes is for little girls that want to control and manipulate men.
Posted By Liz, Riverside, CA : Thu Nov 09, 12:14:06 PM  

I work for the federal government and I dress up for work. Granted, I don't wear short skirts or terribly low cut shirts, but this is not the 1900's. Women can have style. I have style and spend a lot of money on my clohting, so I am going to wear what I want. I am NOT going to show up in the flower print one piece jumpsuits that some women wear to work. I think that there is a line, and I am sure not to cross it....but I would not appreciate someone judging me based on what I wear. I have a degree that I work HARD for, and I got hired, in a competitive environment based on MY skills. I had about four over-the-phone interviews (proving MY intelligence), and the first time they met me was my first day. I would be irate if someone thought I got my job based on how I look or dress! In my opinion, they just wish that they could pull it off like me!
Posted By Jenny, Chicago IL : Thu Nov 09, 12:16:02 PM  

I am a size 2 and wear nice dress pants that I buy from Anne Taylor, Casual Corner, and the like. Generally, my pants are fitted in the rear but hang straight on my legs (I have a bit of a bubble but.) My boyfriend always tells me my pants are too tight because they show my curves, but I don't think I should have to dress frumpy and wear oversized baggy pants at work just because I have a cute figure! Any thoughts?
Posted By Kendra Bollhardt, Dallas, TX : Thu Nov 09, 12:18:06 PM  

Dear Annie:

Women (and men) need to dress appropriately for the role that they are playing (or hope to play).

"Dressing sexy" is not a negative for a receptionist (although it may draw unwanted attention) because it is one of the unstated "requirements" of that role. But an executive woman (or man) who does that is undercutting her-(him- self because it calls into question one's executive abilities (and judgment). Thus, a strong sales performance by such a person might be (wrongly) attributed to "sleeping with clients" as opposed to being a good presenter. And it sends a poor message about being "promotable," which is the real key.
Posted By Thomas Au, New York, New York : Thu Nov 09, 12:30:38 PM  

From past job experience, those women who dressed provocatively were promoted quicker than those who were more competent and dressed conservatively.
Posted By Wendy, Chicago, IL : Thu Nov 09, 12:31:44 PM  

Though I am certain my comments won't be popular, I feel compelled to add them anyway:

When a woman dresses provactively at work, she becomes - at best, a distraction, and a worst, a serious problem. Do yourself and everyone else a significant favor and show a little respect. Respect yourself enough to dress professionally. Respect others enough to not pull their attention away from what really matters. Above all else, take responsibility for the fact that the way you act, talk, move, dress, etc. DOES all have an impact on others - either for good or for bad. That's the long and short of it.
Posted By PC, Salt Lake City, Utah : Thu Nov 09, 12:35:19 PM  

I think that you can dress the way that you want, but if it shows some skin you might want to chang into something more comfurtable that doesn't show skin.
Posted By Casey Bennettsville S.C. : Thu Nov 09, 12:35:38 PM  

i dont really see nothing wrong with dressing sexy at work i dont think that it should have any control over whehter or not you get a big job promotion or something like that because businesses should not discriminate on grounds such as these a job promotion should be given on the grounds of good workmanship and good team work and all other things of this sort. these are the reasons i feel the way that i feel
Posted By Roger Hayes, Bennettsville, South Carolina : Thu Nov 09, 12:35:56 PM  

There is a way to be sexy without dressing "sexy". There is an unspoken uniform in the buisness world and tight low cut clothes aren't it. It would be difficult for me to trust a women who wasnt dressed professional with any type of buisness. This is the office not the club!
Posted By LeoLin, Chicago Il : Thu Nov 09, 12:39:15 PM  

Wow! I can't imagine that her dress style in the bank environment doesn't violate their dress code. Having worked in the banking profession for many years it is an industry that notoriously leans toward the conservative in all facets of the work place including dress. Accounting firms, financial service groups and large law firms unequivocally lean toward conservative dress.

My advice to this young lady is if she wants to be considered seriously for upper management positions someday and not be the blonde bimbo joke of the office she reconsider her attire.
Posted By MR-Omaha, NE : Thu Nov 09, 12:47:41 PM  

I strongly agree with the idea that dress is related to the type of industry, location or culture that you are in. Each generation challenges the current mores of the preceding ones including the ideas of self-worth forcing change to occur. It sounds like the mother is trying to put her daughter into management before she is ready.

I feel that dress acceptance is determined first by company policy, then by the customer, then by management, then by co-workers. Perhaps the daughter should start her own business and service a niche market that would be suitable for her to conduct herself as she desires. There are many people who become independent contractors just to avoid workplace harassment politics. Also, I believe that professions are simply roles that we must play. They never represent all of who we truly are.
Posted By Dawson Green, Portland, OR : Thu Nov 09, 12:54:02 PM  

If you get unwelcome sexual attention, your style of dress is sexual harassment. Sexually comfortable men are never obnoxious to a woman they are attracted to. Men vary drastically in what they find too much, and you are imposed on all of them. Dress with the most agressive men in mind. They are the ones most influenced by a woman's attractiveness.
Posted By Steve Klaber Cleveland Heights, OH : Thu Nov 09, 12:56:21 PM  

In a "Perfect World", what you wear shouldn't be an asset or a detriment to your career. But this world isn't perfect and you are judged by appearances, including in the business world.

Tough enough for women to climb the corporate ladder. If one does make it, and dresses like a streetwalker, what do you think people will think? That she got there because she knows what she's doing, or because she's "doing" what she knows? (sex pun intended)
Posted By Jenna, Dallas, Texas : Thu Nov 09, 01:04:54 PM  

I just think there is a double-standard sometimes...A guy cannot work in an office without proper attire (i.e. Shirt, tie, slacks, etc.) But a woman can bend the rules of dress-code to the fullest extent...And the "sexier" a woman's work attire becomes the more EVERYONE ELSE in the office has to be forced to look at the floor because if someone takes more than a nanosecond's notice to the sexiness that is quite clearly and deliberately broadcast, now it becomes an HR issue. I am not advocating "coming on" to female co-workers, or treating them differently in ANY WAY. But I just think it is unfair that I, as a man, am EXPECTED to conform to a certain professional and non-threatening work wardrobe so both client and female employees alike can be comfortable throughout there work day, but a woman can push the card of both freedom of expression and comfort and make the rest of the staff feel both animosity over a non-equal playing field as well as an unnecessary cautiousness and need to walk on egg shells around said female co-worker.

Work clothes are for work so work can get done with co-workers. That should be the bottom line.
Posted By Ric Marlton, NJ : Thu Nov 09, 01:53:00 PM  

Improper dress on women or men has no place in the workplace. Offices and factories have dress codes that fit the needs of the business and the customers they serve. Overdressing, or underdressing never will get the person the respect that they may deserve for to job they are doing.
Posted By Paul, Troy Mich : Thu Nov 09, 01:59:52 PM  

I always try to dress sexier than my co-workers, then I'll get promoted faster
Posted By Maria Belcher Dallas, TX : Thu Nov 09, 02:09:26 PM  

Region matters. I'm in South Florida, and I spent 7 years in Boston. In Boston, what passed for "too sexy" would be "too bland" down here. If she is in Miami (as opposed to the rest of the area down here), then kick it up another notch. Banking is conservative, but Miami is not New York. Wearing black and grey with pant suits is professional in the Northeast, it's strange down here. Spiky heals are the norm down here, my wife hates them, and it hurts her, not helps her.

Regional differences matter, and people in greater Miami dress more provocatively. I would bet that the mom's concerns are valid, but overstated. Miami is Miami, learn to embrace it.
Posted By Alex, Fort Lauderdale, FL : Thu Nov 09, 02:12:05 PM  

I always say "If you can wear it to a club, it isn't right for the office"!
Posted By Cat, CA. : Thu Nov 09, 02:13:58 PM  

Here's too real life examples:

Two women, both about 40 with nice long slim figures. One was my boss, with a PhD. The other was an administrative assistant, probably college educated.

My boss would balance the business casual with attractive. With her short spikey blonde hair, she'd wear a just-above-the-knee pencil skirt, with a loose fitting blouse and a jacket. At close to 5'10" she never wore heels. Or, she'd wear the sleevless scoop-neck top with the slim fitting but not tight slacks.

The admin would wear HER blonde hair in a top-knot ponytail. She frequently wore tops that hit right above her waistband so that you'd get flashes of skin. She wore tall heels all the time. My impression of her was always of Aging Barbie. It was kind of sad.

I always thought that if I reached my 40 and managed to hold onto my figure that I would certainly dress it up better than she did, more like my boss.
Posted By Jen, Atlanta, GA : Thu Nov 09, 02:15:04 PM  

Nobody has mentioned that perhaps the way she dresses, is the reason she has climbed the ladder in the first place....
Posted By Vicki - Dallas, TX : Thu Nov 09, 02:24:11 PM  

There is a place for everything. Work is not the place. Should men show their chests or wear Speedos at work? No. Perhaps a bit of counseling for those that are so insecure about their intellectual attributes? I also believe that women may need a diversion to overcome feeling second in power to men at the office.
Posted By Mark, Los Angeles, CA : Thu Nov 09, 02:43:30 PM  

I agreee that you are judged by what you wear, especially in a conservative work environment. As a woman, I consider it an insult to all women when a woman feels she has to dress sexy at work. Work is just that - work. You can dress attractively without showing skin. Women like this woman make it hard for other women to be taken seriously. I resent someone like her - they set women's rights back 50 years at least. I have worked hard all my life, and I expect to be taken seriously and respected for my work. Save the sexy attire for the clubs on your time off.
Posted By Jean, Warner Robins, GA : Thu Nov 09, 02:50:14 PM  

I have found that dressing in high heels and minis at work has definitely impeded my career path. A lot of probably has to do with the fact that I'm a man.
Posted By Karl - Seattle, WA : Thu Nov 09, 02:51:01 PM  

We can not dress provocatively and still claim the right to yell "sexual harassment."

Well actually you can. Sexy dress does not allow someone to sexually harass you, but of course, the 'atmosphere' of the work environment does seem to play a role in determining what constitutes over-the-line behavior.

Sexy dress can cause a significant distraction from focus on work-related matters. And that distraction can have all kinds of consequences, as that study showed. Isn't that one reason men used to wear three piece suits, with a shirt buttoned at the collar and a tie? You add a t-shirt, and that's 4 layers of clothing between you and the person.
Posted By DanBoyson Collegeville PA : Thu Nov 09, 02:52:04 PM  

Definitely, career women are moving up in the corporate world but it takes brains and not looks to get there. If you're an attractive woman to begin with, then there's no need to flaunt yourself to be noticed. Career women need to be proud of their achievements and focus on their intellect not their physical attributes to get ahead.
Posted By k.d Dallas, TX : Thu Nov 09, 02:57:29 PM  

Question: I am male and manage a bank w/ an employee exactly as you describe in the column. What is your suggestion on how I try to get her to dress more conservatively. I have tried, but am unsure how it will be percieved. Additionally, I have had female peers or females higher up try to discuss it - also to no avail (appear petty, jealous, etc). I am in a quandry because the young lady could have a very bright future. Thanks
Posted By Chris, Bentonville, AR : Thu Nov 09, 03:08:57 PM  

I�m a Senior IT Engineer. For a few years I worked in management and couple times had to deal with the issue of a sexy dressing female coworker. The only complaints I received were from females who were conservative. And some how felt threatened or that the drss style of the other was hurting the organization. First time I handled the issue incorrectly in an attempt to do the right managerial things and asked the sexy dresser in question to tone it down. I completely blew it when she asked how she should adjust. I told her what the conservatives told me. She was noticeably uncomfortable from that day forward and took the first opportunity to change jobs. I lost an excellent Project manager who had great relations with our Corporate Clients and was liked and respected by everyone. The next time. I read the cooperate policy a dozen times, observed and evaluated the sexy dresser in question. She was in no violation of any policies, was comfortable around her coworkers and was a good Admin Asst. I informed the conservative ones that the issues/concerns they had were unfounded and they should focus more on what they were doing as opposed to what the lil hotty in the center desk was wearing. Never heard any more about it, continued to miss my Project manager and moved back into a technical role as soon as possible so I wouldn�t have to deal with crap like this. If the sexy dressing banker fells good about herself, does good etc work it really shouldn�t have any effect, if it does maybe she should change companies. Until she works in an environment of people more secure in them selves like she is.
Posted By Kuntry, Dalton Ga, : Thu Nov 09, 03:29:33 PM  

In addressing this question, you need to consider the impact not only on the career of the woman who is dressing sexy, but also on her male co-workers and the general impact on the office environment. Working around women dressed like this is extremely distracting and cannot be good for productivity (although it may be for morale). No man can focus 100% on his work when he has female co-workers who dress this way.
Posted By Mike, Fairfax, VA : Thu Nov 09, 03:35:40 PM  

I do not want to see cleavage at work. Why do women need to feel sexy at work?
Just get your job done like the rest of us!
Posted By Mark - Costa Mesa, CA : Thu Nov 09, 03:56:23 PM  

I recently went to a bank & the young lady helping me was wearing low-rise slacks and crop top; every time she bent to grab a new form from her file drawer I was treated to another look at the lovely blue-rose tattoo that should only have been visible if she were wearing beach attire. It was very distracting, inappropriate, and not at all businesslike. I wondered why her supervisor didn't take her aside and talk about dress codes. It made me question the professional standards of that bank as a whole... !
Posted By Pat W, Denver, CO : Thu Nov 09, 03:58:11 PM  

I am 26 and I look around my office and one can really tell the difference between the ones that get the whole corporate office thing and those that don't. And it goes all the way from the hig hugging dress pants, barely there display shirt, and flip flops!!! to the nice looking simple tailored cut look.

Having been in the same office from fresh from college to now, those that look like and dress 'casually' do not progress. Those that invest in a more traditional wardrobe do.

One other key to success. Attitude. I have seen senior leaders fix the copy machine when a young kid fresh out of college working as an admin informed them that it wasn't in the admin's job description to fix the machine and sauntered off to talk with her buddies on the floor while the leader had a meeting in 5 minutes...
Posted By Anna, New York City, NY : Thu Nov 09, 04:08:37 PM  

I believe wearing spikes is fine as long as you can walk gracefully in them. The idea of wearing short skirts and showing skin is definitely out in the workplace. If you are dressed appropriately, heels really make the outfit, and I feel good wearing them.
Posted By D. Walker NJ : Thu Nov 09, 04:15:56 PM  

I am a manager, and I see many different types of women who all dress differently. Admittedly, as a man I like the "sexier" attire, but as a professional it makes me wonder about the woman. If a woman feels that it acceptable to wear short skirts, revealing tops (or anything revealing) and high heels in the work place there is a judgment problem. Then go and complain to management when she is �looked� at (and this has happened) I must admit I have no sympathy for her � and as I have done and will continue to do, I council them on their professional appearance and let them know that �club� wear is not going to work in the work place � ever! Dressing for success is one thing, dressing for sexy is not even close.
To the mom, tell your daughter that she will eventually hurt her career by not being more professional in her attire choises.
Posted By Andrew - Seattle, WA : Thu Nov 09, 04:16:37 PM  

admin assistant to loan officer and she's 26 wearing provacative clothes...her dad should ask her to elaborate on her "good people skills".
Posted By Rob - New Castle, PA : Thu Nov 09, 04:35:04 PM  

I hired an assistant about three months ago. Applicant number one was a young woman with a lot of cleavage above hip-hugger pants. Applicant number two was a young woman who was conservatively dressed in blouse and mid-calf skirt. Both had the qualifications to do the work. One of the second applicant's questions during her interview was how to dress for the job. The other never thought to ask. Obviously, I hired the second and have been extremely pleased not only with her competence but with an old-fashioned virtue: decorum. Appearance does matter; if your boss is uncomfortable around you, you won't be around for long.
Posted By Bonnie, Fort Worth, Texas : Thu Nov 09, 04:54:11 PM  

Some women just are not aware of how differently they will be treated according to how they dress. You can still wear high heels to work, just make sure the length of your skirt is not above the knee and your blouse does not reveal cleavage. Many designers offer collections of clothes for career women at affordable prices in a assortment of styles and colors. I work two jobs(library and grocery store) and both require appropriate attire to assist customers - one requires a uniform and the other doesn't. One of my library co-workers is a knockout and she wears high heels often, but her skirts are always knee length and her blouses are never revealing. It is a very feminine, but professional look. This sensibility, along with her brains, earned her a promotion worth double her current salary. I was told by my parents "if you dress like a slut, you will be treated like a slut". Unfortunately, this is true in life.
Posted By Lea, Lake Charles, Louisiana : Thu Nov 09, 05:13:23 PM  

It sounds as if this mom needs to nominate her daughter for the show TLC's What Not To Wear. Clinton and Stacy will show the daughter how to dress as a professional, not a hoochie. As a young woman in business I know that I MUST dress seriously, otherwise I will get the kind of attention I do not want at work. Whether this is right or wrong of men, it is what it is. Dressing sexy is not a "style" it is a cry for attention that the daughter needs to get over and realize her self worth is not in her sexiness, but in who she is as a person.
Posted By Kerry, San Diego, CA : Thu Nov 09, 05:27:06 PM  

The "loan officer" is a fancy title for "Loan Salesman" "Sales person".. Of course dressing sexy or provocative is helping her career. Especially when you're in the highly saturated banking industry where there is no true competitive advantage between Bank A's product and Bank B's product. Now if she wants to get out of the rat race and take on greater responsibility (possibly management), she will need to earn the respect of her colleagues and subordinates. Dressing sexy or provacative will make earning that respect difficult.
Posted By San Jose, CA : Thu Nov 09, 05:58:02 PM  

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have
Posted By Beth - Houston, TX : Thu Nov 09, 06:08:54 PM  

She'll be promoted based on performance right? I'm a VP of a mortgage company. I'd be willing to bet she'll close more loans with her current attire. I'm sorry to say, but who would the typical male rather work with: a competent and attractive female or a competent and balding 45 yr old male?

The study mentioned in the article was in Appleton, WI. Q. How can we assume the same result in Miami? A. We can't.
Posted By Jason, Bloomington, MN : Thu Nov 09, 06:09:31 PM  

20 years ago there was an administrative assistant who dressed in very short leather skirts, tight tops and knee-high spike-heeled boots. This was long before 'business casual'.
Within two weeks she was asked by management to dress less provocatively.

I believe in an appropriate dress code in the work place.
Posted By Lisa, Baltimore Md : Thu Nov 09, 06:11:12 PM  

Unless you work for an escort service leave the short skirts and high heels at home. There is plenty of women's clothing available that communicates confidence, feminity and strength without going over the top...
Posted By Jim, Hartford, CT : Thu Nov 09, 06:18:21 PM  

I think dressing sexy at work disctractes people, both women and men, from actually hearing what you are saying. Leave the provacative dress for after work, others will take you more seriously!!
Posted By RM, Washington D.C. : Thu Nov 09, 06:26:21 PM  

In the 60s women were told to dress like the job they wanted to have some day. I think it is still good advice.

I am on a committee to address the issue of dress code for teachers in a large metro school system. Hard to believe what some consider appropriate to wear in the classroom-men as well as women.
Posted By Marcia Atlanta, GA : Thu Nov 09, 07:03:03 PM  

the shorter the skirt the better..:)
Posted By jimthompson Cleveland, Ohio : Thu Nov 09, 07:08:38 PM  

Please cover yourself. Many are upset to see too much skin. Co-workers are uncomfortable. If you have a gorgeous body, no one will fail to notice, but it won't cause sarcastic comments, etc. if you are not exposed.
Posted By Anne Lee Indy, IN : Thu Nov 09, 07:18:03 PM  

The daughter may be unaware of the strong negative reactions that other women in the office may have regarding her dress.

Can she afford to not have their support?
Posted By E. Cannell, Liberty Hill, TX : Thu Nov 09, 11:34:48 PM  

To Chris in Bentonville who has an employee like the 26 year old prompting this thread ... email her the article!
Posted By Jim, Ventura, California : Fri Nov 10, 12:41:17 AM  

I work in an IS dept. Have been on several hiring committees. The hiring interview will have 4 or 5 people, mixed genders. I remember one lady in her mid-30's who was somewhat technically competent but dressed in a tight low cut sweater that showed cleavage. That did not sit well with me (baby boomer male) in this interview. I think others picked up on it too. I do not want double messages at work. I want competence and reliability. No you don't have to look like a schoolmarm. Yes you have a pulse. Yes quality materials, even if you can only purchase fewer outfits. But please..show us what you can do technically for us. By the way..we had another person show up for a job interview dressed like a hippie. As I am now a former hippie who dresses professionally for work, I was sort of willing to let it go but the rest of the interview committee pounced on it - thought she wasn't serious about the job. In an interview, radiate a healthy vitality as a human being, an UNDERSTATED sexuality and definitely can-do professional competence with the skills to back it up and you WILL be hired. P.S. Guys or ladies no colognes or perfumes in job interviews.
Posted By Ben Portland, Oregon : Fri Nov 10, 01:18:07 AM  

The woman's daughter will probably not change her wardrobe, until she hears how inappropriate it is from someone in her peer group or from someone she admires
professionally. Her mom will most likely never get through to her.
Posted By ccollins Attleboro, MA : Fri Nov 10, 02:56:36 AM  

In the job , It is not important that what`s your dressing ,but what`s your thinking .
Posted By Dong stone new york : Fri Nov 10, 05:08:48 AM  

Dade County! Please remember to take into account that Miami-Dade is atypical and the Latin and European influence does indeed affect business attire.
Posted By JSA, Miami, FL : Fri Nov 10, 07:02:25 AM  

So much focus on what is the right or wrong thing to wear. "Proper" business attire will always change. Too much emphasis on 1st impressions/perceptions can affect ones career as well. The "sexy" dressed lady at the table who you perceive as dumb, can & will find others who look past her clothes. Do you want to be part of the crowd that overlooked her, or part of the few that respected her if/when she becomes your boss?
Posted By awilliams, Virginia : Fri Nov 10, 12:22:08 PM  

I'm 47 and no prude, but I hired young women in recent years who wound up dressing like hookers! They know how to dress for an interview, so I think they know the difference. But they wear low-cut shirts with their breasts pushed up, spike heels (or the dreaded flip-flops), short skirts, tight pants - everything my rebellious generation was taught NOT to do at work. But, my opinion aside, we are in a client-based business where they are not taken seriously by clients when they dress that way. I've seen it happen time and time again -- they are perceived as immature and less intelligent when they emphasize sex. That's the bottom line.
Posted By KG, Washington, DC : Fri Nov 10, 12:22:08 PM  

JSA is right on the money! I agree that a woman shouldn't dress too provocatively if she wants to rise in the business world. But Miami-Dade County is different from anywhere else in the US in terms of clothing. Women DO dress sexy and it is acceptable. It's not like Richmond or Atlanta.
Posted By TO, Hollywood, FL : Fri Nov 10, 01:21:26 PM  

She is only 26 and has the entire life ahead of her. If she is going to make it big she will, doesn't matter how she dresses today. In a couple of years she will have learned what works for her in the professional arena and start using it. She will probably change jobs a couple of times and have plenty of chances to try out different images.

I find many of the above comments up-tight and feel sorry for the people working in those companies. These companies are overenforcing policies that are not linked to performance -- in the long run it will show on the bottom line.
Posted By Kim (male), Los Angeles, CA : Fri Nov 10, 01:58:59 PM  

I agree with the comments that lend towards finding your professional style. In the past, women were expected to dress somewhat "manly" in the workplace. I'm a 28 year old financial advisor and am often complimented on my business attire. I wear suits or jackets most days in basics, but definately show a little bit of personality with my accessories. I love a great pair of moderate high heel shoes, which I believe show confidence. I keep my nails, hair, and make-up nice always. Girls, always be a "lady" and expect people to treat you as such. We have come a long way to have the opportunities that we do today. Why not bring the pumps with us?
Posted By Jen- Indpls, IN : Fri Nov 10, 02:59:02 PM  

If this young person is getting ahead due to her sexiness. That is okay. Why? Because a man or woman should use all their assets to compete in an unforgiving world. Do you think the CEO of Avon would have that job if she was 300lbs?
Posted By Devon, New York, NY : Fri Nov 10, 03:12:05 PM  

If anyone wants to be taken seriously in a workplace, they have to dress with respect for themselves and others.

You shouldn't look like you just left a night club at 3 a.m.
Posted By Craig. Young, New South Wales. : Fri Nov 10, 07:19:48 PM  

I think that first of all people should look at the expertise of a person (remember Erin Brockovich :))! Of course, it is essential to dress appropriately, however, it should not be an indicator. And my personal experience is that a woman can be professional and at the same time look VERY SEXY even if she does not reveal flesh... Think about it!
Posted By Ivy, Riga, Latvia : Thu Nov 16, 07:37:52 AM  

I think we spend to much time thinking about what we dress like. Its a game made by people who make clothes. "The suit makes the man." PLEASE What makes a man is inside him and sometimes even hard to see. Sexy at work I spend a lot of time at work its nice to work around sexy as long as their dress don't halt their work who cares?
Posted By Harold somewhere Colorado : Thu Dec 07, 03:47:37 AM  

Hi im a 42 yr old woman who works in a male dominated trade. There is no doubt in my mind that when i took the advice of a younger male colegue and started wearing mini dresses, skirts and high heels my work life improved by 50%. I find both older and younger men love to work with a woman dressed this way, an i even get looks and comments from some women too. I have even started to dress this way out of work too. i love it.
Posted By tracey sydney , australia : Sat Jan 20, 02:20:58 PM  

Dressing sexy at work it akin to a chess game. A fine balance must be reached to obtain the win.
Posted By Mike , PA : Sun Feb 18, 12:36:25 PM  

As a women, I have found that dressing as sexy as possible without crossing the line has helped my career. My looks have gotten me four years of back to back 10% raises. I laugh as I see other women at my work struggling just because they will not use their god given gifts.

regards, Kim
Posted By Kim, USA PA : Sun Feb 18, 12:44:58 PM  

My husband got fired for exactly the situation you describe here. There was a woman who came to work showing her cleavage, guys in the warehouse were making comments, and my husband, a manager, thought he would give her advice about business casual clothing. She compalined to HR that he sexually harassed her and he got fired. Unfortunately, it is treachous for men to try and maintain a professional office.
Posted By Linda Austin, TX : Fri Mar 16, 06:07:48 PM  

See? Even some of the women in this blog say or recognize that their intentionally dressing sexy reaps them attention, pay raises, or promotions. Yet people still say that when "bad things" happen to women who dress provocatively it's not their fault? Give me a break.....they KNOW what they are doing!
Posted By Dave, Kansas City, MO : Tue Mar 27, 04:45:47 PM  

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Anne Fisher, Fortune magazine senior writer, answers career-related questions and offers helpful advice for business professionals. To submit a question, please e-mail askannie@fortunemail.com. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.