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Dressing Sexy: Career Suicide or Innovatively Bold Move?

By hire-up-staffing in Industry Resources
Dressing “sexy” at work has always been a controversial topic. Adding fuel to the fire are recent studies that claim when a woman’s office attire is deemed too sexy or provocative, it may even hurt her career.
Some would say yes, others would strongly disagree. For example, career coach Daisy Swan believes dressing too sexy for work equates to career suicide. “It’s lack of good judgment to wear something that is inappropriate for the workplace,” she asserts. She attributes this to the fact that since work environments are becoming more and more casual through the years, it’s gotten more tricky for women to decide what’s appropriate or not.
Swan continues that this is especially true for certain sectors in Southern California. “We do have a sector that’s very conservative; we’ve got the attorneys, we’ve got the finance folks, but we also have Hollywood and a start-up culture,” she explained.
Caleigh Raymer, is a 27-year-old engineer for a construction company, and she says she dresses a little sexier than her colleagues who are slightly older. “It’s tight fitting, but not too revealing,” she says of her office wardrobe. “I don’t think it’s racy, I think it’s confidence… I don’t think I should have to hide it just because I’m in a professional setting in a male-dominated industry.”
While some think this is an empowering point of view, others would be naysayers and believe Raymer’s confident dressing is risqué and can negatively affect how people think of her competence. “I’ll be in a meeting for 30 minutes and they’ll say, ‘OK, what do you do again?’” she recalled. “[I] definitely don’t get the same respect.” Firmly putting her foot down, she says, “I’m waiting for the job environment to change. I don’t plan to change.”
Industry experts advise women to avoid short skirts and dresses, tight outfits, low-cut necklines, and clothes with thin straps or sheer fabrics. Keep the stomach covered, and keep heels a maximum of three inches high.
“Avoid short skirts, deep v-necks, high heels,” said Donna Stewart, Director of Events at Camillus House, agreeing with Swan’s advice. “You shouldn’t look like you’re going to a club.”
Swan personally recommends women to go for the understated elegant look. “Study what you see around you and work towards that in terms of your wardrobe,” she advises. For holiday parties, go and glam things up but remember: “Not too much cleavage. Keep things simple. It’s not an opportunity to show off your curves and your great legs. You might do that, too, but it’s really still work — it’s fun, but it’s work,” she explained.
So what’s the verdict? People are always on the fence. What one person thinks is “too sexy” may not be as provocative for others. A good rule of thumb is to play it safe from the first day and then observe what goes on around you. If there is a dress code, request for a copy and learn it well. Incorporate that into your style, and you’re set.
“First impressions count for a lot. It will greatly affect whether you get a position here or not,” said Ricky Arriola, CEO of Inktel.
“You are judged by what you wear, fairly or not,” Stewart affirms. “You need to have a professional reflection. I think your clothes speak for you even when you’re not talking.”