Beauty & Style

Are You Dressing Too Sexy for Work?

Office wear, decoded: Find out what's sassy, and what's too sexy.
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Who says you can't rule the corporate boardroom and look good while you're at it? But if your fashion sense is more sexy than stylish, you could be hurting your career, according to a recent University of Lawrence study.

The study, which was led by psychology professor Peter Glick, found that dressing sexy on the job is viewed as inappropriate for female employees in all positions. But here's the twist: Women holding high-powered jobs, especially, were perceived as less intelligent and less competent when they dressed provocatively, while those in lower level positions (such as secretaries) were not. The study also suggested that women who wore risqué clothing were perceived as using their sexuality to advance professionally.

Bottom line: "If you're really trying to demonstrate your abilities, looking sexy might not be the best way of going about it," says Glick. So how can you make sure you don't cross the line? Here are some guidelines:

What's Smart for the Boardroom

  • Tops: Blouses can be stylish but should be modest enough to cover up the cleavage, shoulders, back and midriff. Avoid overly sheer fabrics: Good fabric choices are silk, rayon, and cotton-polyester blends. Experiment with different styles that complement your shape, but stay away from anything that clings like second skin.

  • Skirts: Skirts can be just above the knee, but no shorter. Tailored A-line or pencil skirts are classics, but you can also inject a touch of fun into your work attire by wearing skirts that feature floral prints, subtle beadings or embellishments.

  • Pants: Go for dressy, tailored pants in neutral colors with a mid-rise or higher. Pants should be fitted, but not too tight, and should not show visible panty lines.

  • Dresses: Look for tailored dresses with full coverage such as shirt dresses and wrap-dresses. For dresses that are a tad more revealing (like sun dresses or halter-styles), layer up with a cropped jacket or cardigan for a professional look. The cut should be relaxed but not too fitted. Hemlines should hit around or just above the knee.

  • Shoes: Shoes should be close-toed, and heels should be no higher than two inches. Opt for neutral colors and classic designs. Standard pumps and kitten heels are safe bets.

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