LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A new study claims that if a woman’s office wardrobe is viewed as “too sexy” it may hurt her career.
Daisy Swan is a career coach who agrees. She spoke with CBS2’s Rachel Kim about the so-called wardrobe secrets of successful women in the workplace, and says dressing too sexy for work could be career suicide.
“It’s lack of good judgement to wear something that is inappropriate for the workplace,” Swan said, noting it’s become harder for women to know what’s appropriate because the work environment has become more casual over the years.
That’s especially true 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 said.
Business etiquette experts say unflattering assumptions are made about women who wear provocative clothes and they’re not taken seriously. The study, published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, found that women in high-level positions, like managers, who dressed in what was viewed as “sexy” outfits were viewed as less competent, regardless of their skill sets. But those in lower-levels positions, like receptionists, were not.
Caleigh Raymer, 27, is an engineer for a construction company who is nevertheless unafraid to show how she’s built.
“I probably dress sexier than my older colleagues. It’s tight fitting, but not too revealing. 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,” she said.
But some believe Raymer’s confidence can hurt how people at work view her competence.
“I’ll be in a meeting for 30 minutes and they’ll say, ‘OK, what do you do again?'” she said. “[I] definitely don’t get the same respect.”
Experts advise women avoid tight and short skirts and dresses, low-cut necklines, tops with thin straps or sheer fabric. They also advise keeping your stomach covered and wearing heels no more than three inches high.
“Understated elegance is a good rule of thumb,” Swan said. “Study what you see around you and work towards that in terms of your wardrobe.”
And with upcoming holiday parties, Swan warns it’s okay to glam it up, but wear something that’s in keeping with your role in the office.
“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.
Raymer meanwhile says she won’t tone it down because the way she dresses makes her feel and look good.
“I’m waiting for the job environment to change. I don’t plan to change,” she said.