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How Much Cleavage is Too Much at Work?

How Much Cleavage is Too Much at Work?

Suzanne Gleason | Little Pink Book

Few of us can forget the “flip-flop flap” a few years ago, when members of the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team shocked the nation by wearing, well, flip-flops for their visit with President Bush at the White House.

If, however, you supervise a staff – particularly a youngish one – chances are you didn’t bat an eye. Georgia Donovan, a Bucks County, Pa., image consultant, once saw a woman walk into a telecommunications company cafeteria wearing cutoff shorts, flip-flops and a halter top. “That was her version of business casual for the summer,” Donovan says. “If she’d worked for me, I would have sent her home and docked her pay until she showed up in something presentable.”

Blame it, perhaps, on a culture in which it’s OK to attend the opera in jeans, and the nubile policewomen on TV are hard to distinguish from the hookers they’ve arrested. But somewhere along the line, many twenty- and thirtysomethings began to equate appropriate officewear with straitjackets, fearing that standards of dress would stifle self-expression and creativity. “If I want to flaunt what I’ve got, I’ll do it, and I don’t care if some old-fashioned or overweight female employees can’t handle it,” says Karen Feldman, a 27-year-old junior account executive at a Los Angeles advertising agency who wore hot pants to work last summer. “I do a great job, and that’s all that matters. This is who I am.”

Not so fast, says Barbara Peters, who just retired from her post as chief financial officer at a Seattle architectural firm she helped catapult from $3.3 million to $40 million in revenue in the last decade. “When you accept a job, it’s a given that your paycheck comes with some reasonable expectations, including giving up a small portion of your wardrobe’s individuality,” Peters says. “You may smoke, but you don’t smoke at the office. You may sleep in on weekends, but you get to work by 8. And you may wear tank tops and shorts at home, but not in an office setting. There’s always give and take.”

Michele King, a vice president at the real estate company Trammell Crow, boils it down even further: “I will not promote anyone who doesn’t dress appropriately. I consider it a factor in her decision-making skills.”

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  • Greceaaaa2_max50


    over 2 years ago


    Nice meeting you here, how are you today i will want us to be friends contact me here with my e-mail address ( ) because i have a special reason why have contacted you so that i can send you my photos and also tell you more about myself here is my e-mail address( ) you can also drop me your email mail address i am waiting to get a reply from you remember that co-lour, language or age and distance does not matter but understand matters
    Yours New Friend
    Miss Grace

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    over 3 years ago

    I am glad that the whole pantyhose issue was addressed here. Also, as a "curvy girl" I'm always worried about too much clevage.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    Keep the girls indoors at work. That is what I tell all my female employees. Believe me that actually works.

    I have hired countless Accountants over the years. One guy came in at noon for his interview (I was working with his availability), he told me upfront as he was shaking my hand that since he was interviewing with me on HIS lunch hour he knew I would not mind that he brought his lunch with him. (Big Mac and Fries). Well I told him this was my lunch hour also, but I was making it convenience for him by interviewing him at noon, and I would eat something after the interview was over. Of course he did not get the hint, Nor the Job.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    Very sensible. It is sad that not only in the work place, but in all aspects of life (even church), women are showing more cleavage so much so to the point of embarrassment. This article should be required reading for all women.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    No one saying dress like a Salvation Army worker, but it's probably best to keep the cleaveage covered unless you intentionally don't want to be taken seriously at work.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    Very well written. As someone who hired and fired employees for a few years, I was amazed at the attire women in particular wore to an interview! Yikes. And alas, the ones that wear the flip flops and raggedy-bottom jeans, etc are the same ones who think they don't get paid enough, get worked harder than others and don't receive the accolades they think they should. Hmmmmmm...I see a pattern.
    I agree that age and "beauty...and I use that term loosely" have some influence. As a 50 years old who is 40 pounds overweight, I would not be caught DEAD withouth pantyhose in a dress or skirt that rises above my ankle! Yikes...scary! But somone younger and slimmer with a decent build can certainly do that within reason. I think women should just stay opened minded and remember that unless THEY own the company, they are at ther mercy of those you sign the paycheck.. In most cases the "bosses" simply want to be sure their business thrives, so if they recommend an adjustment to your attire, Just Do It!

  • -pix_503_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    nice article....

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    I’m always surprised at how many women lack the ability to separate work from their social life. Karen Feldman is a prime example of what I’m talking about. I assume she’s educated and maybe even smart, although this is not the conclusion I would come to based on her comments in this article. She obviously lacks respect for her employer and her peers demonstrated by her apathetic words about potential feelings her co-workers might have about her clothing referring to anyone in opposition as old-fashioned and overweight.

    The thing about women like this is that they all want equal rights and equal pay without equal responsibility. Take a minute and think about Karen’s male co-workers, if they reported to work shirtless and wearing Speedos or boxers, it would be considered inappropriate and they would be reprimanded and sent home to change regardless of how ‘sexy’ or ‘thin’ or ‘hip’ or comfortable they were in this type of clothing. NO discussion necessary.

    The same could be said if Karen went to work one day and found her overweight-not-so-attractive male counterpart-wearing a muscle t-shirt-with a naked lady on the front and spaghetti sauce from last night’s dinner. If she found it offensive I’m guessing she would want her superiors to address it and she probably wouldn’t be too happy if they came back with “now Karen, overweight, non-deodorant wearing, naked lady t-shirt guy is a valuable employee who does a great job-that’s all that matters-- that’s just who he is.”

    If a man can’t express himself at work by picking his nose or anything else for that matter or dress the way I described above because it’s not appropriate or it’s offensive to women, why should women be allowed to express themselves through inappropriate attire such as shorts and cleavage revealing tops?

    The workplace is not appropriate for expressing yourself unless your name is Madonna or Lady Gaga. Using the excuse that we are now in a hipper, cooler generation is just that--an excuse... If it’s considered inappropriate to view porn on the job then it’s inappropriate to wear clothing that would conjure up sexual thoughts or could invite unwanted comments.

    This doesn’t mean you have to dress ugly or unattractive. There are many women who dress well and look great while on the job without exploiting themselves or their body parts and who are deemed smart and attractive women. If you truly believe that you are who you ARE and you are smart and pretty and cool and sexy then—maybe you don’t need to wear these types of clothing. Meryl Streep and Hillary Swank don’t have to wear a shirt with their name on it or announce who they are when they walk into a room--it’s obvious. I agree with the wiser women in this article and I am so grateful that they are out there offering up wisdom!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    I hate the word "boobs." I believe its use is disrespectful to our bodies as women. If we don't respect ourselves in word and speech, who will?

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    Simply put...If my eyes are drawn to something you are wearing (or something you are NOT wearing) instead of your eyes (and your brain)....You should have doubt.
    And- "When in doubt- do without!"

  • Istock_000008107141xsmall_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Extremely thorough article. I agree that your wardrobe is highly dependent on the industry your work in. Still, I find it strange that some companies don't maintain a dress code.

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