Experts: Dressing Sexy Can Hurt Your Career

December 17, 2013

What women wear to work can have detrimental effects on their career according to a new study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly. The study, which examined the impact of women's workplace attire, found that women who dress overly sexy at work could be committing career suicide. But, why? Because what you choose to wear says a lot about who you are, says human resources consultant Elaine Varelas of Keystone Partners in Boston.

"Men and women are going to judge you and you want them to take you seriously and part of what you are wearing is going to have a huge impact on that," Varelas explained to CBS News.

According to Valeras, women who dress sexy at work run the risk of being seen as unknowledgeable and less competent.

Following the study, other experts chimed in to agree.

"It's a lack of good judgement to wear something that is inappropriate for the workplace," noted Daisy Swan, a career coach, to CBS Los Angeles. According to Swan, the fact workplaces have become increasingly casual over the years has made it more difficult for women to discern what is appropriate to wear.

Swan suggests women avoid overly tight clothing, plunging necklines, sheer fabrics, and thin straps when dressing for work. She also advises that women steer clear of heels higher than three inches.

"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."

Valeras also suggests that women stop to look in the mirror ask a few questions before heading to the office. For instance, what would a woman wearing their outfit typically be "carrying?"

"Would you be carrying a martini glass or would you be carrying a brief case? That's going to help you identify whether you are dressed for the right occasion, the right time of day, the right circumstance," Varelas said to CBS Chicago.

The new study also showed a disparity among views of women in different roles in the workplace. For instance, women in high-level positions who dressed provocatively were seen as less experienced and less competent. However, women in lower-level positions, like receptionists, were not. Regardless, business etiquette experts suggest that all women should strive to dress appropriately at work if they want to ward off unflattering assumptions.

With the holiday party scene in full swing, Swan also has some special advice for women attending work-related parties. Although it's okay to dress slightly more glamorous due to the occasion, says Swan, it's still important to consider 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.

Compiled by Holly Johnson


"Could Dressing 'Too Sexy' Be Career Suicide? Expert Offers Wardrobe Tips For Work,", December 17, 2013,

"Expert: Racy Workplace Attire Can Stall Careers,", December 16, 2013,

"The Danger Of Pushing The Limits Of The Office Dress Code,", December 10, 2013, Michelle Roberts,

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