What Your Cleavage Can Cost You



Let’s face it, our daily dressing rituals can be a source of various dilemmas. Deciding what to wear when you’re facing unpredictable weather or determining what shoes are best for the long day ahead, are just some of the issues that we have to tackle first thing in the morning.
With the movement towards variation in workwear apparel, for example ‘business casual’ or ‘causal casual’, matters have been made slightly more complicated. However among all the different issues, there is one in particular that affects many of us: when it comes to cleavage, how much is too much at the office?




Does our cleavage sabotage our chances of success?
A survey commissioned by Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Peter Jones claimed that women who displayed too much cleavage within the work environment risked sabotaging their own careers. The study found that out of 3,000 managers almost half of bosses admitted to overlooking a woman for promotion if she regularly wore cleavage-bearing clothing.

Weighing in on the matter, journalist and former editor Eve Pollard said: “While I hardly think that one whiff of a lacy bra is the worst crime an employee can commit, I DO think that ladies (like me) who sport a large frontage should keep it under wraps in the office if they want to be taken seriously…Using your talent, your personality and your experience to get ahead is very shrewd; using your body is just dumb”.

According to Vogue, cleavage is dead. Retail analysts have noted that successful women prefer comfort over structural support, and therefore sales of soft, comfortable bras have skyrocketed. Vogue went one further and claimed in an article: ‘Rejecting the stereotypes of gender has been brought sharply into focus, with the days of women as eye-candy, their sexuality positively smouldering rather than subtly played out, officially over.’

The more skin you show, the less power you have:
Similarly, Diane Gottsman, a U.S. based etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, claims: “In a corporate world, you want to stand out for your job success and not your cleavage or triple Ds…Because if you like it or not, when you are exposed, it sends a message”. According to Gottsman, the general rule in most corporate offices is that a woman’s shirt should land 2 inches above her cleavage and essentially nothing should be on show. Gottsman also emphasizes that the more skin on display, the less power you actually retain, and this applies to men as well as women.

While various women, such as journalist Liz Jones and editor Rachel Johnson, have claimed that exposing their cleavages in the office has helped them to get ahead at work, much of the debate surrounding the appropriateness of an exposed cleavage at work is attached to a negative stigma. From unwanted attention to sexual harassment, many women have addressed the undesirable effects of showing cleavage.

Remember that you are your brand:
Though the question of appropriate clothing extends beyond cleavage to include flip-flops and men wearing overly tight pants, it’s interesting to note that even within our current modern society where boundaries are being constantly challenged, rules still apply. But, as ever, the choice is always yours, so whether you’re just comfortable in your own skin or making a fashion statement, maybe it all withers down to how you choose to express yourself. And as Gottsman puts it, “You are your brand and I am not talking about clothing”.

What are your thoughts on wearing cleavage to the office? We’d love to know!

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Sameeha Shaikh

Graduate of English, avid writer and long-time lover of postcolonial literature, James Baldwin and iced caramel macchiato.

  • Mindy Cantrell

    Thank you for addressing this issue! Too much of any lovely body part showing in the office, whether male or female, large or small, simply serves as a distraction. Especially for women and younger men, if you wish to be taken seriously for your knowledge and skill in your chosen field, (and not just be the office eye-candy) then cover up the distraction so it is your knowledge that stands out, not your body. Let’s face it, when you walk into a room, or take the floor in a meeting wearing tight clothing or exposing cleavage, the first few minutes (or more) of your presentation are lost on your audience admiring the view. If you want to make a promotion prompting impression, wow them with your beautiful mind, not your body.

  • Charmaine Ng

    I definitely agree with this. Men still objectify women today – and although it’s sad, it’s the truth. Speak out with your talent, hard work and personality instead!
    – Charmaine

  • Jessica Wen

    I don’t think that we women should expose cleavage with the intention of using our bodies to get ahead in business – at the same time, we shouldn’t be afraid to express ourselves! A difficult balance, thanks for addressing it Sameeha!

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