Open any fashion magazine, watch most TV shows, and the message is simple – sex sells – but does it really in the workplace? I have to ask… do you honestly think a genuine crime scene investigator would wear a skimpy tank top and stilettos to her job or that cargo shorts and Tevas are appropriate at any time in the office, unless of course, you work in a surf shop? These looks may make for great TV and sell
magazines, but I would caution anyone about showing up at their workplace in similar fashion.
Most of us would like to be taken seriously at work for the contributions that we make. That said, perhaps even worse than wearing ill-fitting clothing, someone who “overshares” in the workplace runs the risk of showing too much skin cramping their
credibility. I always recommend “test driving” your clothing from all angles in a full-length mirror before walking out of the house, and keeping the skin exposure to a minimum.
I was recently at a conference that required business attire. While chatting with another attendee I noticed a very attractive young woman dressed in what was obviously an expensive suit and beautiful shoes. As I looked more closely, I became totally distracted – the short cropped blouse and jacket of her outfit didn’t meet the low-rise pants, and about an inch of her skin was showing. As if this wasn’t bad enough, as she turned to walk away, I saw that she was wearing a very pretty lavender thong! Even with her amazing figure, and the beautiful, expensive clothing, I immediately questioned her business sense given the idea that she would dress so inappropriately for a day of business networking and education.
Here is a quick way for you remember four areas of your body that no one except your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, or doctor really want or need to see, especially in the workplace. I call them The Four Bs – I was presented with the concept “Three Bs” by a colleague, and I’ve added my own fourth for good measure. The Four Bs that we should keep to ourselves include…
Your Bottom – Your Back – Your Belly – and – Your Bust
Your Bottom: Skirts in the workplace should be no shorter than 4” above of the middle of the knee (not the top) and we should all “test drive” our skirts by sitting in them and being sure we’re not showing too much leg. A tip if you aren’t comfortable about what is showing when you cross your legs – skirts tend to rise less if you cross your legs at the ankles rather than one knee over the other.
Your Back: Men and women alike should test drive outfits by raising both hands above our heads to make sure there is no gap between the top and bottom. Likewise bend in different directions, and finally …S-I-T… in the outfit, making sure your back is not showing between the shirt and the pant or skirt. The proverbial plumber look isn’t fashionable and certainly isn’t appropriate anywhere. Test drive in the dressing room before you buy the garment, and again as you are matching it with other articles in your wardrobe.
Your Belly: Test drive outfits for the belly the same way as you do for the back, by bending sideways, forward, sitting, and reaching up. Even if you have the best abs in America – save them for the gym, the bedroom, and the beach.
Your Bust: If you have any question about whether your top is cut too low, it most likely is. When it comes to your shirt or blouse… button up and/or work a colorful scarf into the neckline to be sure you are covered. Once you have your top on, lean forward to be sure you are still covered. I had a painful experience where I looked fine standing up and later realized that an entire conference table of colleagues saw everything down to my waist, because as I had leaned over the top fell away from my body. Believe me – it was mortifying and you don’t want it happening to you!
I like to think of the Four Bs as a fun way to remember what to keep to yourself. These and test driving your outfits before your leave the house will have you confident as you move through your work day and any other activity where credibility matters.