A few days ago, The Sun reported on a survey undertaken by Stylecompare.co.uk, a fashion website, that found that about six out of 10 bosses cited women showing too much cleavage as the ultimate fashion offence.
According to the UK tabloid, female managers were more offended than men, with 65 per cent placing too much cleavage at the top of a list of fashion blunders. This compared with 45 per cent of male bosses.
Other faux pas identified in women’s office fashion were jeans, Ugg boots, frayed clothing, bling jewellery, fake tans, and visible bra straps or thongs.
This is not the first time that we have explored the turbulent waters of what to wear at work. Last December we discussed guidance provided in a 43-page booklet issued by UBS, the Swiss bank, on appropriate officewear. There, too, women were advised to undo shirt buttons no more than one or two inches below the collarbone, certainly without revealing any cleavage.
Older readers may remember Melanie Griffith’s portrayal in Working Girl of ambitious secretary Tessa McGill, who suffers from enormous hair and a failure to read executive dress code. One memorable line from the film, “I have a head for business and a body for sin,” succinctly defines the challenge McGill faces – and her journey to the corner office requires a makeover that includes ditching her six-inch heels, lengthening her skirts and covering that cleavage.
What many of us seek is that nuanced balance between sexless androgyny and suggestiveness when it comes to executive style. Visible underwear and shows of bosom do not belong in the office, and as for Ugg boots – oh, puh-lease.