When is Too Much Skin, Too Much?

Last month, I flew to San Diego for a speaking engagement.  Waiting for my luggage, I glanced around the airport and thought I had arrived on the production sets of Dancing with the Stars and Melrose Place. 

The women’s range of dress was anything but just plain pants and a shirt and shoes.  Nope, there were sequins, bangles, bobbles and doo-dads hanging everywhere there wasn’t skin and where there was actual material, it was so tight, the question was why bother?

My eyes were taking in what seemed like a tad too much skin, accessorized with gizmos and gadgets that would be more appropriate for a Halloween romp.

In the car rental van, a young woman sat across from me in a blouse cut so low that sultry would be a conservative description. Talking in a typical cell phone voice, everyone within 10 feet heard that she had just landed, was picking up her car and that she would be in the office for the marketing meeting in about 45 minutes.

It’s summer.  It’s hot.  No one wants to wear a lot of clothes. But when is dressing not enough?  And what is appropriate and not appropriate in the workplace? 

I’m not sure what kind of marketing meeting my van companion was heading to, but I do know that there are some common sense dos and don’ts when it comes to dressing for work.

Here’s 13 items to avoid sabotaging your career:

Cover up the cleavage.  Plunging necklines don’t belong in 99 percent of workplaces. Cocktail types of establishments are exceptions.  Wear a tank top or camisole to conceal the plunging shirt.

Camisole Tops.  You can get away with wearing the ones that are on the stringy side, as long as there is a cover-up type of blouse, sweater or a light weight jacket worn over it.  If it’s a plunger, sew it up or leave it at home—an over shirt isn’t going to help.

Low Pants.  Tattoos may be your pride and joy, but the office doesn’t need to view them every time you move. Ditto for the belly button.

Pants that Drag.  Along with the low riding pants are the ones that are so baggy and drag on the ground.  Who said that tattered cuffs were classy looking?

Belly or High Cut Shirts.  As with tattoos, your abs could be your best feature, but shouldn’t be on display for all to admire.  Leave them to be exposed at the office volley ball competition or the pool.  Untie the shirt or get one that actually goes below your waistline.

See-Through and Sheer Shirts. If you are really serious about your co-workers and managers being serious about what you have to say and contribute, wear a jacket or coat. You need to block the general body area from the flimsy factor if you want attention paid to what you are saying.

Shorts. Unless you are working a resort, shorts don’t belong in the workplace. Some women’s suits have long shorts with them that cut above the knee, but … leave them at home.  They are cute if you have the legs, wear them socially.

Open-Back Dresses and Tops.   Open backs are great when the weather is hot, but let’s face it; most workplaces have some form of air conditioning.  Others don’t need to be distracted by a bare back—leave it for dancing under the stars. If you must wear it, put on a jacket or sweater.   

Mini and Micro-Mini Skirts.  Why anyone would think that an oversized swatch designed to cut off at the top of ones thighs would be suitable for the workplace is beyond me.  Yet, women show up every once in awhile in them. Don’t. Sure, they are cute … but not in the office and only on young girls without a nano-ounce of fat or cellulite.     

Chest Hair.  Button up.  Exposing hairy chests at work doesn’t work.  

Black or Dark Underwear.  Only with dark clothes; otherwise your co-workers will have a field day viewing your body movements under your light colored outer clothes.

Flip-flops. Perfect for your day off, the weekend, the lake and other casual places…but not work…and definitely not the Whitehouse.  If you have feet problems, and who doesn’t at times, there are classy looking sandals, open-toed shoes, clogs, even Crocs would work in some workplaces.  

Odors.  We all have natural body orders.  Assuming regular bathing, don’t over due perfumes, colognes, lotions and the like.  You may be making your co-workers, and customers, sick.

If you want to be taken seriously, it starts with presentation.  Yours.  Sloppy, seductive or smelly doesn’t shout professionalism.