Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Your Skirt’s Too Short! How to Avoid Dressing Provocatively for Work

Her top revealed a lot of cleavage. I didn’t know where to look!

Because of her seductive clothing, I couldn’t hire her.

Her skirt was so short that we referred to her as “Suzy short skirt.”

It’s that time of year again – time for the warm weather, when the number of women who dress seductively for work skyrockets, and I start hearing comments similar to those above in my seminars.

Sexy is not a corporate look. Dressing provocatively in the workplace is the kind of mistake that can severely damage a woman’s credibility. (Men can dress inappropriately, too, but that is a topic for another article.)

The key for business women is to ask themselves these questions: What are you drawing attention to via your clothing? Are you promoting your professionalism, or your sexuality?

Women can be feminine without flaunting their figures. Here are seven tips to avoid dressing provocatively:

1. Be cautious about modeling your clothing on the outfits worn by actresses on television. Even when they are portraying lawyers, doctors or other professionals, television characters often dress provocatively. But detectives in five-inch heels chasing after bad guys are not good role models!

2. Pay attention to the fit of your clothing. Your clothing needs to fit properly. You don’t want to over-emphasize body parts! Skirts or slacks can bulge when the item is too tight across the buttocks. Buttons can pull on shirts if the item is too tight across the chest.

3. Don’t reveal cleavage. Low-cut tops that expose cleavage draw attention to your chest, and are not suitable in the office. People tell me that they don’t know where to look when conversing with women dressed that way. It’s a distraction to others. 

4. Don’t show too much leg. Short skirts draw attention to your legs. If you sit down when wearing a short skirt, you expose even more leg. Is that where you want people to look? The general guideline is that skirts should be no higher than the top, or slightly above the top, of your knees. 

5. Don’t let your underwear show. Do I need to explain this one? This includes bra straps and thong underwear.

6. Take note of the size of the armholes when you wear a sleeveless dress.  Make sure the armholes are snug enough that no one can see in. 

7. Never expose too much skin. This means you should not wear strapless or spaghetti-strap sundresses, or crop tops that expose your midriff. Do not wear a bikini when you are at a company picnic or on an award cruise. Additional information on dressing for work can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette.

I know many people have strong opinions about this topic. Please share your thoughts.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette, professional image, assertive communication and conflict. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141..


  1. Every style and trend is not a "one size fits all" What message are you trying to send when you put that short skirt on...and you already know before you leave home that it is too short!!

  2. Anonymous5/27/2015

    Modesty, like civility, appears to be a thing of the past in our "enlightened" culture. I have seen Harris Faulkner's underwear once too often on Fox's AM Outnumbered show. The display of legs on that show seems to take precedence over content.

  3. I can't even imagine how short skirt's affect on career!
    Thanks for tips to avoid dressing provocatively!

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