Is The Office The New Bordello?

Is The Office The New Bordello?

By Lisa Earle McLeod

I’m sure you have a lovely navel, but that doesn’t mean I want to see it at the office. Yes, this is a rant. At the risk of sounding like my grandmother, since when did it become acceptable to wear lingerie to work? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bringing femininity into corporate America. I was delighted to shuck off those horrid, boxy, 1980s mini-man suits. However, had I known that relaxing the dress code would descend into visible bra straps and back fat spilling out into the copy room, I would have thought twice before giving all my little red silk bow ties to Goodwill. If you’re over 30, well, OK maybe over 40, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Gone are the days when business casual meant khakis and a button down. Yet while the sloppy young men in their saggy pants and in-your-face T-shirt proclamations may be annoying – (Hint: if you wouldn’t say it to your mother, I shouldn’t have to read it on your shirt) – it’s the trashy female office attire that really gets me going. Holding a job shouldn’t mean dressing like a “working girl.” Provocative clothing at work is a frequent complaint of CEOs and HR types. It’s kind of a gray area, well, actually more like pink, beige and caramel colored. So it’s challenging for management to provide politically correct guidance. However, since I am neither management nor politically correct, I’m going to tell it like it is: The more jiggly your body, the trashier you look when you expose it. Case it point. If Eva “Desperate Housewives” Longoria and I both show up in the same low-cut, form-fitting halter top, she will look sophisticated and sexy, whereas I will look like an aging pole dancer trolling for tricks in a $3 honkeytonk. Dear little skinny Eva has played a loose woman on TV, and in real life she dresses quite provocatively and has worked as a model, a profession that gives you no clues whatsoever about her IQ. Yet put her beside a slightly chubby writer, and if I have more fleshy flab spilling out of my shirt than she does, people are going to assume that I’m the brainless bimbo. (No offense, Eva) It doesn’t really matter whether scanty clothing makes people think you earn your living in a hotel, or on the street. The harsh reality is, if your breasts enter the room before you do – visible to God and your boss via a sheer blouse and a red lace push-up bra – it’s highly unlikely that management is going to entrust you with anything more difficult than jumping out of a cake. Unfortunately, it’s not just young women who are guilty of tramping it up at work. For every 20-something receptionist with her belly spilling out over her low riders, there’s a middle-aged manager with her breasts coming out of both sides of her silk sleeveless. To paraphrase my grandmother again, even if you are trying to attract male attention at the office, trust me, there’s no incentive to buy you dinner when you’re already putting on the show for free. Ladies, get a grip. We don’t have to hide our sexuality anymore, but that doesn’t mean we should lead with it. Yes, you can be smart and sexy at the same time. But please, do yourself – and your colleagues – a favor, try exposing your brains before you bare your belly.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect” and “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at .

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