Hemlines and Promotion – the Direct Correlation

Since I have been running my own business, I admit, I have grown to hate clothes shopping – that great pastime of fresh-faced teenagers I used to so adore. Who has the time? Last week, in between two meetings in Edinburgh, I managed to have a power shop in the last of the January sales, and picked up three dresses and a skirt at LK Bennett and Hobbs in just over an hour.  What I was looking for, and why I keep going back to those stores, is simple – hemlines. They are among the only high street retailers who offer dresses that don’t stop mid-thigh; a look that screams ‘I’m giggly and can make fast photocopies, but I’m not promotable in the long term!”   Considering the number of professional women working out there, you’d think we would have more choice.

So, with the dearth of options I head out looking for dresses that hit just below the knee – universally the most flattering length. This length says “Take my work seriously, and my sartorial elegance means I’m a good bet for senior positions.” This is the sweet spot of skirt length as far as I am concerned because ‘too short’ reminds us of recent grads and gets the wrong kind of admiration from male colleagues and questionable looks from female colleagues – neither of which is helpful to your long term career goals. Dresses are also so easy – and who doesn’t want that? The fabulous thing about work dresses is that they are easier to put on than a suit, and yet people think you went to a real effort!  Plus, they are a great way to maintain your femininity so you don’t have to look like ‘one of the boys’ even when you are surrounded by them. My one caveat is that senior women, women who are more established in their careers can get away with wearing what they want – simply because no one is questioning their credibility any longer. They’ve earned their stripes – pinstripes or otherwise. Career progression amongst the boys club is a tough enough ladder to climb, don’t let people look up your skirt as you do it! Find more on career planning here.

Dres from Hobbs.

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  • Kate Atkin

    I used to buy my business jackets from Kaliko, but they have stopped doing professional business wear. Agree there’s a dearth on the High Street… set up a new business anyone??

    • Melanie Davis

      Yes if you need an accountant – sadly I know nothing about fashion!

  • http://twitter.com/SophiaIsabella Sophia

    Hobbs is brilliant for sensible work wear; I also like Jaeger for smarter work wear when I have an important meeting or need a suit that I want to last.
    As a recent graduate (5 years ago) I was horrified when I joined a big corporate to find some of my female graduate colleagues parading round the office in mini skirts. It doesn’t seem to have dented their promotability but it certainly raises eyebrows, more so from female colleagues. Although I’m just as guilty as anyone (I believe I come into the office all day to work, not to flaunt my long legs under the eyes of male colleagues) of casting a disapproving look I do believe its their choice to wear what they want to. That said several of our offices have recently implemented a dress code as skirt lengths, amongst other things, were getting a little out of hand. Is this a sign of things to come for businesses who want to avoid any suggestions of inappropriate behaviour on either side?

  • http://www.beyondtheboysclub.com Suzanne Doyle-Morris

    Great point, Sophie about dress codes – ideally I would like to see people of both genders use their common sense, rather than be dictated to. The problem is for women, risque clothing can easily undermine a woman’s credibility and raise doubts as to her seniority or why she was promoted. Do men even have somewhat office appropriate things that could be deemed risque? Not really.