By: Caroline Shannon
When Adryenn Ashley was in her 20s, she dressed Sex and the City style every day – cleavage, heavy makeup and perfectly coiffed hair all the way.
But then, one of her mentors told her the reason behind her low-key, makeup-free appearance: “She said, ‘Because that’s the naked truth,’” Ashley said. “For her, it upped the honesty factor she conveyed in the workplace.”
Now, Ashley, a certified divorce financial analyst and the owner of self-promotion company Wow! Is Me, says she realizes her revealing work attire was only putting her in a situation where people were admiring the contents of her push-up bras and not her IQ.
Yet, her 20-year-old way of thinking is not that far-fetched. In fact, the idea to dress like Charlotte, Samantha, Carrie and Miranda has made its way so much into the workplace that people are beginning to wonder how it’s affecting a woman’s ability to earn a fair paycheck. It’s a scary thought in a world where women have fought so hard for equal opportunity, but last year women earned a median weekly wages of 80.2 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. What’s worse, that statistic has slipped from its 80.8 cents in 2006 and 81 cents in 2005.
That’s not to say the way women dress is the sole reason why their income is not reflective of men’s. It does, however, create a platform of debate as to whether or not women are undermining their potential by choosing to dress on the risqué side. “My problem was that I wasn’t taking myself seriously,” said Ashley, now 39. “It all goes back to how you see yourself – it’s the reflection that everyone else sees.
Dr. Karen Sherman agreed with Ashley, emphasizing that “people react quickly based on their first impressions, and most first impressions are based on looks.”
“Forget what mama taught about ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover,’” said Sherman, a psychologist and author of Mindfulness and The Art of Choice: Transform Your Life. “Research says we do. And once we make a first impression, that’s the one that usually sticks.” Successful business women agree: there’s a time and a place for sexy dressing and it’s not in the office.
Jennifer Bourgoyne, founder of Czela Bellies CesareanWear, says she tried to play up ho-hum conservative work attire with a flower hair pin, artistic necklace or “fab bag.”
“I think dressing in body hugging suits is way more attractive than revealing too much leg or boobage,” Bourgoyne, 42, said. “Maybe it’s just me, but I think the sexy librarian will always reign supreme over the woman that can’t get past the nightclub wear during the day look.”
Lori Quaranta, owner of Consetta Creative Publicity, says that although she works from home, she knows how to keep it simple for business meetings.
“But when I go out, it’s Sex and the City attire all the way,” Quaranta said. “Hey, I’m 50 and fabulous!”