Cleavage Again: How low can you go?

Cleavage Again: How low can you go?

Joined: April 11th, 2004, 7:40 pm

June 14th, 2004, 11:01 am #1

From Saturday's (June 12) Globe and Mail (Toronto)

(Did they they miss the 'point'?)



HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
As fashion strips down for summer, the hottest issue in the workplace is where to draw the neckline, writes TRALEE PEARCE

By TRALEE PEARCE

6:56 AM EDT Saturday, Jun 12, 2004


It was a conversation marketing executive Kimberley Morton just didn't want to have. But a young woman in her office had recently had breast implants and was showing off her new cleavage as if it were a designer handbag.

"The men at work were very uncomfortable," she says. "You can't not look, and they thought, 'Please don't put us in this position. It's really unfair to us.' "

Of course, the male boss couldn't have the conversation. So Morton was appointed the task of gently steering the young woman toward covering up. Over coffee, "I told her some people were uncomfortable with her attire and what could we do about this," she says.

Clearly the nether space between a women's breasts is as charged as ever, especially in workplaces that have instituted both casual-dressing and sexual-harassment policies. Is it a post-feminist-anything-goes ethos? Or are women finding they actually get ahead flashing a little skin?

Screenwriter Anne Fenn says it's a bit of both. "It does seem that many young women are enjoying a post-feminist-issued licence to use any and all of their personal assets to their advantage, in and outside the workplace."

But she says it's not a case of a double standard between men and women -- it's just easier for women to cross the line.

"Would you want to hang around, let alone promote, some dude who wore tight pants that outlined his honking genitalia? I think the aversion to cleavage in the workplace has to do with the fact that it's just not workplace-friendly wear. It subliminally signals a predilection towards 'play' rather than 'work' -- and that, in the end, may be the thing that bothers people."

Fashion's no help -- I swear the perpetual T-shirt of the summer, the two-for-$35 Club Monaco T, has a deeper V this year. Despite a media-hyped trend toward a more ladylike look, it's hard to button up when the patio is beckoning.

It's that pull of the patio that has many corporations concerned. According to a recent survey by Hewitt Associates, 80 per cent of businesses want to ensure that summer dressing not make the workplace any more casual than it already is.

As for the guys, they may have a legitimate beef. Accountant Richard O'Brien isn't afraid to call it as he sees it. "Women clearly realize that cleavage is sexy and men enjoy the view. In office environments, cleavage is exposed in mass quantities, but the ever-present Catch-22 exists: 'Don't stare at my breasts, why aren't you staring at my breasts? I wear tops like this for myself and because they are comfortable.' Women cannot make up their minds."

Custom shirt maker Victoria McPhedran says every generation has its risqué office dressing. She considers cleavage the dilemma of the year 2004, much as micro-minis were the curse of the eighties. Back then, she recalls emulating the Melrose Place women, which she now realizes was inappropriate for her bank job. Today, it's CSI Miami and The Eleventh Hour and their glamorous take on the working woman.

"It's the style you see on TV and in the films for up-and-coming twentysomethings. It doesn't matter if they are playing a role of office girl on her path to success or just out getting a Starbucks, this is what the starlets who set the pace are doing."

McPhedran, who spends plenty of time in corporate offices fitting her male clientele, sees the debate as generational. "Of course fortysomethings hate it. I think it is because they have passed the stage where they can get away with it. For a fortysomething, they have more responsibility, they are higher up in the organization . . . things that point towards a more conservative period of dressing."

But the cleavage issue doesn't always, er, cleave, along age lines.

Literary agent Helen Heller, 54, is a believer in some -- not dramatic -- cleavage at work. But the key, she says, is to eschew the micro-mini and not go sleeveless at the same time. "Cleavage can look good at any age as long as, one, it doesn't give the onlooker too much information and, two, it's not too sun-damaged."

Maxine Bailey, the director of public affairs for the Toronto Film Festival, agrees. "I'm a firm believer in cleavage in the workplace, as it draws attention away from my over-40 face."

Pat Sandri-Thomson, 40, a senior officer at the Canadian consulate in New York, is of the if-you-got-'em-flaunt-'em school. "Cleavage definitely seems to be more in now, at least it seems that way if you compare the choices women now have when purchasing business attire. The crisscross, cleavage-revealing blouse can be found in every major chain known for selling business attire to women. Deep V necklines are touted as the most flattering neckline for the well-endowed, a refreshing departure from the high-necked prison the big-chested were previously relegated to."

And size does seem to matter. The less-endowed among us can still get away with deeper cuts. Ceri Marsh, editor-in-chief of Fashion magazine, says she know it's a double standard of its own. "I bare quite a bit of chest at the office, and I don't mind even a bit of my bra showing in the right bra-shirt combo. But I am quite flat-chested. When I notice bustier women flashing cleavage in a professional setting, I think it looks cheap."

At the Boston Consulting Group, the dress code has had an informal tag: Don't wear it if you can see over it, under it, or through it.

It's brilliant in its simplicity. Think about your cleavage if you're sitting down and a co-worker is standing beside you. Think about your miniskirt in the opposite scenario. Look in the mirror.

BCG office manager Sherri Laurie, who turned 40 this year, says they struggled before writing the policy. "Because we have new staff all the time, we felt it would help them not to make a mistake that they would feel embarrassed about."

But most of us have to make our own decisions. One twentysomething I know is matter-of-fact about hers. She wasn't getting any help from the curmudgeonly males at her new job, so she decided to dress up, including dropping her neckline. It was nothing she was uncomfortable with, but not what she'd normally wear to work. She got the help she needed. Soon after, a female colleague warned her the men were discussing her cleavage. "I told her that was the whole point."
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michaela
michaela

June 14th, 2004, 4:38 pm #2

Glad your back with us again. Welcome!
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Anonymous
Anonymous

June 14th, 2004, 6:11 pm #3

From Saturday's (June 12) Globe and Mail (Toronto)

(Did they they miss the 'point'?)



HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
As fashion strips down for summer, the hottest issue in the workplace is where to draw the neckline, writes TRALEE PEARCE

By TRALEE PEARCE

6:56 AM EDT Saturday, Jun 12, 2004


It was a conversation marketing executive Kimberley Morton just didn't want to have. But a young woman in her office had recently had breast implants and was showing off her new cleavage as if it were a designer handbag.

"The men at work were very uncomfortable," she says. "You can't not look, and they thought, 'Please don't put us in this position. It's really unfair to us.' "

Of course, the male boss couldn't have the conversation. So Morton was appointed the task of gently steering the young woman toward covering up. Over coffee, "I told her some people were uncomfortable with her attire and what could we do about this," she says.

Clearly the nether space between a women's breasts is as charged as ever, especially in workplaces that have instituted both casual-dressing and sexual-harassment policies. Is it a post-feminist-anything-goes ethos? Or are women finding they actually get ahead flashing a little skin?

Screenwriter Anne Fenn says it's a bit of both. "It does seem that many young women are enjoying a post-feminist-issued licence to use any and all of their personal assets to their advantage, in and outside the workplace."

But she says it's not a case of a double standard between men and women -- it's just easier for women to cross the line.

"Would you want to hang around, let alone promote, some dude who wore tight pants that outlined his honking genitalia? I think the aversion to cleavage in the workplace has to do with the fact that it's just not workplace-friendly wear. It subliminally signals a predilection towards 'play' rather than 'work' -- and that, in the end, may be the thing that bothers people."

Fashion's no help -- I swear the perpetual T-shirt of the summer, the two-for-$35 Club Monaco T, has a deeper V this year. Despite a media-hyped trend toward a more ladylike look, it's hard to button up when the patio is beckoning.

It's that pull of the patio that has many corporations concerned. According to a recent survey by Hewitt Associates, 80 per cent of businesses want to ensure that summer dressing not make the workplace any more casual than it already is.

As for the guys, they may have a legitimate beef. Accountant Richard O'Brien isn't afraid to call it as he sees it. "Women clearly realize that cleavage is sexy and men enjoy the view. In office environments, cleavage is exposed in mass quantities, but the ever-present Catch-22 exists: 'Don't stare at my breasts, why aren't you staring at my breasts? I wear tops like this for myself and because they are comfortable.' Women cannot make up their minds."

Custom shirt maker Victoria McPhedran says every generation has its risqué office dressing. She considers cleavage the dilemma of the year 2004, much as micro-minis were the curse of the eighties. Back then, she recalls emulating the Melrose Place women, which she now realizes was inappropriate for her bank job. Today, it's CSI Miami and The Eleventh Hour and their glamorous take on the working woman.

"It's the style you see on TV and in the films for up-and-coming twentysomethings. It doesn't matter if they are playing a role of office girl on her path to success or just out getting a Starbucks, this is what the starlets who set the pace are doing."

McPhedran, who spends plenty of time in corporate offices fitting her male clientele, sees the debate as generational. "Of course fortysomethings hate it. I think it is because they have passed the stage where they can get away with it. For a fortysomething, they have more responsibility, they are higher up in the organization . . . things that point towards a more conservative period of dressing."

But the cleavage issue doesn't always, er, cleave, along age lines.

Literary agent Helen Heller, 54, is a believer in some -- not dramatic -- cleavage at work. But the key, she says, is to eschew the micro-mini and not go sleeveless at the same time. "Cleavage can look good at any age as long as, one, it doesn't give the onlooker too much information and, two, it's not too sun-damaged."

Maxine Bailey, the director of public affairs for the Toronto Film Festival, agrees. "I'm a firm believer in cleavage in the workplace, as it draws attention away from my over-40 face."

Pat Sandri-Thomson, 40, a senior officer at the Canadian consulate in New York, is of the if-you-got-'em-flaunt-'em school. "Cleavage definitely seems to be more in now, at least it seems that way if you compare the choices women now have when purchasing business attire. The crisscross, cleavage-revealing blouse can be found in every major chain known for selling business attire to women. Deep V necklines are touted as the most flattering neckline for the well-endowed, a refreshing departure from the high-necked prison the big-chested were previously relegated to."

And size does seem to matter. The less-endowed among us can still get away with deeper cuts. Ceri Marsh, editor-in-chief of Fashion magazine, says she know it's a double standard of its own. "I bare quite a bit of chest at the office, and I don't mind even a bit of my bra showing in the right bra-shirt combo. But I am quite flat-chested. When I notice bustier women flashing cleavage in a professional setting, I think it looks cheap."

At the Boston Consulting Group, the dress code has had an informal tag: Don't wear it if you can see over it, under it, or through it.

It's brilliant in its simplicity. Think about your cleavage if you're sitting down and a co-worker is standing beside you. Think about your miniskirt in the opposite scenario. Look in the mirror.

BCG office manager Sherri Laurie, who turned 40 this year, says they struggled before writing the policy. "Because we have new staff all the time, we felt it would help them not to make a mistake that they would feel embarrassed about."

But most of us have to make our own decisions. One twentysomething I know is matter-of-fact about hers. She wasn't getting any help from the curmudgeonly males at her new job, so she decided to dress up, including dropping her neckline. It was nothing she was uncomfortable with, but not what she'd normally wear to work. She got the help she needed. Soon after, a female colleague warned her the men were discussing her cleavage. "I told her that was the whole point."
Those of us who are on the flatter side can get away with wearing deeper cuts without showing clevage and I like that since I have always liked wearing tank tops (not that I work in an office or anything)

I have to take issue with that one woman:
"Ceri Marsh, editor-in-chief of Fashion magazine, says she know it's a double standard of its own. "I bare quite a bit of chest at the office, and I don't mind even a bit of my bra showing in the right bra-shirt combo. But I am quite flat-chested. When I notice bustier women flashing cleavage in a professional setting, I think it looks cheap."

She thinks it's cool to show her bra but thinks a bit of clevage is cheap. If anything showing bra is the cheaper look than a little bit of breast.
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Melissa
Melissa

June 14th, 2004, 6:12 pm #4

nm
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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 14th, 2004, 6:59 pm #5

Those of us who are on the flatter side can get away with wearing deeper cuts without showing clevage and I like that since I have always liked wearing tank tops (not that I work in an office or anything)

I have to take issue with that one woman:
"Ceri Marsh, editor-in-chief of Fashion magazine, says she know it's a double standard of its own. "I bare quite a bit of chest at the office, and I don't mind even a bit of my bra showing in the right bra-shirt combo. But I am quite flat-chested. When I notice bustier women flashing cleavage in a professional setting, I think it looks cheap."

She thinks it's cool to show her bra but thinks a bit of clevage is cheap. If anything showing bra is the cheaper look than a little bit of breast.
Speaking of "double standards"- what about us guys?

Can we now throw away our ties and unbutton our shirts?
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Joined: April 11th, 2004, 7:40 pm

June 14th, 2004, 7:15 pm #6

nm
Dear Melissa,

Thanks for the tip off. I had to smile, I think most of us knew instinctively it was you - we know you too well! And that is meant nicely like close friends who anticipate each others next words.

Take care, and keep out of the rain when wearing body paint!

Michael
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Joined: April 11th, 2004, 7:40 pm

June 14th, 2004, 7:26 pm #7

Speaking of "double standards"- what about us guys?

Can we now throw away our ties and unbutton our shirts?
Who was that directed to, Nat?

I think this article fails in that it is rather superficial and does not address the real issues.

However at least it is being talked about. The real issues are surely - what is so wrong with this mystical cleavage thing. I say mystical because technically it refers to something that is not there, a virtual space between two breasts. What we really mean is that it actually reminds people that most women do have two breasts - so what?

Secondly why shoud men commenting be a reason for women being told to cover up. If a woman likes to air a bit of chest and men enjoy seeing her, why does the sky have to fall in? Is there a crime being committed somewhere?

And can we stop calling women cheap if they want to dress comfortably. What does it really mean?

The real issues are women's choices in clothing, which is being confused with behaviour. There was some balance in the article at least. However the fundamental issue is that there is nothing wrong with a woman having breasts, so she does not have to pretend that she does not have them. It's the other people in the office who seem to have a problem.

End of discussion.

Michael
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Joined: April 11th, 2004, 7:40 pm

June 14th, 2004, 7:31 pm #8

Glad your back with us again. Welcome!
Thanks Michaela.

A quick report from 'over there'. Most people know that older women (baboushkas - or grandmothers) in Russia are condemned to wear soul destroying black from head to foot, and that will probably not change in their life time.

On the other hand younger women now dress the same as anywhere else in the world and they will probably never become baboushkas.

A sensible Russian habit is the banya or bath-house. Communal bathing - usually a steam room or sauna with intermittent plunges into a 'cold tub'.

Michael
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michaela
michaela

June 14th, 2004, 7:47 pm #9

Why do the Babas have to wear the black and the scarf. Tradition only? The older ones don't see any reason to change? How about when it gets hot? Or does it ever get hot there?
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Joined: August 16th, 2002, 5:35 pm

June 14th, 2004, 9:35 pm #10

It's some kind of custom to wear black when someone you know has died, for 40 days. But here too (Greece) many old women in villages keep black forever when anyone (most likely their husband) dies. Maybe it has something to do with Orthodoxism?
Every time I'm in a village, I see all those old women in black clothes with hoods... If they had scythes, I'd feel I'm surrounded by Grim Reapers... :p
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