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24 July 2008

Did exposed cleavage at work become okay? Did I miss a memo? [More:]I passed four women in the office today who all had exposed cleavage. This is not uncommon at all. We're not in the most highly regarded jobs, but it IS a major corporation and a white collar setting. I don't remember seeing this much boobage until this job. I can't imagine being a straight male; I'd be distracted all day if I had to look at the outlines of guys' packages.

The women in question are generally mid-20s. It's a female-dominated office with few single males, so I'm not sure who they're dressing for. They're otherwise dressed professionally. Is this everywhere now?
It's cleavage season, yo. Here in NYC, the cleavage is getting out of hand, the necklines have plunged to below the bottom of the boobs. That's just dirty pool, man.
posted by jonmc 24 July | 19:56
The other guys in the office laughed when I wrote that memo. They said if it were that easy, someone would have done it long ago. The fools.
posted by spork 24 July | 20:05
The women in my office building don't show cleavage, and I don't think I've ever worked with any woman who did. Maybe someone needs to forward that memo on.
posted by cmonkey 24 July | 20:11
Was cleavage ever not OK? Hell, I had primary and high school teachers who showed cleavage (in the 60s and 70s).
posted by Ardiril 24 July | 20:15
The women in my office building don't show cleavage, and I don't think I've ever worked with any woman who did.

You need to work retail, hoss. One of the benefits of being one of us is that we can dress casually and for the weather, so there's plenty of exposed flesh. And most of the customers are doing the same in this heatwave here in the Apple.
posted by jonmc 24 July | 20:16
I work in a casual office and there is so much short shortage, short skirtage, and cleavage right now that when we took an office trip to the beach, I felt like I'd seen it all already.
Today I wore a semi-cleavagey shirt, but a cardigan over it for all my meetings.
posted by rmless2 24 July | 20:44
The women in my office building don't show cleavage, and I don't think I've ever worked with any woman who did.
Pretty common here. The fact that there seems to be an inordinate number of good-looking women working in this area doesn't help keep the mind on the job, either, let me tell you. Especially on Fridays, which are always casual dress days.
posted by dg 24 July | 20:53
What kind of exposure are we talking about? The space between the two breasts, or the top of each? Are they pressed together to form that cleavage line, or are they separated? I don't know why it makes a difference in my mind, but somehow, it does (some cleavage is less accidental than other kinds).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 24 July | 20:56
All the women at my job wear buns, cardigans and glasses on beaded chains around their necks.
posted by box 24 July | 20:58
Stop, you're getting me excited.
posted by jonmc 24 July | 21:01
TPS - pressed together. It's really hard not to notice.
posted by desjardins 24 July | 21:13
I'm a DDD on a skinny day. The only thing that isn't a cleavage shirt is a turtleneck. (or a button up, but those don't like to, well, button up. and between-the-buttons boobage is just trashy). If you're more ample than average there's often not much you can do about it.
posted by kellydamnit 24 July | 21:14
A bit of all those, TPS. Not to the point of being able to see the bottom part of the boobs, if that makes sense, but some are close.

Also if it makes sense, none of the women here dress in any way cheap or tart-like, just casually and in a way that tends to show them to the best advantage.

Kind of outing myself as a bit of a perv here, aren't I? But I think you already knew that.
posted by dg 24 July | 21:15
Oy, you people think you got problems, at my job we do a lot of bending climbing and lifting and these kids today with their baggy clothes...I've seen the rear cleavage of just about all my co-workers. Sheesh. Since I realize that nobody wants to see my forbidden valley, I always wear a belt. That's why they make 'em, kids.
posted by jonmc 24 July | 21:26
Since tailored clothes have gone out of fashion, we sometimes have to deal with the intersection of fashion and body types. In college, MuddDude was known for his friendly plumber's crack (once, the Dean of Students asked me, "What's up with your boyfriend's pants??"). He wore a belt all the time, but that doesn't help if a dude don't got any hips.

Similarly, deep-v necks look chic and moderne on a model, but I challenge any woman over a B-cup to pull it off without cleavage. Partner that with the fact that most women are wearing an incorrect bra size, and I think that pretty much explains it. I wear a tank top under every shirt I own, but I'm sure my coworkers can see the top of my cleavage line. Maybe I should buy a "Wonder Bra"?
posted by muddgirl 24 July | 21:43
He wore a belt all the time, but that doesn't help if a dude don't got any hips.

I don't have any hips at all, but I still managed to keep crackmc hidden on the job. I fasten my belt just below my belly button. Sure I look weird, but I look weird anyway.
posted by jonmc 24 July | 21:46
Forgot to add, jon, that he had no hips and a pretty big tummy, so he'd belt under is belly-button and they'd just sort of slip down. Imagine trying to strap something around an inverted cone. It was pretty sad, actually...
posted by muddgirl 24 July | 21:52
There's only six women in my office, out of sixty or so employees, and they all dress pretty conservatively. Engineers aren't really known for their fashion sense, even the female ones.
posted by octothorpe 24 July | 22:36
When I worked for an IT firm in the L.A. area cleavage was much on display and the women mostly dressed in big name labels and and name shoes. I found it disturbing as most of them were in the 55k to 80k jobs. They were spending a huge amount on clothing and shoes.
posted by arse_hat 24 July | 23:12
Maybe I should buy a "Wonder Bra"?
I wouldn't recommend it, unless you want a place to rest your head for impromptu workday naps. "oh, what's this jabbing me in the chin? why, it's my breasts! they should not be there!"
posted by kellydamnit 24 July | 23:14
Oh my. I work in a multicultural computer lab and we are forbidden shorts or sleeveless shirt. Nevertheless, we have folks show up in shorts and shirts I'd never consider at my age of about-to-be-40.

I try to explain to my coworkers during training that, if we want folks to take us seriously, we should be reasonably covered. It does work. The kids often don't listen and then are surprised when people don't take their answers seriously.

Go figure, I say.
posted by lilywing13 25 July | 00:48
Do you guys think this is relatively new? Because I think it's been happening here for a long time, and I never really knew if it was Greece, or Europe generally. Probably Europe - or at least Italy, Germany, France, which are the countries people here are most connected with (aside from the UK - is it Europe? No one knows! :) )

I remember visiting San Jose, Costa Rica in the early 90s, and being amazed at all the women going to their office jobs in stilettos, low cut tops, and short, tight skirts, and thinking "one would never, ever see this in the U.S." Wrong.

It's fashion, apparently, but I can't help but think that when you can't tell clubwear from officewear, not only do signals become mixed, some of the fun of fashion is also lost.
posted by taz 25 July | 01:53
taz, have you been up to Sofia? Prominently displaying your boobs, and short skirts that just barely aren't showing your bum, seems to be absolutely necessary.
posted by Meatbomb 25 July | 02:41
Yay for work cleavage. Of all kinds.
posted by seanyboy 25 July | 02:59
taz, I think that dress standards have changed in the workplace over recent years, although I notice a difference between government workplaces and private sector workplaces. I work for a government department, but spend a lot of my work time in private offices, so I see both sides and, in general, the dress at private sector workplaces is much more "corporate" compared to government. This doesn't always mean less cleavage, but it means (I think) that it is more deliberate, being caused by (obviously) undone buttons rather than a more casual clothing style. You don't see much bum cleavage caused by hipster jeans in the private sector either, while this is not uncommon in government offices.

It is most likely unique to our office, but people where I work are generally much more free in many ways with each other than what I have experienced in the past. In general, everyone in our office gets on very well and, because of this, people are comfortable in their use of language, dress and sharing of personal information than I would expect to be usual in an office environment. Language that would be totally unacceptable in many offices is the norm, sexual innuendo and teasing is common and most of us know a lot of personal stuff about most of the people around us. Many of the conversations happening every day would be cause for sexual harassment complaints in many cases, I imagine.

Of course, it's a matter of knowing your audience and there are some people who don't participate in the back-and-forth as much - as backwards as this sounds, it is all quite respectful and (now that I think about it) you need to take the initiative to be part of the banter. Unless you break the ice yourself, nobody is going to make sexual jokes with you or say "fuck" in a conversation with you. When I say "our office", I actually mean the people who work around us and who are part of our team (about 30 people in all)- there are people working around the corner a dozen desks away who I have never spoken to in 3.5 years and have no idea of what they do.

When I look at it written, it seems all nasty and clichy, but it really isn't - it's the most positive, most supportive, most friendly workplace I have ever seen. Maybe it's a bit hard to imagine without experiencing it. Just take it from me - it's the coolest place in the world to work and everyone there (well, 99% anyway) agree. Many of the staff have become close friends (some more than others, nudge, nudge) and socialise together frequently. Most of us have socialised with each other at least a few times and there are regular drinking sessions in the office on Friday afternoons (after hours, natch)

I agree about the lack of separation between work wear and fashion - even on non-casual dress days, it's sometimes hard to tell if some people are dressed for the office or a nightclub.

But, yeah, yay for work cleavage. You'll never hear me complaining about it.
posted by dg 25 July | 04:27
Also, women dress for each other. Swear to God, the more women you have in a workplace, the higher the pressure to be a fashionista.

As for the cleavage, for some of us it can be very hard to hide once the summer months come on. I think kellydamnit got it spot on. The bigger your boobs, the harder it is to dress conservatively.

WHY can't I wear button-down shirts? WHY? (If I do wear them, I have to wear something underneath, and only button the middle button at my waist, because the top buttons just won't go. Fashion is for women without boobs. Also without hips.)
posted by brina 25 July | 08:37
I feel like Admiral Akbar around aggressive office cleavage.
posted by Hugh Janus 25 July | 08:47
Hillary Clinton did it.
posted by Jaltcoh 25 July | 09:00
Cleavage doesn't automatically mean you are falling out of your shirt to show off your sexuality. For some women, cleavage is just THERE. It took me a lot of years to realize that's not a bad thing and to not be ashamed of my body. I used to cover myself up to the neck, and it looked awful. Thing is, I dropped my necklines about ten years ago because I watched a makeover show and realized if you *have* larger boobs, covering them up makes you look WAAAYYYY heavier. What's most flattering is a V-neck.

So... either you look fat or you look slutty. It's really not a very fair tradeoff.

I think it depends on where you live, though. In LA, I never felt my necklines were all that low, they were definitely higher than 99% of what I saw other people wearing during 100 summers in the Valley. I've always been relatively modest and considered myself pretty classy. But when I moved to the Bay area, I realized that I had to buy new clothes because showing cleavage *at all* was making me feel judged as though I was putting myself on display. I never had that experience before, having lived in an environment where I was always surrounded by people wearing far more revealing things than me.

I find that women in the Bay area tend to dress more like tomboys than women sometimes, though... which I don't really like. Some people believe that by dressing feminine (No, I didn't say slutty. I said FEMININE. Big difference.) you are purposely calling attention to your sexuality or being unprofessional, but I don't necessarily agree. I really like dressing like a woman, and I've learned over the years that if someone wants to project sexuality onto you (or anything else), they're gonna do it no matter WHAT you're wearing. So screw 'em and be comfortable.

Personally, I do think that sometimes when dressing feminine it's *okay* to include a smidgen of cleavage if ya got it. People shouldn't feel so ashamed or uptight over one skin fold. Sometimes that discomfort can say more about the viewer than the person being judged. (YMMV though.) But whatever... I don't know... I'm just really kind of happy that when I go back to LA I'll disappear into crowds of people who look far sluttier than me so I can let the necklines drop a smidgen without thought of recrimination.

These button up turtlenecks I've invested in are really not very comfortable for summer wear...
posted by miss lynnster 25 July | 17:55
I'm agreeing with kellydamnit and others about bigger boobs being harder to hide. And miss lynnster, when she says if you cover them up you look heavier. I've seen photos of myself in turtlenecks and I look like I'm all boob. So I prefer to go with v-necks and scoopnecks.

It's true, too, that what feels comfortable at home can feel suddenly revealing once I'm out. I forget that I'm short, and taller people can see more of me than I realize. Of course, it's also true that I like to show more cleavage than probably necessary. I have to wear a white coat over my clothes at work, and I like the occasional "flash" of skin. Keeps my male coworkers attentive.
posted by redvixen 25 July | 19:18
This thread is useless without photos.
posted by terrapin 26 July | 10:53
Oh, the suffering. || I FOUND 'EM!