Study: Your Co-Workers Are Judging Your Clothes


women judgmental office attireThis post originally appeared on The Jane Dough

Apparently everyone’s office is just like The Devil Wears Prada.

According to a new survey, women spend almost a fifth (up to 18%) of their salary on work clothes every year. Over two thirds of women report feeling under pressure to dress a certain way to get noticed at work. But the pressure isn’t just in their heads: over half of the women admitted that they judge their female colleagues based on what they wear to work, and over a third reported worrying about what people think if they wear the same clothes too often. We may work in offices, but we are all definitely still in high school.

The survey also found that one in four women say they have consciously changed the way they dress to compete with colleagues and 60% have bought new clothes to help them further their career. Joanna Williams, Head of Brother UK Marketing and Communications, who carried out the survey, said: ‘Whether we intend to or not, we are guilty on some level of subconsciously labelling people based on what they wear.”

Certainly nice clothes can make women feel more confident, perhaps driving them to assert themselves more at work. As 30 Rock’s Avery Jessup once said “Flats are for quitters.” In a 2009 Today Show poll that asked “Do high heels empower or oppress women in the workplace?”, 49% said high heels empowered them. Heck, at Goldman Sachs it’s tradition for women at senior management level to wear more interesting heels, like ones in leopard print. And let’s not forget that in The Devil Wears Prada Nigel (Stanley Tucci) gives Andy (Anne Hathaway) high heels to help her fit in. You might say that high heels literally save her career.

As if heels weren’t enough to worry about, another recent study found that more than two thirds of women would be too afraid to go in to work if they had to do it without makeup. Good grief. When did work get so scary?

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  • Crystal Kopp

    I was just told to stop wearing headbands with flowers on them to work. Apparently too many people in the office think I’m “Too Stylish” which to me is just code for somebody’s jealous. Doesn’t help that I’m the youngest female in the office and the only one who isn’t married along with not having any kids.

    • Amy

      It’s also possible that you are dressing too young and someone said “stylish” to be nice to you about it. I work in a conservative business and have given and received advice about career appropriate dress vs. trendy/cute style.

      Believe it or not, the married moms of the world are not automatically jealous of you.

    • Destined To Be Destiny P.

      I don’t see why women would be jealous of you.
      You do look young, though.
      I’d say around 37. :)