The Thinking Woman's Guide to Cleavage

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Woman in Yellow skirt

Work Cleavage: How Low Can You Go?

If you work in finance or law, you know you have to keep the girls under cover. If you're auditioning for The Real Housewives, well...the more boob the better, we suppose. What's acceptable for the rest of us? We asked Margaret Batting, president of Elevé Style Consulting in Barrington, Rhode Island, for guidelines.

DO: Ditch the low-cut tops and push-up bras. "Flaunting your cleavage at the office sends a message that you're not serious about your work," says Batting. Worse, people might think you're just plain clueless ("Where did she think she was going in that outfit?"). That doesn't mean you have to start wearing shirts buttoned to the neck, of course. Your main concern is simply to keep your actual cleavage -- that hollow between your breasts -- covered up, says Batting.

DON'T: Assume your boobs don't bother anyone. Think about the last time you met a woman who was busting out of her top. Maybe you weren't offended by the display, but you probably felt awkward. So why would it be okay for you to make clients and coworkers -- male and female -- feel the same way? As Batting points out, "Covering your cleavage at the office is simply good etiquette."

DO: Protect yourself from accidental overexposure. Even a seemingly PG-rated outfit can turn XXX when you bend over. Before you head to the office, stand in front of the mirror and lean forward -- if you can see your goods, your coworkers will, too. When you stand back up, make sure you can't see down your shirt; otherwise, anyone hovering over your desk will get a free peep show.

DON'T: Take your fashion cues from celebs. Why are women letting it all hang out at work? Batting's theory: "We see so much over-the-top cleavage in the media that it starts to seem okay to dress the same way." But just because practically every woman on TV sports a deep V-neck top doesn't mean you can wear one to the office -- no matter how cute you look in it.

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