Did you get a chance to read the interviews and 54(!) pages of comments in the forum discussion that I mentioned on Tuesday?

On the one hand, it’s not a complicated issue for me.  I’ve always had a hard and fast rule:  no cleavage in the workplace ever.  There’s a time and place for everything, and the hours of 9-5 at the office are not the time and place for cleavage.

Often, however, I go beyond the simple No Cleavage rule and try to minimize my breasts.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I’d rather blend in with my co-workers on the appearance level and stand out on the attitude and achievement level.  But sometimes, I concentrate so hard on hiding my breast assets that I fall into the Hide Me trap for everything else.

It still doesn’t have to be complicated, though.  After reading Janie Bryant’s book, it seems like it’s just a matter of deciding on a character and dressing for that role.  We can still have a “See Me” or “Look at Me” attitude without being all about our boobs.

More than cleavage, the bigger question becomes:  Is “sexy” ever an appropriate role for us to play in the workplace?  Showing cleavage is just one way to look sexy, and not all cleavage is even sexy.  It just so happens that on most of us full-breasted women, it is.  My answer is no, sexy is not an appropriate role for the workplace if my goal is to be taken seriously and to move up the ladder.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, a writer lamented Alexander McQueen’s death by saying,  “Sadly for working women everywhere, he had a lot to teach other womenswear designers, who have such a hard time fathoming how to make women look simultaneously powerful and sexy.”

I seriously don’t believe that working women everywhere are trying to look powerful and sexy.  As I mentioned back in 2009, sexy tends to overshadow any other descriptor we’re aiming for, including “smart” and “powerful”.  However, back in 2009, it looks like I wrongly considered “feminine” and “sexy” to be synonyms.  They’re not.  I want to look smart, powerful, confident and feminine in the office, but I’ll save sexy for a different setting.

If another women thinks “sexy” is an appropriate role to play in the office, so be it.  I’m certainly not going to take the Liz Jones approach and lop off my own breasts in response!  And of course we know Liz Jones is wrong–a woman can be both brilliant and sexy without disappearing on maternity leave.  I would like to think that I would choose a more qualified but sexy job applicant over a less qualified one (although I’ve read that research shows we tend to choose the less-qualified candidate because we will feel less threatened by them!).

After the jump, I post comments that interested me.  I tried to find comments by large-breasted women or their partners. The first one, from the Above Top Secret forum, is especially fascinating. These comments say more about the person making them than about the actual issue they’re addressing.  I’m sure you’ll find a few that express your position, as well as a few you disagree with.

From Above Top Secret,
Dalloway at 12:16 a.m., 12/17/2010

I’ve got some pretty big ta-tas myself, so I’ve had plenty of experience with the effect they can have in certain situations. Because of this, I have learned to take a very pragmatic cause and effect approach to such things. Here’s the deal: In any given workplace, you should immediately learn the policy that applies to acceptable attire. Barring written policy, it doesn’t take long to figure out what the accepted cultural climate consists of in regards to acceptable, or even encouraged, displays of physical attributes. If your goal is to get promoted at your job, you should be prepared to do, or not do, whatever is required to get a promotion, within the confines of the law and within the confines of what is acceptable to you morally. If that means that there is an unspoken encouragement for female employees to wear low cut blouses that show off their cleavage, or wear blouses that are buttoned up to their chins, then so be it.

Ladies, if you have large breasts and the guy doing the promoting is known to like small breasts, then wear something that will minimize your endowment. If the converse is true, then get yourself to Victoria’s Secret and buy a cleavage enhancing Miracle Bra if you need it and wear a low cut shirt. I think cufflinks are sexy as hell. It’s conceivable that I might promote a guy who walked into my office wearing a shirt with cufflinks over the guy with a shirt with buttoned cuffs, especially if they were equally qualified for the job.

So let’s forget breasts and the male/female question all together and use something applicable to both genders. If you are gunning for a promotion and the hiring/firing/promoting supervisor, be they male of female, tends to promote brunettes over blondes and you are a blonde, be you male or female, then you may want to consider dying your hair a shade or two darker.

Yes, my point of view may seem like a very mercenary one, but oh well. In a perfect world, all employment promotions would be based on merit and service, but I doubt that I need to remind anyone on ATS that we do not inhabit a perfect world by any stretch of the imagination, nor do we inhabit a world where what is fair and good dictates outcomes. If you want the promotion bad enough you will do whatever you can to tip the scales in your favor. It is irrelevant whether it’s right or wrong for the hiring/firing/promoting supervisor to have a bias. If you are aware of the bias, the most expedient thing to do is to use that bias to your advantage. I once had a very religious boss. Though I did not subscribe to the same beliefs as he did, I did not hesitate to use an occasional well placed religious key word or phrase whenever I spoke with him if I had an opportunity to work it into the conversation. At the end of the work day, it really comes down to how badly you want to curry favor with the guy or gal in charge. If you are within the parameters of the law, then the only logical way to proceed is to act in a way that works in your favor.

From The Daily Mail,
Jaime, Belfast, 15/12/2010 4:50

I have an IQ of 156 and a bust size of 34HH. I know which one got me the great job and professional respect I have today, and it wasn’t the latter. A big chest gets you taken less seriously, not more.
From The Daily Mail,
Kimberley, Hertfordshire, 15/12/2010 5:21
I think there needs to be a distinction between accidental and deliberate cleavage. If you are bigger busted, like I am, it sometimes is difficult to find something that is flattering, comfortable and doesn’t look amazing slutty because you’ve got your boobs into it! There’s a little accidental cleavage which is vastly different to lets say Jordan-esque cleavage where half your breasts are on display – which, unless you work as a stripper, in the workplace is a little out of place. But subtletly is surely the watchword here? I would never use my boobs to get ahead!

From The Daily Mail,
T, Scotland, 15/12/2010 5:31
I’m a size 10, and a 32FF. I do not display my cleavage at work or in formal situations, but unless I wear exceptionally baggy clothing then you can still see that I have large breasts – they do not need to be exposed for men to see them, but there is nothing more I can do about this – I still look formal and classy.

I have, however, just completed a law degree (I did not put a photograph on my exam papers or university applications) and have obtained a training contract with a prominent legal firm (again, I did not put a photograph on my application, and I was one of only 4 applicants chosen for interview – at the interview I was well covered).

In my experience, it is usually unattractive or fat women who feel the need to expose their cleavages…..

From The Daily Mail,
Andrew, Durban South Africa, 15/12/2010 5:42

Interesting; my partner has an amazing bust and has never been shy in covering up completely at the work place; as she says there are times when a cover up is necessary, and other times her attitude is let them look.
Has it affected her work and chances of promotion, mmmm, I’d say not…she is a Continental director for a major Multinational and one of the most highly regarded persons in her field of work world wide.
She says that if men are stupid enough to judge her on her bust, or pay more attention to that than negotiating and business, then they get exactly what they deserve.
As for bitchy comments from women, those she ignores completely as that can only be put down to jealousy and envy, whether of her bust or brain, she cares not… she has succeeded where very few women have even tried to go… and good for her..

From The Daily Mail,
Rachel, Bristol, 15/12/2010 11:27
I have a reasonably large chest, and I do enjoy wearing low cut tops. I’ve had plenty of comments on my chest (not just from straight men) and I like them. 🙂

That said, I don’t wear anything too plunging or clinging at work. I work in a male dominated environment and I know that if I wore anything too low cut it would change their perspective of me.

From The Daily Mail,
Geri, Boston, USA, 15/12/2010 12:15
I tend to agree with Eve Pollard and certainly Mr. Delingpole. I have large breast and often there is a bit of cleavage on display, but I have the 1inch rule: There should never be more than an inch of cleavage on display at work. If you’re going out then the skies the limit! LOL! but seriously, if it’s a work function one has to think: do I really want my boss ogling my breasts all night? One woman in my office ALWAYS wears REALLY inappropriately low cut tops to work (So low I thought we were gonna have a nipple slipage event at the health and safety meeting) and to be honest it’s frowned upon by both the men and the women in the office and as a straight women I can honestly say it is down right DISTRACTING to see that much cleavage….let me reiterate, I’m straight and I can’t help but stare sometimes! Put ’em away love!
From The Daily Mail,
sarah, uk, 15/12/2010 14:08
I object to the idea that women with cleavages who wear a tight fitting top ‘have it all on display’. What are we supposed to do, walk around in jumpers in summer? ridiculous! I understand if someone walked in in a top 2 sizes too small, they may have an agenda but a normal sized top imo is fine.

From The Daily Mail,
Sadie, M/c UK, 15/12/2010 15:25
Do any of these people realise how hard it is to live with large breasts in the modern world? Articles and opinions like some of those above only make it worse. I just happen to have them genetically and find it impossible to know what to wear. If I cover up I look ridiculously frumpy and if I let a bit of cleavage show I am accused of being a tease. I can’t win. Why should I have to go through the painful and dangerous operation of a breast reduction just to satsify the needs of feminists or brainless men? I am the way I am, I can’t help it, and as long as I don’t go round being overly flirtatious with someone else’s partner (which you can do even with a flat chest!) why should anyone care?

From The Daily Mail,
secret, secret, 15/12/2010 16:40
Interesting I’m one of three girls on a male dominated degree (Games Design) and the other two girls fit snuggly into the typical “girl-gamer” category. But after just one term I’m beginning to tire of being referred to as “the only girl” and hearing comments about my 34GG breasts, as well as the looks of surprise when I actually manage to work some flash coding myself.
From The Daily Mail,
Sally, Sydney Australia, 15/12/2010 17:55
I don’t think it’s appropriate to show excess cleavage at work, but people need to realise that if you are carrying anything over a D cup, everyone always thinks you are ‘showing them off’ because they are generally out of proportion (if they were in proportion, there would be a larger back size and smaller cups).

I’m a 12DD or a 10E. I used to be a 12F or 10G, but I had a breast reduction. I don’t think most people realise that a breast reduction will generally only get you reduced by two cup sizes. I was disappointed I couldn’t go smaller, but got over it.

I don’t want to wear baggy clothes that make me look fat. I work out so I look good and that’s hard in 2 sports bras that restrict your breathing. The fact is, people look at unusually large breasts no matter what you do. I don’t expose my cleavage, but they are still noticeably large and people have opinions.

I refuse to wear clothes that make me look fat so I deal with the looks.

Their problem. Shoot me.

From The Daily Mail,
Phyllida, Hampshire, 16/12/2010 6:14
I do find it astonishing that so many people seem to assume if a woman has big breasts she must be using them to get ahead/have an effect on other people/be displaying her ‘wares’.

What are naturally large-chested women supposed to do? According to a lot of commenters that would be have surgery or hang their heads in shame and wear baggy clothing! I have 34G breasts therefore I CANNOT hide them even in baggy clothes and I am not prepared to wear unsupportive underwear to make them look smaller.

At work I tend to wear V necks to flatter my overall shape but don’t show cleavage but plenty of my busty colleagues do and no one thinks the worse of them for it – they just want to look attractive and that’s the way they choose to do it.

This whole feature is just discriminating against large-chested women. Smaller breasts can be displayed equally provocatively.

From The Daily Mail,
Tatjana, Belgrade, Serbia, 16/12/2010 14:38
This is an ever popular topic! I am slim and wear a 30FF. My breasts are beautiful things which need a lot of care and cost a lot to maintain (just check out how many bras a 30B can buy for a 100 and how many I can). I have issues with clothing, its all tailored as if a slim waist also means small bosoms. So it does NOT come for free. Also, I indeed have breasts. Just as a broadshouldered man has shoulders. We women know how weak we are about that, and how the scent of a freshly shaved man distracts us, but have we EVER mentioned it? Well, what is the man supposed to do, not shave and pretend that he does not have shoulders? Exactly. I do not wear cleaveges fit for a party to work, but I feel that the pictures which accompany this article almost all are basically a natural cleavage, just not hiding anything. I will not HIDE my breasts. For all the good it does me with men, I have to be extra nice to any woman with less. Now is that decent, tell me?

From The Daily Mail,
linseycook, france, 17/12/2010 4:09
As a lady with an ample chest, i’ve always made a point of keeping it under wraps, its hard enough trying to be taken seriously at work with out flaunting what i’ve got. I also Hate trying to avoid eyeing someones chest when its heaving over their clothes. Keep it for the office party if you must!!

From Above Top Secret

It is hard to “hide” big boobs.

Usually having being large chested means that if you aren’t careful you actually end up looking pretty bad. The shirt hangs in a way that makes you look very rotund even when you aren’t.

Or if you were a higher cut/collar it looks ridiculous, or it can even sometimes be MORE revealing than just wearing something which is more flattering.

My MIL tried to buy me some more “conservative” shirts – the look on her face when I wore the turtle necks she bought me was priceless. I can literally be covered from feet to chin, and still look like I’m showing off.

Something that looks professional on my coworker can easily make me look like I’m about to step onto the stage for strip tease……seriously, I actually borrowed a friends professional wardrobe for an interview once, and the guy thought I was lost and directed me to the strip club across the street before he realized I was his interview. Awesomeness. Very frustrating. And no – there was actually no cleavage, and I was wearing pants….flowy pants.

You have to understand – not very many “average” sized women are over a C. Finding shirts and dresses which are flattering without being too sexy, and being professional ….. there are no role models. No models are in the magazines. Few women fit this category, so you can’t just take stock of the women around you. The only role models you do have are hooters and porn really.

It took me a while to figure out how to dress so I look nice, professional and not resort to wearing things which are just expensive to compensate for looking like a sack.

If you are an employer, and you have a good employee who fits this body type and you have the sort of company that has some sort of employee assistance programs, the sort of employer who is looking to work with an employee….I might suggest you find a service in your area that specifically works with people to help them with personal presentation and wardrobe. Just have it as a service that the employee assistance / HR program can suggest if someone seems to be struggling with it.

Consider it toastmasters for the body.


If anyone on here is this woman, here is the best tips I have:

If you have a waist, use it. If you don’t, use the empire waist to your advantage or the wrap style to “create” a waist.
Buy your shirts to fit your largest two parts – your shoulders and your breasts, then get the shirt tailored to fit elsewhere. You may need to go to a plus size store – swallow your pride if you aren’t plus sized and try it. Big women still come in your shoulder size.
Get good foundation garmets. It is worth going for a professional fit. If you are average sized but have larger breasts, the pretty lingerie shops in the mall probably aren’t carrying what you need.
Layering with jackets, and nice sweater/etc can help minimize the impact.
Keep the neck line that works – just move it up an inch and a half. The neck line that flatters you truly looks good low or higher.

From Above Top Secret
12/17 12:59 a.m., by Girl_Interrupted
I wish that I wasn’t a DD, but I am. It’s just how it is.

Most women will tell you that button down shirts over a pair of DD breasts can be a nightmare. If we have a smaller waist then usually the top of the shirt is skin tight (if we want a snug waist) and if we finally DO manage to find a shirt that fits those DDs then it just might hang like a tent on us.

I worked with a man who just didn’t like me. And he hated the fact that I was his boss. He was rude, sarcastic and talked down to me. I finally had enough and mentioned his attitude on his annual performance. I didn’t mention it with regard to ME … I simply didn’t score his attitude very high. That was on a Friday.

On Monday I was called into the HR office because he had filed sexual harassment charges against me because during his evaluation … he had seen my bra through a tight button of my shirt when I moved to file something. It was summer and I was wearing a tailored, striped short sleeve shirt that looked nice under the short sleeve blazer I had on. I was hot because I had a camisole under it. He didn’t see a bra at all. He saw a camisole.

I had to bring the shirt and the camisole to work and wear it for the man from HR. When the employee was asked what color my bra was that day he said black … which was a lie. He resigned after I was not fired for sexually harassing him.

As a rule, I don’t show cleavage in a professional setting to avoid situations like that.

It makes for some interesting tailoring, I’ll tell ya.

From Above Top Secret
Calstorm 12/17 at 4:09 a.m.
From Above Top Secret
Xavialune 12/17 at 8:17 a.m.
Also Xavialune at 8:32 a.m.
yeah thats what I was saying. you should be expected to dress professionally in the workplace..all jobs are different and expect different types of dress, from casual to very businesslike. But even if your work doesn’t require a uniform, you ARE working and if you’re working in an office that has casual dress as the norm, let alone business attire, I really don’t see the point in showing off your boobs.

But like I said, say a lady works in an office with casual dress. She has a nice figure, and just happens to be blessed with very large boobs. She won’t be able to hide it, I know this from experience. As one poster mentioned, the only way you could is with baggy clothes, which is in itself unprofessional looking. So these ladies are really in a lose-lose situation, even if thier neckline is all the way up! I think men and women alike will generally take such a woman less seriously, simply because of her breast size, regardless of whether or not she shows them off. And yeah, thats sexist and something that I don’t agree with, but at the same time I realize its something that is ingrained into a lot of people.

So those women with large breasts I think have to work a little harder to be taken seriously, as I think they are often just seen as a pair of boobs. know what I mean? I guess you can’t really fully understand unless you actually are a large breasted woman in a workplace. It happens, though.