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Pink Prejudice: Can You Dress Too Feminine For Work?

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“I believe in pink.” – Audrey Hepburn

For the past year peplum has been a very hot trend. I personally love the whole peplum movement because it is so unabashedly feminine. It is practically like adding a little lace petticoat to whatever you are wearing. Forbes even wrote a piece recently on how to wear peplum to work because it is so trendy and doesn’t exactly scream corporate. But before we all rush out and buy peplum tops in every color, I have to ask, is it possible to dress too feminine for work?

A recent CareerBuilder survey found that pink and red are the least preferred choice (1% or less) for CEOs. The presumption is that these colors are too girly and are not taken as seriously as the corporate world’s favorite colors, the always exciting navy blue and black (navy blue was the top choice at 36% amongst CEOs, with black falling behind at 26%).

But does that mean that women should dress like men? Haven’t we been trying to move away from that? Women have proved they can be powerful and feminine. And yet, there is still prejudice against pink.

Fashion blogger Marion Green posed the question of “Can You Wear Pink to Work?” last year. She wrote on her blog that a female CFO friend of hers said, “I had to earn the right to wear red.” Berry said it took this woman, who worked in banking, 25 years of wearing beige, black and grays before she could inject more color. Perhaps you have to earn the right to be feminine?”

What is very interesting though is that a recent Cotton USA study claims to have discovered that men who wear pink shirts earn an extra $1,600 a year and are found to be better qualified, more confident, and get a greater number of compliments from female colleagues than their male colleagues wearing blander clothes. No waiting period there! So why don’t women get this kind of praise when they wear pink?

Pink is the color of power when it comes to fighting a disease that is major killer of women and it is Katy Perry’s go-to hair color, but this color can also make a significant impact on you and your environment. In the late 1970s, researchers discovered that a certain shade of pink could help decrease aggression. Two US Naval officers named Baker and Miller painted an admissions cell at the U.S. Naval Pepto-Bismol pink. After monitoring acts of aggression for those in the pink cell versus other cells, they found that prisoners held in the pink cell calmed down more quickly than their normal cell counterparts. In 1981 this effect was looked at closely by researcher Alexander Schauss. He found that when participants (often obstreporous youth) were exposed to Baker-Miller pink (often in an entire room painted pink) they experienced physiological changes including lower heart rates, breathing rates, and strength.

Hmm, when could having a lower heart and breathing rate be useful? Maybe in super stressful situations? You may want to rethink that LBD for today and go for a LPD (Little Pink Dress).

New research has also revealed that women who wear skirts and jackets are viewed as more confident, higher-earning and more flexible than those opting for a trouser suit.

This is by no means advice to throw out your power suit, but don’t throw away that pretty pink blouse either. Your clothes help convey power and seriousness, but it mainly has to come from the woman behind the clothes.

Photo: Thinkstock


Fashion #Professional Attire Career Advice
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Elana Gross
Elana Gross

It is so important to be authentic and to be true to yourself. At my last job I wore a black skirt suit(eek)the first few weeks to try to blend in to the conservative work environment. I started slowly adding color into my wardrobe and I felt more confident as I did. I'm not advocating for dressing inappropriately at work - I wouldn't trade in the skirt suit for a bathing suit but take cues from other high level females in your office then tailor it to your own personal style.

It is so important to find ways to make your work style in step with your personal style, even in the dressiest and most drab of offices. If your office places a high premium on blacks, navys and greys, try adding a patterned scarf to your work bag, or colorful studs to your ears!

Being authentic makes all the difference. When dressing for work or any occasion, I think the women who appear the most powerful are the ones who feel great about what they are wearing.

My roommate asked me just the other day if her pink shirt was "too flashy" for work. After reading this, I can confidently tell her that it is not! It is important to "think professional" when dressing for work, but it's nice to know that dull colors aren't distinct elements of the professional dress code.

I do love pink but I have to say that I feel more powerful in black and navy. As mentioned in the article above, when men wear pink they have more success with clients, specifically female clients. When women wear black or navy, they may have more success with male clients. I'm not saying the opposite sex should impress each other with color options but it does make some sense! Regardless, everyone should wear colors that make them feel empowered and fit their personal brand!

I totally agree, Elana. Even if you only feel you can incorporate certain elements of your personal style into your work wardrobe, you should. When I worked in an office that had a business professional dress code, I always felt like I was playing dress up. At my current job (which is more creative), I've learned how to strike the perfect balance between my company's persona and my personal style.

I love mixing a hint of pink - especially pastel and blush shades - into an outfit. It immediately boosts my mood and makes me feel confident in my femininity. I hands down always get a compliment when I wear a pretty pink hue - not to mention, pastels are IN!

This article is so interesting. When I have to wear black/navy business clothes I feel so out of sorts. It just isn't me. When I can wear pink or other feminine colors/clothing I feel powerful, confident, and beautiful. It may seem silly, but I feel like I do better work in the feminine clothes I am comfortable in.

I completely agree, Kathryn. I think wearing a pink blouse under a suit jacket or wearing a pink necklace with a LBD will still project power while also making you feel more confident because you're showing off another part of your personality.

Color doesn't define the attitude of an outfit as much as cut and fit does! Pink is great for the workplace as long as it is still worn in a professional way. An ill-fitting or too-short black dress looks worse and less professional than a colorful tailored one. I think that as long as your clothing is cut appropriately and it's fits nicely, a little pink thrown in won't do you any harm! If anything, stepping outside of the traditional and expected workplace attire will scream confidence and help you stand out of the crowd.

Not only did I love this article, but I am also a die hard fan of pink (and sparkles). After working the past year in the sports industry and often in a male-dominated environment, I found that it is important to be sensitive to the situation when selecting feminine wardrobe favorites (e.g. your pink stilettos are NOT ballpark appropriate), but there is always a time and place for some punch. I think a great statement necklace or splash of color can help you standout and even make you a bit more memorable! Just so long as they are worn in a classy way :)

Valentina Q.
Valentina Q.

As a solicitor, I often see my female collegues wearing business black suits, even wearing a dress seems too intricate and change is harsh criticism material , but either way, I don`t care I like to wear dresses and sometimes pink.

Brayden Stephens
Brayden Stephens

wow! I can totally relate to this post! Although I think black skirts and suits very suitable for work, I find them boring at times. It’s okay to add a bit of color to your clothes as long as you don’t go over the top. A touch of pink is to your work wear is good. It exudes femininity in the corporate world.


I can't wait for a world that focuses more on the work ethic of a woman and less on what she's wearing.

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