Are bare arms right for a professional image?

Sleeveless-Shift-DressIt’s hot outside! And the the fashion industry is giving us so many choices of what to wear to work that it can be extremely confusing to figure out what to wear in the summer months. One of the biggest topics that comes up is whether it’s appropriate to go sleeveless in professional situations.

Here’s the scoop! Covering your arms will always be more professional than going sleeveless. Why? Showing skin in the workplace can be distracting, and some believe it is disrespectful. That said, it is definitely becoming more acceptable to go sleeveless for work, especially in business casual environments.

While I have very mixed feelings about the subject, here are ways make sleeveless work, should you deem it acceptable in your office:

  • Choose a sleeveless sheath dress with a high neckline and longer hem.
  • Make sure the sleeves aren’t cut in. If possible find a cut that extends a little over the top of your shoulder, similar to a cap sleeve.
  • If you think there’s even a remote possibility that your bra strap might peek out during the day, wear a racer back bra or clip the straps together with something like this.
  • Accessorize! Especially if it’s a sleeveless blouse, it’s important to wear a scarf or chunky necklace. Accessories draw attention to your face and create a finished and polished look.
  • Keep a cardigan or blazer handy at all times!

This is such a great topic for discussion. I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Are you comfortable going sleeveless in your office/profession? Why or why not? Please post your comments below.

Clients have often told me, “I feel fine dressing myself for every season but summer. I’m just not sure how to maintain my professionalism and keep cool, too.” As an image consultant in Denver, Colorado specializing in professional dress, I can help! If you’d like help with your summer wardrobe, simply contact me and we’ll set up a time to talk that’s convenient for you. It is possible to look cool and chic all year long…without a huge wardrobe. Interested? Click here!

“With my small closet I don’t want a lot of clothes, and Dana has maximized my wardrobe so that I have at least 30 different outfits for every season without over stuffing my closet.  I am able to look my best every day and her system makes it easy to do that.”
–J.M. Englewood, CO

P.S. If you didn’t get a chance to read all about the “little white dress” click here and here. Or if you’ve been meaning to watch my video, watch here.

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3 comments on “Are bare arms right for a professional image?

  1. Great comments about how to work with the sleeveless look (blazer, scarf, jewelry and no cut-ins).
    Very timely considering so much of what I see on the racks are sleeveless or expose even more skin.
    What are your thoughts about another trend I am seeing on so many tops: uneven hems where the back of the top is longer, sometimes even to the point of looking like tuxedo tails, than the front of the top or both sides are longer than the center. Are these meant to be worn sans jacket or sweater? What kind of jacket or sweater would look right with the tail or sides of the top sticking out from underneath?

  2. Hi Lorraine,
    I’m glad the blog was helpful. A top that is longer in the back than the front is called a High Low hem. These usually look best when the front is a little longer than the jacket you’re wearing. These can sometimes look a little casual, but not always. I haven’t seen as many of the second style you’re referring to.

    I love the look of “tails” hanging below a jacket. If the top is flowy, a jacket with some structure, i.e. semi fitted or fitted, will look best. And naturally it will look great without a jacket if you follow the guidelines I’ve given above.

  3. I see so many newscasters with sleeveless dresses/ tops now. With the recent controversy where a certain TV executive is commenting on feminine wardrobes it seems like being a little more conservative might be smart!
    Great topic Dana!

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