My question is about the term “sexy secretary.” I see it on a lot of fashion blogs and in articles but as an administrator in an office environment I have mixed feelings about the term. I would say that I lean towards a secretary look at work. I wear glasses and pin striped skirts and heels. I watch “Mad Men” for fashion tips more than anything else, I think. But I cringe a little when I hear the term “sexy secretary.” I want to look attractive at work (and everywhere!) but I guard my reputation at work with a vengeance. I fill my office with photos of my husband and am careful not to cross the line between friendly and flirting. Do you think the “sexy secretary” term brings us back to the “Mad Men” days of women being around the office for eye candy and office dalliances?
I’m DEFINITELY going to need some input from you all on this one, because I’m stymied. As I’ve mentioned before, I can be pretty dense when it comes to innuendo. I’d say a good 15% of my ensembles fall into the “sexy secretary” category, but I’ve never even considered how those ensembles might read to someone of a lascivious nature. I could be broadcasting, “wanton woman” vibes with my heels and fishnets and have no idea.
But I’m inclined to think not, for several reasons.
- Generation gap: My guess is that older men – those who have some personal experience with the bad old days when secretaries were hired as eye-candy alone – might view a woman sporting a “sexy secretary” look as trolling for sexual favors. Maybe I’m being naïve, but I think both women and men of younger generations are a bit more enlightened both in terms of style and in terms of coworker roles/behaviors.
- Personality: Sure, a pencil skirt and deep-v blouse are sexy … but when they’re worn by someone whose personality is casual and goofy, or reserved and private, or anything BESIDES flirty and sensual, some of that sexiness is mitigated.
- Position: And this is the one that I’m least sure of. I’m a communications coordinator. Coworker Cal – who can do sexy secretary like nobody’s business – is a development officer. We aren’t ACTUAL secretaries, we’re mid-level employees. And I think people see our looks as playful and retro-kitschy when we don them. But Vanda is an office administrator and the stubbornly literal people of the world might struggle with her sexy secretary looks more than they would with mine. This look is culturally iconic, and when worn by a woman in a secretarial role, it may be harder to get out from under that ingrained image. I wonder, too, if women in positions of power in office environments may encounter problems. Most of the female execs I’ve worked for have erred on the side of androgyny, and I can’t say as I blame them. It seems like a traditional, conservative or semi-conservative office environment would rebel against a female leader in pencil skirts and seamed hose. But I’ve never encountered either a secretary or an exec who sports this look, so it’s all conjecture on my part.
So I could be wrong. About all of it! Again, my flirtation radar is permanently broken and I have no idea how these looks affect observers. Additionally, I work in an office populated mainly by middle-aged heterosexual women. Don’t get many opportunities to titillate, and am just fine with that.
I want this to be a harmless, fun way for women to inject some retro sensibilities into personal style. And a harmless, fun way to feel sensual and powerful without beaming errant, “fuck me” vibes out into cubeville. But maybe I’m missing something.
What do you think? Do you do “sexy secretary” looks? Ever attract unexpected overtures? Think this term and its associated looks are dangerous? Would you agree that women in office administration or positions of executive power might be more subject to misinterpretation, or am I WAY off base?
Image courtesy zazie.