Lift IOWA, the Business Record’s e-newsletter on female leadership in Iowa, recently asked readers to weigh in on whether appearance matters for woman in the workplace.

The question was prompted by research psychologist Peggy Drexler, who took issue with a memo that Loyola Law School in Los Angeles issued to its students -- especially the advice that female students not wear low-cut tops or stiletto heels at their work-study jobs 
in law offices. 

Women are told to look good, but not too good. Pay attention to vanity, but don’t be obvious about it. Be different, but about the same as everyone else, Drexler wrote.

What did Lift IOWA readers think? A vast majority believe appearance does matter to success. When it comes to how women dress, 87 percent said they believe women are judged more critically than men when it comes to appearance. Several respondents also noted that because women have more clothing options, they also have more opportunities to “get it wrong.

Have you received advice about what you should or should not wear in your professional life? 
84% - Yes
16% - No

Do you believe that appearance is an important key to success? 
96% - Yes
4% - No

In your experience, do you believe that women are judged more critically than men on their appearance? 
87% - Yes
13% - No

“What is your personal ‘branding’? What behaviors can you control? Develop your individual style while still respecting the work environment. Ask a respected co-worker for feedback.”
Jana Warren, senior consultant, DuPont Pioneer

“Don’t wear anything extreme. Keep skirts to right above the knee, wear pumps, not sandals, and keep the cleavage hidden. You can still be incredibly fashionable and be true to your own style.”
Kathy Salisbury, program manager, Iowa Dental Foundation

“You are not going out to a nightclub, so dress for business, not entertainment. Men don’t bare their chests, so why do women think it proper? Showing cleavage is irresponsible. Skirts to the knees, no bare legs, shoes and heels should be conservative. Dress for court, not courting.”
Steve Lombardi, owner/attorney, Lombardi Law Firm

“Observe what others in your workplace wear and try to be somewhat similar. 
If you want to advance, dress more like your manager than your co-workers.”
Peggy Huppert, senior representative for community engagement,
 American Cancer Society in Central Iowa

“Dress for ‘you.’ If you are constantly wearing things that aren’t you, then your message and your image will be incongruent. Be professionally comfortable for yourself.”
Amy Roberts, sales manager, Dale Carnegie

“Dress for the job you want - you can never be overdressed. Dress conservatively and professionally, but don’t be afraid to throw in something to show your uniqueness (jewelry, hair color, nail color).”
Rebecca Hughes, director of human resources, Meredith Corp.