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Power and Provocativeness: The Effects of Subtle Changes in Clothing on Perceptions of Working Women

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Description: The current study investigates the effects of subtle changes in professional women’s dress on women’s perceptions of power and competence. We replicate and extend N. Howlett, K. J. Pine, N. Cahill, I. Orakcioglu, and B. (C). Fletcher’s (2015) research showing women in provocative clothing are rated as less competent. We used a larger sample, tested a second independent variable, and fine-tuned the design for higher face validity. Participants (N = 198, 170 women and 29 men) from a Midwestern university in the USA rated four photographs of professionally dressed women whose blouses varied in the number of buttons left undone and whether they wore a camisole. We found main effects of buttons (undone/done) and camisoles (on/off) for participants perceptions of intelligence, competence, powerfulness, and on a global rating score. Results also showed significant interaction effects between buttons and camisoles on ratings of powerfulness. The results have many implications for how women dress professionally.

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