To cleave or not to cleave
February 13, 2018 8:12 AM   Subscribe

If you've got it, flaunt it? 30-year old female teacher seeks advice about whether or not cleavage is appropriate.

I recently bought a dress online with a plunging neckline, imagining that the fit would offer a little bit more coverage and that you would see chest, but not breast (as was advertised in the picture). It's arrived and when I tried it on, what I thought would fit like this ended up fitting like this. I guess I should have known that it would fit more like the second because I have large breasts, but I think I thought it would have been a little bit more classic-looking. The dress is long sleeve, A-lined, and other than hugging the waist, not form-fitting in any other place.

My question is, do you ever wear clothing with significant cleavage?
posted by orangesky4 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I personally would not wear something like that to work without one of those half-camis under it. I too am well--endowed and so I feel your pain, but I feel like that much cleavage is not work appropriate.
posted by leesh at 8:18 AM on February 13, 2018 [18 favorites]

Both images would be considered inappropriate in every job I’ve ever held. Both place a lot of emphasis on the chest area, which is generally considered a sexual display (in the US). I’ve never been a teacher but I interact with many. Several have expressed that they avoid going out in revealing clothes in case they run into parents.

If a teacher of my (hypothetical) children wore something that revealing in a school setting, I’d have strong questions about their judgment. I would not bat an eyelash at what a teacher wore to a cocktail party if they were dressed for the occasion.
posted by bilabial at 8:20 AM on February 13, 2018 [43 favorites]

The only time to show cleavage is when you want to impress someone who likes cleavage. There's a reason why people whose jobs have nothing to do with cleavage (e.g., weather forecasters or cooking show hosts) show cleavage.
posted by Melismata at 8:21 AM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

No; I work in very casual digital/creative environments and I would be shocked if I saw even the "intended" amount of cleavage, at least in a dress with a plunging neckline. Probably at all, even in a stretched-out t-shirt or something. It's not fair -- I have G-cup level problems in this area myself -- but it is what it is.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:25 AM on February 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'd call both of those pictures "cleavage" and only appropriate for situations where "sexy" is an okay vibe for your clothing. Even for someone who's fairly flat-chested. There's still as much body on display no matter what shape that body is.
posted by Sequence at 8:26 AM on February 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Actually, I realized above that you don't specify wearing this to work! So to be clear - it's not necessarily inappropriate for going out to dinner on Valentine's Day. It's inappropriate for a classroom setting.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:26 AM on February 13, 2018 [26 favorites]

I see you say you’re a teacher, but you don’t say where you want to wear this dress. I wouldn’t wear it to work, but I’d wear it for going out at night without hesitation (provided it seemed like it wasn’t going slip/shift and I wouldn’t be adjusting it all night).
posted by Weeping_angel at 8:26 AM on February 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

Wow, no, never even the first one to work. As with others here, deeply sympathetic about the bust size issue, but even at my job with a casual dress code I wouldn't have worn either.
posted by praemunire at 8:27 AM on February 13, 2018

Oh, but if you're just going to the club, go nuts. I assumed you meant at work because you mentioned your job.
posted by praemunire at 8:28 AM on February 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Neither of those would have been appropriate for work at the school district where I was on the school board. We had a notably relaxed teacher dress code, but that would have earned you a meeting with your principal (and possibly superintendent's office) about appropriate workwear and if you'd worn it a second time, you'd have been written up. Students who wore something like that would have been made to change clothes.

If it's for a Valentine's Day date, go for it. That's a lot of cleave, but like you said, if you've got it, flaunt it. But probably not at a restaurant owned by any of your students' parents. :) I would also caution you to be a little careful about posting pictures of yourself in the dress (in poses that are alluring or where the cleavage is very visible) to social media, since teachers' social media accounts are in a sort of legal limbo and that sort of thing can cause an uproar.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:32 AM on February 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Myself (29) and my roommate (27f) we’re discussing this recently! If you’re going out, go for it! That being said our conversation focused on how uncomfortable WE were with it. It would cause me anxiety and I wouldn’t feel confident- which is the only reason not to wear it out on a night on the town.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:34 AM on February 13, 2018

I think your mention of your profession clouded things. Definitely not okay at any workplace, including and especially schools.

You can wear whatever you want when you are out, although that is still much more cleavage than I see on most people even when they’re out on the town. I don’t live in an especially hip/youthful place, though. I think that if you don’t normally wear something that looks like that it would be pretty hard not to be self-conscious/pulling at it the whole time you were wearing it, but maybe that’s just my personal repression speaking.
posted by charmedimsure at 8:35 AM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, so sorry for the miscommunication -- this is for a date! Definitely not to work :) The only reason I said I was a teacher because I thought that since I dress conservatively at work, and outside of work I wear relatively causal clothes, anything Old Navy-esque, and have the possibility of running into a student anywhere I go, is it appropriate? Not. To. Work!
posted by orangesky4 at 8:39 AM on February 13, 2018 [20 favorites]

If you're mentioning your job because you plan to wear the dress socially but are concerned that students/parents might see you out socially (which I see from your very helpful update that you are): this is at your discretion. I personally would not wear a dress like that anywhere that I was likely to be spotted by work contacts or colleagues, but if I happened to run into one while out at a place where I didn't expect to see them, I would feel a bit exposed but confident that it was reasonable to not expect to see work people at [insert venue that my work cohort tend not to frequent]. And Eyebrows McGee's note regarding posting photos to social media is a wise one.

And if you're asking for logistics, as someone who has gone out in similar dresses at a similar age with a similar body type: consider buying some clothing tape so you don't have any wardrobe malfunctions (and consider popping some extra into your purse along with potentially a cover-up in case you get cold feet or something goes awry), be aware of what's going on in front when/if you're going out dancing (or if you have to run up/down stairs or jump up & down), and figure out in a mirror ahead of time where on the front of the dress you can unobtrusively tug and confirm all is still where it should be without obviously looking like you're feeling yourself up (or drawing attention to The Girls, which has led to me checking nervously and my dinner date intermittently following my hands, blushing, me blushing, more nervous checking, repeat).

Editing to add: they'll *likely* only be able to go braless in a dress like that for a certain period of time. Enjoy it. :)
posted by pammeke at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

A date? Well yes, if you want to show someone your cleavage, that second image does a fantastic job of it! I'd reserve for a romantic outing with someone I already know very well and am confident that they're someone I want to show my cleavage to (i.e. not a first/early date), and to a location where dresses and cleavage and looking pretty/sexy is the mood. But yes! If you like your cleavage and you like the person you'd show it to, show it!!
posted by aimedwander at 8:45 AM on February 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yes I wear clothing with significant boobage though with G cups it's all outfits are boob outfits, and now you've clarified it's not for work I'd have no problem wearing the second look depending on the vibe you wanted to send to the valentines date. If it's ,hey hun you're going to get some tonight then go for it. If it's a first date or early in the relationship or it would be a big shock to them to see you like that then maybe save it for a later time when they know you better. I have to add, I'd mostly wear that look for my husbands enjoyment but I love his complete befuddlement & arousal and showing me how much he liked the outfit afterwards so make of that what you will. Nthing clothing tape. The only other consideration is if you're going to a place where such an outfit would be appropriate.
posted by wwax at 8:52 AM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you tried how much shows when you bend forward? I like the look but i would worry about what is visible when not standing upright.
posted by 15L06 at 9:09 AM on February 13, 2018

Nthing Clothing Tape.

I guarantee you both models in those pics are wearing Clothing Tape.
posted by jbenben at 9:10 AM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Please wear that sexy dress - I’m 1 billion years pregnant and miss feeling sexy so much that I’m crying just thinking about how much I want to be able to wear it. If you feel good in it, please get out there and flaunt it!! Do it for all the ladies who used to be sexy too!!
posted by tatiana wishbone at 9:28 AM on February 13, 2018 [13 favorites]

I would absolutely not wear that if there's any chance of running into students. Running into parents wouldn't be ideal either, but the possibility wouldn't stop me in the same way.
posted by dizziest at 9:28 AM on February 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Listen, if you aren't used to wearing extremely revealing clothing and are so uncertain about it that you need to ask the internet's advice, I don't think you should wear it, especially on a date.

There's a pretty good chance that you'll get uncertain, self-conscious, awkward, worried that it's slipping, exposed, and nervous about running into one of your students in the back of your mind.

Some people are naturally comfortable in these types of outfits and gravitate towards them. Some people try it out and decide they don't like it. You don't want to find out that you are the second kind of person while you are trying to enjoy an evening out.
posted by windykites at 9:54 AM on February 13, 2018 [9 favorites]

I think this is a bad question for the internet, because we can't see you. I wouldn't worry about being a teacher at all, unless you have some specific worry about particular adult busybodies who you know to be jerks about teachers having adult social lives who might see you and do you professional damage over it. (This seems unlikely to me, I only bring it up in case there's a specific thing that worries you.)

But that's a heck of a look to carry off, and you're uncertain -- I'd try it on for a reliable friend, and I would bet you get a fairly clear either "Wow, you look incredible, you have to wear that," or "Mmmmaybe not" depending on how it looks on you.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:50 AM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't know that polling here is helpful because I live in a large city and that is a fashionable date dress to my eyes (and doesn't signify your date should expect sex, good lord.)
posted by kapers at 11:37 AM on February 13, 2018 [9 favorites]

My kids are young and I wouldn't think anything of it if we ran into one of my their teachers outside of school and they were wearing that dress. If you're teaching teenagers it may be a different issue.

My parents were both teachers and my mom, who taught grades 3-4, would on occasion wear a sari to work which would expose her midriff. I don't think she caught any grief for it and this was 20-40 years ago.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:38 AM on February 13, 2018

If you're not at work, wear what you want. I'm assuming you don't work somewhere you have a nebulous "morality clause." Teachers are just people and people wear all kinds of different clothes. I would not think less of you as a teacher because you wore something like that in public.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:03 PM on February 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would wear that on a date no problem, if that was how I wanted to look that night, which let's face it, I would be fine with. Wear the dress on a date.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:42 PM on February 13, 2018

If you've bought a Free People dress, I'm sure it looks great! Their dresses are gorgeous and usually flattering to most body types.

I wear a lot of FP and my post-pregnancy boobs usually don't require tape to ensure no malfunctions. I'm also very daring when it comes to cleavage - I think nothing of going braless to show cleavage in the right dress, BUT... I'd probably never have bared cleavage on a date unless we were a firmly established couple and the venue/event/activity lent itself to that level of sexiness (now I'm practically married but make it a point to go out with my partner to places where dressing 'sexy' is acceptable, because it's fun.) However, I live in a big city, and have dated enough to know that, sadly, some men tend to misinterpret a woman's dress as a signal of some sort.

That said, if you're confident that your companion deserves to be impressed, go for it!
posted by Everydayville at 3:30 PM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

The dress is long sleeved and not form fitting anywhere but a fitted waistline? Hell yes this dress is date appropriate! I would argue that it's even daytime date appropriate, given your description, in a way that the white dress you linked to most certainly is not. I'm 34 and while not "big chested" I'm not small chested either and a dress like that would certainly show some actual boob on me. I'd wear it with tennis shoes or flat sandals to the park to drink with friends on a sunny weekend, to a date on valentine's day with heeled booties or pumps, or even to the opera or symphony with a big statement necklace to take up some of the bare real estate in front. For reference I live in a liberal western US city with a fairly laid back but not particularly "sexy" fashion scene. I am not a teacher. That said, I think the only change in my above stated choices would be that maybe I'd wear a light scarf to the park in case I ran into a student. I would still wear it sans cover to a bar or a nice restaurant or evening out. Having literally everything but your chest covered in flowy, non-clingy, fabric is classy and sexy and I think your date will love it.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 7:55 PM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just circled back on this and I am sorry for misinterpreting your question and thus causing everyone else to as well! That dress sounds super cute for a date--have fun!
posted by leesh at 5:38 AM on February 14, 2018

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