How not to market women’s corporate work attire


Sex sells – but is it appropriate for selling female corporate work attire?

Not too long ago a caricature image of women in the corporate world tended to be of the pretty secretary who accessorised the male boss’s office and/or sex life. Things have come a long way since then but the boy old sexist perceptions still seem to pop up in the oddest places. This billboard by Dilly’s – who sell smart corporate attire for women – is one insane example of that.

Bad way to sell women's work attire

My peeve is that the image over emphasises the sexual element. Specifically its the pose that’s the-not the cloths. But when you are whizzing by in a chariot (like I was when I took this pic on a cloudy day) the primary impression is of a sexually themed ad. Its not about the professionalism or confidence or intelligence – factors that are supposed to be the reasons why women (or anyone for that matter) succeed in the corporate world.

Companies (at least the big ones) these days take a fair amount of effort to attract and retain people without a gender bias. The underlying basis for all this effort is the notion that people are hired and promoted for their skills, abilities and performance on the job – not because they are sexually attractive. Note that I’m NOT referring to industries such as sex work (including pornography) and modelling.

Sexual harassment and/or relations in the workplace is a nightmare of any Human Resource manger. Despite our Victorian prudishness to talk about it sexual harassment remains a problem in Sri Lanka as in any country.

In the face of all this a brand like Dilly’s should have known better than to depict their product (and consequently the image of customers) in an overtly sexual way. Its the sort of imagery that depicts women in the caricature of the type who climbs the corporate ladder via the (male) boss’s bed. I think that’s rather disrespectful.

Understandably women (or men) for that matter want to look good in their cloths at work or elsewhere. But marketing work attire needs to be extra sensitive about how the “sexiness” factor is projected.

Everyone makes mistakes and I’m not assuming or even claiming that Dilly’s actually view their customers in the way depicted on the billboard. I think their stuff looks quite professional and classy. Exactly the thing for formal high end westernised workplace. Perhaps they’ll use one of the better images from their other bill boards like the one near the national archives department.

Mrs Cerno, who doesn’t quite realise what a hotie she is (she’s not taking my word for it), tends to wear rather subdued attire to her place of toil. Perhaps that’s a good thing or she’d wreck the productivity of her colleagues. I was plotting on surprising her with something from Dilly’s. But after seeing this bill board and another like it near the British Council I’m not so sure.

As for my purchasing choices I’ll have to consult the Mrs on this one. Shopping for work attire (specifically female work attire) for one’s spousal unit is trickier than I ever thought (clearly a topic for another post). Cloths, corporate culture and the gender thing is quite a complicated mix. I have the above Dilly’s billboard to thank for reminding me. So much for surprises.

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19 thoughts on “How not to market women’s corporate work attire

  1. I suppose it depends on what they hope to gain from the advertisement. It has probably more to do with the corporate image of Dilly’s rather than the actual clothes. In my mind at least, I think I tend to vew Dilly’s now as a more sophisticated shop than say Fashion BUg or French Corner or similar outlets (Note that I am not a woman and have never shopped at any of these places)

    By the way, if you post some pics (minus the face if you like) of Mrs Cerno, I’m sure we will all be very happy to evaluate just how hot she is……

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  2. “the image over emphasises the sexual element.”

    I kind of disagree with you on that. Haven’t u watched VH1 or MTv lately? Now that is over emphasis. This, not so much.

    So go ahead and surprise the Mrs.

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  3. “the image over emphasises the sexual element.”

    I don’t quite agree with you on that. Haven’t you watched VH1 or Mtv lately? Now that’s over emphasis. This, not so much.

    So go ahead and surprise the Mrs…

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  4. Brilliant! I was thinking the very same thing. Went into Dilly’s the other day, and their advertising for work clothes practically screamed out ‘sex’! Some of it is quite subtle, but there is quite a lot of kink added.

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  5. I was thinking the very same thing. Went into Dilly’s the other day, and their advertising for work clothes practically screamed out ‘sex’! Some of it is quite subtle, but there is quite a lot of kink added.

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  6. was thinking the very same thing. Went into Dilly’s the other day, and their advertising for work clothes practically screamed out ‘sex’! Some of it is quite subtle, but there is quite a lot of kink added.

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  7. I thought the very same thing. Went into Dilly’s the other day, and their advertising for work clothes practically screamed out ‘sex’! Some of it is quite subtle, but there is quite a lot of kink added.

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  8. ๐Ÿ˜ณ
    My Apologies to chanux, Janus, R and Jack Point: seems all your comments got caught to the spam catcher ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Lucky I logged in and saw Janus’s comment.

    I will check the spam more frequently

    Jack Point: he he then there’ll be a story about how a guy got shot by his wife for putting pix of her on a blog around the same time the post stop appearing on this one.. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

    R: Oddly enough I don’t watch that much TV -: My TV died on the day U.S forced invaded Iraq (yes weird). But I know what you mean ๐Ÿ™‚ My point is that I think this type of women’s work attire shouldn’t harp so heavily of the sex factor but I guess its the sex mad culture…

    Janus: Hmm sounds like its not the kind Mrs C will like to wear to work but who says she has to wear it to work ๐Ÿ˜‰ And thanx for letting me know about the comments not appearing and for the Dilly’s tip.

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  9. at the end of the day.. wat sellers want is there goods (clothes or wat ever it may be) to be sold. so…. they try.. different ppl try in different ways. for them all that matters is the no of sales. whether it’s thru sex or anythin else.

    well in the above they hv tried to keep the sexual theme safe by dressing her fully but yeah i agree that her pose just makes any guy forget that. well yeah this is silly. but seriously in any office a women acting like this o close to it will not be admired for her clothes. rather she will be called a slut behind her back(is she’s lucky) lol ๐Ÿ˜‰

    all in all bad marketing strategy!

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  10. Good to know there are men who realise when women are being sexualised and are strongly against it. You’ve restored my faith in the male population by a bit (because there are only so very few of you).

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    1. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ glad you found the post positive. I find those types of ad to be quite grating – all the voices agree unanimously.

      I’m definitely in a minority that has to subtle or be labeled as an “odd bugger” – a morally wounding blow to one’s the old machan network connections.

      Hmm now that got an idea for a post rolling….

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  11. Guess this is targeting the male population who will buy for women (Like Cerno is looking to buy for Mrs.Cerno :D). because this might not be appealing to women who usually dont prefer sexual element (Well. thats what they say)

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    1. Interesting take on it – though I am skeptical if such a demographic is enough to support such a business. Particularly given what a small pond Colombo is…

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