8 Things a Woman Can’t Wear Without Being Judged

You know what they say — you never get a second time to make a first impression. And, for better or worse, in many cases this adage rings true. Snap judgments based on people’s style are made in the blink of an eye, especially for females.

Both in the workforce and out, women are often judged by what they wear long before personality, merit, or accomplishment come into consideration — and the judgment seems to grow even stronger for those who are in the spotlight. Many were reminded of this fact throughout the 2016 presidential race in which Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits, Melania Trump’s pussy-bow blouse, and Ivanka Trump’s fashion line (and her wearing of it) all commanded headlines of their own sort — good, bad, or ugly.

While people will unfortunately cast judgment on almost anything, women often feel the brunt of this, as they feel pressure to balance a sexy, feminine appearance with a conservative, girl-next-door approachability, and often even a corporate look. That said, here are eight of the most common things a woman really cannot wear without being scrutinized.

1. “Sexy” clothing

concert-goer wearing a fanny pack

Tiny shorts always seem to draw nasty comments. | Matt Cowan/Getty Images for Coachella

From mini-skirts to daringly low-cut, cleavage-baring tops, it all falls under the category of “sexy” clothes that may have the propensity to be judged from both male and female onlookers alike. When a female chooses to show off her form in a more skin-baring way, she immediately sets herself up for a range of potential judgments.

Such judgment has even been scientifically proven. In one study, researchers found women who dressed “sexy” were seen as suspicious and judged more harshly by their female peers. Conversely, those who were dressed more conservatively weren’t judged negatively. Born from a place of jealousy, this practice is thought to be born from a place of subconscious sexual rivalry in which the suggestively dressed female becomes a threat.

But the judgment doesn’t end there. Men may have a far more positive reaction to women clad in revealing clothes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not judging them. Indeed, in another study of fictitious Facebook profile photos, one with “Amanda” wearing a low-cut red dress with a slit up the thigh and another with “Amanda” wearing jeans and a T-shirt, respondents were more likely to rate the woman in the less revealing look as someone who would not only be a good friend, but also accomplish tasks competently.

2. Tight clothing

woman with long blond hair

Form-fitting clothes draw criticism when worn by plus-size women. | iStock.com/RolandStollner

While tight clothing can often fall under the sexy category, it merits its own separate category, as the judgment extends out past the provocative zone. Yes, females in very figure-hugging frocks that leave little to the imagination will likely be judged in very much the same way as if they were showing off lots of skin. But, if a woman with anything short of what society would deem as an ideal figure wears something tight, she might be judged for not dressing appropriately for her body.

3. Flats

Woman's legs in jeans and white ballet flat shoes

Not everyone wants to be taller. | iStock.com/AnSyvanych

Footwear is another slippery slope for women, especially in the corporate world. Height often equates to power. In many work environments, flats may create a perception of weakness; that the wearer is less successful or less powerful than her high-heel-clad counterparts. Of course, that brings us to our next item of sartorial judgment.

4. Highest heels

Autumn fashion outfit

High heels look good, but they can be painful. | iStock.com/Voyagerix

While women can often be perceived to be mumsy, weak, or less successful in flats, the reverse is the case with heels that are deemed too high. Similar to the sexy clothes syndrome, is the sexy shoe scenario, where a female may be judged as too provocative if her heels reach a certain height. Such footwear is also frequently referred to as the stripper heel. Enough said.

5. Sweats


There is nothing quite like a comfy sweatshirt. | iStock.com

While athleisure is a huge trend, women can face a very fine line when it comes to dressing comfortably. A female in standard sweats without the designer-forward profile can often elicit a judgmental response that her style is sloppy or simply that she has no style. Some would even say this is one of the double standards in fashion between men and women.

6. Uggs

"High Heeled Ugg Boots"

Not everyone is a fan of Uggs, so judgements will vary. | Greg Wood/Getty Images

Like women who wear sweats, those who opt for Uggs (especially with shorts) set themselves up for a bit of scrutiny. The much-maligned boots are often judged to be far too juvenile, sloppy, and out-of-style for women to wear, especially if they’re older than 21.

7. Wearing the same outfit twice

female clothes hanging on hangers

Not everyone has a bottomless closet. | iStock.com/Kwanchai_Khammuean

Another double standard that often occurs between male and female fashion is the notion of outfit repetition. Men can easily skate by with wearing the same outfit on repeat, and no one is the wiser (or frankly cares). Generally, though, if a woman wears the same ensembles twice in a week, eyebrows start raising. One woman featured on Daily Mail Online went to extremes to avoid being caught in the same look more than once. It’s usually other women who cast this type of judgement. This is also particularly prominent at events, parties, and the like, where it is quite the faux pas to recycle the same dress or gown.

8. Too much makeup

beauty eyes makeup

Too much makeup can make you look a bit clownish. | iStock.com/Staras

Women who wear particularly heavy makeup, whether that be super smoky eyes, bold shadows, bright lips, or all of the above, may also fall prey to judgment that she is attention-seeking or simply needs a makeup lesson. Whatever the reaction, she’s sure to notice some sort of criticism.