New research from the UK has found that women who wear skirts in the workplace are both more likely to be favorably perceived and get promoted.
Professor of psychology Karen Pine co-led the research at the University of Herfordshire, and said people make rapid judgments of another person within the first few seconds based on their clothing.
Pine said it was surprising that the skirt suit stimulated more favourable judgments than the trouser suit, because other studies have suggested that women who dress in a more masculine style were perceived as having higher professional status.
"What we found suggests women can still dress in a feminine way yet still be perceived as confident and successful. The skirt suit seems to balance professionalism with attractiveness," Pine said.
The study revealed women who wear skirts with jackets are viewed as being more confident, higher-earning and more flexible than those opting for a trouser suit.
While trouser suits were associated with ambition and success, a skirt suit was found to give a more positive first impression.
The results came as a result of showing more than 300 people a series of pictures of a man or a woman wearing suits for three seconds each, and then asking them to rate them across a range of personality traits.
Additionally, the faces of the men and women in the pictures were blurred to ensure respondents were only making judgments based on their clothing.
Professor Pine said people appear to make judgments very instinctively and rapidly, and added that while women must maintain a professional appearance, "the skirt suit may achieve that balance without appearing provocative".