If you’re lucky, it’s not an occasion you’ll have to dress for very often, but every working woman has done it at least once in her life: the job interview.
So this week’s question is the ultimate fashion advice for a working woman: What do I wear to a job interview?
What to wear to a job interview
Before you even open your mouth at your prospective new company, you make an impression with what you choose to wear to your interview. And that impression should be polished and professional. This means the interview outfit should err on the side of conservative at all but the most artistic working environments.
- A suit. Yep, it’s obvious and it’s safe–but it’s obvious and safe for a reason. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to wear a bland, gray, polyester uniform. I’m not saying it should be floral, but you can find prints and cuts in a range of styles. Even a suit in a traditional cut and fabric can be personalized with accessories. Just be sure to choose a style that is suitable for the workplace you’re interviewing at; what works for a law firm may not work for an advertising agency. But always, always make sure the fit is impeccable.
- Jacket + separates. One step removed from its sister, the suit, this outfit pairs a well-cut blazer with either a skirt or trousers in a coordinating, but not matching fabric. Think solid jacket with pinstriped pants (or vice versa), or gray jacket with black skirt. If the separates are in a dark or neutral fabric, add color with the blouse or a scarf accessory.
- Cardigan + separates. The most casual you can get away with in this setting, this outfit is essentially combination #2, replacing the blazer with a cardigan. If you’re going to go this route, make sure the cardigan is of a high quality (cashmere would be ideal) with no pills or loose threads. To give yourself a shape, belt it.
As for footwear, you can’t go wrong with a classic pump, in either a low or kitten heel; now is not the time for stilettos or thigh-high boots or sandals. The color should complement your outfit; black for anything in the black or grey family, brown for navy blues, browns and tans. If you’ve opted for a more colorful palette, the new nude heels may be the best for you.
Keep jewelry in balance, too; if the suit is conservative, you can get away with somewhat of a statement piece. Otherwise, you can never go wrong with a simple metallic chain or string of pearls.
(And if you’re interviewing for a job at an unorthodox location–say, A&R for a record label–then take all of the above advice and replace “blazer” with “leather jacket,” “classic” with “edgy,” “kitten heel” with “Doc Marten boots” and “string of pearls” with “tattoos.”)
Share the love
Thanks for reading. Did you like this post? If so, please leave a comment or share it with someone else; just use the handy sharing widget below! (And don’t forget to sign up for my email newsletter, The Style List.)
Habitual, Level Two "good jeans"
OK fellow working moms, is this you, or is it just me? Do you ever go to pull on an outfit for the weekend and grab the same pair of jeans every time? Do you save your “good denim” for Date Night or meeting up with the girls?
I realized that’s what I do, anyway. I may have 10 sweaters, but 7 of them are for work and the other 3 get worn over and over again on the weekends.
I call it the 5 Levels of Working Mom Outfits. The trick is to make each level work for you, so you aren’t just saving your cute and flattering stuff for important meetings or the never-frequent-enough night out with your hubby. Here’s my definition.
The 5 Levels of Working Mom Outfits
- Level One: Weekend Casual. You’re going to Home Depot or soccer practice, so you pull on the beat up Gap jeans (not the ones with holes, though; those are for gardening) that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. You round it out with a long-sleeved T and a hoodie. Footwear is a pair of kicks or maybe some Puma flats.
- Level Two: Weekend Chic. Translation: shopping at the swanky mall. Now you’re wearing your premium denim–or your dark wash boot cut jeans, anyway. You’ve traded your hoodie for a cute cardigan, maybe even with a belt on top and a fun necklace. You’re wearing ballet flats or cute sandal (no, not flip flops).
- Level Three: Casual Friday. Or, depending on your office culture, most days at work. You’re alternating your premium denim with a dressy trouser, you’re amping up the accessories–scarves, earrings–and going a little less practical with the shoes.
- Level Four: Client Meeting. Or Job Interview. Or every day at a law firm. Think skirts and blazers, a wrap or shirt-dress, or even an honest-to-goodness suit. Tights and heels. String of pearls. You mean business, lady.
- Level Five: Date Night. Operation Hot Mama. Break out that cocktail dress that’s been hanging in the back of your closet. Strappy heels and a little clutch. Don’t forget the perfume! It doesn’t matter where you’re dining (and unless you’re staging some kind of anti-Date Night protest, it’s not like you’ll be going to Quiznos), you’re gonna work it.
Like I said, maybe it’s just me. So it’s your turn.
- What do you think of the 5 Levels? Are they accurate? Why or why not?
- What’s in your closet for these outfit levels?
- Would you like more detailed suggestions for each?
This ballet flat from Calvin Klein, the Klarissa, is cute and comfortable
I don’t care what shoes they wear on the runways or in fashion editorial pages or in the movies. In real life, working women–or any other females who take more than a few steps per day–don’t totter around on four-inch Louboutins to get from Point A to Point B.
(Maybe you do. If so, congratulations! You’re Tina Turner. This guide is not for you.)
But that doesn’t mean we are resigned to a lifetime of sturdy comfort shoes, either.
It is possible to get through the day in relative ease and with a bit of style, too. This guide is for you.
The best shoes for working women
The first rule of thumb for shoes you can wear while dashing about without worrying about breaking your neck is keeping the heel height low. The more of your foot that touches the ground, the more stable (and comfortable) your foot will be. Save the stilettos for evenings out and your tootsies will thank you.
Here are a few options for shoe styles that will work as hard as you do.
- Flats. Though they are sometimes declared to be trendy, a classic pair of ballet flats is never out of style. Get the softest leather you can find in black, brown or even navy blue and wear them with everything from jeans and a cardigan to simple sheath dresses. And if you plan to wear something with a little heel during the day, but need a shoe to wear during your commute, reach for your flats (and leave the tennis shoes at home). Try the Calvin Klein Klarissa.
- Kitten heels. The praises of which I have previously sung. The comfort of a flat with the shape of a heel.
- Wedges. The beauty of a wedge is that it allows you to have a little more height while still keeping the full sole of your shoe on the ground. Nine West’s Garcen wedge comes in 5 colors of suede, including tiger print (meow!), with a reasonable 2-inch heel and a narrow shape that will make your foot look slender and elegant.
- Loafers. These can be tricky to pull off if you don’t look for the right details. If you’re not careful, they’ll look like nursing shoes–great if you’re actually an RN, but less so for the rest of us. Get them in a rich fabric, like crocodile or suede, and look for hardware details. These work best with trousers; with skirts you risk appearing to be wearing a school uniform. Try the Wren by Eitenne Aigner; the black suede with grey contrast piping is especially cute.
- Casual Athletics. Not running shoes, my friends. Whether it’s Casual Friday, or a playdate at the playground, every busy women’s wardrobe needs a shoe that can survive outside the office without looking like you got lost on your way to the gym. Luckily, there are more choices in this category than ever before. If you’re shopping at an athletic shoe store, look for the section called “lifestyle” or “casual.” Puma, Skechers and Nike in particular have several styles to choose from. For example, Puma’s Saba Sequins Ballerina Flat is a sneaker/flat hybrid decorated with, yes, sequins.
These are just a few of my ideas for walkable workable shoes. How about you?
- What’s in your working woman’s shoe survival guide?
- Do you have a pair of go-to shoes?
This month is my half-birthday. That is, I’m an Aries, and my next birthday is in 6 months. And it’s one of those big deal milestones that end in “0.” In fact, it’s the zero-year milestone.
First Lady Michelle Obama is fabulous and age-appropriate
So now, more than ever, I’ve begun to shop and clothes edit with an eye toward age appropriateness.
(After all, most of us can’t graduate from our 30s and continue to pull off the kinds of ensembles that Sarah Jessica Parker and Madonna do. One must have a lot of money and an amazing Pilates instructor.)
For me, these are the key areas to watch out for.
How to dress gracefully for your age
- Skirt length. “What Not To Wear” proclaims “No miniskirts after 35.” In fact, they’re a challenge at many ages unless you’re blessed with shapely legs. If your gams are great, you don’t have to trash your miniskirts completely, but forego wearing them bare-legged. Pair them with tights and knee-high boots, or leggings and flats.
- Neckline depth. By the same token, watch the plunging necklines, ladies. A little décolleté is fine for evening, but it looks cheap on younger women, and terribly aging on the rest of us. Try a wrap top or boatneck.
- Too-trendy items. Nothing says Trying Too Hard like sporting an outfit — or even an obvious item — straight from the racks at Hot Topic. This is not to advocate dowdiness; there is a world of choices in between Forever 17 and Talbot’s.
Tell me — what are your rules for being fabulous at every age?
Oh, August — you can be such a cruel month, especially for the stylish.
How can one retain an air of elegance in wilting heat, rising humidity and general dog-days malaise?
Refreshing ice water with cucumber
Here are a few ideas to defy these waning days of summer.
- Drink up! No, not the alcoholic kind (though a frosty margarita often hits the spot). Now, more than ever, your body craves a refreshing, restoring glass of water. So load up the ice and drop in a slice or two of cooling cucumber — even better if you can pick it fresh from your back-yard garden.
- Let it be. Put away the sweat-inducing hair dryer. Your style will probably wilt within moments of stepping outside, anyway. Indulge in the opportunity to let your hair air dry. If it’s long, try twisting it up in a loose top-knot in the morning; by lunch you’ll have sexy tousles. Or pull back your shorter layers in little decorative pins or barrettes.
- Dive in. If you hit the pool once all summer, now is the time. And if you live in driving distance of a beach, lucky you. Even if you don’t have either of these options at your disposal, who says you can’t enjoy soaking in a kiddie pool? And at the end of a hot day, a quick, cool shower always feels divine; take 5 minutes and pretend it’s your own Hawaiian waterfall.
My ideas all revolve around water in some way. What are your August survival methods?
Keith Richards: Guitar hero, but no style icon
Sometimes it helps to identify a celebrity as a style icon, a template on which to draw tips for clothing, makeup and overall panache.
And then sometimes a celebrity can tell you what not to do.
Here, then, are 3 important style lessons — the negative consequences of which are all embodied in legendary Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards:
- Don’t smoke. There’s are two reasons Keef has a face like a piece of cracked, tanned leather. The first is the ever-present cigarette dangling from his lips. Need I tell you all the bad things tobacco smoking does for your skin?
- Use sunscreen. And this is the other reason his wrinkles could form canyons: the years of deep tanning and sun exposure. Like cigarettes, the sun makes you look older and can give you cancer.
- Apply eyeliner with a light hand. Dark black eyeliner should be applied sparingly and with a firm touch. Otherwise you run the risk of looking, as my grandmother would say, “like two burned holes in a paper napkin.”
So ladies, take a lesson from Keef: follow him for learning mighty riffs, but not for healthy habits!
Tell me: Who are your favorite cautionary tales?