Formspring.me Question: Professional, Yet Fashionable Interview Outfits
Worn to a second interview for an Office Manager job in September. American Eagle tights, Calvin Klein skirt, MMS bag (all bought at Marshall’s); Claire’s earrings; Forever 21 ruffled-front blouse, wool tuxedo jacket, and mixed chain bracelet; Payless Victorian booties. Original post here.
You’ve featured a couple of your interview outfits, I was wondering if you had any advice on how to dress professional and fashionable? Most of the outfits outlined in career guides make me feel like a flight attendant.
That’s a great question! With the recent economic quagmire here in the U.S. (and abroad), perhaps many more of us are going on interviews than in past years…and it’s always hard to know how to dress for them. Granted, I’m applying for a digital-design-related (read: working-in-front-of-a-computer-most-of-the-time) position in a creative industry (and in Portland, OR, where the style of dress is much more relaxed than most other urban centers), so my past outfits may not be the best guide for you in your particular situation.
But I completely agree that most “job interview” outfits that are touted in magazines usually fall into one of two categories:
A) stuffy and boring, or
B) WAAAAAAAAY overpriced.
I’m always shocked at the magazine articles that suggest a $645 Helmut Lang blazer or a $1150 Reed Krakoff skirt (see exhibit A, below)…I mean, you are looking for work so it’s not like you can go out and lay down a grand or so on a skirt, correct??
Scanned from Marie Claire magazine, February 2012. Click to enlarge.
Now, some people have a go-to high-priced interview suit that they splurged on, that fits them wonderfully and always looks impeccable and tasteful. And that’s one way to go if you have the funds for it and you’re the type of person, and are in an industry that requires you to be well-dressed and exemplify the height of professionalism.
Worn to a casual meeting at a small company in December when applying for a freelance position. Forever 21 earrings, sweater, and belt; Victoria’s Secret button-down shirt, ASOS pants and heels; Target bag. Original post here.
But if you can’t afford a high-priced suit (or aren’t inclined to commit to something like that), I do think that you should at least be wearing an expensive-looking piece of clothing when you go to an interview. That doesn’t mean it actually has to be expensive…just expensive-looking.
So what makes something look expensive when it really isn’t?
1) FABRIC: Silk, stiff wool, leather, linen, stiff cotton. Anything that holds its shape, doesn’t look flimsy, see-through, clingy, or wrinkled.
2) CUT: Fits you well. Not like a second skin, but like a loose skin…i.e., something that skims over your curves and “hints” at the line of your body rather than stretches to hold it all in or swaddles you in piles of fabric.
The above 2 are a MUST when it comes to making something that is cheap…look fantastically expensive.
3) DETAILING: Tiny details that make the piece “special” and “different” from the billions of other white blouses or black pencil skirts out there on the planet. Pearl buttons; contrast piping; color-blocking etc., will step those pieces up a notch and truly make them a unique and memorable part of your outfit.
And you can find clothing like this anywhere, even for a huge steal. My favorite interview outfits combine a mix of low-priced, vintage, clothing bought in Japan, and pieces I’ve made myself…and yet I’ve received many compliments on them and questions about where I got certain pieces. I do try to choose item that fit at least 2 of the three criteria above, and that are, above all, unique pieces that speak to my personality. (That uniqueness really comes more into play in creative industries, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all-solution.) This makes my outfits feel like they’re truly an expression of myself and that I’m not some corporate drone.
If you have to dress in an all-black power suit, can you not wear some diamond (or cubic zirconia?) studs in your favorite non-circular shape? Or a subtle ring with an unusual setting? Or use a brightly-colored wallet, tucked away in your bag? Can you even go with an outfit that looks like a suit…but isn’t? (see below) Find smaller ways to assert your personality even if you have to be stuck into a something suit-like.
And finally, always have at least TWO, if not THREE, go-to interview outfits that you can pull together at any time, that look great on you and you don’t have to think about any part of them.
Worn to the first interview with a video production company for an Office Manager position. Top handmade by me, Target bag, vintage U.S. Navy pants, shoes bought in Japan; Payless ring. Original post here.
Plus, you can always DIY some amazing details onto that power suit (like change the buttons, add some piping, sew some trim onto the pockets, add a ruffle to the skirt) so that it feels truly you – and you feel a better representation of yourself when you walk into that interview room.
Have any tips for a great interview outfit?
Leave them in the comments!
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