The rules for professional attire are not always as clear-cut for women as they are for men. The Moi-Même Guide to Professional Attire for Women seeks to demystify womens careerwear for the office and provide some guidance in regards to what to wear to an interview.
The objective of any job interview is to receive an offer of employment. Your appearance during an interview can give you confidence and improve the likelihood of being selected for the position by accomplishing four things:
Demonstrating you are the consummate professional; you are exactly the sort of woman they would be comfortable putting in front of a customer or senior leadership team
Focusing the interviewer’s attention on what you are saying, not what you are wearing
Showing you understand etiquette and have researched the industry for which you are interviewing
Reaffirming that you are serious about this interview and truly interested in working for
PREPARING FOR THE BIG DAY
Remove any “x” shaped tacking stitches the tailor added to the vents of the jacket and skirt and any labels stitched on the outside of your sleeve (these tags are intended to be detached before wearing)
Send all pieces of your suit to the cleaners, so they will be laundered, de-linted and pressed well in advance of your interview
Carefully inspect for dangling threads, buttons that may need reinforcing, tears and stains
Skinny pant or wide-leg trouser? Confused by the crossover between menswear and womenswear? Sometimes it seems that everything is upside-down. But do not be fooled; even in fashion, some things are timeless. And that is why we bring you the Moi-Même Guide to Professional Attire for Women.
Smart suit separates are the essential centerpiece of the professional wardrobe. Here’s what you should look for:
WELL-FITTED AND TAILORED
Get a suit made to measure for your body or take an off-the-rack garment to the tailor for nips and tucks. A well-fitted suit creates a chic silhouette that flatters your body – helping you feel your most confident and professional. Never, never, never sacrifice fit for price or brand name.
High-quality natural-fiber fabrics wear better and last longer than lower-quality synthetics. Natural fibers also “breathe” – keeping you cool under pressure. Seek a wool blend with a smooth finish that repels lint. Avoid shell/exterior fabrics with synthetic-fiber content (e.g. acetate or polyester) that exceeds 10%.
COLOR THAT DOES NOT OVERPOWER
A color that looks great in a blouse does not necessarily flatter when worn head-to-toe as a suit. For interviews, stick to black, charcoal or navy. Look for hues that compliment your hair color and skin tone.
SOLIDS OR SOPHISTICATED PATTERNS
You simply can not go wrong with a rich, solid-colored fabric. Subtle vertical stripes can be very sophisticated and visually elongate your frame – making you appear taller and leaner. Be certain to check the seam in the back of the jacket to ensure the pattern lines up across the right and left side of the body.
For pants, nothing is more timeless than a tailored trouser-leg. For skirts, you can’t go wrong with a pencil or a sleek A-line. The hem should fall at or just below the knee. Mix-and-match-ability. Stretch your budget by electing pieces that go together; consider the three-piece suit: jacket, pants and skirt. Just be sure to launder all pieces of the same fabric and color together – so they wear evenly.
If the suit is the canvas, the accessory is the paint. When you start with a well-fitted, clean cut suit, accessorizing is simply about adding personal touches to an already chic style.
For interviews and conservative workplaces, look for long-sleeved tailored blouses in a color or small print that coordinates with your suit jacket. Add some flair with French cuffs, a v-neckline or special buttons. In less conservative workplaces, you might consider a short-sleeved blouse or a fine-gauge, quality knit shell in a natural-fiber fabric. Even in the most creative workplace, it is not appropriate to show cleavage.
Regardless of what is in style, avoid strappy stilettos, platforms or sandals. A good pair of closed-toe pumps is suitable for every situation and peek-a-boo pumps are great in less traditional workplaces (just remember to pedicure!). Make certain you can walk comfortably and confidently in your shoes. Once you have selected a great pair of shoes, take them to the tailor to have your pants hemmed accordingly.
Keep it simple; avoid anything that dangles and distracts. If a belt loop is available, use it. A classic timepiece is always a good idea, but be aware: watch prices can vary greatly, so make sure the price of your watch sends the message you would like to convey (i.e., perhaps best to leave the diamond-studded wristwatch at home if you fundraise for a non-profit).
A scarf can really liven up a solid-colored suit. When you buy a scarf, look for a print and color that is not distracting and ask the salesperson to teach you a few different ways to tie it.
If you are wearing a skirt, then nylons are a necessity for interviews and conservative workplaces. Buy a few sheer pairs that match your skin tone.
Wear neutral make-up that enhances your natural beauty, avoiding caked matting and bright colors; save the fire-engine red lipstick and dark kohl shadow for the cocktail hour. Avoid perfume for interviews and use it only sparingly (some perfumes may cause your colleagues to sneeze from allergies). Keep a neat, professional hairstyle and groom your nails.