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The rules for what women can wear to a job interview have become more relaxed, but there are still rules. Your clothing should say nothing that detracts from your professional message: I have the deliverables for this job.
Where should I start?
Your professional dress projects your level of self-esteem, confidence and attention to detail–or lack thereof. Overall, it’s better to invest in the a few high-quality pieces rather than waste your money on a closet full of cheap clothing. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you may consider shopping for previously owned, gently-used career wear at consignment shops, or online on sites like as eBay. You will get the most mileage out of a suit in season-less color, in a lightweight wool or wool blend fabric.
You can also create a wardrobe of suited looks with coordinating separates – tailored jackets, basic pencil skirts and sheath dresses in colors you can mix and match, and some classic button down blouses. Then work in some great accessories like silk scarves.
A word about fit. What if you have a “hard to fit” body? If you regularly find great pieces that are almost perfect, its well worth the time and money to develop a relationship with a good seamstress – look around because prices vary widely. A little tweaking here and there will make a huge difference in how your clothes hang and make you feel that much more confident.
Jackets should be simple, well tailored, and stylish, but not overly trendy, when it comes to professional presence, style beats fashion every time – unless of course you are in the fashion industry. The cut and style should flatter your build and reflect your personal style without detracting from what you have to say. Your skirt should fall to the knee, too long can look frumpy and dated – too short can send the wrong message.
Attention to details such as smooth seams, even hemlines, correctly hanging linings, and well-sewn buttons are essential.
You’re the tops
What about tops? Showing too much skin on a job interview is never a good idea so go with long or three-quarter-length sleeves. And exposing a low-cut neckline can cost you a job offer. Why risk offending the interviewer if you unexpectedly have to remove your jacket? It’s just that simple.
These shoes are made for walking
Avoid radical styles, overly high heels and casual looks and do choose something you can walk in gracefully. You may adore your signature Manolo Blahnik stilettoes, but don’t assume that your affinity for designer shoes will score points with the interviewer. Opt for an accepted professional look and do observe what successful women in that workplace or industry wear and emulate it. Flats are fine; a shoe with moderate heel is perfectly acceptable. A basic pump or sling-back with a closed toe is best. Just think moderation; the goal is to look like a professional, not a pin-up.
A briefcase or portfolio conveys authority, so you should carry one, with a small clutch tucked inside for your personal effects. The briefcase should be conservative, match your shoes and be free of ornamentation or obtrusive designer logos.
Jewelry and other accessories. The scarf can do a few things jewelry cannot. It can change the entire look of an outfit to extend your wardrobe. If you choose a color that flatters your face, it will automatically give you a
more energized look. You can also use a scarf to deemphasize things that could distract the interviewer, such as aging skin on the neck or a vestigial tattoo. Tying a scarf can be tricky but there are plenty of easy YouTube tutorials out there to show you how to do it with panache.
Jewelry should be tasteful. A wedding set or engagement ring, a conservative watch, one simple bracelet, a small-scale status necklace, a string of pearls, a metal pendant on a thin chain, stud earrings are all appropriate. Anything oversized, dangly, chunky, noisy, religious, sporting big designer logos, blingy initials, and other forms of excess sparkle are not acceptable. If you have pierced ears, be sure to wear appropriate earrings, not doing so could look like an overlooked detail.
Pantyhose are a necessary evil for a job interview, no matter where you live. They should match your shoes or be a neutral color. They should never attract attention on their own. You should always keep a backup pair because they tend to run at the worst time.