Help me dress for an interview.
September 18, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

This is another question about interview clothes.

I have been a happy freelance writer for years. I was just contacted by a recruiter about a staff job that sounds attractive enough to consider. So, oh noes! What do I wear to the interview? When I meet with clients nowadays, I wear nice black pants and a dressy shirt. I do not own a suit or even a jacket. I'm short, bigger on the bottom than the top, and hardly ever find anything I like in stores. I hate shopping and I do not wear skirts or dresses. Please tell me what to wear and send me to the right place to get it. The job at is a small medical communications agency where I'd be one of several writers.
posted by Wordwoman to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Nice black pants and a dressy (white) shirt is ideal. If not suit, then not jacket.

Wear closed-toe shoes with a low heel in a neutral colour, and little or no jewelry.

If you are bigger on the bottom than the top, black pants are fine. I think you probably have what you need already.
posted by tel3path at 11:35 AM on September 18, 2010

Black pants suit. It's appropriate and is a wardrobe staple that can last you forever and be recombined in numerous ways. Also suits will flatter your figure.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:04 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I would not invest in a suit you are not very likely to wear again. If your standard attire is black pants and say, a pink women's cut button down, I'd get a pink jacket and wear that.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:38 PM on September 18, 2010

I've worn a suit jacket from Goodwill to an interview. It fit and worked fine. I actually really liked the way it looked, so it helped with the confidence factor. Just gotta let it air out to lose that Goodwill smell. :)
posted by salvia at 1:13 PM on September 18, 2010

I personally don't think wearing a full-on suit is necessary for job interviews in many industries. It really depends on the company atmosphere - where I've worked, it's easier to look overdressed in a suit than to look underdressed in nice black pants and a flattering dress shirt.

As for where to get good clothes for interviews, I go to Ann Taylor for that sort of thing. I've found the ladies who work there very helpful at picking out the right style for my body type, since normally I'd probably not have the patience to navigate through every style of pants if the first couple look terrible on me. Since you're short, just make sure you go to one with a petite section.
posted by wondermouse at 1:19 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can always find a cardigan, longish, in a dark color, that will take the place of a jacket, without screaming "3rd grade teacher with kleenex in her sleeve".

Does the job involve any contact with clients, the public, etc? You'll want to make sure you're not mistaken for support staff, if it's not a support staff job.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:22 PM on September 18, 2010

I think it depends on your location - in general, the West coast appears to be more flexible than the East. I am a medical writer/ regulatory affairs specialist, and when I interviewed here in Los Angeles, I wore a grey suit and heels... and it felt appropriate, even if it was an entry-level position.

Without knowing much about your company culture, it's hard to recommend anything specific but you want to err on the side of formality for sure. While black pants and a dress shirt are might work, maybe wear a light blue or pastel shirt instead of a plain white. I've been told white dress shirts and black pants without a jacket could make you look like waitstaff. (Sorry I don't mean to be mean, just giving you the same advice some other folks gave me when I asked the same question). Honestly though, I'd go with a suit, and although you may not like it, a skirt suit will probably complement your figure. Get a suit in a neutral color like grey or black so you can wear the jacket and pants as separates as well. I have never seen anyone go to an interview at a company not wearing a suit. And even informal interviews within academia require some nod to a jacket-type outfit - a short black jacket over a quietly-patterned skirt or dress, for example.

Also, without knowing your actual size, I can't recommend a place to go to... but if you're a plus size, Lane Bryant is a good choice. Other places include Macy's or Nordstrom rack.
posted by Everydayville at 1:30 PM on September 18, 2010

Petite person, shaped like you, here. I love suits and wear them all the time. But I buy virtually everything online . . . because I know my sizes, and stores never have the same selection that you can get online.

I think for an interview, it is wisest to be conservative, meaning you want a dark pant or skirt suit and a neutral colored blouse, conservative jewelry, and low heels. Don't worry, at some other point in your life a suit like that will come in handy again . . . maybe on the job if you get it.

I'd strongly recommend Talbots, which sells things you can wear forever. If you aren't sure of your sizes on top and bottom (you do sound like a petite), I'd recommend measuring yourself and looking at the size charts at online stores. Or, head to Nordstrom and work with one of the salespeople in the petite department -- they are unusually helpful there.
posted by bearwife at 1:49 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've interviewed quite a few writers. It never mattered to me if a candidate was wearing an actual suit or a dressy outfit that was not a suit, and this was in a fairly image-conscious workplace with a strict dress code. A bad suit (e.g. doesn't fit correctly, has clearly been washed a million times) looks worse than a non-suit outfit that fits well and has clearly been taken care of. Overall, general presentation was most important; tidy hair, low-key jewelry, dress shoes, organized bag/purse, etc.

Dress pants and a nice top can be okay, if both are very tailored and crisp; but adding a nice blazer would be even better. (My manager at that job was larger on top than on bottom, and she looked great in black pants and a contrasting blazer.) Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft are good places to look.
posted by neushoorn at 3:00 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

In response to the minimal jewelry comments, just make sure you still wear a watch... I think it's an important accessory for a job interview. Good luck!
posted by belau at 3:52 PM on September 18, 2010

If you're not interviewing for a corporate-world position at a conservative firm with a strict dress-code, I would not necessarily wear a suit.

I work in the film industry (and as a freelance writer, though I've never been on an in-person interview for that sort of work). For interviews, which in my field tend to be a mere formality to a certain degree, I typically wear a slightly nicer version of what I would normally wear during work hours. So if you usually wear trousers and a business casual top, maybe throw a jacket or nice sweater into the mix? If you usually wear sneakers, wear heels?
posted by Sara C. at 10:03 PM on September 18, 2010

I would ask the recruiter and then go to nordstroms to execute on whatever advice the recruiter gives.
posted by bananafish at 12:02 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh also I recommended nordstoms because they have the free personal shoppers and probably free tailoring (so much of looking good is fit)
posted by bananafish at 8:42 AM on September 19, 2010

Neurshoorn nailed it. Focus on getting the best quality top you can afford. If that's just a very nicely tailored blouse or an expensive-looking silk knit, that's totally fine.

I think the most important thing is to avoid anything potentially vulgar while keeping stuff fitted. For those with a booty, this means NO VPL or other weirdness of fit on the pants. For those with big boobs, this means no bursting buttons or gaps that show bra through your blouse.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:31 AM on September 20, 2010

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