What not to wear to the interview
March 9, 2014 4:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm a lady. I have a job interview coming up for which I was advised to wear a suit. I can't find my real suit, (may have donated it) but I doubt if it fit me anymore anyway. What I do have is a black sheath dress, a nice navy blue blazer, a nice grey blazer, a nice grey pencil skirt that is a slight mismatch with the grey blazer, and a pair of pants that's also a slight mismatch with the grey blazer, and a selection of those nice decorative shells that women wear under suits. I think I have black pumps somewhere, and I also have some nice looking oxford heels. Can I make something work with what I have or should I go try to find a suit? In addition, opaque or sheer tights? This is for a non-management web design job for which I thought suits were passe.
posted by bleep to Work & Money (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would wear the black sheath dress (provided it is of a conservative cut), the grey blazer, sheer tights and the black pumps. Use your accessories to inject a little color.
posted by peacheater at 4:15 PM on March 9, 2014 [31 favorites]

Could you wear the grey blazer over the black sheath, with some coloured and/or shiny jewelry or a bright scarf to perk it up? I would also wear sheer tights with the black pumps.

I do not work in the web design world, but I think conservative attire is often expected for a first interview, even in business casual/ funky fields.

On preview, what Peacheater said.
posted by rpfields at 4:15 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would wear the black sheath with the grey blazer and black pumps. I would also wear sheer nude nylons, but I'm aware that nylons are considered old-fashioned now.
posted by Ruki at 4:15 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Female sysadmin here. I interview in skirt suits and a button down blouse, always. If the mismatch isn't really noticeable I would wear the blazer and skirt with a shell and sheer flesh-colour tights and whichever is the lower of the heels.
posted by corvine at 4:19 PM on March 9, 2014

Seconding the dress + gray blazer + black opaque tights + black pumps -- as long as the gray is a light gray. If it's a darker gray I'd skip the blazer. I'd punch it up with bright earrings and a bright scarf in the same color (electric blue? orange?) - OR a bright statement necklace (I think you can find them pretty cheaply at Target).

Also focus on seeming polished - have your hair looking good, nails neat, no runs in your tights, well-polished shoes.
posted by whenbynowandtreebyleaf at 4:20 PM on March 9, 2014

I go for the trifecta of black sheath and grey blazer. Best wishes for a good interview!
posted by mightshould at 4:21 PM on March 9, 2014

I came here to say exactly what the others said: black dress, gray blazer, black pumps, sheer tights, and to add that I had to throw together this exact outfit with mixed labels just the other week and it came together quite nicely.
posted by mibo at 4:24 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm just going in with almost everyone else for the dress-blazer-pumps plus colourful accessory combo. That said, the skirt-blazer-shell combination is also fine depending on the mismatch. In some ways slight mismatches are the worst because they look like mistakes instead of deliberate choices.
posted by jeather at 4:27 PM on March 9, 2014

I dunno. For men, a suit is a suit and attempts at being "suit like" are a faux pas.
It all seems a bit much for a web design job, but...

she looks like a web designer

she looks like a secretary

posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 4:29 PM on March 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Thank you for the advice ladies! It looks like the black dress and grey blazer are the winners.

I also just found a black blazer and a black A-line skirt. Does this change your advice at all? (This is making me a little crazy as I really want this job!)
posted by bleep at 4:30 PM on March 9, 2014

(Also, even though I'm the right demographics to be a hipster, I never manage to convincingly pull off the hipster thing anyway..)
posted by bleep at 4:31 PM on March 9, 2014

I honestly wouldn't mix blacks unless it was the same label.
posted by Ruki at 4:41 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I think the black sheath and gray blazer could probably play well even in fairly conservative professions, I wouldn't worry about it being not technically a matching suit. Women get a smidge more leeway in dressing business professional than men.
posted by Sequence at 4:44 PM on March 9, 2014

I don't think "she looks like a secretary" because it's a black dress and grey blazer, necessarily. I think it's the cut of the dress, combined with the cut of the blazer (looks kinda thrift-store '80's to me - obvious shoulder pads, and like it doesn't quite really fit her properly), combined with the old-fashioned/matronly pumps. The one who looks like a web designer has clothes with modern cuts - hip slung flat-fronted pants, no shoulder pads, etc.

Check the blog "Already Pretty" maybe - I think that's the kind of look most people are suggesting.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:59 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

For men, a suit is a suit and attempts at being "suit like" are a faux pas.

Yeah, I think women get rather more leeway (= also rather more difficulty) in business professional clothing. For men I agree that business professional = suit and a suit is a suit, but for women I see a larger variety of business prof. clothing which all looks acceptable to me.
posted by andrewesque at 5:18 PM on March 9, 2014

There aren't 'slight mismatches' for these things -- if they're not cut from the same cloth they do not go together, full stop; a totally different colour/fabric is a better 'match' than a 'slight mismatch.'

(I think this needs a photo or three for a good answer, especially now that we've seen the blogger version of grey blazer and black sheath -- Google image searching this brings up a wide variety of fail/good-to-go. The dress should not be too too long and the jacket should be light and perfectly cut...)
posted by kmennie at 5:48 PM on March 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sheath dress, gray blazer, pumps, black opaque tights, a patterned scarf around the neck incorporating gray, black and white or other accessory to tie it together and disguise/distract from 'sheath dress'.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:57 PM on March 9, 2014

Gray pants or skirt, cream or colored shell, navy blazer. Navy, nude, or colored pumps. Statement necklace.
posted by amaire at 6:03 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Amaire your idea intrigued me so I tried it on, but the navy blazer is going to have to go, as it screamed "busty real estate agent" and/or "busty stewardess" and I'm not that busty.
This is the blazer except it's a pleasing charcoal color. The dress is similar to this except it has a matching belt. I tried to take pictures but you can't really see the colors or shapes well, but I think it looks professional and confident and "like me". I appreciate your help.
posted by bleep at 7:26 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

If the blazer is a dark enough gray that it almost looks black, I wouldn't wear it with the black dress. In that case, I'd opt for the navy blazer and black dress with a scarf that combined navy and black and some brighter color(s). The black pumps and sheer, flesh-colored tights would be nice.
posted by aryma at 10:18 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think a skirt, a nice shirt and a quality crew-neck cardigan is good enough if you don't have a matching skirt/blazer set. Otherwise, if you want to wear a blazer, don't try to match same colors. Wear a black skirt with the grey blazer. I'd recommend the A-line skirt, unless you are skinny, then go for the pencil -- depends on your figure and the skirts themselves. Remember, you want to look professional!

Good luck on the job interview!
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:31 PM on March 9, 2014

How far off is this job interview? Can you hit a thirft store or two and do a quick rummage to see if they have anything in your size? I say this because it's a small investment, a suit is a handy critter to have around regardless, and you were actually advised by someone on the ground (who?--it makes a difference--how much more do they know about this job position than we do?) to wear a suit.
posted by anaelith at 5:52 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

There aren't 'slight mismatches' for these things -- if they're not cut from the same cloth they do not go together, full stop; a totally different colour/fabric is a better 'match' than a 'slight mismatch.'

Truly truly truly - match or don't. A jacket in a very different color and fabric can compliment the dress color and fabric.

Darkish blue paired with another darkish blue won't look right for an interview when you understand a suit is suggested.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:50 AM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm going to go against the tide.

Buy a suit.

I normally don't advocate for new clothes for interviews, but I think you need something.

I'm going to break another rule by recommending a Junior's suit at Macy's. I love the price of the items and they'll work as components of other outfits. If it's too cheap looking though, go up in price and see if this INC outfit would work.

It's hard to tell from the picture about quality, but it's funky enough for a design position, and you can dress it up with a conservative, elegant blouse and a cool necklace.

I think a skirt suit and heels is just too...old school. It's too cold not to wear panty-hose and panty-hose are too old...for ALL of us!

Pants are just better in my opinion.

I'd do a large, colorful bag.

Whatever you get, it needs to be 100% comfortable. Once it's on, you're not thinking about it.

Good luck to you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:26 AM on March 10, 2014

What about grey blazer, white button down, black pencil skirt? I think the shirt and skirt would maybe break the outfit up and coordinate better than the dress and blazer. Then nice necklace but not too in your face statement-like.
posted by hazyjane at 12:12 PM on March 10, 2014

I wasn't sure if I was going to have time to shop but since I did, Ruthless Bunny convinced me to at least try and I lucked into a nice one. and this time I bought ALL the pieces so hopefully I won't be asking this again.

All of your advice has been tremendously helpful for my "competent professional woman" costume.
posted by bleep at 7:25 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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