One of my clients recently asked me to help her find a suit because she is going to start interviewing. The idea of having to wear a suit for her job search didn’t thrill her, but she knew it was a necessary evil in order to find a new job. I started thinking about interview outfits and if it was possible to help her find an outfit that wasn’t necessarily a suited look.
Despite dress codes loosening in even the most conservative of workplaces, there are still many situations where a suit is required for interviewing. If this is the case with you, I don’t want my advice to override the rules of your industry. However, there are quite a few interviewing situations where, if done right, a suit isn’t needed. Speaking for myself, when I was working as a fashion designer, a suit wasn’t necessary at all. And it’s not just the creative fields where suits aren’t required for interviewing any longer. There are plenty of ways to make a nonsuited look work for all types of careers. Below I have put together three more conservative unsuited looks that I think can be acceptable interview outfits.
Suitable Unsuited Interview Outfits
I think a dress makes a lovely alternative to a classic suit for an interview. You can take a sheath and style a blazer or even a cardigan over it. When going this route, it is important to choose professional, classic, well tailored pieces. You can select styles from brands known for their suited looks, like I did above. I used this emerald green sheath dress from BOSS Hugo Boss (which is currently on sale) with a cropped cardigan from Elie Tahari.
Call me old fashioned, but I believe that arms should also be covered during an interview. You don’t have to wear long sleeves necessarily, but sleeveless should be avoided at all costs. Also, while black can be an acceptable interview color, if you want to stand out, try another shade that will make you memorable from the sea of black suits and dresses other women will wear.
For accessories, I kept it understated and simple. Super classic isn’t necessary, but pay mind to the quality, the size and the trendiness of your jewelry, particularly if you work in a more conservative environment. Not only will you avoid creating a distraction by not wearing jewelry that is too large or too trendy, you will be be taken more seriously with more serious pieces. I used this crescent shaped necklace from Shinola, and navy stud earrings from Kate Spade. Lastly, I added this quality bag from Burberry that is professionally structured and large enough to hold a file containing your resume and finished it off with these popular Cole Haan pumps in nude.
In the outfit above, I created an interview outfit just using a dress. There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to do this for your next interview. Choose a dress that can stand alone without any coordinating pieces. A classic sheath without might be a bit boring or unfinished looking, but a dress that has some smart details or seaming, without being flouncy or fluffy, can look sharp and professional.
Next, you want to make sure this dress is tailored perfectly. When you buy a suit, it’s not uncommon to get it tailored to fit just right. The same care and attention should be paid to a dress you decide to wear if you plan on it being a stand alone piece. This dress should be tailored, not in a print, void of any fancy or distracting details and definitely not something that could pass for weekend or, worse, after five.
The Max Mara dress above is a true investment, but stunning. It has a classic timeless shape, long sleeves, a modest appearance, but is finished with the belt and understated pleating on the skirt. With it, I added a black bowler bag from MCM, a pair of nude pumps from Sam Edelman and small crossover hoop earrings from David Yurman. The nude pumps were chosen to add sophistication to the all black look and to break up the starkness of all black.
In this last look I am suggesting that instead of a suit you try separates. I make this suggestion because, in many cases, a woman will sooner wear a novelty blazer and tailored pants to work before she will wear a suit. Instead of purchasing one suit that you will likely never wear to work again, because that’s not your work environment, why not use a jacket and pants or skirt?
In the outfit above, I styled this tweed L.K. Bennett blazer, that would also look great with a pair of jeans on the weekend, with these tailored black pants from Elie Tahari. Under the jacket, I used a black Theory tank and finished the outfit with a pair of black pumps from Marc Fisher, a grey Coach bag and Melissa Joy Manning gold hoops that have garnet accents.
Depending on your work environment, it is far more likely that you will get more wear from pieces like the ones above than you will a suit. If this is the case with you, consider these types of looks for your interview outfits.