On Interview Suits

I'm trying to get a range of views about interview suits for women. I know they should be made of a fine wool, that they should be black, charcoal gray, or brown, and that I can wear a colored or patterned shirt if I like, but I'm still stuck on the pants v. skirt question. I'm open to either possibility, but if I go with the skirt, it won't be short; it'll be about like this one. So far, here are the arguments I've heard:

  • Pants are more comfortable
  • Pants are warmer in the winter
  • With pants, you can wear more comfortable shoes

And, the most compelling argument of all: With pants, you don't have to worry about getting a run in your stockings.

What are your thoughts? Everyone must have an opinion on this. Any feedback at all is welcome, whether it's directly related to pants v. skirt or not. For example, is it a lot better to wear a collared shirt than a shell, or does it matter? I do want to wear something under the jacket. And what about shoes?


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just a thought

2 Board Alley

Washington DC is wacky when it comes to weather (I know, they're not interviewing in outdoor parking lots), and inside it may be warmer/ colder than it needs to be. My suggestion is to wear layers. I'm a slacks gal myself, but I wore a skirt suit to interviews--have more's changed in ten years? Wear something comfortable, professional, practice any new makeup or hair do's before the big day and then relax. You'll be great.

Pants, definitely

Geeky Mom

I'd get a pant suit myself. Or whichever you think you might actually wear again. In terms of shoes, you can get some really nice looking shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk in--low wide heel. I'm a fan of the collared shirt under the jacket. If you take the jacket off inside--because it's hot or whatever--you'll still look very professional.

yes, what about shoes?

On questions like this I think it's easier to decide once you're in the dressing room in the shop - but I'd incline toward a skirt, I think they're easier to press and don't crease as much as pants if a lot of the day is spent sitting down.

But shoes....

women don't wear navy?

If I'm not mistaken, the Mariott Wardman Park is mostly suites, so interviews there won't offer any of those uncomfortable so-who-sits-on-the-bed? moments, which might make a difference in the skirt-vs.-pants decision. It's really close to the Metro, too, if that helps in thinking about weather concerns.

I'm one of those people who feels more confident when I'm well-dressed, so I'm kinda looking forward to putting on a suit. Also, one of my colleagues observed that the more 'conventional' one looks, the more latitude one has in what to wear -- so I'm wondering whether I should take out my four earrings for the interviews.


I think whatever you're most

I think whatever you're most comfortable in is the way to go. I've seen a huge range of things at interviews, almost infinite variations on the themes you mention above. (FWIW, I don't think you're limited to black, charcoal, or brown, OR to fine wool, though those are certainly safe bets. For instance, if you like the velveteen or tweed jackets that are around these days, feel free to wear one! That being said, I went with black on both go-rounds on the market, but then, I wear black all the time anyway.) A friend of mine interviewed at the big conference in an oatmeal wool tailored jumper (v-neck, buttoned down the front), a cream silk blouse, and a peach/oatmeal/blue scarf - no jacket in sight (she got the job). Whatever you will feel most natural in, and in which you won't look like you're screaming I'M IN A NEW SUIT!!, is best, I think. I personally like the look of the collared shirt, too, but you can look perfectly professional in a shell. Skirt or pants, whatever floats your boat - I actually prefer skirts, so I always choose them, but for me (given my own personal shape issues) skirts are usually more comfortable than pants, and if it's cold, I opt for a long skirt and tall boots. I agree about the lower wide heel thing, since you'll probably walk a lot and stand a lot. There are a lot of sort of dressy loafers in this category - but again, go with something you can wear again. If you're fond of foxy heels with toe cleavage, go for it - you never know when someone like Bitch Ph.D. is going to be on the committee. ;-)

I will say that as much as I've obsessed over interview clothing in the past, it never occurred to me that a search committee could have preferences about collars vs. no-collars.

I agree with previous comments - you'll do great!

I incline toward pants...

...but the "Whichever you're more at ease in" rule definitely applies (for the shoes, the suit, and the whole outfit). I like pants partly because a) I don't like wearing pantyhose and b) in pants, I don't have to worry about how I'm crossing my legs.

As for collars vs. shells, I'd say some of that depends on the suit -- I've seen some suits that look odd when you wear a collared shirt under them and some suits that don't. You could always try on some sample shirts in each style when you're trying on suits. Or if you already have the shirt picked out, you could wear it while suit-shopping and see how the suits look with it (both with and without the jacket).


After brainstorming with mom, I'm going to see if I can buy two jackets, then a skirt and a pair of pants that match each one. This way I only buy two pairs of shoes, too.

I forgot about navy, Mike! I think I'd probably do black and gray, brown and gray, or brown and black. Brown is a good color on me. I'm conventional looking, so I might wear a brooch or some similar accessory. I've been looking at the jackets on J.Crew's site, and my favorite is the Farmington jacket. Or the Farmington wool gabardine one in chestnut. They have wool crepe and wool gabardine; what's the difference?

Also: If this post doesn't get linked at "Around the Web," no post of mine ever will.

Get whatcha like

I have three. The first is a pants suit, very dark navy (almost black), and the jacket is cut v. long--to the back of the knees. It has a mandarin collar that closes with a hook and eye, and no buttons on the front, so it hangs freely from the hooked collar. I've worn it with a shell or, if it's cold, a silk turtleneck.

The second is a dark teal shell with a matching coat/jacket that's as long as the dress itself.

The third is a spring suit: gray, short sleeves, buttons high, long (below-knee) skirt.

My recommendation is to try Ann Taylor. My second recommendation is to get something that's basically conservative, but has one feature--a long jacket, a slightly unusual cut, something--that is noticeable. You can achieve the same thing with a brooch, of course, or jewelry or something. Basically I think you don't want to look like a freak, but you also don't want to look like a clone...

Bitch. Ph.D.

Gabardine vs. crepe

Gabardine is a finer, tighter thread woven much more firmly, & the fabric looks kind of crisper - sometimes a bit shiny. Crepe is woven from a thread that's kind of twisted, and the surface of the fabric reflects no light - up close it looks sort of spongy. In suiting there will be no difference of weight and not much difference in the drape. I like crepe for a woman's suit - gabardine can get a bit "sharp" round the edges.

I might add I'm glad you posted on this topic, it's been most instructive. I have a sort of half baked intention to come & try my luck in the US job market next year, and I would most definitely have showed up in jeans and sneakers. It's what everyone wears here all the time.

I'll be looking out for you in Around the Web all right.

Crepe vs Gabardine

Crepe will usually not wear as long as gabardine.

Wear what you like

Wear whatever makes YOU think you look like a million bucks, or academic, or modest, or tweedy, or hip, or sophisticated, or your favorite combination of the above.

It's likely that you will have interviews in more than one hotel, so I would err on the side of comfort apropos shoes. I really enjoyed walking between hotels in NYC when I interviewed.

comfort and weather

Comfort is very important, and as one of the above commenters noted, DC weather is crazy. Since you may be walking between two or more hotels (I had interviews in at least four hotels last year), you may want to plan to dress for cold weather.

the chutry experiment

Do You

Definitely wear what looks great on you. And go for shoes that are comfortable but also accent your walk. Some women look awkard in heels--for interview season you need a high confidence step. I prefer pants because it gives me the option to wear high heeled boots--my major self-esteem shoes as a very petite woman. (AND I have skinny ankles so I don't like wearing skirts and dress shoes :) But really, its about your comfort--everyone knows how is at the conference for interviews by their gear anyways. Best wishes to you--I know you'll be GREAT!

As always, go w/comfort

As always, go w/comfort level, but I'd be inclined to wear a lined pantsuit or a long skirt with boots as NK suggested. I don't see how wool is important, find it quite itchy myself, and that $198 price tag is utterly ridiculous. Then again, maybe it factors into the warmth issue. Layers are also important if you tend to run hot/cold, so consider that if you go w/a shell and what you'll be comfortable removing. If you go w/a skirt, wear tights instead of hose to minimize runs. *Luck*

M Palmer

ooh, the Marriot Wardham

ooh, the Marriot Wardham Park? Nice hotel, though it's on a slight hill, which can make it dangerous to drunkenly stagger home from in heels (not that I was at a conference there in August). It is, however, right next to the Metro and three Indian restaurants (though not actually *in* Adams Morgan). Plus, you can see the baby panda at the zoo! Let me know when you're there, though, as I'll be in DC the first week of January.

As for suits, I would echo Dr. B's advice and go for one small thing that makes you stick out. Also, fuck-me boots. Can't beat 'em for comfort and total kick ass qualities. You might be a size smaller than me, but if you want to borrow anything, let me know. I also have great, size 6.5 black stack heel loafers.

Journey to Ithaca

I am SUCH a crabcake!

Feeling crabby and cranky after a trip to the mall and to a J.Crew store. The consensus (including f2f comments I've gotten) says one can't go wrong with Ann Taylor, but I went there, and they had NOTHING. All the suits they had were polyester, except for some tweed suits like this one, which I tried on and looked utterly riDONKulous in.

On to Marshall Field's, where I encountered more of the same: practically all polyester suits, even the higher-end brands (why am I acting like these are Prada or Chanel? Duh.) like Anne Klein, Kenneth Cole, Dana Buchman, etc. The ones that weren't polyester were way too busy, with fringes and bright colors and too much texture, like this.

Then I went to a free-standing J.Crew store, but they didn't carry suits (guess they're some kind of J.Crew Express or something?), plus the salespeople were snotty. I had to call it a day. I haaaaaaaate this.

The tweed? Yikes

The last time I went suit shopping, I had some luck at Macy's, and found a nice suit or two on sale. Seriously, drop me a line if you want to browse the Lauren and Jenny's apartment collection.

Journey to Ithaca

J.Crew or bust!

Thanks a lot, Jenny, but I need to get my own; plus, I'm not sure if we wear the same size. J.Crew did have some good stuff, and the MOA location has wool suits, so I'm taking it over there. I might get shirts at Ann Taylor, though. Marshall Field's had some mannequins in suits with satiny, sparkly shells, basically camisoles. They looked fantastic, but they wouldn't be MLA-appropriate.

Prof. B., your suits sound fabulous. I wish I could have found some long jackets or some with mandarin collars that were made of wool, or at least a wool blend. To anyone who's still reading this thread: Am I being unreasonably rigid about this whole wool thing? I'd have a lot more options available if I could just bend a little on the fabric issue.

Oof. Fine wool, or wool of

Oof. Fine wool, or wool of any sort, would be problematic as an interview suit where I live. There are probably only four days of the year where wearing anything wool would be advisable and two of them were last week during the freak icy weather. :-) I do have to admit, it looks really nice.

Van Heusen has some nice women's business suits.

Thanks (and happy ending!)

Thanks, Fazia! I didn't see Van Heusen, but I did go to many stores in the Mall of America today; in fact, I spent the entire day there (ugh!). J.Crew was a total bust: they only had THREE suits, one of which was a shiny tuxedo. The other two were tweed, one green and one that was sort of brown-and-white. They were okay, but I'm from the south, and I'm surprisingly conservative and old-fashioned about making sure I'm wearing something that's in season. Those suits were a little too borderline.

Nordstrom was also a bust, as was Benetton (polyester city!). The ONLY place that had good stuff was Banana Republic. I got three suits: the chalk stripe suit, which is a lovely wool/cashmere blend and will go with just about any shirt, the glen plaid suit, and this gorgeous green suit that made me feel like Julie Andrews the second I put it on.

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