I was growing up in the era of the Power Suit, which for working women usually meant a navy-blue suit, white button-down blouse with a red ribbon tied in a bow at the neck, pantyhose, and a briefcase to carry the heels you’d change into from your blindingly white sneakers. Except for the sneakers— maybe— doesn’t this sound like an old-school flight attendant’s uniform? Now that I think about it, the general concept was that of a uniform: if a woman dressed like every other woman, the conventional “wisdom” went, it was less likely that her sexuality would be a factor in her job performance. Or getting a job in the first place, for that matter.
Today, it’s my theory that the reason why that Power Suit look has completely metamorphosed is because what was missing back then —individual style— is now not only accepted, but encouraged in many modern work settings. So without that old uniform to fall back on, how do we put together a polished interview look that actually augments that great first impression?
Refinery29* just sent me a great slideshow with amazing and creative interview outfit ideas. The photo above has one of my favorites, building around the idea of a suiting dress; there are 2 more ensembles in this section. In addition, there are sections in the slideshow featuring outfits based on cropped trousers and pencil skirts (3 outfits in each section).
Although I’m mainly a writer, and therefore don’t usually have to think too much about dressing for in-person job interviews, I still want to make a good impression. (Honestly, I’ve seen too many writers who dress exactly as you’d expect: like they think no one’s ever going to see them because they’re in front of their computers all day long. I want people to be amazed when I tell them I’m a writer!) And if, I mean, when I publish the books I’m working on, I will certainly need to look professional when marketing my work; in fact, I’d go so far as to say I have a much better chance of getting more work published if I present a professional image prior to even meeting with publishers!
Problem: I have very little in my current wardrobe that can really be called “professional” attire. Sure, I can put together some great outfits that would identify me as being in a creative field (and by creative, I do not mean sloppy), but what do I have in which I would feel super-confident walking into an interview? Not very much, I’m afraid.
It’s actually great timing to get this from Refinery29 now; I’ve been thinking lately about this under-represented area in my wardrobe, and this slideshow confirms my guess that the quickest way to professionalize my current wardrobe is by adding some jackets (which feature prominently in most of the slideshow’s outfits). And, as you will see in the slideshow, the jackets they’re showing could be incredibly versatile, not just for work, but for mixing with jeans, maybe a sequinned skirt for evening, you name it. That’s settled, then— jackets are my new wardrobe priority!
*So far, anyway, I don’t receive any compensation or credit or anything like that from Refinery29. I just really like the e-mails they send me, and I hope you do too. I try to not just give you a link to their site, but also to add my take on the slideshow topic.
March 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm
Interview clothes are such a challenge; unless you’re in a creative profession, it’s so tough to balance being memorable with demonstrating a certain level of restraint. You just never know how the person at the other end of the table is going to react to personal touches. Love the dress and jacket in the slideshow pic!
March 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm
Sometimes I think it’s actually harder to dress for creative jobs while still looking professional— I see a lot of examples of going just a bit too far on the creative side. Personally, I think simply wearing more color is one of the easiest ways to get your fashion viewpoint across, while keeping the silhouettes, pieces, and accessories more on the professional side. And yes, I’m loving the whole dress-suit concept— it’s quick and easy to put together, and you can use the pieces separately too.
March 7, 2013 at 8:31 pm
Heh, this brings back memories. I remember “having my colors done” in the 80s. The gal told me point blank (after putting together a truly depressing palette of supposedly autumn friendly colors) that no matter how it looked on me, I would have to reconcile myself to navy. Lol.
March 8, 2013 at 2:27 pm
Oh, I remember that whole color-analysis craze too! There’s some sound theory behind it (it really is true that some colors looks better on us than others), but of course it became so commercialized that it had to become too general to actually benefit anyone. (I happened to know several people at that time who became “certified” color analysts, all of whom wanted to practice on me— and all of whom told me I was a different “season”!) P.S. It’s hard for me to even imagine you in navy!
March 8, 2013 at 1:37 am
What a fashion rut and thank goodness that today we can dress to emphasize our personalities and individual sense of style!
March 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm
You’re so right, Kim! There is some sort of balance to be found, though, between the uniform and individualistic approach. Example: I’ve read that the whole “casual Friday” concept has really backfired; many employees have difficulty just putting together outfits for these days, because they’re no longer sure what’s appropriate, and they’re worried about the consequences of making wrong choices. (Studies have also shown productivity levels to go down on casual Fridays— my belief is that this is due to the associations we have with dressing certain ways: suits for work, casual shirts and jeans for weekends, etc. Once we start mixing the 2, problems are almost inevitable.) The examples in this slideshow are, I think, perfect blends of creative and professional.
March 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm
I agree – casual Friday dress can facilitate a casual attitude and mentally start the weekend for most. A good idea en principe, mais en realite…..peut-etre pas.
March 10, 2013 at 7:53 pm
Love the slide show ideas. The power dress is definitely in instead of just the skirt and jacket.
March 10, 2013 at 8:48 pm
Agreed! And it’s an easier outfit to put together too (fewer decisions to make)!