A woman came into the shop today looking for something to wear to an interview. A seemingly simple, straightforward shopping goal. However, there were some very interesting mitigating factors that influenced the things I suggested.
1. she was over 40 (perhaps even over 50)
2. she had been out of work for more than 6 months
3. she was interviewing with a very conservative company
4. she was interviewing for a highly responsible corporate position entailing little or no creativity and a high degree of corporate legal awareness and authority
5. her personal style was artsy/funky, casual, layered, easy-going
My job, in this case, was to make sure this customer left with something that ensured she would be visually competitive with the other candidates she’s up against while still feeling like herself…just her most powerful self! Therefore, considering the environment and position, some sort of suit was clearly in order, but that didn’t mean it had to be traditional.
Given all the factors in this scenario, including the fact that she will be up against younger candidates, this is someone who needs to set herself apart in such a way that she conveys the maximum amount of credibility within the environment she is approaching. The suit, therefore, needed to be smart, well-tailored, expensive looking, fashion-forward, and it had to make a strong positive statement of credibility.
So, what were the options?
Given her age, and the ageism rampant in the industry where she was interviewing, a “classic” look was not a good option since it would likely backfire by simply underscoring her age. But what sort of departure would be appropriate? Too trendy and she would look like she’s trying too hard. It seemed imperative that we find something that she could feel like herself in while bowing to a certain amount of convention while also giving a nod to principles of fashion-forward trends.
The solution: a well-tailored suit with simple, elegant lines, and elements of asymmetry.
We found a black suit (a conservative color but one of power and always an excellent choice in a conservative environment) in a matte crepe, very simple yet cut with exquisite lines. The jacket was ever so slightly deconstructed, cut in such a way that it could be worn open over a top, or closed with no shirt, camisole or tank. It had a modified soft shawl collar, three buttons, and a subtly asymmetrical hem. The pants (a better choice than a skirt given age, height, and proportions) had clean, simple lines, not too wide, not too slim. This is a suit that can be dressed up or down and can look drastically different with simple changes in accessories. This also happens to be a suit that looks much more expensive that it really is…a nice bonus!
In this suit, no matter who she is competing with for this job, she can hold her own where visual first impression is concerned. She looks fashionable while still looking elegantly classic in a very updated way.
So…how do you figure out how to dress to achieve maximum positive visual impact for an interview? Check tomorrow’s blog post where I will continue speaking on this subject of interviewing strategy for those of you who may feel you do not have the competitive edge!