Interview Attire for the Female JMO to Business Transition

Women in the workplace can be seen with lots of different styles. It isn’t about being traditional, up-to-date, outdated or current. It is about being taken seriously and establishing a sense of confidence, approachability, sophistication and professionalism. There are many thoughts on what women should be wearing these days in a business formal or business casual setting. The lines for attire can be so fine and I would always recommend staying classic. A few tips to remember:

1. Over-dressed is always better than not up to par. Sloppy and messy is not the impression you ever want to give. Who cares if you have a suit on when you didn’t realize it was business casual…better to be dressed up than clearly being on the underdressed side.

2. Yes. Wear panty hose. This is not out of date. It is a must with skirts. You can get great hose now that you barely notice or that actually make your legs look good! Not too dark and never white or black or brown. A natural neutral or light suntan is best. A light taupe is another good option.

3. Do not wear anything tight. It is truly unappealing. Your image of a smart, sexy working female is not super high heels and a tight skirt with a low cut blouse. Instead, a smart, attractive working female is sleek, crisp and well groomed. Polished. Smart executives will immediately rule you out as a distraction and not take you and your ideas seriously. This is not the way you wish to start a career. The same goes for baggy clothes. Do not wear something 2 sizes too big. You will look sloppy.

4. Blouses can be worn in a nice fresh white or bone color. For interviews, keep it neutral – something that looks good with your skin tone. For everyday, a pinstripe or light pastel will work. Nothing overpowering or flashy; it will not help your look. I like nice crisp collars as they can be worn on either the inside or outside of your suit jacket. A beautiful silk blouse is attractive, too. Nothing low cut or too scooped. Camisoles are not a favorite either – stay away from them under jackets. Make sure your blouse fits! Things always get tighter as the day gets longer and you do NOT want your blouse splitting in the center where things can be seen.

5. Hair can be distracting for many reasons. It can become scraggly and unkempt looking all too quickly. It can be worn down if it is above your shoulders, but be sure it is not flopping in your face. Do yourself a favor and tie it back in a bun or a low ponytail if it is below the shoulder. Get creative when you start to pull your hair back – have fun with it and maintain a crisp look.

6. Makeup should be light and accentuate your features. Do not overpower your natural good looks with dark shades. Wear lipstick. It is flattering and shows off your teeth, which should be white, so use Crest® Whitestrips if you are a coffee drinker.

7. Shoes. Always wear closed toe shoes. Stilettos in the workplace make everyone uncomfortable – people watching you try to walk in them, women imagining their toes smashed with that high incline, and most of all, YOU walking in them. Again, this is not the look you think will make you look good, trust me. Functional is better, and the way you carry yourself because you feel good in what you are wearing is appealing. Plus, work is just not the place to wear spiked heels. 7pm is fine…not 7am.

8. Pants. Hem your pants, ladies. You are going for a strong, clean, fit look. Take your low heels with you and pay the $6 to have them hemmed correctly. It makes all the difference. They will lie perfectly, elongate your legs and give you a true style. Even the less expensive pants are very worth having done. Pants dragging behind or under your heels and bundling at your shoes will always make you look frumpy. And, again, don’t get them super tight.

9. Skirts. I highly recommend skirt suits for many reasons. If your weight tends to fluctuate, you can still wear your suits. If you live in a northern state, during the winter, your skirts don’t get ruined with salt and water stains like pants may. However, the number one reason to wear a skirt is because it is feminine. Today, you can find great skirts that are beautifully done with a straight look or a more flowing hem that really move when you move. They are flattering and also easy to use as a separate for a business casual look. However, practice sitting in the skirt! Make sure you can sit in a modest manner without showing too much leg or you will again be distracting or uncomfortable.

10. Handbags. This is difficult. Something simple and not overstuffed is key. Not an evening bag and not a huge beach bag either. You want a bag to carry work items such as, pens, paper, wallet, phone, keys and portfolio. You need pockets, not a dumping ground. Think when you make this purchase. Think color and functionality. Of course, I recommend black. It goes with everything. With more and more women in the workplace, the options have grown. You do want quality and nothing with a cheap metallic, plastic look. You will not carry a handbag into an interview at a conference, but you will likely need one, or a leather briefcase that has soft sides, during follow-up interviews. Once again, go classic.

Business Casual vs. Business Formal

Business casual is a pulled together look as well. Do not think otherwise. It doesn’t mean “casual” clothes. Nice sweater set with slacks that fit the shoes you are wearing; flats or low heels. Dark slacks with a blouse and a gray jacket. A skirt and a blouse with hose and, of course, comfortable shoes work well. Maintain a dressed, polished look. Not as formally matched as a business formal look, feel free to wear a nice dress with a sweater or jacket as well. There are great business dresses out there now!

Business Formal is different. You will want to wear a suit with a light pinstripe or solid color. Gray, black and navy are my favorites. Navy is definitely in. Navy is beautiful with any skin color or hair color. It looks good with a burgundy or black matte shoe. Think a light blue, white, pastel or cream blouse underneath. It is not an old look, ladies. It looks professional and strong. Black is a staple suit you must have in your wardrobe. Buy the pants and skirt that match the black jacket…you will not regret it. Gray is a little more difficult. Do not go too light on your shade – stay in a medium gray or dark shade. Again, buy the pants and skirt as well. A collared shirt, blouse or lightweight knit can all be worn under your suit jacket.

As always, jewelry is an accessory, NOT the main attraction. You and your brain are the focus. Wear something that goes well and is simple. Nothing too bold or too dangly. Remember, and this is the honest truth – your ultimate accessory is your smile. It gives an approachable look and demonstrates openness. Always smile.

Be strong and confident and shake that hand! A full grip and nothing weak and limp. Try not to giggle too much. Demonstrate your maturity. Iron your shirts and pants, make sure every item fits and use a lint roller. Do not wear perfume. It is always more overwhelming than you think and can quickly cloud a room and turn people off. Light makeup, nicely done hair and your smile will give you the polished look you need to be professional and taken seriously.

Samantha Gale