“What a strange power there is in clothing.” – Isaac Bashevis Singer

Every girl goes crazy for a sharp dressed man.  Now you don’t have to be dressed in an Armani suit or tote in a Fendi bag to land that dream job.  You do have to look like you put more effort into getting ready for an interview than you do for mowing your lawn.  Whether it’s for your very first interview or you’ve been to the prom before, we’ll go over some of the basics of the do’s on how to dress for success.

Editor’s note: I understand that taste and style differs from person to person.  Of course your personality should come through in an interview, but it should come through your answers; not your clothes.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

What to wear:

1. Wear a suit.  Whether you are a guy or a girl, wear a suit.  I know it’s old school, but we still shoot off fireworks on the Fourth of July, don’t we?  Traditions are traditions because we keep doing them.  Unless you are explicitly told that a suit is unnecessary, whether it’s because of office culture or it is a working interview, put on a suit.

Things are shifting, whether you are a guy or gal, but you can never go wrong with a black suit.  Charcoal gray is also acceptable.  One thing about a black suit is that it will never go out of style.  Gentleman, wear a white button down shirt and solid color tie in a neutral or subdued color.  Ladies, also wear a button down shirt that is tucked in.  If you don’t feel comfortable tucking in your shirt due to . . . well, I get it; then a shell or a knit top can be substituted.  As unfair as it may be, women may have a little more leeway with the color of the shirt, but I still recommend white.

2. Still dress up even if a suit isn’t called for.  I recently saw a job posting that stated outright that the dress code for the entire office is business casual, so applicants should dress accordingly for the interview.  That still means wearing dress pants, or at the very least neat and ironed khakis.  I’m not a khaki snob.  I wore them every day for work for three years.  Khakis are in between dress pants and jeans in the pants pecking order.

If you are a man, a button-down shirt with the sleeves unrolled.  If you are a woman, a plain knit top or sweater in a neutral or subdued color.  The collar of your shirt should cover your collar bone.  I know that in this day-n-age that sounds like you’re on your way back to the Amish colony, but 9 times out of 10 a person won’t be rejected for a job based solely on the fact he or she was dressed too conservatively.

3.  Dress shoes.  For guys, they can either be lace-up or slip-ons, but they should also be in good shape with no holes or scuff marks.  For girls, dress shoes should be closed toed with a minimal heel.  Black shoes for men and women.

Don’t forget dress socks.  Ladies, if you don’t want to wear panty hose, consider trouser socks.  There is some debate if your socks should match your shoes or pants.  As long as they match one or the other, you’re okay.  Also, do the leg test.  Sit down and cross your legs.  You shouldn’t see any skin showing when the cuff of your pants shifts.

Where to get your clothes:

4.  Listen: In this economy it’s hard to lay down big bucks on an outfit.  I have had really good luck finding dress clothes at JC Penney.  My very first “interviewing suit” out of college was a three piece set that cost right around $35.  JC Penney, Kohls . . . Target and Wal-Mart sell suit separates that could work.  Just make sure the colors match if you’re buying separates.

There are places such as Dress for Success, REACH Reusables, Clothes Mentor who sell dress clothes at affordable prices.  Borrow from a friend.  As long as there is no visible wear, no one’s going to fault you on where you found your suit.

Your clothes don’t have to be made out of expensive materials.  They just have to be clean and fit well.  Which leads to . . .

How to wear your clothes:

5.  Make sure the suit fits.  If you look like you’re going to Picture Day at Martin Van Buren Elementary, your suit is too big.  Another thing we need to be honest about:  If you think your suit is too tight, it probably is.

One more reason to keep an eye out for deals is it may save a few dollars for any alterations.  Make sure to ask around to get a recommendation for a tailor.  Some department stores will do them or will know who to go to.  If you’re lucky like I am, you have a mom who is handy with a Janome sewing machine!

Pants should have one break or “bunch” in the front and hit the top of the sole of your shoe in the back.  Ladies, keep in mind that you probably won’t be wearing 4” stilettos to your interview so pants should fit accordingly.  Jackets should button comfortably without pulling or bunching, even when sitting.

6.  Make sure everything is ironed.  Even your shirt.  Both sides.  I recently read how a young man went to an interview and became so hot he had to take off his jacket.  It was very obvious he had only ironed the front of his shirt.  Just because your shirt is brand new, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to iron it.  Fold marks were a big pet peeve of my mother so now I pay extra attention to see if they have been ironed out.

Wow!  That is the most I’ve talked about clothes in my entire adult life.  Next time we will go over some don’ts of interview wear.

Positive Thought of the Day:

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” – Mark Twain

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