15 May 2008

Style Dilemma: After 18 long years, poof!

a butterfly!

Well, not really. But hyperchondriac posted her query yesterday, looking for help with interview duds after life as a perpetual student:

can you help me? I've been a student for almost 18 years. my uniform normally consists of jeans...and ever so occassionally nice dress pants. well, i need to start going for interviews soon. I've been told that pinstripes are out for a gal my age (i'm 27 1/2) because its too school-girl like? so i got this suit from calvin klein at filene's basement. the jacket is collarless and round, and the skirt is gorgeous. the problem i have now is that i don't know what to put underneath the jacket! any ideas? (the suit is solid black) and i'm not sure if they are part of the same thing, i just kinda figured, same color, same designer and the skirt! its fun but professional at the same time!

Hey, Hyper,

First, congratulations on finishing up your degree(s?). Lord knows I know the pain and suffering of schooooooooooool (8 years of undergrad, and still working on the MS).

Second, I hate to say it, but I think your well-meaning advisor slipped you a bit of off-center advice. Pinstripes can be stunning - and more than appropriate on any age - no schoolgirlness. A specific suit, maybe, might have leaned in that direction, but think grey on grey, or pale blue on navy (like the slacks I bought the other day), or even go classic. The trick, I think, on pinstripes is to have the colors be subtle enough to not look cheap. If there's too much of a contrast, and the fabric is less-than-the-best quality, then that "less than" shows up more.

Anywho. To your immediate question.

It's hard to tell with the suit on the hanger, but I'd say your first stop is a tailor. The jacket looks a bit boxy, so make sure it fits you at the waist. The skirt has a pretty drape, so make sure it's hemmed to a spot (not too high, not too low) that flatters your leg.

Second step is color. Color, color, color. With the caveat that I don't know the field in which you're interviewing, but I'd say push the envelope as far as you feel comfortable with color. On a colorless jacket like yours, I'd say go with a basic crewneck sweater - lightweight silk or cashmere. It can be short sleeved or sleeveless. Try something like Banana's cap-sleeve in a bright blue, or J. Crew's cashmere shell in a vibrant green. Avoid the silky tops that were probably hanging near the suits at Filene's - they scream "Government Worker" even outside the Beltway.

To make this flirty, but still interview-appropriate, try a sweet little scarf tied at the neck. If you're really adventurous, go for a bigger, looser scarf in a bow (see Ms. Spinach's version) - but it's absolutely imperative you have the jacket tailored to fit perfectly. Any extra roominess with a big bow will suck you back into the bad part of the 80s in no time.

And shoes. Here, again, I'd recommend color. Or, if you can't bring yourself to do that, go for a less-than-traditional shape (read: no plain ol' pumps): d'orsay, slingback with cutouts, cutouts, bows, embellishments. If you go as flirty as the Naughty Monkey (my new favorite line!) pair shown, then pick a black shell for under the jacket, and have the shoes speak on their own.

Lastly, if you're really, really ambitious, try belting the jacket. It may be too short, but pull out the belts in your closet that fit your waist - not your hips, where you've probably worn them in your jeans - and play around. It might feel strange at first, but go for it.

If you go belt, skip the scarf, and vice versa. The key here is to have one significant "wow" item, be it color, shape, or scarf.


Hyperchondriac said...

hi!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! that's great advice! I'm actually going into pediatrics, which i'm told calls for professional, but relaxed (really? you can be professional and relaxed at the same time??). my old pinstripe suit is black with white stripes that i had bought when i interviewed for graduate sch from The Limited(i thought i wanted to be a famous scientist) which surprisingly still fits. Once again, THANK YOU! heading to BR this weekend!

DC Celine said...

given what i've seen my pediatrician wear, i think you can absolutely get away with color shots, the shoes, or even the bow, for the interview.

in the office, i think it's probably office-specific.

the limited suit *could* work - try it on, and give it a super critical eye.

Boutique Mix Fashion said...

those shoes are fabulous!!!