Networking Interview #20: Interview Attire and Outfit Ideas for Working Women

by on August 21st, 2012

Today in my networking challenge I am interviewing Kristyn Schiavone.  Kristyn is the Author of the ebook Career Chic for Young Professionals and Writer and Style Watcher at Simple Style Guide. I am excited to speak with her today about how to be career chic so, thanks so much for being here Kristyn!

In case you are reading this at work and can’t watch the video, you can read all of the great advice below instead!

1) What is appropriate interview attire for women?

What I would like to say for ladies is if you are in an industry where its not official that you wear suit, there are suit industries for example like being in a court room you’ll need to probably to wear suit. But, if you’re not one of those industries I always say a suiting dress, a nice fitting short or long sleeve, knee length sheet dress basically, a thicker fabric not a jersey cause it’s a little too clean, make sure knee length, closed toe shoes. I think that’s always a safe bet.

Go on to the company’s website and look at the people who work there or get the sense of the “about us” page and things like that whether it’s a traditional office environment. If that’s the case you may want to consider the suit or the dress with the blazer over it. But if you’re appearing in a PR firm in New York City or something like that its gonna be younger and hipper environment and so as long as you wear a classy dress with little bit of a younger touch to it then it will work well.

The general rule for dress is absolutely knee-length. If you’re doing the bare arm thing make sure the rest of you is very covered if your arms are bare and make sure that your shoulders are mostly covered. But no sleeves I think is fine in most office environments and you can get a sense of that after you’ve been working there. If you’re pretty sure that you can do it then its fine but if you’re not sure you err on the safe side usually.

2) What are some outfit basics for career women?

I think everyone’s outfit basics are going to be different. I define a basic as first of all something that your going to wear often. If you’re wearing it two days in a row you’re not going to feel weird about it. So it’s that classic piece and it’s also a piece that is not going to go out of style. If you want to pull it out in two years you can. So these things like blazers, pencil skirts, blouses and neutral colors. My basics for example you always say the black pencil skirt is something everybody should have in the summer, well I like a navy pencil skirt. I wear more navy and white usually so that way you kind of find your personal style and see what are your basics. But, I think the classic business pieces, the pencil skirt, the pair of trousers, the solid color button down blouse, the good bag, always a nude pair of pumps. I always say flesh colored pumps because they go with more things. I wear mine probably twice a week. Maybe your dark pair of jeans if you are in a start up environment or tech environment.

Color is important in fashion right now but it depends on your office environment. And so if you can get a way with it I would love to see it. For example, right now I am collecting basic pencil skirts and shirts in all different colors and you can just pair them together right now because that’s the fashion landscape that we’re in, it makes dressing pretty easy. If you are in a very conservative office environment, try some different neutrals it could be a light mint color, a light blush color because those are not too loud but are still a way to wear the trends and the colors that are great right now.

3) How do you recommend shopping for the essentials?

For the essentials I always say when you find that perfect thing, if it works within your budget don’t feel bad about spending the money on those very basic pieces that you’ll gonna wear all the time because you’ll gonna get your money’s worth and they’ll gonna be higher quality you won’t have to replace it that much. But then for your other stuff, learn what brands work on you and look for sales I mean some of the really nice brands have sales all the time and so you could really get a lot of nice clothes for not a lot of money. I like that better. I also go to target as much as I can. I like cheaper brands like that I love a trend from target. But I really like to find high quality things on sale.

In a business environment, fit is really important. If you’re first starting out, make sure you go to a store and really learn what brands work for your body because we all know that person in the office, the person we interviewed or whatever who’s wearing ill-fitting clothes and it affected your perception of that person. That’s really a key ingredient to looking professional as making sure that everything fits you properly, its not too tight, its not falling off and things like that. Once you get a handle on that by all means go ahead and go online because there are more size options more sale options. But really make sure you spend the time in store first to learn sort of what brands work, what styles clothing works.

4)   What are some outfit ideas for a business formal work environment?

You start by buying yourself a suit and then you think about what other things you can mix and match with that suit. Let’s say you get a khaki pantsuit, long sleeve classic blazer and khaki trousers. Can you wear in that office environment maybe some colorful trousers with your khaki blazers instead of the khaki once or can you maybe wear the khaki trousers with a cardigan and a button up shirt? Build your wardrobe in color because you’ll be wearing all the same types of clothes so it’s a blazer, pants, skirt, dress. Look for different shapes also. If you need to be wearing trousers, maybe you get a cropped pair with that are looser on the top, have a shirt tucked in to them. If it’s a jacket you can get a maxi jacket instead of a classic collared blazer.

A business casual work environment?

Business casual is often the hardest for people because there are a lot of business casual environments where you can maybe wear that pair of dark skinny jeans out of Friday and so the range of things that you can wear is very wide. Pencil skirts and shirts are always great. Business casual is usually an instance where you can do if it’s a not a fitted dress, if its looser, you can maybe get a way with having it a little bit above knee-length so like a tunic dress with flats. So you can add it in occasionally. I work in a business casual environment and I usually stick with like a pencil skirt and a fun shirt. For business casual really make sure that you dress like the person whose job you want. So, if they’re not wearing jeans to the office then don’t you wear jeans in the office. Everybody looks great when they dress and put effort into their appearance.

5) What is your advice for wearing makeup to work?  What is the appropriate amount of makeup to wear?

I do think that you should wear some makeup because I think that makeup is just another one of those things where it looks like you put effort into your appearance. That said, a lot of people make the mistake of not wearing colors that are natural in their face. At a minimum, I like to see just foundation, eyeliner on the top lash, mascara, blush, and a little bit of gloss. And all those colors should be colors that work with your complexion, brown or black liner, mascara, a pink or a flesh colored blush not a hot pink but a very light pink if your peach complected. When you’re shopping for makeup if you haven’t done it before look for colors that are like nude and flesh. And also for foundation I always recommend getting that in the department store because you can take a sample and make sure that it doesn’t make you break out or look too makeupy because that’s distracting when people are staring at your face in a business situation.

6) This question I ask at the end of all of my interviews, what do you wish you would have known when you were a young professional woman just starting out in her career?

I will give you a style answer and a non-style answer. The style one is I wish I had known how quickly I was going to wear out my shoes and I wish I had found a cobbler sooner because you are just wearing your heels every day. My non-fashion thing that I wish I had known is how important insurance and a retirement plan and all that stuff is in a job offer because I had never had experience with that. Now that I have pretty good benefits I’ve learned how important those things are to look for even if there are not as common in a work environment these days.

7) If people want to learn more about you where can they find you online?

They can go to Simplestyleguide.com that’s where you can get information about my ebook. You can also read my tips because I write a weekly column, not always about professional work attire but that sort of how it turns out usually because I am dressing for an office Monday to Friday. And you can also contact me through that site on and follow me on Pinterest.

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