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Interview Outfits for Women: What To Wear to an Interview

Find out what's actually considered impressive.

Everyone knows that you should “dress to impress” when going to a job interview, but what does that even mean? I’ll be the first to say that after the craziness of the pandemic, it doesn’t take much for me to be impressed. If I wake up without hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock more than once (or twice), I’m impressed. If I have the energy to exercise after a long day, I’m impressed. If I wash my face before bed — you guessed it — I’m impressed. 

So, when it comes to a job interview where the goal is dress to impress, what’s actually considered impressive? Certainly, a job interview is no time for a fashion show, but it’s still important to go into it feeling your best. That said, if your best is a jeans or leggings and a sloppy shirt, then it may be time for some fashion advice. After all, it only takes someone one-tenth of a second to form a first impression about you. With competition for highly coveted jobs, you definitely want that initial impression to be a good one.

Advice on What to Wear for Interviews

What’s the best outfit to wear to an upcoming job interview? I’ll be honest — it’s not a straightforward answer. Why? Because your interview attire depends greatly on the type of job you’re applying for. Think about it: You probably wouldn’t wear a business-savvy suit if you were applying for a job as a construction worker or fitness instructor, would you? Just like how you wouldn’t show up for a job at a bank wearing shorts and a tank top. 

When putting together your interview ensemble, the rule of thumb is to dress for the part you’re applying to. Still not sure what to wear? Err on the side of formal — it’s a good idea to always be one notch above the people you’re interviewing with. Here are some other things to take into consideration.

Is it in-person or virtual?

The rule “dress to impress” doesn’t go out the window just because your job interview will be via Zoom rather than in-person. Even if you go with the “business on top, party on the bottom” approach, you still want to impress and look your best — so a sophisticated look is a must. 

Note: Some interviewers may want to see how you’re dressed from the waist down. While it might be tempting to don your best sweats, leggings, or favorite yoga pants while interviewing virtually, I don’t recommend it. Instead, wear a pair of comfy but nice trousers or a comfortable solid-colored skirt that complements the outfit on the upper body.  

Think about your body type.

Is your interview in-person? If so, you really need to think about your body type when putting together a winning ensemble. Whether you’ve got hourglass curves or the straight lines of a ruler, dressing according to your body shape can help you to look your best. Here are a few tips.

  • If you’re rocking an hourglass figure, there’s no need to go Marilyn Monroe — save that for girls’ night out. Instead, wear something sleek with a belt that cinches the waist.
  • Do you have a triangle or inverted body shape? Suiting up will help you strike a balance between your lower and upper body. Dark colors such as navy blue, charcoal, and black are great choices for this smart casual look. 
  • For a pear-shaped body, downplay hips by drawing attention to the waist and upper body. To do this, wear a double-breasted jacket or blouse with ruffles. The horizontal neckline in a boat neck top also looks great on this body type. To streamline your silhouette below, cinch your midsection with a solid color belt.  
  • Apple shapes look fantastic in any vest, cardigan, coat, or jacket that hits at the hip or upper thigh. Steer clear of blazers which typically fall at the waist, and choose an open fronted long line jacket or a waterfall cardigan.  

What industry are you working in?

The company that you’re hoping to work for is part of a certain industry, and that industry will have certain standards of dress. With this in mind, here’s some general advice on outfit ideas with industry needs in mind.

  • If you’re going on an interview at a company in a traditional industry — such as banking, insurance, or finance — opt for more formal corporate attire. You’ll want to wear a wrinkle-free pantsuit, dress shirt, or midi-skirt.
  • When the work is less formal, the dress code will be more relaxed. Think “business casual,” which basically means anything but jeans, sneakers, or apparel that would be more appropriate for the club or gym. Low heels, jumpsuits, and skirt suits may be the right style of workwear — save the black dress and tights for business formal officers.
  • Tech companies are pretty well-known for having less formal dress codes than the corporate world, so if you’re interviewing for a role as an IT technician, for example, a clean collared shirt and slacks will work. Similar rules apply to blue-collar jobs like mechanics, engineers, and factory workers. Simply put, if you’re expected to show up for work each day somewhere with a casual dress code, casual interview clothing is likely acceptable, even for a formal interview.
  • Interview to work at a start-up? Good news — chances are a dress code hasn’t been established yet. Jeans may be A-OK when paired with a nice button-down shirt at a startup, but make sure they’re free from holes or ragged seams. Reflecting the company culture can help you get the job, as long as your job interview outfit is respectful. A mix of business attire like dress pants or pencil skirts with more casual pieces like t-shirts will help you balance looking put-together and casual.

Advice on What NOT to Wear for Interviews

Now that we’ve covered what to wear to an interview, let’s go over a few quick tips on what NOT to wear to an interview. Regardless of how informal or formal the workplace is, avoid the following:

  • Tank tops, camisoles, or other strappy shirts
  • Shorts
  • Underwear that can be seen from your clothing (such as bra straps)
  • Skirts, skorts, or dresses that are shorter than knee-length
  • Tops with especially low or plunging necklines
  • Anything see-through
  • Skin-hugging or low-cut dresses 
  • Any clothing that is stained, torn, or damaged
  • Flip flops and other open-toed sandals
  • Athletic shoes
  • Stiletto heels
  • Excessive accessories
  • Flashy jewelry
  • Wacky or novelty ties or bows
  • Too much perfume (while you should smell clean and fresh, some scents can be incredibly irritating to others. If you’d like to wear a fragrance, opt for a light scent)
  • Distracting makeup (this is not the time for a glittery eye shadow or bold lipstick!)
  • Loud colors and bright prints

Note: It’s best to avoid wearing extremely trendy apparel — unless, of course, you’re searching for a job in the fashion industry. Again, when putting together your interview attire, it’s important to keep in mind that what’s considered appropriate in one industry may be very different in another industry. Make sure you do your research to ensure your interview outfit reflects a company’s typical office wear.

A Final Word

If you’re unsure as to what outfit will impress the potential employer best, you may find it helpful to visit their website and social media platforms to get a sneak peek at the dress code. The pictures should give you some idea of what you should wear for the job interview. 

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