The Corporette Guide to Interview Suits

Updated: Check out our Guide to Basic Women’s Suiting!

With interview season for schools right around the corner, we thought now would be a great time to do a general guide to suits — where to get ‘em, how much to expect to pay, and what the general pros and cons of each type of suit are. In comments, please chime in — let us know your favorite brands, and why you like ‘em.  Don’t forget to check out our guides to suits for petite women, as well as guide to suits for tall women and plus sizes,  and to check out our general “what to wear on an interview” advice.

Suit sets. These are often found in dedicated areas of department stores like Macy’s and discount stores like Filene’s — brands like Tahari, Kasper, Le Suit abound. These are generally sold as a set (you buy the jacket and the skirt together for one price). Prices may range from under $100 to closer to $350, and the suiting is generally made from polyester and lined. Pros: Price — with coupons and sales it’s not unusual to find extremely low-cost suits. Cons: Off-the-rack fit. The selection may include a number of very dated styles. Because they’re made of polyester, they can be sticky and hot in summertime; there may be other fun side effects like retaining smells even after dry cleaning. For my $.02, I’ve had great luck with Tahari skirt suits in basic black from this area of the mall — otherwise you generally do need to be very careful re: fit, particularly with pants. Pictured: Tahari by ASL Suit, Modern Classic Jacket & Skirt, available at Macy’s for $139.
 AK Anne Klein One Button Navy Jacket & Pencil Skirt Mall Suit Separates (Inexpensive). A number of brands do make inexpensive suiting separates — AK Anne Klein, Ellen Tracy, perhaps Nine West and Inc., as well. These separates will be far from the “suit department,” hidden among the brand’s regular clothes. Still, you can find great deals here, and because they’re separates, you can get a better fit if you prefer different sizes for your tops and bottoms. I’ve had good luck with the AK Anne Klein separates. Pros: Price, better fit. Cons: The suit may veer towards the trendy, or too casual — fabrics like linen, stretch denim, etc. should not be worn for interviews.  Pictured:  AK Anne Klein One Button Navy Jacket & Pencil Skirt, available at Macy’s for ~$210 (for jacket, skirt, and pants.
Banana Republic Tall lightweight wool black blazerMall Stores – Separates. Banana Republic, J.Crew, and Ann Taylor have been long-standing favorites for many women. Their fits are more modern, and a single suiting look may come with multiple options — different types of jackets, different cuts of pants. (Tip: If you’re trying to choose between a two-button and three-button jacket, consider your bust: if you have one, you’ll probably want to opt for the three-button.) At most of these places, a suit (or several parts of a suit) can be purchased for between $300-$500. Pros: Price is still really reasonable, but you can frequently see more natural fibers — wool, cotton — with a bit of stretch. Cons: You may walk into a conference room and find you’re wearing the same suit as another woman. Be sure to watch the trendier items at these stores also — at an interview you should avoid wearing things like a mini-skirt, a tulip skirt, or a ruffled jacket. Pictured: Banana Republic Tall lightweight wool black blazer, available at Banana Republic for about $375 (for jacket, pants, and skirt.
Better Department Store Brands: The next step up, for many, is Theory — their suit separates can be found in better department stores like Bloomingdale’s. Nordstrom’s carries a number of lines (Classiques Entier, Rebecca Taylor, Nanette Lepore) with the added bonus of, often, free tailoring — which can be great if, like me, you’re just a little bit too short for regular pants. We’d put Brooks Brothers in this category as well — better suiting materials, free tailoring. Pros: Much better fit because of the tailoring; better fabrics; the clothes last longer. Cons: Price point starts to creep up. Pictured: Theory ‘Gabe B – Tailor’ Jacket, available at Nordstrom for $620 (jacket and pants).
icon
iconDesigner. What better way to announce that you have arrived than with a classic designer suit? We still think of Armani as the “power suit,” but there are a ton of brands — both old and new — in this space. Pros: Fabric; a long wear with the clothes, the timeless benefit of someone seeing your tag if you take off your jacket. Cons: Price. Pictured:  Armani Collezioni Lightweight Cropped Wool Jacket & Lightweight Wool Pantsicon, available at Saks.com for $1610 (jacket and pants).

Readers, what brands and tiers have we left out? Which kind of suits do YOU usually pull out for interviews?

Comments

  1. I love Talbots suits. I’m much smaller on top than on the bottom and they let me mix and match between misses, women’s, and women’s petite as needed.

    • Another Laura :

      I like Talbots because of that same reason. Many times Talbots will have several options in different styles (e.g. two jackets in wool crepe-one shorter one longer, two skirts – one shorter one longer with pleats) so that you can choose which ever one fits your body or needs better. Most have pant options too, so you could buy all three pieces. They have a lot online, which I like because as a petite I have less options. Also, with some things purchased in the store you are more likely to see another woman wearing.

      I think Talbots is higher quality than, say, a Macy’s or department store option. It is likely lower quality than Brooks’ Brothers. I have a Talbots outlet by me so I shop there a lot but usually get interview suits on sale at the main store.

      I also like Pendleton and Brooks Brothers’ for their petite options. I got a great black stretch wool suit at Pendleton last year.

      My opinion is that Banana Republic and JCrew are too trendy and expensive for interview clothes and I don’t like the fit. But if you’re young and slim BR and JC may be ok.

  2. I’m happy at the mall store separates tier – mostly J.Crew and Brooks Brothers suits. Although there is a range of quality in that tier. In my opinion, Brooks Brothers is far superior to Banana Republic’s cheaper fabrics and bad tailoring.

    I find the unforgiving slim fit of Theory and the style of many of the suits in the next level up (better dept. store brands) don’t work for me and I’m not financially ready to commit to designer.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Me too – J.Crew and Brooks Brothers. Theory is a disaster on me.

      • I tried a Theory jacket just to see what the all the hooey was about. Saw it in Loehmann’s btw, marked down like mad ($50?). It was fine, but not a showstopper. The size was fine, but it felt constricting and stiff on me; I like a loose, flowy feel. I much prefer Tahari suits on me (and even his “cheaper” ASL line looks purty damn good on me too). I once complimented a slim-framed woman on her black suit and asked her what it was, and she said Theory. Hmm. So I guess Theory is stunning on some, just ok on me. [shrugs]

    • I think Theory’s gone down a bit in quality. I recently had to replace the skirt portion of my Theory interview suit, and the quality just doesn’t seem to be on par with that of my last Theory skirt (the stitching at the seams seems to be of poorer quality, and the back portion of the skirt gets wrinkly really quickly).

    • Brooks Brothers for me, too. Great quality for only slightly more money than BR or AT.

    • Jacquelyn :

      Theory is definitely not made to fit every body type, but for me it’s just about the only brand that works. If you are tall but have narrow hips and shoulders, Theory is one of the few brands that will not look boxy or be too baggy in areas. It’s actually fairly difficult to find professional (i.e. not from bebe), well-fitting suits in the lower price ranges for tall, slim women. In the New York area, I suggest taking a trip out to Woodbury. I have found many brand name suits there, including Theory, for very reasonable prices (around $300 for a two piece set).

    • Theory is a brand that works well for me, being slimmer with smaller hips. I find it’s easier to get a good fit in Theory, while other suits tend to run a bit too big in the hips or chest, or the brand simply doesn’t carry a small enough size. For less expensive options, I like I.N.C and Express, although with brands like these you have to be really careful about choosing pieces with a formal business look.

  3. What about having suits made? Where does bespoke fit into all this? Admittedly I haven’t had this done but I would love a take on that.

    • divaliscious11 :

      Between Better Department Store brands and designer…..

    • I spoke with my tailor about this the other day, being hard to fit. He certainly has made custom suits, but said that no one is doing this these days (at least in the States) because of the cost. For me (5’0, size 6-8), he said a pair of pants would be $400 or up. He said the issue was the cost of fabric domestically.

      However, I was surprised by what he said he could do (and the price at which he could do it) to an off-the-rack item that is too big, loose, long, etc. . (Not so much with too small items because women’s clothes have smaller seam allowances than men’s do.) Next time I see a pair of pants that fit in one place but not another and are cheap, cheap (and returnable), I’m taking them to him for an assessment. He said the only thing he really couldn’t fix was the shoulders – they have to be right.

      • You can have women’s suits, custom made in the States. It’s not easy to find a good, professional tailor but it is done. And it can be done for much less than $400/pants.

      • Try Tom James. I have had a good pair of pants made for $289 and a matching jacket for $700. I am working on a matching skirt for $289. It’s spendy, but it fits so well and the fabrics are nice. This will be my go-to suit for interviews/court appearances.

        • I was pretty disappointed in Tom James (and my coworker hates them), but ymmv. I also think they vary widely from city to city.

          I got my custom suits done from a travelling Asian tailor (there are a few more famous guys who do this — one from Thailand and one from Hong Kong, travel around, take measurements, and ship your suits).

          Nothing, and I mean nothing, fits like a custom suit. I always thought even my high-end suits looked a little like someone else’s clothes – like a little girl playing dress up. It was that slight off, even with tailoring, that slight discomfort. I adore my custom made pieces — and I feel like I *belong* when I wear them. Whether they look different or not, they give me confidence.

          • Can you list the contact info for these “traveling tailors”? ;-D

          • http://www.ravistailor.com/

            Worst. Website. Ever.

            Seriously, the man’s website is so terrible that I nearly refused to see him. And the models and styling of the models is just ugh.

            However, he’s brilliant. Like, amazingly brilliant. He did my measurements himself, and then pretty much designed the suits to my body.

      • For any women in Boston – I have had several jacket sleeves shortened at Beague’s Tailor, and they have all come out excellent. I cannot recommend him highly enough.

  4. In my experience, women without busts say that women who have busts should wear three-button suits, whereas all of us women with busts think that’s crazy talk.

    What are you all seeing that I’m not? What I’m seeing when I try to wear a 3-button suit is that the fit is all wrong — anything that covers my bust and still buttons properly is massively oversized in the waist, turning me into some kind of shapeless, boxy battleship. Truly, I’m baffled.

    • Anonymous :

      This.

      Two-buttons look far better on my 32DD chest and 26-inch waist than the three-buttons. The third button over my chest just makes the rest of me look like a penguin.

      … and not the cute part of penguins. I’m talking about the covered with fat to rival the Antarctic part!

    • Exactly what I was thinking. The 3 button suit on a full bust makes me think Uncle Fester from the Adams Family. I am not even that full busted (34D) and I avoid like the plague.

    • This is definitely true.

    • I’m 34DD/DDD and I disagree.

      Ann Taylor 3-button suits usually fit me off the rack (somehow) but otherwise I buy my suits to fit my chest and get them tailored to be narrower on the waist. One button suits look ridiculous on me and 2-buttons depends on where the buttons are but tend to give me a “flattened chest” look.

      • Agree. 34DD as well and my AT 3 button suits fit straight off the rack and I definitely don’t look top heavy or too voluptuous or anything like that. I’m petite and small on the bottom.

        • I also agree. I’m a 32F (which sucks, let me tell you) and I find that one button suits gap awkwardly over my chest. The 3-button suits at AT generally fit me perfectly, aren’t boxy around my waist, and (to quote “What Not To Wear”) my girls stay “locked and loaded.” :) I much prefer a higher stance on a jacket for my chest, though I agree that a well fitted one-button is always better than a poorly fitted 3-button.

      • 2-buttons, yeah, it definitely depends a lot on where that top one hits. Seems like lots of people like AT suits, though, so I may have to check those out sometime.

    • Agreed. Three button suits make me look like an overweight boy (and I’m neither). Two button is the only way to go as far as I’m concerned.

    • I have a very small bust (B on a good day) but I prefer three- or even four-button suit jackets. I just like the way they look, and hate the way a one-button (in particular) looks on me. (I’m tall, and I think the one-button often look weird because there is so much expanse of — flat — shirt showing, and/or it looks masculine to me — too boxy, maybe.

      The difficulty is in finding three- or four-button suit jackets in certain seaons, when one or two buttons max is all the rage. Like this year. The only three-button I’ve found online that I like at all is at Talbots, so I’ll go check it out in person.

    • Agreed. I don’t quite understand this. I never even noticed how many buttons my suit jackets had until I started reading this website. It’s a suit, provided it’s not skintight, there are a lot of ways to play down a bust and any connotations of overt sexiness.

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      I usually just button the suit below the bust and if there is a button over the bust, that one stays unbuttoned. I prefer two buttons for this reason and just button the lower.

    • I agree! I’ve decided to embrace my 36F figure rather than try to cover it up and look like a refridgerator. It’s a losing battle anyway. I like this style from CE, although I choose darker colors.

      http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/3076832/0~2376776~2374327~2374330?mediumthumbnail=Y&origin=category&searchtype=&pbo=2374330&P=1

    • Yes! I acutally prefer one button jackets even more. And the lower the button or buttons, the better.

    • Anonymous :

      I have DDD cup breasts and I can wear either 2 or 3 button suits just fine. I think it depends on your overall shape, not your bra size.

      • Agree. I think your overall shape has a lot to do with it. I actually tried on my suit jackets yesterday to see about the fit, and they fit/look great. I have 3 3-button and one 2-button. Basically, I’m petite and thin with two large melons. Before I had my baby, I was a 4P top and bottom. Now, I’m 4P on bottom (and sometimes 2P but that’s totally vanity sizing!) and 6P jacket.

        I also find how a jacket fits in the shoulders makes a difference in how it hangs. Too big in the shoulders and I look like a football player.

    • Anonymous :

      My 36D looks MUCH better in a 1 or 2 button suit than a 3 button suit. A 3 button suit makes me look like the Michelan Man from the front!

      • I live in Hawaii, where many of us are Asian; here, 36D, 36F, 32 DD, 34D, and such are really rare. I think the biggest lady in my office is me, and I’m a measly 34C. I don’t have a single female friend that even approaches such magnificence. . . . Carry on, ladies!

    • I was thinking exactly the same thing. I wear a 36D and look like a stuff sausage in a 3-button suit.

    • I think it may depend on the cut of the jacket and the shape of the rest of your body. I’m high waisted and a 34DD and a shorter 3 button jacket fits me much better than a typical 2 button. The key issues are the length of the lapel (a 2 button generally has a longer lapel and then you get that terrible lapel wrinkle/buckle problem), and the length of the total jacket vs. torso length. A lot of 3 buttons are a shorter jacket overall, which works on high waisted, short ladies like me, but might look terrible if you’re taller and/or long waisted. Then again, I’m also not averse to having a jacket tailored in the waist, that can help a lot.

      What’s truly crazy is the idea that all busty ladies should wear the same type of jacket… we’re all shaped differently in the rest of our bodies and should wear suits that fit well all over, not just in the bust.

  5. Another Sarah :

    If you tailor a mall suit, one that you would get at Macy’s in the suit section, it will look leaps and bounds better than what you put on in the dressing room. Since most of us are probably different sizes on the bottom than on the top, tailoring solves many an issue with these kinds of suits, I’ve found. That said, if your suit makes noise (as in, goes “Zip! Zip! Zip!” when you move your arms, like a track suit), it should stay on the rack. Tailoring cannot fix such an egregious fashion error. :-D

    • For many people, it’s just not economical to tailor a mall suit that doesn’t come in separates. I am 2 sizes smaller up top, and pretty much need the tailor to totally rip apart any jacket in order to make it fit right in the shoulders. For that, I can just buy separates that fit right initially and may just need $10 alterations for length or to take in the waist.

    • I think this makes sense more if you are smaller on the bottom than the top. For me the “set suits” are usually either right in the bottom, but then large in the top or if they’re right on top, then they’re slighly small on the bottom. Fixing the bottom is a cheap trip to the tailor. Fixing a jacket that’s too big can cost as much as the suit itself. I agree that most clothes need tailoring, but I would say not all clothes are worth it.

    • Another Sarah :

      True, but if you’re not paying full price for the suit, then I would go ahead and get the tailoring. I see tailoring as an investment, and so I don’t mind paying to fix the jacket. It won’t need to be done again, and it’ll make the suit look much nicer. Regardless if I buy separates that fit closer to my size or not, fairly extensive tailoring still needs to be done to both pieces – linings, darts, hems, waists, sleeves, shoulders, etc. I figure I might as well do it and make it look the best it canon me, and so it’s a necessary expense for suits.

      • Another Sarah :

        Note: This also means I don’t have a lot of suits. Just some that fit really well. Tailoring everything = not buying a bajillion suits at a time.

        And that “canon” should have been “can on.” Lo siento! :-)

        • Totally agree that tailoring is an investment. I just can’t bring myself to “invest” in suits I know will fall apart within 1-3 years.

          • +1. Why would I spend money to get a cheap suit tailored when I can buy suit separates that fit great off the rack for the same price as the cheap suit + alterations. I know the latter is going to hold up better, so that’s where I’d rather spend my money. I typically don’t need extensive alterations on separates in the brands that fit me correctly.

  6. Perfect timing! I have an unexpected interview for an in-house position (I wasn’t looking but the potential dream job suddenly appeared), and after several years of BigLaw am wondering which suit will work best. I’d be inclined to wear my CE gray (skirt) suit with a faint blue pinstripe, blue shell underneath, neutral colored stockings and neutral pumps with a lowish heel (2″). The only thing that seems awkward is the hose/stockings since I’ve been going without all summer, even with skirts, since it seems to be the style. Thoughts? My runner-up suit would be a black light wool (pant) suit from Ann Taylor that fits okay but not great. That with maybe a light pink shell? Mostly I wear jackets and slacks in the office so I don’t have many suits to choose from.

  7. halfsleeveLadyLawyer :

    PS_ for mine I went with my ONE skirt suit, black pinstripe, but the interview was in november …

  8. recently upgraded from a mall suit set to a mall store separate. I’m very happy with my jcrew suit – very well made (unlike half their stuff these day) sand the 120s fabric looks great. I wish I had bit the bullet upfront and never got the cheaper suit.

  9. Different brands have been discussed at length on this site. I love Classiques for my pear shape, and you can buy a good CE suit on sale for about $350. The one thing I would say is that it’s worth it to buy 1-2 suits that you love rather than 5 suits that are just ok. When I was doing OCI interviews, I bought several Tahari polyester suits. They were fine for the purpose, but now looking back, I wish I had focused more on quality and bought 2 really great suits in a nice light wool. The wool CE suits that I bought will be with me for the next 10 years, I hope. The Tahari poly suits? I will probably end up chucking them in the next 1-2 years.

    • I just donated all my poly suits to a charity that sets women up with clothing for interviews. I hope that some woman gets a great job in the suit I wore for my interview for this gig.

      Now I just need to find a decent suit that fits my post-baby plus size body.

  10. I still haven’t tried but really want to one of these custom made suits. This one doesn’t look too bad in price and fabrics look great: http://www.tailor4less.com. Has anyone tried it?

    • I have been waiting to do this, too. Would love inputs if someone has gone ahead and ordered from them. Agree that the fabric options (as well as lining, lapel, etc.) would work so much better than ill-fitting off the rack buys because of the level of customization available.

  11. Anonymously disappointed :

    (Tip: If you’re trying to choose between a two-button and three-button jacket, consider your bust: if you have one, you’ll probably want to opt for the three-button.)

    FYI, my A cup is still a bust, thanks. A little disappointed to see you body-snarking on your own blog, Kat.

    • also disappointed :

      Agreed. Every woman has a bust.

    • I don’t know — I think it’s just a turn of phrase. For instance, if I say “if you have hips, you might want to avoid X brand jeans” — that sounds totally natural, everyone would understand what it meant, and would not interpret it as suggesting that some women freakishly lack bones connecting their legs to their pelvises. .

    • Well, I’m certainly known to say about my A-cup that I “hardly have a chest” so absolutely no offense taken here. Come on, you know she meant.

      • This. My A cup is not offended, and I probably would have said something very similar. It was just a light-hearted way to say “large-bosomed ladies I’m talking to you.” Let’s lighten up!

    • Anonymous :

      It’s just an expression. People say all the time ‘if you have a butt,’ ‘if you have hips,’ ‘if you have a tummy,’ and so on. She’s not body snarking at all.

    • Wow. Overreact much?

    • cranky old batt :

      I was thinking the same thing. This is supposed to be a site for professional women. That comment struck me as highly unprofessional at best, demeaning at worst.

  12. I now love Pendleton (pendleton-usa.com). I just got my first 3-piece suit from there on sale for $200 (98% virgin wool, 2% spandex) and it looks and fits amazing. Their full price suits are just under $500 for the 3-pieces so I’ll stick to sales for now, but I highly recommend it.

    • AGREE! I bought a Pendleton suit recently on sale and it is fabulous. It was around $250 for two pieces (I don’t really wear pants…period, so I just bought the skirt and jacket), and it’s the same blend as lawDJ’s. Their sales are pretty killer, but they ‘re definitely a “lucky size” deal most of the time, so it’s good to habitually check the site.

      • I never realized that Pendleton had a women’s line, so I’m psyched to hear such good things! Does anybody have any wisdom to offer re their customer service and return policies?

    • How is the fit? I am in dire need of a gray suit, and I was thinking of ordering one. I am typically a Theory suit girl, and I am one of the few who likes how Theory fits (aside from the downfall in quality I mentioned above). Is the Pendelton fit *much* looser/ boxier?

      • I also love the way Theory fits even though I’m not thin/tall by any means, and I love the Pendleton suit I ordered. I think it does have more definition/shape than Theory, and I ordered the same size as I order in Jcrew (in petite). I got the “ultraweave” wool in ivory (only one on sale) but the seasonless wool has a very nice looking charcoal color. Shipping was about $12 for the 3 pieces and you have to pay the cost of shipping returns back (though it’s free if you’re exchanging pieces). The pants were a bit tight on me so I might order a bigger size since they’re still on sale, as well as the seasonless wool skirt which is on sale in most colors.

        • Fantastic! I may have to place my own order now – thanks for sharing!

          • Definitely! Hope it works for you, and in any case do report back! I should note that the ultraweave seems to have stretch, while the seasonless does not, not sure if that makes a difference ultimately.

  13. I htink price range has almost nothing to do with what looks good on you, or on the quality of the fabric. You can really surprise yourself with some off the rack suits on sale at Macy’s.

    • I concur. Armani makes plenty of poly/acetate suits…

      • Agreed but remember: all synthetics are not created equal. Just like all silk is not created equal and not all cashmere is the same. Polyester, too, varies.

        • I agree, @AIMS. A nice Armani poly will look better than a cheap, wool Harvey Bernard (or whatever they have at TJ Maxx…) I’ve spoken to tailors and they do say all, in all, natural fabrics are generally more expensive to than synthetics and they prefer working with/designing with natural fabrics. So Armani makes $2,500 poly/acetate suits? (shrugs).

          • Ugh, cheap wool. There’s nothing worse. Give me a good triacetate blend any day.

    • …many of which are available at TJ Maxx/Marshall’s/Burlington Coat Factory for well under $100

  14. I know these brands are a little taboo here on corporette but all of my suits bought during law school were Express, New York & Co, and the Limited and as low as the quality generally is among all of them- they’re still worthy options for the cash strapped or for those of you who may have some size flucutation issues (my pant size varied ALOT during law school and if these are OCI interviews, you may not be wearing a suit again til next summer).

    They wear well, look good, fit well, are separates, and come in a range of conservative to trendy. AND CAN BE FOUND ON SUPER CLEARANCE! (suiting coordinates don’t sell out as quickly at these stores as they do at BR and AT) Funny thing – I still have a few of these suits in the back of my closet and still get more compliments and are more unique with interesting detailing than my j.crew and other better quality suits.
    They have interesting pinstipe/suiting fabric color combos, go beyond classic pant cuts while still being conservative (even still my favorite suit is a NY&Co one with great super wide leg pants and some pleating at the waist which make them super comfy to sit in all day). Yes they’re “disposable,” but in interview season that may be just what you need. They also served me well for interning with a judge and buying 5-6 new expensive suits was unncessary and absurd.

    I would not recommend Express button front shirts (they don’t have top buttons, go figure), but if you need some disposable button front shirts, NY&Co is great, they wash well, look professional, and can be found for cheap.

    Also! make sure you can walk in your interview suits! You may walk around offices during 2nd round or be running around all day for OCI or other big interviewing events. You don’t want to have to worry about your shoes! Personally, I went with basic, broken in, black flats for OCI season just to make sure I could be comfortable enough to do my best at interviews.

    As for better quality suits, I love J.Crew, Michael Michael Kors (which have some really interesting detailing – nor for interviews of course), and Elie Tahari.

    • Same! I’m a 3L and most of my suits are from the Limited. I’ve had two of them since freshman year of college (used to travel internationally for competitions) and they still look great.

      My NY&Co stuff doesn’t wash quite as well, but I have a couple of great pairs of dress pants from Express that fit me perfectly (and no low-rise disasters, thank you!)

      I also love Victoria’s Secret suiting … I have a couple of great blazers that I got on sale, and a couple pairs of pants as well. You have to be a little more careful with the separates since the colors don’t always match, but their jackets fit pretty well “off the rack.”

    • I also had good luck with Express during my 1L year. I went during the New Years Sale (January 2nd, I believe) and got a black 3-piece suit and a light grey 3-piece suit for ~$120 each. They are both wool blended with a little bit of spandex for stretch. (The black was good because I have had a black A-line skirt in the same fabric for years so I was able to trade out the skirts some.) I’ve gotten lots of compliments on them and they’ve held up well, except for my not following the care instructions. I’d still be rocking them if I hadn’t gained about 15lbs. since buying them!

    • I got my button downs from Old Navy. Very cheap. Not going to last 5 years, let alone 2, but they are washable, lots of colors and sizes, and button to the top. If you are wearing your jacket all day, and you aren’t in NY or LA, probably no one will notice your shirt unless it’s “unique” and nothing about the Old Navy ones is unique.

      • Another NY&Co gal. Just separates so far, not suits, but the separates I’ve bought have been damn good. (Blazers, cotton/spandex white blouses, khaki skirts & vests, etc.)

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      Another vote for express suits! I have the editor pants with matching jacket in black and charcoal. I bought the pencil skirt too but rarely wear it because I like the pants so much!

    • My favorite, best-fitting suit is from The Limited. Go figure.

    • Nice to see a plug for these lower-cost lines. If you have a good eye, nicely styled and great fitting pieces can be found at every price point. And UGLY can be found there, too. How many of us have wrinkled our noses at one of the Splurge pieces? “$600 for THAT? No way!”

      What you tend to get with more expensive brands is better fabrics and finer tailoring details. But that choice isn’t for every one in every job at every point in their schooling and career.

    • I’m a big fan of Express. NY&Co runs a little big for me, but if the jacket fits, taking in the skirt doesn’t cost that much, especially if you get the suit on sale.

  15. walk in interview *SHOES*!

  16. @IndkdAtty: tell me what level your in house position is, what part of the country and what industry; also, is it F 500, or smaller? all of those give good clues to in house dress styles. I would say ‘dress code’ but the trend in house the last few years has been ever more casual–in fact, my company just went to (gasp!) ‘jeans on the bottom’–meaning one can stick jeans on the bottom of any top suitable for business casual. What the heck is that?

    My point being I haven’t seen pantyhose in house in YEARS…

    • I am counsel in a large firm, was in house for 10 years before this, practicing seventeen years now. The potential job is a small subsidiary (office of less than 50) of a much larger corporation. I’m in the mountain region so we’re somewhat casual here but I still think a suit is a good idea. My thinking is it’s probably okay to “overdress” as long as my outfit isn’t more memorable than me, right?

  17. My first suit was designer and expensive (about $600 for jacket, skirt, and pants). But it’s lasted, and it still fits.

    Then I bought some cheaper filler suits (three from BR, one from ATL; black, grey, and pastelly).

    This summer, I found a navy suit (jacket, pants, and skirt) at Benetton. The jacket fit weird (puffy in the chest) and the skirt had a diagonal fake slit, but I liked the color and I thought it was a good deal. I had the pants and jacket tailored. Pants are great and skirt has grown on me, but jacket still looks puffy, and now the buttons look off, too. (I’m not sure whether they were always on a diagonal to parallel the skirt slit or whether the tailor did this to them, but it is odd.) Don’t regret buying the suit, I think, since I still have a decent pair of pants and a cute skirt. And in a pinch, I have a suit. But I guess I am back to seeking a navy suit. (Or I will be once I have an income.)

  18. Anonymous :

    I’m wondering what everyone’s experience with reasonably major tailoring has been. I’m not talking about hemming pants – I have to do that by default – but really altering the fit. My top half and bottom half are not just a size apart (with the bottom being smaller), but also seem to have signficantly different preferences in terms of styling. Jackets which fit my broad shoulders and D-cup bust generally come with pants/skirts cut for those much more curvy than I am. Skirts can be reasonably forgiving, but not so much for pants. Even with separates where I can pick out the proper size, the pants are generally baggy in the butt and too big in the thighs.

    I’ve not particularly been impressed with anywhere I’ve had tailoring done, so I’ve just kind of shied away from pant suits (this includes Nordstroms, where I ended up with a pair of pants hemmed to two significantly different lengths – they fixed them for free, but still).

    • Another Sarah :

      One thing that is a must for tailoring is to ask around. Don’t just take it to the dry cleaners down the street – it’s too much money to spend on a bad job. If you’re around people who wear suits, ask them if/where they take their stuff to get tailored.

    • I had a pair of suits pants seriously taken in at the hips/butt (i.e., the impetus for getting them tailored was when they basically fell down as I was going through the metal detector in court). It worked really well–they are fitted to my actual hips now, and you can even detect that I have a butt, which is hard to do on the best of days. The rub was that I did a LOT of research on who I wanted to go to (Yelp, mostly), and that this isn’t something I would trust my general tailor to do in two out of the three cities I’ve spent extended time in (yes to San Francisco, no to Cambridge and Philadelphia). Actually, I had a closer tailor in San Francisco, but this was the one I trusted with the big jobs, despite the commute involved. I think it’s worth it to seek out someone really good for this, instead of giving it to the guy who somehow always manages to make your pants too short and praying.

    • I had some of my favorite skirts cut down/and hemmed from size 16 to 4… It went well, but cost about $25 each…. to do the jackets/pants that I owned would have cost a fortune, and in the case of the pants would have put the pockets on my butt…not good! I asked around everywhere, and when I went to the one I finally picked I spoke to her at length about what I wanted…

  19. For my first set of interviews ever, I bought a suit from banana (all 3 pieces) and it was fine — it fit ok off the rack, and was totally decent (though I did have that “several of us have the same suit” issue.)

    But when I had some more serious interviews, I felt like I needed something a little more polished. I ended up in Lafayette 148 (mainly because their rep was wandering around Nordstrom while I was there and had great ideas for which pieces would work best on me — I’m tall, and thin, but with wideish hips).

    I honestly feel so much better in it — more money, certainly, but I can’t even begin to describe the difference. It’s a huge confidence-booster. I just feel much more like an adult.

  20. Great topic and great advice, but as an extra tall girl (pushing 6′), I would love to see a little more coverage of special sizes. Considerations already mentioned aside, I have found J.Crew and Banana Republic to be the best out there (both have T2 across all categories!!!), but I am always looking for more options.

    • Pushing 6′ here. I bought a suit in an emergency (multi-day jury trial) from longelegantlegs.com. It’s not the most impressive fabric, but like I said, when I had to have a suit that fit pretty well off-the-rack, it worked. I also have a suit from Talbot’s – the skirt is long enough as-is and I bought the matching jacket in tall.

      • Have you two ever tried LongTallSally? I tried them when I was in the UK and found the fit was for long torso tall people (I am short torso tall), and that their fabrics were not great. However, they are doing a pop-up trunk show in SF in a few weeks and I am going to check it out. Will report back in the Weekend Comments section in a few weeks.

        FWIW, I have found a few OK for cheap suits at Benetton. They don’t last, but they sure know how to cut pants that make you look killer.

        All of my “nice suits” come from JCrew. BR does not fit me well on top.

        • @MJ how tall are you? I’m short torso tall 6’3 and I’ve wanted to try J. Crew, but I just assumed they wouldn’t fit. You mentioned your “nice suits” come from there, so now I’m curious.

    • I have long legs and a short torso and have had pretty good luck with Ann Taylor–it seems to run long in the legs even in the regular sizes. A lot of stores (I’m looking at you, The Limited) don’t carry talls in the stores very much, but if you can figure out your size, they do carry talls online.

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