How to Wear a Pinstriped Suit

How to Wear #Pinstripes | CorporetteReader J wonders how women should wear pinstriped suits…

I am a senior associate looking for a lateral position when/ if the job market improves. I recently bought a lovely dark navy pinstripe suit for interviews, as my other suits were looking tired. However, once I got the suit home, I realized I don’t have any shirts that match.

What color shirt would go well with a blue pinstripe suit, other than white? (I really don’t dig the blue suit/ white shirt look: it’s too “mannish”, plus I am far too pale to wear white.) I know patterned shirts are probably out with the pinstripes. Would a tan or putty color work? How about a medium grey? Army green? Brown? A “banker’s shirt” that is light grey with a white collar and cuffs?? Help!!!

Interesting question! Pinstriped suits can be tricky to accessorize. Pictured above: EMPORIO ARMANI Womens’ suit, available at Yoox.com for $455.

First: Reader J didn’t ask about this, but to the readers who may be wondering: yes, you can wear black accessories with a navy suit.  So already I’d start looking at, perhaps, a black patent pump and a black patent bag (large enough for your resume, of course) to accessorize.

Kenneth Jay Lane 36" Purple Square Graduated Bead NecklaceSecond:  There are tons of complimentary colors for navy, and your “color” doesn’t just have to come from the blouse. For example, a white or cream blouse with a colorful necklace (or red lipstick) could be a powerful look on the right person.  A light blue or French blue is also a classic look.  (I would, of course, advise adding pearls.)  To be honest, for interviewing I would probably stick with those colors — you could perhaps add a pop of a more lively color (a teal or purple or something) in a necklace or brooch, but for an interview you don’t want to be noticed too much for your fashion skills.  (Pictured at right:  a purple necklace that might look nice, worn on top of a cream sweater beneath an open pinstriped jacket: Kenneth Jay Lane 36″ Purple Square Graduated Bead Necklace, available on sale at Piperlime for $67.)

Seasonal Green Luxury Maurice Women's Shirt - Button CuffThat said, a number of other colors look great with navy.  Pastels, for example — a light purple blouse could look great with it, or even a mint green.   These are still very conservative colors (men wear them with suits!) but a bit more fun than your basic white or light blue.  Jewel tones also go nicely with navy pinstripe, but note that 1) they take the outfit firmly into the feminine (you’re not likely to see many male CEOs wearing a teal or royal blue shirt), and 2) they make the outfit much darker, which might look a bit out of season if you’re interviewing in March or beyond.  I would stay away from tan or putty or light gray — they just don’t strike me as being either powerful (how many partners at your firm have you seen wearing a light gray shirt?) or flattering.  Pictured at left: Seasonal Green Luxury Maurice Women’s Shirt – Button Cuff, on sale at Thomas Pink for $175 (was $270).

Finally:  Remember, the pinstripe has been a classic for men’s suiting for eons.  And so if you think about the way men have mixed patterns and colors with their jacket, shirt, and tie, you’ll realize that you can mix prints if you want to.  (I believe the general rule for men is that of the three items (jacket, shirt and tie), only two should be prints.)  For a non-interviewing day, for example, you might try pairing a floral blouse in a complimentary color beneath the suit jacket.  You might also try wearing a good quality white or cream t-shirt beneath the jacket, and adding a long scarf (either oblong in shape, or folded to be oblong) — I knew one woman who always did this with Hermes scarves because she found that the tags on her jackets were itchy against her neck, and it was a wonderful way to add color and vitality to her outfits.

Readers, how would you accessorize a navy pinstriped suit for an interview — or for a regular day at work?

Comments

  1. Texas says:

    I wear mine mostly with a blue and white striped shirt from Brooks Brothers. My husband has told me he thinks lavender looks good with it. But what does he know. He is a reporter and does not even wear a tie to work. I also have a really hard time with shoes for my blue suits. I know this site has repeatedly stated that you can wear other than navy shoes with a navy suit. So I have been on the look out for some purple shoes that are not too high heeled. But usually wear these blue loafer shoes with heels that come from Brooks Brothers. I know, snore. But they are comfortable.

    • JessC says:

      I agree with your husband. Lavender looks lovely with navy (though it is a very feminine color combo), IMHO.

    • Grey shoes look great with navy; so do dark red shoes.
      What I really want to know though, who hemmed the pants on the model?

    • Cordovan looks amazing with navy.

    • anon-ny says:

      I have a really hard time wearing black with navy so I like to play with shoe color – purple, gray, red, nude, or really any neutral color.
      As for shirt – I have a light salmon button-up that is the rare perfect-fit (no gaping or pulling) that looks great with my navy pin stripe suit. The color is dark enough I’m not washed out but subtle enough it doesn’t scream PINK!

  2. Pinstripe suits are my fave! And I wear everything underneath them. Lately I’ve been in a jewel tone kind of place, but will also wear simple white. I wear pewter pumps with my navy pinstripe, and chestnut brown with my charcoal/chocolate pinstripe. Anything can go with black pinstripe!

  3. I love my pinstripe suits as well (they seem to gravitate towards me – or is it the other way around)? I have pinstripe suits in brown, grey, charcoal and black. Agreeing with anon above, I usually wear a jewel tone chemise underneath. Or if I’m feeling playful, I wear one of my undershirts with a lace border – definitely don’t recommend that for an interview though!

  4. TX Attny says:

    Great question, Reader J, and something I’ve also wondered, for today I am wearing a black pinstriped suit with a – you guessed it – white blouse. I admit it’s boring, which may be exactly what you want in an interview but isn’t necessary day-to-day. Kat and Anon who posted at 3:59 – y’all are already inspiring me! Jewel tones?! I love that idea.

  5. With polka dots!

  6. I think a pale pink looks great with a navy blue pinstripe, and would still be safe enough for an interview. Maybe a bit more feminine, but you are, after all, a woman!

    • fresh jd says:

      Yep, that’s my go-to as well!

    • mamabear says:

      Yes, I was going to post light pink. In a feminine fabric, like a silk shell.

    • I agree — I used a navy pinstripe suit for interviewing and wore pink, which always looked nice. I had pale pink and then a more rosy color. The rose was even more flattering than the pale, and I loved how it made my complexion look!

    • yes! and also a yes! to feminine colours. after all they can see you’re a woman – wearing pink or jewel tones is not going to make them do a double take or anything.

      • Yes to pale pink! I like soft pastels with navy pinstripe. If not pink, soft celadon green, pale yellow, even a pale gray would work for me.

  7. Lawgirl says:

    I’d do a cream (non-shiny) silk blouse. Doesn’t look mannish at all, IMHO quite the opposite. Don’t know what it looks like with your coloring, but cream is less harsh than bright-white.

    • I’m very pale, too, and find that true white is better than cream on my skin. More contrast. And I’d totally wear it with a navy pinstripe suit, for an interview.

      • Lawgirl says:

        Ok, cool. I’m a black woman (who’s Michelle Obama-brown, or a tad lighter maybe), so cream does me lots of favors. ;-)

      • I think the cream v. white depends on your coloring. My sister and I are both crazy pale (hello, Irish skin!) but my coloring is pretty yellow/freckled whereas she is of the porcelein skin/rosy cheeks variety. For me, cream is better than white, and tends to be vice versa for her.

        • It depends on your undertones (warm versus cool). White flatters those with cool skin, while cream is better on those with warm skin. I’m a black woman, but closer to Beyonce/Halle Berry in skin color, but have cool toned skin with reddish undertones (a “winter” in skin analysis) and white is so much better than me. In fact, that’s one of the classic tests to figure out whether you have warm or cool undertones (hold up a white and cream t shirt and see which one is more flattering).

    • Eponine says:

      Cream matches my skin tone perfectly. Not a great look for me :).

  8. surrounded by lawyers says:

    I think you might be able to get away with a pattern, even for an interview, if its colors are the same as those of the suit (in your case, navy and white). The shirt’s cut would have to be very basic, and likely only the collar would be peeking out, but it’s a nice, interesting touch.

    (I’m someone who would never wear pearls, though.)

  9. I recently acquired a navy pinstripe skirt suit (great NM Last Call find, BTW, under $250). So far I’ve been pairing it with solid teal, but I think a saffron shell would look fantastic with it. I haven’t found one yet, though.

  10. Verna says:

    I am having trouble getting a grey flannel suit that fits. Even my mother said it is impossible to fit me. When will they learn that some of us have a bit more in the rump than we wish for, even if we are otherwise svelte.

    Is there any place in NYC where I can get high quality grey flannel suits without having to spend $2000 to have a tailor made suit?

    I have a good job and can afford up to $800, if it’s a good fit.

    • Eponine says:

      Just buy a size that fits your rear, and then get the rest of it tailored. Tailoring shouldn’t cost that much – even for a lined pantsuit I doubt it’d be more than $70.

      Also if you buy full price at Nordstrom or (I think) BB, they will generally tailor it for free.

      • Here here! I second this recommendation. I do this ALL the time…the beauty of suit separates. Tailoring is not all that expensive when you consider the Cost Per Wear then. And you get to have more choices in shopping, fabrics, time spent looking, etc. Once you know your two sizes in a store/brand, it’s really easy – plus you get to do online shopping! Good luck, and the whole idea of getting to wear grey flannel sounds marvelous to this Southern Texas Ph.D. Then again, I don’t have to shovel snow any more LOL.

  11. I think stripes on stripes are great, as long as the width/spacing of the stripes are notably different (e.g. for the suit pictured, I would wear a shirt with wide stripes). @TX I also think navy suits would be lovely with lavender, and dark forest green.

    • P.S. I love the EA suit in the picture, but, really? Has Armani also gone the way of mixed synthetic fabrications? *Le sigh*

  12. Eponine says:

    I’d wear bright pink, yellow, or coral. Yes, even for an interview. With pearls.

    • Lawgirl says:

      You go, gurl – @Eponine!

    • Legally Brunette says:

      I agree. My go to outfit for Big Law interviews was a black or navy suit with a bright sea green shell. I don’t understand why bright colors translates to unprofessional somehow. I certainly understand that it’s better to err on the conservative side but not sure if that means only wearing white/light blue shells.

      • Lawgirl says:

        You know, I try to match the look of the office where I’m interviewing. If it’s in-house, I dress with more flair (especially if it’s tech). If it’s a firm, I try to dress like a stylish female partner I admire. I don’t try to look like a fashion plate, but I like fashion, so I let that part shine modestly (cute shoes with a bow, sheath dress with jacket, cute bag… sumthin’!). I DO NOT want to look like The Girl Who’s Interviewing. I see them a mile away in the office. So awkward and uncomfortable looking, appearing like an undertaker/funeral home director in a black suit, white blouse, black pumps, off-black hose, black tote. No Ma’am, not me! LOL.

      • Nonny says:

        My Big Law interview suit about 4 years ago was a navy blue suit with red silk blouse and power heels. White shirt? Boring! And yes, I got the job.

      • A lot of women go for white/light blue because men, when interviewing, tend to go for white/light blue (and, really, only white if they want to be truly safe & conservative).

        Women are generally cut a bit more slack in the creativity department, and people certainly have been hired in bright shirts (or in pant suits, or without hose, or with leopard purses, etc.), but I can certainly understand why someone would want to play it super-safe when interviewing somewhere conservative like a traditional law firm.

  13. Res Ipsa says:

    French blue looks lovely. Or go monotone and pair a black or blue shell with your black or blue pinstripe. But one of my favorite outfits — not for interviews, but perfect for client meetings, mediations, etc., is my navy blue pinstripe suit paired with a very subtle blue floral-pattern blouse. Subtle, but fun!

    • I love pinstripe and certain florals! Sounds nice :)

    • anon-ny says:

      I love this combo as well and have a silk purple/white floral and slightly flouncy blouse I pair under a pinstripe suit even for court. The floral pattern is big and abstract and buttoned up it still looks conservative.

  14. I have that navy pinstripe jcrew suit that everyone seems to have and usually wear it with a pale pink blouse and pale pink pearls. Love that combo. I am trying to break into prints and just bought a green and blue print shirt from anthro, and I think it works well with the suit (although it took a big leap for me to even think of putting the two together). Re Kat’s suggestion above, I have a hard time wearing blue with blue. Are there any rules on this? I try to follow what my hubby does with his navy suit, but still find it hard to figure out.

    I missed this convo on an earlier open thread, but I have a paulina carcach bag and think the quality is great! The leather is sooo soft. The leather is a little thinner than some other leather bags (comparing to a D&B very thick leather bag I have), but that also makes it lighter. I have not used extensively but I am confident it will hold up well.

    • Jen L says:

      Thanks for the Paulina Carach review! I’ve had my eye on one for months and will probably purchase it if/when I finally get a job.

    • I just got a Paulina Carcach purse too b/c of corporette – just couldn’t resist. I agree that the leather is very appealing, but as a caveat, I’ll say that the hardware is not the highest quality. The zipper is difficult to pull, and you can see the seams in some of the loops etc…. Still, I think it is pretty decent for the price.

    • Magdeline says:

      I just got a Paulina carcach bag for Christmas and I love it! Great craftsmanship at a great price. I would definitely recommend her and plan on buying more from her in the future.

  15. I love my navy pinstripe suit!! I wore it to most of my interviews as a law student. When I arrived many months later to the firm where I ultimately ended up as a summer associate, one of recruiters actually remembered the suit I wore to the interview and complimented me on it. She said that everyone wears black so I stuck out (but not in a bad way!).

    Although I know you can wear black with navy, I wear mine with brown shoes. During interviews, I mostly wore a white shirt, but also rotated in a light pink shell and a brown short sleeved sweater, depending on the weather. Personally, I refuse to wear a blouse with suits b/c I can not get the collar to look right and I think it looks too mannish.

    • Anon in NY says:

      Agreed on the button-down shirts looking too mannish on me under a pinstriped blouse. I do have a lovely blue pinstriped suit from Brooks Brothers and one of my favorite blouses to wear under it recently is a pale gray silk shell with a very high Shakespeare style ruff neck and a pleated placket down the front. Definitely not something I’d wear to interview, but under a suit it is a fashion-y feminine touch that I’ve gotten many compliments on.
      I only wish I’d stocked up on silk blouses earlier on in my career, they’ve been a total go-to basic for me the last year or two, and JCrew has had some lovely ones on sale recently!

  16. thanks for the great suggestions. I have a super cute navy pinstripe skirt that I inherited from my step-mom. It didn’t fit her, so she gifted it to me. Anyway, I was having a huge trouble trying to find what would match.

  17. michelle says:

    I love the look of a light blue shell with navy pinstripe suits, or a pale pink v-neck sweater, and also wear with white buttondowns – but I prefer the color as it is softer and tends to bring out the color of the pinstripe. Second the pearls or statement necklace with all, even on interviews. As for shoes, I usually go with black, but I have a great pair of purple suede maryjanes that I like too.

  18. chix pix says:

    Some clothes are inherently “hard to wear” and a pinstriped navy suit is one of them. It has the connotation of a very fancy male business outfit maybe from the 80′s. I for one would not wear it for a job interview.

    But, if you do, I think this year’s look is to match the shirt to the suit. I would wear a classy looking navy silk charmeuse shirt, with some very simple contrasting jewelry at the neck – pearl, silver, or gold. I would keep the shoes very simple and dark, preferably matching the blue suit.

  19. Anon101 says:

    Quick threadjack, ladies.

    For an interview in the public sector (legal job) I’m wondering what blouse to pair with my suit. The suit is fairly conservative (black, wool, skirt suit). Would a print blouse be ok, assuming shoes and accessories are also conservative? Or should I go solid?

    • That’s fine. I work in government. Anything you’d wear to an interview at a firm is fine. (Assuming it’s a conservative-looking floral blouse, not some sexy top you’d wear out dancing.)

    • Anonymous says:

      It depends on the print. You don’t want to wear anything loud or attention-getting because it’ll distract the interviewer. But something traditional (windowpane, thin stripes, etc) or slightly quirky is fine.

  20. I’d love to wear an opal pendant with a navy pin striped suit. Alas I own neither. Anyone have a preferred jeweler for opals? Blue Nile was slim pickings.

    • spacegeek says:

      Not nec for opals per se but Ross Simons has v good quality jewelry fir good prices. I have quite a few items from them. I have one ring from ice.com recently purchased that I’m also quite happy with.
      For unusual pearls, btw, consider Kojima.com

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